Title: Kick at the Darkness
Author: Keira Andrews
Cover Artist: Dar Albert
Release Date: May 28, 2015
Blurb: To live through the zombie apocalypse they have to survive each other first.
College freshman Parker Osborne is having the worst day ever. He humiliated himself trying to pick up a cute guy, he hasn’t made any friends at school, and his stupidly hot jerk of a TA gave him a crappy grade on his paper. He’s going to drop Adam Hawkins’ film class and start fresh tomorrow after he’s had a good sulk.
But Parker’s about to find out what a bad day really looks like—if he can survive the night.
A virus is unleashed, transforming infected people into zombie-like killers. After these quick and deadly creepers swarm campus, Parker only escapes thanks to Adam swooping him onto the back of his trusty motorcycle. Now they’re on the run—and stuck with each other.
When they’re not bickering, they’re fighting off the infected in a bloody battle for survival. Their only hope is to head east to Parker’s family, but orphaned Adam has a secret he’s not sure Parker will accept: he’s a werewolf. Can they trust each other enough to find some light in these dark days?
Excerpt: He really should have gone to bed.
Instead, Parker was in an empty classroom sitting in a circle with a bunch of people who looked as if they should be smoking up and playing Hacky Sack at the Oval. He squirmed in his wooden chair, wondering if he could just get up and walk out in the middle of the lesbian’s story about her struggle to add vegan items to the cafeteria menu. He had nothing against lesbians or vegans (or lesbian vegans), but he clearly didn’t fit in with the LGBT student group. Activism wasn’t really his thing.
He’d spotted the flyer for the group meeting after his lecture, and had decided it was high time to stop feeling sorry for himself, and to try making friends. Or take Jason’s advice and maybe pick up a hot guy.
Of course the only guy he could think about was Adam Hawkins. All day, Parker had replayed their encounter in his mind, devising witty comebacks and scathing putdowns. Not that he’d ever see Adam again, thank God. First thing tomorrow, he was dropping that class. He’d pick up another elective next semester, or in the summer if he had to.
“What do you think, Parker? It’s Parker, right?” The blonde girl who’d been speaking smiled encouragingly.
Shit. “Um, I think it’s great. Sounds like a plan.”
A murmur buzzed around the circle, and a short Asian guy with a pierced eyebrow spoke up. “You think we should stage a sit-in until the school bans all meat and dairy products? Don’t you think that’s a bit extreme?”
He felt the heat of a dozen pairs of eyes on him. “Uh…it would get their attention, though. Then maybe they’d compromise?”
The blonde exclaimed, “Exactly!”
As everyone debated the merits of food-based activism, Parker eyed the cute guy sitting next to him. Reddish hair and green eyes, and a tight little body. The guy hadn’t said much of anything so far. Maybe he wasn’t digging it either? It was hard to tell. But he could be cool. He was definitely hot, at least. I won’t meet anyone if I don’t try.
Screwing up his courage, Parker leaned over and whispered, “Meat, I get, but no dairy? And no chocolate? Life isn’t worth living.”
The redhead glanced at him with an unreadable expression. “Chocolate is overrated.”
“Uh, yeah, of course.” Parker waved his hand. “I was just kidding.”
The guy smiled. Hmm. Wait, had he been kidding too? Everyone liked chocolate, right? Heart thumping, Parker whispered, “Want to grab a coffee after this? We could live dangerously and have a latte with real milk.”
Please say yes. Please say yes.
The redhead’s gaze swept up and down Parker, like a searchlight coming up empty. Parker wanted to puke as the guy pasted on a smile.
“That’s so sweet. But I’ve got a lot of studying to do after the meeting.” Then he decisively turned back to the group. “Marjorie? Can we discuss that stunt Kappa Sigma pulled on the weekend at our cruelty-free bake sale? I think we should petition the administration…”
As they discussed something involving an unholy alliance of snickerdoodles and condoms, Parker wished the scuffed tile floor would open up and swallow him whole. Sadly, the floor was apparently vegan, because Parker remained right where he was, his face burning, sure that everyone knew he’d just been shot down.
He cursed himself for thinking it was a good idea to attend this meeting in the first place. Why did he need to officially meet other gay people? Maybe he should just pledge a frat and put his cocksucking skills to good use like he had in prep school. He didn’t need a boyfriend anyway.
But I want one.
Remembered shame flooded Parker, joining the fresh humiliation of being rejected by the redhead beside him. He’d only tried to kiss Greg Mason once, and he could still feel the hard tile floor of the shower, cold and wet as he’d landed on his ass, Greg staring down at him with a curled lip. “Don’t be a little faggot.”
The fact that he was eighteen and still had never properly kissed someone was so pathetic he could barely stand it. Sitting there in the circle of LGBT students who’d probably all kissed a dozen people, he felt like he had a neon sign blinking over his head.
Loser! Loser! Loser!
But what was the point of finding a boyfriend anyway? It’s not like he could ever really bring someone home. His parents tried their best—they really did—but the whole gay thing made them so awkward and uncomfortable. Not to mention he knew their rich pals at the country club would surely not approve. Parker wondered what his father would say if he dated an anti-establishment hippie type. The mere thought made him bark out a laugh.
Heads swiveled. “Is there something you wanted to share?” The blonde asked, her smile a little strained.
Before Parker could answer, a white guy with dreads interrupted, frowning at his smartphone. “Whoa. Did you guys see this? There are some crazy riots or something in New York.”
“What are they protesting?”
“Probably not meat and dairy, Abrah.”
“Is it Occupy Wall Street? I hope so. I heard they’re trying to make a comeback.”
“Dunno. Oh wait, it’s in DC too. Probably something about police brutality?”
As the group talked over each other, checking their phones, Parker slung his messenger bag over his head and made a beeline for the door. He escaped back to the quad and grabbed a sandwich (turkey and Havarti, thank you very much) on the way to his dorm. The common room was crowded with people watching CNN, but Parker didn’t care about whatever protest or riot or whatever-the-fuck was happening. He probably should, but he had way too much reading to do, especially after wasting time at that meeting.
Embarrassment flooded him again as he thought of the dismissive way the redhead had examined him. Then a voice echoed in his head—Adam Hawkins calling him a lazy freshman. “I work hard at what matters. Ugh, he’s such an asshole,” Parker muttered as he kicked the door closed behind him.
“Who’s an asshole?”
“Jesus!” Parker’s heart skipped a beat. “Don’t do that.”
Grinning, Chris pulled a T-shirt over his shorn head. “Sorry, bro. Just came back to do some laundry.” He smelled his arm pit. “Febreze is the best invention ever.”
“I’ve barely seen you since NSO.” New student orientation had been a week of mandatory activities designed to help frosh settle in and make friends. Parker had learned his way around, but totally failed to meet anyone he connected with. Chris was nice enough, but another pang of missing JJ swelled in Parker. He cleared his throat. “How’s Michelle?”
“Spectacular. Seriously, her tits are just…” Chris raised his fingers to his mouth to kiss them. “Bellissimo. I’ve found the woman of my dreams.” He shrugged. “At least for now. Hey, her roommate’s pretty hot too. Wanna come back with me? I got some dope weed. We can hang out and play Call of Duty. I bet she’ll blow you by the end of the night.”
Parker chuckled. He could undoubtedly give Michelle’s roommate some pointers. “Nah. I’ve got a lot of reading to do. Econ test tomorrow already.” Maybe he should go hang with them, but he hadn’t had a chance to come out to Chris, and he had zero interest in weed. Sometimes Parker felt like he was eighteen going on forty-five. Partying and getting high had never really been fun for him.
“Cool. If you change your mind give me a buzz.” Chris raised his hand as he headed to the door.
Parker slapped Chris’s palm and flopped down on his bed. “Later.”
In the silence that followed, Parker found himself actually missing the near-constant thump-thump of the house music favored by the girl next door. Maybe she was watching TV in the lounge. The news channels always made such a big deal out of everything these days, and Parker didn’t see the point in getting worked up.
He stared at Chris’s empty bed. Jason had been his roommate all through high school at Westley, so it should have been nice to virtually have his own room at school for a change. It should have been freaking awesome.
But it wasn’t.
Parker pulled out his phone. No message from Jessica. He hit her number and waited while it rang, sighing as her voicemail clicked on.
“This is Jessica. Quick—leave a message before phones become completely obsolete.”
For a moment, Parker was frozen with indecision. Then he tapped the screen and ended the call. What would he say that didn’t sound ninety-nine percent pathetic?
“Okay, enough.” His voice was loud in the stillness of the room. “Time to get to work.”
After wolfing down his sandwich, he opened his textbooks. The dorm was quieter than usual, and he put his phone on airplane mode and lost himself in free trade theory. By eight o’clock his eyes drooped, and he stretched out for a power nap. He was drifting off when a girl’s piercing voice echoed in the hall.
“It’s happening in San Francisco!”
With a roll of his eyes, Parker put in his earplugs and curled toward the wall. He’d check the news later when there was actual information to report instead of just fear-mongering speculation. Let them protest corporate America or the police or whatever they were doing. He had his GPA to worry about.
It was ten-thirty by the time Parker dragged himself out of bed. He still wore his jeans and a T-shirt, and he zipped on a dark green hoodie before stuffing his feet into his sneakers. The fifteen-minute walk across campus to the coffee shop would wake him up, and sweet caffeine would keep him going all night. He needed to do better. He needed ace this test. He would ace this test.
He popped in his earbuds and skirted around the people jammed into the dorm’s common room.
“Yo, Parker. Are you seeing this shit?” Mike from two rooms down—nice enough guy, but obsessed with sports—called out as Parker hurried by.
“Later, man. Need coffee.” Parker gave him a wave and turned on his music. They were probably watching the baseball game since the Oakland A’s were one win away from the playoffs, but he couldn’t let himself be distracted.
He’d mapped out this shortcut the first week of school after the RA had confiscated his Italian coffee maker. The night air was crisp, and Parker shoved his hands in his hoodie pockets as he navigated the nooks and crannies between buildings. He caught glimpses of the main quad, where a large number of people milled about. Probably some frat thing; all the better that he avoided it so he could get back to his books ASAP.
But he wondered what the riots or whatever had been about, and he thumbed off the airplane mode on his phone so he could Google it. As the phone reconnected, it vibrated in his palm and the screen filled with notifications. Nothing from JJ, and Parker wished he didn’t feel the stab of disappointment and hurt. It wasn’t their fault they were fitting in and making friends at college. He couldn’t expect them to have the time for him that they used to. But it still stung.
He shook it off and focused on the screen. “Seven missed calls from Mom?” he muttered to himself with a smile. “Classic.” When she got something into her head, she was a dog with a bone. As he walked, he listened to the voicemail message she’d left.
“Honey.” The recording was staticy and garbled, with some kind of background noise. Parker stopped to listen harder. He couldn’t make out the next few words. Then, “Cape house. We love you.” The message ended.
Huh. That was weird.
Why would she be calling about the Cape house? His parents went down to Chatham most weekends in September, but it was Tuesday. Parker deleted the message and started walking again. He’d call her when he got back to the dorm, or maybe wait until morning. It was after midnight on the east coast.
As he cut behind one of the science buildings, he stopped in his tracks. By a palm tree, there stood Adam Hawkins and his ludicrous cheekbones. Of course—he’d never seen the guy before today, and now he was likely doomed to run into him daily.
Adam had a motorcycle helmet in one hand, and had changed his loafers for black work boots. Wearing earbuds, he peered at the bright screen of his phone with a frown creasing his forehead.
Adam’s gaze shot up, his eyes hard as he removed his earbuds. “Excuse me?”
Parker realized he might have said that out loud. He paused his playlist and cleared his throat, trying to remember one of the witty comebacks he’d had a million of that afternoon. “Um, nothing.” Of course he’d think of ten more the minute he left Adam behind. Which couldn’t be too soon. In his black leather jacket and stubble, he looked ridiculous. Ridiculously hot, which wasn’t really fair since he was a film geek. A documentarian, even! Not to mention a condescending know-it-all. Parker kept walking.
“You didn’t have to complain to the dean,” Adam called after him.
Parker stopped and faced him. “Huh?”
“Are you seriously going to pretend it wasn’t you? I have to meet with Professor Grindle and the head of the department at the end of the week because a student with rich alumni parents put up a stink. She wouldn’t say who, but she didn’t need to.”
“It wasn’t me.” When Adam snorted and started walking away, Parker couldn’t stop himself from following. “Hey! It wasn’t me, asshole.”
“I’m the asshole?” Adam turned, gripping his helmet. His nostrils flared. “Every year I get kids like you taking my courses. Kids who don’t care about the arts, and just want an easy grade. And now you’re messing with my future. This job is everything to me. My degree is everything.”
“First off, who says I don’t care about the arts? I like the arts just fine, thank you very much. I played viola in my school orchestra, I’ll have you know. And like I said, it wasn’t me. Whatever, dude. You’re not worth it. I have important things to do like study for my econ test.”
“What? What does that mean?”
“That eighteen-year-olds think they know it all.” Adam shrugged, his flash of passion concealed again behind a flat expression. “If you say it wasn’t you, I guess it wasn’t.”
Jesus, this guy was annoying. “And what are you, twenty-two? So wise.”
“Oh, that changes everything. Whatever. I don’t have to talk to you.”
“Okay.” He shrugged again, now completely calm.
“Econ is a hell of a lot more important than watching movies.”
Adam watched him with an inscrutable gaze. Just like with the cute redhead, it felt as though he was being evaluated and found hopelessly lacking. “Okay.”
“Stop saying that! Oh my god, why am I even having his conversation?” Parker brushed by him and pressed play even though now he was going the wrong way for the coffee shop. He’d loop around, since he couldn’t turn back. “Have a nice life,” he called in his wake. If Adam replied, Parker didn’t hear it over the music in his ears.
He could not drop that class soon enough. He should have known—
A scream pierced the night, so loud he heard it over the new Macklemore song. Parker ripped out the earbuds and glanced around. He and Adam stared at each other. “Do you hear—”
“Yes,” Adam replied, his entire body tensed.
In the distance, the screaming swelled as other voices joined in. Parker’s heart thumped. “That’s a hell of a hazing ritual.”
The din increased, and more shrieks raised the hair on Parker’s arms. A girl and guy raced around the building. “What’s happening?” Parker shouted.
“They’re killing everyone!” The girl yelled, her eyes wild as she shoved past him.
More students streamed behind the buildings, and Parker watched them as his brain struggled to process what was happening. Then he was being yanked so hard he thought his shoulder might pop free of its socket. Adam propelled him forward, and yes, run. Run!
Copyright © Keira Andrews
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