The Coalition (Superhuman Book 3)

By: Suzanne D Williams

CHAPTER 1



September, Central Texas

Thunder rumbled, the resonant sound mixing in with the rain and the whimper of her dog in the passenger seat. She shot out one hand to cup the Labrador puppy’s head and, fingering the downy fur on the side of his neck, gave what comfort she could. “It’s okay, little buddy.” At least, she hoped so.

She transferred her hand to the dashboard, switching on an old cassette deck radio, and fiddled with the knob until an announcer’s warbling voice emerged through the speakers.

“… torrential downpour, not fit for man or beast. Stay home, folks.”

“Yeah, thanks.” That advice would’ve been great an hour ago, as it was now, she could barely see to drive the next few feet.

A flash of lightning lit up the road long enough to give her a glimpse of what lay ahead. The ditches overflowed across the verge onto the pavement, creating a pond of questionable depth. Darkness reclaimed the atmosphere, and she brought the truck to a halt.

A fifties tune played softly in the background.

“We either drive through it and risk getting stuck,” she said to the dog, “or we wait here, however long, for this mess to stop.” Which might take hours, and she didn’t think she had the patience for that. “Onward it is then.”

Tapping the accelerator, the truck rolled forward, the ground immediately proving unstable. The tires spun in water way too deep, and the truck skated to the right, the tail end sliding diagonal. She pumped the brakes, but the vehicle tipped off the pavement into foot-deep muck, coming to a sudden, jarring halt. She mashed the gas, only to dig them in deeper, and released an oath, her hand slapping the steering wheel.

The puppy whined again, and she reached for him, holding him suspended in front of her. He lapped at her nose.

“We’re stuck, Fauntleroy. I can only hope …” The rest of her words stuck in her throat. Hope this all didn’t catch up with her.

She’d tried to stay positive the last few years, but it seemed like her life had decayed at every turn. The only thing that’d stayed sort of the same was her boyfriend, Luke. Then again, he’d become … possessive.

“I guess I should turn the engine off, or we’ll be dead and out of gas in a few,” she said to the dog. Leaning over him, she turned the keys and the little bit of light the dash provided went out.

It was really dark then, the sky blackened by the rain and a moonless night. Soon, lack of vision, the ever-warming cab, and boredom sent her off to sleep. She awakened to the crack and pop of an electrical storm. The rain had softened to a drizzle, but jagged bolts of lightning stabbed east and west.

Fascinated, she stroked the puppy’s back and counted the time between them. One in particular snapped lower than most, its tapered point striking an oak tree midway out in the field on the right. The tree gave a tremendous crack and split in two from top to bottom, its great limbs falling to earth atop a figure that, for a brief instant, resembled a man.

A man? That couldn’t be.

She sat up straighter and turned the keys, firing the wipers across the windshield. A milder stroke of lightning showed nothing but waterlogged grass, however, and the remains of the tree.

“I must’ve imagined it …”

No sooner had the words left her mouth than a fist pounded the driver’s side door. She spun her gaze to the barrel of a shotgun.

“Sh …” In an instant, she ducked, and the gun went off, shattering the glass. She dumped the puppy in the floorboard and reached across the cab. Flipping the glove compartment open, she snagged the butt of a very old pistol.

A man clawed at her neck, dragging her backward. Desperate, she swung at his hands, cracking the pistol on his knuckles. Then twisting right, she fired point-blank. He bucked backwards at the impact and fell to the earth, his shotgun landing awkwardly atop him.

Her heart pounding, she eyed him for the longest time, finally inhaling deep and flipping open the door. The hinges squeaked as she emerged, the persistent rain quickly gluing her long brown locks to her face. She shuffled through the ankle-deep water to a position over him, the pistol wavering in her grip.

He made no movement, but stared sightless overhead.

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