"What's up with their eyes? I mean, I know that drugs make pupils bigger, but it's getting way out of control, don't you think?" Jasmine held her legs as she watched the black-eyed partiers. "And they've been high since like last night, right? Ecstasy gets people high for a while, but shouldn't they be coming down by now?"
I pulled Eli down to whisper in his ear. "Should we tell her?"
"Not yet. We don't want her freaking out." Eli whispered. "Nico's going to start soon."
We were about to be in the middle of a mass shooting, and Jasmine deserved to know about it. She was completely ignorant of the truth.
"Yeah, hopefully with the alcohol in their system they'll just pass out or something." I shrugged, hoping Jasmine wouldn't ask any more questions.
Todd sat on a blanket, staring at the ground with his head in his hands. The prick looked miserable.
Jasmine squinted in contemplation. "You know what's freaky? Their eyes look just like that maniac with the virus on the news."
"Really?" I widened my eyes and raised my eyebrows.
"Yeah, let me show you." Jasmine scrolled through her phone.
I stiffened as I waited. I hated playing stupid. She deserved to know the truth, but Eli was right. We had a plan, and we needed to stick to it.
A big muscular guy at the edge of the group of dancers stopped in mid-jump, falling face first to the ground.
Holy crap. Nico just shot him in the back of the head.
Everyone kept laughing and dancing. The guy was dead, and no one even noticed.
Eli stood, pulling me with him. "Let's go over here."
"Jasmine," I called just as a cute twerking redhead stopped vibrating her butt and tumbled to the ground.
Eli kept an iron grip on my wrist as he walked toward the trees.
Jasmine looked up from her phone. "Hey, where are you guys going? I was trying to show you this video, but the signal here sucks. It's still loading."
"The signal should be better over here." My voice cracked when I tripped over a rock.
Without looking at the infected partiers, Jasmine stood and jogged over to us. "I'm pretty sure the trees will make it worse."
Eli stopped just inside the treeline, keeping one hand on me and the other on his gun.
I clenched my gun, ready to use it. Trying to hide my horror from Jasmine was difficult, but I still had to make an effort.
One of Mark's friends plummeted to the ground.
No one saw the first two, but Mark noticed this one.
"Dude, what the hell? Are you okay?" Mark yelled as he knelt, touching his friend's head.
Instead of shouting for someone to help, Mark inhaled the blood on his fingers and smiled. Mark sucked the blood off his fingers before turning back to his friend for more. Gross.
I guess that made him Nico's next target because Mark's head flung to the side just before he crumpled to the ground. Mark was gone.
Four down. Ten to go.
Jessica plunged both arms in the air and screamed at the top of her lungs. "Best party ever!"
The infected were utterly oblivious to what was going on.
"No, I don't think the signal is better here." Jasmine glanced up at me, and the look on my face must've given me away because Jasmine followed my line of sight.
Tyra noticed Todd sulking on his blanket and bounced over to him. "Todd, come here, sexy."
Todd lifted his head just as a guy taking a swig of his beer bellyflopped in the dirt.
Todd hopped up and ran past an oblivious Tyra. "What the fuck?"
I moved to stop Todd, but Eli squeezed my arm. "No."
"What the hell is going on? Why did Jimmy just fall like that? And why are those people on the ground?" Jasmine didn't move from my side, but I could feel her glaring bullets at us. "What are you guys not telling me?"
Tyra followed Todd over to a very dead Jimmy.
"Jimmy's dead!" Todd yelled as another muscular guy took a bullet, falling directly on Lizzy.
"Oh, my God. We need to help them." Jasmine started toward the fire, and I grabbed her arm.
"You can't." I looked straight into her eyes and shook my head. "They have the virus, Jasmine."
Jasmine's face filled with worry and understanding as she went pale. "I knew something was going on. Wait. So that means..."
I nodded. "They all have to die, or they could kill us."
Jasmine's palm covered her forehead. "Holy shit! I shouldn't even be here. Why did I say yes? I came here with a bunch of killers. That means Jessica..."
I swallowed back my pain and nodded.
"You guys have to kill your friends?" Jasmine sucked in a shallow breath, glancing between us.
"Yes," Eli spoke for me.
Jasmine pressed a hand to her mouth and released a sob.
As everyone migrated toward dead Jimmy, Lizzy struggled to free herself from the huge football player who was suffocating her. Guilt lanced through me when the girl next to Jessica tumbled to the ground.
Seven down. Seven to go.
Jessica was about to die. My best friend. My eyes shut as I pushed out a heavy breath. I could do this.
Eli's hold on me tightened.
I opened my eyes to see Jessica alive. She and the remaining infected were surrounding Todd and dead Jimmy.
Come on, Nico. Shoot them.
The infected weren't freaking out. They were confused and curious just like Mark was before he sucked the blood off his fingers. The infected could smell the blood, and Todd was right in the middle of the group.
Damn it. I had to do something.
This was going to turn into a feeding frenzy.
Ripping my arm away from Eli, I pulled my gun out and rushed toward Todd.
Jessica and another girl fell to their knees next to Jimmy, sniffing at him like he was a ribeye steak. One blond girl started licking Jimmy's bullet wound. Everyone followed their lead.
Todd glanced around, shocked. Everyone in front of him was either sniffing or licking Jimmy. Todd's face drained of color. He looked liked he was going to blow chunks.
Nico killed the girl licking Jimmy's bullet wound, and shot again, killing Mark's second friend.
Thank you, Nico. Two in a row.
As if she'd been waiting in line, Jessica hurried to take the dead girl's place, sucking at Jimmy's wound.
"Todd!" I couldn't just let him die. I was better than that.
Todd crab-walked backward as he jerked his head around sharply, searching for the shooter.
"Lilly!" A hand grabbed my elbow, whipping me around. It was Eli.
Shocked into rational thinking, I stayed with Eli and yelled, "Todd! Run!"
Todd heard me this time as he glanced around, searching for me.
Todd bumped into his girlfriend as he stood. Tyra licked her lips as her gaze locked on Todd with delight. Todd nearly fell backward when Tyra jumped up and hugged him way too hard. She stuffed her nose into his chest, rubbing it around like a lunatic until her tongue slipped out to lick the exposed skin on his neck.
Tyra's jet-black eyes burned with hunger. Todd must've seen it too because he quickly maneuvered out of her grasp and flung her to the ground.
Tyra's hand snaked around Todd's forearm, digging her nails in.
"Get away from me. You're fucking insane!" Todd jerked away, her fingernails drawing blood.
Maybe his words got through to her because Tyra stood stunned for a moment until she looked at Todd's bloody flesh under her fingernails. Wildness consumed her face just before she sucked the fleshy remnants from her fingers.
Nico silently took down another guy sticking his tongue deep inside a girl's bullet wound.
Todd finally noticed us and moved lightning fast in our direction as I held up my gun. "Get behind us."
"Don't shoot me." Todd's eyes were full of alarm as he ran past.
"You're lucky that Lilly gives two shits about you. If it were up to me, you'd be dead already." Eli held my hand as he pointed his gun at Tyra. Her eyes were blazing with the need for more of our flesh.
Jessica, Tyra, and Lizzy were the only ones left.
Lizzy had finally escaped the football player and was now crouched over him like Gollum, lapping at the bloody hole in his skull.
Time to take care of business.
"Let's just get this over with." I let out a harsh breath just before Nico shot Lizzy in the head.
Tyra suddenly ran at us, and damn, she was fast.
"Tyra! No!" Todd yelled, but Tyra didn't stop.
Eli's gun went off, and Tyra plopped down face first, skidding in the dirt.
"No!" Todd cried out. "You fucking killed her!"
Eli spun to face Todd. "Don't make me kill you next. Get your ass over there. Your girlfriend scratched you. You might be infected."
Shock tore through me. Todd could still die. We didn't know anything about how this thing worked, but we knew a bite could turn a person in minutes, so who knew what a scratch could do.
I glanced over my shoulder to find Jasmine sitting cross-legged under a tree, crying her eyes out. That was me earlier. This was all too much. We had to end this.
Nico didn't shoot Jessica. I was positive it was for my benefit, but I knew if I gave Nico a nod, he would take care of her for me.
Eli advanced toward Jessica. I was grateful because I couldn't stomach the idea of killing her. I would do it, but I didn't want to.
Jessica began audibly sniffing the air as we moved closer.
"Do you want to say goodbye?" Eli asked under his breath.
With flesh and blood all over her face, Jessica stuck her nose up, sniffing like a dog. She'd been gnawing on Jimmy's head like he was today's barbeque special.
"No," I said.
Eli nodded sympathetically.
He delicately walked toward her, but Jessica was aware of him because she lunged, jumping with incredible strength. She was suddenly on Eli, her hands clenched in the front of his jacket. Eli was so surprised he tripped and fell backward.
I pulled my gun out and fumbled around for the trigger. Just as Jessica lowered her head to take a bite out of his jugular, I shot a bullet through her skull.
Jessica slumped with her hands stiffly curled in his jacket.
"Holy fuck!" Eli's wide eyes landed on me in relief.
Frantically, I shoved Jessica off Eli, pulled her dead hands free and started checking him for scratches.
"Are you okay? Did she get you anywhere?" My whole body was shaking as I pulled at his coat and shirt, searching his arms and neck for wounds.
"No," Eli said as I continued my hunt. "I'm okay."
I yanked up his shirt, unveiling his six-pack. It was clean, but she'd latched onto his chest. I pulled his shirt up further and caught sight of a tattoo on his chest before Eli grabbed my trembling hands, stopping me.
"You saved me, Lil. I'm fine. She didn't break the skin." Eli's voice finally got through to me.
Tears filled my eyes as I embraced him. "I thought I lost you."
Eli sat up, pulling me into his arms. "Never."
I cried in Eli's arms as I tried to comprehend what I'd just seen on his chest.
Written in script over Eli's heart, was my name.