Here is chapter one for my second novel in my Amour series! The Ashes of Amour! If you enjoy it please check it out on amazon! It is only .99 cents for the ebook!
As the hope of a new beginning drives Abby and her friends towards Haven the ever lingering threat of the Undead slowly starts to fade. Yet in the light of hope a shadow arises from the darkness of humanity’s mistakes. As this shadow grows in the ashes the road to Haven starts to bend and break. Trying to hold onto sanity as safety fades Abby must find a new strength to survive and protect her friends in this new chaos.
The black bird was watching Ava from its cozy roost on a large oak tree. The tree was slowly losing its leaves as winter crept up. The bird moved down the limb as it chirped with a raspy breath. Ava stared at its tiny black eyes and saw the red twinkle in it. A shiver ran down her back as she crossed her arms and lowered her eyes. Goosebumps ran down her arms as Ava breathed.
The bird had white foam at the edges of its beak and it wobbled as it moved. Ava knew sickness when she saw it. It had the virus. It was infected with Scarlet. Though she could not say if it had been the bird that infected the children in the small town of Daleswood or if it had been the other way around. It did not matter which way it happened though. They all would be exterminated. The bird tilted its tiny head and stared at her for a long time before flying away.
Ava watched it and as it flew over her she cringed. The lingering fear of infection was always in the back of her mind. Pulling a curl behind her ear Ava stared off into the small town ahead of her and sighed. It took less than three hours to shut down the town and get the townsfolks to calm. They believed the FBI and Army were in their town to find a terrorist. Everyone had followed the instructions to stay inside their homes or businesses until further notice.
They had easily complied. They questioned the reasons of why all internet access was shut off along with phone lines and even satellites. However, when told it was because of the terrorists they kept quiet. It seemed most were scared to question them and those that did were quickly silenced. Anyone who was caught outside their homes or jobs were placed back in and anyone caught trying to leave the town was put behind bars. Most importantly if anyone tried to see what was happening in the elementary school they would be terminated.
Ava watched a few Army trucks drive by as she turned back towards the school. She was standing in a small courtyard next to the main street. There was a chill in the air and it seemed too quiet. Ava walked towards the entranceway when she noticed something moving behind her. Looking over her shoulder she saw a tall woman with long blond hair pulling a young boy. Ava turned and reached for her earpiece to tell the idiots who worked for her that someone got out.
The little boy turned and looked at her. He had a little round face with large dark eyes and then he smiled and waved at Ava. The boy’s mom glanced back to see who her son was waving at. The woman’s eyes widened and pure horror filled her expression. Something inside Ava made her put her hand down. She knew she should get them back and that this boy needed to be secured. The boy glanced over at an ambulance in the courtyard and then at an Army truck on the road. Ava swallowed hard as she thought of her two sons back home.
She would just get the boy later. Entering the school Rodgers and Matthews greeted her with pale faces. Rodgers dark eyes scanned her and looked displeased while Matthews seemed jittery. Ava walked with them as Matthews read something from a data pad. They passed a few rooms with Army men blocking the doors. Walking by a room with a large glass window to the hall Ava looked in and saw teachers glaring at her. Their faces blamed her already. Ava looked away and kept her cool.
“Eighty percent have the virus ma’am. There have been seven deaths already this week. This place has to be purged.” Matthews told her as he pressed his large glasses up on his nose.
“Liquidations must start now ma’am,” Rodgers said with a flat tone, “The townsfolks will only cooperate for so long.”
“I know.” She replied quietly.
“We do it now ma’am. The cover story is already prepared.” Rodgers informed her.
“What of the other towns?” Ava asked.
There had been at least five towns that had been infected with the virus since its release. All these towns were on lockdown for the same bullshit reasons. They had to make sure they did this at the same time so people would believe the story. Massive terrorist attack. Ava felt her stomach tie in knots as they walked down the hall past more Army men and women. Matthews paused as an Army man pushed by him.
“They are ready for the order ma’am,” Rodgers replied with a slight annoyance in his tone.
The solider ran into Ava and almost knocked her down. She felt him force something into her hand as he pushed away from her. Ava glared at him but kept her hand closed.
“What do you think you’re doing?” She growled at the man.
The soldier looked at her with very tired eyes and frowned heavily with regret.
“I’m so sorry ma’am. I’m just in a hurry to get to my post.” He said with a shaky voice.
“Well get the hell out of our way,” Rodgers snapped at him. The soldier hesitated then quickly glanced at Ava’s hand and back into her eyes. She nodded at him and he hurried away.
“Fool,” Rodgers snarled as he turned to Ava and crossed his arms over his armored vest, “We need to do this now. This is the only way to stop the virus.”
Ava glanced up at him and lowered her eyes as she studied the old man’s face. Stress had made him look much older than he really was. He was a kind rough man but she could trust him. He was also right. They needed to do this now or never. The virus was killing more children by the day and if it got out and spread America could fall into a crisis. The once harmless pathogen was created by an independent Scientific research team, funded by America’s closest allies, and ran under American men and women. It had changed since its first release and it had now turned on them.
Ava peered down at the note in her hand. All it said was bathroom. She thought about how simple the plan was back then. Population control. To save the world. Now it was on the edge of destroying it.
“I need to do something,” She said, “I will be right back.”
“What?” Rodgers cleared his throat and threw his hands up, “Where are you going?”
“Ma’am we have no time. We need to do this now,” Matthews said with a soft voice.
“I can either go to the bathroom or pop a squat here. Which would you rather?” She sneered at them.
Neither one of them said a word. Ava hurried towards the girl’s bathroom. Not knowing who or what she would meet she had a feeling in her gut that she knew though. Entering the bathroom, she noticed that the lights were out. The only light came from a large window in the back that was open. A cold wind blew in through it. Ava walked slowly towards the back of the bathroom with her hand on her handgun. A stall door slowly opened and a figure stepped out.
Ava stopped and her heart sank.
“Hello sister,” Doctor Hadley said.
Ava stared at her step-sister in disbelief. Though she had known that somehow this had something to do with her. Ava sighed and shook her head as she stepped forward. Hadley stood tall, slender, and her skin was paler than normal. Her bright blue eyes shined in the darkness yet her face was thin and sickly. She looked tired and used. Her clothes were dirty and torn. Ava looked around for Rowland and saw no one else.
“Where is Rowland?” Ava asked crossing her arms feeling suddenly vulnerable.
Hadley’s eyes lowered and she placed a thin hand onto her forearm and grimaced.
“He is gone,” Hadley frowned.
“Why are you here Hadley?” Ava asked ignoring the tightness in her gut.
“You can’t do this Ava,” Hadley said stepping forward out of the shadows. Ava gritted her teeth as she stared at Hadley’s weak body. Just six months ago Hadley had been a plump lovely woman and now she was just a shadow of nothing.
“You have to stop this,” Hadley went on as she waved a hand in the air, “You will only make things worse.”
“You don’t have a right to say that.” Ava growled.
Hadley stepped back looking wounded. Ava felt a ping of shame. They had never been real sisters. They only had lived in the same foster home. Nevertheless, Ava and Hadley had been close as children and even after they left the home. Life brought them back together when they both joined the secret Government Company to help them build a bio-weapon. The weapon was just going to help the world’s overpopulation. Nothing more or less. At least that was what it was supposed to be used for. Yet here they were.
“Please listen to me. It is changing Ava. Look at what it has already done. In a controlled environment it was able to be contained and did what it needed to do. But, only because we did not allow it to live for a long time.” Hadley cleared her throat and spoke slowly, “But, in the labs I saw it firsthand. When it was not contained it grew and mutated. We destroyed these mutations and let it slide because we thought they did not want more. It did what it was supposed to do in China and Africa. It killed billions as they wanted and sterilized the rest. We did what we were told to.”
Ava looked away as she remembered the day they came to change the plans. Ava had not agreed with it and it made her sick. Yet she had already had her children and knew that they had to do something fast to save the world. People were starving and it was getting worse. The people did not realize just how bad things had become because of the media lying to them. Nevertheless, Ava knew something big had to happen to save the world. She did not want her children to go through what she had gone through as a child.
“And then they wanted to sterilize everyone.” Ava said in a hushed voice, “I know Hadley.”
Ava thought of that day and the plans they had showed them. The other countries allied with America had chosen to just sterilize the whole world. And use frozen eggs and semen to have more children with lotteries. The plan was horrible and inhumane. Millions would die.
However, it could work. Most of the people at the Violet company refused this plan but were bought easily with money and promises that their families would win the lottery every other year. Plus, people were desperate. The media hid the truth of the dying world. Yet the truth was slowly coming out. With that people would dive into chaos quickly. No one wanted that.
“I don’t regret what I did Ava,” Hadley explained with tears in her eyes, “I was helping. I knew that it had turned and it could be used to save us. But, not that way. “
Hadley paused then looked away with shame in her eyes.
“Everything would have been fine if I had not been betrayed.” Hadley swallowed hard.
“I do not have time for this. I should have you arrested.” Ava snapped as her patience drained.
“Don’t burn them Ava,” Hadley said with a firm voice, “It will fight back.”
“What?” Ava stared.
“That is what it did. When it got out. It changed to live within the birds. And when we started killing them it changed. Fire may destroy it now. But, it will fight before it dies.” Hadley stepped forward and licked her dry lips as she cried, “You see… You’re living now Ava but if I was to put a gun to your head you would do everything to survive.”
Ava stepped back and reached for her gun but Hadley turned around in a circle moaning. Ava wondered what was wrong with her. She looked terrible. Depression and stress had to be ruining Hadley. Ava was shocked that Hadley was even still alive after everything she had been through after the chase.
“You would fight back wouldn’t you?” Hadley asked.
When Ava did not answer Hadley shook her head and asked again in a lower tone, “Wouldn’t you?”
“Yes.” Ava said slowly, “You speak like it is alive, as if it knows what is happening to it. It is just a virus… a manmade weapon. Nothing more.”
“Yes, we played God. It evolved to survive Ava. Just like human beings did.”
“What do you want from me Hadley?”
“Do not burn them.” Hadley put a hand on Ava’s shoulder; Ava could feel her shaking, “Please. It will only make things worse. Just let it be. It will die out if it thinks it is not in danger.”
Ava saw a mad look in Hadley’s eyes that suddenly looked red and dark. Hadley smelt of alcohol and something else. Ava pushed her hand away and stepped back as she wrinkled her nose. Ava could not believe Hadley had become such a weak thing. Ava had once looked up to Hadley and wanted to be like her. Now Hadley was just a shell of nothingness. Her voice was weak and shaky and she spoke nonsense. She sounded like a child.
“You need help Hadley.”
“No. Ava listen to me!” Hadley shouted, “I understand you think this is what you have to do. You are thinking of Josh and Patrick. I would probably think the same if I had children of my own. You want to protect them and save them I know.”
“Do not speak of my children,” Ava threatened.
“You think doing this will save them.”
Hadley gasped and stepped back looking at the bathroom door. Ava closed her eyes and breathed. She saw her two boys in her mind and knew that she was doing this for them. Nevertheless, it was not just for them. It was for the world, for every child in the world, to save them from a death of choking on their own blood. The virus would spread like wildfire if they did not do this now. Killing hundreds of children in weeks.
“Fire has killed it since the beginning Hadley. It stops here. They have done the research since it was released. This is how it stops, this is where it ends.” Ava explained with confidence.
“That is true. But, that does not defeat the logic that it will change to survive. It will grow in the ashes and it will rise and take flight in the flames.” Hadley licked her lips again and wrapped her arms around her tiny body, “You forget. I’m the one who created this. Do not do this. It will be our doom. Sometimes the best thing is to just let it go. Accept the things we cannot change.”
Silence filled the air and Ava could hear a bird singing outside. She thought of the boy she had let go with his mother and realized how stupid that was. She would make sure that they would find him as soon as they were finished here. Hadley walked to the window sobbing and Ava felt bad. Her heart sank and she wished she could help Hadley. In the end she still felt like the big sister. Ava knew she should stop Hadley and arrest her for what she had done. Nevertheless, Ava had a soft spot for her and she turned away.
“Ava?” Hadley whispered.
Ava looked back as her gut twisted in knots. Hadley was staring at her with wide tear filled eyes. Ava grimaced at the ill expression on Hadley’s face. Anger filled Hadley’s eyes then disgust and then sadness as she lifted her head to look at Ava with lowered dark blue eyes.
“Will you watch them burn for your children?” Hadley hissed.
Ava’s eyes widened as her mouth dropped. Hadley disappeared through the window and Ava’s heart skipped a beat. For what felt like forever Ava stared at the open window as cold wind blew in. Ava’s gaze lowered as she heard Hadley again in her mind. Ava took in a deep breath and left the bathroom.
“Ma’am,” Rodgers greeted her, “We need to do this.”
Ava nodded slowly. Rodgers stared at her with an uneasy expression. Ava forced a smile and she walked with them. Matthews kept looking at her with nervous eyes. Rodgers kept staring at his watch and looking out windows as they passed by them. Ava’s heart was racing as doubt filled her mind. She tried to fight it off but Hadley had always been the smartest on the team. She and Rowland had created the first pathogen and controlled it. They knew more about it than anyone.
They entered a large classroom with dozens of children inside. Some sat at their desk quietly while others stood on a back wall drawing on a chalk board as they laughed. Ava stared at the Christmas décor around the classroom and it cut her deep. Her boys were making Reindeer feed at their school this week.
Ava glanced at the front of the class where an empty desk sat and she sighed. Behind the desk were small pictures under large names drawn in bright colors. One picture caught her eye. It was the boy she saw leaving the school. His name was Tomas. She made a mental note to make sure to find Tomas after this. She remembered how scared the mother looked and her head spun.
Rodgers and Matthews stood near the doorway as two Army men entered the room with rifles raised. The children turned to them with silent confused expressions. One boy sat at his desk with large watery eyes. Ava felt that somehow, he knew what was going to happen. A little girl with red pigtails coughed violently as blood dripped from her nose. Matthews stared at Ava with fear in his eyes and Rodgers nodded his head.
Ava had to do what she needed. She had to protect not only her children but the world. Hadley was wrong. This was the only way. Even if she knew she was damned to burn in hell. Sometimes doing the wrong thing was for the greater good. Ava had to keep telling herself that. This was the right thing, wasn’t it? Ava swallowed hard as her lips twitched. The fire would destroy it as it always had. It would end here. No one would know the truth. Ava raised an arm and Rodgers nodded his head and placed a finger onto his earpiece.
“Liquidate.” Rodgers said.
Two soldiers walked into the room as Rodgers and Matthews left quickly. The other two soldiers left with them and Ava stepped towards the door as the two new soldiers lit their flame throwers. Ava froze as time slowed. Sweat rolled down her forehead into her eyes and it burned. Her skin was crawling and she could not hear anything. Could there be another way? The world around her was spinning as she thought of her boys. Staring at the little girl with a bloody nose Ava chewed on her bottom lip.
“This must be done,” Ava said aloud to no one.
A little boy in the back row stared at her with a blank pink face. He was probably the same age as Patrick. The boy put his hands onto his desk as the other students began to scream and cry. Some ran to the back of the classroom while others stayed in their seats crying. This boy however did not cry or move. He just stared at Ava with disbelief. Ava went to turn around to leave.
Screams filled her ears, she paused and heard Hadley in her mind.
“Will you watch them burn for your children?”
Ava turned back to the classroom just as the soldiers pulled their triggers. She would face what she was doing. As the flames shot out the boy looking at her never looked away. Even when the flames licked his desk and flesh. He did not look away until he was engulfed in flames. Children’s screams were muffled out by the screech of the flame throwers. Ava watched them as the smell of burning flesh entered her lungs. There was no other way. She watched them burn for her children. Ava felt her knees become weak.
Her stomach turned and bile filled her throat as she listened to children scream down the hallways. She had to do this. This was what needed to be done. She knew first hand it would only die this way. They had tried everything. This was the only thing. Ava stepped back, placing a hand over her heart, as the children in the classroom finally stopped screaming.
The two men in front of her turned their flame throwers off and stared at the scene before them. Little tiny bodies laid across the floor in the back or sat in their chairs. Their flesh smoked and sizzled. Ava wanted to scream and cry and run away. Yet she stood there, expressionless, emotionless.
The two men looked at her with terrified expressions. One was crying. Ava nodded at them and they relaxed yet were clearly scared. She wondered if they hated her more than they hated themselves. Ava closed her eyes as she breathed hard. This was the right thing she kept telling herself. Gunfire made her eyes shoot open and heart skip a beat. Ava turned around and stared out of the classroom as smoke burned her nose. There was not supposed to be gunfire. More rang out followed by hollers and shouts.
“What the hell is going on?” Ava shouted as she pressed a finger onto her earpiece.
No one answered. Gunfire followed by more screams echoed through the halls. The two soldiers looked at her strangely and she put a hand up. Staring down the hall she took in a deep breath and burnt flesh burned her lungs. Ava watched as a man ran from around a corner with blood across his blue shirt. He ran their way but was quickly gunned down by a solider. Ava walked towards the scene and glared at them.
“What the fuck was that?” She shouted.
Before the men could answer she heard gunfire again and the sound of vehicles. They ran to the closest window and she saw dozens of civilian’s cars pulling onto the roads. They were trying to leave the town. Ava’s heart dropped. People were storming the school yet quickly being gunned down by her men. Ava’s head spun as she stepped back placing a hand over her heart. What the hell had happened?
“What is going on?” She screamed in her earpiece.
“Someone talked. The town is going bat shit crazy. Do we have orders to do a full liquidation?” Rodgers replied.
Ava felt bile in the back of her throat. How could everything go so wrong within a matter of minutes? Her eyes widened as she thought of Hadley and then of the little boy Tomas. Who could it have been? It did not matter anymore. Everything had gone to shit. Ava wanted to save this town and now there was nothing she could do. Pushing back tears she stormed down the hallway. Passing burnt room’s as gunfire filled her ears along with cries and screams.
More men followed her as they left the classrooms they had burned. Ava did not dare to consider these rooms. She stopped when she saw the door ahead had been broken through. Ava walked through the door and her heart stopped when she saw three soldier’s dead on the ground. The ambulance sat in silence. Her mind raced as her throat went dry. Trying to tune out the screams and gunfire she stared upwards into the sky and saw smoke. Did they not see that she was saving them? This had to be done. She did not want to kill anyone. Yet, she had to save the ones she could.
“Ma’am?!” Rodgers voice shouted through her earpiece.
Ava looked down at her boots as a few soldiers stood around her staring with blank expressions. It was supposed to be so simple. Come in, take care of the infected, leave with a bogus story and be done with it. The world saved. The end. Ava glanced up with glassy eyes as she dug her nails into the palms of her hands. She wanted to throw up. She hoped that the liquidations were going better in the other towns.
“No, please try to contain them. Liquidate the ones you cannot.” Ava said flatly.
She saw past the ambulance, on the street, many cars sat with their doors open. People were running down the street away from the school as the soldiers with flamethrowers walked their way. Maybe she could save some, maybe she could pay some off, maybe they would not tell. Ava crossed her arms knowing there was nothing she could do.
Turning around her stomach twisted and she had to close her eyes so she would not vomit.
“Ma’am this is Sanders,” A raggedy voice said in her earpiece, “Liquidation completed in all towns. But, we have a problem in Samsville. We need you here.”
Ava looked into the sky towards Samsville. It was not that far away from them. She saw a large smoke cloud growing. Gritting her teeth, she shook her head smiling in fear. Lowering her eyes, she kept tears back as she tilted her head, and pressed her earpiece.
“Our liquidation is not complete. It will be awhile. What happened?”
Ava spoke firmly yet she could hear the fear in her voice.
“The town was more infected than we first believed. We had to burn the whole town. We need you here.” Sanders replied.
“Okay.” Ava replied with no emotion.
Ava looked down at her hands. They looked pale. She had to remind herself that this was the right thing to do. Hundreds would die but the world would be saved. A tear rolled down her face and she wiped it away. Why did she feel so guilty and horrible? Why did she feel wrong? They had given her proof that this was the only way. Ava heard a bird tweeting and she glanced behind her. It was the same infected bird that she had seen earlier.
The bird had white foam leaking from its beak. Its eyes had a white film over it. Its biddy eyes looked down at her. Ava felt suddenly very frightened. The bird moved forward and squawked loudly and spat foam out of its mouth. Ava froze and her body stiffened. The bird flew above her then landed on the ambulance. It looked up into the air and Ava saw smoke behind it. She could smell the children’s burnt flesh on her. The bird looked down at her with accusing eyes. Ava could only think of one thing…
“Will you watch them burn for your children?”