Drake loved summer evenings like this one. It had been a brutally hot day, the sun daring anyone to step foot outside without diving into a pool. Worse than that, though, had been the humidity, building higher every moment until it felt like he was swimming in thick soup just walking from the house to the park.
Now, though, he sat on a picnic table, watching the sky go dark as the clouds rushed in to hide the sun. The wind was blowing hard, bending the trees and blowing oven-hot air against him. It got darker and windier, and a tension built inside him – inside the world, he thought. It was going to break any moment now and, with any luck, there was going to be a magnificent thunderstorm. It was just too bad he didn’t have anyone to share it with.
The wind grew even stronger and a flash of lightning lit up the sudden darkness, followed by a boom after a count of five seconds. Five miles away, then. Drake bet the next lightning and thunder pairing were even closer together.
The skies opened up without warning, huge drops beating the ground. Laughing, Drake jumped up and ran out from under the trees, eager to be in the middle of it. He danced in the rain, his arms spread, his face turned to the sky.
Hearing a chuckle, he whipped around, finding Kevin there, grinning at him, and just as wet.
“You’re a little out of your neighborhood.” Drake wasn’t going to buy that the lovely, but definitely not out, Kevin ‘just happened’ to be driving along the road and noticed him.
Lightning lit up the sky above Kevin’s head and the answering thunder was almost immediate, which explained the way the wind was howling.
Kevin met his gaze, held it. “I had to come. The storm called me.”
“The storm?” Right.
“You called me,” Kevin amended.
Drake stared at Kevin for a moment longer, the thunder and lightning filling the air, the sky, wild and untamed, the wind whipping around him, slamming the rain into him.
They broke together, crashing into each other like the wind was responsible. Drake wrapped his arms around Kevin and they kissed. He swore he could feel the copper taste of blood as their lips mashed together, but it only spurred him on. As did the thunder, the sound encouraging him to rub against Kevin. He dropped his hands to Kevin’s ass, wanting Kevin to reciprocate.
Kevin did, the two of them moving with a desperation that matched the storm’s intensity. The weather got wilder and so did they until Drake was coming, the thunder echoing his cry. Kevin held on tighter, eyes rolling back in his head as his mouth dropped open. A shudder went through him and then they were clinging to each other in the rain.
“It’s about time,” Drake said.
He did love summer evenings like this.
BA Tortuga 0 Connor and Brock are from What the Cat Dragged in available from Dreamspinner Press.
Connor watched the puppies play in the pool, his tongue dragging over the popsicle.
He was too hot to move. Seriously. Too hot to think. Too hot to move. Too hot to live.
Oh, drippage. He sucked his fingers clean, then went back to his meditative slurping.
Up. Down. Up. Down.
A low growl split the air and he looked over to the kitchen where Brock was standing there, lupine eyes glowing. His own wolf crooked his finger, beckoning him inside.
Oh. Oh, right.
Here Kitty. He got it.
He sucked his popsicle and stood, eyes on something else to put between his lips.
Julia Talbot-- Frost and Matt are from Riding the Circuit, available at Dreamspinner Press “Hey, Frost, you want a beer?”
Frost lifted his head to stare accusingly at Matt. “Aren’t you from up in in Chama where it’s cold all the time? How can you not be damn hot?”
Matt chuckled, tugging out two beers, then coming to rest one against Frost’s bare belly. “I have a theory. It’s all about ancestry. My people are brown. We come from where the sun beats down on you all day. You’re a redhead. Your people come from places that the sun doesn’t shine half the year.”
“Ha ha.” Frost pulled the beer up to press against his sweaty neck. “I need to go look at the swamp cooler, make sure the pads aren’t clogged.”
“Won’t matter in a week or so. Monsoon is coming.”
Frost groaned. “God, I need a cold shower.”
Matt’s dark eyes twinkled for him. “I could rub you down with an ice cube.”
All sorts of things perked up at those words. Frost nodded. “You sure could.”
Matt headed back to the fridge, and Frost grinned. Now the heat was all inside him instead of out.
He was a damn lucky cowboy.
Thunder exploded in an unexpected blast so loud it thrummed in my bones. I shivered and glanced up at the summer sky, shocked by the roiling greenish-purple clouds I saw. Needles hadn’t seen a storm coming. Usually his predictions were dead-on, but not this time.
“Looks like a metal storm coming in!” Carver yelled in my ear, competing with the thunder for my attention. She tugged on my arm. “We gotta to get to the shelter, now!”
I shook my head, and pointed toward the decaying pumps. Scouts discovered the location of the fuel station only a few days ago. It’d been buried under rubble, exposed by a recent, powerful windstorm. For all anyone knew, it might’ve been hidden away since the Big Blast. If we were lucky, those pumps might be untapped. If so, it was possible we could score enough gas and propane to last us the entire winter. “We need to check those for fuel, first.”
“There’s no time!”
I yanked my arm out of her hand. “You go on. I’ll be right behind you.”
“But Dragon, the storm--“
There wasn’t enough time to bother trying to rationalize my decision. The only thing left to do was pull rank. “You know how short summers are now. We need to gather all the fuel while we can before the temperature starts dropping. I said go on, and that’s an order.”
Carver’s expression left no doubt she was in complete disagreement with me, but she didn’t try to argue again. Instead, she stuck two fingers in her mouth and blew out a piercing whistle.
A dozen heads popped up from behind rusted out car carcasses and decaying Dumpsters, all looking in our direction. Of the dozen, I knew less than half by name. Along with Carver, Bouncer, Ferrari, Hazmat, and Legion had been part of my crew since I was appointed Cell Leader. The others were all new, replacements for members lost on previous raids. I hadn’t bothered learning their names. It took nerve, smarts, strength, and agility to survive outside Sanctuary, and too few had it. These newbies probably wouldn’t survive long enough to make memorizing their names worth the trouble. The ones that did, well, there'd be time later on to learn what they called themselves.
Carver led them single file toward the entrance leading down to the shelter. Sub Way, is what we called it. Pocket Frank says that's what the ancients called it too. He has a theory about why they called it that, but it seems too crazy to be true. Something about how the Sub Way had mechanical vehicles that used to run on a sort of invisible magic power. How they carried folks under the ground, slithering through tunnels like a metal snake. Crazy, right? Anyway, I give no shits about history. I couldn't care less about why the ancients did anything. I only care about the how -- as in how they found fuel, food, water, and most importantly, how they stayed alive. Those are the stories we need to hear. Still, on cold, dark nights when death is prowling the streets, any story is a good story, right?
I dashed to pumps, keeping one eye on the storm pushing in from the west. The way I saw it, I had only a few minutes to siphon out what fuel I could and get down to the Sub Way before it hit. Providing, of course, there was any fuel to suck up. Most of the time, the pumps were dry.
This one actually had a few gallons in her, and my mind wandered back to stories about the ancients who originally put the fuel in the tanks. I wondered what it must’ve been like to have so much fuel you had to build underground tanks to hold it all.
Three-Eyed Myrtle always tells the best stories, if you ask me. She closes two of her eyes, but the third one, the peculiar orangey-purple-colored one that always reminded me of the poisonous mud at the edge of the Zone, fixes on you. She pins you to your chair with that look, and she stares and stares without blinking as if she can see right through you, or at least into the deepest parts of you, to the place where all your secrets are spread out like a deck of cards.
She never speaks your secrets aloud, though. Whatever she sees in the deep, spider-webbed corners of your soul, she keeps to herself.
Her stories, though, I always like them best.
Other people, especially the old folk like Pocket Frank or Toothless Annie, can tell good stories, too. Pocket Frank has one he likes to tell about the Time Before, when growing stuff was green and fresh, and you could eat it without vomiting blood, and when the air didn’t leave an oily slick on your skin like it does now. Nobody believes the stories, of course. I don’t think even Pocket Frank really believes them. They’re just stories. They’re nice to hear, though.
Sometimes, though, when I’m alone and bored and start daydreaming, I think it would be nice if there was a place like the one in the stories. Somewhere you can go outside without your resusi-mask strapped to your face, and where you can hunt without worrying about what things might be hunting you.
Hunting wasn’t on the schedule for today, anyway, not for me, not for anybody. I screwed the lid onto the collecting jar and gathered up my hose. Taking off at a run, I ducked down the stairs into the Sub Way, barely making it before the storm hit.
We could hear the clanging and rat-a-tatting as the winds shot bits and pieces of metal into the building walls above our heads. I've seen metal storms slam a twelve-inch piece of metal a half-foot deep into a concrete wall. Nasty things, metal storms. We were safe enough down here in Sub Way, though.
Everyone with half a brain knows to come down into Sub Way when a storm blows up. Metal storms, venom storms, fire-and-ice storms...doesn’t matter. Any of them will kill you quick if you get caught outside in them. Hell, I figure if you’re stupid enough to be outside during a metal storm, you deserve to get sliced up into people confetti.
Me? Well, if there’s one thing I’m not, it’s stupid.
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