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Authors: Katee Robert

Hunter Of The Dead

BOOK: Hunter Of The Dead
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Hunter of the Dead

Katee Robert

 

 

Hunter of the Dead

Copyright © Katee Robert

 

 

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

 

Edited by Sarah-Jane Lehoux

Cover Art © 2012 by Skyla Dawn Cameron

 

 

 

First Edition June 2012

eBook ISBN: 978-1-60659-315-8

Trade Paperback ISBN: 978-1-60659-316-5

 

Published by:

Mundania Press

6457 Glenway Ave., #109

Cincinnati, OH 45211

 

All rights reserved under the International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher, Mundania Press LLC, 6457 Glenway Avenue, #109, Cincinnati, Ohio 45211, [email protected]

 

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to any actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.

 

No part of this book may be scanned, uploaded or distributed via the Internet or any other means, electronic or print, without permission from Mundania Press LLC. Warning: The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted work is illegal. Criminal copyright infringement, including infringement without monetary gain, is investigated by the FBI and is punishable by up to 5 years in federal prison and a fine of $250,000. (http://www.fbi.gov/ipr/). Please purchase only authorized electronic or print editions and do not participate in or encourage the electronic piracy of copyrighted material. Your support of the author’s rights and livelihood is appreciated.

Chapter One

 

 

Eden watched the child in her scope, her finger poised on the trigger. The young ones were the hardest, but she couldn’t be squeamish. Besides, this thing wasn’t a child anymore and, judging from the dried blood on its hands and face, it had killed since it turned. As she watched, the infected little girl moved toward her team, mouth gaping.

She let her breath out slowly, steadying her body as she lined up a perfect head shot through a gap in the trees. Eden’s finger brushed the trigger and the child jerked, falling to the ground. There were still five creatures lurching about, but they were all adults. She took out a male, its clothing torn and bloodied, before it got within reach of her sister, Jordan, and their other two team mates took out the final zombies. By the time Eden tore her gaze away to scan the clearing, paying careful attention to anything moving in the thick foliage, it was over.

Bodies littered the ground in a rough circle around the team. Eden took a deep breath as she let go of her gun and sat up. “It’s done.” Thank God, because she didn’t think she could have dealt with any more zombie children.

Kaede spoke up from her position lower down the hill. “That was quick.”

Eden smiled as she packed up Bernice, her M-40A3; the rifle never let her down. Then again, it was from her father, the last thing he ever gave her before his death. He’d never settle for subpar equipment. “There weren’t many this time. Only about twenty.”

“My brother must be disappointed.”

“I’m sure he’ll get another chance soon enough. The calls are coming in more and more often these days.”

Kaede shrugged, her black eyes scanning the surrounding area. “More money for us. That’s nothing to complain about, princess.”

Eden rolled her eyes at the nickname. Just because she never actually fought in the thick of things didn’t mean she was getting special treatment. She was a damn good sniper, and they all knew it. But it never stopped Kaede from giving her shit.

The frequent calls also meant more hunting for Eden. She was most comfortable when shooting zombies, even though they used to be people who lived and loved. Bernice and the hunting were the only piece of her father she had left. And when she was killing infected, she could almost pretend he was still alive, that some asshole mugger hadn’t killed him for the five dollars in his wallet. The pure adrenaline of fighting for her life was a rush she didn’t want to let go of. But for the moment she had to, since this was the end of the Costa Rica assignment.

Now wasn’t the time for wondering what she would do until the next call came in. In this line of work, being distracted equaled death or, worse, getting infected.

“We need to help with cleanup.” Eden slung Bernice over her shoulder, pausing a moment to make sure the gun wouldn’t jostle, and made her way down the hill. As soon as her feet hit flat ground, she broke into a loping pace she could maintain for hours if necessary.

Kaede muttered something too low to hear and followed. Knowing her, it was something rude and probably insulting. It always amused Eden because the Japanese woman’s attitude was so at odds with her looks.

Kaede could have been a model. At twenty-six, she was several inches taller than Eden, nearly five-nine, and had perfect skin that never seemed to break out, no matter how long they went without washing up on assignments. She could also drink Eden under the table without even trying. But, even with the attitude and too-good-to-be-true looks, there was no one Eden would rather have at her back while she was distracted with shooting. Like her twin, Taro, Kaede was a force of nature. No one was safe if they got in her way. Hell, when their own family tortured Taro and sliced out his tongue, she’d cut a bloody path through them to rescue him. No one messed with Kaede and lived.

As they stalked through the trees, Eden kept a close watch for infected. All the noise from earlier should have drawn any zombie within hearing range. Except there was nothing moving in the area, but their team. It didn’t mean they were safe though. Some were slower than others, depending on their state of decay.

Too bad their lack of speed didn’t make them any less deadly.

The others were already piling the bodies by the time Eden and Kaede jogged up. Eden made a face at the smell—tropical heat plus dead flesh did
not
equal yummy—and went to help. Grabbing a short male by its ankles, she dragged it across the ground, leaving a train of maggots, blood, and putrefied flesh. The first clean-up she’d ever done had been in Nigeria when she was fourteen. She’d ended up on her knees, puking up her breakfast. Eden wasn’t sure if it was a good thing she was used to the smell of rotting flesh now. Either way, it sure made her job easier.

Finally, all the bodies were together. She made an effort not to look at the child she’d killed while the new guy, Oz, scattered inflammatory powder over them. He shot her a grin, his crooked teeth brilliantly white against his dark skin. “Stand back, beautiful. Wouldn’t want your pretty hair to go up like a torch.”

Eden glared, but took several large steps back anyway. Her hair was her only vanity and she refused to cut the jet-black locks any shorter than the middle of her back. Since she kept it tightly bound to her head, Jordan allowed it. Even after two missions, Oz didn’t understand the pecking order in their group. She was the youngest at eighteen, but she was a hell of a lot more important than some cowboy who knew how to shoot a pistol; put him at a hundred yards and he couldn’t hit shit. His kind were a dime a dozen, and he wouldn’t last more than a year before he got scared or got dead.

Jordan stepped forward, her own pixie-short locks a sharp contrast to Eden’s, and threw a mini flare onto the pile of bodies. Instantly, flames sprang up, consuming the flesh and bone. Mere moments later, there was nothing but a burnt spot in the middle of the clearing.

“Alright, people, one last sweep and then we head out,” Jordan said. She checked her rifle, a customized M4 courtesy of their employer, and headed towards the Humvee. “I need a beer.”

Eden was more inclined to something of a harder nature, but that would have to wait until the relative safety of the village. She shrugged to move the weight of her rifle into a more comfortable position and followed Jordan.

Out of the corner of her eye, Eden saw Taro head into the trees, Kaede at his back. They would stay overnight to make sure no more of the creatures were attracted by the light show they’d put on. This part of the assignment always made Eden uncomfortable. If something went wrong, there was no one in the immediate area to back them up. It wasn’t like she had anything to contribute to their pair; if there was something Kaede and Taro couldn’t handle, it would probably destroy the world.

Eden climbed into the backseat of the Humvee, leaving Jordan to take shotgun, and glanced at the surrounding trees one last time. Costa Rica was a hell of a long ways from Columbia, but Eden half expected
him
to stroll out of the twilight and offer that quiet smile that made her go weak in the knees. Being back in the jungle was doing a number on her mental health, but this assignment was over. Tomorrow she would go home where she wouldn’t be faced with the constant reminder of what she’d lost.

The worst part of it was she couldn’t even tell Jordan about her psychosis. Her sister would merely roll her eyes or, worse, offer a look filled with pity. And what did she expect? Alejandro used her to get what he wanted and then melted back into that damned jungle before she woke up the next morning. Thinking about it now made her reach for her
bolo
, her fingers absently stroking its hilt. If she ever saw him again, she’d make him regret meeting her...if she didn’t forgive him on sight. Eden frowned, her indecision one more piece of evidence of the way Alejandro had screwed her over.

The forest suddenly opened up, revealing the village where they had rented rooms. She was tired, but the last thing on Eden’s mind was sleeping. She jumped out of the Humvee before it completely stopped and made a beeline for her room. Once there, she methodically cleaned and dismantled Bernice. Pausing only long enough to yank off her body armor and pull on a pair of shorts and a black tank top, she headed for the bar.

It wasn’t much. There were only two walls—one of which was taken up by the bar itself. The rest was open, supported by thin beams. There were two stained tables with four chairs apiece, but she bypassed them and went straight for the bar. Since there were no stools, she leaned against it and waited for the bartender to finish with his current customer.

The short man with graying hair was all smiles as he approached. “
Hola, mujer hermosa. Qué puedo conseguirle para beber
?”

Eden tried not to frown at being called a beautiful woman and responded in Spanish, “Tequila. Leave the bottle.”

His eyes widened, but he did as she asked. Eden poured a shot, downed it and poured herself another before the first hit her stomach. She’d been drinking this crap long enough that she didn’t mind the taste, but her tolerance meant it took a lot to achieve a mindless buzz. After seeing the little girl today—no,
zombie
, not a girl any longer—she needed all of the mindlessness she could get.

“A woman as beautiful as you should be drinking something sweet,” a voice slurred in her ear.

She’d heard the man approach but hoped if she ignored him, he would leave. No such luck. And he wasn’t even going to be original. She had access to a mirror; she knew she was attractive, but the fact that her features were arranged in a pleasing manner meant next to nothing. Eden never understood why guys thought stating the obvious would endear her to them. She was beautiful...so what? Should she fall all over herself because they told her so? Yeah right.

Alejandro had never resorted to meaningless compliments. He looked at her with those fathomless dark eyes and she ended up saying things she never intended to. And why the hell was she thinking about him again? The damned jungle was making her crazy.

Instead of answering, she poured another shot.

“Ah, the
chica
has an attitude. I like that.” He leaned in, crowding her space. “And what is this?”

Eden didn’t need to glance over to know he was talking about the
bolo
strapped to her hip; she never went anywhere without it. The Filipino weapon was similar enough to a machete that most people didn’t comment despite the fact the blackened metal obviously wasn’t steel. Their team’s employer was constantly upgrading them with new technology and her
bolo’s
metal was one such invention. It could cut through damn near anything without so much as scratching the blade. Of course the guy bothering her would be curious about it. She took another shot.

“What would a pretty
chica
like you need with a...big...sharp...weapon like this?”

It was a fight not to laugh in his face. Eden saw Jordan come into the bar out of the corner of her eye. Her sister looked at them and made as if to approach, but then shook her head and sank into a chair. At least Jordan knew she could take care of herself, even if her big sister didn’t like it.

The man leaned in further, forcing her to breathe his toxic exhale. Yuck. “No need to be a
puta
. I just want to show you a good time.” And then he made the last in a long line of mistakes. He gripped her arm and tried to drag her against his body.

Eden grabbed his wrist and pulled him forward, tripping him with a well-placed foot and following him to the floor, her knee in the small of his back as she wrenched his arm up and in. Dad taught her the move when she was twelve, after an assignment when he caught one of the local men paying too much attention to her. The conversation in the bar went silent as the man screamed like a little girl.

She leaned down and spoke softly in his ear, making sure she enunciated clearly. “Do not touch me.”

“Eden,” Jordan said sharply.

Eden let go and used a foot on his back to stand. She smiled a little as he climbed to his feet and staggered out of the bar, but her amusement drained away when she met Jordan’s gaze. Her sister’s disappointed look was saved for times when Eden did something violent or said something bitingly sarcastic; basically whenever she reminded her sister too much of Dad. Jordan never forgave him for dragging them along on these assignments, for forcing them into this life, for getting their mother killed.

Steeling her nerves, Eden poured herself another shot and raised it in a toast. “Cheers.” Jordan didn’t smile. Oh well, her sister never did have much of a sense of humor.

Suddenly drinking herself stupid lost its appeal. Maybe it was the thug or Eden’s earlier thoughts of Alejandro or Jordan sitting there watching her, disapproval plain on her face. The reason didn’t matter. Eden pulled out a wad of
colons
and dropped them on the bar before she strode into the night.

“Eden, wait.”

She should have known her big sister would take this opportunity to have a talk. Eden briefly considered continuing on, but Jordan wouldn’t give up. She sighed and turned. “What?”

“That was unnecessary.”

Of course
it wasn’t necessary. “He was an ass.”

“It’s not like you to overreact with strangers.” Jordan took a step closer and lowered her voice. “Eden, what’s really wrong?”

Eden opened her mouth to tell Jordan the truth. She missed Dad. Missed the way he had an answer for everything, missed how safe she felt when he was around, just plain missed him. As imperfect as he was, as much as she loved her sister, Jordan could never replace him.

And she was obsessing about Alejandro, she couldn’t get him out of her head and it hurt so much that sometimes she wasn’t sure she could keep breathing. To sum it up neatly, Eden was a mess. But she bit the words back. Jordan wouldn’t understand. She wasn’t close to Dad, and Eden could count her sister’s serious relationships on one hand and still have all her fingers left over.

“It’s nothing, or nothing you can help me with. I’m just restless.”

BOOK: Hunter Of The Dead
3.64Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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