Dead Man’s Gulch, a piece of the Wild, Wild West plunked down in the middle of the Arizona desert. Off the beaten path, its isolation made it the perfect headquarters for our resistance movement. Underground bunkers had been added when the Tai-Kok and Rodan began raiding our world.
My tiny office was located in the jail. I loved the atmosphere. The walls were covered with old wanted posters. A leather duster and gun belt complete with a functional 1873 Colt Peacemaker hung on the antique coatrack.
I polished the gold badge pinned to my fringed leather shirt. Officially, I was Dead Man’s Gulch’s marshal, and when the need arose, I was authorized to make arrests.
With my long black hair and copper-colored skin, most people thought I was Native American, not Coletti. Which worked out perfectly when the theme park was still open. I could either become Calamity Jane, the great American sharpshooter and sheriff, or an Indian princess.
My latest bust had been a transient who thought an abandoned ghost town would be the perfect place to set up housekeeping. The buildings might look empty, but they’re not. Two hundred soldiers usually live below ground in the bunkers. Pops had taken all but the command staff to raid a holding center in Texas.
Through the dusty front window, I watched a coyote amble down the dirt street. With a sigh, I surveyed my cluttered desk. Paperwork was the bane of my existence. As Pops’s second in command I was responsible for strategy, equipping our troops, and getting new identities for the rescued women.
Central Command had a stranglehold on weapons, and we were forced to buy from Mexican gunrunners. Not an exercise for the faint of heart. The thugs thought a woman would be an easy mark, until I taught them otherwise.
To make things really interesting, the Overlord had sent his best hunter, Jaylan, to Earth to track down and eliminate all members of Earth First. He had already destroyed our bases in Nevada and Oregon. Pops was beyond pissed.
A thousand fireflies sparked in my brain as my internal radar went on red alert. I almost inhaled my gum when an enormous Coletti warrior abruptly teleported into my office.
His fangs bared in a feral snarl, he demanded, “Where are they?”
Holy hell, it was Jaylan! This was so not good. I quickly stomped on the silent alarm hidden beneath my desk, and assumed my mother’s ditzy demeanor. “We’re an Old West theme park, and while your costume is very authentic, we’re looking for gunslingers, not Jedi knights or Coletti invaders.”
Jaylan cocked a disbelieving eyebrow and leveled the barrel of his laser pistol at my chest. “Put your hands up.”
“No sense in getting all cranky. We aren’t hiring right now, and even if we were, you’d have to lose those fangs.”
The warlord leaned across the desk, literally oozing menace. “Do you wish to die?”
“Boy, someone sure got up on the wrong side of the bed. With that stinky attitude, no one is going to hire you, but seeing how you drove all the way out here, I’ll give you an application form.” I reached into my top desk drawer and froze when Jaylan jammed his laser pistol against my forehead.
“Do not move.”
I popped my gum loudly. “Okeydoke.”
“Put your hands up,” Jaylan commanded again.
Blowing a huge purple bubble, I slowly raised my hands and tried not to laugh when he grabbed the trash can and ordered, “Spit it out.”
I spat. My wad missed the trash can and hit his spiffy boot instead. “Ooops.”
“Ooops?” Jaylan’s eyes burned with the promise of retaliation.
“Sorry. My aim was off a bit. Let me get that for you,” I added in my best dumb-as-a-rock voice and smeared the offending glob over his boot. “Sticky little bugger.”
“Leave it!” he bellowed.
“You sure?” I swiped my finger upward, spreading the gooey mess onto his pants. “I’ve got some fingernail polish that will clean it right off.”
“Enough! Do you take me for a fool?”
I burst into tears, sobbing as if my heart had been broken. “I was... I was...just trying to help.”
“Stop your sniveling.”
Grabbing a bunch of tissues off my desk, I noisily blew my nose and offered timidly, “Can I get you some coffee?”
“No.” The warlord studied me suspiciously for a long moment, then turned his attention to searching my desk.
My gaze roamed over Jaylan’s chiseled features and strong jaw. Damn, he was one hot dude, if you were into the whole merciless-predator thing. His black battle suit displayed an amazing amount of muscles, and he wore a large bronze communication bracelet on each arm. A bronze chain was woven into his ebony warrior braids. Two daggers protruded from his knee-high armored boots, and he even had a wicked-looking sword hanging from his weapons belt.
I added a quiver to my voice. “Is this a robbery? Because, buddy, you picked the wrong place to rob. There’s no money here.”
Jaylan yanked me from my chair. “Tell me where your commander is, and I will be merciful.”
What kind of dialogue is that? You sound like someone out of a bad action movie.”
A growl rumbled in Jaylan’s throat. Grabbing a handful of my shirt, he picked me up with his left hand. “Where is your commander?”
I glanced down in surprise. My toes dangled inches from the floor. I was six feet tall, and this guy had lifted me effortlessly. “Commander? Oh, you mean my boss?”
“Yes,” Jaylan snapped, giving me a hard shake.
“He’s not here.”
He shook me again. “Where is he?”
“I don’t know. I’m just the part-time secretary. I come in twice a week to do the paperwork.”
Animosity glittered in Jaylan’s amber eyes. “You cannot be this stupid.”
I narrowed my
amber eyes and huffed, “Excuse me?”
“We tracked the females here. You will take me to them.”
“If you’re looking for the whorehouse, it’s another twenty miles down the road.” I tugged at his hand. “Could you put me down? You’re wrinkling my shirt.”
Jaylan dropped me in the chair and commanded, “Do not move.”
“Who died and made you boss?”
He pushed his laser pistol against my nose. “This makes me the boss
Crossing my eyes, I stared at it. “How do I know it’s real?”
Jaylan’s expression was one of total exasperation. He moved his laser pistol three inches to the right and obliterated my filing cabinet.
“Oh. My. God. You’re gonna get me fired!” I shrieked in dismay.
“If you do not cooperate, you are going to wish you were dead.”
“You know, nine dollars an hour is not worth this shit. I quit.” Picking up my backpack, I headed for the door and ran into a rock hard chest.
“You are not going anywhere.”
I yanked out a canister of super-duper military-grade mace from my backpack and sprayed him in the face. “Wanna bet?”
Yowling in fury, Jaylan staggered back, rubbing at his eyes. “You will regret this, female.”
My eyes watering badly, I growled, “The name is Bree. Not female, and you’re a bully. I hate
bullies.” I grabbed the cattle prod we used on our Brahma bulls off the desk. I shoved it into his neck and lit him up.
With a grunt of pain, he dropped to his knees. Barely ten seconds later, I felt Jaylan’s mind bounce off my rather awesome mental shields.
Damn, he was a tough one. “Surprise, I’m a Siren. The first line of defense against alien monsters like you. You know, one of those women whose psychic abilities make us prime breeding stock? The ones you assholes turn into broodmares.”
Jaylan’s mental voice was mesmerizing, compelling. “Drop your shields.”
“Oh, give it a rest. Mind control doesn’t work on me.”
I zapped him again and again and again until he lay quivering on the floor. Bullies brought out my mean streak.
Jaylan’s amber eyes locked on me. A cold rush of fear tightened my stomach at the terrible fury burning there. How was he still conscious?
“There is no place you can run that I cannot find you.”
“I beg to differ.” I picked up his laser pistol, switched it over to stun, and blasted him. Crackling red energy danced over Jaylan.
“I. Will. Find you,” Jaylan snarled between clenched teeth; his body convulsed violently.
Wow. Color me impressed. The dude didn’t go down easy. Just to aggravate him a bit, I leaned over him and patted his cheek. “It’s been fun playing with you, numb nuts.”
A low growl broke from him.
My cell phone beeped. I scooped it off the desk. “Hello.”
My father roared, “Are you fucking nuts?”
Damn, he must be monitoring the security feeds. “Hey, Pops.”
“That Coletti will never stop until he captures or kills you.”
“That Coletti is Jaylan. You know, the Overlord’s big, scary hunter, and I just defeated him.”
Horror filled Pops’s voice. “Good God, what have you done?”
“Captured a bad guy.” Something none of our soldiers had ever accomplished. Where was my pat on the back?
“Kill him,” Pops commanded.
“What?” Was he nuts? I couldn’t shoot Jaylan in cold blood. A zillion fireflies danced in my head as my radar went to DEFCON 1. Fuck.
Jaylan had summoned reinforcements. “Gotta go. Company’s coming.”
Pops snapped, “If you let him live, you will regret it.”
Spasms still rocked Jaylan’s body, and I smiled confidently. “The warlord has been neutralized.” Lowering my shields, I used my Siren abilities to scan the area. A bunch of Colettis were approaching on foot. I was definitely outgunned.
Jaylan’s voice was an ominous whisper. “Neutralized?” He darted psychically across my lowered shields and tried to pin me down mentally.
With a gasp of pain, I instinctively struck back, punching the hell out of the bastard’s mind.
The warlord blocked my blows and hammered my inner shields.
“The only brains getting scrambled are yours.” I stunned the warlord again with the cattle prod and kicked him out of my head. A shuddering breath escaped me. That’ll teach me to get cocky.
A hand clamped painfully around my right ankle and yanked me off my feet. “Not. Leaving,” Jaylan rasped.
I knew warlords were a relentless bunch, but enough was enough. I drew my left foot back and kicked him in the face with my steel-toed boot.
He smiled at me.
Holy Mary, Mother of God. His smile was the most terrifying thing I’d ever seen.
Pops’s voice sounded from the cell phone. “The self-destruct sequence has started. Quit playing with the Coletti.”
“Yes, sir.” I pulled the knife from my boot and waved it at Jaylan. “Let go, or I will use this.”
His grip tightened.
“Not too bright, are you, buddy?” I stabbed the jerk in the hand and yanked my foot free.
“Mine,” Jaylan rumbled, stark possessiveness in his eyes.
“Never gonna happen. If I were you, I’d start crawling. You’ve got about ten minutes before this place goes boom.” I typed a command into my computer, and a door opened in the wall. Picking up my backpack, I smiled sweetly at him. “See you around, numb nuts.”
As the door slid shut behind me, the warlord’s horrific battle cry echoed off the walls.
The hairs on the back of my neck stood up. If he ever caught me, I’d be in big trouble.