“Possibly,” she answered, but slowly smiled. Her map spoke of victory.
But if there was another wave coming...
There was a burst of static over the walkie-talkie.
“That’s it,” Greta’s voice cackled through the static. “Holy God in Heaven, that’s it. We got two columns heading to the east and west and the ones that hit us straight on….boys and girls..what you see in front of you is it!”
Travis heard the news and snatched up his walkie-talkie. “Yolanda, make an announcement!”
“I’ll try, but I’m crying!” she hollered back at him through walkie-talkie.
Within seconds, Yolanda’s voice boomed through the fort speakers, announcing victory.
“Holy shit,” Bette whispered, then was wrapped up in Linda’s arms and they both began to scream with joy.
Rune sat on the wall, dangling his feet over the edge. Looking down past his knees, he saw a cluster of body parts. “Well, it was a good day to die, but oh well,” he said and lit up a cigarette. Then he grinned as he realized his bike stood unscathed. “Well, hot damn,” he said.
Katarina stood up slowly and began to cry.
Lenore sat back in the chair next to her crossbow and sighed softly.
Nodding to herself, she pulled out a soda and popped the top. “Damn zombies shouldn’t have touched my best friend,” she muttered. Toasting the massacred zombies, she said, “For Felix and Ken. Rest in peace, my brothers.”
Katie ran up to Travis and launched herself into his arms. He grabbed her tightly as they both laughed with delight and he swung her around. Juan joined them, tears streaming down his face, and they drew him into their embrace. Juan kissed both of them, whooping with joy. Nerit tackled all of them, laughing with joy. They wrapped her up in their enormous hug as Kevin joined in. Laughing and kissing each other, they were all crying and talking at the same time.
Jack pushed his way into the middle of them, barking with excitement and Jason wormed his way under his Dad’s arm. Katie kissed the teenager’s cheek and made him blush as Juan ruffled the boy’s hair lovingly.
“We did it!” Travis shouted it to the heavens and the helicopter circling over head.
“I knew we would,” Nerit said with a big grin. “I knew it!”
“It was almost too easy,” Kevin exclaimed.
“Planning man! We planned it out and we did it!” Juan whooped. “We were a little late on the ‘organize before they rise’ part of the Zombie Survival Guide, but we were ready when they fucking got here.”
“Thanks to Jason here,” Katie said, squeezing the boy tighter.
Katarina dove into the middle of them. Nerit caught her up in a tight hug and Kevin high-fived her. “Bill would have loved this!” She burst into tears again, but she was smiling.
Others began to join them and hugs were tight and happy. They looked over the battlefield at the destroyed bodies of the dead and slowly it dawned on them that they had not lost one person in the battle. More tears came as relief set in.
Travis hooked his arm around Katie’s shoulder and kissed her firmly just as Eric and Stacey showed up. Lenore and Rune came to join them and everyone started hugging and kissing each other again.
“We did it,” Nerit said over the din of voices. “Look out there. Look at it.
We all did this. We survived. And this is life. Our life. The fort stood.”
Slowly, they fell into silence as the enormity of it all gripped the defenders of the small town. Gathered in groups all over the fort, they stared through windows, or from the rooftops, or from the wall itself, and they saw the dead littered across the ground. Since the first day of the rising, they had never had such a sweet victory.
“What a mess,” Katie finally said. But in her heart, she knew that every second of every day from the first day had been worth it to feel this moment of victory. Jenni had been right. It had been worth it. She snuggled into Travis’ side more firmly and smiled as Juan kissed her cheek. Wrapping her arms around Jason, she felt secure in the family she and Jenni had created. Jack yawned at her feet and looked up at her with his “I want a cookie” look.
“Yep, that is one helluva mess,” Juan agreed. “Loca would be proud.”
Calhoun suddenly shoved his way past them, his entourage of mutts following him. He looked one way, then the other surveying the carnage.
“We did it, Calhoun,” Travis said proudly.
“We did a damn good job. The clones are not much more than chopped liver now,” Nerit said to the old guy.
Calhoun nodded solemnly, turning to look at them. “I ain’t cleaning it up,” he said firmly then strode away, his satellite dish hat wobbling on his head with his dogs trailing behind.
The laughter that erupted was glorious and heartfelt. People started crying all over again. Katie was laughing so hard her sides hurt. Below them, the big bulldozers were coming out to clear the area and eliminate any of the zombies that might be immobilized, but still a threat. The fire traps went off again, refreshing the fire line to chase away any stragglers.
Travis, Juan, Eric and Kevin were all talking so fast and over each other, joyful expressions on their faces, that Katie barely understood what they were saying. The first tremor rippling over her stomach shocked her then she felt a warm gush of water flowing down her legs.
“Oh, God,” she exclaimed. She looked up at Travis with a startled expression on her face. “My water just broke!”
Then a whole new kind of chaos broke out as everyone tried to help her back to the hotel.
Below the walls, the bulldozers crushed the zombie bodies into mulch and swept away the debris of the battle. Snipers took out a few remaining zombies staggering along the side streets. In the distance, the zombie hordes began to vanish from view.
The war was over.
Katie stared down at the little face tucked into the pink blanket and felt as though she would never stop smiling. It was a mushed up, funny little face, but she could see shades of Travis in the shape of her daughter’s nose and eyebrows coupled with her own mouth and eyes. The tiny little feet that had pushed against her bladder at the worst times were now kicking slightly under the blanket. The tiny little hands that had made funny little bumps under her skin now clutched her fingers. Tears slipped down her nose and turned the pink blanket rose in tiny spots.
Beside her, Travis was in silent awe. He kept touching their little girl, then Katie. His kisses adorned his wife’s check and neck. He was overwhelmed and so was she.
The word from the outside world was that the zombie hordes were miles away now. The cleanup crews were continuing to clear out any last vestiges of the undead from the outer walls. They had won and the fort was secure. It was a wonderful world to bring their daughter into.
“I see you so clearly in her face,” Travis murmured in Katie’s ear.
Her husband kissed her neck again. “I love you so much.”
Katie giggled. “Good, because you’re a Daddy now and I’m not diaper changing alone!”
“I know! It’s amazing. We’re parents!” He reached over her to touch the tiny little pink fist again. “What are we naming her, Mommy?”
Katie returned her gaze to her daughter. She was beaming with happiness despite her exhaustion. “Bryce Jennily Kiel-Buchanan.”
“Bruce, Jenni, and Lydia. It’s perfect.” Travis bent over and kissed the baby. “You’re the first, Bryce. The first baby of our little fort. And soon you’ll have other children joining you. You’re gonna be the first generation of our new world.”
“Stacey told Eric right after they dragged you in here that she’s next. She’s about three months along.”
Katie grinned as she burst into tears again. “We did something amazing today, didn’t we?”
Travis nodded as he nuzzled her cheek. “Yes, we did.”
Together, they gazed down at their newborn daughter in awe. Bryce’s tiny little mouth yawned as she dozed off.
Travis laid a soft, but passionate kiss on his wife’s lips, then answered, “Yes, it is. A new beautiful world.”
Author’s Note If you have jumped to the end of the book to see how it ends, I suggest you stop reading now. I realize many fans of this series are anxious to know who lives, who dies, and if there is a happily ever after, but you really shouldn’t spoil yourself.
The journey you have been on with these characters has been long and to skip around to find out their fate is not really fair to them or to you. So flip to the front of the book and start reading this last leg of the journey that started with those tiny little fingers under the door...
...so now that leaves those of you who have read the book or just decided to be spoiled despite my warning. That’s okay. I know it can be hard not to flip to the back of the book when things are getting rough for our beloved characters.