Living in a post-apocalyptic world where zombies outnumber the living, Jerrica’s life is turned upside down when the Werewolf Defender arrives at her settlement.
Jerrica Barnes has longed to experience life outside her settlement’s walls, but living in a post-apocalyptic world where zombies outnumber the living, she knows she’ll never get to fulfill her dream. But the day Calan, the Werewolf Defender, comes to save her from a zombie attack, she finds her life turned upside down.
Calan has never allowed anyone to get close to him since he was turned a hundred years before at age eighteen, but Jerrica makes him long for things he hadn’t known were missing in his immortal life.
Jerrica and Calan have to overcome those who would keep them apart, while Jerrica has to make a decision that could keep them together for all time or have Calan walking out of her life forever.
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Copyright © Marisa Chenery 2016. All Rights Reserved, Totally Entwined Group Limited, T/A Finch Books.
Jerrica yawned and stretched, wishing for once she could stay in bed later, but the sound of her mother moving around in the main part of their log cabin said otherwise. If she didn’t get up soon, her mom would be yelling up to her, and Jerrica hated that.
She pushed back the covers and sat up. Weak light filled the loft that was her room. It wasn’t much past dawn. During the warm months of the growing season, it was expected that those who were assigned to work in the fields and orchard put in as many daylight hours as they could. Winters were harsh, and if their settlement didn’t grow enough food to see them through it, there was a good chance they’d be starving come spring.
Jerrica looked at the single bed across from her own. Her brother, Hunter, had shared the loft with her until a year ago. At twenty—two years her senior—he was now married with his first baby on the way. Being eighteen, she’d be expected to follow suit in the not-too-distant future. Their world was hard, and life expectancies weren’t very long in some cases.
She pulled on the rough homespun pants and shirt her mother had made. Jerrica wore them when she worked in the fields. Brown leather boots completed her outfit. It didn’t take but a minute for her to brush her long, dark-blonde hair then gather it into a ponytail with a piece of leather.
“Jerrica, you’d better be awake,” her mother shouted up at her.
“I am,” she called back. She took the ladder out of the loft.
Her mom had set a bowl of oatmeal on the wooden table that sat in the middle of the large room. A fireplace that had an oven built into the bricks on one side was considered the kitchen. It also had a couple of cupboards hanging on the wall above the wooden basin that had a hand pump attached to it. The opposite end was her parents’ bedroom. It was closed off by a curtain from the rest of the space.
Jerrica sat then dug into her breakfast. Her next meal wouldn’t be until well past noon when food was brought out to the fields for the workers. She ate in silence as her mom went about cleaning the dishes. Her dad had left the cabin already, busy tending to their few livestock.
Once Jerrica had finished eating, she brought her bowl to the basin for her mother to wash. With a quick goodbye, Jerrica left the cabin. She only stopped long enough to collect her bow and quiver of arrows that sat propped against the wall on the porch. The fields weren’t exactly the safest to work. The risk of an attack happening there was greater.
She left her family’s plot of land and headed to the dirt road that would take her to the gates. The fields were on the outside of the high walls that protected the settlement from the creatures that roamed loose, always looking for their next victim.
No one knew exactly how the first zombie had come about. Some thought a new kind of virus had run rampant, leaving those who’d contracted it undead, hungering for the living and passing the sickness on with a single bite. And others accused the governments at the time of testing a new chemical weapon that had gone horribly wrong.
Jerrica didn’t care how it had happened. All she knew was zombies had been around for the last one hundred years, and they’d just about wiped out the living population. She’d grown up listening to her grandparents talk about the big cities that no longer existed. They’d been abandoned. Nature had reclaimed them. And she’d also heard about things like electricity, running water and the Internet, which she’d never experience. According to Grandma and Grandpa, they all now lived in a second Dark Age.
Once she reached the gates, Jerrica waited with the other workers for them to open. A horse and wagon would precede them out, carrying all the tools they needed to work the land.
She looked at a small group that stood a short distance away. It was a mix of boys and girls her age or a little bit older. A few of the girls laughed at something one of the boys said. Jerrica resisted the urge to roll her eyes. Could their laughter be any phonier?
Jerrica had never been a part of that group, and she didn’t really think she’d missed out on anything. The only thing that drew her gaze was one individual—a boy, who, as far as she knew, didn’t even realize she existed. That didn’t stop her from foolishly having a crush on him. Austin Conrad was a year older and good-looking enough to have most of the girls in the settlement wishing he was theirs. He was tall and muscular. His brown hair always seemed to be on the longish side, and his equally brown eyes most times had a smile in them.
She pulled her gaze off Austin before he noticed her staring. And she especially didn’t want any of the girls catching her. One in particular, Becca Mills, liked to take jabs at Jerrica whenever the opportunity arose. It didn’t happen as often now that they were older, but Becca still tried, now and again.
Mathias McGregor, who supervised the work in the field and was in his middle fifties, called for everyone to quiet down. He came to stand just in front of the gates once he had all their attention.
“All right, listen up,” Mathias said. “The vegetables in the lower half of the field are ready for picking. One group will be doing that while the other is watering the rest of the crops.” He looked straight at her. “Jerrica, I want you, in particular, on water duty. Out of this lot, you’re the best archer.” Once she nodded, he set his attention on the others. “Be extra vigilant out there today. The night sentries heard a fairly large-sized group of zombies outside the walls. They came pretty damn close. They moved off, but they still might be in the area. Now, let’s get to work.”
Jerrica didn’t miss Becca giving her a dirty look because Mathias had singled her out. She ignored her and fell in behind the first of the workers to walk through the open gates. The horse and wagon had already gone through.
Lugging buckets of water that she’d filled at the hand pump attached to the well was backbreaking work. While Jerrica did her share with the others assigned the same chore, she kept an ever-watchful eye on the tree line that ran along two of the borders of the tilled land.
As she walked past some of the workers doing the picking, Jerrica was surprised to find Austin watching her. He smiled, which caused her to stumble, sloshing some of the water out of the pail she carried. At the sound of feminine laughter, she jerked her gaze to the front and continued on.
“She might be good with a bow and arrow, but she can’t manage to carry a bucket and walk at the same time.”
“Shut up, Becca,” Austin said sharply.
A small smile played on Jerrica’s lips as Becca out an indignant huff. She doubted the girl had been put in her place very often and especially not by a boy. Becca always bragged about how she had most of the boys their age wrapped around her little finger. Jerrica didn’t think that was true, but there was no denying that Becca was pretty, and a lot of boys paid more attention to her than they did the other girls.