The Black Rider - J.B. Trepagnier Page 0,1

really fast if I tried to run.

“Nachos? No shit. Ariel, how do you feel about fresh guacamole and pork tacos?”

Aeron was looking at both of us with this look on his face. It was pure jealousy. It looked like he was upset with Leif that he could provide fresh food for me. We ate well in California, but there were a lot of nights we ate out of mystery cans and went to bed hungry. Did he think I blamed him for that? Even if I thought he was dangerous and he’d lied to me, Aeron took care of me on the road.

“That works, but you won’t bribe me with food. I want the truth, and if I don’t like it, I want a car with enough gas to get back to California.”

“You see why I didn’t tell you back in California? You would have heard Horseman of Death, and you would have beat me with Smurfette without letting me give you the full story. We’ve had this conversation before, Ariel. You left the chatroom and wouldn’t return texts or calls for us to explain until you started painting.”

I walked over to Aeron and poked him in the chest with Smurfette.

“So, you bring me somewhere everyone has guns and won’t let me leave? Way to make me think you’re one of the good guys, Death.”

“Ariel, I know you’re mad, and you have every right to be. Aeron should have told you when you asked. But he also has a point. You reacted very badly the first time we told you we were the Horsemen over chat. Let’s have this conversation face to face over wonderful food. If Aeron won’t answer a question, I will.”

“And a car out of here if I don’t like your answers?”

“You aren’t our prisoner, Ariel. You were our girlfriend, even though we’d never met in person. We don’t just want you to stay because you can help end this. We want to keep you safe from your father, and we want that relationship back. I miss talking to you until three in the morning on the phone,” Leif said.

“I don’t remember any of that.”

“I know. And I know why we have to be careful getting your memories back. That doesn’t mean we can’t make fresh memories and explaining what we are won’t hurt you. Just swear to me, you’ll hear us out before you demand to leave.”

I had a bad temper on a pleasant day, but even I could admit Aeron took excellent care of me on the way down here. I wanted to believe the best about him.

He was the Horseman of Death, and I saw what he had done to the gangs trying to break into California. I knew what they had written about him. I knew what I saw in the world ever since I woke up from that coma.

I wanted so hard to believe all of that was wrong.

Chapter 2


eif so wasn’t what I imagined a Horseman of the Apocalypse to be like. He looked like pure sin with his black hair and black eyes and swirling tattoos. Someone good inked him because what I could see was spectacular. It was abstract, but it was beautiful. Leif wasn’t intense like Aeron at all. His black eyes were always sparkling with mischief, and he seemed like he was always trying to make sure I was comfortable.

I was having trouble reconciling this huge, joking man with the Horseman of Pestilence who would work with my father to turn my blood into the rage mutation. A lot of my memories were still gone, but I remembered a lot of what happened in that lab when I was a child. I remembered every face, and I never once saw Leif experimenting on me unless he did it in the shadows.

Leif led us to his private apartments, which were connected to his lab. They were pretty plush, considering it was the end of the world.

“I figured we could all just stay here if Speedy approves. The bed is big enough for all three of us, and space is limited. We haven’t given up hope on all of humanity. Sure, there are plenty of shitty people out there, but there are still people trying to survive. We send out parties looking for them and bring them in once we vet them. We may have to expand the walls and build new houses soon.”

“Speedy wants to hear the exact right words, or she’s getting the fuck out of here