I woke up with the same chill and horror running down my spine since I had when I first saw Alvina. I barely lifted my head off the sleeping to the middle of the camp. Alvina wasn’t watching me. She wasn’t turned in my direction. She spoke with the vampire that seemed to be her second in command. The same one who had charmed Grant. Part of me wanted to tell myself it was all in my head. That I was just being a big scaredy cat. But another part of me could not ignore that familiar chill. I had never caught Alvina looking at me, but I was sure she had been. I set my head back down and placed my forehead against Tanner’s back. As if she knew I needed some comfort, Victory’s arm came loosely around my waist from the other side. When I turned to look at her, she still had her eyes closed so she must have still been asleep.
People began to move and get up. I pretended I was still asleep until the moment that Tanner got up. Then I stretched my arms over my head as if I was just waking up and got up. It was freezing cold as I got out of my sleeping bag and slipped on my boots. I had slept with my coat on, but I also put on my gloves. I quickly rolled up my sleeping bag and then made my way to the fire our little group had made. I sat next to Tanner, but he didn’t notice me right away as he was talking to Grace who sat on the other side of him.
I looked in the direction Lily had gone the other day. I half expected her to walk out of the woods with all the children and everything would be great again, but she didn’t. I didn’t like it when we were separated.
I linked my arm through Tanner’s and put my cheek on his upper arm. “Are you alright, Kenzie?” Tanner asked.
I nodded, but didn’t vocalize an answer. Arthur woke up before Victory. He rolled up his sleeping bag and then quickly sat on the other side of me. He pulled his coat closer around him even though his hood was up and his coat was already zipped up. He stretched out the soles of his boots towards the fire. I did the same. He moved his feet from side to side. I mimicked his movements. We looked at each other and then laughed softly. Molly put her head on Arthur’s lap and wagged her tail happily. Arthur patted the top of her head affectionately.
“I’m glad she is with us,” I said, indicating Molly.
“Me too,” Arthur said. Then more quietly he said, “She is the only thing I have left of my family.”
“You can be part of our family,” I said.
“Really?” he asked me with hopeful eyes. I nodded. Victory chose that time to get up and sit on the other side of Arthur. She was scowling but I wasn’t sure if she was upset about something or if she was just still tired.
I felt that horrible chill along my spine again. I looked again at Alvina. She had that terrifying smile on her lips, but she wasn’t watching me. She looked at nothing. I shivered.
“Are you alright?” Tanner asked me. He unlinked our arms to put his arm around my shoulders. He must have thought I was shivering because I was cold. Victory and Arthur watched me concerned.
“I’m alright,” I said.
A howl extremely nearby startled me. Alex smiled and stood from where he sat near the fire. He threw his head back and howled in return. Mason and Elsie sprang from the trees and rushed Alex. The three of them hugged each other tightly.
Tanner and I stood and watched the treeline. More people came into our camp. I couldn’t contain myself when I saw Lily. I rushed to her side and hugged her. She held me tightly in return. And then Tanner was there holding us both.
“Where are the children?” one of the women who was with us asked. Now all of the women were speaking and looking into the trees.
“It is not safe out here for children,” one of the werewolves said. “They are safe in our homes where we can protect them.”
“Liam,” Alvina’s silky voice said from behind me. I stiffened, but no one seemed to notice. They were all preoccupied with the tension between the vampire leader and this werewolf. “I’m surprised Erik sent someone as high as you in the ranks.”
“No you’re not,” Liam said easily. He didn’t seem afraid of Alvina. The other werewolves around him at least seemed wary of her. I wasn’t sure if he was just bluffing or not. Alvina was terrifying.
“Take us to our children,” one of the women said. “We won’t be separated from them. If they are staying somewhere. We will stay too.”
“You’re welcome to stay with them if Alvina allows you to leave,” Liam said. All eyes turned to the vampire leader. I reached out to hold Lily’s gloved hand when the vampire smiled.
“Alex is using them for sustenance,” Alvina said. “Alex,” she turned to him. He stiffened under her gaze, “are you willing to give them up and go hungry?”
Alex didn’t say anything as his eyes met Gunnor’s. Gunnor was as silent as Alex was.
“Alex,” Elsie said. Her tone was both scolding and pleading.
Alex met her eyes and said, “Alvina isn’t going to let them go anyway.”
Alvina’s smile widened. “True,” she said. “Let’s break camp and move out.”
“But our children . . .” one of the women started to say, but she went silent as Alvina’s deadly eyes turned to her. No one said anything.
“Great,” Alvina said and her smile returned. “Then let’s move out.”
I didn’t realize I was shaking until after Alvina left. I quickly let go of Lily’s hand. If she had noticed my frightened state, she didn’t say anything about it. I quickly gathered my pack and sleeping bag as everyone else gathered up their belongings. The fires were put out and we headed out. Alvina indicated that our group go first. I wasn’t sure if it was because we knew the way since it was our home town we were heading to, or if it was because she wanted to keep an eye on us.
I counted twenty new werewolves that had joined us. Not including Elsie and Mason. They stuck mostly with our group if they weren’t scouting ahead or behind. I breathed easier with them around us.
We walked all that day. We followed the freeway, but didn’t travel along it. At night, we set up camp. I slept easier now that Lily was back. I made sure to get a spot directly next to her as we slept. She must have sensed I needed her because she wrapped an arm around me and gently patted my back until I fell asleep.
The next day, we set out early and continued on our way. Alvina decided we could travel on the freeway so we moved along it, through the cars and over the asphalt. I felt pretty safe surrounded by vampires and werewolves that zombies wouldn’t get us. I expected to see some on the freeway, but we didn’t. I assumed they had moved on. Maybe the commotion near the diner all those days ago had called them all there leaving this way open.
Lily, Hunter and Darren whispered to each other as the day grew late, but I couldn’t hear what they were saying from this distance. Tanner and Grace joined them. I didn’t want to be left out again. Victory and I exchanged a glance and then we moved to join our siblings. Arthur noted our movements and joined us.
“It’s weird,” Hunter said just as we arrived.
“What is?” Victory asked.
“That we haven’t seen any zombies,” Hunter said. “I don’t like it. We should have seen some. We’ve always seen some along the freeway.”
“Maybe they are afraid of us because of the vampires and werewolves,” Arthur offered.
“That didn’t stop them before,” Tanner said. His eyes scanned the treeline beyond the freeway. “I don’t like this.”
“Me neither,” Lily said.
If they didn’t like it, I trusted that it was bad. We continued on, but never ran into any zombies. We didn’t even hear any zombie groans.
“Let’s stop for the night,” Alvina called out. And then she was right in the middle of our group. A squeak escaped my throat as I hadn’t even seen her move. I was getting better at not screaming though. “We will get there tomorrow?” she asked Lily.
“Yes,” Lily said.
“Good.” Then Alvina turned and met my eyes directly. That cold, horrible shiver ran through my entire body. I looked away and when I looked back, she had already moved back to her vampires. She was no longer looking at me, but I couldn’t forget the frightening hunger in her eyes as she had looked at me.