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The Story Behind the Story of ‘To Touch The Knight’ by Lindsay Townsend

 

I’m very happy to have Lindsay Townsend at Hopeful Romantic to share a little of the truly fascinating story behind the story of her exciting novel, To Touch The Knight. Welcome, Lindsay! Do Tell!

Thank you so much, KD, for having me as a guest on your blog today. I’m chatting a bit about my forthcoming romance, ‘To Touch The Knight’, which is due out in July – not long now! KD asked me to cover the story behind the story of ‘To Touch The Knight’, which I’m delighted to do.

In my novel, the heroine Edith presents herself as a strange princess with her own seductive costumes, language and customs. One of my inspirations for this particular desperate deception was a real-life fake from the eighteenth century, the Princess Caraboo.

This ‘princess’ was a young woman who appeared in a Gloucestershire village in 1817, dressed in unusual clothes and speaking a strange language. Upon investigation by the local magistrate, it was discovered she called herself Caraboo and later a sailor said he knew her language and translated her story. Caraboo claimed to be a princess from an island in the Indian ocean, who had escaped after being captured by pirates.

The magistrate, Stephen Worrall, and his wife, took in Princess Caraboo. She lived with them for several weeks, famous and fêted by the local community.

In reality Princess Caraboo turned out to be Mary Baker, the daughter of an English cobbler. When the hoax was revealed due to her picture in the ‘Bristol Journal’ being recognized, the Worralls arranged for Mary to leave for Philadelphia.

Mary did go to America but returned later to England and died there. It was the story of her unusual deception that inspired a 1994 film, ‘Princess Caraboo’ and partly inspired my own novel, ‘To Touch The Knight’.

Taking the story of Princess Cariboo as a starting point, I wondered how it would be if a woman felt compelled by circumstances to undertake a similar deception, in the Middle Ages and with far higher life-and-death stakes, and so Edith was born.

My hero Ranulf  also has his own inner demons to defeat through the story. He is a fighter who must come to terms with his grief at the death of his wife and also a mystery surrounding her death. When Edith and Ranulf come together, they are both in different ways lost souls who find themselves through each other. It’s set against a period of massive trauma and change, too – just after the Black Death of 1348.

The so-called ‘Black Death’  was  known during the Middle Ages as either the plague or the pestilence. It’s now believed there were two main types of plague – bubonic (in which sufferers presented with huge pus-filled tumors or buboes) and pneumonic, spread in the air, which killed in less than three days. Both struck Europe from the far east in 1347, spreading swiftly from Italian ports through Europe and arriving in Britain in 1348. There was no known cure for any of the plagues and over a third of the population died. It was a terrifying time, made worse by the common belief that the disease was a judgment of God.

It was a dreadful time, but for the survivors it was also a chance to better themselves, particularly for peasants, for farm labor was in short supply. Edith decides to use the chance in another way, in order to save herself and her fellow villagers.

Thank you so much for having me today, KD!

I’d like to leave you, if I may, with the blurb and an excerpt from the first chapter of my novel, ‘To Touch the Knight’.

Here’s the blurb:

As a pestilence sweeps medieval England, a low-born woman has only the sharpness of her wits–and the courage of her heart…

Edith of Warren Hemlet plays a dangerous game. At the knights’ tourneys across the land, among the lords and ladies, she is a strange foreign princess. But in the privacy of her tent with the other survivors of her village, she is but a smith’s widow with a silver tongue. They are well-fed, but if discovered, the punishment is death. And one knight–fierce, arrogant, and perilously appealing–is becoming far too attentive…

Sir Ranulf of Fredenwyke cares little for tourneys: playing for ladies’ favors, when his own lady is dead; feasting, while commoners starve; “friendly” combat, when he has seen real war. Still, one lady captivates him–mysterious in her veils and silks, intoxicating with her exotic scents and bold glances. Yet something in her eyes reminds him of home…and draws him irresistibly to learn her secrets…

And here’s an excerpt from the first chapter, where Edith encounters Ranulf for the first time:

Edith was walking with the bundled sheets to the shallow, slow-moving stream when she realized that another was there before her. A man, big and muscled enough for a knight but not in armor, was sitting on the river-bank with his boots off, dangling his bare feet in the clear water.

Large, fine feet they were, too, and very clean. She stood in the shade of a young beech tree, shielded by its fresh leaves, and watched him; this nameless knight. He was new to her, and a pleasure to look upon, with a trim waist and good shoulders. He slowly kicked his legs in the water and she noticed the dark swirls of down on his calves, less lustrous and straighter than his fair-going-to-russet shaggy, badly-clipped hair. She wondered if the tiny dark fish were nibbling his ankles and laughed softly at the foolish idea. He was handsome, she conceded, if long, clean-shaven features as regular as a mason’s new carving of a king were to one’s taste – and they were to hers. On his feet, standing proudly on the daisy and speedwell studded grass, he would be tall as a castle keep, but wiry, with a rangy strength she admired when he skimmed a pebble across the river.

Here’s where you can find Lindsay:

Lindsay Townsend, historical romance. http://www.lindsaytownsend.net

or follow me at Twitter: @lindsayromantic

 

Thanks for stopping by, Lindsay!  It was lovely to have you. ‘To Touch The Knight’ sounds like a fabulous read — even more so now that we know the story behind the story.  I’ll now be waiting anxiously to July to get my copy!

 

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Still Behaving Like Animals

People have always been nervous about the possibility of human nature being nothing more than animal nature all tarted up with a big brain. There’s lots of bristling at the idea that biology might explains us just as easily as it does our animal cousins.

We’ve been wondering for a long time just how thin the line is that separates our behavior from that of those animal cousins. And we can’t ask that question without wondering if civilization is maybe nothing more than a thin veneer we humans wear to protect ourselves from the most dangerous animals on the planet — each other.

Strangely enough in the past few weeks, it hasn’t been The Pet Shop or rutting Siberian beavers on Animal Planet that have me thinking about that thin line and what’s actually going on beneath the veneer. I confess to know next to nothing about neurobiology and even less about the financial world. I write nasty stories. But when penises and testosterone and male biology enter, detrimentally, into the stock markets and the banking industry, I’m suddenly very interested.

I first became aware of the market-testosterone connection while doing my usual scan of the news over breakfast.

In his article for the Observer, Testosterone and High Finance Do Not Mix: So Bring on the Women, Tim Adams gives a brief lesson in ‘neuroeconomics’ and writes about hearing Michael Lewis, author of the book, ‘The Big Short,’ Speak at the London School of Economics. Lewis was asked what single thing he would do to reform the markets and prevent such a catastrophe happening again, and he said: ‘I would take steps to have 50% of women in risk positions in banks.’

Several days later there was an article in the Guardian about the EU calling for women to make up one third of bank directors in an effort to prevent ‘group think,’ which is often blamed for exacerbating the industry crisis of 2008.  According to the article, gender diversity can lessen the problem of group-think, partly because there’s evidence that the leadership style of women is different, that they ‘attend more board meetings and have a positive impact on the collective intelligence of a group.’

When I shared the ‘testosterone’ links with my husband, he sent me a link to a New York Times article, in which Paul Krugman discusses a comment from a post by economist, Kevin O’Rourke, called, ‘What do markets want.’ This is the comment:

‘The markets want money for cocaine and prostitutes. I’m deadly serious.

‘Most people don’t realize that ‘the markets’ are in reality 22-27 year old business school graduates, furiously concocting chaotic trading strategies on excel sheets and reporting to bosses perhaps 5 years senior to them. In addition, they generally possess the mentality and probably intelligence of junior cycle secondary school students. Without knowledge of these basic facts, nothing about the markets makes any sense—and with knowledge, everything does.’

In the animal kingdom, younger males are sometimes ostracized from the community until one of them develops the strength and maturity to wrest the power from the alpha male. In the animal kingdom, the one who gets to breed is the winner. Even our seemingly companionable British robin will fight to the death with a usurping male if it will get him the chance to pass on his genes to the next generation.

I couldn’t help but wonder as I read about hormones and the market running amuck if our cultural queasiness with our animal nature has, once again, come back to bite us in the butt. The drive to procreate, and the sooner the better, may no longer be at the top of our civilized ‘to do list,’ but the biology for it is still there. What better place for young men, not yet mature enough to lead the pack, to play out that possessive, territorial ‘need to breed’ aggression than in the market? As I said, I’m definitely no expert, but it seems to me that  to turn the animal loose in an already testosterone-charged play-ground, complete with expensive cars and high-end sex, and expect him to behave in a ‘civilized’ manner is more than a little bit naïve.

 

 

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Tina Donahue Takes Us Away

I’d like to welcome the lovely Tina Donahue to  A Hopeful Romantic today. Tina  is going to give us a sneak preview of her hot new novel, Take Me Away. And just to celebrate that release, she’s offering a juicy giveaway too good to miss out on. Tina, do tell!

 

Don’t you love the beginning pages of a romance when the hero and heroine first meet? Their smoldering stares, their first words as they size up each other?

I do. That’s one of the parts I like to write most. When neither character quite knows where this might be heading…they just know where they would like it to go.

Usually during these encounters, we – the readers – get to know the characters better, to fall in love with them as they begin the journey of falling in love with each other.

In Take Me Away, my newest erotic romance, Kyle’s reluctant to let Lexi stay at his cabin, while she sees it as her only means to avoid the hounding press. Their first moments alone are telling for what they both think and want.

Here’s a blurb and an excerpt to show you what I mean.

Blurb:

She’s everything he escaped…and all that he desires

Three years ago, Kyle turned his back on a pro-football career and being the target of tabloids or gold-digging groupies. Craving privacy, he gets it at his roadhouse in Northern California until Lexi Sands invades his life. Indulged and surely phony, she’s exactly what Kyle fled.

An actress since childhood, Lexi’s fresh out of an anger management program, court-ordered when she lashed out at a badgering paparazzo. Weary of the press’s harsh scrutiny, she sees Kyle’s secluded cabin as the ideal place to hide out and him as a damn-near perfect alpha male. Deliciously virile. Protective. Principled. She offers him serious cash to let her stay for two weeks, assuring there will be no complications or touching.

Yeah, right. Passion flares, along with tenderness. Kyle recognizes how lonely Lexi really is, while she’s falling hard. Through intimate days and impassioned nights, they explore their most shameless needs, until a cruel betrayal exposes their growing love, forcing a choice neither anticipated.

Excerpt:

Lexi caught his scent, more pronounced this time, delivering a hint of musk. Something needed and desired coiled within her, despite the fact that they’d just met.

A moment passed. Papers rustled as though he was moving or reading them, keeping himself busy, avoiding the inevitable, turning her down.

Lexi’s longing remained even as reality kicked in. Fiona’s plan to help her hide out had been kind, but unreasonable. At least for Kyle. He had a life he enjoyed. He didn’t want her presence and celebrity to screw it up.

Steeling herself for the worst, she opened her eyes.

He was leaning against the edge of his desk, arms folded over his broad chest, feet crossed at the ankles, his gaze on her.

A pulse beat crazily in Lexi’s throat. The sound of her thrumming heart drowned out the puppy’s thin whines and the muffled noise coming from the bar. She expected Kyle to look away as he had in there. He did not. Once more, interest flashed in his eyes – or at least she thought it did.

Remember, her counselor had said, what you want isn’t always what a person is willing to give.

Tell her something she didn’t know. For as long as Lexi could remember, she’d wanted a home life like other kids had. Parents that adored her because she was their child, not for the income she could bring in.

Even after all these years, the truth still wounded. Refusing to let it defeat her, she made her voice light. “So when did you?”

Kyle’s expression went from intent to confused. “When did I what?”

She smiled at the puppy licking her fingers. “Get Baby here.”

His gaze dropped to the dog, then returned to her. “Buddy.”

“Right. Buddy Baby,” she amended.

Kyle laughed.

Pride and contentment rippled through Lexi for having caused it. For having brought back those killer dimples. God, how she enjoyed seeing them and listening to his laughter. So easy and free. So intimate.

A kiss, a fuck, couldn’t compete with a man and a woman sharing a laugh. That’s what bonded two souls. Joy. Happiness. Friendship. Not mere lust.

A second ago, she’d been willing to leave without a goodbye. Now, she wanted to stay, even though she knew Kyle would never like her as deeply as she required. Lexi saw it on his face, in the way his laughter wound down and his dimples disappeared.

Didn’t matter. For a few days, no more than two weeks, she longed to be around a man who couldn’t care less about her fame, who didn’t want to use it to further his own interests. She ached to get away from the craziness, the pain, the loneliness of her world.

“Before you say no, I’m willing to offer five thousand dollars.”

His brows shot up. “Pete said three.”

She was being too needy. Something else her counselor had warned her about. “Okay then, three.” She smiled. “Are you always this easy to negotiate with?”

Kyle’s gaze settled on her smile. His expression became heated, all male.

This time, Lexi knew she wasn’t imagining it. He did find her interesting. The real Lexi, not the tramp she looked like tonight or the Hollywood invention. She saw that truth in his eyes. Excitement raced through her, but she kept it from her voice. “I won’t be in your way at all. I’ll stay in my own room. I’ll only leave it when you’re here or wherever else you may go. I’ll amuse myself outside.”

His gaze turned inward as though he were trying to imagine such a thing. Whatever his thoughts conjured up, pleasure relaxed his features.

Now she had him. “I’ll even take care of Baby for you. I’ll act as his sitter.”

A smile tugged at the corner of Kyle’s mouth. Not enough to make dimples, but surely enough to arouse. “Buddy,” he corrected.

“Sorry. I forgot. Buddy Baby.” Giving the puppy a kiss on his snout, she lowered him to the floor, pushed to her feet and advanced.

Smile fading, Kyle watched.

At his office chair, Lexi stopped. With her right foot on the seat, she slipped her hand into her boot.

Kyle stared at her naked thigh. Her skirt was so short the damn thing practically exposed her ass. From his vantage point, he could see she wasn’t wearing regular panties. Whether she had on a thong was debatable.

His mouth went dry. He pulled in a deep breath, which rewarded him with her alluring rose scent.

I won’t be in your way at all, she’d said. I’ll amuse myself outside.

With those words, he’d pictured the creek behind his cabin. Lexi shedding her clothes and boots on the bank. Sunlight caressing her nudity. The water swirling around her sleek thighs, dampening her bush, licking her cunt. Beads of moisture clinging to the soft swells of her breasts, dripping off the tips of her nipples.

A groan of pleasure and frustration bubbled up. Kyle fought it, remaining silent, not daring to ask what in the fuck she was doing. Adjusting her sock? Removing a rock that had somehow gotten into her boot and was hurting her foot?

His guesses weren’t close to correct.

She pulled out a wad of hundred dollar bills.

In the coming moments, they learn quite a lot about each other, which stokes their interest and passion.

Take Me Away is Available Now!

Buy Link: http://www.jasminejade.com/p-9333-take-me-away.aspx

Email: tina@tinadonahue.com
Website/blog: www.tinadonahue.com
Twitter: http://twitter.com/tinadonahue
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000458023097

To celebrate the release of Take Me Away, I’m offering a contest today. One lucky commenter will have her choice of one of my following ebooks**:

1. Adored – RWA award-winning; EPIC 2011 Finalist; 4 Stars RT
2. Deep, Dark, Delicious – EPIC 2011 Finalist; Holt Medallion Award of Merit
3. Lush Velvet Nights – EPIC 2011 Finalist; Golden Nib Award
4. In His Arms – SIX 5 Star Reviews; 4 Stars RT
5. Sensual Stranger – 2010 Book of the Year (erotic); 4 Stars RT

** Winner chosen at random.

 

Thanks for stopping by, Tina. Take Me Away sounds hotter than hot! And personally, I don’t know how the lucky winner is ever going to choose between these delicious offerings!

 

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Regulating Our Fantasies

The topic of safe sex in erotic fiction comes up all the time amongst writers and readers. I recently had a run-in with someone who was disturbed by the fact that the characters in my novels, and most of my short stories, don’t wear condoms. It’s true. They don’t. They don’t because they live in the fictional world I’ve created, an erotic world designed to play out my fantasies and, I hope, those of other people as well. The truth is that never once have I had an erotic fantasy that involved the use of a condom. I have written a couple of stories in which condoms are used, but in those stories, I didn’t use condoms to make a statement nor to assume that my readers needed reminding that in the real world, safe sex is a must. Rather, condoms played a role in the development of the story.

My stories are my fantasies, entirely and completely the product of my imagination. I’m a firm believer that my readers are intelligent and savvy and very aware of the world around them. I also understand that some people prefer their fiction and their fantasies more realistic. Fair enough. Fortunately for them, there are writers who prefer to write that way. I don’t happen to be one of them.

It’s ironic that the stringent rules and regulations that apply to erotic fiction do not apply to other kinds of fiction. I understand that some of those guidelines in erotica have to do with the publisher knowing the target audience. But In other types of fiction, subjects are covered all the time that are completely forbidden in most standard erotic guidelines for submission, and yet no one expects that readers of non-erotic fiction should need to be reminded that guns are dangerous and murder and rape are wrong.

I have written stories for which the submission guidelines demanded the use of condoms in all scenes involving penetrative sex. I gritted my teeth and wrote what the guidelines dictated. But it seems to me that the message such guidelines send is two-fold. First of all that because erotica is about sex, it’s automatically more dangerous than other types of fiction, and secondly that readers of erotica are just not as smart as readers of other types of fiction and they must have extra instruction and guidance to equip them for the reading of such dangerous material.

Do we really believe that people are more ignorant where erotic literature is concerned, and more likely to cause themselves and others harm than they are if they read any other kind of literature? Do we really believe that if the character in a story has a gang bang without the use of condoms that the reader will automatically think this must be what sex is all about, and go out and try it for her or himself?

Erotica is, by its very nature, the place where the reader can experience for him or herself what would never be considered safe in the real world, what, given the opportunity to do in the real world, given the opportunity to participate in, her or his response would be an unequivocal ‘No thanks.’ Is it any different than a thriller or a horror story, or an adventure novel?

The whole point of a novel is to live vicariously a life that one wouldn’t have the opportunity, and more than likely wouldn’t even want to live, if one did have the opportunity. Commercial fiction is all about vicarious thrills and vicarious experiences from the safety of our own home. That’s why reading is so much fun.

I believe readers should be given credit for discernment, credit for being as savvy about the differences between erotic fiction and reality as they are about the differences between other kinds of fiction and reality. I’m not saying that fiction can’t be didactic. And indeed part of the beauty of fiction is that it offers the inadvertent opportunity to learn something new. What I am saying is that I tell stories. I tell stories for fun in a world that, I think, could use more fun. If there are lessons taught, they come about inadvertently while I’m having fun telling a story. But I don’t feel a deep burning need to tell my readers to do what they already know to do, what they’ve been aware of every moment of their lives from the time their old enough to understand that the world is a dangerous place. And sometimes the world adults must live and function in can be a boring place as well. If they’re like me, and I assume at least some of them are, that dangerous world, that boring world, is a very large part of the reason they enjoy fiction so much.

And they enjoy it while they continue to stop for red lights and level crossings, while they continue to treat their fellow person with respect, and while they continue to practice safe sex, all without having to be reminded that these things are for their own good.

 

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Zombies, Threesomes, and Charlotte Stein’s New Novel, Reawakening

I’m elated to have one of my very favourite erotic novelists as my guest this week. The Mighty Charlotte Stein is here to tell us the story behind the story of her sexy, scary, exciting new novel, Reawakening. Welcome, Charlotte!

 

Reawakening started with 28 Days Later. In fact, every zombie based thing I write, dream or think about started with 28 Days Later.

Yep, I’m that sort of zombie fan. I mean, don’t get me wrong. I love the original George Romero movies. I really do. I think there’s room in this world for fast moving zombies and slow moving zombies – though hopefully not literally.

But there’s just something about the speedy, furious, ravenous zombies in 28 Days Later that gets to me. It had a visceral impact on me, that movie, and ever since watching it I’ve spent serious time imagining what the world would be like after a disease of that nature took hold.

Which is how Reawakening came to be.

Of course, there are other contributing factors. Like with most books, I usually start with a scenario and a hero (or heroes), and this book was no exception. At the time of writing I was pretty much obsessed with the new A-Team movie – not because it’s any good, but because Sharlto Copley and Bradley Cooper are so gorgeous and charismatic as Face and Murdock that they kind of warped my brain.

Which is probably a terrible way to describe the writing process, but it’s true. My brain was warped by the A-Team and zombie movies, and then I just had to write Reawakening. Of course, I’m sure there were other contributing factors, here. Important, writerly stuff like:

My muse spoke to me in honeyed tones and I couldn’t not eat nor sleep until I had committed the words to paper.

Or perhaps:

My tortured artist’s soul forced me to eke out each word in a pen filled with my own blood.

But really, if I’m being honest, my urge to write has and always will stem from my love of men, of relationships, of crazy scenarios I can never experience myself. I want to smell and taste and touch the zombie apocalypse. Even though it’s gross and probably flavoured with rotted limb.

And more importantly I want to smell and taste and touch Jamie and Blake, who are not flavoured with rotted limb. They are gorgeous and sexy and they bring my heroine back to life, through the magical wonder of threesomes.

What more could a girl ask, from the men in her life?

Blurb:

June has spent the last two years of her life trying to avoid death at the hands of murderous psychopaths and ravening zombies. So when Jamie turns up on the scene, careless, still whole and promising her safety on a little paradise island, she isn’t quite sure she can trust him. Especially when he tells her that it’s just him, and his equally big, burly, handsome friend Blake.

But Jamie and Blake are even better than her wildest dreams—sweet and funny and charming. And worst of all: sexy as hell. Though they’re trying to be gentlemanly with her, all she can think about is how much she wants to get tangled up in them, and forget the nightmare the world has become. She’s waiting for her reawakening—back to life and happiness and love.

And they seem like just the right sort of men to wake her—body and soul.

Excerpt:

All June could think was—Kelsey is dead, Kelsey is dead, Kelsey is dead—while the image of the ravening hordes feasting on Kelsey’s body played behind her eyes. She tried to shut it off, keep it down, keep running before they got to her, but Kelsey’s blood was still wet and all over her right arm.

And if Jamie hadn’t shot Kelsey—right as she was still screaming, and begging for help—she’d be one of them, now. That’s what happened. Once they bit you or bled on you or hell, spat on you, you had maybe thirty seconds.

Before you turned.

She needed to stop, just stop for a second. Lean against something and catch her breath. But Jamie had somehow led them into this building and he just kept running and running—only up instead of out.

June didn’t even know if Jamie was really his name, or if he was leading them right into a dead end. But he kept going, none-the-less.
She could hear the hordes, busting through the door below. He’d barred it, but they were coming in anyway, to this place that was an almost total deathtrap. The staircase was narrow and blanketed in darkness, one winding section after the next. Even if she dared to pause and look over the railing, she wouldn’t be able to see them until they were almost on her.

“Jamie, wait!” she shouted, but not because things would be easier if he had hold of her hand or was there to comfort her in this dire hour of need. She’d made it this far, on her own.

Or at least, she’d made it this far, with Kelsey.

No, it was just that—if he kept going, eventually they’d be trapped, on the roof. And she couldn’t have that. That was one of her and Kelsey’s rules—don’t run to someplace with only one exit.

Only it was just her rule, now. This guy, this Jamie…he didn’t seem to have any rules. He’d decided to run to the roof of a twenty story building then potentially wait outside until the hordes pushed through a probably very flimsy fire door.

Kelsey had said to her. She had said—wait. He’s as crazy as they are. A safe island? He’s nuts. We can’t go with him. He’s probably an insane apocalypse rapist.

And she’d been right, God help her. Maybe not about the insane apocalypse rapist part, but even so and besides—there was still time for that. He could be anyone, be into anything. He could have planned this all along…Kelsey’s death, the run to the roof…hell, maybe he had a whole party of insane assholes up there, just waiting to do horrible things to her.

Even if that was as nuts as he now seemed. Why would he trap himself on the roof, just to have a little fun with her? Nothing in her head was functioning in quite the way it should. Connections had been lost. Wiring had come loose.

She still called out to him again, when they got to the level before the last one. Her voice came out hoarse and breathless, burning lungs making everything difficult, Kelsey in her mind making everything worse. But somehow the words emerged.

“Jamie, stop. Take the nineteenth floor exit, okay—we can go back down on the other side of the building—answer me, fuck!”
He did, then. She heard him call out over her own shrieking breaths, the pounding of her sneakers on stone, and the sounds of the once-were-people below, slathering and barking like animals.

There were two cracks, like he’d fired her gun into the stairwell. Though she couldn’t see where he was shooting or at what. Then—
“Just keep following me, June-bug—come on!”

Only it sounded more like come own, because of the Texan twang Kelsey had sworn up and down was fake. And he’d called her June-bug again, because he was crazy, he was crazy, oh dear Lord he was probably leading them to their deaths.

This was all just some final mad hurrah. He was suicidal, and this was how he wanted to go out. Death by stairs or death by zombies—because they were zombies, no matter how much she tried to pretend otherwise—or even worse, death by roof.

Was that what he was going to do? Hurl himself off? Plummet to his untimely end? She didn’t know. All she could really think about was how close the first ravening cannibal was getting, and how unfit she really was. She’d started believing all the cardio was really beginning to pay off, but as it turned out, eighteen flights of stairs and she was out for the count. Her heart clawed at her ribcage. Her thigh muscles screamed and screamed.

While her zombie pals kept coming and coming, as though the stairs were nothing, really. Why, leaping up eighteen flights was like a morning stroll to them! They could have climbed these stairs forever and still had the wherewithal to eat her innards, once they got their claw-like hands on her.

She hit the fire door to the roof just as one of said claw-like hands brushed the back of her shirt.

It made everything inside her leap, including the heart she’d thought had escaped. Whenever they got really close—that was when you realized just how terrible they were. How awful the world had become. How much it wasn’t like a movie at all, but like a constant and unbearable pressure against your sanity, always threatening to make you go over.

She felt like going over, when the door wouldn’t close on them. For a second of pushing and heaving with their hands coming through and all over her, her mind tried to fly away. It told her to start screaming uncontrollably, while clawing at herself—that doing so would really be her best bet. No more running constantly. No more pain over Kelsey—and before Kelsey, Joanne and Pat and the old lady whose name she never learned.

Just peace, finally. One moment of agony, then peace.

Only it wouldn’t be, would it? No, it wouldn’t be. If she stopped pushing at the door and jamming it at them and just God, let the door snap their arms, let it crush them, let it kill them all forever, if she stopped…they’d turn her into one of them. And no matter how much she tried to let it hurt her that Jamie had pointed the gun and shot Kelsey between the eyes, it didn’t. It couldn’t.

Being one of them was worse. After all, it could have been that they’d caught a disease. It might have been that they were infected with something—like in 28 Days Later, rather than Night of the Living Dead. But part of her wondered whenever she stared into their hollow, ink-black eyes, if they’d simply lost their souls.

He looked like it. The one who’d managed to squeeze his mottled face into the crack she was struggling to close in the door. He had no pupils, no irises, no whites to his eyes. It was all just blackness, empty and weirdly unseeing, as though they operated on no more than a bloodlust now. Like upright land sharks roaming the land, blindly searching out prey.

She wrenched the door from him for just an instant then smashed it back into his face. It was a risky move, but oh so worth it. Worth it for the satisfaction, worth it for Kelsey, worth it for everything these things had taken from everyone. People’s souls hadn’t left. These things had stolen them.

And when it slithered away and the door quite abruptly shut, the idea didn’t go with it. It stayed, and festered—so much so that she wanted to open the door for one mad moment, just to smash it back in their faces again, and again, and again.

She wanted to, but Jamie was calling to her. And other sounds were starting to flood through her now, too, other big, big sounds that she should have noticed ages ago.

At first she thought it was some kind of weapon. That he’d found a chainsaw or a pneumatic drill or a wood chipper. Something he’d known was up here all along for them to use against the enemy.

But then the wind whipped up and she turned to see something far more incredible than a zombie eating wood chipper. It was so incredible that she forgot the zombies battering on the fire door, for a second. They’d bust through it soon enough because although they couldn’t figure out handles, the sheer pressure of them would figure out the release bar.

Though it didn’t seem to matter. For the first time in these two years of hell, it didn’t matter. She found herself laughing out loud, high and probably hysterical.

Jamie had only gone and gotten himself a helicopter. And not only that, but he apparently knew how to fly a helicopter. The rotors were going. They were kicking up the fine gravel that lined the roof of whatever building this was, and he was yelling to her—
“Come on, June-bug, get your ass in here!”

She thought of him talking about the island. About his buddy who was waiting for them. How they’d just wanted to find survivors, and populate their safe haven, and how crazy that had sounded when he first started yakking about it.

Then she ran to him.

Links:

http://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-reawakening-550153-140.html

http://www.resplendencepublishing.com/m8/318-201-107-490-1–reawakening-forever-dead-series-book-one-by-charlotte-stein.html

My Blog:

http://www.themightycharlottestein.blogspot.com/

 

Thanks so much for stopping by, and sharing some of the good stuff, Charlotte! Zombies and threesomes really rock!

 

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