Six - An Unlikely Ally

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Cullen glances back at me. "Ike is doing really good things out there. We need to be out there, we need to be a family. Family. Cullen is right. I fought so long and hard to keep me and Rian together, and life happened anyway. What I need to be doing is enjoying the time I have left with Ike, Cullen, and Neveah, because we never know what tomorrow may bring.

"Look, if you're going anywhere, you need to go now," Francesca warns. I can now hear more gunfire outside and its apparent Francesca brought backup.

"I don't know what your motives are, but there are labs at the White House," Cullen pauses, staring her down. "You would know that though, right? You've only lived there for the past six years." He takes a few steps toward her. "We are open to the idea of trying to fix some of this mess, but on our terms." He has more faith than I do.

Francesca nods.

"There is only one small thing. We no longer have a doctor," Cullen says.

"What?" I blurt out, unsure if I heard him right. "What happened to Jean-Luc?"

He shakes his head sadly. "We can talk about that later, but right now I think Francesca is right, we really need to go."

The chaos is getting louder around us as we follow Francesca and her secret service men back to a helicopter that seems to have appeared out of nowhere.

Once we are strapped in and the propellers begin spinning, I finally feel secure enough to take a deep breath. I can't believe we made it out of there alive. I definitely have some angels watching over me, that's for sure. I glance up at the sky with watery eyes. I know you're out there somewhere, watching. Wherever you are, Ry, I miss you.

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I don't know how long I was gone; I stopped counting after the third day. I began to lose hope. I really thought I was going to die out there. Things here are familiar, yet different. So much has happened in the short amount of time I was gone. Ike has really taken it upon himself to make this into a thriving community. Everyone here seems to have their jobs and it's working.

As the hot water cascades down my back, I savor the moment I've found myself in. We have a roof over our heads, warm beds, electricity, hot water, and most of all, room to grow. Cullen was right, Ike is doing something special here and we get to be a part of it.

Sometimes I wonder where I would be if I hadn't met Ike. If I would have figured out how to maneuver through this new world without his guidance and help. If I would have ever found Rian. Same with Cullen. Both men have had profound impacts on my life in the small time I've known them.

I feel lips pressed up against my shoulder blade and I spin around. Cullen is standing there in the shower with me, straight faced. He reaches up his hands to caress my face gently. I close my eyes, enjoying the sweet touch. "I have never been more scared in my entire life," he whispers, gently placing kisses on top of my hair. "Phoenix, I don't know where you end and I begin."

I bring my hands up and rub my fingers through the base of his hair and scalp.

"I don't know how to live without you," he continues. "I don't know who I am anymore without you."

I know what he's trying to say to me is important, but the last time we were together he told me he loved me. It's been a while, but I never got the chance to say it back to him. He deserves to hear those words. He deserves to hear how much he means to me. I pull him down lower so I can kiss him. Pressing my lips to his, I am reminded how right this feels. How right we feel. I've never been more sure of anything in my entire life. I pull away from him, my heart pounding out of my chest.

"What is it? What's wrong, love?" he asks concerned by the look on my face.

I grab his hand and place it onto my skin, over my heart so he can feel my nerves. "This is the way I want to feel the rest of my life-a bundle of nerves, excited, and anxious. This is how you make me feel."

He cocks his head to the side, confused yet still sexy as ever.

"There have only been a handful of people who have meant something to me throughout my life. My mom, my dad, my siblings, Ike, you, Neveah..." I trail off, gaining the courage I need. "My point is, I don't throw the word love around lightly, but I do...love you. I love you so much it hurts. There is not a day that goes by that I don't think of you at least a hundred times throughout the day. We've been through so much together already, I can't imagine not having you by my side through this. I've lost nearly everyone I know and love, but I can't lose you."

Cullen doesn't wait for me to ramble on a second longer. He just picks me up, and kisses me with everything in him. I wrap my legs around his bare body and shiver when I feel the tip of his dick graze my thigh. As he lowers me down onto him, I gasp from the friction. I've never forgotten how good he feels inside of me. I don't ever want to forget.

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"Ike?" I call out, rounding the corner to the presidential quarters.

"Out here," I hear his voice from the outside balcony.

I follow it and the breeze to the huge, wrap-around style, covered patio. It has white wicker furniture and cushions. "Wow," I say. "Nice."

He looks over and then nods. "Yeah, I like to come out here," he pauses scanning the surroundings, "to think."

I walk over to the metal railing and glance out. There are biters lingering right outside of the fence, but for the most part, the city is beginning to look just like that, a city. "You've really done well here, Ike," I say, turning around to face him. "Not that I doubted you would, but you've done even better than I could have hoped. It feels safe here, it feels like a home."

Ike nods smiling. "It's so good to have you home, Phoenix."

I run my hands through my hair and join him on the wicker couch.

"Do you want to talk about it?" he asks, addressing my time in Fiji.

I shake my head no. I am putting it past me. "Where's Neveah?"

"She's in class," Ike replies.

"Class?"

He nods. "Things are much different here, Phoenix. We play upon everyone's strengths and are building a working community."

I shouldn't be so surprised, Ike has been like a father to me since we met. It's not far-fetched that he could pull something like this off. "So, what job do you have for me?"

"You're going to join our canvassing team. They not only do all of the food and supply runs, they also rid the town of biters every night. Think you can handle that?" He glances at me.

"Who are you talking to? Of course I can handle that," I say confidently.

He nods. "I thought so."

"I have Cullen running on the same team, we both know that's where his strengths lie."

There's no argument there.

"When do we start?" I ask.

"You can start as soon as you're ready," Ike replies standing up.

"Where ya going?" I probe.

He shifts his gaze to me. "I'm a leader now, people look up to me. I have to go check on my community."

"Okay," I say, "but you got it wrong. You're not a leader now...you've always been a leader."

His lips curl up into a small smile. "Thank you, Phoenix. It's good to have you back." He bushes past me, leaving me out on the terrace by myself.

What if we can build a new world from the ground up? What if it all starts here?

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