Home > Among Monsters (Red Hill #1.5)(12)

Among Monsters (Red Hill #1.5)(12)
Author: Jamie McGuire

My eyes brightened. “She took them.”

Dad wasn’t happy, but he didn’t dwell on it for long.

“Do you have a leather jacket?” I asked.

“No. Why?” he asked.

I shrugged. “Zombies will bite right through that thing,” I said, pointing to his pullover. “What else did you get?”

After he processed my words with an unsettled expression, he held up a long nylon bag, zipped closed. “My hunting rifle and plenty of ammo.” He pointed to the rolled-up nylon on top of his pack. “The tent—just in case,” he said to Halle. He tossed her a heavier coat. “I’ve got my good hunting knife and a multi-tool, and we still have those blankets from the armory.”

“Halle, go get a few more bottles of water,” I said. “Don’t make your pack too heavy.”

“I know.” She turned on her heels.

I pushed air through my lips, and my cheeks bulged out. Her backpack already appeared to be weighing her down. She would be complaining about carrying it before too long.

I walked into Dad’s bedroom and looked around before going into his closet. I took three sweatshirts, tying one around my waist, and three ball caps.

“No extra clothes?” he asked.

“We don’t have the room.” I looked at his nightstand and then back at him. Looking back at his nightstand, I lunged for it and pulled it open.

“What are you doing?” He tugged me back, like I knew he would.

But it was too late. The drawer was open, and there was an open box of condoms.

I snatched it up. “Bingo,” I said, tossing it to him.

His eyes flitted everywhere but on me. He was clearly embarrassed and thoroughly confused.

“I got it from the survival show I watch with Mom. They have lots of uses. I’m not thinking ahead for you or anything. Gross.” I looked back down to the open drawer and picked up a small sewing kit. “We might need this, too.”

“Do we have everything?” he asked.

“No, but we don’t have room for everything.”

“Good job, kiddo.”

I managed a smug grin. I’d been angry with him for so long that it felt weird to be nice.

Dad patted my shoulder. “We should get going if we’re going to make it to Red Hill before dark. We don’t know what’s between here and there.”

I followed him to the kitchen where Tavia stood, looking a bit more relaxed.

“All clear?” Dad asked.

“He walked on by.” She swallowed. “I think it was the governor.”

Dad rubbed the back of his neck. “Is there anything you need for Tobin before we go?”

“A couple of changes of clothes for both of us would be nice. Other than a few toys, child meds, a sippy cup, some wipes, and a bottle of lotion, he doesn’t need much.” She lifted him higher on her hip. “And I’d sure like to check to see if my brother made it to my house.”

“Your brother?” Dad asked.

“He was on his way here. I thought he either didn’t make it this far or he got caught on the highway, but if Scarlet made it here, that gives me hope that Tobin did, too.” When Dad gave her a look, she continued, “My son is named after my brother. He always made sure we were taken care of.”

Dad bobbed his head once in understanding and then took in a deep breath. “All right. We’ll walk back toward the armory. Stay together, keep your eyes out, and get to the Tahoe. We’ll drive to Tavia’s and grab their supplies, and then we’ll head west.”

“To Red Hill ranch,” I said. “To Mom.”

“Yes,” Dad said, glancing at the paint on the wall. “I hope it’s everything you say it is.”

“It is,” I said with confidence. “We just have to get there. The rest is easy.”

Dad made a face. “You don’t remember what it’s like—your mom and I living under the same roof.”

I rolled my eyes. “Things are different now. I don’t think you’re going to be spending too much time fighting about how much money she spent at Walmart.”

Dad chuckled as he opened the back door, but then his smile faded. After a quick glance around, he waved at us to follow.

Chapter Seven

THE WALK TO THE ARMORY wasn’t a straight shot. A few stragglers were left behind, shuffling slowly in the park. Dad guided us around them, and before I could even break a sweat, we were at his SUV.

The armory was still surrounded by vehicles. I wondered how many of those things walking aimlessly in the yard had never made it to their cars.

“Don’t slam the door,” I instructed Halle as I lifted her to the front passenger seat.

Her eyes were red and puffy, her golden hair matted to her head. I pondered if I looked as lost and terrified as she did.

Tavia climbed into the bench seat in the back with one arm, holding Tobin in the other. She settled him beside her, distracting him with his train long enough to stretch the lap belt across his waist. She patted his knee with that motherly it’s-going-to-be-okay smile, and it made me miss Mom even more.

I climbed in after Tavia, sitting behind Halle in the captain’s chair.

“Mama,” Tobin said.

“Yes, baby?”

“I want cereal.”

She nodded. “We’re going home. I’ll get you some while we’re there.” She smiled at him, but when she looked away, worry scrolled across her face. After today, she wasn’t going to be able to provide him with food every time he asked for it.

“Can I take some of my toys?” he asked.

“Yes, but just a few. We’ll have a lot more things you’ll have to help Mama carry.”

“Yes, Mama.”

She kissed his forehead. “Good boy.” She blinked her eyes and then looked up, trying to keep the tears from spilling over.

“Don’t worry,” I said. She looked to me. “You know what to do to keep him safe. Remember what you did at the armory. That was pretty brave.”

Tavia’s sweet smile peeked out from the corners of her mouth. “You think so?”

“What street do you live on?” Dad asked.

“Padon,” Tavia said. “Behind the grocery store and across the street from the church.”

“Got it,” Dad said, continuing south. “That’s right next door to Scarlet’s grandparents’ house.”

“Richard and Helen are Scarlet’s grandparents?” Tavia asked, surprised.

“Helen’s my mema,” Halle said, her cheery voice a strange contrast to the disturbing scene outside the SUV.

Tavia shook her head. “Small, small world.”

“Even smaller now,” I said, staring out the window.

It was a beautiful Saturday, but no kids were playing outside. Instead, there were monsters that weren’t supposed to exist, bodies lying in the street, and the occasional crack of gunfire.

“Andrew?” Tavia said. “What if my brother is there? He’s a big guy.”

“Halle can sit behind me. He’ll fit just fine in the passenger seat. There’s plenty of room.”

“Even with Richard and Helen?” she asked.

“We’ll make it work,” Dad said.

Tavia settled back into the seat and hummed a small laugh, resting her elbow on the door and her forehead in her hand. I’d never seen someone so full of relief.

Dad turned south onto Main Street, but he soon had to retreat to a side road because of the huge group of infected roaming in the street. A high-pitched ringing sound came from one of the businesses, but I couldn’t figure out which one.

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