In honor of Valentine’s Day (and as a break from our regularly-scheduled political outrage and apocalyptic panic), we chicks over at Little Red Hen Romance have put our entire catalog on Amazon for free. Here’s a link to one of my favorites: Dead-Sperado
And here’s an excerpt:
I woke up to the sound of Cade loading a shotgun. I sat up in bed to find him standing at the window with his back to me, dressed in nothing but his longhandles and boots. “Are they here already?” I said, still half-asleep.
“Who?” he said, looking back at me.
Before I could answer, the door crashed open, the lock and frame splintering. Some nasty, moaning, dead-looking thing that looked like Deputy Coy Carter with his guts spilled out ripped the remains from the hinges and flung it toward me, making me duck under the covers. It bounced off the footboard, and I slid out of the bed on the far side from the door, wrapping the sheets around me.
Cade fired the shotgun, blowing another hole in the thing from the back big enough I could see the outlaw through it, but the dead thing barely staggered. It reeled around like a drunk to face Cade, waving its pistol over its head like a club. Cade shot again, aiming for the head this time, and brains exploded in every direction, including all over me. I screamed, and the now-headless thing lurched forward. Cade never batted an eyelash, just started reloading his shottie. But the thing couldn’t live without its head, apparently. After a couple more staggering steps in Cade’s direction, it fell flat to the floor with a sickening splat.
“What the hell is that?” I demanded.
“Put some damned clothes on,” Cade ordered at the exact same time.
“Yeah, but what is it?” I crept out from behind the bed.
“How the hell should I know?” He kicked the body over and looked down at his badge. “Deputy Somebody.”
“Carter,” I said. “Coy Carter.” I grabbed clothes out of the wardrobe, my plainest dress and boots, and dove behind the bed again to retrieve my good corset. “But what the hell happened to him?”
“I couldn’t tell you, honey.” He kicked off his boots and pulled on his pants, then grabbed my hand while I was still hooking up my corset. “But it seems to have happened to most of the town.”
“Wait,” I said, half-hopping, half-falling as he dragged me toward the door. “What are you talking about?”
“Look.” He grabbed my face and turned it toward the window.
Down in the street, it looked like a cross between a drunken riot and a lynch mob. People who still looked healthy were screaming and fleeing in every direction as walking corpses like Carter lurched and crawled after them. “Holy Mary, Mother of Christ,” I said.
“Any help she can offer would be most appreciated,” Cade said, putting on his boots.
“Cade!” One of the dead things had climbed up the steps to the balcony and was staggering towards the window.
“Get back.” He raised the shotgun and blew the thing’s head off. Only as it was falling did I recognize Doc Hastings.
“Oh my God,” I said, trying not to be sick.
“Friend of yours?” Cade said, grabbing my hand again. “Come on.”
We crept half-crouching down the hall to the gallery that overlooked the saloon. “I don’t remember telling you my name,” he said like we were having a casual stroll among the buttercups.
“Like you didn’t know I knew exactly who you were.” One of the other girls, Sadie, came out of her room looking terrified, and I motioned for her to fall in behind us. “Swaggering in here like you owned the place, scaring everybody else out.” She crouched just behind me and reached for my other hand. I let her take it for barely a second and squeezed then let her go. I had the feeling I might need it.
“Fair enough.” Cade let go of my other hand and drew the six gun from his belt. “But when you woke up, you asked me if they were here.” The saloon still looked deserted, but I caught a scurry of movement behind the bar. I nudged Cade, and he turned the pistol that way. But it was just Hector, hiding. Cade nodded to him, and he crossed himself. “Who were you expecting?”
“The sheriff,” I said. “I was supposed to keep you busy until he and his posse showed up.”
Mr. Lindstrom from the general store came crashing through the saloon doors. “Help!” he screamed. “Somebody help us!” A monster in a big hat and a long coat with a silver badge I’d have known from half a mile away lurched in behind him and grabbed him. Before Cade could raise the pistol, the thing had bitten Lindstrom on the neck, tearing his head half off. Sadie screamed, and Cade fired, and the monster fell back twitching as Lindstrom fell forward. Cade went down the stairs still firing, unloading his pistol dead into the monster’s face, but it was still moving, still moaning, still reaching out for him. “Caaaaaade,” it growled, its lips barely hanging from its bloody skull. Only when Cade raised the shotgun and blew its head off did it fall.
“That sheriff?” he said, emptying the shells.
“Yes sir,” I said. “That would be the one.”
“Sorry, honey,” he said, reloading. “He ain’t coming.” He snapped the barrels back into place.
Lindstrom was moaning, trying to roll over on his back. “Mr. Lindstrom!” Sadie said, running down the stairs to him.
“Sadie, wait!” I said, running after her. “I don’t think you should touch him!”
Just as she reached him, Lindstrom lurched up and bit her, too. His skin had already gone green like he’d been dead for days, and as Sadie stood there screaming her fool head off, she started to turn green, too. Cade shot Lindstrom point blank, decapitating him with a single shell without a second thought. But he backed away from Sadie, looking shaken up for the first time since the madness started.
“I ain’t gonna hurt you, mister,” Sadie said, her voice slurred like she’d been drinking whiskey with a laudanum chaser. “I’m just so hungry.” She was moving closer, reaching out for him, and he couldn’t seem to make himself shoot.
A machete sliced through the air, and her head went flying as her body fell. Hector was standing behind her, still holding the blade. “Sorry, chiquita,” he said, making the sign of the Cross.
Two more men came running in, and Cade raised the shotgun, and Hector raised his machete. “Hang on!” Cade said. “They’re with me.”
The two men looked frightened out of their minds, but very much alive. One was black-skinned; the other was wearing a serape. Both were carrying pistols, and the black man had a shotgun slung in a holster across his back. “Holy shit, boss,” the serape wearer said to Cade. “Holy shit.”
“Zombies,” the black man said.
“Zombies?” Hector repeated. “What the heck is a zombie?”
“You want me to explain, or you want to get out of here?” the black man said.
“Both,” Cade said. “But one at a time.” I was behind the bar grabbing all the ammunition I could find. “Come on, Daisy.” I threw it all in a sack and came out, and Cade grabbed my hand again. “When all this is over, you and I are going to have to have a conversation.”
“Shotgun shells,” I said, handing the sack to the black man.
“Thank you, ma’am,” he said, tipping his hat and smiling. “Much obliged.”
“We should go to the mission,” Hector said. “Father Rodrigo will know what to do.”
“Not a chance,” Cade said, moving to the window, dragging me behind him.
“Actually, boss, it’s not a bad idea,” the black man said, following. “I’m Thomas, by the way, miss.” He offered me his hand.
“Daisy,” I said, shaking it.
“You think maybe we can stick to the subject?” Cade said.
“A priest has a better chance to turning these things away than anything else,” Thomas said. “Plus whoever raised them probably stole some kind of holy relic to do it. We’re going to run out shells eventually.”
Cade did not look happy. “Well hell.” He looked at me. “Can you shoot?”
“I can,” I said.
“If I give you a gun, are you going to shoot me?” Thomas and the serape wearer both snickered.
“I reckon not,” I said. “For now.”
He took a second pistol from his belt, checked the bullets, and handed it to me. “The bang comes out of that end,” he said. “Now come on.”
I couldn’t resist pointing it at the back of his head as he walked away, but Thomas shook his finger at me, grinning, and I lowered it again and followed him out to the street.