Ellen braced her body against the bathroom door. The banging had disappeared leaving behind an eerie silence. The crazies always attacked in silence. Palms flat against the cream colored panels, she struggled to drag air into her lungs. Protecting her family was her responsibility, and right now her sister, Rosa, was out there. Facing God knows what.
She sieved air through her teeth.
And she could have told them, instead of hiding in here. Doh! She’d completely forgotten the security system. She needed to get to it. Needed to see what they were up against. Which meant leaving her children and cousin. Black and white tiles striped the floor and halfway up the walls. The bar design echoed in the towels and the open shower curtain. Adrenalin jump-started her heart. If the threat got past Drew and the others, she and the rest of her family would be trapped.
Killing them would be easy in such a confined space.
Her children, Erin and Rafe, climbed into the tub, lying flat in hopes the cast iron would protect them from flying bullets. Cheyenne perched on the toilet and drew her knees up against her chest. Colton set an oversized hand on her shoulder. The much bruised Jason checked the double latches of the dual pane, frosted glass windows.
Raine used a hair clip to hold back her bleached hair then opened the built-in medicine cabinet. Six cans of hair spray lined the bottom shelf. She removed all the cans then opened the right hand drawer and removed three orange lighters.
Jason turned from the window. “Nice.” He picked up one of the cans. “Homemade blow torches.”
Cheyenne shuddered but accepted the can when it was handed to her.
Crouching next to her, Colton whispered in Cheyenne’s ear.
Ellen’s gut clenched. What was wrong with her? Being jealous because a child was comforted when there was no one to tell her it would be all right? But there was someone. Someone who was risking his life for her. For her children. She shook out her hands. Agitation twitched through her and she scraped a hand down her face.
It was time for her to step up, to be the older sister her parents depended upon her.
The mother the situation demanded.
The kind of leader her family needed her to be.
Shaky hands fumbled in her pockets. Her fingertips brushed a warm cylinder. The bear spray. She tugged the canister free. “I need to go.”
“Mommy?” Six-year old Erin gripped the edge of the tub. Her knuckles flashed white.
The division of loyalties tugged at Ellen. Yet, if she was the one thing that stood between her children and death, how could she stay? Leaning down, she kissed the top of her daughter’s head. Raine and her friends would look after the children. “I’ll be right back. Be good for your aunt.”
Then, Ellen tossled her son’s hair.
She had to think all would be well. She had to believe it.
But she had to make it so.
Steeling herself, she straightened. This was her home. She opened the bathroom door and slipped through.
The hallway stretched toward infinity. Fan blades of light cut shadows in the darkness. Human-shaped silhouettes stretched along the saltillo tiles of the great room. Down the funnel lined with doors, she eyed the entrance into the garage.
So why did she only count three shapes? Three people to stand against God knows how many invaders. She tightened her grasp on the can of bear spray. A poor defense if the invaders have guns. Once the Zindells arrived they’d bring more weapons.
She knew her father had stashed more than just sporting equipment in the locked cabinet in the garage. She hoped he’d bought the Kevlar vests and guns, she’d asked him to purchase.
She hoped for courage to finish the walk down the hall.
Taking a deep breath, she stumbled toward the great room. Her legs were wooden pegs; her feet blocks of ice. In her ears, her heart thrummed to a fast beat.
Ellen turned the corner.
Rosa stood on the counter, frying pan in hand. Marcus brandished a knife, looking more likely to cut himself than the enemy. A dark shadow emerged from the gray light outside.
Pistol in hand, Drew approached the door.
When he jerked open the blinds, his brother stood on the other side.
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