Chapter One

“Everyone’s in position. Just waiting on your word.”

At the sound of the deep male voice, Reese shifted her gaze from the high-voltage electric fence in the distance to find her most trusted friend emerge from the shadows. Sloan wore black from head to toe, and he was armed to the teeth. So was she. They all were.

She bit the inside of her cheek. Just waiting on your word. Because it all came down to her. Her word. Her plan. Her decision to rob this munitions depot.

The weight of leadership was heavier than normal tonight. The crushing losses she’d suffered, the unceasing guilt she harbored . . . they were light and airy compared to this burden. Before, her raids had involved teams of three at the most, but this one consisted of more than triple that. She was holding too many people’s lives in her hands, and she didn’t fucking like it.

“You want to abort?” Sloan studied her face, his hazel eyes piercing through the armor that always turned from steely to flimsy when he was around.

He knew her well. Too well. Four years ago, when this strong, silent man joined up with her small band of outlaws, it had taken mere seconds for Reese to trust him. Something about Sloan had compelled her to confide in him, to lean on him, to seek him out whenever a decision needed to be made.

It was no surprise that his simple prompting lifted the lid on the self-doubt she’d been trying to contain. “This could backfire on us. People could die.”

“We all die eventually.” His tone didn’t hold a trace of emotion. “If it happens tonight, at least it’ll be for a good cause.”

“Will it?” Her teeth dug deeper into her cheek. What cause was she really fighting for? Freedom?

Or was it vengeance?

She wanted the Global Council to burn. She wanted to kill every single council member in the Colonies, every single Enforcer who carried out their dirty work. If she succeeded, the citizens living behind the city walls would be free. The outlaws living in secret outside those walls would no longer be hunted. But Reese would be lying if she said her motives were selfless.

The council had stolen everything from her. Every goddamn thing that she’d ever held dear. She despised them for it, and when that red-hot hatred burned as hot as it did now, it stripped away all notions that she might be doing this for anything other than pure revenge.

As usual, Sloan read her mind. He chuckled. “Doesn’t matter that the cause-for you, anyway-might be tangled up with a bunch of other shit. It’s still a cause, sweetheart. It’s still something we all want.” He jerked his head toward the small warehouse several hundred yards away. “We want those guns. We want to kill the bastards who are guarding those guns. And we’re going to succeed.”

A smile ghosted across her face. “We will, huh?”

“We’ve been planning this for weeks. Those motherfuckers don’t stand a chance against us.”

The rare flicker of humor in his eyes wore away at her hesitation. If Sloan was confident this could work, then she had to be too. He was right-meticulous planning had gone into it. They knew where every perimeter guard was posted. They knew exactly how many Enforcers were manning the interior. They knew the codes to deactivate the fence. They knew how to disable the cameras and the backup alert that the Enforcers would try to dispatch.

If they followed the plan to the last letter, they would get out of this alive.

Probably.

Maybe.

Fuck. She was doubting herself again.

Reese stared at the warehouse and wished there were more places around it to use for cover. The wooded area spanning the rear and east side was advantageous for only half her people; approaching the front of the building would be impossible to do covertly. The warehouse’s location was completely isolated, which made sense because the structure, for all intents and purposes, was a gigantic time bomb. With all the potential ammo, weapons, and explosives inside, one tiny accident could kill everyone in the vicinity. The blast barriers might absorb most of the damage, but either way, an explosion wasn’t the outcome Reese hoped to get out of this.

She wanted those weapons.

But she also wanted her people to stay alive.

“Maybe we should do this alone,” she told Sloan, wincing at the note of panic in her voice. “You and me. Send the others home.”

His handsome features creased. She couldn’t tell if he was worried or annoyed. Probably the latter. God knew she was pretty fucking annoyed with herself right now. Why was she acting like a scared little girl?

“They know what they’re doing,” Sloan assured her. “We made sure of it.”

They had. Reese had assembled her best-trained people for this raid. And Connor Mackenzie, the leader of a small camp not far from hers, had sent three of his best men as well. Rylan, Pike, and Xander were used to these types of dangerous missions. In fact, Xan’s technological prowess was what made the entire plan possible.

“Give the order, Reese,” Sloan said softly. “We’ve wasted enough time.”

She swallowed. Then she reached for the radio strapped to her belt. One shaky jab of her finger and she was addressing her soldiers. “Go time,” she murmured. “The front guards will be switching rotation in three minutes. Xan, disable the fence now.”

“Copy,” came Xander’s faint reply.

There was no outward sign that the fence would no longer zap anything that came in contact with it, but Reese trusted Xander when he reported a moment later that they were all set. The fence and cameras had been taken care of.

“Rylan, get ready,” she said into the radio.

“Born ready,” the bane of her existence drawled back.

She pictured him lying flat on his belly like a snake, hidden behind the small rise in the landscape that was hardly considered decent cover but was their only option. If the night breeze rustled even one strand of his hair, the Enforcers at the front gates would spot him. Though Rylan probably got off on that. From what Reese had seen, the man was addicted to danger.

She really wished Connor hadn’t sent Rylan to join the party. The gorgeous blond outlaw got on her nerves, big-time. But he was also one of the most lethal fighters she’d ever met, thanks to the years he’d spent training recruits for the now defunct People’s Army, an outlaw military group that had risen decades ago to fight the GC right after the war.

She might not like Rylan, but she needed him.

She glanced at Sloan, who was getting his rifle in position. “Let’s do this shit,” she said with a sigh.

His mouth quirked up in an almost smile.

The radio crackled to life again. “Shift change about to happen,” Pike reported.

Reese took a breath before voicing the command. “Go.”

There was only a split second of silence between her orders and the gunfire that blasted through the night.

Reese and Sloan burst out of the tree line, rifles up, fingers on the triggers. All her people had been given the same order: shoot to kill. They weren’t taking prisoners.

Four Enforcers stood at the back gate, identifiable by their black tactical gear with red stripes down the sides of their pants. Two were behind the fence; two were posted at the gate beyond it. Reese didn’t hesitate as she took aim on her enemies and opened fire.

Between her and Sloan-and the element of surprise-the guards at the gate dropped like flies, dead before they even hit the pavement.

The two behind the fence were a different story.

“Take cover!” Sloan shouted as they charged toward the fence.

Reese dove for shelter behind a military Jeep parked nearby. Sloan threw himself beside her as bullets whizzed above their heads. The Enforcers were shouting sharp, muffled orders to each other that Reese couldn’t make out over the gunshots. The odor of gunpowder filled the air and she breathed it in as she repositioned her rifle and turned to Sloan.

“Head for the gate. I’ll cover you.”

He nodded, waited for her silent count, then flew forward with a surprising amount of grace and dexterity for such a large man. Reese popped up and provided cover fire, crowing in triumph when one of her bullets connected with her target. The assault rifle clattered out of the Enforcer’s hands as a pained shout left his mouth. She’d hit his shooting arm. Good. That meant one less weapon being aimed at Sloan as he stormed the gate.

Shots continued to explode from all directions, but she refused to think about what was going on outside her assigned quadrant, refused to consider that her people might be caught in the crossfire she was hearing all around her. She focused on backing up Sloan, protecting Sloan.

“Clear!” he called less than a minute later.

Adrenaline surged through her blood as she hurried toward him. The cameras affixed to the tops of the fence weren’t blinking green, but she still angled her face away from them, ducking her head as she ran.

Sloan trained his rifle on the rear doors. Reese did the same. She expected those doors to fly open at any second. The Enforcers guarding the interior would panic once they realized their lockdown procedures had been thwarted, a notion that brought a cruel smile to her lips. This station and its security protocols were wholly dependent on the technology that kept it operational. Thanks to Xander, all systems were down.

Her smile widened when muffled gunshots sounded from inside the warehouse. “They’re in,” she murmured to Sloan.

He didn’t look as thrilled by that. “We should be in there too.” But he didn’t make a move toward the doors.

“We stay in position,” she told him. “Stick to the plan, remember?”

And the plan required them to secure the rear and take out any Enforcers who tried to flee. Rylan and the others were doing their part inside.

It felt like an interminably long time before the gunfire died down and her people began reporting in.

“All clear.” Beckett, who was with Nash on the west side of the warehouse.

“Clear.” Davis and Cole from the east.

“All good here.” Xander, who was monitoring the tech from one of their trucks.

“You guys can head inside now.” The final report came from Rylan, sounding mighty pleased with himself.

Reese clicked on the radio. “Any casualties?”

A chorus of nos rang out, though she didn’t miss the note of hesitation in Pike’s voice. Shit. She hoped all her people were in one piece.

“Let’s go,” she said brusquely.

Weapons drawn, she and Sloan raced toward the two metal doors that swung open at their approach. A beaming Rylan appeared, his blue eyes dancing with mischief. “Hey, guys. Fancy meeting you here.”

Sloan rolled his eyes.

“Is everything a joke to you?” Reese asked irritably.

“Gorgeous, we just raided a weapons depot and didn’t die. I think I’m allowed to be in a good mood right now.”

He had a point.

As they followed Rylan into the fluorescent-lit corridor, the ringing in Reese’s ears eased, replaced by the wild hammering of her pulse. Holy fuck. They’d done it. They’d actually done it.

“Everyone okay?” she asked Rylan.

He shrugged. “More or less.”

“What the hell does that mean?”

“Your girl Sam took a bullet, but she’ll live.”

A rush of concern overtook her, spurring her to walk faster. Damn it. She’d been torn about bringing Sam along, but the woman was one of the best sharpshooters in Foxworth, the small town Reese had commandeered years ago.

“Where is she?” Reese demanded.

Rylan gestured to the set of doors at the end of the hall. “Pike’s stitching her up. Don’t worry, everything’s fine.”

Reese only moved faster. She’d be a fool to take Rylan’s word for anything-the man could be bleeding out from his femoral artery and still insist everything was “fine.” She rarely saw him without some injury that was “no big deal, gorgeous”, although he was always quick to ask her to kiss it and make it better.

She pushed at the doors and found herself in a cavernous room filled with endless rows of shelving soaring almost to the ceiling. The scent of metal, gunpowder, and blood assaulted her nostrils as she stepped through the threshold. She paid no attention to the bodies strewn all over the cement floor. Dead Enforcers meant nothing to her.

Apparently they meant nothing to Rylan too; he didn’t even glance down as he carelessly stepped over the bloodied body of an Enforcer who’d taken several bullets to the chest.

“See? She’s fine.” Rylan sounded exasperated as he pointed across the warehouse.

Reese relaxed when she glimpsed Sam. The slender brunette was sitting on a plastic chair, wearing a stony expression as Pike tied what looked like a piece of his shirt around her upper arm.

“You okay, Sammy?” Reese called out.

“Peachy,” the woman called back, then offered a thumbs-up.

Appeased, Reese walked over to the nearest aisle and poked her head around the corner. Stacks upon stacks of wooden crates met her eyes, and then she spotted Beckett already hard at work, prying a crate open with his crowbar. He grinned when he saw her, then shoved aside a sea of packing peanuts to extract a gleaming assault rifle from the crate.

“Nice, huh?” he remarked.

Her heart started pounding again, this time from excitement rather than adrenaline. When she’d been gathering intel about this warehouse, all her sources were unclear about whether it would contain weapons or ammunition. Most depots weren’t equipped to handle both, and it would have been pointless to get their hands on a shit ton of ammo when they had no weapons to use it with.

But Reese’s gut had told her that West Colony’s council members didn’t have enough manpower to guard multiple munitions warehouses, particularly with the new colony that they were supposedly terraforming along the west coast. She’d banked on the council consolidating both weapons and ammo in one place, and her gamble had paid off.

These weapons were hers now. The endless boxes of ammunition were hers. It was all hers.

Her pulse sped up at the thought, but there was no time to bask in her victory. Once the Enforcers they’d killed missed their hourly check-in with headquarters, the city would send backup.

Reese clapped her hands together, and the sharp sound echoed through the massive space. “Load the trucks,” she ordered. “We have fifteen minutes to take as much as we can. Let’s not waste time, people.”