Title: Zombie World-Novice Defender
Publisher: Finch Books
Being changed into a Werewolf Defender opened a whole new world to Jerrica—one she hopes to explore with her mate, Calan. Now able to take on her wolf Defender form and end zombies with her teeth and claws, she should have no fear of the creatures who’d pretty much taken over. At least, that’s what she thinks.
But her experience with having been bitten and almost turned into an undead has left a scar she hadn’t counted on. She freezes when confronted with a zombie, and she can’t shake it.
While she is trying to learn her new life and all it entails, Jerrica finds everything continues to change—and not for the better. But going it alone is not an option.
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Jerrica trotted through the open settlement gates in wolf form with Calan at her side. It’d been two weeks since he’d bitten her to turn her and make her his mate. No longer was the fabled Werewolf Defender alone in a world that was overrun by zombies.
“Are you ready for this?” Calan asked her telepathically.
“As much as I’ll ever be,” she replied in the same way.
This was the first time Jerrica had been outside the settlement’s walls since becoming the second Werewolf Defender. And this would be her first training session since she’d awakened from her two-day sleep during her transition. Up until now, Calan had only taught her how to hone her acute senses so she wouldn’t be overwhelmed by them and how to shift from human to wolf until it became second nature.
This evening he’d teach her how to take out zombies in wolf form. No longer would she have to rely on her bow and arrows to do the job. Her sharp teeth and claws were the tools of the Werewolf Defender trade.
They ran through the field used to grow the settlement’s food to the tree line that bordered one side of it. Jerrica kept pace with Calan as he dove into the forest. Her new wolf side relished the freedom of running in the woods, the scents of the local wildlife filling her nose. She detected rabbits and deer. She wanted to go on the hunt for them, but her mate had warned her not to be distracted by other prey. They were only after one kind.
Calan led Jerrica deeper into the trees, and soon she was the farthest she’d ever been from the safety of the settlement. It was exhilarating. It’d been a dream of hers to travel the world, and now it was becoming a reality.
Jerrica rubbed against Calan’s black fur, that was the same color as his hair when he was in human form. He turned his head and met her gaze. His ice-blue wolf’s eyes showed the same joy that had to be mirrored in her own.
They continued to run for a few more minutes until Calan slowed their pace then came to a stop. He lifted his head and sniffed the breeze that blew in their faces. Jerrica sniffed as well, easily detecting the rotten stink of several zombies.
“Do you smell that?” Calan asked.
“I want you to take point and follow the scent to them.”
Jerrica took up a position in front of Calan, then set off at a run once more with him following. It was easy for her to latch on to the zombie scent. The putrid smell of their rotting flesh was strong. A human wouldn’t have been able to pick it up, but to her it almost overrode everything else.
She stopped once the zombies were a short distance away. There were four of them, aimlessly milling around a section of trees, moaning. A couple were so decomposed their skin was missing in places. One had his entrails hanging from his stomach. The undead creatures didn’t acknowledge her or Calan’s presence. To them, they were basically invisible.
Calan stepped to her side. “Remember what I told you. They can’t turn you. You’re now immune to their bite. You’re faster and deadlier than they are. You have nothing to fear from them.”
Jerrica raised and lowered her lupine head in a slow nod. She knew what to do. She’d seen Calan take down zombies on more than one occasion. He’d even told her how before they’d set out that evening. She took a deep breath, expanding her furred sides. She could do this.
Calan closed on the first zombie and Jerrica followed, heading for the second. It didn’t see her coming. She tried not to think of what she had to do, relying instead on her new Defender instincts.
Just before Jerrica struck, the zombie turned in her direction. It opened its mouth in a loud moan. Images of when she’d been bitten flashed through her mind. She froze, unable to force herself to move, fixated on the creature. Irrational fear took hold of her and wouldn’t let go. She’d almost become one of the undead. Only Calan’s bite had saved her.
A flash of black fur shot in front of her as the zombie lurched to grab her. She could only watch as Calan ended the creature. Jerrica panted, trying to fight against her fear and losing the battle. She’d never been that afraid of the undead before being bitten. It was stupid. Now, when she was impervious to the undead, she was useless.
Calan came to stand before her and rubbed his muzzle against hers. “It’s okay, Jerrica. I can smell your fear. You’re safe. I ended them all.”
She looked around. Calan had put down all the zombies. They lay where they’d fallen, not moving. Jerrica took a deep breath and met his gaze. Her body unlocked, and her fear slipped away.
“I’m sorry,” she said. “I don’t know why I reacted like that.”
Calan rubbed his muzzle against hers again. “You don’t need to apologize. Let’s shift.”
Jerrica thought of herself in human form, and, with a flash of light, she shifted. Calan did the same. He pulled her toward him and caressed her back. She gladly leaned into him, needing the closeness.