“You’re early,” I said as I wandered around the small armory room.

They had a good supply of guns for a small group; automatic guns like AK-47, two sniper rifles, handguns, knives, boxes of ammunition, had several explosives like hand grenades and putty.

I thanked my brother who introduced me to the different types of weapons back at their base. I learned how to shoot, some tricks, and self-defense.

“Just on time.” He picked up a 9mm just like he had and took two magazines.

“I don’t have a watch, you know.” I grabbed a grenade.

“Whoa!” He stopped me and took it back from me with a groan. “That’s not a toy, twig.”

“I know that. Once you take off the pin, you have less than five seconds to escape before it explodes. Then boom!” I did a hand sign, and he was not impressed. I picked a knife and if I recalled it right, it was a Bayonet.

His brow cocked. “Really? For a girl who hadn’t killed a single living thing, I’m impressed.”

If I hadn't known he always had this sarcasm in him, I would be offended, and I would rather sleep tonight and take care of the garden in the morning, but on the other hand, this was a better idea. I wanted to be exposed to weapons and taught myself that surviving in a world we were living right now was always tough.

“And that girl who’d been through hell had a brother who protected the country for a living. So, yes, she knows shits.” I rolled my eyes.

Colt eyed me blankly. “Everyone here had been through hell, but still, you need to undergo a shooting practice before you get a permanent gun on your own. Just like everyone around here.” He had a point because guns and knives were not toys, and once you pointed at someone, you placed their lives in your hand.

“Boring,” I sang.

“A shooting practice.” Colt was right. It had been a while since I held a gun. I may be a little rusty, but I could shoot when in time of emergency.

“It’s just a waste of ammo.”

“Gun is dangerous, Iris.” One step at a time, Iris, but I was just flippant to accept the fact.

“I know because my brother died with a bullet hole on his head and not from the damn virus.”

“Run, Iris!” he shouted, eyes filled with horror. He pushed me away, but I held tightly onto his arms.

“No, no. Not until you come with me. Remember what you said? We’re in this together. We can get out of here alive, Nuke. We have to!” I cried and begged, hoping it would change his mind, but there was no luck as I watched with horror as those men came marching toward us.

Nuke looked at me in the eye and shook me hard. “We don’t have much time to discuss this, Iris. Remember that I love you so much. I don’t want you to live there alone, but you have to go and search for a group that you can trust. Trust your instinct and keep your head low so that they can’t find you. Promise me, you will stay alive and survive. Promise me, Iris.”

“Iris, are you okay?” I startled to Colt’s concerned voice. He looked at me with furrowed brows.

“I’m good.”

“You still have to practice before you get your own.”

“If you say so, sir. So, I’m just gonna burn the midnight oil with you without a gun?”

“You’ll have one, but only temporary. You keep the safety all the time.” He offered the pistol he took earlier. “Always keep it pointed down when not in the holster. Point down when you rack a slide.” He continued demonstrating, but he kept his finger off of the trigger. “Keep your finger out of the trigger when you don’t shoot. When you’re firing, make sure your fingers are away from the slide and the hammer. Get into your proper stance, aim, and pull the trigger. And most of all, don’t threaten my crotch again.”

“Yes, sir.” A smile curved up my lips.

“Here.” His gaze roamed all over my face, studying me before he released his hand. He looked deadly and... hot. Colt was like every girl’s dream; dark, handsome, and mysterious, but sweet and thoughtful. He seemed to be possessive, overprotective, and bossy.

I wondered if he was also bossy in bed. Was he a type of guy who tied a girl up? Was he a kinky fan? Did he like vanilla kind of love or rough and hard? I think I’ll go for the latter.

“What are you smiling at?” My face instantly heated. “Now who’s blushing?”

“I’m not blushing.” I narrowed my eyes at him.

“Whatever floats your boat.”

“I won’t threaten you unless you press a knife against my neck again. And don’t get used to stealing something that doesn’t belong to you.”

“Good,” he agreed despite it contrasted with the look on his face. “Let’s go then. Have you checked the entire camp?”

“Just the garden, clinic—”

“Not the inside.”

“Nope.” I wanted to check the parameter, but I felt it would bother Gael if I asked him. I knew someone was watching me, and I couldn’t let their suspicions grow. I badly wanted to stay in this camp, and by any means, I would do everything to gain their trust, especially Colt. I could see in his eyes that he would protect everyone, and I would do everything to protect them as well.

The light from the occupied cabins and the moonlight served us as our guide as we strolled at the back of the cabins. We swept the area to the west side toward the small lake. They placed booby traps and trap wires outside the camp that triggered when there were intruders.

“Hamid, the Egyptian, and Fischer, Anna’s husband got the south and east covered. You and I will be on the north and west. The camp is not that big, but we can’t allow anyone to slip inside.”

“Copy that.”

He looked over at me one more time before he stepped up the ladder. I couldn’t read his expression if he was annoyed or impressed. This dude certainly did know how to mask his emotions.

I followed Colt to the watchtower—both were made of wood logs from pillar, wall, and flooring. Hamid already checked in on Colt’s walkie-talkie about the status.

“About time you two showed up.” Frost grinned wickedly to Colt.

“Shut that grin off and get the fuck down.”

“Aye aye captain!” He saluted and set the rifle to stand on its bipod. “Take care of my baby, and good luck, Iris. And Colt, please, stay focused and pull your shit together. We don’t want an intruder or a bore to slip inside, right?” He side-glanced me, then looked back at Colt with a half-smile playing across his lips.

“Just get down before I throw you off the tower, and hand her the nocs.”

I took the binoculars from him.

“Damn!” Frost laughed and went down, leaving me with Colt alone.

My heart started to race. This was my first time to be with him for a long night. I honestly didn’t know how to act or react because something between me and Colt that was hard to explain. Every time we looked at each other, it took longer than necessary—it was like we saw our emotions, our fears, our deepest emotive shades. And there was something deep inside me stirred, and I got that he had the same feeling as I had.

Honestly, I was attracted to him. It was not hard not to when he was nice and thoughtful despite our first encounter. He was bossy, and sometimes it was difficult to understand his provocative nature, but that was made him even sexier if that even made sense.

I stood and used the nocs. I couldn’t see anything other than darkness and tress. And I hated darkness. The cool breeze wrapped all over my exposed skin despite Colton’s long sleeves shirt I was wearing.

The night seemed unpredictable and terrifying. The crickets were the only occasional sound that lessened the tension surrounding the area and around us.

The rest of the night was dead silent.

My vision blurred. I was profusely sweating. My lips were dry as a desert, but I was not there. I was here lying in an old hospital bed fighting for my life. The humming sounds of the machines and faint footsteps from the outside of the room were a terrifying reminder that I was still alive.

I could barely lick my lips. I was shivering. My heart was barely beating. My dad occasionally shared his passion for his job. He told me how he saved lives when their patients had massive blood loss—I remembered my life in those patients. The only difference was, there was no Dad here to save me while they had drawn my blood dry.

Fears were my constant companion.

They threatened me.


Now, I was being hunted.

“Iris. Iris!”


“Care to share what’s in that head of yours?” he asked in a low voice.

Colt was lying flat on his abdomen. The size of the watchtower was not enough for his legs to extend and he had to lift them up. There was a gap enough for the muzzle to stick out, but he seemed comfortable though.


He was looking through the scope, watching across the distance, then he spoke, “Seen anything unusual?”

“I got a good sight, but I couldn’t see anything other than leaves swaying in the wind.” I chuckled.

“Not the leaves, Iris. You’re not watching monkeys or bats.” That was I thought, he always had something to say—he never ran out of words. “Under the trees, the ground. The moon is bright tonight so you don’t need a night vision to see if there are unusual movements.”

“Nothing per se, sir.” I kept looking. When a silence stretched between us, I glanced down, and he was staring at me. “That’s creepy, Colton. Should you not stay focused on what’s under the trees, the ground,” I mimicked his words.

He must have observed my reactions—a little edgy.

“Something is bothering you.”

“I’m fine.”

I watched him as he shook his head, and so far the night remained calm.

“You don’t have to stand all night.”

“I will fall asleep watching.” I chuckled.

It was a weird task to be a watcher because military and guns scared the shit out of me. I knew how to shoot a hunting gun, but that was it. I was the first to disagree when my brother enlisted himself, but who was I to argue when that was what he wanted. Until the virus destroyed us, I forced myself to handle one of the most dangerous things humans had ever created because I didn’t have a choice. It quickly became a part of basic needs, just like Smartphones before everything had fallen apart.

“Frost will bring us coffee later before he sleeps.”

I slid my back down. “So, why did you choose me?” I tended to relax and started a conversation with him.

“To entertain me.”

“I’m a boring person.”

“I doubt that.”

“Tell me who you were before the plague,” he asked in a calm tone.

“Is this a part of a job interview?”


“I was a wedding planner.”

Colt half-turned. “Really?”

His curiosity made me smile. “Why it seems so hard for you to believe?”

“You must have planned many weddings.”

“Yes. Have you planned your own?” I stiffened at my own question. “Sorry, don’t answer that.”

“Yes, I was. In Vegas. Seventy-two-hour married.”

My interest piqued. I ignored a minuscule of pang inside my chest. “Then what happened?”

What’s wrong with me? Jesus, Iris, past tense. Was. Get that to the thick skull of yours! I inwardly shook my head.

“I was with Colton in Vegas to celebrate when he finished his short film.”

“Was he an actor?”

“His directing debut.”


“Yeah. Then we went to Vegas, played in Casino, got drunk, then the cliche thing happened. I married a woman I met in the bar. Before we left, I divorced her when she didn’t want to come to LA with us.”

“You’re an Angeleno, huh?”

“Yep, to the core.”

I couldn’t help but laugh, making him groaned. “Sorry. How did I not notice the accent?”

“What’s with the guys with accents, Iris? A friend of mine had a thing with a guy with an accent; Brit, Aussie, Italian, French, and she didn’t like an Angeleno dude.”

“Ouch, really? I find them sexy, too?” I rose a brow.

He shook his head in amusement. “See that? You’re a natural entertainer.”

“I quite doubt my ability to entertain people, but I’m glad I could help.”

“Honestly, I wanted you here to learn.”

“I know. Can we exchange place?” I suggested.

“Of course.” Colt got up, and I took his place.

The floor was still warm from his body, and it felt soothing somehow.

I focused my sight on the scope lens. “Great.” I could see clearly from a distance—a large tree trunk was almost an arm’s length.

“How about you?” he asked.

“What about me?”


“Nope. I had a boyfriend. He’s a good guy, and we’ve been dating for five months before things fell apart. We didn’t get a chance to see each other again after that. I and my brother went to his apartment, but he wasn’t there anymore.”

“I’m sorry.” That was the softest tone I ever heard from him—it was genuine, and I could feel it.

“I guess we’re not meant to be. Just like you and your wife.” Jesus Christ, Iris. Just shut up because you sound like a desperate woman!


I frowned at something that caught my eye. “Colton, I think I see something. Three o’clock.”

A click behind me made me stiff. When I did a half-turn, a gun was already pointed at me.

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