Chapter Thirty-Three

Posted: August 17, 2014 in Chapters, Love in the ZA
Tags: , ,

     It was late afternoon when they stopped.

     Vinnie got out without a word, slamming his door harder than Maddie thought necessary.  The four of them watched as he crossed the street to a run-down brownstone.

     “Shawn!”  Vinnie pounded his fist on the door.  “SHAWN!”

     Maddie glanced up and down the block, nervous about the noise he was making.  The street appeared to be deserted, but she’d learned that that meant nothing.  Anyone could be lurking, waiting to be drawn out.  Any thing.


     “He’s not even there,” Jessie muttered.  “I knew this was stupid.”

     No one bothered to respond.  They’d argued for hours over the best course of action, weaving back and forth across the lower half of the city in an attempt to avoid traffic snarls and the crowds of people who’d taken over the roads.  Jessie had insisted the nearest bridge was still their best bet, despite repeated reminders that the soldiers manning the barricades had been shooting people even before everything had gone to hell.  She didn’t care; she had it set in her head that the bridges were the only way out, and nothing anyone else had said would convince her otherwise.

     Hannah had suggested going to the local precinct for shelter, an idea Maddie thought had merit.  If any officers remained, they could offer protection, and if not, the building was probably a damn sight safer than anywhere else.  Maddie herself had suggested the train station – they could follow the tracks into the tunnel and come out on the other side – but they’d been forced to table that discussion in order to quiet Caleb’s sudden, frantic keening.

     Vinnie had put an end to it all by insisting he knew someone who could help them.  None of them relished the thought of holing up in yet another apartment until it became too dangerous, but arguing with the driver only took them so far.  He’d ignored their protests and gone on his way.  “Besides,” he’d said, “Shawn has a house.”


     “Oh for god’s sake.”  Maddie got out, checking the street again before crossing to Vinnie.  “Will you be quiet?!  You’ll bring all the dead in the city down on us.”

     Vinnie stepped back from the door, his jaw clenched.  “He’s not home.”

     “Well, clearly.”

     “He’s always home.”  He turned to her, confusion clear on his face.  “He never leaves.”

     “He left.”  Maddie shrugged.  “We should too.”  She started to head back to the car.

     “No.”  When she turned back he had keys in his hand.  “He never leaves.”

     Maddie saw the grim look in his eyes, and understood.  He never leaves.  She sighed deeply.

     “Let me get my stick.”

     She told the others what they meant to do as she dragged the rusted iron spike from the backseat.  Jessie was understandably furious at being made to wait in the car again, but Maddie slammed the door on her squawks of outrage and headed back toward to Vinnie.  He waited until she’d climbed the steps to stand by his side before he pushed the door open.

     “Quiet,” he whispered to her.

     A little late for that.  She kept her mouth shut and followed him in.

     They crept into the foyer.  Ahead they faced a steep flight of stairs; to their left, a large arch opened into the living room.  Maddie moved cautiously, squinting in the gloom.  Heavy curtains hung across the picture window, blocking out what was left of the afternoon sunlight; they fell from the ceiling to the floor, long and thick enough for someone to hide behind.  She held her breath and poked the fabric in a few places before drumming up the courage to pull the drapes aside.

     “Peekaboo,” Vinnie muttered.

     Feeling foolish, she let the curtain drop and turned to face the room.  In other hands it might have been a gorgeous sitting room, with wide-planked wood floors and the kind of ornate moldings she’d only ever seen on television.  It was neat and clean, but not well cared-for; she could see, even in the failing light, that the floors were dull with use, and the walls were studded with empty nails where once, perhaps, pictures had been displayed.  Nothing hung there now.  The only furniture consisted of a long, low leather sofa that dominated one wall, and a large television that sat opposite.  No knick-knacks; no personal effects.  Plenty of video games, though.  Another arch cut into the wall opposite the window, leading into the kitchen and dining room.

     These rooms, too, were beautiful and tired, empty of both people and personality.  Maddie saw a window above the kitchen sink and looked out, taking in the view of a walled garden run rampant with weeds and creeping vines.

     “Your friend,” she said to Vinnie.  “He lives here alone?”


     “Does he like it?”

     “I don’t know.”  He gave the garden a cursory glance before jerking his head in the direction of the stairs.  “Let’s check up there.”

     More bare nails marked their passage up the stairs, spaced at even intervals along the wall.  Maddie could almost see the pictures that had once hung there – happy family portraits, maybe, or photos of a child, aging frame by frame.  Their absence made her uneasy.  This house is steeped in sadness.  If they found Shawn hale and well, she suspected she would still not be pleased to meet him.

     A meeting was not to be; they found the second floor as empty as the first.  The master bedroom showed signs of a quick departure: drawers left half-open, clothes strewn across the bed, a closet that bristled with bare hangers.  The master bath had been swept clean of any personal items.  The other two bedrooms waited behind closed doors, full of dust and stale air.  One was clearly a guest room, with a neatly made double bed and cheap dresser dominating the small space.  The other bedroom was larger, and it was here that Maddie lingered, once they’d done their sweep and ascertained that the house was not harboring Vinnie’s friend, alive or otherwise.

     The bedroom had no window, but Maddie saw well enough, now that her eyes had adjusted to the house’s poor light.  There were twin beds, one on either side of the room, covered in pastel-colored bedspreads.  Stuffed animals reclined on dusty pillows, their glass eyes staring vacantly ahead.  A small shelf held dozens of books; she caught a glimmer in the gloom and saw that some bore gold foil bindings.  Little Golden Books.  For little girls. 

     She started to enter, but a hand on her elbow stopped her.  When she looked at Vinnie questioningly, he shook his head.  “Don’t.”

     “Where are they?”  The dust on the dresser was inches thick, she guessed.  This room had been closed for a long time.  A terrible thought seized her.  “Oh my god.  Are they-”

     “They’re fine,” he said quickly.  “With their mother.

     “Oh.”  She looked again at the unused room.  “How long?”

     “Ten years?”  He shrugged.  “Before I knew him.”  He sounded indifferent, but his lips twisted into a sneer of contempt.  Maddie doubted he was even aware of it.  “She didn’t want to stay with a crippled soldier.”

     He never leaves.  “Crippled how?”

     “It doesn’t matter.  He’s not here.”  She followed him back down the stairs.  “We’ll stay for the night,” he said.  “By morning we’ll have a plan.”

     Maddie disliked the idea, but it was plain that arguing would be fruitless.  She left him in the living room, staring at the blank television, and went out to get the others.

     They complained, but they came.  Both Hannah and Jessie had to help Caleb from the car and across the street; he sagged between them, unable to bend or bear weight on his injured knee.  Maddie trudged along behind them, hauling their bags.  She’d left the larger two behind, for Vinnie to bring in, but that still left enough for her to stumble under their weight as she climbed the front steps.  They’d seen people fighting during their day’s drive through the city, fist fights over stupid things like baby strollers and portable radios.  She thought it best if they brought their own supplies in, rather than leave them unattended in this unfamiliar neighborhood.

     Maddie dumped their bags in the foyer and went to get ice for the kid’s knee, directing the other women toward the sofa.  As she rummaged around in the kitchen, searching for a hand towel, she glanced at Vinnie.  He stood at the dining room’s back door, brooding over the garden.

     “Where do you think he went?”  She emptied a tray of ice into a bowl, and scooped some out to wrap inside the towel.  The bowl she placed back in the freezer, should the kid need more later.

     She waited so long for an answer that Hannah came in looking for her.  Maddie handed off the ice pack.  “Elevate his leg,” she instructed.  “Stack the bags, if you have to.  There are bathrooms upstairs; send my sister up to see if she can find some Advil.”

     The older woman hurried off.  Maddie leaned against the counter, her eyes on Vinnie, waiting to see if he would speak.  From the other room came murmurings, then the stomp of footsteps up the stairs.

     Finally, Vinnie sighed.  “I don’t know.  To his daughters, maybe.”

     “Where are they?”

     “Outside the city somewhere.  He never said.”

     Maddie frowned.  “He won’t get to them.”

     “Not if he left today,” Vinnie agreed.  “But he could have left this morning, or yesterday, or last week.  We don’t know.”  She saw the muscles in his jaw work as he ground his teeth, frustrated.  “We wasted too much time.”

     “How badly do we need him?” she asked, afraid to know the answer.

     “He knows the city.”

     “So do you.”

     He shook his head.  “Not like him.  He was born here; he grew up in this house.  He knows ways around the city that aren’t on any maps.  I thought…”

     “That he could lead us out.”


     Shit.  “So what do we do now?”

     “The precinct, I guess.”  She saw from his face what the admission cost him; he hated the idea, but clearly thought there was no other way.  “We could try one of the tunnels, follow the train tracks, but they might be guarded.  And Caleb-”

     “He could be made to see reason,” she broke in.  “He wouldn’t be alone, or unarmed.”

     “He can’t walk,” Vinnie said.  He didn’t add whose fault that was, but Maddie flushed with guilt all the same.

     “We could wait a few days,” she suggested.  “Stay here, let his leg rest.”

     “No.”  He turned back to the garden, his face dark.  “One night here is fine, but it’s not safe.  No more than the apartment was.  Worse, even.  They could come right in.”

     She pictured them crowding around the house, pouring in through broken windows and shattered doors, and shivered.  He was right.  “The precinct, then.”


     He left her, to tell the others what they’d decided.  What he decided.  It was her turn to stare into the garden, irritated.  She liked him well enough, and god knew he was attractive, but she was growing tired of him making unilateral decisions.  He had been the one who insisted that they keep Summer in the apartment, instead of taking her to a hospital.  They could have left her there, and the kid too, instead of spending days waiting around for her to die.  He had chosen to come here, looking for his friend.  And now he’d chosen their next step.  She suspected he’d only pretended to listen to her, to talk it through; he’d decided on the precinct the moment he’d realized this house was empty, and they’d get no help here.  The precinct wasn’t even his idea, she thought sourly.  Nonetheless, she could hear them in the other room, praising his wisdom.  Arrogant prick.

     Gradually, the last of the day’s light left the kitchen, until outside and in were cloaked in shadows.  It’s nearly November.  It’ll be cold soon.  She wondered how the dead would fare in lower temperatures, or the snow.  Maybe they’ll freeze solid.  Then they could let us out.

     Vinnie decreed that they should use as little light as possible, so as not to draw attention to the house.  They found pizzas in the freezer and ate them in the darkened living room, accompanied by the faint glow of the television.  There was nothing new on the news, so they sat and watched sitcoms in silence, until Jessie finally complained that she was tired.

     “Go on upstairs,” Vinnie told her.  “The room at the back is mine, but you can have the master.”

     “I’ll go up too,” Caleb declared.  “I, uh, I need some help though.”

     Hannah and Jessie rushed to his side, lifting him again between them to help him up the stairs.  Vinnie went along, to bring their bags and get them situated, leaving Maddie to clean up the dishes and other mess.  Everything was washed and put away when he came back down.

     “Are they good?” she asked, flopping back down onto the sofa.

     “The kid thought the girls’ room was creepy.  He’s in Shawn’s room, with your sister.  Hannah took one of the girls’ beds.” He gave her a look.  “You could have the other one.”

     She felt herself blush under his gaze.  They hadn’t talked about the night before, or what had happened between them.  If he wanted to pretend that nothing had, that was fine with her.  I won’t beg.

     “Sounds good,” she said, careful to keep her tone neutral.  “I think I’ll head up too.  Not enough sleep last night.”  She winced at her words, afraid he’d think she was trying to drop a hint.  Ugh.  Shut up and go to bed.  “Will you be okay?”

     He nodded.  “I’ll be up soon.  I have to bring those other bags in.”

     “In the dark?”  She frowned.  “Is that safe?”

     “I don’t know.  I’ll be quiet.”

     “Do you want me to wait?”

     “No.”  He gave her a reassuring smile.  “Go on up.  I’ll be fine.”

     She lingered for a moment, uncertain, but he’d already turned his attention back to the television.  She waited a heartbeat longer, then sighed and grabbed her bag.  She’d just placed a foot on the stairs when he spoke again.

     “My bed is pretty big.  Just for the record.”

     She went up without responding, her heart pounding.  At the landing she hesitated, torn between the two rooms.  She could hear Hannah, already snoring, through the door of the smaller bedroom.  She could slip in without disturbing her and sleep in a bed left empty for a decade, in a room blanketed in dust and grief….or she could slip into the other, knowing what that meant.

     You stopped him last time.  You knew it was a bad idea.  One day doesn’t change that.

     She went into the hall bathroom instead, to clean up as best she could.  She was not surprised to see that her lip was still swollen; eating had been hard.  The scratches from her sister weren’t as bad as she’d expected – the marks had already started to fade, and neither appeared to have bled at all.  There is blood, though.  Just not mine.  She found a rag and wiped away the flecks around her temples and hairline, grimacing as she remembered the way the dead woman had sprayed her face with spit.  It’s good the scratches didn’t bleed.  No matter what he says, we don’t know how it works.

     Her pants were dirty, from scrabbling in the alley, but would come clean.  Her shirt was a lost cause, stained with dirt, sweat and blood.  She balled it up and tossed it in the garbage.  If this keeps up, I’ll be naked before long.  She’d only packed enough for a few days, and now two of the shirts she’d brought had been ruined.  She wondered if Shawn would mind if she raided his dresser before they left.

     Washed and in clean clothes, Maddie flipped off the bathroom light and went back into the hall.  After a moment more of consideration, she went into Vinnie’s room.  A thousand doubts ran through her mind, chief among them that she still thought he was an asshole, but she couldn’t bear the idea of sleeping in the abandoned bedroom of Shawn’s lost daughters.  Besides, she was lonely.

     It’s just one night, she told herself.  It’s not like we’re getting married.

     She surprised herself by laughing, a bitter laugh that echoed in the empty bedroom.  You just want to feel wanted.  And so what?  There are worse reasons to fuck a guy.

     She intended to wait up for him, to make sure he came back with the bags safely, but the bed proved too warm, the pillow too soft and comfortable.  She dozed off, and woke with a start when she felt the bed sag beside her.

     “Vinnie?” she whispered.


     She rolled her eyes.  “Everything okay?”

     “Fine.  The street was empty.  No lights in the other houses, either.  They’re either gone, or hiding, like us.”

     The idea made her sad.  How many people were now trapped in their own homes, lucky enough to avoid the flu only to have to hide from their neighbors?  Until they come crashing in, like mine.

     She lay still, listening while he shifted around beside her, getting comfortable.  She wanted to roll over, to snuggle into his side, but nerves held her pinned in place.  That, and pain; she wasn’t sure how long she’d been asleep, but it had been long enough for her injured shoulder to stiffen up in protest.  She hadn’t seen a bruise, when assessing her other injuries, but it was apparent that the muscles were pissed off just the same.

     A minute or so of silence passed before he reached out to touch her, grabbing her shoulder, and she flinched away.

     “Are you hurt?”

     “It’s nothing,” she said.  She turned slowly onto her back, trying not to roll too far and put weight on the joint.  “I hit it hard, this morning.  It’s just stiff.”

     He sat up and touched her again, carefully this time; one hand slid down to grip her forearm, while the other massaged her shoulder, his fingers working the tender muscles.  Every so often he tugged gently on her arm, pulling it down and away from her body.  After a few minutes she heard as well as felt a quiet pop; relief flooded down the length of her arm, so intense her fingers tingled.  She sighed.


     “Yes.”  She shrugged her shoulder, pleased to note that the pain was nearly gone.  “Thanks.”

     “Sure.”  He lay back down beside her, propping his head in one hand.  The other remained on her arm, stroking from wrist, to shoulder, back down to her wrist.  He didn’t speak, but she could feel his eyes on her, peering through the dark.  When she shifted her weight she felt something else as well, pressed against her leg.

     “The others,” she whispered.

     “Asleep.”  He moved to caress her neck, down and across her collarbone.  “Your sister cradles Caleb like a child.”

     Maddie frowned at that.  Jessie was overly fond of those more broken than herself; if the kid didn’t get his shit together, she would grow more and more attached to him.  Hannah too.  The older woman had also taken a rapid shine to the boy.  It could be a problem, later.  He hates me.  If he hates me, and they love him…

     Vinnie drew her back from her thoughts.  His hand stroked her breasts, first one, then the other, until her nipples grew as rigid as his cock against her thigh.  He scratched them lightly through the fabric of her shirt, and she moaned.

     “You have to be quiet.”  His hand slipped down, to find bare skin, and pulled the shirt up.  “You don’t want them to hear you.”

     No.  He didn’t wait for a response.  His mouth found a nipple while his hand slid further down, beneath pants and panties both, and started to stroke.  She arched her back, hoping he would suckle harder, and he pulled away.  His fingers slipped inside her, one at first and then two, probing gently.  When he moved to kiss her mouth, she turned her face away.

     “My lip…you can’t.”

     His hand left her abruptly; damp fingers grasped her chin, turning her face back.  “Be still,” he whispered.  “I won’t hurt you.”

     She closed her eyes, suddenly close to tears.  “Promise?”

     “Promise.”  His lips brushed against hers, feather-light, and traveled across her cheek.  He covered her face and neck in soft kisses, while his hand slipped back between her legs, his fingers thrusting into her.  The harder he stroked, the more gently he kissed, until she thought the difference in sensation would drive her mad.  She writhed on the bed, gasping.

     “Please.”  She clutched his shoulders and pulled him toward her, desperate.  “Vinnie.  Please.”

     “Sshh.”  Moving quickly, he tugged her bottoms down and spread her thighs.  She reached down to help him unroll the condom and guide him in, noticing as she did that he was shorter than Jack had been, but thicker too.  When he pushed his way inside her, she hissed in surprise and pain.  “Sshh,” he said again.

     He went slowly at first, giving her time to adjust.  Before long she was meeting him thrust for thrust, bucking her hips while she gripped his shoulders.  He surprised her by sitting up, then lifting her hips to accommodate the change in angle.  His speed increased, as did his depth, and she felt an orgasm start to build inside of her.  I can’t scream.  I can’t scream.  I-  I-  I-

     He let out a strangled cry and spasmed against her.  Dammit!  He collapsed on top of her, kissing her neck and murmuring kind words in her ear, words she barely heard in her frustration.  One more thrust, maybe two, and she’d have been done too.

     When he rolled away she made to do the same, until he caught her hip with his hand and pulled her back.  “Where are you going?”

     “To clean up?”

     “Not yet.”  He tugged on her thigh, pulling her legs apart again.  Nimble fingers found her clit and circled, squeezing and pressing gently.  “You’re not finished,” he whispered, nipping at her ear.  “Let me see you come.”

     She threw her head back, abandoning herself to the pleasure he was building back up inside her.  Her nails raked at his chest as she felt her calves begin to tighten, then her thighs.  She started cry out, unable to hold back, and his mouth came down on hers, pushing her injured lip against her teeth.  Her clit exploded with the mix of pain and pleasure.

     She came with the taste of blood in her mouth, and forgot her promise not to scream.

  1. mxcoot says:

    Well it’s about time, very well written for a first time sex scene.

  2. deltajuliet74 says:

    OK, I read this when you first wrote it. More more more! 🙂
    And I mean that in the nicest way possible!

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