Authors: Clare Murray
She’s a wanted woman…in more ways than one.
, Book 2
Twins Russ and Cam’s objective is straightforward: steal a few documents from the former White House and get the hell out. Meanwhile, they plan to keep an eye out for their secondary mission—Abigail Brooks.
Things get tense when they find her hacking into the enemy’s control room, and find themselves staring down the barrel of her gun.
Once the twins invoke the name of her grandmother, Patrice, Abby lowers her weapon and escapes slung over Cam’s broad, solid shoulder. A necessity, since all White House servants wear ankle chains. Evading a hail of sniper fire is less complicated than the heat that flares among the three fugitives.
Vindictive Shadow Feds, human bandits, and a convict intent on using them in a callous power play aren’t enough to cool the sizzling conduits of desire. Abby’s greatest fear isn’t falling in love with Russ and Cam. It’s the bone-deep terror that love won’t be enough to keep them together—and alive—in this dangerous world.
Warning: Contains hot sex that could take your libido to Defcon 1. Sneaky congressmen (what’s new?) and a self-styled Arthurian king. Also take note of Rule No. 1: Never wake up female aliens from cryosleep without proper protection. They tend to get cranky without a morning snack.
To my husband, who copes admirably with my late nights of writing.
2053, eleven years after the Invasion
Cry havoc, and let slip the dogs of war
Julius Caesar, Act 3
Abby closed her eyes, though her body trembled, demanding fight or flight. She forced herself to stillness in her hiding place behind a metal filing cabinet. Several feet away, two so-called senators discussed their latest flings.
The men didn’t even have the decency to refer to the women by name. It was all the “redhead” this and “the one with big boobs” that. Her disgust was mitigated by terror. If the men found her here, she’d be punished.
, in the kisser,” Senator Jacobs said, to an appreciative bellow of laughter from his colleague. From where she crouched, Abby could just see the tips of his leather loafers. They were too close for comfort.
“Did she file a complaint?” That was Senator Green, the man who aspired to run for the Oval Office. Not that these politicians did anything by the book. The man wouldn’t win by an election—he planned to seize control by a coup.
“Her? Of course not. Who’d listen?”
Abby clenched her teeth, hating these men so much, it actually hurt. Politicians who kept indentured servants.
would have been all over the press pre-Invasion, torpedoing their bid for power. But these days, things were different. It was all about survival. Indentured servants were fed, weren’t they? Clothed and sheltered too. If it wasn’t for the kindness of the senators, they’d be living hand-to-mouth on the streets.
Or worse, banished outside the walls to be eaten by aliens when they came out at night.
Abby hunched closer to the filing cabinet. The metal pressed uncomfortably on a recent bruise. A politician’s wife had kicked her yesterday when Abby hadn’t scrubbed the floor to her liking. Exhausted by a twelve-hour day, Abby had no choice but to accept the woman’s vicious kick and crawl into bed afterward.
Abby closed her eyes and thought of the woman’s beloved face. Three weeks ago, Abby had smuggled a letter out via a courier she trusted, but there was no telling whether Grammie had gotten it. She might not have been able to decipher the loose code Abby had written it in.
For that matter, Grammie might not even be alive.
Abby tensed as the senator’s leather loafers slapped on the concrete floor, wandering ever closer to the filing cabinet and her hiding place. Senator Green was one of the meanest politicians in Headquarters. She had managed to avoid him for one month and six days—the entirety of her time here since arriving in Washington, DC—but she’d seen him ogling her from afar, his gaze lingering on her as she performed menial duties.
He hadn’t managed to come across her alone yet, and she intended to keep things that way. Even if it meant sleeping four hours a night and varying her sleeping places by dozing in different corners of the mess hall.
“All right, Jacobs. We’d better turn in, get some sleep before next week rolls around.” Those loafers shuffled.
“They won’t know what hit ’em. Cocky Complex bastards. Good night, Green.”
Eyes closed, Abby heard the door open and click shut again. She relaxed, took a deep breath—and froze as she opened her eyes. The loafers hadn’t moved more than an inch or two. She could hear Senator Green breathing. Why hadn’t he left? This was only a small, mostly bare office. Abby had been cleaning it when the senators had unexpectedly come in.
“Well, well.” Green’s deep voice made her shudder involuntarily. “What do we have here?”
Stale breath assaulted her nose as he peered around the corner, bending down so that he was level with her, his small blue eyes boring into hers. The senator’s cheeks seemed to be stained a permanent red, and his loose jowls wobbled as he put his hands on his knees.
“I was only cleaning,” Abby whispered.
.” The slight snap in the man’s voice nearly made her flinch. He quickly modulated his tone. “A fun conversation to eavesdrop upon, I must say. Did it turn you on?”
Abby preferred it when he was angry. This sudden lasciviousness made her stomach turn.
But she couldn’t say that. Nobody said
to these men. She had to keep herself amenable somehow, see if she could escape through diplomacy.
“I don’t know,” she managed.
“Well, stand up and come over here.”
Abby obeyed. What else could she do? Briefly, she contemplated pretending to faint, but the concrete floor was hard and Green was merciless. Judging by the comments he’d made to Jacobs a few minutes ago, the senator would have his way with her regardless.
When he shoved his hand down her pants, however, she gasped in shock. His eyes squashed into folds in his face as they narrowed in satisfaction. Without finesse, he shoved her underwear aside. A fingernail scraped her inner thigh and she let out a tiny sound.
“Yeah, you like that—” Green cut himself off as his commtab beeped insistently. “Son of a bitch. Hello. What is it?”
The senator went very still, his hand unmoving against her sex. Abby’s stomach roiled as her fingers dug into the edge of the desk she stood next to. In a second, she would break away, kick the man in the balls, and run for it.
She’d never make it out, of course. They’d beat her to within an inch of her life. They might even kill her.
“Yes. I’ll deal with it tonight. What? Fine. I can be there in five minutes.”
Green withdrew his hand, snarling. The man shoved his phone back into his pocket, looking down at her with a sneer. Abby stared back, shocked into insolence. Servants weren’t supposed to make eye contact with the senators.
“This isn’t finished,” he told her. “I’ve had my eye on you for a long time. You aren’t as pretty as I prefer my girls to be, but I won’t have to look at your face from behind.”
Now he had gone too far. Before she could stop herself, she opened her mouth to reply.
finished, you ugly bastard,” Abby snapped back. “I don’t like you touching me. Don’t do it again.”
When she saw the fury in his eyes, she almost wanted to claw the words back. Almost. Green reached out, shoving her into the wall. Although she brought her hands up in defense, he bulled forward and grasped her throat.
“It isn’t over until I say it’s over,” Green said.
Abby watched him through a growing haze. She couldn’t get air in, couldn’t breathe past his grip on her windpipe. She lashed out, connecting with something soft—his stomach, most likely. She couldn’t see with her head held against the wall like this. Pressing her back against the wall, she raised her knee hard and was rewarded with a grunt of pain.
When the senator released her, she sank onto the floor, rolling sideways under the table where he couldn’t reach her easily. The man stared at her with his piggish eyes, rubbing his stomach slowly. “For that, you’ll wish yourself dead by tomorrow.”
Abby gulped in sweet air as the senator strode from the room and slammed the door on the way out. Her hands went to her throat, gingerly feeling around newly bruised skin. He could have killed her. Nobody would have heard, let alone intervened.
The thought was chilling. When she’d arrived at Headquarters, a so-called manager had hired her on a temporary basis. He’d told her they paid the servants a small salary. Even if it was a mere pittance, it was supplemented by a safe, alien-free place to stay and three meals a day. All that in exchange for a signature on a contract.
Abby wasn’t stupid. She’d read that contract back to front before signing. Two days later, when she and the other recent hires were told they’d be “working off” food and shelter costs before they were allowed to leave Headquarters…well, she’d been among the first to protest.
That hadn’t made a blind bit of difference, of course. One of the higher-ups had transferred their signatures to a different contract and pronounced it binding. There were plenty of former judges in the area who were willing to sign their names on the contract in exchange for a kickback or two.
Now every servant was stuck in Headquarters for a minimum of two years, unless they raised enough money to buy their way out of the contract. In desperation, some of them had turned to prostitution, others to petty crime. Abby was glad she’d found a good hiding place for the small amount of money she possessed. She’d been saving up to get back to Grammie in Scar City.
You’ll wish yourself dead by tomorrow.
The senator’s words were practically branded in her head. She’d been daydreaming about escape for weeks, visualizing different ways of getting out of DC. Several ideas seemed promising, but she’d put them off because she’d been too afraid to try. Now it was urgent. She had to act. Tonight.
Abby hauled herself out from under the desk, kicking aside the cleaning cloths she’d abandoned when Green and Jacobs had unexpectedly invaded the little office. Their presence must have been what had given her away. No sense crying over spilled milk, as Grammie used to say, but she let out a curse anyway.
On her way out, a piece of discarded paper crunched under her heel. Out of habit, she bent to pick it up, automatically turning toward the wastepaper basket. But the paper was covered in Senator Green’s prissy handwriting, a list of random words scrawled in ballpoint pen. Passwords? Abby couldn’t spare the time to think about it.
You’ll wish yourself dead by tomorrow.
She opened the door, peering cautiously outside in case another senator might be lurking nearby. The hallway was blessedly empty, so Abby made her way to her room as fast as she could hobble while constrained by the manacles around her ankles. A light, strong chain connected her legs, long enough to allow her to walk efficiently, yet too short to allow anything faster than a jog.
In her room, she knelt by the wall to pry out the loose slab of concrete that concealed her most important possessions. She stuffed money, paperwork, and a change of clothes into her backpack, hands shaking.
There was no way she was going to stay here and passively wait for Green to summon her tomorrow. No way in hell.
* * * * *
“Russell and Cameron 03656, over and out.”
Russ turned off the walkie-talkie and shoved it into the pocket of his leather jacket as his brother banked the slim electric airplane. The maneuver gave him a pretty good view of Washington, DC—or what remained of it. The city sprawled in all its post-apocalyptic glory, makeshift defenses against the aliens dotting the landscape. There was a hefty wall protecting the important parts of the city, of course, including the White House, which wasn’t the seat of government any longer. Now it was controlled by the Shadow Feds, who called it simply
“Up-jumped sons of bitches,” Russ muttered.
“You can say that again.” Cam banked again, keeping the plane over the Potomac. The dying sunset glinted off the windshield, briefly turning the cockpit orange. Their presence would be noted, but Russ doubted anyone down there would see them land. Even if they saw the plane on the ground, they wouldn’t expect the Twins to be able to get inside the walls. Not with the gates closed.
He stared downward at the ruined suburbs, wondering if there were any aliens nearby. No matter if there were—they could fight them off. And this mission was necessary, otherwise the government wouldn’t have risked sending Twins in. General Coniston hadn’t given them many details, of course. Only that their objective was to find any and all information on a possible attack on the Complex.
It was too bad they couldn’t bring back Felton’s head on a silver plate while they were at it.
“Who says we can’t?” Cam asked.
“Quit reading my mind. We go in, get some documents, steal a commtab or three, and screw around with their machines if we have the time. Then we get the hell out. Felton doesn’t factor into this.”
“What he did, though…” Cam shook his head. “Gonna take us down in that field over there.”
“Good spot. Not too near, not too far.”
“What about that girl Finn and Gareth told us about?”
Russ studied the photo Cam had tacked to the dashboard. A mixed-race girl smiled back at him, light brown, curly hair blown by the wind, eyes wide and excited. A smattering of freckles dusted her nose, points of dark brown against light. She’d been in her late teens when the photo had been taken. Pretty girl.
Chances were, however, that Abigail Brooks was dead.
“Yeah,” Russ finally said. “If we’re ballsy enough to go in and steal shit from the Feds, we should take a quick look for her.”
He shook his head and pocketed the photo. They were relying on an inside source to get them into DC. That left them outside the walls after dark, which was risky as hell. You never knew when a couple of Barks might show up, eager for some tasty human flesh. DC was pretty quiet, though. There hadn’t been a major attack on the walls for over a year.
Still, the sun was disappearing over the horizon, and the local aliens, with their UV-sensitive skin, would soon be on the prowl.
The plane touched down, bumping across rutted ground. Russ felt a brief pang of regret for any crops they might inadvertently have crushed. Then he was unstrapping himself and hauling ass out of the cockpit. It wasn’t more than a quarter-mile’s run to the wall. Both men did it at full sprint, bypassing hollowed-out, roofless former houses. This area had once been city—now its concrete was torn up, replaced with fields and dirt roads.
“He’d better be here,” Cam said as they reached the base of the wall.
“Talk mind-to-mind from now on
Russ replied. He didn’t scare easily, but the Shadow Feds were reputed to be ruthless bastards. Wholly intent upon gaining recognition as the true power in America, they’d reached new heights a few weeks ago.
Russ leaned against the concrete wall and shook his head. Nobody knew how the Shadow Feds had planted Felton inside the Complex, but the man had given orders that had nearly killed a pair of Russ’s friends. Not to mention the fact that Felton’s actions had most likely caused a bunch of dormant alien females to wake up and smell the coffee…