Home > The Lair (The Farm #2)

The Lair (The Farm #2)
Author: Emily McKay

PROLOGUE

Mel

I wake to a thirst unlike any I’ve ever known. My body is a violin string plucked by hunger. I throb with it. Pulse with it. Vibrate with it. Sing with it.

I am a Slinky knotted over on myself. My beautiful coils twisted out of shape. The song my body sings is of agony and anguish.

Then the breeze shifts and my nose twitches. Food is nearby. Not fresh baked bread like Nanna’s. Not garden grown. But food.

Flashlike, my body isn’t a Slinky, it’s a spring. I poise and pounce. I fly through the air on the thrum of hunger.

I land beside the body of a Tick. The food I smelled.

My mind recoils as my body lunges. I can’t feed on that. I can’t not feed on that, either. The beat of my need is louder than my revulsion. Louder than bombs. I must feed. Feed or die.

Before I can think my way out of doing the unthinkable, something slams into me. I am flat on my back and pressed into the pavement. Flat like a flower pressed between the pages of the annotated dictionary. Not a pretty posy, but a beastly belladonna.

The force knocks me breathless. It’s him: the silent shark. Sebastian. My murderer. My maker. My mentor.

“Don’t,” he growls. If sharks can growl. Maybe only tiger sharks can.

But he’s all iron muscle, instead of limber cartilage. All gruff anger, instead of lithe irony.

I thrash against him, helpless and small like a pilot fish caught in the wake of a shark. A pilot fish drowning in air. Drowning in hunger.

“I can’t let you feed on a Tick,” the tiger shark growls in my ear.

I know there’s a logic there. A reason he’s letting me drown. But stomach trumps brain and I fight him. Unfortunately, shark trumps fish. All I know is hunger. All I feel is pain.

“I’ll let you up, but you must swear to obey my every command.”

I snap and bite. I growl.

His hand jams up under my jaw, jamming it closed.

“Swear it and I’ll feed you.”

I recoil and I fight. I can’t swear to obey him. I won’t.

It’s not in my makeup to obey. Girls are supposed to be sugar and spice and everything nice, but I’m no malleable cookie dough, to be rolled flat and cut to shreds.

Even Mary, Mary wasn’t this contrary.

“Swear it.”

The breeze shifts and I smell it again. Food. Need roars through me. Floodwaters sweeping away the last of me. Of who I was. The girl who can’t obey is gone. All that’s left is thirst. Need. Anger.

I nod.

I am free.

Free from the small, tight skin of the pilot fish.

Slowly, the weight of the tiger shark lifts from my body. Testing my obedience by increments. I’m too desperate to hate his caution like I should. I can’t breathe past the hunger eating me.

Then I am up and Sebastian thrusts something at me. Now more nurse than tiger, he puts a straw between my lips and I drink. The first drop of it hits like water on an oil-hot pan. It sparks and fizzles on my tongue. It is hot and sweet and heady, like the cocoa Nanna made for us on icy Nebraska days.

I drink and drink. I gulp and consume and devour until the fire of my thirst is extinguished and all that’s left are the red coals. Still hot enough to flame, but banked to embers.

And still Sebastian brings me more to drink.

The world is shifting back into focus. Silent and still around me. Silent as night. Still as death. Noiseless. Music-less. Sated now, I feel that loss keenly.

How can I live in a world without music? But I know this is no proper life and my drink is no warm cocoa. Nurse or not, this is nothing Nanna would feed me.

I look up at Sebastian, who stands ready with another straw, another steaming mug of silent death.

He is talking again. Maybe he never stopped. Maybe I couldn’t hear him past my roaring need.

“You can’t feed from Ticks. Ever. You can drink their blood, but you can’t drink directly from them. They all have the regenerative gene. If you pass the vampire virus to them, they will regenerate. Do you understand?”

I do, but only barely. I have always been music and math. Genetics has never been my strong suit.

CHAPTER ONE

Carter

No one starts a rebellion expecting to fail. No one leads the charge into battle thinking their troops will be massacred. And no one falls in love knowing their girl will die horribly.

I thought I’d trained myself to expect the worst life had to offer. Being ignored by my mother, beaten by my father, kicked out of countless schools, and arrested when I was sixteen did that to a guy. And that’s all the good stuff. The stuff that happened in the Before. Before two percent of the population mutated into bloodsucking monsters that devoured every human in their path, especially the teenagers with yummy hormones. Before the U.S. government sold us all out by rounding teenagers up and keeping them penned on Farms to feed the monsters we’d all taken to calling Ticks.

Hey, this is life, right?

Don’t bitch about things unless you’re willing to get off your ass and change them.

But that’s the attitude that got me into this mess to begin with. I never planned on being the leader of the rebellion. I just didn’t want to be farmed for my blood. Not when I knew the Ticks could be defeated. Not when I knew there was one bad-ass vampire behind the fall of civilization and if we could stop him, we could defeat the Ticks.

I never thought it would be easy to rescue teens off Farms and form a rebellion. To track down and kill Roberto, the vampire behind it all. To find and rescue Lily and keep her safe. I didn’t expect it to be easy, but I thought it would be possible. I thought I could do it.

I hate it when I’m wrong.

I didn’t know how wrong I was until Lily, McKenna, and I finally made it to Base Camp after what had to be the worst road trip since the Donner party. A little over a week ago, Sebastian and I had rescued Lily; her twin sister, Mel; and McKenna and her boyfriend, Joe, from a Farm in north Texas. And, yeah, only three of us were left by the time we made it to Base Camp.

Base Camp was located in an abandoned underground storage facility snuggled up under the mountains in Utah. The human rebellion operated out of Base Camp. There were less than two hundred of us: the forty-three guys I’d fought with when the Ticks attacked Elite Military Academy, plus another sixty or so kids we’d since rescued from Farms. Sometimes Sebastian was with us; sometimes not. But he didn’t really count as a human anyway.

Getting to Base Camp was hell. Not just the part where Ticks were trying to rip out our hearts or even the part where the deranged Dean had tracked us across the country. Once all the bad shit was over, the actual driving sucked, too. Even though it was unseasonably warm, there was still ice on the roads. Very little, thank God, or we wouldn’t have been able to drive, even in the Hummer we’d picked up in Nebraska.

Since I knew the way, I did all the driving myself, letting McKenna rest in the back, while Lily curled in the front seat beside me. It was peaceful, somehow, but I knew it wouldn’t last.

Base Camp was supposed to be safe.

We rolled into Base Camp around mid-afternoon. Normally, the fenced parking lot outside the old storage facility was bustling with activity during the day. When you live inside a mountain with minimal electricity, you spent as much time as possible outside, even when it’s cold.

I knew something was wrong as soon as I saw what was left of the fence. When I’d left to go find Lily, the fence had encased the entire parking lot. It wasn’t electrified—we didn’t have the solar panels to operate that kind of thing anyway—but it was topped with razor wire and nothing had gotten through it in the time we’d lived there. Now, a swath big enough to drive a semi through was torn out and peeled back. Like someone had sliced open a sardine can. Something had gotten past Base Camp’s first layer of defense.

I stopped the Hummer about twenty feet shy of the gate and left the keys in the ignition. “I’m going to go in first. See what’s going on.” I shot Lily a look. She was frowning as she looked through the front windshield. It didn’t take a genius to figure out this wasn’t exactly the safe haven I’d led her to expect.

She cocked her head. “Maybe everyone’s just inside?”

“On a warm day like this? Everyone should be outside. We don’t have the electricity to power the lights during the day. At the very least, everyone with KP duty should be out in the yard, cooking.” I pointed to the two oversized garage doors set in to the mountainside. They led into the loading dock and were big enough to drive a train through. The tracks went a hundred yards into the storage area. Beside the two bay doors was a simple steel door, which led in to the office area of Underground United, the storage company from the Before. “At the very least, those doors should be open. Besides, when I left, this fence was intact.”

I didn’t mention the stretch of dirt on the far southern side of the parking lot. Just outside the fence, but away from the tree line was a round spot where the snow had been cleared. Or where a funeral pyre had melted it.

Even though I didn’t say this aloud, Lily’s gaze seemed to follow my own.

She looked back at me. “I don’t like this. I’ll wake up McKenna. We should all go in together.”

McKenna had been asleep in the backseat for the past several hours. No one would have blamed her for bailing on the rebellion. She was six months’ pregnant. But even though I’d offered—over and over again—to drive her up to Canada in search of some last outpost of civilization, she’d refused. She wanted to come to Base Camp. If her boyfriend, Joe, was alive out there somewhere, he would be heading for Utah, so that’s where she wanted to be. Which was all well and good, but that didn’t mean I wanted to put a pregnant girl at risk.

“No,” I whispered. “I should go in by myself. I can move faster on my own if things go bad.” Then, because Lily didn’t like being ordered around, and I didn’t blame her, I asked, “Do you mind staying here?”

She seemed to think about it for a minute. I sure as hell wouldn’t wait in the car while she went in. Lily could take care of herself, but I was hoping she’d want to stay to take care of McKenna. Finally she nodded.

   
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