We didn’t need to say anything. Bending down, Zeke placed a gentle kiss on my lips and settled behind me, pulling the covers over us both. I leaned into him, feeling his blood and emotions swirl through me, drowning even the monster, and for the first time since the death of my mom when I was ten years old, I relaxed completely in someone else’s arms.
I awoke lying on my side under the covers, a cool, solid weight pressed against my back, Zeke’s arm curled tightly around my waist. The room was still; no sounds filtered in from the lighted crack below the door, and by my internal clock, the sun had just gone down. My sword lay abandoned and forgotten under the bed, my clothes in a crumpled heap beside it. Normally my weapon would be the first thing I checked when I woke up, but right now, it didn’t seem that important.
The events of the night before came back to me, emotional and surreal, making me shiver. Last night…with Zeke’s blood and emotions coursing through me, I’d never felt so close to anyone in my life. It had been intense and thrilling and completely terrifying, seeing the deepest parts of him laid bare, knowing the depth of his feelings. Realizing he saw past my wall, too.
But now, it was another night, and we had a crazy vampire to stop and a virus to destroy. Kanin and Jackal would certainly be waiting for us, ready to set out for Eden. Briefly, I wondered if either of them could feel what I had been doing last night through our blood tie. For a moment I was horrified, then decided that I didn’t care. It wasn’t anything I was ashamed of, and besides, if Jackal had decided to check up on me and gotten more than he bargained for, well, that was his fault for spying.
But I still didn’t want him banging on my door.
Taking Zeke’s wrist, I started to lift his arm away, intending to slip from the bed and back into my clothes, but there was a faint growl behind me, and the arm at my waist tightened, pulling me back.
“No,” Zeke murmured into my hair. “Don’t go yet. Just a few minutes longer.”
I glanced over my shoulder at him. His eyes were closed, his face serene, except for the faint, stubborn set of his jaw.
I smiled, poking the arm holding me captive. “Kanin and Jackal will be waiting for us, you know.”
“I know,” Zeke muttered without opening his eyes, though his brow furrowed slightly. “Two minutes,” he pleaded, stubbornly holding on. “I just want to lie here like this with you.
Before we have to leave and face that whole huge mess waiting outside this room.”
I turned, shifting in his arms to face him. His eyes finally opened, that clear, piercing blue, watching me intently. I stroked his jaw, wishing we could lie here all night, that we didn’t have to worry about deadly viruses and insane vampires who wanted to destroy the world.
“We’ll beat him,” I whispered, a promise to Zeke, myself and everyone. “This isn’t the end, Zeke. Whatever happens, I’m not giving up our forever without one hell of a fight.”
Zeke smiled, his face peaceful, and placed a lingering kiss on my mouth. “All right, then, vampire girl,” he whispered, his eyes shining with determination. “Let’s go stop the apocalypse.”
“There it is,” muttered Kanin.
I looked up from the railing, icy wind whipping at my hair and clothes, spitting water and flurries in my face. Around us, the black, roiling expanse of Lake Erie stretched on forever, unchanging. The waves tossed our little boat, bobbing it like a cork in the water, and I kept a tight hold on the rusty metal rail surrounding the deck. Kanin stood up front, arms crossed and eyes forward, a motionless statue against the churning waves and black sky. Jackal leaned against one of the rails and alternated between gazing out over the water and shooting me knowing smirks. When Zeke and I first arrived at the dock, my blood brother had taken one look at us and barked a laugh, though, shockingly for him, the only comment he made was a rather triumphant “About bloody time.” I’d been waiting for him to say something else, bristling and ready for a fight, but so far he remained mute on the subject, which was rather disconcerting.
I tried to ignore him as I gazed out over the water, squinting in the direction Kanin was facing, searching for the island.
At first, I didn’t see anything but waves and flurries, swirling endlessly in the void. Then I saw it, a glimmer of light, cutting through the snow and darkness, beckoning like a distant star. As we got closer, more appeared, until I could vaguely make out the island, a black lump speckled with dancing lights against an even blacker sky.
Zeke moved behind me, slipping his arms around my waist and laying his chin on my shoulder, gazing toward the distant Eden. I laid my arms over his and leaned into him, feeling his solid presence at my back. “Home,” I heard him mutter, his voice pitched low. “I wonder what it looks like now. If anything can ever go back to normal.”
I didn’t know the answer to that, so I just squeezed his arm, watching the lights of Eden get brighter through the snow.
The boat bounced over a wave, coming down with a jolt that snapped my teeth together, and Zeke’s hold on me tightened. The shadowy mass of the island loomed closer, the outline of trees and rocks taking shape through the darkness.
The boat finally came to a drifting, bobbing halt, several feet from land. A snow-covered shoreline, probably a beach, stretched away to either side, glittering coldly under the stars.
“This is as far as I go,” the pilot said, his voice low with sup-pressed fear. “I don’t want them monsters swarming my boat if I get too close.” He pointed toward Eden with a gnarled finger. “Township and docks are in that direction, along the western side of the island. But we stopped unloading people there because of the rabids.”
“Thank you for your assistance,” Kanin replied, finally moving from his spot at the front of the boat. “We’ll continue on foot from here. Allison, Ezekiel.” He glanced back at us. “Let’s go.”
Jackal snorted, pushing himself upright as we moved to follow Kanin. “What am I, chopped liver?” he muttered, and swung his long legs over the railing. There was a muffled splash as the raider king dropped into the water and waded toward shore.
Zeke and I followed Kanin, stepping from the boat into the black waters of Lake Erie. Almost as soon as we were off the deck, the engine rumbled, and the boat turned around in a spray of icy mist, heading back toward the mainland. Apparently, no one was sticking around to take us back. We’d have to find our own way off Eden.