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A cryptic warning sends Aura & her closest friend, Adan, on a mission to survive. Now they must confront a dangerous new reality as well as long buried feelings. And neither of those are made any easier by another mysterious survivor who may be much more than he seems.

Romance / Fantasy
Janelle Walden
Age Rating:

Chapter 1

Aura groggily struggled to open her light blue eyes as the sun rose outside the Hollywood penthouse apartment. The apartment wasn’t her home though. She was only a visitor there, and completely out of her element, whatever that element even was. She guessed that she must have fallen asleep there on the lavish black sofa sometime after two the night before. It was true that she had been watching some show or movie she’d already seen, but she was still shocked that she had managed to fall asleep at all.

Aura had been plagued with insomnia all her life, a condition only worsened by a million other factors; many of which had been in play the previous night. The most prevalent being that she had suffered severe anxiety for longer than she cared to remember in her relatively short seventeen years of life. And that anxiety was only multiplied at least ten times over by her current surroundings, and company.

For starters, she was not in her own home. And though her home life was far from relaxing, it was at least one thing she was used to, if nothing else. And the fact that she was in a fancy, expensive penthouse where people like her normally wouldn’t even be allowed past the doorman, that made her feel even more uneasy. And the one thing there that reminded her of her “real” life was the thing that made her the most uneasy of all.

Yes, Adan was her best friend. He was the longest relationship she had ever had, aside from her parents. But Adan was so much more than that to her, even before he was much more than that to the rest of the world. He was her polar opposite in all honesty. He was ambitious and confident and successful. Whereas Aura was unsure and plagued by worries and fears every waking second of her life. He was talented and beautiful, so very beautiful. Aura was just Aura, nothing special or beautiful about her. She was just a wreck of worry and doubt. And those differences between them were painfully apparent to her every time she looked at him, which she could never stop doing for long.

For some reason she still couldn’t fathom, even after a decade and a half of friendship, he still seemed to be her friend. Her best friend. He still seemed to actually want to spend time with her despite the fact that there were millions of other girls, and guys, who wanted his time and his friendship, and certainly everything else he had to offer. Despite all of that, all of them, he still called her his best friend. Every day Aura tried to figure out why he hadn’t cut her out of his luxurious new life, but she was so fearful of the day when he would, she would never dare to ask him why he hadn’t yet. The thought was terrifying to her, as so many other things were as well.

As her eyes opened she was immediately aware that her subconscious brain had somehow gotten its way during her four or five hour slumber. That traitorous brain of hers had moved her closer to her companion as she slept. When she regained consciousness she found herself nestled against Adan, her head resting on his shoulder as the two slept. Forcing herself not to move as quickly as her panicked mind wanted to, she gently moved back as slowly as she could, until she was seated on her knees a few safe inches away from where his head rested against the back of the sofa, his infuriatingly gorgeous dark brown eyes still thankfully closed.

Still angry that he could have woken first, forcing her to stumble through some explanation for why she had been cuddled up with him as they slept, Aura tossed a long disheveled black-dyed lock over her shoulder. She bit her lip as she forced her eyes away from Adan and moved them around the apartment and to the window where the sun had just come up outside. Remembering why she was even still there in his apartment, she tried to stifle a small sigh.

Adan was only seventeen as well, but this was his apartment. Thanks to that ambition and confidence he had found his way into the spotlight. He was incredibly talented even when they were only children. He was able to sing, model and act his way to the top of what was a cutthroat business for even adult actors. He had done talent shows, school plays, musicals, modeling jobs and even commercials before they even reached middle school. Then the modeling jobs and acting jobs garnered him even more fame, money and adoration.

First there were some small roles in movies which then led to even more opportunities. Adan was barely fourteen when he got a recurring role on a musical teen sitcom. After all, he could sing, act, and make millions fall in love with those dark eyes, long black locks, and the body that Aura had to force herself to stop staring at on a minute by minute basis ever since puberty blessed him with it. Then by the time he was sixteen, he got the male lead in a dark teen drama which was just about to start filming its now second season, or at least that had been the plan.

But plans do sometimes change. And this time the change was big, worldwide even. Two weeks ago, Adan had invited her to see his very first apartment. It was true that he wasn’t technically an adult yet. He had only turned seventeen two months earlier and Aura technically came to visit him for her seventeenth birthday, only two weeks prior. The plan had been for her to celebrate her birthday weekend there with him at the apartment. He had moved in to make it easier to make those five am call times for the second season of his show. Otherwise, he would have had to spend another season commuting from his parents’ home in their old neighborhood, which was a little over an hour outside of Los Angeles.

Then the world changed. And no one was even allowed to leave their homes anymore “for their own safety.” And this government imposed lock-down in response to the virus that had already claimed hundreds of thousands of lives was even more stringent in a place like L.A. So, she was supposed to spend a birthday weekend with her closest friend and it had now turned into a quarantine that had lasted two weeks already with no sign of it ending any time soon. And the current state of the world and her present situation did nothing to reduce Aura’s anxiety and even guilt about being there at all.

As she thought about their current situation and tried to hide that small sigh, Adan stirred, and her anxiety levels rose once more. Yes he was her best friend, and she wanted to spend every moment with him. But it was still a much easier thing to do when he was unconscious. Then she didn’t have to worry that every time she let herself meet his gaze he would see inside her and laugh her out of his life. Not that she even could leave his life now, even if she wanted to. He was stuck with her now, just her. And that fact made her feel guilty too. Now that they had no choice but to be in each other’s company, the fear of him realizing how she truly felt and wanting to end their friendship was a million times worse.

“Hey,” Adan murmured, barely opening his eyes yet as a small smile attempted to curl the corners of that mouth of his. “We fell asleep I assume?” he asked as he reached up to wipe that sleep from his dark eyes.

“I guess so,” she concurred, her voice barely a whisper.

“Were we watching something of mine then?” he teased as he smiled over at where she still stiffly sat on her knees in a plain black tee and equally dark jeans.

“No,” she assured, as she cast her eyes down, trying not to smile at the humility he still managed despite all his success.

He smiled over at her again as he pushed a long black shoulder length lock behind his shoulder. Luckily he wasn’t forced to cut his hair for his current role of the misunderstood bad boy; something he was rather good at playing. And it was even more impressive when placed next to his normally optimistic and playful personality off screen. Then again, why wouldn’t he be optimistic, with all the success he had managed at such a young age? Of course, that was before. But still, seeing him play such a dark character when she knew what he was normally like, just went to prove how good an actor he really was.

“You’re a woman of few words,” he teased as he moved to reach past her to the end table where a since forgotten bowl of popcorn had gone stale in the night.

Not seeming to notice that Aura had tensed even more as he reached past her, Adan returned to his previous position and started on a handful of the popcorn. After a few bites he glanced back at where she continued to stare wordlessly at the cushion between them.

Adan narrowed his eyes and decided to be the one to break the silence, as he was definitely more outgoing than her, even when she wasn’t a bundle of nerves, which seemed her normal state for the past few years.

“Been up long?”

“Huh?” she asked as she dared to glance up at him for the briefest moment.

“I was just wondering if you heard anything else about the virus and the lock down and everything yet this morning?”

“Um no, I just woke up too,” Aura managed, though her eyes were once again on anything but him.

“Well at least you finally passed out,” he returned.

The words caused her to shoot another look back at him. “What?”

“You’ve barely slept since coming to visit me. I was starting to worry,” he replied without pause.

She swallowed again, her eyes once again turning from him. “I can never sleep in a new place. I have a hard enough time sleeping at home let alone...” another nervous pause, “in a new place,” she repeated.

“Well, the way this quarantine is going, you should be used to this place in no time,” he replied as he held the bowl out to her, as she only shook her head in response to the offer.

“I’m sorry,” she blurted out a moment later.

“For what?” Adan smiled back at her. “The stale popcorn? No worries. This lock down might actually be the thing that makes me learn to cook. No craft service here after all,” he added wryly.

“I mean, for you know, being here,” she managed in an even smaller voice.

“Being here?” he asked with another perplexed look.

“You know, being here, in your apartment, during all this. When we can’t you know, leave. I mean, I was only supposed to be here for one weekend and...”

“The weekend I invited you to spend here?” he returned in a teasing tone.

“Well you couldn’t have known that this was gonna happen when you invited me, and now...”

“Neither did you. Unless of course it was one of your parents’ crazy theories,” he then allowed a feigned look of worry. “It wasn’t, was it?”

Aura took a moment to determine whether he was serious or not. Though she knew him better than just about anyone else, she also knew how well he could fool anyone about his thoughts or feelings. After all, that was in his job description.

“They’ve had many crazy theories. Virus wiping out the world is a pretty popular one. Of course, I don’t think they knew it was happening two weeks ago. I seriously doubt they would have let their only daughter go visit... anyone, if they had actually thought that one was coming true right now.”

“Well is the world officially wiped out yet?” he attempted lightness, though the world’s situation was indeed dire right then.

“They locked down Hollywood. That’s gotta be the end of the world,” Aura made the attempt at returning his humor, though it was a slightly dark subject to find humor in.

Before their conversation could continue, her cell phone buzzed, causing them both to turn their eyes toward where it sat on the end table.

“See, cell towers still work. We’re not at the apocalypse quite yet,” Adan teased as she reached for her phone.

“Speaking of my parents...” Aura mumbled before answering the call.

“Where are you right now?” was her mother’s greeting.

Aura narrowed her eyes at the question, but replied. “Same place I’ve been for the last two weeks, mom. That whole quarantine thing?” she added with a wry tone of her own.

“Adan has a car, right?” her mother continued without pause.

“A few actually. Mom why do you sound even more freaked out than usual? Did something else happen?” Aura asked with concern, though rolled her eyes slightly to keep her worry from spreading to Adan just yet.

“You remember how to get to the bunker?” her mother continued in the same panicked tone.

“What?” Aura exclaimed, “Come on mom. I don’t think it’s quite that bad. I mean as long...”

“It’s worse. Get him to take you there, now.”

Aura scoffed to cover her own worry. Her parents had always leaned a bit toward conspiracy theories and survivalist tendencies. Her father had even acquired a bunker after having reconnected with an old military friend who apparently was even more convinced that the world was about to end. But her mother usually just humored her father and never seemed quite as convinced. But now it was her mother who was in full panic mode, and that did nothing to calm Aura’s already raw nerves.

“There’s a lock down mom. Even if we wanted to go anywhere...”

“They’re not actually enforcing it. It’s too late for that anyway.”

“Too late?” Aura shook her head again. “Mom, what the hell are you even talking about?”

“It’s just under three hours away. You need to go, now,” her mother repeated.

“Not until you tell me what this is about, mom. Convince me that the lock down just hasn’t driven you guys to drink or something. Come on. I need more than ‘go now.’”

Her mother sighed in frustration. “The virus was only the beginning. You have to trust me. Your father’s friend Reese just called cause he knows we have the bunker. Just believe me when I say you have to go, now. Get there before noon, Aura. You have to.”

“Before...?” but before Aura could finish her sentence, the call cut off.

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