By the time the team, Devon’s team, finished their meeting, darkness had claimed the land. Devon headed outside into the night. A precious whiskey and water filled his hand. He needed a moment of solitude and as soon as the thought entered his head it made him want to laugh.
“Figures,” he said aloud. “All that time in the zoo, when I was alone, all I wanted was someone to talk to and now here I am seeking some solitude again.”
“Were you talking to yourself then too?” a female voice asked. He felt more than saw her clinging smile as she rounded the barn and stood a dozen feet before him. The half moon kissed the sparse desert with silver light and caused her golden hair to almost glow.
“Kimberly, I didn’t see you there.” He swallowed the lump forming in his throat. He had been so busy making sure everyone was safe and stayed that way that he really hadn’t gotten any time alone with the woman that had saved his life during their final battle with the Rippers.
“Yeah, I’m pretty sneaky,” she said, while moving a bit closer and he could see her smile this time. As well as the fact that she was wearing a flowing little summer dress. Most women dressedvlike men these days—less things for the zombies to grab on to—and he had almost forgotten how beautiful a woman in a dress could be.
A moment of silence stretched between them, until she broke it by saying, “Well, it sounds like you wanted to be alone, so-”
“I doubt I’ll ever want to be alone again,” he said quickly. “It was just that thinking back to my time in the zoo was making me want to see my jaguars, if that’s even possible.”
“I’ve seen them a few times. They only come out at night of course. They’re easiest to see on top of the hills hunting rabbit and quail.”
“I guess I’ve been to too busy with everything,” he said while looking at his boots.
“Come on, Mr. Gloomy,” she laughed, “I’m not sure why, but they seem to like you enough to stay around this ranch. Besides, we appreciate how busy you are.”
“Oh yeah, we sure do,” A gruff voice sounded from over his shoulder. “I mean what would we do without our big hero?”
Whipping his head around, Devon saw four new people approaching him. Two men, with their arms around girls way too young for them to be getting that cozy with, stepped out of the shadows and into the dim moonlight.
“Rik…Trent, what brings you two into the desert tonight, besides bringing these girls outside the safety of the ranch house where they should be?”
“I thought I heard that the whole reason you bailed on your army buddies is because you didn’t like taking orders and here you are more than willing to hand them out.”
It sounded like Trent Mumbled hypocrite under his breath.
“I’ll be handing out a lot more than that, you slackers.” As he spoke, he quickly advanced toward Rik. The two girls drew away, startled. “Am I not anarchist enough for your tastes? Did you prefer the jails of the Rips?”
“So why did you release us,” he sneered, “just so you could have some big group of minions that you could boss around?”
“Actually, my goal is to rid Tucson of the plague and keep it Walker free.”
“Good luck with that one,” Trent tiffed.
“Girls, I’d like it if you headed back inside. We have a new enemy, a breathing one and he could have easily driven out here.”
Rik got into Devon’s face. “If these gals want to hang with us, it’s their business.” A smile spread over his pinched face, “Besides we can protect them.”
Devon paused. These guys are low lives, but what is it I truly stand for? The issue filled him with angst and the fact that Kimberly looked on didn’t make things easier.
“Listen up, Rik, because I only want to say this once. I suppose you could say we’re something along the lines of a Temporary Autonomous Zone, but we’re also fighting, hmmm, no less than four different opponents, and if what Rollie said about those insane churches to the northwest is true that number could rise to five.”
“So yeah, have your fun, but learn one thing about me, I’ve set a goal to free Tucson and anyone that tries to slow me or mine down had better step aside or they might just get their asses run over.”
“So the old your way or the highway?”
“No, it’s the old let’s try not to be eaten or tortured trick. We have limited resources and need to keep things tight or die. Are you willing to help a pregnant teenager run through gunfire or carry your new born through a horde of zombies?”
The girls blanched.
The men didn’t say a word.
“Yeah, I thought so. Rik, I want you to take Trent and keep watch tonight until I relieve you later. Do a sweep first too.” There was a little grumbling but they set off. The two girls didn’t need to be told again and headed into the ranch.
“Nice speech,” Kimberly said, “but does this mean you aren’t going to knock me up?”
He smiled. “It isn’t out of the realm of possibilities.”