Then There Was You Part 19
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Again, they shook their heads. Her father had died but not from the virus. Sara believed they were virus-free.
Joseph and the other man whispered together then mumbled some kind of code into a walkie-talkie.
Not the warm reaction he'd been expecting after the way Sara had spoken about the group. "You're sure about this?" Dane asked. "They don't seem very welcoming to strangers showing up on their doorstep."
"I told you this was a mistake," Josh mumbled.
"It's not a mistake," Sara whispered, turning around enough to glare at Josh. "We're a big group. Give them a minute to discuss." She smiled at the big one she called Joseph. "We have a bunch of supplies with us, and we know a place to get more. If we stay, our stuff becomes the colony's stuff."
Joseph said another code into the walkie-talkie, and a moment later, a voice came through from the other end loud and clear. "Let them in."
The guys held open the door for them. As they walked by, Dane noticed Joseph smile at Sara. "Nice to see you again, Sara. And even better to see you less bloody."
She chuckled. "I looked pretty disgusting the first time we met, but I assure you, I don't make it a habit."
"Gotta hope not."
Joseph shut the big door with a firm thud, enclosing them in the dim light of a short hallway leading to a stairway going up. "You guys can all follow Steve upstairs. He'll get you settled. Travis is around if anyone is in need of the doctor. And Maryellen is fixing up some kind of stew again for dinner. Should be ready around five if y'all are hungry."
"Thanks." Dane extended his hand to shake Joseph's. "We appreciate the hospitality, and we're willing to pull our weight around here. We're not a bunch of refugees looking for a handout. We're looking for a new place to settle and call home."
"Well then, welcome home," Joseph said.
Steve started up the stairs. "This way to home, sweet, home."
Sara sat on the rooftop and took a deep breath of the cool night air. The sun hung low in the sky, ending their seventh day as part of the colony. They were starting to fit in already, taking over jobs they thought they could contribute to and carving out their own little niches in the community. Turned out the warehouse had three floors, each with its own various set of living and work areas, as well as the rooftop garden and security lookout.
Dane had gone on his first scavenging run with Claire and a few others while Sara and Josh had been given the task of making an extensive list of all the supplies the bunker still stored. They also had to create a new map from memory of the exact location of the bunker since the original had been taken with Sara's backpack. Good thing her dad had thought enough to put symbols on the map instead of more obvious landmarks. The people who'd stolen her map wouldn't know what they were looking for even if they could figure out where.
They planned to make a supply run to the bunker before the snow came, so they'd have everything they'd need to hunker down for the winter. Local scavenging runs were fruitful, but the bunker would be better. No one knew how long it would take the world to get on its feet again, or if the CDC might ever learn about how to contain or cure the virus, but they figured being prepared for the long haul rather than run low on necessities in the middle of winter would be the wisest strategy for survival.
Sara snuggled against Dane, thankful to finally get downtime with him without having to fear for their safety. A security force monitored the building's facade, but on the whole, the people who came by the warehouse were survivors like the rest of them, simply looking for a place to fit in and contribute.
"I like it here," she said, looking out to the Hudson River. Today, like most days, the river flowed empty of boats. The gardens, however, were growing full with fall vegetables. Since she'd joined the colony, she'd helped harvest a variety of squash, pumpkins, peppers, and broccoli. If all year round was like this, they would eat well as long as they also saved some of their seeds for the following year.
"I like it here, too. I didn't think I'd like living with so many people in such a small space, but it's been nice. It's almost like a little family here."
The mention of family still sent pain into her chest. "How long does it take? How long until it doesn't hurt anymore to talk about the ones you've lost?"
"When it happens for me, I'll let you know."
Sara reached into her coat pocket and handed Dane a picture of his family. "I found this in one of the cargo pockets of my pants when I went to do laundry today. I noticed it behind the couch before we left the cabin and tucked it away for you. I don't know how I forgot to give it to you for so long. I'm amazed it survived."
Dane stared at it with intensity, matching how she felt about her own family. "Thanks," he said, running his fingers over the photo, tracing an outline around each family member as if he might erase their image if he touched it. "It's nice to have something left of them besides just my memories. Already, it's harder to recall their faces in my mind."
"I'm sorry I didn't think about how searching for my family must've made you feel. How hard it must have been when you didn't have your own family to worry about anymore. I was pretty selfish."
He tucked the picture into his coat pocket and wrapped his arm around her shoulder. "You weren't selfish, you were worried about your family. I'm sorry I forgot what that feels like. I couldn't understand your motives then, but after spending time with your family, I remember why it's so wonderful to have one."
"Even Josh?" The two of them still butted heads, but they didn't have to spend a lot of time together if they didn't want to. They were kept busy with so much work to be done and not enough time to do it.
"Maybe not Josh, yet, but your mom and Sue are pretty amazing."
Sara's mom had taken a liking to Dane right away. Of course, it could be somewhat due to the fact he knew how to play cards with her, and actually enjoyed it. The last couple evenings, even Sara had played along, figuring she may as well join in rather than sit on the sidelines by herself-although, she got her ass handed to her every game.
Sue had been more or less missing since the second she'd laid eyes on Travis. Seemed she always had a reason to visit with the doctor. The way Travis looked at her made it clear the visits were mutually enjoyable. Maybe they'd even turn in to something more one day. People had met and fallen in love in stranger ways. Sara and Dane were a perfect example.
"Josh will come around. Give him a little more time. He's always been protective of me and Sue, and since Dad's gone, I'm sure he feels the pressure even more to keep us safe."
"Well, I think it's my job when it comes to you," Dane said, not with anger or resentment in his voice, but with pride and caring. Dane placed a small, velvety bag in Sara's hand. "I found a little something while scavenging yesterday."
"I thought everything went into the community stockpile. Breaking the rules already, you rebel?" Sara teased while a spike of excitement shot through her. Dane hadn't ever given her a gift before. Her heartbeat drummed at the possibility of what it could be.
"They made an exception for this. Open it."
Sara untied the tiny drawstring cinching the bag closed and dumped the contents into her open palm. A silver ring fell out. An oval cut, cream-colored opal with swirls of pinks and blues surrounded on all sides by a row of tiny diamond chips created a beautiful, understated setting. It was the most gorgeous thing she'd ever been given.
"Where did you scavenge this from?" She turned the ring around in her fingers to see it from all angles. "I can't imagine you found this lying around."
Dane smirked. "I may have found it in a locked jewelry cabinet."
Sara laughed. "Then I'm pretty sure the term is looted, not scavenged."
"Looting would have been taking the three-carat diamond I spotted in another cabinet. Besides, if the world ever rights itself, I'll pay for it. Until then, I say finders keepers."
Dane took the ring from her and rubbed his thumb over the stone as if contemplating his next words. After what seemed like the longest pause in known history, he spoke. "Sara, this isn't a gift. I thought maybe...." He cleared his throat and peeked up at her. "Sara, the last night in the church, while everyone slept, I got a chance to talk to your dad, man to man."
"You did? Why didn't you tell me? What did you talk about?"
"I'm telling you, if you'll let me." He paused and raised his eyebrows at her as if challenging her to ask more questions and delay his story longer.
Sara nibbled on her bottom lip to stay quiet.
"When we were talking, I asked your dad if I could have his blessing, and he gave it to me."
Dane paused again, letting the words sink in. She held her breath in anticipation.
"Sara, be my wife. Forever and always, be mine and let me be yours. I don't know if we'll ever get to have a real ceremony like you deserve, but regardless, I'll vow to love you and only you if you'll promise to do the same."
"I will," she said, unable to contain her happiness. Sara's hand shook as he slipped the ring onto her finger. "I will love you forever, Dane."
He pulled her close and kissed her hungrily, urgently. She reciprocated his need tenfold.
"How about we skip dinner tonight and go straight to bed instead?" he whispered into her ear as he kissed a path from her jaw to her collarbone.
"That's the best idea you've ever had."
"No. Inviting you to my cabin the day we met tops the list."
Sara pressed him against the rooftop, kissing him as if a security guard didn't stand thirty feet away. Hell, there could be fifty security people on this roof and she still wouldn't refrain from kissing him. He was her everything and now he was her husband-or at least as close as they could be to married without a legal document. She didn't need some paper or overblown ceremony to make Dane hers forever. All she needed was him, right here, right now...always.
Sara had no idea what the future held for the world, but she did know as long as she had Dane, she had everything she'd ever need. They wouldn't just survive until the world got better.
They would thrive. Together.
About the Author.
Heather Thurmeier is a lover of strawberry margaritas, a hater of spiders and a reality TV junkie. Born and raised in the Canadian prairies, she now lives in New York with her husband and kids where she's become some kind of odd Canuck-Yankee hybrid. When she's not busy taking care of the kids and pets, Heather's writing her next romance, which will probably be filled with sassy heroines, sexy heroes who make your heart pound, laugh out loud moments, and always a happily ever after...
Then There Was You Part 19
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Then There Was You Part 19 summary
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