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Chaos Collides

EMP Collapse Book Four

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After a group of thugs burn down their house, Alex and Melissa and their children try to settle into an empty house on their street. But there are lingering tensions in the neighborhood and it doesn’t take long for emotions to come to a boil. Then, when people start to run out of food, they become desperate, turning on those they believe still have supplies, including Alex and Melissa.

Alliances are created and decisions are made, decisions with deadly consequences. Will Alex, Melissa, and their children survive this new challenge, or will those who covet what they have be the end of them?

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Chapter 1

Alex

“This feels super odd,” Melissa said.

Alex had to agree. They were touring one house on their street where the residents had never come home.

“Which part feels odd?” Jason asked as he stood in the family room and surveyed the space. “The part where we’re thinking of moving into someone else’s house, or the part where it’s the same floorplan as ours, but nicer?”

“At least it’s not burned to the ground,” Steven pointed out.

Frowning, Alex shook his head. Travis Hughes, the man who had led a group of thugs to menace their entire neighborhood, was now dead. But he’d done a lot of damage before Alex had put a bullet between his eyes. It had been less than twenty-four hours since Hughes had set their house on fire, and Alex’s anger was fresh and raw. They still had to get their food back from the thieves who had stolen it, but first, Alex and Melissa wanted to figure out where they were going to live. At least for now.

Melissa had floated the idea of traveling to her sister Heather’s place, a homestead about two hundred and fifty miles south of them. Not eager to make the trip, Alex had told Melissa he would think about it. But really, he wanted to stay in their neighborhood where they’d become close with several people. Luke and Chloe had become especially important to Alex and Melissa. They’d let Alex and his family sleep in their home the previous night, even offering to let them stay there for longer. As kind as the offer was, neither Alex nor Melissa wanted to become a burden.

With three teenagers, plus Baxter, the dog they’d been taking care of, their family added too much commotion. Not only that, but with Luke and Chloe both recovering from injuries, it just didn’t feel right to impose. Instead, they’d considered the four houses on their street that were unoccupied. They’d immediately discarded the idea of staying at the Campbells’ house. Kevin had left to find his wife and would be back. At least Alex hoped so. Which left three other houses. The one they were currently checking out was the third of the three they’d toured. It had belonged to the Newman family.

“So,” Alex asked Melissa, “what do you think?”

Wearing a deep frown, she shrugged, then turned to face him. “It will work, but it’s just weird.”

“I know, but what choice do we have?”

She gave him a look that said, I gave you another option.

Giving her a subtle shake of his head, he said, “This neighborhood is our home.” He left off the rest of the thought: I’m not ready to leave yet.

With a minute shake of her head, she turned to the kids. “What do you guys think of this place?”

None of their three children seemed all that enthusiastic, but they were also well aware that there weren’t any other good options on the table.

“I say we go for it,” Emily said, wearing a smile that Alex could tell was her attempt at being positive.

Alex shifted his attention to Jason and Steven. Both nodded. “Okay,” he said. “Looks like it’s unanimous.” He swept his arms out. “Welcome home.”

“At least we don’t have to move any boxes or furniture or anything,” Steven said with a wry smile.

Alex couldn’t suppress a chuckle. That was one positive, although what he wouldn’t give to have some of their stuff. They had nothing but the clothes on their backs and the weapons they’d been carrying.

“When are we going to get our food back?” Emily asked with a pained expression. “I’m hungry.”

“Me too,” Steven said. “And don’t forget Baxter.” He reached down and placed a hand on the black lab’s head. Baxter tilted his head and licked Steven’s hand. “We need food for him.”

Where were they going to find that?

As if he understood what they were talking about, Baxter walked into the kitchen and began sniffing the ground beside one cabinet, then moved along the floor, on the hunt for something to eat.

“I’m going today,” Alex told them. “Just wanted to get you guys settled first.”

“I’m going to,” Melissa said, her tone brooking no argument, so he didn’t bother trying to convince her to stay home.

“Fine,” he said. 

Stan and Oliver had already committed to being part of this mission. Luke would have come too if his ankle wasn’t messed up.

“I want to help,” Jason said.

“Okay.” Alex knew Steven would want to come as well, so he headed that off by turning to him and saying, “I need you and Emily to stay here with Baxter and dig around. Find out what supplies are in the house and make a list of what we need.”

“We will, Dad,” Emily said before Steven could argue.

“Thank you.” He turned to Melissa and Jason. “Let’s go.”

The three of them left the house, and as they crossed the street to walk to Stan’s, which was next door to their burned house, Alex couldn’t stop his eyes from sliding in that direction. The stink of smoke was still strong in the air, and their house continued to smolder. Later, once the fire was out, he would look through the embers and see if he could salvage anything.

“Do you think Stan and Nancy’s house has much damage?” Melissa asked as they stepped onto the sidewalk and began passing Luke’s house, which was on this side of Stan’s.

That morning, Alex had surveyed the damage, and though the siding on Stan’s house looked somewhat melted and twisted, the structure was still intact. “I think it’s all right.”

“Dad? Are we going to do something about those bodies?”

Alex followed Jason’s gaze and saw the bodies he’d stacked on the side of Luke’s house that morning. Travis Hughes was among them.

“Yeah,” Alex said. “We’ll deal with them when we get back.” At least it was cold enough that they hadn’t started to smell too much yet.

They walked up Stan’s driveway, and just before they reached his porch, the front door opened and Stan stepped out. “Hey there,” he said with a smile. “Come on in.”

Although they had an important mission ahead of them, with Hughes dead and no longer a threat, the anxiety that had been a constant hum below the surface of Alex’s mind for the last several days had lessened considerably.

Alex, Melissa, and Jason went inside Stan’s house. The distinctive smell of smoke was unavoidable. His attention went to the wall that the fire had affected. There was obvious damage on the inside of the house, but nothing that would make the space uninhabitable.

Doing a chin-lift in that direction, Alex said, “Sorry Hughes’ vendetta affected your house.”

Stan frowned. “Please. You lost your house.” Then he chuckled. “What’s a little melting of the wall compared to that?”

Alex couldn’t help but quietly laugh at that.

Nancy, Stan’s wife, joined them. She gave Melissa a hug, then stepped back and asked, “How are you?”

“You know,” Melissa said with a smile, “we’re okay. We lost our house and our stuff, but we’re still together and no one got hurt. That’s what’s important.”

“Where are your boys?” Alex asked.

Just then, a childish voice cried out from a room down the hall, “Give it back, Ethan!”

Shaking his head, Stan said, “Still wondering where they are?”

Nancy rolled her eyes, then left to deal with her two young boys.

“So,” Stan said, “you ready to get your food back?”

Alex was eager to right this particular wrong. “Oh yeah.”

* * *

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