PART 5, SECTION 20

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As soon as Jason's military vehicle drove away, and I was sure all the rangers in his squad were gone, I slipped out to the feed shed.

I couldn't risk going inside the house. I had no idea what my mom or Danielle would do if they saw me. After this morning, I wouldn't have been surprised if they turned me in. And I didn't even know if Shawn was still there or not, nursing his wound.

But I knew my dad always fed his cattle before sundown. He did the same thing without fail every day of his life. If I waited for him at the feed shed long enough, I was sure he'd show up eventually.

I also knew that I'd bought us all some time at the granary. As long as Jason was planning on partying with me, he wasn't going to look very hard for anybody on my parents' property. No matter how hard Shawn pushed him to find us, Jason was the boss. And I knew he'd much rather sleep with Shawn's wife than have to shoot me, given the options.

I laid down in the hay scattered all over the feed shed. The cattle were already milling around, waiting for my dad to feed them.

It was quiet here, and peaceful. It reminded me of when I was a kid and I used to help my dad feed his cattle. The scent of the fresh hay was sweet and rich, and it filled my lungs as I breathed in the air. It almost felt like nothing had changed. No pathogen, no quarantine. Just my dad's feed shed filled with hay, just like it had always been.

I must have fallen to sleep, because when I woke up the sun was setting.

My dad was tossing loose hay into the troughs, and the cattle were chewing lazily. He hadn't even seen me asleep in the dark corner of the shed.

"Dad," I whispered.

He turned around, startled.

"It's me," I said. "It's okay."

I stepped from the shadows. When my dad set eyes on me, he looked incredibly relieved.

He gave me a long, tight hug. He even lifted me from the ground a little, like he used to do when I was little.

"My Ashley," he said. "I'm so glad you're okay. You have no idea how worried I've been about you." He hugged me again. "The world's all gone to hell, hasn't it?" he said softly. "What the hell are we all going to do?"

"Well, I'm not going to stand around doing nothing," I said. "That's for sure."

My dad looked at me warily. I could tell he was worried that I'd get hurt, or worse.

"I need your help," I said. 



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