I went to the kitchen and poured two glasses of scotch. We’d really lucked out with this house. It didn’t have anything in the way of food, other than a few bottles of alcohol, but it was otherwise untouched by marauders or zombies.
Almost all the furniture was still here and in good shape. It even had a fireplace and a wood-burning stove, so we could stay warm and actually cook our food. Plus, with the snow outside, we could collect the snow from outside, and boil it down to fresh, pure water.
It was a nice setup, and it would be a shame to leave. But we were still too far south. It was early spring, so there was snow now, but it was already warming up and melting. If the cold really did work to keep the zombies away, it wouldn’t be cold enough for much longer to do that.
“Two glasses of scotch,” I said when I walked back into the dining room. I set the scotch down in front of Serg and Clark. Serg politely said thanks, but Clark reacted differently.
“Thank you, sweetheart.” Clark put his hand on my waist and tried to rub or grope me or something, but I stepped quickly away from.
“Sir, it’s your turn,” Boden said sharply, trying to draw Clark’s attention back to him.
Since Clark was acting gross, I went to see what Daniels and Stella were up to. I found them in the pink room, playing dress-up with what the little girl had left behind. Stella’s teddy bear was in a pretty new frock, and Daniels was wearing a sparkly veil. Stella thought that was hilarious, and she kept giggling at him.
“Hey, guys,” I said, leaning on the doorframe and smiling despite myself.
“Hi.” Daniels grinned at me, without any hint of shame at wearing a little girl’s tiara. “We’re playing pretty princess. Care to join us?”
“No, I think I’ll just watch.” I came in the room and sat down on the bed behind them.
“Here!” Stella handed Daniels a necklace covered in giant plastic jewels. “Put this on.”
“Anything you say, Princess.” He dropped it over his neck, and that only made her laugh harder.
“See, Remy.” She pointed at him and turned to look at me. “He’s a pretty princess!”
“Yes, he’s very pretty indeed,” I said, and Daniels laughed at that. “But you look even prettier. What do you have on there?”
Stella stood up and twirled around so she could show me. It was a pink costume, the kind little girl’s got from the Disney Store to play dress-up in. She’d put it on over her sweater and pants since it was rather cold upstairs.
“Very pretty,” I said, sounding dutifully awed. “You know what would make you even prettier?” She shook her head. “If you let me do your hair.”
Since I’d met her, Stella’s hair had been a mess of knots and tangles. Even when Bishop and Nolita had attempted to clean her up, her hair had never gotten untangled. That was probably because nobody carried a brush.
“Can I do your hair?” I asked her. “I make the prettiest princess braids you’ve ever seen.”
She thought about it, and then nodded. “Okay.”
I patted the bed in front of me, and Stella came over and hopped up. I leaned over and grabbed the brush from the bedside table and started the arduous process of carefully brushing through her hair.
“So what are the rest of the guys doing downstairs?” Daniels asked. He leaned back against the wall behind him and took off his tiara and veil.
“Playing poker still,” I said. “How come you’re not playing with them?”
“I don’t really like poker.” He shrugged, but I felt like he was leaving something out.
“Did you know Clark?” I asked, and he looked up at me. “It seemed like you knew him when he first got here. You said his name.”
“I didn’t know him well,” Daniels clarified. “But he was the general. Everybody knew of him around the quarantine.”
I’d hit a snarl in Stella’s hair, and she winced so I apologized. She was actually taking it pretty bravely, considering how knotted her hair was.
“What did you know about him?” I asked.
“I don’t know.” He picked at his jeans and shook his head. “I didn’t really know him, and I wasn’t privy to that many rumors or gossip.”
“But you did hear some things?” I asked.
“Nothing, really.” He sighed. “Just …”
“Just what?” I pressed.
Daniels chewed his lip and looked down at Stella. I got the sense that he didn’t want to say something in front of her, and I seriously considered sending her away, but then Daniels spoke.
“I asked Clark to sleep on the couch downstairs. I told him it was longer then the twin beds and it’d give him room to spread out.”
“But that’s not why you asked him to do that?”
“No.” He let out a deep breath. “Boden was sleeping with Stella, but you were by yourself in the room. And…” He shook his head. “I don’t know.”
“You were afraid to leave him alone with me or Stella?” I asked.
“No. I don’t know.” He ran his hand through his hair and stared out the window.
My heart dropped. “Did I do something bad bringing him back here?”
“No, I’m sure he’s fine.” Daniels tried to shrug it off. “And he’s a soldier. He’ll be an asset if we have to fight more zombies. He’ll be… he’ll be good.”
“Daniels,” I said.
He forced a smile at me. “Really. It’s fine. I’m just paranoid.” He knew I wouldn’t let it go, so he changed the subject. “Stella, your hair is looking so good.”
“Thank you.” She smiled at him.
I’d brushed it out, and I’d moved on to a French braid. It had been a very long time since I’d done one, but I remembered it. When it was all neat and done, I grabbed a hair tie from the bedside table and finished it up.
“There you go, Stella. All done and beautiful.”
“Thank you.” She hopped off the bed, touching the braid tenderly.
“That does look really great,” Daniels said as he stood up. “I didn’t know you could do girly things like that.”
“Well, you may not believe it, but back in the day, I used to be a girl,” I told him with a wry smile. “I used to wear dresses and put on makeup and even do my hair.”
“No way,” Daniels gasped and pretended to be stunned.