“Coward!” Shouting at Zeb probably wasn’t the smartest thing he could do, but at that point in time, Abbie figured it wasn’t going to make anything worse. “You fucking coward! You don’t even have the balls to—“
Zeb slapped him, moving so fast that Abbie didn’t know he was going to be hit until the pain exploded bright and violently inside his head.
Zeb also hit him hard, sending Abbie flying backwards. He hit the cave wall with a thud that sounded like a bomb went off in his skull.
He didn’t feel the next slap, or the third one, though he knew they happened. Then he didn’t know anything but blackness.
"Where’s Abbie?” Augustin demanded, glaring at everyone in the kitchen. “Someone better have an answer.”
“Are you really that hungry?” Billie asked. “There is cold cereal, and oatmeal, the kind with the flavor and—“
“It’s not about the food!” Augustin pinched the bridge of his nose and tried to calm down. “Doesn’t it seem strange to any of you that he isn’t here? Abbie is always, always here, and he’s not. He’s not in his room either.”
“Maybe he’s in the bathroom?” Mark suggested.
Augustin ground his teeth so hard he was surprised they didn’t all shatter.
“Zebulon has been gone for several days,” a Donna said. “Maybe…maybe he went to look for Zebulon last night? I mean, I hope not, because there’s scary shit out in that desert, and I’m not talking about the zombies.”
“We need to organize a search party.”
Everyone looked at Augustin like he was an idiot. “Oh, come on! He’s one of us, he’s family. Are you all seriously going to just do nothing?”
Billie raised her hand, like she was a kid in school. Well, maybe Augustin was schooling them all. “Yes?” He pointed to her.
“The desert is scary, as Donna pointed out. We don’t know the first thing about survival in the desert, and we don’t have a way of letting our mates know what we’re doing until they wake up and find us gone. By then, many hours will have passed.” Billie took a quick breath. “And there are many of us who’ve promised not to leave this house during the day. Our mates, some of them fear being abandoned. Or fear us being hurt.”
“In the desert?” Augustin asked.
“Of course,” Billie agreed.
Augustin rolled his eyes. “Please. If that was their fear, then why the hell aren’t any of you knowledgeable about the desert and all the scary, creepy critters out in it? Why aren’t there maps, and navigation systems for the humans? You want to know why? Because then you would all have some freedom!”
“But…” Mark looked around the kitchen. “But we don’t want freedom?”
Augustin went back to pinching. “Jesus fucking Christ. I don’t mean to leave-leave, but if something happened to the vamps here—and believe me, I don’t like that idea either. I love Tony. But if, say, he was kidnapped or something like that, taken away, space aliens came down and zapped all of our vamps into a ship, how would any of us help them? We can’t leave the house?”
“Pft, aliens,” Donna giggled. “Please. Now you’re just being ridiculous.”
Augustin felt his eyebrows crawling up to his hairline. “Aliens are ridiculous? Aliens?! Are you kidding me? You’ve got to be kidding me. Vamps and zombies are fine but—“
“And shifters,” someone called out.
“And sprites, and mummies,” another person added.
“Argh!” Augustin stomped his feet. “People! Pay attention! We have to help Abbie! And you are all gonna help me do that, or I will…I will—“ He stopped and grinned evilly. Let the look sink in. “Actually, I’m not going to tell you what I’ll do. That way, you won’t be able to prevent it.” He was thinking cupcakes with pink frosting to start—with pretty crushed up pink Correctol for that added oomph right to the gut.
“I really don’t like that look,” Mark whimpered. “We could Google desert survival skills, and…and leave notes with, um. We could leave a scent trail!” he added with more enthusiasm. “They can find us easy like that.”
“Are we talking articles of clothing on cactus or what?” Augustin asked.
“I guess?” Mark pursed his lips. “Yes.”
“Okay then. We have a plan. Everyone, if you aren’t with me…” He grinned. “You’re a target.”
Claude awoke early. He could feel that the sun hadn’t set fully, but for whatever reason, his sleep was done. He carefully worked the inner locks of the casket, then pushed the heavy lid off once those were undone. The interior of the house was safe from the sun.
And it was entirely too quiet. He knew immediately something was wrong. The place just felt…empty. Last night, he’d thought something was off but had put it down to his own mood.
Today, not so much.
Claude came out of the casket and the first thing he saw was the line of notes tacked to the wall directly across from him. Not just him, but each mated vampire’s casket.
“Shit!” The word felt vile on his tongue, but not as vile as seeing those notes, written by the human mates.
Then he saw the why of the mass human exodus, and Claude’s insides went cold as ice.
“No,” he rasped, touching Abernathy’s name. He knew. He should have listened to his instincts last night. That hadn’t been a roll back in his memories, that had been a premonition and he’d ignored it! “Zebulon, you are a dead fucker.”