Draven couldn’t really pinpoint it himself. “Maybe chemistry? Fate? I’m not sure why I fell in love with her, but it happened hard and fast.”
“It helps that she’s marked. You can have a family together.”
His hackles rose. Lately he’d been thinking more about Ashley having a baby. What if he was infertile? The virus had affected some males the same way. If he couldn’t have children, maybe she wouldn’t want anything to do with him. The possibility had been putting him on edge lately. He couldn’t lose Ashley.
“Oh, that’s not good,” said Luke.
“Just another obstacle.”
A forest was fast approaching. They’d have to go around with the wagon, adding more time to their trip. He only had a vague recollection of this route, but he knew it was the direction to the food storage facilities he’d used in recent months. Nothing was a guarantee, but it was the best lead he had.
“Once we plant the new fields, we won’t be so reliant on outside food sources,” said Luke.
“That’s the idea,” he said.
Draven wasn’t worried about the extra time going around the forest. Natural barriers were perfect ambush sites. Although they had weapons in the back of the wagon, it was impossible to know what they’d be up against. It was foolish to expect this food run to be uneventful. They always had to prepare for the worst.
“Horses are getting antsy.” Luke had to shorten the length of the reins.
“Go wide.” Draven reached for the binoculars and scanned the gaps between the trees, looking for any movement.
He wasn’t worried for himself. Or Luke. For the first time in his life, he had a fear greater than death. He wanted to return to Ashley, because nobody could take care of her like he could. If he never returned, God knows what would become of her or his kingdom.
“No.” Draven lowered the binoculars. “Hopefully it’s nothing.”
When they drew close to the forest, they stayed to the far right. Only the sound of the horses snorting and wagon wheels struggling over the uneven terrain could be heard. He was on edge, not daring to say a word as he stayed focused.
It felt like hours passed as they slowly crawled by the sprawling forest. The town he wanted to reach wasn’t far beyond these woods. It seemed to be going well when Luke noted something ahead. A natural barrier, maybe downed trees from the storm they’d just had. Draven saw a lot of damage during the ride, and one of the rivers was overflowing its banks.
“Whoa.” Luke brought the horses and wagon to a stop.
“I don’t like it. Doesn’t look like storm damage to me.”
Luke shook his head. “Looks like a fucking beaver dam, but I don’t see any water.”
His senses were firing off hot. Someone wanted to box them in, but so far, no signs of anyone.
“Maybe it’s abandoned. We haven’t traveled this way in over six months.” Draven had to keep positive. The roadblock couldn’t be monitored every minute of the day.
“Hands up.” A man shrugged off the carpet of grass he’d been hiding under. Several others followed suit. They all pointed weapons at them.
“We’re just traveling through. We don’t want any trouble,” said Draven.
“What do you have in the wagon?”
“Nothing. We’re just looking around for food and supplies, like everyone else.”
The big guy came closer. He didn’t look like he’d showered or brushed his teeth in years. “You must be coming from somewhere. There a settlement around here?”
He shook his head. Draven’s heart raced. He’d never give up his kingdom. He hoped Luke didn’t rat them out.
There were four men and only two of them, not to mention their weapons were stored in the wagon and out of reach. The ambush came fast and unexpected, not giving him a moment to react.
“Just kill them,” said one of the men. “Less trouble down the road. There’s only so much supplies to go around.”
The leader aimed at Draven.
So many memories came flooding to mind. The days he’d nearly died in the war. Surviving this crazy new world. The future with Ashley he’d never know.
“Lower the gun. Nice and slow, asshole.”
Draven turned around. It was Luanna, standing in the wagon with one of his automatic weapons in hand. Ashley was behind her, aiming a shotgun at the other men.
The men complied, dropping their guns to the grass. Draven and Luke immediately hopped out of the wagon and collected the guns, and patted down the foursome to be safe.
When everything had been secured, he walked to the wagon and looked up at the two women. “Is someone going to tell me what the hell is going on?”
“Well, Ashley didn’t want you going without her, and since I know a lot of good places for food and medical supplies, I thought I could be an asset,” said Luanna.
“And you’ve been hiding in the wagon all this time?”