Authors: Rose Francis
TRAPPED: ORIGINAL (ABRIDGED) EDITION
Due to mature content, recommended for 18+. Also includes dominant/submissive themes with alpha male.
Serena is between a rock and a hard place.
A military experiment gone wrong has sent her world crashing down—along with everybody else’s—as a mysterious disease turns living, breathing, red-blooded people into mindless weapons of destruction.
Supplies have run so low that her husband leaves to find food and never returns.
Serena finds herself alone, preparing for inevitable death from starvation when her husband’s best friend, Steven, shows up to her rescue.
After seeing his best friend turn, Steven knows what he must do: protect and save his old buddy’s wife, the only person he has left now that his whole family and everyone else he cared about is gone.
Only Serena is not just his undead best friend’s girl—Steven has had a secret crush on Serena for almost as long as he’s known her, doing everything in his power to hide it from his buddy while he was alive.
And now, at the horrible price of losing his best friend, he has a chance to be with her.
But would Serena ever give him a chance, given their circumstances? Or, considering the broken down state of the world and its rules, should he just take it?
is the first in the sci-fi
NOTE: THIS IS THE ORIGINAL, ABRIDGED EDITION (ABOUT 18,000 WORDS).
THE EXPANDED EDITION IS TWICE THE LENGTH (36,000 WORDS) AND INCLUDES A PROLOGUE, ADDITIONAL SCENES, AND A WHOLE NEW SECTION (PART TWO).
ORIGINAL (ABRIDGED) EDITION
THE BITE-SIZED ROMANCE SERIES
Poison Arrow Publishing
Copyright © 2013 by Rose Francis
All rights reserved.
First ARe Edition: September 2013
This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. No part of this publication may be reproduced, transmitted or circulated in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
Cover photo by
Alexander Tihonov aka
Cover design by PAPDesign.
© User:Equations / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA-3.0
TABLE OF CONTENTS
PLAYING WITH FIRE
CHAPTER ONE: ESCAPE
Serena cowered more as the thunderous knocking came again, even harder than the previous bout of pounding.
Surely the door would come off its hinges with that kind of force.
“Serena, open up!” the masculine voice behind it said. “If you’re in there and you don’t open up in the next twenty seconds, I’m literally going to blow the door away, so stand away from it!”
Serena recognized the voice that had been shouting at her for the past half a minute, and all the logic she had left told her it was safe to open her door to the man behind it, since there was no way he was there to harm her. He’d been sent to help her, no doubt.
He might have even found her husband.
She felt a surge of hope as she forced herself to unwind from her balled up position against the wall, exhaling a weak: “Coming!” as she headed for the door.
She peeked through the peephole to confirm identity, and saw a familiar dirty blonde head with a worked-up reddish face staring back at the door as if trying to see through it.
Serena carefully opened the door to him.
Steven let out an unabashed breath of relief as his sky-colored eyes took her in, and his arms relaxed momentarily.
“Come with me,” he said, his words immediately more gentle as he indicated the way with what looked like an AK-47.
Serena couldn’t help thinking how much he looked like a blonde, blue-eyed Rambo in the moment, his muscular, capable arms flexing as they moved, his blue eyes confident and commanding.
Serena knew little of guns, but the rifle he held reminded her of what she’d seen in news images from mass shootings when that particular weapon was mentioned.
Steven was also visibly strapped with other weapons, a Glock among them, and she guessed more hid under his clothes.
She recognized the Glock because it was the one weapon she
a bit familiar with—Steven had given both her and her husband gun lessons a few years ago.
Serena also knew in that moment that there was absolutely no room for refusal or doubt given Steven’s military history, so she obeyed immediately, fighting back the desire to hug him, although she wasn’t sure why—the two of them had sort of become friends through her husband, striking up an easy friendship as if they, too, had known each other from school days. They even had an ongoing rivalry and battle-of-wits with the Words With Friends
whenever he was in town, both pretending to be the master strategist although she beat him just about every time.
Plus, Serena hadn’t seen another human in over a week since her husband left to find food for them, and before that, it had been just her and her husband for the month and a half since the world was hit by what appeared to be a Zombie-like outbreak.
All telecommunications went down soon after the haunting government messages and warnings came screeching through televisions and phones about the breakout, and weeks later, she and her husband had both been about to starve to death, having eaten and drunk everything from the cupboards and fridge of their fifth-floor apartment unit.
Serena had had plans to go grocery-shopping the next day, having put it off for over a week before the government warnings came in, and now it was suddenly too late for any of them to safely leave their home.
She and Gregory managed their supplies for a few weeks, Serena jokingly reminding him she’d successfully done the Master Cleanse twice in the past and could handle a drastic reduction in intake, but eventually they were pretty much down to spices.
“We can’t continue like this,” Gregory said as she got ready to combine the last of the corn meal with the questionable water now flowing from their faucet for their next, and probably last meal.
They had both lost about twenty pounds in the five weeks since the outbreak—since a large portion of the population had suddenly turned into dull, lumbering bodies intent on human destruction. Since the grids shut down, electricity suddenly a vague memory.
“You’re smaller than when I met you, and you were, what, a two or four then? How much longer do you think we can go without food or water? Look at me,” Gregory said.
She took in his thin body, smaller than she’d ever seen him, and his thick, wavy dark hair—dull instead of its usual gloss for once.
“I have to do this,” he said. “We’ll both die here, and I can’t do that—I can’t just let you die without trying to save you.”
“I’ll go with you,” Serena said, unable to accept what his departure could mean.
He shook his head. “You can’t—that makes no sense. You’ll only be putting yourself in danger, and why should both of us be in danger? It’ll be harder for me to look out for you out there. Look, it’s one thing to slowly die of hunger here, but another to have your entrails ripped out and your face eaten off by
. At least in here, you still have a chance; I feel better you’re at least unreachable here, and can maybe survive a bit longer. Someone could find you here and help you.”
“You expect me to just let you go out there and die? Stay here with me then!”
“And have us both just die here without even trying? I already told you—I can’t just stay here and do nothing to help us survive. I vowed to protect you, to do everything in my power to make sure you’re happy and safe. And that’s what I’m going to do.”
“You do realize what you’re doing by leaving?”
He grabbed her hands and his eyes held tears.
“I know exactly what I’m doing—I’m trying to save your life. If I don’t return in three days, just know I did everything I could. I love you sweetheart, and I’m sorry.”
He embraced her, and they both cried, kissing each other, knowing it could be the last time.
“I don’t feel right about leaving,” Serena suddenly said to Steven, even as she followed him down the hall toward the staircase. “Is Gregory out there? Are you taking me to him?”
Steven didn’t look at her. He just kept moving as if through a battlefield, as if prepared for a ghoul to jump out of the wall any moment, despite the low chance they could have found their way up the elevator on the other side of her floor. The diseased figures seemed quite brainless, and would likely not figure out the buttons.
“He’s out there,” Steven finally said.
“Where?” she almost shouted, her heartbeat tripling.
Steven shrugged, and the look on his face made Serena’s heart start slowing back down.
“I’m hoping we run into him along the way,” Steven said, still not looking at her.
“Wait, then how did you know I was here? You haven’t spoken to him? Why should I go with you? He might come back here looking for me!”
Steven seemed to close his eyes for the briefest of moments, and Serena ignored the feeling of dread building in her stomach.
“Serena, don’t be silly. Look, I have supplies, and you’re clearly weak with hunger—I mean look at you! You’re practically half the woman I met. Just come downstairs with me and let me feed you at least; I can help you. My whole mission coming here was to find you and take you to safety. We’ll camp right outside the building in my car if you want, and you can wait here for him as long as you feel. I can keep you safe while we wait and you just let me know when you’re ready to go.”
Serena relaxed as she continued following him as he kept his gun ready. They began making their way down the five flights of stairs.