Jill kept her bat ready as she stepped through the shattered glass doors of the abandoned drug store. Time and practice made her careful to stay quiet, even in heavy-duty steel-toed work boots and fatigue-style hunter pants, courtesy of last month’s run in with a nasty band of satyrs in a bargain resale shop.
She hadn’t been able to break the spell on the satyrs’ crazy harem of humans, but getting away without being raped by goat people was good enough. The boots had been an addition after one of the dogs nipped her ankle, the pain dissolving the last of the satyrs’ lust spell. A bite from other things, not-so-friendly as her canine companions, could be worse than deadly. The idea of doing the nasty with half-goats still made her skin crawl.
Merc whined softly; the scarred pit bull stayed right on her heels. She probably should have called him Ghost, for the dog’s almost albino coloring and tendency to stay on her ass at all times. Merc’s healed nip on her ankle hummed when he was close, reminding her to be careful. The scarred animal had good reason, and it was always good to have someone at your back when the monsters could be anywhere. His golden canine gaze met hers before he hunched his shoulders and snuffled the ground; his fine white fur rose in a fluff of hackles. She could only imagine what life had been like for him before she’d rescued him from the pound. Literally, the last living creature locked in that place—if you didn’t count the rats.
On the other hand, Uncas, her other canine companion, gave a wolfish snort and cut ahead of them, easy and confident as he slipped into the deserted wreck of a store. A beautiful blend of black, gray, and browns, Uncas looked more wolf than the dog mix she suspected when he’d suddenly jumped between her and the pack of damn zombies that had started this entire apocalypse months ago. She’d almost shot the dog for biting her shoulder in the fray. Fever stricken, she nearly and shot him later, thinking he’d given her rabies. Uncus looked back at her, pausing as if understanding her thoughts. Jill could almost feel the dog’s calm purpose directed at her. Trust me and everything will be fine, Uncas’s will calmed her nerves.
She blew out a breath and nodded.
God, she was insane.
They said acceptance was the first step. To what end, she had no clue.
First zombies, then all of frigging reality shifted as vampires, trolls, goblins, and every other myth descended on humanity and destroyed everything. The most ironic thing was that no one but the monsters knew why.
And except for the crazy connection her imagination created with Uncas and Merc, the monsters weren’t talking to the likes of her. The wolf-dog disappeared around the corner. Uncas scoped out the building with a silence and intelligence that was almost unnerving at times. Jill was glad he was on her side. If he’d been a man, he’d be perfect. In her dreams, he was. Or at least she dreamed of a man with the same sense of strength and protectiveness that the wolf-dog had.
A man who could hold her at night.
Shaking off her thoughts, she adjusted her backpack and scanned the shadows of the suspended ceiling for disturbances. Gremlins loved to hide in the 'up highs', or in vents, swarming an unsuspecting victim. They were a good team; the dogs and her. Uncas patrolled for ground enemy. Jill kept watch for the high spots. And, Merc watched their backs.
Uncas gave two soft wuffs, the safe signal.
Jill headed for the medicals, quickly grabbing and stowing a few boxes of band-aids, antibiotic cream, and over the counter anti-inflammatory pills in her back pack.
There wasn’t much of anything useful left. Drug addicts and survivors before her had already hit this place. The pastries and junk food were moldy. Canned goods were long gone. However, Jill did manage to scrounge a few bottles of olive leaf, a natural antibiotic, two boxes each of baby cereal and teething toast, and a mother-load of dog biscuits—the beef and vitamin fortified kind. Yum. Jill really hoped that dog biscuit stew wasn’t in the immediate future.
Real affection and yeah, love, bubbled up in her. Both Uncas and Merc disdained dog food. Her boys could be real prima-donnas sometimes. Usually, she or the dogs found normal, non-magical, small game for dinner. In fact, her favorite place was curled between the dogs’ warm bodies in the middle of the night. It was the only time Jill felt truly safe anymore.