Home > Disarming (Reign of Blood #2)(10)

Disarming (Reign of Blood #2)(10)
Author: Alexia Purdy

However, I had avoided his apartment since he had threatened me. He had made it pretty clear that he did not want me to return. Maybe when I found the underground city, I could approach him again. Maybe with evidence of others, he would be more forthcoming and less likely to stab me in the heart. Not that I didn’t want to snap his neck myself for telling me to leave the way he had. It’s just that I didn’t think killing another human would be worth the trouble.

“Wait up!” Miranda’s voice bounced into the car as she pulled open the door to the car and jumped onto the seat.

“Oh no, not you too!” I groaned, giving her a scowl.

“Hey, I’m so in when it comes to exploring. I need out of the hive sometimes, too. Too much testosterone, if you know what I mean.” She winked, her dark eyes twinkling in the blinding light of the day. She threw on the shades she had hoisted on top of her head and wore a long-sleeved hoodie despite the growing heat, to cover her sensitive vampire skin. She fastened her seatbelt and waited for me to get going. An immortal that cared about safety. It was sort of ironic in a way, and it made me chuckle as I gave in and started the car, too grumpy to try to talk her out of coming along.

“Okay, just do me a favor: don’t tell Rye what I’m—I mean, we’re—doing, alright?”

“Oky doky.” Miranda smiled at me then turned to look out the window without questioning me further. Sometimes I liked her no-nonsense style.

I loved Downtown. It used to be bustling with life before the outbreak. Small souvenir shops, island retail kiosks, zip line riders above our heads while the lightshow danced with multicolored LED lights, creating a unique experience. I’d never been anywhere else besides Las Vegas, but it was enough to escape the everyday mundane routine, escape to The Strip, escape to Downtown. A perfect place to blend in and disappear in the crowds. Loads of candy shops, ice cream and arcades to keep any teen busy. I knew because it had been a favorite hangout of mine and my best friend, Sarah.

But that was then. The memory faded from my eyes, and I no longer saw the twinkling lights or heard the dinging of slot machines as I approached the neglected city blocks. It was devastated. Some of the old shack-like houses looked even worse for wear, having been vandalized and wrecked during the initial outbreak. Longstanding motels sat with their windows smashed and the dirt caking them until you could no long glance inside. Celebrated wedding chapels stood with doors ripped from their hinges, and old arches were strewn across the yards where white picket fences were no long standing.

Weeds grew everywhere, the one thriving life form after the death of so many. They grew out of cracks and snaked through the edges of brown, dead lawns, stretching their fingers across the concrete, cracking it with snarling roots and littering the city with its dead cousins. Abandoned, neglected. Without order, the wild things ran rampant.

Reaching the government center off Main Street and past the casinos, I parked in the asphalt lot, unusually empty of cars. It must have been one of the first places to shut down during the outbreak. Most had sent people to emergency centers or shooed them away to their homes. Or maybe they had all left on their own accord, worried for their families, desperate to make it out of the city.

But none made it out. No one had made it. Or maybe they had. Maybe they all had gone to the underground sanctuary I was so desperately seeking. I crossed my fingers, praying the maps were inside.

Entering the building was easy. The glass that lined the roof still let in plenty of light, letting rays of sunshine stream down into the dusty corridor where the two floors stood dark and gaping down at me. I could see desks and shelves of books and paperwork lining this semicircular room. It was a shame there were so many windows; this would have been ideal for a hive of feral vampires. It was cool inside with thick rock and concrete walls. I shivered from the cool air. Miranda and I found the stairs behind the elevators. The stairwell was a bit dark, so we flashed our beams of light and sprinted up the steps three at a time until we reached the dimly-lit second floor. Only two floors to this place and no ferals in sight, my lucky day!

Finding the blueprints was the harder part. After telling Miranda what to look for, I checked each row of files on one side of the room and Miranda took the other. The place was nothing but file cabinets, rows and rows of them. I finally found the right area, but it was still tedious work, balancing a flashlight in my hand as I ran my fingers through each stack. Over and over I flipped through papers until my fingers were growing dried and sore with tiny paper cuts from the thousands of dusty files. I was thankful to not have to worry about any ferals jumping out at me; the place was abandoned. The short rays of sunshine were a welcome break in the wavering darkness.

Dropping the flashlight when I finally found the right file, I almost squealed with joy. “I found it Mir.!” I grabbed the thick rolls of blueprint after blueprint, glad they had them available and not lost on some microfiche film or scanned to a computer, which were almost impossible to view now. I guess it paid to keep paperwork. Things had reverted to the old ways, especially now that technology had failed us in more ways than one.

Miranda approached, grabbing one thick roll of blueprints from my arms. “Way to go, April. I’m glad you did.”

After loading the blueprints into a large duffle bag Miranda had retrieved from my car, I dropped them into the back seat and studied the red and orange building that stared solemnly back at us. It was pretty enough, but now it stood like a lonesome soul, neglected and left to the forces of nature. No one would ever work here again. No one would sift through the cabinets full of files and knowledge, all about Las Vegas. It would stand for a while, maybe longer than some other buildings. I had made sure to lock it up tight. I didn’t know when it would be needed again. If anything, at least there was one person left who even cared.

Maybe I was the only person left to care. Any which way, I was about to find out.

Chapter Twelve

Urban Decay

Elijah

THE WORST WAS over now. The debriefing had been, thankfully, brief. Nothing new. Just business as usual aboveground. Katrina had listened quietly as Elijah told her about wrangling up the zompires and torching them with daylight. Her bright blue orbs stabbing into each of the Twelve as whatever ran through her head passed behind her eyes. No big deal, right? She never said a word all through it until she nonchalantly dismissed them with a languid wave of her hand, as though shooing away an annoying child. Not even a pat on the back for a job well done or anything. Nothing but her emotionless, cold shoulder. Her face was as blank as a slate. That was all one could ask for from that crazy old bat, Katrina. Anything more would not be desirable.

Settling in for the evening, Elijah was relieved to discover that they wouldn’t be sent out again for another round of exterminations. He relaxed, happy that she had not seen through him and discovered his secret about April. Katrina would never know about her. It would endanger them all. April was his secret to keep for now, and it gave him a feeling of power to know this.

Elijah sighed, frustrated to find out why Katrina wanted all the zompires killed. They only came out at night and lived in shadows during the long, hot days. They never came down far enough to breach Vida’s city boundaries in the underground. Hardly a threat, really. He avoided them easily above ground, so what was she getting at? What was her ulterior motive to this particular mission?

He scratched at the growing stubble along his jaw. Katrina’s motives were never quite clear. Most times he didn’t care, but this had malice written all over it. His fingers smoothed down his beard; he needed to shave but had not made it a priority. More importantly, he needed to sleep for a good solid night. He was exhausted and tired of the drama that she usually pulled on him and his group. The searing stares, studying them like organisms and drawing their blood in endless rounds of testing got old fast. He didn’t know what she was looking for or why. For all he knew, they were guinea pigs in a sick experiment ran by her.

So what if the twelve of them had superhuman strength and speed? They weren’t vampires. They did not crave blood like the zompires. But they weren’t human either, that much was obvious. What they were was something in the middle, the limbo of the aftereffects of the epidemic. Whatever it was, he regretted nothing. He rather liked being superhuman. It made him special in a way that he’d never been before it had all gone down the crap hole.

What did that make April? It was curious that the young teenager had fought with him easily. He wondered briefly about her abnormal strength. Could she be one of them, too? He shook his head; he doubted it. She was just hyped up on adrenaline when he had twisted her arms behind her back. Still, she had been pretty fierce and determined to break free. It would definitely be better if she wasn’t like them. Yet there was something different, but he couldn’t figure it out, so he pushed it from his thoughts.

Maybe that bat shit crazy woman Katrina will exterminate us next, when all the zompires are gone.

It definitely had crossed his mind many a time. He wouldn’t put it beyond her. She was capable of ordering a lynch mob to shoot the twelve to death at any moment. But Elijah was going to be ready, watching and waiting to make sure it didn’t happen. The closer they got to exterminating all of the dead from the city, the closer he’d be to getting rid of her suffocating presence. He looked forward to sticking a knife in her throat.

“Hey, Elijah, checking out for the night? We’re going to play some pool for a while in the rec side of the room. Want to join?” A redheaded Sarah sat down next to him, flipping her long luscious mane in a flirtatious fashion as she waited for his response. She pointed toward some of the other twelve warriors busy playing the game. They waved back to her from across the room, which she returned with a prize-winning smile. Her black cargo pants fitted snugly over her slender curves, and her black tank top did the same for her torso. Elijah noticed it, but shifted his eyes away to his plate. She was a couple of years younger than him, but he felt worlds apart from her lively demeanor. He tore off a piece of the dried-out pizza he’d chosen for dinner as he gave her a shake of his head.

“Nope, not tonight, Scarlet.” He winked at her as he said the playful nickname he had for his second in command. The twelve had their own system of ranks that Katrina was not privy to. It gave him some satisfaction that she didn’t know everything that happened under their roof. What she didn’t know gave them strength.

“Oh come on, you never join us anymore,” Sarah pouted, picking on one of her pink polished nails while intermittently glancing at him. She was pretty girly and attempted to keep her fashion sense in every little detail. From her polished, smooth hair to her multicolored toenails and milky soft skin, she kept up her beauty regimen even after the apocalypse. She was barely eighteen and had been a model in her past life, just a year and a half ago. He knew she felt robbed of the famed career that could have been hers. What her life had been like before was definitely not comparable to what it was now. Life was pretty screwed up that way. Now, she got to gunk up her pretty manicured hands with soot, blood, and zompire decay.

“Sorry, I got to catch some zzz’s. Haven’t had much lately.” He winked at her and polished off his meal. It should have bothered him that he didn’t know much about her, besides the fact that her father had dragged her to the Wynn, knowing there was a shelter under it. He had been one of the lead security officers there and had brought his only daughter with him for safety before the doors closed to Vida. He had died not long after, a victim of the fatal version of the virus, leaving her all alone, transformed into the superhuman that she was now. But it didn’t bother Elijah, if fact, the less he knew about everyone around him, the easier it would be to let them go.

Even so, Sarah had become his right hand woman. She was strong headed, stubborn and driven. He still felt a twinge of sympathy for her. We’re all orphans here, he thought. But she was tough and he knew she’d be fine, with or without his empathy. Instead of bedding her and taking her for his own, he’d let her run the group as she wanted and never engaged in anything other than a platonic relationship with her. It wasn’t what she wanted, and he knew that.

It was all rather depressing, the past, the future. It was all so bleak. He didn’t want to think too long about it, so he hopped up and gave her a wave before depositing his garbage in the receptacles. Did he feel guilty knowing her eyes would be on him until he was out of sight as he exited the room? Did he even care that their less than perfect relationship was completely one-sided? No, he didn’t care. He didn’t have any feelings whatsoever for Sarah. It was like staring at a relative, a sister. Nothing made him feel anything anymore. All he felt was numb, empty and dead inside. He didn’t know if he’d ever be capable of any kind of feelings for anyone else again. That’s what concerned him the most.

Shuffling down past the stark, white halls to his quarters, he pondered on that. Since losing his entire family to the epidemic and putting them down, he had felt nothing. No feelings except maybe resentment. To fall in love would be impossible—or so he thought. He suspected that it had something to do with his superhuman powers. Maybe it had robbed him of the ability to love. He had seen a few of his twelve pair up as couples, but it wasn’t for him. He hadn’t seen any of the others in a different light. Not even Sarah, who was one of the only ones also not paired off. Sarah wanted more though, which he had noticed. He could see it in her gaze, in the way her h*ps swayed as she walked away from him. He wasn’t blind, and he did like her. He just wasn’t interested right now.

Heading through the door to his quarters, he slumped onto his bed and sighed, feeling the aches and pains of the day’s work gnawing at him. He wasn’t sleeping well, not since he had seen the April in his apartment at the Palms Hotel. Who was she? Where was she now? Wasn’t everyone dead aboveground? If so, why was there a perfectly non-dead girl constantly lurking around the Palms, hoping to get a glimpse of him again? It didn’t make sense.

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