Fall is in the air…which means Halloween is coming…which means zombies soon will rise! What better way to celebrate the season than with an exclusive excerpt from book 4 of Gena Showalter’s New York Times best-selling White Rabbit Chronicles series, A Mad Zombie Party? Read on!
Another finger pokes through the dirt…soon an entire hand. There’s a dull gray tint to the skin, and my heart leaps with excitement.
The creature sits up and shakes her head, clumps of dirt falling from her tangled salt-andpepper hair. I smile with anticipation, until I note the open wounds on her forehead and cheeks, each revealing the rotted muscle and splintered bone underneath. First time risers usually appear human, their only visual tells red eyes and graying skin. Why the change? She locks on me, her lips curling up, showcasing yellowed teeth and thick black saliva. Kill now, ask questions later.
She swipes a hand at me and snaps her teeth.
“Sorry, honey, but I’m not on the menu.” I leap off the tombstone and end up where I want to be—in the circle of her arms. Mindless with hunger, she latches on to my waist to yank me closer, but I’m already swinging my swords. The blades crisscross at her neck before I’m in any danger, and her head falls backward, black goo spraying from her severed artery. The civilians continue playing their silly game.
Despite the decapitation, both the zombie head and body remain animated, arms clawing at me, teeth snapping at me. Time to finish her off for good. I’ve been fighting the undead for so long, summoning my fire—my dýnamis—is as easy as breathing. By the time I sheath one of my swords and flatten my hand over her chest, flames are crackling all the way to my wrist. One minute passes, two… Dýnamis sinks past her skin, into her veins, traveling through her entire body. Then, suddenly, she explodes, dark ash floating through the air.
I move on to her head, making sure her teeth are firmly planted in the ground before I perform the same “fire up and wait” routine. When a second round of ash floats away on a cool spring breeze, I sheath my other sword and slap my hands together in a job well done. I have to walk through the circle of civilians to get to the next name on my list of AS victims. Each boy has paired off with a girl, the couples making out on top of blankets, uncaring about the potential audience. Longing mixes with envy, cutting at me. I haven’t had a “boyfriend” in forever. River is so protective—was so protective, I correct with a twist in my gut. Anyone interested in me quickly decided I wasn’t worth the hassle…but usually only after I’d given up the goods. At least, I like to tell myself River is the reason I’ve been rejected so many times, and not my mountain of personality flaws.
Now River wouldn’t care if I decided to screw anything breathing…or hey, anything not breathing.
I never should have betrayed his trust in me, never should have tried to save his life by signing the death warrant of Ali Bell, the girlfriend of a rival crew’s leader. But trading one life for another had seemed acceptable at the time. If only that’s how things had gone down. Ali survived, but two innocents had not. Kat Parker and Dr. Richard Ankh. I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to forgive myself for the part I played in their deaths. Scratch that. I will never forgive myself.
A grunt sounds at my left, and I whip around to discover two other zombies have risen. Two zombies not from graves/names on my list. Well, hell. As I once again unsheathe my short swords, my heart slamming against my ribs, I study my newest opponents. Two males. One is morbidly obese, while the other is short and squat. Both have a grayish tint, like the female, the same advanced stage of rot.
They race toward me without stumbling, their bones not yet brittle enough to break. I dart to the right, their gazes alert enough to follow me. Good. I keep going, drawing the two farther away from the civilians…but I don’t realize until too late that there’s a small headstone in my path. I trip, land on my ass and lose my breath. I’m laid flat for only a second, maybe two, but it’s enough. The pair dive for me. I somersault backward, coming up with my swords extended, ripping through each creature’s torso. Multiple organs plop to the ground, but neither Z seems to notice or care that they’ve been disemboweled. They just keep advancing.
I kick one in the groin, sending him stumbling to the side, at the same time removing the head of the other with a single swipe of my sword. The headless wonder, now behind me, manages to clench his fingers in my hair and yank me closer. Idiot! All he can do is paw at me. I elbow his chest and kick back. As he, too, stumbles to the side, I hack at his left arm, spin and hack at his right. Both limbs hit the ground with a thud.
Pressure on my boot draws my gaze. The severed head is attempting to chew through my leather soles. I jerk my leg away and slam my sword into his ear canal, and if we were in an episode of The Walking Dead, my favorite show despite the inaccuracies, he would be dead. Again. But we aren’t, and he isn’t; he just keeps chomping at me. Now, at least, he’s trapped in place. He can do no real damage while I fight the other— A stone wall knocks me to the ground. The other zombie, back for more. I lose my grip on my swords, air exploding from my lungs and stars winking in front of my eyes. But I manage to hold him off, the heel of my palm planted firmly on his forehead. His legs are move between mine, both of his hands wrapping around my neck, which he clearly hopes to use as a snack pack.
If he were human, all I’d have to do is clasp my hands together at my midsection and shoot them up, between his arms, at the same time placing my feet behind his ankles and applying enough pressure to spread his legs. He would struggle for purchase and lose his grip on me. I would then place one of my hands behind his head and smash the other underneath his chin to close his mouth, pushing with one and pulling with the other to create a counterforce, turning his body and allowing me to roll on top of him. I would balance my weight on one knee, slam the heel of a hand into his nose, breaking the cartilage and, while he writhed in pain, I would stand and stomp on his stupid face. Game over. But he isn’t human, so I can do none of those things; his teeth would be too close to my vulnerable skin, and he would feel no pain.
All I can do is wiggle my free hand between our bodies. There’s a dagger sheathed at my waist…there! Once the weapon is free, I wrench it up and jab it into his neck, again and again. Black goo sprays my flesh, burning me, blistering. Steam curls through the air. When his spine is the only thing holding his head in place, I drop the blade and rearrange my hands, placing one behind his head while smashing the other under his chin, careful to avoid his teeth—looks like I can use one of my moves, after all. With a push and a pull, the counterforce snaps his stupid head from his stupid body.
Panting, I toss the brand-new boxing bag several yards away and fight my way from beneath his heavy weight. Dizziness sweeps over me, but this is not the time for a break. I summon dýnamis and place my palm over the zombie’s back. In my weakened state, my fire is not as potent and the zombie’s metamorphosis from rot to ash takes longer than usual, but it does happen.
I push up onto shaky legs and stumble forward, relieved, searching for the head I threw. Gotta rinse and repeat. Only, I come face-to-face with more than a dozen pairs of red, glowing eyes—and every single set is locked on me.
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