Title: Strain of Resistance
Author: Michelle Bryan
I was twelve years old when the world ended.
For eight years I’ve survived this hellhole of a planet, fighting the parasites that mutated most of earth’s population into blood-thirsty freaks, while the rest of us became the lunch special on their human-filled menu. And that’s only one of our problems as we try to survive everyday life in this new reality.
Enough food and water? If we’re lucky.
Leaving the safety of our high walls? Only if we want to face the vicious cannibals and leeches haunting the streets searching for prey.
Living any sort of normalcy? Yeah, right.
If it wasn’t for my fellow hunters and Luke, I would have given up long ago. Luke. My friend. My leader. My rock. The man whose arms held me as my world shattered when the invaders took everything I had left. And he wants more. More time. More... commitment. But these walls I’ve built up are the only thing keeping me together. If I let him in, if I let myself love him, it’ll only hurt worse when the inevitable happens.
Because in our world, no one is safe, since the only end to this suffering is death. And our war is just beginning.
They’ve already stolen so much from me. It’s time for things to change.
My name is Bixby and I’m the resistance.
Mature themes and explicit language. 17+ Rating.
"Luke?" I whisper in the dark.
His rumbled, "Hmmm?" is more irritation than question.
I ignore his annoyance. "What do you think we’ll find tomorrow?"
His arm curls tighter around my waist, pulling me closer to his body still slick with sweat.
"Go to sleep, Bix," he murmurs against my back.
If only I could. But my mind refuses to shut down. Amy's words are still ringing in my ears. That, coupled with the knowledge of what we may face tomorrow, has all sorts of scenarios playing out in my head. Scenarios that do not end well.
"But what do you think we’ll find? Do you think those things have already hatched, or evolved, or whatever the hell it is they do, and have already moved on? Or do you think they’ll be lying in wait for us?"
His sigh is loud, the puff of air tickling the back of my neck. "You're not going to let this go, are you?" he sighs again, answering his own question. "No, of course you're not. I really don't know, Bix. Doc Roger seems to think their intervention accelerated the mutation of the others. So I hope we’ll find the rest all still in stasis, and we’ll take care of them no problem."
He throws his bare leg over mine and snuggles deeper into my back, conversation done.
"Yeah, maybe," I say, but my voice lacks conviction. I let him snuggle a few more minutes in silence.
"But what if they’ve mutated into those hybrids already? What if we find a bunch of those things just waiting for us? What’ll we do? What’s the plan?"
"You're kidding me, right?" he growls at me as he rolls over onto his back and stares up at the ceiling. "You do realize we have to be on the road in, hmmm, let’s see...three hours or so. And now...now you want to be a chatty Patty?"
"I think it's called a chatty Cathy--"
"I don't give a crap what it's called. It's 2 a.m., Bix. Go to sleep."
"I can't," I whisper in a broken voice, my heart jackhammering in my chest. "Amy told me I was going to die and...I'm afraid."
In all the time I’ve known Luke, in all the time we’ve been sleeping together, I’ve never admitted to being afraid of anything. I've always kept this wall between us, blocking him from getting too close. I've always treated him with a cool arrogance, sometimes downright meanness. Admitting any kind of emotion, even fear, would be opening me up to letting him in. And I’m in no way ready to let anyone that close again.
Maybe I'm overtired. Maybe it's because I'm still in shock from the events of the past few days, but here I am, fessing up to being afraid of a stupid dream. I’m about to open up a whole new can of worms here, and I can't help myself. I think my confession shocks me just as much as it shocks him.
He pushes himself up on one elbow, nearly blinding me as he snaps on his bedside lamp. In the harsh glow of the lamp, I immediately regret my words and I try to roll out of bed. To run away. But he doesn't let me. Flipping me over onto my back he pins me, his thick arms planted firmly on either side.
"Oh, no, you aren't going anywhere. Not after a statement like that. Amy told you that you’re going to die? Why would she say such a crappy thing?"
I squirm and try to get away again, but he pins me tighter. His demanding eyes bore into mine.
"Talk to me, Bix. Why would she say that to you? Why would she even think it?"
"It was just a stupid dream, okay," I hiss. "Just a stupid freakin' dream. And I'm letting it get to me way too much." I try to laugh, but I'm horrified to hear it come out more like a sob. Oh, great. Now I'm going to blubber like a baby in front of Luke as well? I bite my lip, trying to hold the craziness in.
His eyes soften, reflecting the glow of the lamp and making them look like they were lit from within. I never noticed before, but in this light, his eyes remind me of velvety, melted chocolate.
"A dream? Come on, Bix. When have you ever been scared of a dream?"
"I know, right? I know it sounds crazy. But she made it sound so real. She said Sam came to her in her dream and told her I couldn't go on this hunt because...because I wouldn't come back. She has herself convinced it's true."
He chuckles softly. "Amy also has herself convinced Cookie is a wonderful and giving person, and we sure as hell know that’s a crock of buttered crap."
I snort at his use of my words but turn away from him. I'm scared he's going to see the tears forming in my eyes.
"Hey," he says, gentle fingers trying to turn my head back. I fight against the pressure, but his hand grips my chin more firmly and twists my face to meet his.
"This hunt is going to be no different from any of the others. We’ll do our job and come back, same as always. Nothing is going to happen to you, Emma Bixby, not as long as I’m around. I won't let it. And that's not a promise, that's a guarantee. Got it? So dream Sam can take his dire warning and go to hell."
Horrified, I can feel the tears starting to leak out of the corner of my eyes. I can't help it. That’s one of the nicest things anyone has said to me in a very long time.
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Michelle Bryan is a USA Today Bestselling author. She resides in Nova Scotia, Canada with her favorite guys; her hubby, son, and two fur babies, Garbage and Smudge.
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Author of The Crimson Legacy Trilogy, Legacy of Light Series, The Bixby Series, and The Power of Fae series. You can find out more about her books by visiting her website at http://www.michellebryanauthor.com/ or follow her on Goodreads or Facebook.
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