“What are we waiting for? Let’s go.”
She took hold of his arm. “No, we’re not going into the town. Not yet anyway. We don’t know if the Nine are here.”
They’d seen them pass on the horses while they hid in the car, but he didn’t expect them to linger. “Would they be waiting?”
“I would if it was me hunting someone. I’d know that I would most likely head to the nearest town, and people here know me, so yeah, it would be smart to leave some guys here to wait.”
“So what are we going to do?”
“Wait until I see a friendly face.”
The sun crept by overhead. As they waited, Taylor let Go out to crawl around in the grass, and Dylan found watching the turtle to be more entertaining than staring at the horizon as Taylor was doing. He was startled when she finally touched his shoulder and whispered, “I’ll be back.” In a silent bound, she was over the brush and gone.
“Just you and me, buddy,” Dylan muttered to Go, who seemed to be rather unconcerned as he munched on a dandelion.
Dylan craned his neck and saw Taylor following a girl at a distance down the road. The girl had bright blond hair that gleamed in the sunlight, and she was carrying a plastic pail over one arm. They disappeared around a corner, and Dylan sighed. It was hot, and the ground was damp, the moisture seeping through his pants. He shifted to try to find a comfortable spot, but it was impossible. He didn’t want to lay out his sleeping bag in case Taylor came back and said they had to run. He needed to be in a position where all he had to do was grab Go and split. But minutes seemed to stretch into hours.
Finally he heard a faint rustle and peeked through the foliage to see Taylor returning alone. “I talked to someone,” she said, crouching down beside him. “It was Brandy. I’ve traded honey with her a few times. She seems cool. I told her a few of the things we need, and she’s going back into town to get them.”
“Has she seen the Nine?”
“She says they haven’t talked to her, but she’s heard of men asking around town for me. So she understood why I didn’t want to go in. She said she would get us the stuff we need from her dad’s shop.”
“Did she have a pair of shoes that would fit you?”
“She thought they did. At this point, almost anything would be better than these.”
Minutes ticked by and the only sounds were the buzzing of insects and the rustle of leaves in the wind.
“Do you think you can trust her?”
“No. But there aren’t many people I do trust. That’s why I set it up this way. I’ll be able to see her when she comes out of town, and we’ll know right away if she’s bringing stuff . . . or trouble.” Taylor took out her bow and watched the road through her scope.
It turned out to be trouble. Brandy emerged on the road followed by two men carrying rifles. They headed down toward the spot where Taylor had met with her before. Taylor swore and rolled over onto her back, staring up at the sky. “Okay, so Martinville is out.”
“Think those guys are Nine?”
“They’re not comin’ to share the good word of Jesus.” She turned to look at him, and her eyes were hard. “You need to make a decision now, Dylan. And there probably isn’t any turning back from it, so make sure it’s what you want to do. You can get up and walk into Martinville right now. They won’t know you were with me. You could make up a new name. Start over. I’ll give you half the supplies like we agreed. It’s enough to get you started out, if they’ll let you in. You can find a job as a laborer. Make a new life for yourself. You’ll be safe. As safe as anyone is these days, that is.”
She took a deep breath. “Or you can come with me. You know what that entails. But you have to decide now.”
He looked at the road for a moment, just a moment. She was right. He might be able to make a new life inside those gates. He didn’t know what kind of life it would be, but it would be a life, anyway. Providing some stability, some safety.
But he looked up at Taylor’s hazel eyes, and he knew there wasn’t actually a decision to be made. He already knew what he wanted to do. “I’m coming with you.”
Taylor’s face blossomed into a smile—so sweet and bright it was like watching the sun break over the horizon. It changed her in that moment from the hard, tough young woman he knew into something achingly beautiful, and he wished he could see a smile on her face like that more often.
The moment ended too quickly. She glanced back through the brush. “Come on.”
DOMINION is part of The End of All Things series and will be released in December, 2016
A generation has passed since the pandemic known only as the Infection ended the world as we know it. In a little town in the Appalachian Mountains, Taylor has known only a harsh and brutal struggle for survival in a land littered with the rusted-out remnants of a lost world. By day, she labors in a coal mine. In the evenings, she tends a secret collection of beehives, and uses the honey to pay for lessons in survival skills, such as hunting, fishing, and collecting herbs. Her home is a single room in a crumbling old motel, and her only companion is a pet box tortoise named Go she’s had since she was a child.
When her town is destroyed by a vicious gang of raiders known as the Nine, Taylor escapes with Dylan, the son of the mayor. Their only plan is to head south and escape the Nine’s vast territory, avoiding areas contaminated by meltdowns and industrial pollution where mysterious illnesses plague the residents.
Dylan has never known hunger or hardship and struggles to learn survival skills. He’s never known a woman like Taylor, either. He tries to pay her back by teaching her to read, and telling her the stories passed down from the world of Before.
They certainly didn’t plan on falling in love. Taylor fights it every step of the way, because in her world, any emotional attachment is dangerous. She’s been taught since childhood that love slows you down, makes you weak. But the feelings growing between them cannot be denied.
Taylor finds herself slowly breaking every one of her hard-learned rules of survival. She discovers that perhaps some of those things she’s always fought to avoid are the very things that make life worth living.
… And death shall have no dominion …