“You shoot her, I won’t let you out.”

“No, no, someone else will let us out because then you’ll be our hostage,”

“I don’t believe you,” Juan said after a beat. “You don’t have it in you. You wouldn’t even do guard duty.”

Blanche shrugged, then looked over at Stephen. “Stephen?”

“Yes, dear?” he replied softly. He was obviously uncomfortable with the whole situation.

Blanche shot him four times in the chest and watched with some satisfaction as a look of surprise gave way to horror on her husband’s face, then he collapsed.

Juan backed up a few steps, shaken. Even Ray looked horrified.

“I didn’t sign up for this,” Johnson said unexpectedly.

“I didn’t sign up for you killing people. You said we were leaving, that’s all.” He was backing away from her, his hand moving toward his gun.

Blanche fired at him, hitting him twice in the chest. She made a mental count of her rounds and patted her pocket for the other clip. She was uncertain if she had started with a full clip or not.

He hesitated, then obeyed, moving to the Hummer and picking up the keys from Stephen’s limp hand.

Well, at least her favorite two were left, Blanche decided.

Brewster still had a good grip on Jenni, but he was looking unsteady, unsure.

Blanche wondered if she had read these men wrong. She had expected them to be more ruthless. She sighed. Stupid Shane. He would have had her back.

Juan took a step forward. “Just take me, okay? Let her go. I’ll tell them to open the gate and you can drop me off somewhere. Okay?”

Blanche considered this. It was tempting but she really needed a maid to upkeep the mansion. Though she was loathe to admit it, she envied Jenni.

Juan may be Mexican, but he was rather hot.

She shook her head, trying to concentrate on the here and now.

“Now, Juan, don’t go messing up my plans,” Blanche ordered.

He stared at her, then shook his head, fear in his eyes. “You’re lying. I can see it. I don’t trust you. Give me Jenni and then just go. Just go.”

Blanche hesitated. It sounded so easy when he said it. But it wasn’t. She had a point to make here. They had not treated her as they should have, plain and simple. They had all treated her like shit. Yet, they weren’t worthy to lick the heels of her $14,000 boots. She had been forced to mop, dust, clean dishes, and put up with stupid people. She and Stephen had to share a room and she wasn’t even given any sort of personal maid.

There was a fucking point to be made here.

These stupid people did not realize who she was! She was a shining daughter of the fucking damn state of Texas. She moved in circles with the gawddamn Hiltons and Donald Trump. She was a fucking somebody and they were fucking shitkickers.

“Just, please, put the gun down and let Jenni go,” Juan said softly.

“Don’t tell me what to do!” Her infamous temper flared and before she realized what she was doing, she swung the gun around and shot Juan.

He staggered backwards, then collapsed against the wall.

“Why the fuck did you do that?” Brewster demanded.

She turned to tell him to shut up.

Jenni’s head came up sharply, snapping back and bursting Brewster nose with a deafening thwack. Blood sprayed everywhere and Blanche ducked away, trying to avoid it. Brewster grunted and went down with a thud.

Blanche started to turn to bring the gun up when she felt something hard slam into her temple and she was sent spinning. The revolver slipped from her hand, then she landed on the disgusting, oily floor. Gasping, she tried to get up, but she was flipped onto her back and she saw a blur of long black hair and a pale face, then something hit her cheekbone with a sickening thud. Pain splintered her thoughts as she was pummeled into senselessness.

Her last real thought before the darkness washed over her was that she should have taken the pregnant woman instead.

5. Winter Sky Jenni staggered away from Blanche, her hands bloodied and her face splattered with red drops. Her hands were bruised, battered and her knuckles torn open, but she didn’t care. The bitch was down and not moving.

She reached over and grabbed Blanche’s fancy gun and pivoted on her heal to take aim at Ray and Brewster. But Brewster was unconscious and Ray was moving toward Juan.

“Stay away from him!” Jenni’s voice sounded faint and hoarse to her own ears.

Jenni was crying, her tears hot on her face. She stumbled forward, her head throbbing. “Leave him alone!”

She regained consciousness after Blanche had shot her own husband.

Remaining limp, Jenni had waited for the right moment to try to escape.

Keeping her eyes slitted and watching through her hair, she had seen Juan get shot. It was then in a fit of anger and desperation that she had made her move.

Her head still hurt where she had rammed it into Brewster’s nose. In fact, her head felt huge and swollen and when she walked, she swayed. Blanche had nailed her pretty hard.

Juan looked so still where he lay slumped against the wall. Blood was pooling around his body and his shirt was stained red. Ray stood a few feet from him, looking unsure. Though he had a sidearm at his side, he made no move for it. Jenni staggered to Juan’s side. Falling to her knees, she whispered to him in Spanish.

Juan was barely able to lift his head. “Loca,” he barely managed to say.

Pointing the gun at Ray, Jenni struggled to get her sweater off.

“Look, let me go get help,” Ray said finally.

Juan’s hand feebly touched her leg and she looked at him, tears in her eyes, struggling to think straight.

“I’ll go get help,” Ray said again. “Look, I didn’t think Blanche would pull this shit. Let me go get help!”

Juan moaned and Jenni stroked his hair, trying to calm him. “Okay, go!

Ray nodded and ran toward the door that would lead to the construction site.

Once he was gone, Jenni put the gun down and quickly removed her sweater and wadded it up. The wound was ugly and bleeding hard on the left side of his chest. Jenni didn’t even want to think about the damage the bullet may have done. Pressing her sweater against the wound, she tried to staunch the bleeding.

“We’ll get you somewhere warm,” Jenni promised. She stroked his hair and lay kisses on his clammy brow.

“I...always...thought...she was...a stupid...bitch...” Juan muttered, and tried to smile.

“Shh...don’t worry about her. I beat the hell out of her. No one messes with my man,” Jenni answered.

“That’s...my...Loca...” Juan smiled, but he looked too pale and his eyes were growing glassy.

Jenni could feel his blood, hot against her flesh, soaking into the sweater.

She looked toward the door and knew Ray wasn’t coming with help.

That was when she began to scream.

* * * * * There were moments that would be forever seared into the memories of those who lived and worked in the fort. The terror of the first day, the raising of the first wall, the battle against the horde of zombies from the school, and countless others. But one that would haunt those that survived the coming terrors was the vision of Jenni, covered in blood, dragging Juan into the winter sunlight that cold morning.

Jenni would always remember the terror that she was losing the love of her life. But she would also remember how her screams brought the fort members running to help her.

And for some reason, until her last day on earth, she remembered the color of the white winter sky and the single bird flying over head, riding the cold winds.

Travis couldn’t bear to look at Jenni. As she was guided into the hotel, he thought of the T.S. Eliot poem “The Hollow Men.” The line that came to him was: “eyes I dare not meet in dreams.” He had seen the utter hollowness in Jenni’s eyes when Katie had helped her into the hotel, and he had gone cold inside. She had looked almost as lifeless as Juan.

Through the doorway, he could see Katie and Rosie gently cleaning and bandaging Jenni’s hands. Jenni’s hair was covering her face; her shoulders shook as she sobbed.

The lobby was loud with voices as word got around about what had happened in the garage. Nerit and her people were looking for Ray while Bill had Blanche locked away. The bitch was unconscious, but alive despite the incredible beating Jenni had given her. Travis hadn’t even recognized Blanche when they had carried her in to the hotel.

Travis felt sick to the pit of his stomach as he looked at the long line of blood donors. Charlotte was working feverishly to save Juan with Belinda assisting her. Brewster was in another room with Peggy and Stacey trying to clean up his shattered nose. The Reverend was leading a prayer vigil nearby. He wasn’t sure how bad off Juan was, but he knew the fort did not have the medical facilities needed to save his life.