Home > Disarming (Reign of Blood #2)

Disarming (Reign of Blood #2)
Author: Alexia Purdy

Prologue

Resonating

THE DAY WAS fading and I stood staring out the car window. My backpack was strapped to my back, even though it was extremely uncomfortable sitting with it on. The window was cracked just a touch, and I could hear screams echoing over from nearby streets. It made the hair on my neck stand on end and sent a snake of terror through me. Who was letting out those blood curdling screeches? What was happening? I had hitched a ride with my best friend Sarah after a study session for a huge math final the next day. I was as ready as I was going to be, even though I hated math with a passion.

Another screech resonated across the houses, bouncing off the stucco and windows, making it seem as though the entire world was screaming. My eyes widened as I scanned the streets before averting my eyes to my cell phone, flipping through some websites I had wanted to check out to distract myself from the craziness. People were running chaotically, not a lot but a few. It just occurred to me that there had been quite a few people clogging up the streets on the way home.

“What the heck is going on? Some stupid rave we didn’t get invited to?” Sarah groaned as she maneuvered around another crowd of people who kept jumping in front of the car and jaywalking across the street. Some had bags of groceries, some with bottles stacked in wheeled wire carts, tugging their load along as they flitted across the street. I glanced up from my phone and shrugged, trying not to think much of it.

“Probably, or some flash flood warning again. It’s been storming for a week. The power probably went down again,” I muttered.

“Oh, I hope not! I don’t want to miss my show tonight! If it goes out again, I can’t DVR it for tomorrow! Ugh!” Sarah cursed as another straggler popped in front of the car, making her slam the brakes. “Out of the road, moron!” she hollered out the window. I cringed at the glare from the man who gave the car a tap with his palm as he continued on across the way. Road rage was not uncommon here in Vegas, and Sarah was a poster child for it.

“I’ll stick it on my DVR in case your power goes out. One of us is bound to have electricity,” I offered.

“Thanks, that’d be great. I’ll die if I miss another episode. I already don’t know what’s going on.”

“You and your vampire addiction.”

“Oh shut up, you know you like the show, too.” Sarah swatted at me as best she could without tearing her eyes away from the street, making it easy for me to block her hand.

“Hey! I do, but I’m not dependent on them like someone I know. Can you say addicted? The first step to recovery is to admit it!” I swatted her hand out of my way as I laughed at her. She gave me an icy glare before weaving out of the crowd, gaining speed down toward my neighborhood. A thump on my window made me jump, and I frowned at the person. A woman with crazed eyes stared eerily at me as we passed. Was that blood dripping from her mouth?

In a flash she was gone, lost in the chaotic crowd. I shook my head. Studying had fried my brain, because now I was seeing things.

“I’d want to be a vampire if I could. They’re all hot, and immortality has benefits,” Sarah sighed, thinking of the life she could have in her head.

“Careful what you wish for, you might not like the fanged dental job or the bloody messes you have to get into.” Arriving at my house just then, I jumped out of the car before she could swat me again. I slammed the door behind me and waved at her as she stuck her tongue out, rolling her eyes at me as I continued to laugh.

As her semi-new Honda rolled away, the screams caught my attention once more. The sun had just set under the west Summerlin Mountains, casting long, stretching shadows across the valley and streets. The chill it gave along with the elevated humidity coupled with the now cool September breezes made me rub my arms. I wasn’t sure if it was so much the wind as the bone-chilling screams in the distance.

“April! Get inside!” My mother’s voice brought my focus onto her. Hurrying through the gate that cut off our property from the street, I helped her shut and lock it. She looked as spooked as I was, and I waited until we were inside to ask her what the matter was.

“Something’s wrong.” Her wild eyes darted about the street before she twirled around and made a beeline for the door.

“You think?” I bit my lip as her icy glare pierced into me. I needed to shut my smart mouth. “Sorry, Mom.”

“What’s going on?” Jeremy’s voice made me turn toward the living room where he sat in front of his Xbox, his game on hold in the middle of an all-out gun battle.

“Nothing squirt, keep playing. You might beat my score one day.” I winked at him as he smiled, turning back to his game, newly eager to beat it.

“The news said there have been incidents… attacks.”

“What kind of attacks?” I grabbed an apple off the pile in the fruit basket and bit down on the sweet, bitter fruit. Crunching on my snack, I finally noticed the stacks of canned food and water bottles littering the kitchen. My curiosity was getting the better of me when I realized the windows had boards nailed onto them and the sliding glass door had huge planks of plywood fixed across it.

“Um… Mom?”

“I don’t know, they’re saying people are turning into some sort of zombie-like vampires, pouncing on others, biting and sucking blood out of them.” Her voice cracked as she shoved some more food into a cabinet, making a pathway to the hall where our bedrooms were.

“Why didn’t you call me? I could have come home to help.”

“Randy helped us.” She looked up at me, knowing this statement would make me fume. “Besides, the cell phones are cutting in and out.”

“Randy? The plumber? Come on, Mom, you know he only wants you for one thing. That’s all he wants, he’s a no good convicted criminal, how could you…?”

“That’s enough of that,” she snapped, giving me a stern look. “He has done plenty for us. He’s coming back with more wood to bar the rest of the windows and bring more water.” She sighed. Her eyes looked tired as the worry made her wrinkles deepen.

“Water? Why? We have the filter, we have water.”

“No!” She shoved the cup I had grabbed from the drying rack before I could fill it with the water. I looked at her, shocked and unmoving. The water was running, clear and cool. The smell of chlorine permeated the air, reminding me to turn it off and wait for answers.

“Mom?”

“Don’t drink it.”

“Why?” her silence made my temper seep into my chest. “Mom, what’s going on?”

She stopped shoving paper plates and cups into another area of the open pantry and sighed. The look she gave me showed me oceans of fear. This was bad, really, really bad.

“It could be a virus, or the water could be contaminated. No one knows, April. People are dying from it, too. The hospitals are full of bodies. People are keeling over out of nowhere. Or turning rabid….” She ran her hand through her messy hair, exasperated and looking extremely worn out. Her hands shook as she reached for more supplies. “We have to stay here, inside, for a while. Be safe.”

I nodded slowly, letting her words sink in as I glanced back toward Jeremy. I knew she was right. She always was. Mom was as streetwise as a person got. She knew how to survive. She had made the few dollars we’d had during hard times stretch to feed us. She had turned her side internet business into a profitable one, bringing loads of extra income to supplement her puny teacher’s salary. We had been able to buy a house with it. She had been self-sufficient ever since Dad had died three years ago.

Still, he had left an empty abyss in his place, nothing could fill it. Nothing ever would. Not even this Randy, who had endearing aspirations of filling the spot. Nothing could ever hope to replace him.

“I’m going to pull the SUV into the garage, get it stocked with supplies in case we have to leave suddenly.” She disappeared down the hall, leaving me suspended in disbelief.

I solemnly grabbed a bottle of water to drink, cracking the seal open and gulping down the fresh fluid. The screams I had heard earlier crept back into my mind, making the gooseflesh spring on my skin anew as the comprehension spilled over me. What did this mean? A sudden surge of panic filled me as I remembered that Sarah was heading back to her place. I had to warn her, had to let her know what was going on and to load up her car and come back to my place. It was much safer here, with high walls and wrought iron. My mom had bought it because of the fortress-like feel to it, always so paranoid of intruders. Funny, I thought she had been nuts, but maybe she’d had some sort of sixth sense about it. Her uncanny intuition was scary at times.

Pulling my cell phone out of my jeans pocket, I noticed the “no signal” symbol and moved about the house until I found one or two bars staring back at me. Dialing her number in desperation, I waited as the phone rang and rang.

Come on Sarah, answer me, please….

The familiar beeping sound of her voicemail announcement commenced, and I cursed under my breath, hitting the redial as fast as it let me. I kept calling until the signal died once more, leaving me to wonder about and worry for my friend. I prayed she had made it home safely. I prayed the chaos of the world had not swallowed her up.

Chapter One

Outlined View

April

THE WORLD HAD vacancies. It was a run-down motel flashing its broken neon sign—dusty and forever waiting. It would remain empty and hollow, arid and vast. No one was coming to save us. No one ever would. I had resigned myself to this already, but it was bittersweet when my eyes would wander to the horizon, always waiting, always wanting to see the dust clouds move like a welcoming mat to new arrivals. But the desert was silent. And with its silence came the tumbleweeds, dancing by in their apathetic roll across the valley, knowing almost nothing would or want to stop them.

The wind was my lone companion here, offering its caressing touch and rumpling my long black hair, raking its fingers through it and pulling strands to fly along with it. It was comforting, this careful breeze. It reminded me that summer was approaching and spring was readily here. It reminded me that there is rebirth, and the earth continued on its axis, with or without us humans. It reminded me of so many things I prayed I would never forget.

“I miss Disneyland.”

The sound of my brother Jeremy’s saddened voice pulled me out of the confines of my head. I turned to glance at his small frame and dark hair, growing and wild as the wind played with it, too. His face had a few freckles from all the sun we had been getting lately. Sitting Indian-style next to him, I threw him a small smile, knowing exactly how he felt. He yawned and sighed, looking a bit bored from lounging on the warm boulders of Red Rock Canyon.

I loved it out there. It was a small vacation from the never ending rubble of the city and the confines of the cement walls of our mountain bunker. He was fine with outdoor explorations, but preferred to read books, watch old sitcoms on the television—recorded of course—or play the Xbox endlessly.

“What’s wrong, squirt?” I reached out to give his hair my habitual rub, but he pulled away before I could get to him, shooting me a glare. This made me laugh, knowing that he was getting older with each day. He didn’t want to be treated like the little brat that he was. He was a big man now. Having survived a hive of evil vampires that wanted nothing but to experiment on his blood had made him feel like he could take on anything. I was sad to even try to reason with him that he was still just a seven-year-old, fresh past his birthday.

“I’m bored!” He fingered a smooth pebble on the stone before snapping it up and flinging it out over the edge of the cliff. He watched as it bounced against the rock, ricocheting as it made its way noisily down the incline.

“Nice throw, Jer. I bet you would have been a star player on a baseball team.” I leaned back onto my hands and enjoyed the midday sun. It was getting hotter every day, and the sun would be burning my light skin if I had not smothered it with sunscreen. I loved the warmth; it felt like life in a world full of withering death.

“Yeah, but I’ll never be on a baseball team now. It sucks!” He stood up and huffed away, hopping across boulders until he found a small overhang. He crawled under it and bunched his legs to his chest, looking perturbed. I sighed. I knew how he felt, but I couldn’t do a thing about it. Nothing whatsoever. The world was gone, his school pals were dead. Nothing was left. Nothing but the embers of the life we’d once had. Now we were alone. Alone with vampires and dust.

I stood up and lazily scanned the valley before me. The center was crowded with buildings and casinos. It had been so vibrant once, teaming with people and lights. Now it was as dead as the death it held onto. Houses rimmed The Strip in patched developments in varying states of neglect and decay. The valley was vast, so spread out, it was an eyeful. The view was breathtaking, and for a moment, it quiet and peaceful. But I knew otherwise.

“April, are we leaving soon?” My mother Helen’s voice carried softly on the wind from behind me. Turning to face her, I could see the stark circles under her eyes and her pale skin. She was standing in the shade of a wall of orange-red boulders. They blocked the westbound afternoon sun enough to keep her in the shade. Her long black hair lay in tangles around her shoulders, frizzy and unkempt. She refused to let me brush it. She refused to do a lot of things and didn’t seem to enjoy the warmth as much as I did anymore. This worried me greatly.

She was not the same person she had once been. My mom had been a strong woman, filled with determination and logical to a tee. After I’d saved her from an enemy hive of hybrid vampires, she had been returned to me, but she was not without wounds—wounds that would never heal. Helen had changed somehow, and I had yet to discover what had been done to make her this way. She was a shell of the woman I had known my entire life. An empty house where the lights were all on, but no one was home. Nothing was the same. She was shattered and fragile.

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