He was actually there. He hadn’t left her after all, this beautiful boy.

“Hey,” he said.

“Hey, yourself.” Her eyes welled anew. “Are you hurt anywhere?”

“No.” He looked taller than she’d realised. He seemed … well, it was harder to dismiss him as a boy when he was this close. When he had just risked his life for her. Angus knelt down in front of her, dark brows drawn together. “Are you alright?”

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She nodded, hoped it was convincing. Seemed she’d used up her daily allotment of courage. Her trembling hands itched to grab hold of him. To hold on tight and never let him go, keep him safe somehow. Huh. She’d probably scare the crap out of the poor guy.

“You sure?” he asked, eyes not unkind. “You’re looking kind of freaked out.”

“Oh, I’m fine.” She gave a rough laugh. “Another day in paradise.”

Angus didn’t laugh.

He had short, dark blonde hair and a strong jaw covered in stubble. His nose was a little wide, his mouth a little generous. Pale blue eyes as clear as the summer sky stared back at her. “You went out onto the balcony, Nat. That was really brave.”

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“No, what you did was brave. I threw a pot.”

“I’d be dead if you hadn’t been there.”

“Oh. I was worried about you.” Natalie tucked her brown hair behind her ears, studied her toes. Over-aware of everything all of a sudden. The way he watched her was … intense. Sitting around in her shorts and a tank top had seemed wise back when she hadn’t been expecting any visitors. Angus wore sneakers and cargo shorts, a T-shirt of some band she didn’t know. The Soviet X-Ray Record Club, whoever they were. He looked good, while she showed a lot of skin – including dimpled thighs definitely not belonging to a girl in her twenties.

Such a stupid thing to worry about, given the situation.

Natalie wrapped her arms around her knees, rocked back. Gave the poor guy some room from the desperate thirty-something eyeing him off like a meat tray at a raffle.

He gave a cautious smile and edged closer. “I can’t believe we’re finally in the same room together.”

“I know! What were you thinking?”

One thick shoulder rose and fell, and he sat back on his heels, nonplussed.

“I’m serious, Angus. You could have been bitten. I thought you’d left town.”

“No.”

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“Why didn’t you leave? It was the smart thing to do.”

His features tightened and he leant in, getting in her face. “I wasn’t leaving without you.”

“I wouldn’t have blamed you—”

“I would have blamed me.”

“There were three of them in there.” Her voice rose in pitch. “You can’t risk yourself like that. What if you’d been infected?”

“I didn’t get any blood on me. Natalie.” His lips were a grim line, face deadly serious as he stared her down. He reached out and touched her, curled his fingers round the back of her neck. Stroking. “Listen to me.”

Natalie stopped, stunned. It felt so good. He felt so good, his mouth hovering over hers. His body was close, filling her head with the scent of clean male sweat, of the sun and sand. Everything else fell away. It was just a simple touch, but it had been so long. Even before the world went to hell Sean had been disinterested, at best. The press of Angus’s hand against her skin, the warmth of his palm. It all served to remind her that she was still alive and so was he.

“I wouldn’t leave you,” he said. Pale blue eyes so serious and intense and lovely. And young. Best not to forget that amid the haze of dirty thoughts. “I won’t do that. Do you understand?”

She nodded, more than a little mesmerised.

“Good. You and me against the world.”

“Okay,” she said, arching her neck ever so subtly.

“Shit.” Angus gave her a startled look and retracted his hand in a rush. “Sorry. I didn’t mean to grab at you like that.”

“Oh, it’s alright. I don’t mind.”

He frowned, the skin between his dark brows ridging. “You don’t?”

“No.” He had risked his life for her. He could have been killed, this beautiful boy dead and gone. The thought bled her dry. Her hands shook and her spine bowed. She hunched over her knees and held on tight. “But you have to be more careful from now on.”

“Do you mean that?” he asked.

“Yes, emphatically.”

“No. I mean about my hand.”

“Oh.” Her eyelids started batting like crazy, beyond her control. “Yes. It’s fine.”

Angus stared at her, said nothing.

“So … any ideas about what comes next?”

“Yeah.” He leant forward and kissed her.

***

Natalie’s mouth was amazing. But then, he’d known it would be.

Angus slanted his head, kissed her again. Slower. Without butting her in the nose this time. He brushed his lips against hers, stroked her neck. Her skin felt silken warm, her soft hair tickling the back of his hand.

If only she’d kiss him in return.

He set a good example, hoping. Hoping and waiting as ever-fucking-patiently as he could manage. Only, he’d been waiting weeks to get this close. Maybe weeks wasn’t long in the old scheme of things, but right now it seemed like a lifetime.

He’d come to the coast with some uni friends for a couple of weeks’ holiday. A chance to do some surfing and see out the New Year. The virus hit Christmas Eve and by Boxing Day his friends were dead. Everyone was dead or gone. It spread like a bushfire, the streets soon empty of all except for the infected. There had been the whine of jet engines, followed by ground-shaking explosions as bombs were dropped inland at the hospital, killing infected and innocent alike. Gunfire. Screaming. The power went out two days after Christmas. He’d holed up in the hotel basement for a fortnight, living off cans of spaghetti and dry Weet-Bix. Everything had been cemetery-still when he emerged. So quiet. He’d wandered around, hiding at night, hoping to find someone still alive. Someone uninfected. Then he’d found her.

Natalie.

She’d been pacing past her balcony doors. Stalking back and forth, back and forth, darting the outside world nervous glances. Her long dark hair had been tied back in a ponytail, swinging every time she did her abrupt about-face. She’d been wearing the same denim shorts and green singlet top she had on now. Natalie had the best rack. He knew he shouldn’t think shit like that about her, but it was amazing. He’d been lugging around binoculars and finally, that day, he knew why.

“Natalie?” He opened his eyes. Hers were huge. Shocked. Oh, no. Had he read her wrong? His dick was killing him, fucking with his head. Maybe she hadn’t meant what he’d thought she’d meant. He swallowed hard and cursed. “Is this okay?”

“You want …” Her lips grazed his as she spoke because he wasn’t moving back. Not until she said to. She looked so much prettier up close. The sweet curves of her face, the dent in her chin. Everything about her worked for him.

“Yeah. I, ah … I …” He rubbed his thumb against the back of her neck and her skin goosepimpled beneath his touch. Good or bad? Shit. He had no idea. So what if she said no. He’d survive it, somehow. What he couldn’t do was not try. And why this felt harder than storming into that fucking enclosure, he didn’t know. “I want you.”

There. It was said.

Her eyes went impossibly wider and her breath hitched.

Except he wanted to make sure there were no mistakes this time.

Angus sucked in a breath, let it out. “I mean, I want to have sex with you. Now.”

Natalie’s eyes darkened and her mouth opened. But she said nothing for the longest time. Her dark brows drawn tight and lips perfectly still.

He could have choked on the silence.

There was a softly mumbled “fuck it”. Then her soft hands cupped his face, drawing him in. And God, he wanted in. More than he could remember ever wanting anything, he wanted inside of her.

“Okay, Angus,” she said. “Yes. I want that too. I want us to forget about everything for a while.”

Coherent thought sailed straight out the window. He smashed his lips to hers. Shoved his tongue into her mouth. There was nothing smooth or controlled about it.

Natalie made a noise beneath him and it might have been laughter but he was too busy to care. Too taken up with kissing her, deep and wet. The taste of her filled him and he was full to bursting already. His balls aching and his dick so hard it hurt. Her fingers slipped into his hair, holding him to her as she stroked her tongue against his. Nipped at him. Kissed him.

Gave him all the encouragement he needed.

Pure instinct drove him. He slid a hand behind her back, taking his weight on the other, easing her back onto the carpet. Getting her underneath him. Getting between her thighs so he could rub his hard-on against her like some horny kid.

He had to be as close to her as he could be.

His hand fumbled over her shirt, shaking like shit embarrassingly enough, seeking out a breast. He felt sixteen all over again, unsure and overexcited. The hard point of a nipple scraped against the palm of his hand through her layers of material and he closed his fingers around her. God. She was more than a handful, all over. Her body felt so right, soft and curvy. Fucking perfect. But there were too many clothes between them. Far too many.

He was in a mad rush, verging on panic, and he couldn’t seem to slow down. Need hammered at his head. “Natalie …”

“Easy,” she soothed, kissing the side of his mouth, his jaw. Her lips swollen and the skin on her chin pink from his stubble.

“You really want this?”

“Very much so.”

Relief flooded him. He curved his arms up around her head, pressed his face into her neck and squeezed his eyes tight. “Thank fuck.”

“I really thought you’d left.” Her voice cracked and he reared back. Her eyes were liquid-bright.

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