October 1907, Honeyhill
Twenty years into the zombie Plague
Victor is a man of delicate sensibilities, not fit to do backbreaking labour on a farm ran by the mob. Upon arrival in Honeyhill, he decides he needs an anchor, an alliance with one of the guards, if he wants to survive. That anchor comes in the form of Crunch, a hunky ex-sailor with a pair of tight leather trousers and a ruggedly handsome face.
But from day one, Victor knows he won’t last long with the hard physical work assigned to him and the torment he suffers at the hands of a sadistic guard. He needs to run, and his new alliance might prove to be a burden instead of solace.
If Crunch wants Honeyhill liberated, he needs to focus on his job, not on protecting Victor, one of many new arrivals on the farm. Distraction is the last thing he needs after months of undercover work. But it’s hard not to get seduced by Victor’s big brown eyes and fingertips that don’t know work. Hundreds of people depend on Crunch keeping his identity a secret, revealing it could be fatal for both him and Victor, and a failure of his mission. Thankfully, Victor would never be dumb enough to try and escape through a forest that’s swarming with zombies. Would he?
“Stung” is a standalone book and a part of the “Zombie Gentlemen” universe.
Themes: zombies, prisoner/guard, beekeeping, gore, deception, undercover agent, captivity, romance, brutality, forced labour camp, murder, farm, torment, forbidden romance, Victorian
Erotic content: explicit m/m sexual scenes (including dubious consent)
Genre: dystopian homoerotic thriller
The train stopped. Only this time, no one fell on Victor. He didn’t have to fight his way up to the surface of the crowd that was squeezed into the cattle wagon beyond its capacity. Blindfolded, with his hands bound behind his back, he was fighting for his life like a drowning cat, ready to go beyond all measures to keep his head high so that the foul-smelling bodies wouldn’t choke him. He couldn’t be certain, but judging from the cries and overheard conversations, some people were less fortunate than him. Only a few hours into the journey, a man died of a heart attack at the other side of the wagon, his body now lost on the floor below.
Whenever Victor felt threatened, or his throat dried so much it hurt, he kept thinking about his most prized possession. It was his late mother’s engagement ring, which he managed to hide in a small pouch sewn into the inner side of his shirt by whoever owned the garment before. As long as he had the ring, he would afford hope.
Victor got to his toes, trying to get his chest above the tightness of the bodies around him, so that it could expand more, letting him breathe properly. No use.
Shouting from the outside made Victor swallow. He had no clue where they were being taken, but it couldn’t be anywhere good. He couldn’t believe it was happening to him! He had plans, a home, nice clothes that were ripped off him and replaced with some old rags…
Suddenly, the struggle to raise above the others was gone as the wagon filled with cool air and the crowd moved, carrying Victor with it. He frantically clutched at the fabric of someone’s skirt, but the stream of people came to an abrupt stop with a loud bang that made Victor’s ears ring. The air filled with a new smell, smoky, a bit like fireworks.
He froze with fear, but no one died, and the gun proved useful in keeping the crowd of prisoners from trampling over each other. It was all a chaos of limbs and bodies before someone pulled the piece of cloth off Victor’s eyes, and he was immediately blinded by a flood of light. All the captives were being rushed out of the wagons with shouting and prodding, so he kept his gaze down, on the dirty boots of the man walking in front of him. At least he could breathe properly again. He couldn’t even remember the last time he smelled pine, and the fresh scent of nature blended into a balm for his soul. He kept moving, but tried to look around as much as possible, and what hit him right after the smell, was a constant, sharp buzzing from somewhere beyond his immediate surroundings. He half expected it to stop, or change tune, like in the case of all machines he knew, but as their sad cavalcade advanced along a sun-bathed dirt track, the low tremor in Victor’s ears was a constant companion.
Once his eyes got used to the bright light, he started taking in details. They were unloaded at a remote train station in the woods, or rather, at the end of a track that led to nowhere. As soon as he realized there were no solid buildings around, his stomach knotted, and he couldn’t stop himself from scanning the broad treeless strip for stray zombies. Forests, the countryside, were places he always associated with the presence of the undead, so he tried sliding his hands out of the binds around his wrists, but the rope wouldn’t give. The guard who tied them was certainly proficient at it. Victor’s head emptied when he noticed the familiar open jaws he had only seen in the zoo. The terrain was protected by a tall, iron hedge, something that didn’t seem solid enough to stand between people and carnivorous beasts. But as there was nothing he could do other than obey men with shotguns, he cast his gaze down and marched, even though fear kept creeping up his back, urging him to look out for danger.
As the captives were being herded towards a group of wooden buildings, Victor couldn’t stop looking to the undead walking between the trees just over a dozen yards away. His breath hitched, and he stumbled to the side when one of the monsters crooked its head, trying to bite through the iron bar. He fell out of the row with a yelp, his back immediately covering in cold sweat, but the nearest guard didn’t tolerate any nonsense and roughly pushed Victor back in line, straight into a young, shivering woman whose breasts were uncovered by a torn blouse.
“Watch where you’re going, knobhead!”
“But… there are z–zombies.” Victor tried so hard not to stutter, but his voice was trembling.
“There’s a metal fence. Are you blind or somethin’?” The guard sneered at him, patting the big, black shotgun in warning, a clear sign that weakness would not be tolerated.
Victor’s stomach cramped, and he had to blink to get his eyes back into focus. Everything seemed far too bright after the dark days in the wagon. He had no idea where he was. All he knew from the scraps of conversation he overheard on the train, was that most of the people he was taken with were indebted to the Dals, a powerful family that ruled a whole district of Bylondon with an iron fist. It made him want to cry in rage, as he did nothing that should have earned him a fate such as this.
The sunshine, the delicate rustle of leaves, or even the fresh autumn air could not console Victor. From a dirt road leading through the forest, they went on to one that was neater looking, and led along never ending rows of trees with succulent, red apples pulling the branches down with their weight.
“New transport!” another guard yelled to someone at the front and the half naked woman next to Victor broke into a sob, but he was too stunned to make himself care. This couldn’t be happening to him. He had money, he had a father who ran a successful business.
Between the trees of the vast orchard, he noticed a group of people picking the fruit, their thin bodies tanned by the sunlight that was unnaturally strong for October. To his right, by the edge of the pine forest was a collection of wooden buildings, some of them two stories high. There were also sheds, all circled by an additional row of fence, topped with barbed wire.
Victor rushed to the side of the group, so he could see more of what awaited them ahead, and the glimpse he got, made his heart sink. There was a dozen of armed men, some with crossbows, others with swords or machetes, and none of their faces was even remotely friendly. One stepped in front of the others. From the way he moved in confident strides, Victor assumed he was the leader. The man scratched his bald head and took his time to assess the group with a sneer on his wrinkled face. The grimace showcased an ugly scar across his bulbous nose.
“Welcome to your new home, or as we call it, Honeyhill.”
The guards behind him laughed, and Victor could imagine the place was nothing like the name suggested.
“You have all begrudged the Dal family, and you are here to pay for it. You will work, you will have food and shelter. Behave well and you will live, behave badly and you will die,” continued the leader in a loud and somewhat raspy voice
Victor swallowed. How exactly was his ‘crime’ an insult? If anything, Frey Dal should have taken it as a compliment. And how long would he remain here anyway? There had been no trial, no sentence… Did they really expect him to work in a field like some kind of pleb? He was an educated man. He should be working on developing his talent, protecting his voice, but there he was, on the edge of a forest, in a dirty shirt and a pair of trousers that had been cut off at the knee.
One moment, he was drinking his coffee and reading the paper, the other, two thugs were dragging him out, and no one rushed over to his aid!
The introduction wasn’t long, but he found out the leader was supposed to be referred to as ‘Mr. Dorset’. It made Victor cringe. Dorset was no ‘mister’, but he didn’t have to dwell on that as soon, they were separated into smaller groups, which the guards led into different directions. At first, the shrinking number of captives didn’t bother Victor much, but at some point, he noticed that each time a guard chose his team, he was being overlooked. It was making him wet with cold sweat because he could hardly predict what those people would do with someone they deemed useless.
“Time for the next shift.” A cheerful, raspy voice was accompanied by heavy footsteps. Victor stuck his head out, surprised by the lack of threat in the man’s tone. He was desperate for some kind of anchor amidst the chaos, and whoever it was, provided a shadow of hope for it.
The crossbow at the man’s hip was no less threatening than the other ones he’d seen so far, but with his big frame, wide shoulders and a toothy grin, this particular guard could definitely be an anchor. A heavy, brawny anchor with soft, green eyes that belonged anywhere but in Honeyhill.
It was the glint of the sun reflecting on the smooth length of the man’s machete that brought Victor back to reality and back into the row.
Dorset frowned at him and covered his bald head with a brownish cap. “Yeah, they’re all yours, Crunch.”
Crunch? What kind of name was that?
Victor bit his lip, straightening up and getting to his toes in an attempt to look taller and bigger than he was.
Crunch came followed by a group of prisoners. They were the epitome of tired, with rugged, thin clothes sticking to their bodies. Slouching, with bloodshot eyes and dry lips, they were pushing wheelbarrows filled with apples. But Victor’s focus quickly turned back to Crunch as the man passed his group in a pair of tight, brown leather trousers tucked into well used boots. Victor’s eyes followed the fine arse, but when his gaze crawled up the guard’s back, now only covered by a tight, dirty undershirt, he realized that he was being scrutinized as well. Blood ran cold in his veins when he looked into the man’s clear eyes. From the slightly crooked nose that must had been broken some time ago and the scar that ran across one of Crunch’s brows, Victor deduced the man wasn’t one to mess with.
The group of tired men and women was taken over by another guard, but Crunch didn’t seem to notice, keeping up eye contact with Victor. He wasn’t smiling, but Victor’s heart skipped a beat then he noticed the guard licking his upper front teeth, which was the first fucking thing he understood in this godforsaken place! Victor knew men found him attractive, and apparently this sod was yet another admirer.
Victor’s mouth stretched into a seductive smile before he even thought about it, and when he noticed a flicker of growing interest on the masculine face, it occurred to him that anchoring himself to a man in charge might be exactly the thing he needed. He let his eyes drift down for a second before darting a shy yet promising look at Crunch. He sucked his bottom lip into his mouth and made a show out of it. Just for Crunch.
The man didn’t smile, but he didn’t look away either. Just when Victor was starting to doubt his initial conclusion about him, Crunch yawned theatrically and stretched, showing off that big, muscled body. Victor was tempted to laugh at such blatant peacocking, but he did find the man very attractive, and the display was a promising sign, so he winked instead. With his hands still bound behind his back, there wasn’t much he could do to show interest. The only idea he had was to trace his lips with his tongue before poking it hard into the inner side of his cheek in the well-known suggestion of cocksucking. Crunch’s package looked promising in that department.
The delicious looking guard gave him one more moment of attention before walking over to Dorset to have a word with him. Victor’s stomach tightened when Crunch gestured towards the group of new arrivals that included him. Oh God, what if the guard understood it all wrong? What if they beat him? He wouldn’t even be able to defend himself.
All he wanted was to form some kind of alliance here, maybe get some food because back there, in the train, there were moments when his head spun from hunger. Since he had been taken two days ago, all he got was stale water and bread.
All the guards shared a laugh about something Victor couldn’t overhear, but he stood up straight when Crunch started walking towards him.
“I’m Crunch, you’re coming with me,” he said and pointed his machete to the way down the track, back to the orchard, like he intended to use it for cutting a passage through rainforest. He was joined by a young, blond guard who couldn’t be more than twenty.
“You will pick apples. They’re not yours to eat. No talking. Try anything funny, and you will be punished,” said the second guard, watching them with angelically blue eyes.
Victor swallowed. What about food? Wouldn’t they get any? He was too afraid to ask though. A hiss to his left caught his attention, and when he looked to where it came from, he came face to face with a thin man with a hawk-like nose and eyes so swollen he looked like a victim of a beating.
“What did they get you for?”
Victor bit his lip nervously. “Um… I don’t know… they made a mistake.”
A big man at his other side eyed him up with a sneer. “Yeah right. Save it.”
“No talking!” Crunch’s voice from the back stung as much as the poke of something hard and cold at his back. He tensed, squeezing his mouth shut and shied away from the touch. Maybe teasing the man wasn’t the best idea after all.
Following the blond guard, they entered the vast orchard. A thin girl walked out from a shed at its border and distributed baskets without a word. The constant buzzing was still lingering at the back of Victor’s mind, and he looked around to find its source. He frowned at a shining dome-like structure looming on the top of a nearby hill. Who would have need for modern architecture in a place such as this? He didn’t have much time to dwell on it though as the guards herded them deeper between the rows of trees, past groups of workers who did their job without protest, silent as puppets at the hands of their masters. They seemed to have come to terms with their fate. Then again, what could they do in bright daylight against a bunch of men with weapons and surrounded by a forest full of bloodthirsty undead.
The sun was killing him.
Victor closed his eyes for a moment, hiding in the shadow of the tree in pretense of looking for fallen fruit in the grass. Here, he could still sense the earthy, somewhat wet smell of the ground, mixing with the sweet aroma of the apples. Experiencing such close contact with fruit trees was so alien and new that he wasn’t yet sure whether he liked it or not.
It seemed like it’s been ages since his team started working in the orchard, and they haven’t been given any water so far. His tongue felt like a piece of parched wood, drying out inside the boiling oven of his head. The skin of his forearms and nape was already burning and, despite the raising agitation, he was getting dizzy. He coughed, unable to soothe the thirst that turned his throat into parchment, and his eyes fell to a couple of small apples beneath his feet.
Victor’s whole body ached for the chance to have just one bite, to soothe the thirst for even a moment. His gaze raised just enough to see the two pairs of boots that couldn’t belong to the other prisoners. His heart leapt when he saw that the men wearing them were facing away from him. The guards seemed to be caught up in a heated conversation and with their attention turned elsewhere, Victor reached for a blood red apple. He didn’t even bother to clean it with his shirt and got some grit between his teeth, but the explosion of taste and the glorious wetness of the fruit made it all irrelevant.
He forgot about the surrounding world, engulfed in satisfying his hunger as the skin gave way to his teeth with a crunching sound. Victor hid behind the tree, scooting down with his back against the trunk as he tried to watch his surroundings, but after the first bite, his mind drifted off, and he fantasized about the cottage pie he had for his last proper meal. He should have savoured each bite but used to eating whenever he liked, he just shoveled it from the plate within minutes. Such a shame.
Victor was halfway through the succulent fruit, when a large hand grabbed his wrist and sharply pulled him up. He swallowed a huge gulp of air, looking at the fair hair at the back of it with wide eyes. Terror grasped his heart, squeezing it to the point of pain, just as hard as Victor’s fingers curled around the apple.
Crunch’s bright green eyes stared at him from below bushy eyebrows. “You dumb or somethin’?” he snarled.
“I’m…” Victor had to clear his throat to make it work properly, but he couldn’t keep his teeth from clattering. “I’m so hungry… We weren’t fed since yesterday… I…”
“Do I look like I care for yar sob story?” Crunch’s voice was clearly affected by the smoke from the pipe he was holding in his other hand, low and raspy like fine glass paper.
Victor stared at him, frozen in place. His muscles hurt from the strain of maintaining the same position, but he pushed it into the back of his mind, completely focused on the green irises. He needed one of the guards to help him through this place, he needed Crunch.
“What do you care for?” he whispered, desperately trying to keep himself together. He clung to the hope that Crunch wouldn’t be as hesitant to punish him right away if he had despised Victor’s crude flirting earlier.
Those words did get him more of Crunch’s attention. The man slowly let go of his wrist and took the apple out of Victor’s hand, only to bite into it himself. “What were ya getting at back there?” He pointed towards the buildings, obviously sharing Victor’s thoughts.
Victor’s chest heaved while his mind worked frantically to come up with the best answer. “What do you think I meant?”
Crunch frowned and looked around, taking another bite of Victor’s apple. With his gaze still turned away, he leaned in, resting his hand just by Victor’s head, close enough for Victor to smell the uncovered forearm. “I think ya wanna suck me,” he said with his mouth full.
Victor felt his face flush and with a tingle going all the way down his back, he knew every single hair on his body was bristling in response to that straightforward statement. “Um… I might… want to…”
“Ya don’t sound so sure anymore. Not gonna force ya, ya know.” Crunch kept checking him out as he traced a finger down Victor’s stomach, giving him goosebumps.
Victor frowned. So, it was all right to deny him an apple, yet forcing him to suck a cock wasn’t? He made himself smile despite the rising anxiety and took in the smell of worn leather and sweat. “You’re just a bit overwhelming.”
“I could be less overwhelming after supper, if yar up for it, pretty boy.” Crunch took another bite of the mouthwatering fruit. “This place does get lonely,” he said with a crooked grin and turned the apple to Victor’s lips.
The gesture was enough to make Victor’s eyes water, but he could only nod as he took a mouthful of fruit, shaking slightly. “I don’t know anyone,” he said, while still chewing. If it wasn’t for the fact that he was imprisoned in a camp ran by the Dal mob, he might have been more flattered and less frightened.
Victor swallowed the piece of apple and took another bite, watching the guard’s face for signs of mocking. What if he was just teasing Victor, only to take the apple away? The uncertainty was tightening his stomach. Crunch didn’t seem like a cruel person, but one could never know in a place like this. “I’m already lonely.”
He watched Crunch look to the sides, but as the man leaned in, Victor couldn’t stop the tremble in his body. A gentle brush of dry lips against his juice-stained mouth was enough to drive the fear away. The kiss was soft, nothing more than a touch, yet it sent a jolt of electricity all the way down to his groin.
“I’ll come round later.”
Victor’s eyes got as wide as saucers. “I will be waiting,” he blurted out and practically devoured another piece of the apple, doing his best to finish it before someone else noticed what they were up to. God, he was so hungry.
Crunch finally backed off but left the apple to Victor. “I see ya having one more of those, and ya lose a finger, get it?”
Victor frowned and lifted his left hand, wiggling what was left of his little finger. He’d lost most of it in an accident he had as a child. “Would you at least make them symmetrical?” He knew he was playing with fire, but the way Crunch changed the topic from Victor sucking him off to Victor losing his finger was simply outrageous.
The guard looked at the digit, and his smile widened, revealing a small gap between his top front teeth. “Ya got it.” He patted Victor on the cheek, and the rough touch of his hand lingered as if he couldn’t pull away. Victor bit his lip, leaning into the warmth. Tenderness was the last thing he expected after being thrown into that cattle wagon, yet he had a distinct feeling he would enjoy ‘later’ for reasons other than securing an alliance.
“So…” Crunch prolonged the word as if he were chewing on it.
“I hope we’ll have time to enjoy it,” tried Victor. If he was to actually talk Crunch into some kind of help, time was a necessity. Nothing other than pleasure would be achieved with a fifteen minute blowjob.
“Don’t ya worry. I’ll work it out.” Crunch looked him up and down, reluctantly pulling away. He seemed as hungry for touch as Victor was—well—plain hungry.
Victor gave him his best, innocent smile, the one that should melt the heart of any boylover, even though he could no longer be considered a ‘boy’. “All right, I trust you.”
With Crunch towering over Victor, it was hard to miss the way his Adam’s apple bobbed at that. He didn’t hesitate though and walked away with a dreamy smile that suited neither his image nor the weapons he was carrying. Victor shook his head in wonder but quickly got up to his feet, unwilling to tempt his luck any further. He looked to the broad back of the handsome guard again and let his mind wander. Crunch did show him more compassion than he expected, but maybe it was just a prelude to business? That Victor was determined to find out.
Lauren (Live, Read, Breathe) – 4 stars
Cam (Smoocher’s Voice ) – 4 stars
Elizabetta ( Sid Love)