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Authors: Rachel Higginson

Magic and Decay

Magic and Decay

 

A Rachel Higginson Mash-Up

 

By Rachel Higginson

 

Copyright@ Rachel Higginson 2014

 

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use one of these terms.

 

Any people or places are strictly
fictional and not based on anything else, fictional or non-fictional.

 

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Copy Editing by Carolyn Moon

Cover Design by
Caedus
Design Co.

 

Other Books Now Available by Rachel
Higginson

 

Love and Decay, Season One, Episodes
One-Twelve

Love and Decay, Season Two, Episodes
One-Twelve

Love and Decay, Volume One (Episodes
One-Six, Season One)

Love and Decay, Volume Two (Episodes
Seven-Twelve, Season One)

Love and Decay, Volume Three (Episodes
One-Four, Season Two)

Love and Decay, Volume Four (Episodes
Five-Eight, Season Two)

Love and Decay, Volume Five (Episodes
Nine-Twelve, Season Two)

 

Reckless Magic (The Star-Crossed Series,
Book 1)

Hopeless Magic (The Star-Crossed Series, Book
2)

Fearless Magic (The Star-Crossed Series,
Book 3)

Endless Magic (The Star-Crossed Series,
Book 4)

The Reluctant King (The Star-Crossed
Series, Book 5)

The Relentless Warrior (The Star-Crossed
Series, Book 6)

Breathless Magic (The Star-Crossed Series,
Book 6.5)

Fateful Magic (The Star-Crossed Series,
Book 6.75)

The Redeemable Prince (The Star-Crossed
Series, Book 7)

 

Heir of Skies (The
Starbright
Series, Book 1)

Heir of Darkness (The
Starbright
Series, Book 2)

Heir of Secrets (The
Starbright
Series, Book 3)

 

The Rush (The Siren Series, Book 1)

The
Fall
(The
Siren Series, Book 2)

 

Bet on Us (An NA Contemporary Romance)

 

Striking (The Forged in Fire Series)
This
is a co-authored Contemporary NA

Brazing (The Forged in Fire Series)
This
is a co-authored Contemporary NA

 

To my Heroines.

I would give you all the worlds if I
could.

 

Chapter One

Eden

 

I stepped carefully over broken glass from a window
that looked like a body had been tossed through it. Blood mingled with the jagged
shards and painted the harsh wood floor a sticky black. I glanced back at my
husband as he picked his way through the mess with me. He raised one eyebrow
and his lips twisted in that subtle smirk he had been wearing since the day I
met him.

I held in a sigh.

“I told you,” he goaded me. “We should have gone to
the tropics. This is not exactly romantic.”

“I don’t need romance.” I pushed an upturned table out
of the way with my Magic.

Kiran
snorted behind me.
“What if
I’m
the one that needs romance?”

It was my turn to raise my eyebrows. “Do you?”

He looked like a petulant child as he glared at me.
“No.”

“Sure you don’t,” I laughed.

“I don’t!” he insisted. “I just imagined our time away
from the children to be a little less… gory.”

Blood spray smeared the once white-washed walls, and
the rank smell that drifted through the old restaurant made my nose wrinkle.

I read somewhere once that the smell was the worst,
the absolute worst. And I definitely agreed.

Kiran
was right. This wasn’t
exactly the most ideal way to spend our alone-time. But, to be fair, we didn’t
have many other options. Ever since the Zombie Apocalypse turned our world
upside down, we had been forced to close the doors to the Citadel and protect
our Kingdom from the suddenly-very-dangerous human population roaming the Earth
and searching for brains to snack on.

The great news about all this was that my people were
united in one place, and our community had never been stronger. The bad news…
well obviously all the Zombies.

And the
fact that I couldn’t catch a
freaking break
.

First Lucan.
Then
Terletov
.
Now
this?
Zombies?

There wasn’t exactly an easy solution to this one.

So until one could be found or
created or whatever, we stayed behind the walled gates of our protected, isolated
Citadel and only ventured out in small groups to see what there was to be done
for the remaining, non-
Zombified
population.

With Magic, we still had access to many of the modern
conveniences we once enjoyed. For instance, transportation wasn’t really an
issue. We could still fly planes, drive cars and commandeer trains- not that we
commandeered a whole lot of trains.

Or any.

But the point was
,
it was
possible.

And that was how
Kiran
and I
found
ourselves
all the way across the world, away
from our children and picking our way through small-town Texas.

We were on the lookout for survivors. And people that
needed help. We were also searching for supplies that could be loaded up and
dropped off at any of our safe settlements that had been created over the past
two years.

We did our best to protect the remnants of humanity
that still fought to survive through the end of the world, but we had our own
people to protect and rule, too.

Besides, there were so many Zombies.

I couldn’t see how humanity would survive this. I
couldn’t feel the hope that I wore like a badge over my heart and preached like
it was salvation.
Especially as I noted the amount of death
that happened in just this one place.

And lately I had noticed an uptick in deaths, but not
necessarily from Zombies. Humans fought other humans these days. Cruel, evil
men had taken up the leadership roles that had been vacated by death or
disease. They grabbed the flailing helm of humanity’s sinking ship and took
control.

Knowing we had to protect ourselves from humans and
Zombies alike made our trips out of the Citadel fewer and farther between. But
Kiran
was stir-crazy trapped behind those tall stone walls
and surrounded by an entire people group that generally drove him crazy.

Not to mention the twins were… a little much.

We called these out of town trips “dates,” but really
they were sanity-savers.

We were stuck with immortality from now until the end
of it, the end of all of it. If we lost our minds now, we had a long way to
suffer through. But man, those kids of ours. They had to be the cutest things
ever born and the most ornery.

I blamed the Kendrick genes.

They probably lay in bed at night whispering about
world domination to each other and the best way to force their parents into
submission.

Whatever they came up with seemed to be working.

Those babies were spoiled rotten.

“I’m not sure there’s anything here, Love.”

I stopped fighting my way through a tangle of
overturned metal chairs and small tables. “You might be right. We probably
should have headed up to the east coast. We haven’t been over there in a few
months.”

Kiran
sighed
a long weary sound that made me think he agreed with me. “But
the last living
Oracle demanded Texas.
So Texas is where we came.”

I made a sound in the back of my throat. “The last
living Oracle isn’t infallible. Sometimes she’s tired and cranky and wants a
cold Dr. Pepper.”

Kiran
gave me a sidelong
glance. “Did we come to Texas for Dr. Pepper?”

I tried to smile. “I swear I saw people that needed
our help. This had nothing to do with my shameless addiction.”

He
squinted
his cerulean blue
eyes at me. “I don’t believe you.”

I turned away from him and moved toward an emergency
exit that needed to read “normal exit.” It seemed everything was an emergency
these days. I threw an “I’m your wife! You have to believe me!” over my
shoulder and stepped out onto a wrap-around porch that looked out at the Gulf
of Mexico.

This would have been a lovely restaurant once upon a
time. The cool ocean breeze washed over my face and tickled my forearms. The
sun sat low over the horizon and turned the sky a rainbow of colors.

Hot pink wrapped around the shimmering orb of light
and purple stretched its fingers in puffy clouds as it reached high for the
sky. Blue, orange and white mingled together in a tapestry of beauty and
serenity.

The ocean waves crested white in the distance before
plummeting back to the never-ending pool of salt and sea. The giant waves
pushed up the sandy shore and whooshed against rock and landed in a lulling
melody that tugged at my soul.

Meanwhile, behind me, an entire town had been upended
by destruction. Buildings had been set on fire and burned to the ground. Ash
drifted through the air and settled on my hair and skin.

The dead roamed freely while humans cowered in fear of
being eaten or turned. Homes were destroyed; lives were changed and loved ones
murdered.

All in front of this breathtaking
view of perfection.

A solid hand landed on my waist, and pulled me back
against a wall of safety and comfort.
Kiran
kissed
the top of my head and then nuzzled his nose in the crook of my neck.

“Hell of a view,” he murmured. “I can almost forgive
you for the Dr. Pepper.”

“It’s not my fault Europe never caught the Dr. Pepper
trend. It’s not like I can loot the nearby villages for it. I told you we
should have set up camp in Omaha.”

I could feel
Kiran
roll his
eyes. “Omaha has no secured facilities. And don’t bring up the club. It’s not
nearly big enough. I’m not raising our children underground like vampires.
That’s the one mythical creature I draw the line on. No vampires.”

He had a point.

 
“Plus, Romania
has Fanta
Shokata
. Beats Dr. Pepper all day, every
day.”

I opened my mouth to argue, but the low, guttural
moaning sound in the distance beat me to it.
Kiran’s
hold tightened around my waist and his arms became bands of fierce protection
instead of the gentle caress of a man trying to get laid later tonight.

I smiled despite the Zombie barreling our way.

“Let me take this one,”
Kiran
growled in warning.

I jerked. “And why should you have all the fun?”

“Does it mean nothing to you that I want to protect
you?
That I want to keep the mother of my children alive and
not-
Zombied
?
That I want to be able to kiss
you for the next thousand years instead of watching your face rot?”

I shuddered. What a horrific image.

“Babe, I can’t be turned into a Zombie, remember?
Super Magic powers.”

He released me and mumbled something not entirely
pleasant about all my “super Magic powers.” “Eden, this theory of yours has not
been tested. And I’m in no hurry to make your super Magic powers hard facts.”

I felt the blood rush to my hands and crackle and pop
with the
Magic
bursting through me. Adrenaline and
purpose surged inside my veins, and my heartbeat accelerated as I anticipated
the fight ahead. I hadn’t stretched my Magic in a while. I hadn’t let it loose
and made something explode in far too long.

And everybody knew what happened when I went without
blowing something up for too long.

Really, taking off a couple Zombie heads was a service
to the Kingdom.

I was just a lowly servant that wanted what was best
for my people.

I also got a weird thrill out of wasting Zombies.

So there was that, too.

“How about we find some gender equality here and fight
this horde together?”

I glanced over my shoulder at a man who was perfectly
comfortable with gender equality and hated when I pointed out some of his
rather dated expectations for marriage.

Unfortunately for him, I was not his meek and mild
mother. And he was not his father.

We fought through this life, through parenting,
through our marriage together, on equal footing with equal partnership. And he
rarely forgot that.

Except when he slipped into
big-bad-protector mode.
But who could blame him? I was pretty precious
if I did say so myself.

“I can do that.” I felt his Magic spike with
adrenaline. He needed to stretch his Magic as much as I did. He moved from
behind me to stand next to me.

We watched the wide street in front of the dilapidated
restaurant flood with Zombies, so many more than I had expected. Where did they
all come from?

They limped, hobbled, crawled and sprinted at us. It
was like a marathon of dead people. They brought their noxious stench with them
and oozed black mucous and puss onto the smooth blacktop beneath them.

The road separated the small business area of whatever
town we’d stumbled upon from the beach that led directly to those beautiful
waves. The attacking Zombies didn’t seem to have a preference for paved road
over kicking sand. They filled every space they could in their pursuit.

That’s when I realized their pursuit was not us.

I gave
Kiran
a what-the-hell
look and stepped down onto rickety steps. “It’s like they don’t even know we’re
here.”

Kiran
stepped beside me. “They’re
focused on something. Something they want more than us.”

“What? Since when can they decipher what they want and
what’s right in front of them? They’re brain-dead robots!”

“Whatever it is must have seriously caught their
attention.”
Kiran
reached out his hand that was void
of Magic for the time being. A Zombie sprinted right by him without noticing
the dangling appendage for even a second. “This is spooky.”

“You’re telling me! I don’t get why he didn’t take a
bite right out of your fingers!”

“You sound disappointed.”

“Hard facts,
Kiran
.
I’m looking for the hard facts.”

Kiran
took another step down
and ignored me. Probably wise.

“We should probably keep them from getting to their
target, yeah?”

“Definitely.”
Kiran
looked back at me. “I love you. Whatever happens,
remember that.”

I smiled adoringly at him. “I love you, too. Now let’s
finish what death started.” I smacked my husband on the
arse
as hard as I could and jumped directly into the fray.

I heard his sharp intake of breath and muttered a
curse before he followed after me.

The truth was
,
neither
Kiran
nor I had ever been bitten by a Zombie. Nor did we
know any Immortals that had ever been bitten either.

We believed that between our Immortality and my
healing blue smoke, we had the potential to be immune from the disease.

But we weren’t positive.

And with two babies at home and a Kingdom that would
fall to ruins without us, it just wasn’t worth the risk to be careless.

Okay, maybe it wouldn’t fall to ruins… But probably we
shouldn’t test that theory.

My Magic built in my body with tension and intention
and so much power my heart had to beat furiously in order to keep up. I felt
like a slingshot pulled tight. My Magic stood at the precipice between
attention and destruction. It was ready.

I was ready.

And so like a dam broken by a rushing river, my energy
exploded out of me in a sweeping wave of blue electricity.

Zombies toppled in every direction. They hit the
ground where they stood while their heads bounced in opposite directions.

Ick.

That was the worst part of these creatures. I couldn’t
just knock them out and rehabilitate them. Or lock them up until they came to
their senses. This disease destroyed any part of who they used to be and took
away their control and any lingering humanity.

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