Oakley was on her eighteen-hundredth circuit around the cabin when the door finally opened and Hunter returned, shrugging out of his vest and tossing it on the bed without looking at her.
“What are they doing?” she whispered, dread knotting her stomach.
He did look at her then, not really answering her directly. “They’re not happy with you here, but they’ll put up with you as long as I can keep you in line.”
She felt her back stiffen. “What does that even mean?”
“It means you have to keep your head up and your mouth shut, Oakley. I’m sorry, I know that’s not the kind of thing we’ve got going on but it’s the only way I keep you safe.”
“Safe from what?”
He turned away, heading for a heavy pack that was set on the ground. He flipped the top open, pulling out a hand gun. It looked like a Beretta, but she wasn’t too familiar with guns. They were loud, drew attention from creepers and the living that made it hard to keep to yourself. Plus, they needed ammunition to be worth anything.
Hunter slapped a clip in her other hand. “Keep this on you at all times. Okay?”
Now she was really scared. “What’s going on? Are they … are they going to attack Greenwater?”
Hunter swallowed, then pulled her into a hug. “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry, Oakley. I couldn’t talk them out of it.”
She shoved him away. “They can’t, Hunter. You have to stop this!”
He shook his head. “I can’t. I was the only ‘no’ vote. I’m more concerned right now with saving my own ass, and yours.”
“I can’t let them hurt those women.”
Hunter took a deep breath. “I don’t think they’ll kill them.”
“No, they’ll just do worse.” Her voice was steely, but nowhere near as angry-sounding as she would have liked. “You son of a bitch.”
“How can I stop them all on my own? Oakley, I’m trying to find us a way out of this.”
She shook her head. “They’re my friends, Hunter.” She started for the door. “I have to warn them.”
He grabbed her arm, swinging her around. “Oakley, you can’t. They’ll kill you. I can’t … I can’t lose you.”
That was nice. Lovely. And if it was still 2013 she’d be happy to shuffle off down an aisle with him somewhere, but none it meant shit right now.
“I have to at least warn someone,” she hissed. “Give them a fighting chance, Hunter.”
His jaw was clenched as he studied her, gauging her resolve. He must have been pretty close to accurate, because he nodded. “Okay. Here’s what we do. I take you on a patrol with me, we sneak into Greenwater by way of your little break in the fence. Get word to someone, then we’re outta there, Oakley. You and me, okay? We’ll make a run for it. You’ll have done your part to save them, I don’t need to kill any of my guys, and … we’re together.”
She bit back the I don’t need you that was on her tongue. If he could help her get warning into Greenwater she’d take the help happily. After that, she’d figure it out as she went.
“Okay,” she mumbled, tucking the pistol in the back of her waistband. It was a small one, thankfully. A BU9 Nano. “We can’t wait, though. We go now.”
He nodded, pulling out a bigger handgun of a make she didn’t know at all, shoving it in the holster at his hip and grabbing his bow. “Okay. Right now. Pack light, we don’t want to arouse suspicion.”
Oakley nodded, not that she had been allowed to take anything with her from Greenwater. She lamented the memory of her machete and Harley. Damn Memee and her hatred of anything male.
He shoved some wrapped packages into a smaller backpack, telling her it was jerky they’d made from their first bison kill, then handed the pack to her and filled another one for himself. Then they headed out of the cabin.
“Tap!” Hunter shouted one of his lieutenants over. The man jogged over with a nervous look, nodding to Oakley.
“We’re uh, going on patrol,” Hunter said in a tone she’d never heard him use before, slinging an arm low around her waist and pulling her to his side. “Alone time,” he said low with a chuckle.
Oakley’s skin crawled, but she was going to have to play along. She tucked her hair behind her ear and tried to look embarrassed.
Tap gave a knowing laugh, too. “Gotcha,” he replied. “Loud and clear. Be careful out there.” He gave Oakley a wink before heading back to the tent he was helping spike in place.
She pulled away from Hunter immediately, heading for the trees so they could circle through that leafy cover to the backside of Greenwater’s development. Hunter fell into stride behind her, asking quietly once they’d separated from the group, “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing,” was her terse reply. “I’m not that great at playing love birds when your friends are planning on attacking my friends. Call me irrational if you want.”
“Babe,” he was calling out, but she stopped short, hearing the heavy, panting breath of a creeper somewhere close.
“Shit,” she breathed, hand itching for her machete. Only Hunter had a weapon that was practical for taking out a creeper.
As predicted, Hunter pulled her behind him, arrow in place and serving line drawn. She held her breath to cut down on sound, giving him the chance to hear where the creeper would be coming from.
Oakley hated having to depend on him.
Footsteps shuffling through dry leaves, 9 o’clock. Oakley back off as Hunter swung the bow around. She had to admit it was beautiful to see how smoothly he could move, the bow swinging into position, aim taken, arrow released.
It caught the creeper in one milky-glazed eye, dropping him before he even knew he was in danger. Another was behind him, but the arrow rest was already loaded and sight taken again. This one caught the second creeper in the centre of his forehead.
Oakley watched while Hunter retrieved his arrows, wiping them on the ground before returning them to his quiver. “Let’s go,” he said, business-like, which was how she preferred him if she was being honest.
When Oakley saw her stretch of vine-covered chain link she wanted to cry. All that time she’d spent resenting Greenwater on some level, and here she was breaking in to warn its residents.
Oakley and Hunter crouched in the tall grass beside the gentle slope that led down to the fencing from the trees. From this vantage point it didn’t appear that anyone was in her little yard, but her heart was hammering that the wrong person would spot her before she could get word.
“I’m going alone,” she insisted. “Stay here. If I get caught, just … go back. I’ll head for the tree house.”
“Oakley,” he snapped, catching her arm and forcing eye contact on her. “I’m sorry about this. I truly am.”
She took in the lines between his brow, the crinkles at the edges of his eyes, and the grim set of his mouth. “I know,” she answered. With a quick kiss on his cheek she set off across the wild grass to the fence, scooting quickly and keeping low.
She prayed that Tink or Jess were at home.
POLL NOW CLOSED – NEW CHAPTER COMING SOON!