Suspense R .  Mac Wheeler Multi - Genre Author SCI FI Fantasy
Chloe    and    Ginna    Lee    must    decide    whether    to    continue Jason's     dream     to     unite     survivors     of     Earths     shredded population,   or   concentrate   on   surviving.   Chloe   hasn't   the   tact to   play   ambassador,   and   Ginna   Lee   is   more   likely   to   take heads   than   spread   good   will.   Promises   little   hope   they   can build    an    alliance,    especially    if    peace    hinges    on    a    cure    for Jihad.   Meanwhile,   the   landscape   they   must   cross   still   writhes with roamers and desperate clans.
Urban Fantasy Dystopian
Chapter One ~ I   studied   the   shimmering   beetle   careening   over   the   clods   covering   the   grave.   The creature    seemed    to    have    one    speed.    Forward.    It    would    slam    to    a    halt,    perhaps checking   out   some   microscopic   piece   of   detritus,   then   bound   forward   again   with one-minded focus. If   only   I   had   that   kind   of   attention.   Jason   certainly   didn't   have   focus.   The   crazy- man   was   always   all   over   the   place.   How   did   he   ever   manage   to   study,   the   way   his brain   sprang   from   one   thought   to   another?   How   did   he   keep   from   blowing   his   own brains   out?   The   depression   grabbed   him   by   the   cojones   every   day,   strangled   the   life out of him, until a thought, usually sex, pulled him out of it. He   was   a   peculiar   one.   He   had   a   way   of   irritating   the   hell   out   of   me,   before looking at me with those gray eyes, all lost and puppy-like. The hand on my back made me flinch. "Anything I can do for you before we leave?" Hewes asked. He   hadn't   had   anything   to   do   with   Jason's   death,   but   a   torrid   anger   shot   through me. He must have felt it, because he dropped his hand quickly. My eyes continued to follow the shiny-black beetle. "We'll be good," Ginna Lee answered for me. I   don't   know   how   she   thought   we'd   be   good.   What   did   we   have?   Nothing.   Out   in the    middle    of    nowhere.    No    direction.    No    civilization.    No    resources.    My    mind wandered   even   less   productively   as   Hewes   jabbered   about   having   to   get   underway. He had an incident near Wichita he had to deal with. I'm   glad   he   felt   guilty.   He   never   should   have   allowed   Jason   to   step   out   that   door. Emotion   shut   down   my   throat   and   tears   washed   away   the   damn   beetle.   I   didn't bother   trying   to   blink.   The   tears   welled   on   my   lashes   fighting   gravity.   Why   wouldn't they wash down my cheeks? "I'll give you some time," Ginna Lee said. She   evidently   walked   away   with   Hewes,   though   they   didn't   speak,   that   I   could hear. A harsher pain squeezed my chest, and I gasped for a breath. Shit. That   bitch   was   standing   across   from   me,   staring   down   at   the   mound,   all   that   was left   of   Jason,   as   though   she   had   a   right   to   pay   her   respects.   It   was   her   blood   that killed him. Her   eyes   didn't   well.   They   didn't   wash   red.   But   I   sensed   her   guilt   as   easily   as   if   I smelled   it.   My   hand   fisted   and   moved   to   my   hip,   before   I   realized   my   9mm   wasn't there.   It   had   remained   there   since   Jason   and   I   left   the   Campbells,   over   a   month   ago. Practically slept with it on. Damn. Did sleep with it on, unless— Where'd it go? Shit. Ginna   Lee.   I   remember   vaguely.   She   wasn't   consoling   me,   when   Jason's   heart finally fluttered for the last time. She didn't want me killing Olivia. Hell. I   never   would   have   killed   Olivia   then   or   now.   Even   if   the   anger   did   draw   my   hand to   where   the   semiautomatic   should   have   been.   But   I   would   kill   her   brother.   He's   the one   who   chose   to   bash   Jason's   head   in   with   the   butt-end   of   a   rifle.   The   bastard.   I   will   kill him. I will gut-shoot him, so he dies slowly, in agony. Did Jason feel agony? All I read on his face was confusion, before the relief. "So everyone's leaving." I didn't expect those words from my mouth. Olivia   looked   up,   but   I   kept   my   eyes   focused   on   her   chin.   I   didn't   want   to   look into her eyes. I didn't want her to see what I intended. "I should too," Olivia said softly. "Got a long walk ahead." "Nonsense," I said. "We'll drive you." "So you can kill my brother. I don't think so." Rage   replaced   the   pain   and   I   ran   at   her.   My   foot   sunk   in   the   softer   soil   and   I   went down,   though   I   kept   my   arms   sweeping   for   her,   fingernails   digging   for   blood.   She managed   my   thrusts   easily   enough,   ended   up   straddling   my   back,   holding   down   my arms. Her gun swung off her shoulder and the barrel caught me in the head. Figures. Ah,   shit,   that   hurt.   I   tensed   against   the   pain.   There   was   no   purpose   fighting Olivia.   She   had   me   by   twenty   pounds,   pinned   into   the   mud   pressed   against   my   face. The   hoopla   brought   Ginna   Lee   and   Hewes   back.   Angry   voices   careened   over   each other.   Calmed   quickly.   I   guess   they   were   okay   with   Olivia   sitting   on   my   back   as   long as she wasn't thrusting a knife into me. A strong hand pressed into my shoulder. "I've got her," Hewes said softly. Olivia's   weight   lifted.   Her   rifle   drew   out   of   my   view.   I   watched   her   feet   as   they retreated.    Ever    softer,    into    the    wilds    of    Boonville,    Missouri.    And    she    was    gone. Without   any   more   discussion.   How   was   I   ever   going   to   find   her?   Maybe   Hewes would give her up. His   hand   let   up,   but   I   remained   where   I   was,   face   in   the   mud.   Why   and   the   hell was   I   falling   apart?   I'd   managed   to   keep   it   together   through   a   lot   worse.   I   came   a flick   away   from   being   raped,   murdered   on   multiple   occasions.   Starvation.   Freezing. Drowning   once.   Watched   hundreds   of   people   die   from   the   throws   of   Jihad   and   other afflictions,   painfully.   I   sit   with   one   son   of   a   bitch   and   watch   him   die   slowly,   and   it tears me up? I'd only known him two months. But   I'd   given   him   everything   I   had   to   give.   Would   have   killed   for   him.   Actually,   I did that a couple times. I never told him I loved him. He said it five times. A softer hand lay on my shoulder. "Come on, Chloe." Ginna Lee patted me lightly. Almost feather light. "I'm just gonna stay here a while," I said. "No you aren't. Get up." "Bitch." There   was   too   much   strength   behind   the   hands   lifting   me.   I   would   kick   Hewes   in the cojones. But he kept me pointed away when he got me standing. Smart man. Ginna   Lee   and   Hewes   must   have   exchanged   meaningful   glances,   or   gestures.   He stepped back, and a moment later, so did Ginna Lee. Why   was   I   feeling   like   this?   If   Ginna   Lee   had   asked   me   yesterday   if   I   loved   Jason, I   probably   would   have   said,   "No.   I'm   just   used   to   having   him   around."   And   mostly, mean   it.   I   felt   I   owed   him.   He'd   given   me   a   ride   when   I   was   pretty   down.   It   had   been a rough spring. Just freaking feeling sorry for myself. That's pathetic. The   engines   of   two   Humvees   ignited.   Doors   opened   and   closed.   I   didn't   turn around.   Listened   to   them   as   the   sound   of   the   engines   upset   the   resting   vultures   in the   trees   overhead.   By   the   time   the   wings   settled,   I   couldn't   hear   anything   but   the sound of the mosquitos, and the jays. I   was   incredibly   naïve   to   believe   Jason   and   I   would   be   together   until   one   of   us vomited a lung, as he so untactfully referred to Jihad's tap on the shoulder. Chapter Two ~ "W hat do you want to do?" I   jerked.   I   had   been   pissing   and   moaning   on   the   inside   so   long,   I   hadn't   realized Ginna Lee returned. When would she get fed up and leave me too? "It's   been   two   days,"   she   said.   "There's   food   enough   here   for   us,   but   I   would   have expected   you'd   want   to   head   for   Wichita,   or,   I   forget,   where   was   the   rest   of   the settlers headed?" "Grant, Nebraska. Tiny, little, insignificant, Grant, Nebraska." "Got the picture," Ginna Lee snapped. "So you don't want to go there. Where?" I   imagined   the   faces   on   Kelly   and   Toby's   faces   if   Ginna   Lee   and   I   drove   onto   their property.   Of   course,   Beth   would   probably   pull   out   sheers   to   cut   off   Ginna   Lee's dreadlocks.   She'd   scream,   "God   only   knows   what's   growing   inside   that   mesh   of   hair." She   should   have   gotten   a   look   at   Olivia's   mats.   That   was   disgusting.   The   girl,   woman, didn't have any pride. "I want to go kill her brother," sluiced out of my mouth. "If you don't get over that—" What? She couldn't make herself finish? "I've had enough of your sulking," she said instead. "I don't have a right to sulk? I lost my mate." She   gave   me   a   look   that   needed   no   words,   but   they   would   have   gone   something like,   "You're   still   alive.   I'm   still   alive.   We   have   to   go   on."   Like   I   needed   that   kind   of bullshit. But then, she didn't unload it on me. Just thought it. "Where did you hide my guns?" I asked. "Didn't hide them." "Liar. They're not here." "I locked them in the car." Shit. "What if we need them?" "I've been on my own for a decade. Never needed a gun." Anger    mixed    with    that    disgusting    self-loathing    for    a    moment,    bad    enough    I wanted   to   slap   her.   "You're   like   a   fucking   ghost.   You   can   disappear.   I   don't   know   that trick." "Jason didn't like you using that word." A   fucking   javelin   pierced   my   chest.   What   right   did   she   have   to   say   anything   about   Jason?   My   body   reacted.   I   was   more   than   startled   to   find   myself   lurching   into motion,   flinging   my   body   at   hers.   She   almost   avoided   my   attack,   but   I   managed   an arm   around   her   midsection   before   she   sidestepped.   But   all   I   came   away   with   was   a fist   of   her   unbuttoned   shirt   before   my   knee   collided   into   the   once-polished   concrete floor of the sheriff's office. The   clang   of   her   machete-sword   jerked   me   half-reasonable.   That   razor   sharp blade   could   cut   one   of   us   in   two,   and   it   didn't   have   to   be   in   anger.   I   grasped   her empty   over-shirt   in   my   hands.   The   freaking   iguana   always   on   her   shoulder   had   flown through the air. Ginna Lee's eyes traced it, fear replacing the surprise across her face. I could kill that damned iguana. What   right   did   she   have   to   love   something?   Even   something   that   couldn't   love her   back.   She   couldn't   appreciate   the   love   I   had   for   Jason,   or   the   pain   ripping   my insides apart all over again every hour. I   studied   the   ripped   shirt   in   my   fist.   If   someone   ripped   my   shirt,   I'd   kick   their ass.   But   Ginna   Lee   picked   up   her   sword-stiletto   and   ran   after   the   damn   lizard.   She spoke baby to it. How pathetic. She   lifted   the   creature   up   gently   as   it   hissed,   gently   laying   it   across   her   extended arm,   and   manipulated   each   leg   in   turn.   Evidently   it   was   in   one   piece.   She   never   let out a shrill of agony. "Hello, inside." Every freaking muscle tensed so tight it hurt. "Don't shoot." The muted call echoed from downstairs. My hand went to my waist, but of course, there was no 9mm hanging there. Shit. Ginna   Lee   and   I   exchanged   glances,   before   she   disappeared   out   the   door,   like   the ghost   she   is.   Shit.   I   threw   the   rag   in   my   fist   at   the   empty   where   she'd   been   standing. Gone.   She   bragged   about   not   needing   a   gun,   then   leaves   me   behind   like   meat   in   a trap. "Anyone there?" the male voice called. My   eyes   searched   the   room   madly   for   anything   I   could   use   as   a   weapon.   Not   even a   friggin'   chair   I   could   bust   into   a   club.   I   ran   to   my   things   and   clawed   through everything looking for my eight-inch. Where the fuck was it! "I heard voices. I'm alone. Mean no harm." The scratchy voice cracked. Fear?   Sure.   The   idiot   entered   a   building,   maybe   alone,   probably   not,   but   had   no idea what kind of crazy cannibals might be in here. He wouldn't be alone. What idiot clambers around on this planet alone? I did. Once. Yep. I was that crazy, once. Even the lions hunt in pairs in Missouri. I   couldn't   disappear   like   Ginna   Lee,   but   it   was   time   to   do   something.   But   I couldn't   exactly   fight   back,   since   the   bitch   locked   my   freaking   guns   away   from   me.   I was   cornered.   No   place   to   go.   My   mind   froze.   I   must   have   stood   there   motionless   for a   full   minute.   Realization   of   that   didn't   help   me   prepare   a   defense.   Jason—would have   stumbled   out   to   talk   to   anyone   as   though   it   was   1999,   and   all   men   held   nothing but peace for all other men. Even if I wasn't backing him up on the 20mm. But   he   had   to   walk   into   the   butt   of   a   gun,   shrivel   up   from   a   clot   turning   off   his brain. Bastard. "I don't want to start over," I mumbled. "Hello." Damn!   The   voice   came   from   just   outside   the   door   now.   Came   up   the   stairs   quiet- like.   Nowhere   else   to   hide,   I   ran   behind   the   sheriff's   enormous   desk   and   squatted down. Crap.   The   space   where   his   legs   would   have   fit   was   wide   open.   I   could   see   across the   room   to   the   long   conference   table.   Nothing   else   to   do.   I   crawled   under   the   desk and curled up. I held my breath, sort'a, just taking sips of air, though I needed gulps. I sat there a ten-count. Nothing but silence. Maybe he continued down the hall. I jerked. A   face   peered   at   me.   But   he   stayed   ten   feet   away,   in   the   middle   of   the   room,   bent double, studying me. "I won't hurt you, little girl." Little girl. I'd put a big hurt on him, if Ginna Lee hadn't left me defenseless. "I know you aren't alone here. But I don't mean no harm." He   probably   wasn't   as   old   as   Ginna   Lee.   A   scruff   of   hair   dirtied   his   chin,   along with a dozen bright-red pimples. "Just came to check out—you know—after all the shootin' from the other day." Clink .   A   pipe   he   carried   settled   onto   the   concrete.   He   knelt   down.   Didn't   wear shoes.   Toes   gleamed   chlorophyll-green   in   the   bright   morning   glare.   His   hair   spiked. Cut   it   like   I   do,   short   off   the   neck   and   around   the   face.   Indifferently   everywhere   else, as long as it didn't fall in his face. "Promise I won't hurt ya." The   straps   of   a   backpack   cut   across   his   shoulders,   over   a   couple   layers   of   tees   and a   long   sleeved   over   that.   Jeans   that   needed   to   be   replaced.   He'd   grown   several   inches above   what   a   tailor   would   have   cut.   Maybe   it   was   by   design.   So   they   didn't   collect   the dew off the vines as he walked through them. He   was   skinny,   but   fed.   Not   like   a   survivor   down   south.   His   cheeks   didn't   sink   in. Nor around the eyes, that gave them that ghoul look. "Saw   the   grave   out   yonder."   He   looked   down   at   the   floor.   "Hope   weren't   nobody you cared for." "My mate," I said. A sob sucked the air out of my lungs. "Ain't   you   kind'a   young?"   he   mumbled.   "Uh."   He   studied   the   floor   some   more.   "I mean. Sorry for your loss." After   a   ten-count   he   sat,   crossing   his   legs   in   front   of   him.   He   laid   down   that   pipe beside   him.   A   sharp-tipped   blade   was   welded   to   the   end   of   the   thing,   making   it   into   a deadly spear. Ginna Lee would love this guy. "I   lost   the   last   of   my   people   a   couple   weeks   ago,"   he   said   softly.   "I'm   alone   now. Guess that's why I came foolishly in the open like this today." His   eyes   turned   red.   Hell.   His   grief   looked   sincere   enough.   All   I   needed,   someone else    around    me,    slinking    about    like    a    love    lost    calf.    I    didn't    need    that    kind    of company. Shit. "I   don't   want   nor   need   any   company,"   I   snapped.   Didn't   mean   it   to   sound   so, absolute. His head dipped a little. "I understand." But he didn't budge. I    uncurled    and    crawled    out    from    under    the    desk.    Ginna    Lee    stood    in    the doorway,   Iguana   held   against   her   tummy   on   one   arm,   the   other   at   her   side   holding her wicked scimitar-machete. The   boy   followed   my   glare,   and   lurched,   made   it   awkwardly   to   his   feet   after   a long   moment.   He   was   as   spastic   as   Jason.   That   thought   needled   me   in   my   lower   gut. His eyes gawked. Evidently he was pretty taken by Ginna Lee. She wasn't so special. Maybe   had   some   major   muscle   tone   for   a   girl.   Clear   skin,   for   a   survivor.   The dreadlocks made her look a bit like an Amazon woman, in a ten-year-old's frame. Any   moment   I   expected   drool   to   hit   the   boy's   chin.   I   watched   for   it.   Watched. Watched.   But   he   closed   his   mouth   and   his   googly   thing   in   his   throat   demonstrated he swallowed hard. I hoped for the drool. "If you aren't alone, your partners are pretty sneaky," Ginna Lee said softly. "I'm,   uh,   I'm   alone.   Swear."   He   shifted   the   spear   to   his   left   hand   so   he   could   rise his right in an oath. "The car downstairs. Pretty spiffy." "Picked it up for my birthday," Ginna Lee said. "Really?" Oh. What a yokel. Could be Jason's brother. Oh, shit. His eyes finally made it off Ginna Lee's face, studied the lizard a moment. "I've   seen   a   few   of   them   about."   He   pointed   as   though   we   couldn't   figure   out   a name   for   the   creature   he   referred   to.   "But   not   lately.   I   think   the   hard   winter   last, killed   'em   off.   Or   they   floated   south   on   the   river.   I've   seen   'em   in   the   river   before, floating along on a log or something." Ginna Lee didn't twitch. Glared. I   finally   sat   on   the   desk.   The   boy   didn't   look   like   he   could   think   of   anything   more to    say,    and    Ginna    Lee    didn't    rightly    look    as    though    she    knew    what    to    do    next. Watching   them   took   a   little   of   my   pain   away.   Maybe   it   bled   into   their   souls.   No   one deserved   that   hurt.   Weird.   Since   I   hadn't   really   known   Jason   very   long.   But   he   was my   first   love.   Maybe   that   was   it.   He   meant   well.   Though   his   tactics   sucked,   he   tended to turn out shining like a penny. Except this last time. © R. Mac Wheeler 2017
R .  Mac Wheeler Multi - Genre Author
New Order Apocalypse 3 Chapter One ~ I       studied       the       shimmering       beetle careening    over    the    clods    covering    the grave.   The   creature   seemed   to   have   one speed.   Forward.   It   would   slam   to   a   halt, perhaps   checking   out   some   microscopic piece    of    detritus,    then    bound    forward again with one-minded focus. If    only    I    had    that    kind    of    attention. Jason    certainly    didn't    have    focus.    The crazy-man   was   always   all   over   the   place. How    did    he    ever    manage    to    study,    the way   his   brain   sprang   from   one   thought   to another?   How   did   he   keep   from   blowing his     own     brains     out?     The     depression grabbed    him    by    the    cojones    every    day, strangled    the    life    out    of    him,    until    a thought, usually sex, pulled him out of it. He   was   a   peculiar   one.   He   had   a   way of    irritating    the    hell    out    of    me,    before looking    at    me    with    those    gray    eyes,    all lost and puppy-like. The hand on my back made me flinch. "Anything   I   can   do   for   you   before   we leave?" Hewes asked. He    hadn't    had    anything    to    do    with Jason's    death,    but    a    torrid    anger    shot through   me.   He   must   have   felt   it,   because he dropped his hand quickly. My   eyes   continued   to   follow   the   shiny- black beetle. "We'll   be   good,"   Ginna   Lee   answered for me. I   don't   know   how   she   thought   we'd   be good.   What   did   we   have?   Nothing.   Out   in the   middle   of   nowhere.   No   direction.   No civilization.     No     resources.     My     mind wandered      even      less      productively      as Hewes     jabbered     about     having     to     get underway.     He     had     an     incident     near Wichita he had to deal with. I'm   glad   he   felt   guilty.   He   never   should have   allowed   Jason   to   step   out   that   door. Emotion   shut   down   my   throat   and   tears washed    away    the    damn    beetle.    I    didn't bother   trying   to   blink.   The   tears   welled on     my     lashes     fighting     gravity.     Why wouldn't they wash down my cheeks? "I'll    give    you    some    time,"    Ginna    Lee said. She      evidently      walked      away      with Hewes,   though   they   didn't   speak,   that   I could hear. A   harsher   pain   squeezed   my   chest,   and I gasped for a breath. Shit. That    bitch    was    standing    across    from me,   staring   down   at   the   mound,   all   that was    left    of    Jason,    as    though    she    had    a right   to   pay   her   respects.   It   was   her   blood that killed him. Her   eyes   didn't   well.   They   didn't   wash red.   But   I   sensed   her   guilt   as   easily   as   if   I smelled   it.   My   hand   fisted   and   moved   to my   hip,   before   I   realized   my   9mm   wasn't there.   It   had   remained   there   since   Jason and   I   left   the   Campbells,   over   a   month ago.    Practically    slept    with    it    on.    Damn. Did   sleep   with   it   on,   unless—   Where'd   it go? Shit. Ginna   Lee.   I   remember   vaguely.   She wasn't   consoling   me,   when   Jason's   heart finally    fluttered    for    the    last    time.    She didn't want me killing Olivia. Hell. I   never   would   have   killed   Olivia   then or   now.   Even   if   the   anger   did   draw   my hand   to   where   the   semiautomatic   should have   been.   But   I   would   kill   her   brother. He's   the   one   who   chose   to   bash   Jason's head   in   with   the   butt-end   of   a   rifle.   The bastard.   I   will    kill   him.   I   will   gut-shoot him, so he dies slowly, in agony. Did   Jason   feel   agony?   All   I   read   on   his face was confusion, before the relief. "So   everyone's   leaving."   I   didn't   expect those words from my mouth. Olivia   looked   up,   but   I   kept   my   eyes focused   on   her   chin.   I   didn't   want   to   look into    her    eyes.    I    didn't    want    her    to    see what I intended. "I   should   too,"   Olivia   said   softly.   "Got a long walk ahead." "Nonsense," I said. "We'll drive you." "So    you    can    kill    my    brother.    I    don't think so." Rage    replaced    the    pain    and    I    ran    at her.   My   foot   sunk   in   the   softer   soil   and   I went     down,     though     I     kept     my     arms sweeping   for   her,   fingernails   digging   for blood.    She    managed    my    thrusts    easily enough,    ended    up    straddling    my    back, holding   down   my   arms.   Her   gun   swung off   her   shoulder   and   the   barrel   caught   me in the head. Figures. Ah,   shit,   that   hurt.   I   tensed   against   the pain.     There     was     no     purpose     fighting Olivia.    She    had    me    by    twenty    pounds, pinned   into   the   mud   pressed   against   my face.   The   hoopla   brought   Ginna   Lee   and Hewes   back.   Angry   voices   careened   over each   other.   Calmed   quickly.   I   guess   they were   okay   with   Olivia   sitting   on   my   back as    long    as    she    wasn't    thrusting    a    knife into me. A      strong      hand      pressed      into      my shoulder. "I've got her," Hewes said softly. Olivia's    weight    lifted.    Her    rifle    drew out   of   my   view.   I   watched   her   feet   as   they retreated.    Ever    softer,    into    the    wilds    of Boonville,    Missouri.    And    she    was    gone. Without   any   more   discussion.   How   was   I ever    going    to    find    her?    Maybe    Hewes would give her up. His   hand   let   up,   but   I   remained   where I   was,   face   in   the   mud.   Why   and   the   hell was   I   falling   apart?   I'd   managed   to   keep   it together    through    a    lot    worse.    I    came    a flick    away    from    being    raped,    murdered on       multiple       occasions.       Starvation. Freezing.       Drowning       once.       Watched hundreds   of   people   die   from   the   throws of   Jihad   and   other   afflictions,   painfully.   I sit   with   one   son   of   a   bitch   and   watch   him die   slowly,   and   it   tears   me   up?   I'd   only known him two months. But   I'd   given   him   everything   I   had   to give.   Would   have   killed   for   him.   Actually, I   did   that   a   couple   times.   I   never   told   him I loved him. He said it five times. A softer hand lay on my shoulder. "Come    on,    Chloe."    Ginna    Lee    patted me lightly. Almost feather light. "I'm   just   gonna   stay   here   a   while,"   I said. "No you aren't. Get up." "Bitch." There   was   too   much   strength   behind the   hands   lifting   me.   I   would   kick   Hewes in   the   cojones.   But   he   kept   me   pointed away    when    he    got    me    standing.    Smart man. Ginna     Lee     and     Hewes     must     have exchanged       meaningful       glances,       or gestures.   He   stepped   back,   and   a   moment later, so did Ginna Lee. Why   was   I   feeling   like   this?   If   Ginna Lee    had    asked    me    yesterday    if    I    loved Jason,   I   probably   would   have   said,   "No. I'm   just   used   to   having   him   around."   And mostly,   mean   it.   I   felt   I   owed   him.   He'd given   me   a   ride   when   I   was   pretty   down. It had been a rough spring. Just   freaking   feeling   sorry   for   myself. That's pathetic. The   engines   of   two   Humvees   ignited. Doors    opened    and    closed.    I    didn't    turn around.   Listened   to   them   as   the   sound   of the   engines   upset   the   resting   vultures   in the   trees   overhead.   By   the   time   the   wings settled,   I   couldn't   hear   anything   but   the sound of the mosquitos, and the jays. I   was   incredibly   naïve   to   believe   Jason and   I   would   be   together   until   one   of   us vomited     a     lung,     as     he     so     untactfully referred to Jihad's tap on the shoulder. © R. Mac Wheeler 2017