Brian entered the bar without showing fear, but his heart pounded. This seemed like a good idea a few minutes ago.
Vampire ears stiffened.
Troll beards curled up in shock.
“We don’t serve normals here, boy.” The twitchy bartender waved a furry hand. “Get along or it’ll be your blood.”
Brian snorted, pushing aside the terror in favor of arrogance. It works for my mom. “I’d like a beer and a job. Maybe a potion or two, if the troll has time.”
“Magic user?” The bartender noted heads and ears drooping in disappointment; he waved the kid closer. “You’ll have to prove that to stay. The boss is strict about not…associating with humans.”
Brian chose to keep acting like his mother. “Shall I light a fire?”
Stools cleared in front of the bar.
Patrons vanished in fast blurs.
The bartender scowled. “That was uncalled for.”
Brian shrugged. “Be specific when you address a descendant. If you don’t, we’ll always use it against you.”
“A wise lesson.” A corner chair shifted behind him.
Brian stiffened at the sultry voice. He swallowed, fighting the pull. “Succubus.”
The female laughed, sending shivers through all the remaining men enjoying special brews and beers. “Interested?”
Brian walked toward the bar. “There has to be something left of me when the deal’s finished, so no.”
He settled on a rusting stool and flipped his wrist. “Let’s have that beer. Then I’ll give you proof. In return, you’ll tell me where I can find work to get me through the winter.”
The bartender sniggered as he waddled off to get the beer from the cooler in the rear of the single room.
Brian spun on the stool to observe the other patrons.
They were all staring at him.
Brian grinned, letting his eyes glow red.
Oddly formed mouths and faces sagged, then turned away. He’d proven he was a magic user. There was no fun to be had now. A normal teenager walking into this lion’s den would have given them something to do.
Brian scanned the dusky sex addict in the corner, aware that she was still sending her vibes to tempt him. Not my type. Brian thought of his first encounter with a woman and turned back around. That sweet girl had been normal and black headed. The succubus had purple locks and breasts bigger than his head. There was no comparison.
“What about now?”
Brian refused to look. “Pulling it from my memories is cheating. You’ve gotten lazy.”
Brian laughed. “Not really. Not yet. But I will be in time.”
The bartender set his beer on the counter and went back to reading by lantern light. Like the others, he’d lost the scent of blood coming.
Brian cleared his throat. “A job?”
The bartender shrugged. “We’re slow here. You might ask the people you scared off…”
“For your trouble.” Brian took a small pouch from his pocket and tossed it to the man; he caught it out of reflex.
Baret nodded, stowing the bag of dust. “The boss comes in right before dawn. Talk to her.”
Brian nodded, standing. “’ll stay out of the way. Thank you.”
Barnet snorted. “See if you feel that way in a week, kid.”
Brian already knew what he’d signed up for, but he needed information for his quest, and this was the fastest way to get it. He settled at a tiny table in the far corner and leaned against the wall. A few minutes later, he was snoring softly.
No one bothered him. Despite his youth, the boy thought he was skilled enough to enter a creature watering hole and sleep. They didn’t want to know if he could back it up.
The main door opened just before dawn.
The bartender poured a double shot from the home bottle and pushed it across the counter. “Long night?”
“Fruitless.” Daphne downed the drink, gasping at the fire. “Anything I should…” She picked up the snoring, turned.
“Job hunter, he says. Magic user too.”
Daphne ignored Bartner’s words, instead studying the glow around the sleeping teenager. “That scent…”
Brian’s eyes snapped open as cold danger swept through the bar. He stared at the stunning vampire leader, trying to bring up a shield to block her coming attack.
Daphne chuckled. “New meat is always best.”
Brian flushed, but kept building his mental shield. This woman was dangerous to him in every way.
“I have a job, little Mitchel.” Daphne sauntered toward him. “A week at a time.” She bared her fangs as she got close. “I get you first, then last. We’ll see what you’ve learned after being passed around the elite families.”
Brian swallowed his panic to nod. “Make the official bond with me.”
Daphne held out her hand. “For ten services and a finale.”
“What’s the pay?” Brian trembled, blood rushing to places he rarely used unless he had to. He’d tried to avoid the family legacy.
“Half the service time will be training in our ways.” She glanced at him slyly. “That is why you came, is it not?”
Brian nodded, hand coming up to clasp hers. “You have a deal. When does it start?”
Daphne snatch him from the chair and ran for her cellar den.
Bartner shook his head, pushing away the guilt. “They always think she’ll honor the deal. Poor boys.”
Brian screamed, cowering against the cell wall.
Daphne locked the door and turned to him, fangs out and eyes red. “Let’s see that neck!”
Brian screamed again, arm coming up to cover his head.
Daphne rushed toward him, hungry. Hunting was harder since the war.
Brian cringed as she grabbed his arm…then he kissed her. He used his draw on her, locking her in place against his mouth.
Brian smiled, feeling her fury under the lust and need now controlling her body. “Not really an easy target, Daph.” He kissed her, hard, enjoying her mewling moans. “I’ll give you what you want, but not my blood. You have to earn that. Got it?”
Daphne shuddered, torn between the lust and the thirst.
Brian kissed her again.
Her control snapped. She kissed him back, melting in his arms.
Brian smirked against her lips, sending out a new wave. “The only thing an older vampire wants more than fresh blood is multiple orgasms.” He licked her lower lip. “I can do that.”
Brian gave her what she was begging for, thanking his grandfather for the inherited skill. No one could draw the opposite sex like a Mitchel. That talent had made them the most hated family on the planet.
Brian stood up. “In a few minutes.” He drank from his canteen and enjoyed the feeling. It wasn’t the after sex tingles, though he had them and they were good. It also wasn’t from conquering the dangerous woman in the bed without having to get hurt in the process. He was on his first quest. The feeling was indescribable.
“Why did you come here?’ Daphne shivered, staring at his hands. She’d never had a man do that to her before; it was a shock that this boy had. “Come back to bed.”
“I need information and training.”
“There are easier ways for a magic user to get both of those.” Daphne shut her eyes, feeling dawn’s tug on her vampire body. She would sleep soon and be vulnerable, cold.
“I’ll keep you warm while you sleep.”
“You’ll slit my throat.”
Brian replaced the canteen and went to the window to scan the small town around her basement den. It was a small window, covered in bloody handprints that made it hard to view through. “We have a deal in place. I’d never break it, though you would have.”
Daphne growled. “Too much talking!”
Brian chuckled. “Once more and then you sleep. When you get up, go hunting before you touch me.”
“I hate waiting!” Daphne sniffled. “I’ll make it a short hunt. Be ready for me.”
Brian climbed into the bed and slid on top of her. He adjust his already ready body and rocked into her the way he’d already discovered brought her the most pleasure.
“Use the draw!”
Brian blasted her with his waves of need and hunger. He rocked harder, concentrating on his work. This was a job, like any other. It even came with a good feeling when accomplished. It deserved ruthless attention to detail.
Above them, Bartner wiped down the counter, surprised by the noises. It sounded like the boy was serving her well. Bartner began to hate him a little more with each female moan and plea he heard.
“Now!” Alexa lunged forward to scare the small herd of deer.
The animals scattered, hopping over each other and the boulders.
Edward stood up, bow raised… His arrow hit the target, taking down a large buck.
Alexa joined him as the rest of the herd regrouped a hundred yards away. “Nice shot.”
Edward chuckled. “Never used a bow until now. I like it.”
“So do I. I’ve always found it soothing somehow.”
Edward put the bow into the sheath on his back and knelt by the buck. He broke off the arrow in its chest, glad the animal had died quickly. His first kill last week hadn’t. He’d had to end its misery with his knife. That hadn’t been enjoyable.
“You’ll take it back?”
Edward nodded. “Go hunt. I’m good.”
Alexa moved away from him, senses alert for trouble. She didn’t want to hunt helpless deer. She craved a human source.
Edward pulled the warm carcass across the snowy ground to their cart, marveling at his strength. In the three weeks they’d been here, all of them had bulked up and recovered. Even Alexa had put on a little weight, though it was barely noticeable. If not for satisfying her needs, he might not have. He was sure the other men had as well. They’d worried it might be pregnancy, but Alexa had informed them that vampires don’t reproduce.
They hadn’t asked how she knew or if she was sure. They’d accepted that answer because it was what they wanted to hear. But they were all watching her in case the information was wrong. Brian hadn’t told them that, despite knowing they worried over it. A few of the crew suspected Alexa was keeping the peace by giving them false information.
Edward didn’t. He trusted their leader in every way. He just couldn’t stop thinking about how wonderful it would be to be connected to Alexa for life that way. His desire to be her mate was still growing. Their trips out hunting together had increased his urges.
Edward saw Alexa had stopped only a few feet away. She stared into the west, like she did often. Her hand slid to her gun… Edward ran to her side, drawing his own.
“Easy.” She peered into the snowstorm. “We have a supplier coming, I think.”
Edward holstered. “Do we need anything he has?”
Alexa shrugged. “Let’s go find out.”
Edward stayed on her heels as she strode into the middle of the snowy street to meet the lone man trekking through the storm. Edward found it suspicious.
Alexa didn’t. She assumed it was fate. She also began preparing for news that would put them back on the road. She wasn’t ready to go, and neither was her team, but they would follow where the quest led. That was the job.
The man coming toward them was buried in layers of furs and wore boots that came to his thighs. He led a mule on a rope, loaded with bags covered in snow. It was obvious he’d been traveling through the storm. The white fluff was an inch deep on his wide hat.
The man spotted Alexa and Edward. He waved a gloved hand.
Alexa waved back. She kept her other hand on her gun.
“Hello!” The man stopped ten feet away, studying them. After a minute, he grinned, showing straight, white teeth. “Happy evening to you.”
“The same and more, friend.” Alexa enjoyed the old speech. She’d learned it from her father, but rarely got to use it in conversation.
“Nice evening we’re having here.”
Edward chuckled. “Yep. Might even get some weather later.”
The man’s laughter brayed into the storm.
The mule lifted a snowy head in confusion.
“That we might.” The trader tugged on the rope to stop the mule that was still walking. “I have a few items you may be interested in.”
“The same.” Alexa turned toward their den. “Come share a fire and drink, then we’ll trade.”
“I’d be honored.” He tugged on the rope and followed.
Edward stayed next to the man, taking in details like he was supposed to.
The trader glanced over. “You the boss?”
Edward shook his head.
The trader plodded forward. “Didn’t think so. Might be a problem for you tomorrow.”
“A group of resistance fighters are coming this way. They’re okay with magic, and most other creatures, but they don’t tolerate female leadership.”
“Thank you for the information.” Edward considered the options and chose the simplest solution. “When they come through, I’ll be the boss.”
The trader chuckled loudly. “Knew you were smart.” He extended a hand. “I’m Ulysses G. Smith.”
“Edward.” He shook, wondering if the man’s comment about magic and creatures meant he’d noticed they were different. He hoped not. The trader was nice. It would be a shame to feed him to Alexa for a midnight snack.
Alexa waited on the porch for the trader and Edward. When she’d opened the door, hand on her gun, the rest of her men had risen.
“We have company.”
Billy and Jacob took the right while David and Daniel took the left.
Edward waved the trader inside. “I’ll stable your mule if you like. We have a small pen with deer.”
The trader nodded. “She needs to drink, but don’t feed her. She has a blockage. Needs to push it through.”
Edward took the lead and walked the big, docile animal around the side of the house.
“This is Ulysses. He’s a trader.” Alexa let the man enter first. “He needs a hot meal and a cool drink.”
Daniel had the food shift. He went to get the items, but still observed their guest.
Billy and the others holstered at Alexa’s signal, resuming their places around the crackling fire.
Alexa shut the door and joined the men in the circle.
Ulysses sank down by her with a grunt and a fart. “Oh. My pardon.”
“Beans do that to you.” She waved at the bowl Daniel was filling. “We had deer stew.”
“Sounds good.” The trader dropped a small pouch by her hand. “For your hospitality.”
Alexa stored it without looking in the bag. “It’s our honor. Stay in peace; leave the same come dawn.”
Ulysses relaxed. “This is nice. I’ve never met a magic using vampire.”
Alexa shook her head when her men tensed. “Ulysses makes his living on catching details, my pets. Like us.”
“Aye. It serves me well to know who my clients are.” Ulysses took the bowl. “My thanks.”
Daniel nodded back, but didn’t feel right using their speech. Alexa hadn’t taught it to them, but they were picking it up.
“Have you had many clients around here?”
Ulysses shook his head, chewing with his mouth open. “Just a town almost a week back. Some kid was raising hell there. People said he was a Mitchel. I left before it got crazy.”
Alexa chuckled. “Brian.”
The trader nodded. “That was him. Those Mitchels sure know how to get under people’s skin.”
“Yes. The family reputation is a bit…harsh.”
The trader shoveled in more food. “Young for so much damage.” He slurped in noodles. “And alone. Kid might be a badass if he lives long enough.”
“He was with the vampires?” Billy grinned, happy the boy was already working on his quest.
“Yeah, he claimed the daughter of a prominent tribe and killed her controller. She was being slaved out to passing travelers. I heard the kid sexed her up so well she won’t even look at anyone else.”
Laughter floated through the cozy room.
Ulysses joined them, snorting.
Edward’s return broke the amusement. His face was grim. “Your mule passed on.”
The trader grunted. “She was rough the last few days. I’ll find a new one. Always have.”
“Fate provides...” Alexa sipped the hot coffee.
“And man takes advantage,” Ulysses finished. He shoved in another mouthful. “I was telling your man about a group of fighters coming this direction. They’re on the way to confront the big bunker.”
That got everyone’s attention. Silence fell except for the trader chewing.
Alexa sighed. “I’ll be playing the role of slave for a day or two.”
Ulysses snickered. “Guess that’s a role you don’t see much of.”
“No, not usually.” Alex sat her cup down and began taking pouches from her cloak. “What can we offer for a full account of your travels through this wasteland?”
“A warm place to sleep and none of those slugs you’re all loaded with.”
“Deal.” Alexa pushed two pouches toward him. “These are for your silence after you leave.”
Ulysses frowned. “The men coming through will tell tales.”
“Perhaps, but they may not see what you have.”
Ulysses smiled. “Clever Mitchels. No wonder you’ve all survived so long.”
Alexa chuckled. “Yes, we have a very winning way with people when we’re not making bitter enemies of them.”
The trader scooped up the pouches and stored them. “Your secrets are safe with me. Now, what would you like to know?”
Alexa leaned over, eyes lighting up. “Everything.”
Evening moved into the small town with heavy wind, smothered the small group in icy waves. Nothing moved outside the cabin except for nature.
Alexa knew that wouldn’t last. The trader had told them the size he’d estimated and the amount of weapons, but he’d been unable to give more. All he kept saying was their leader was strong. Alexa expected that. The leader had clearly made an impression on the older trader and she doubted he was easily impressed. Alexa hoped the good vibes held steady with their next guests. This one had been full of trading items and information, with a great attitude and a lot of respect for the situation. She’d actually enjoyed his company. It was a nice change.
Edward handed Alexa a cup of tea, aware of the sweating men in the warm cabin. They smelled like the best feast he’d ever attended. It wasn’t just because it was needed blood pumping through those arms and legs. These men were special. He could smell it on them.
So could Alexa. She looked at Edward in sympathy and firm denial.
Edward went back to the fire to retrieve a cup for himself. Everyone else was sleeping, though the trader was doing it sitting up against the wall by the door. His light snores were steady, almost calming.
Alexa yawned, sipped from her cup. It had been such a good evening that she was loath to end it.
Edward wasn’t sure what to offer her next, so he sat in the chair by the fire and listened for clues to anything else she wanted right now.
“A drink.” She stood up and moved toward the door. “Are you coming?”
Edward was on her heels in seconds, mood improving.
Alexa slipped out and pulled up her hood, eyes scanning for the threat she’d sensed.
Edward shut the door without nodding to Daniel. The biker had woken the instant the door opened.
Wind pushed against them; snow floated over them, but neither of them felt the cold like the other men would have.
Alexa wished that wasn’t true, but saving the vampire baby had been necessary--not for their safety, but for her sanity. No matter the type, it was just a baby. She held a deep compassion in her heart for those tiny creatures. I’ll never have my own.
Alexa’s sadness wafted over Edward. He turned to give her comfort and stopped himself. She didn’t want that. It wasn’t his duty.
Alexa led the way from the porch, proud of him. Edward was learning to control himself no matter the situation. It was impressive.
The pair vanished into the snow, following Alexa’s mental map.
“You could stay longer.” Edward held the door for the trader at dawn, not feeling the cold from the snow as the wind blew flakes inside. “She likes you.”
The trader hefted himself over the threshold, loaded down. “How can you tell?”
Edward chuckled. “Well, she slept and then gave you more supplies than you can carry. Then she made Billy and David go out this morning and find you a new mount.”
Ulysses started down the snow-covered stairs, pulling up his hood. “We’ll see each other again. She made sure I’d cover this route.”
“That she did.” Edward hadn’t understood Alexa’s friendly behavior with the trader at first, but he’d understood when she began trading him for items they needed. Ulysses would be a way for them to resupply through the winter, and longer if they came back here. If they didn’t, someone else would get that benefit.
“Let’s prepare for our company.”
Edward shut the door at Alexa’s order, curious as to what that would consist of. A large group of armed men were coming. “Do we fight or flee?”
“We gather their information like a fine harvest.”
Alexa removed her guns and held them out to Edward. “Hold them until I need them.”
Edward took her weapons with reverence and unease. “We’re blending.”
Alexa nodded, not liking how it felt to be without her Colts. “Yes. All it requires is acting like what each of you are. My role will be harder. I’ve not been a submissive female in, well, my entire life.”
Edward chuckled. “You’re not that, even without these guns. Your scars and those cool blue eyes warn people, if they’re wise enough to listen.”
Alexa needed the reassurance. “And if they don’t?”
“We’ll kill them for you.” Edward’s tone hardened as the other men nodded. “You’re as safe without the guns as you are with them.”
Alexa smiled at them in full joy, bringing every man there to his knees by her love.
Outside, the trader was also slammed by the wave, dropping into the snow. He wiped away tears as it faded, chuckling. “Yeah, I’m definitely making this a regular stop.”
Alexa’s group heard their next visitors long before they spotted them. She’d rotated the men in the tiny attic of the cabin to make sure they had advance warning, but it wasn't necessary. The large group of male survivors coming toward the town was making enough noise to alert everyone in a ten-mile radius. Animals fled before it; birds deserted nests. Gunshots rang out.
Alexa and the men assumed the group was hunting.
"That's going to scare away our food source."
Edward shook his head at David. "They’ll leave for a few days and then come back. That's the way of the world now."
Alexa studied the coming men as they finally reached the top of the rise and appeared on the horizon. Alexa was drawn to the heavy winter gear all of them were wearing. Other than the gloves, which were ragged, their heavy boots, coats and hats were perfect for the weather. The next thing she noticed was that all of them were armed with swords and knives. There were very few guns among the four dozen men.
Six dozen, she amended as the tail of the convoy came into view. There were few vehicles. She believed that was because of limited fuel. Rusting hulks were everywhere in the apocalypse, but without tires, a good battery and usable fuel, they were staying right where they were.
"I think I recognize a few of them." Billy handed the binoculars to Alexa. "A few of them were at the site where I joined you."
Alexis studied the former slaves, also recognizing a few of them. "They’ve found a different cause to cling too."
"I'll get their story at some point during the visit." Edward took the glasses when she handed them over, also narrowing in on small details. He saw a weapon cart on a trailer behind what he assumed was a chuckwagon. That implied they weren't completely unarmed. He also noticed that two of the men in the center of the convoy were wearing medical patches. "They have doctors."
Alexa nodded. "We'll do some trading if the mood is right."
Edward moved toward the door at her motion, drawing deep breaths. He wasn't positive he could pull off this act, but he was determined to do it for as long as he could. He had little doubts that he and the rest of the team could eliminate most of these men with their remaining ammunition before they could get their cart open, but he hoped it didn't come to that. These were former slaves fighting back against tyranny and captivity. He was solidly on their side.
Alexa kept her attention on the leader of the group. Tall and stocky, with blond hair and dark brown eyes, he was adorable. She could understand why a woman would want to grab a hold of him and never let go. She just didn't agree with the methods the slavers used. A willing bond was always better. "Play it as if we're your team. As you make the calls, we’ll shift to fit what you come up with. It’s exactly the same as it’s always been. This is just practicing your skills." Alexa had considered giving him a complete game plan, but fate never cooperated with such schemes. She had found over her years of trials that improvising often served best.
Edward opened the door and moved out onto the front porch. He stood above the steps with his hands on his guns and eyes searching the group for threats.
Behind him, the rest of the team came out and lined up, also with hands on guns. It was obvious they were ready to fight
Alexa came out last, sticking to the role of not being in charge. She ignored the eyes crawling over her body in favor of studying the leader while he was sizing up Edward. She noted the intelligence and knew instantly this wasn't going to work for long. Edward had been trained to follow, not lead. Another real leader would notice that.
The group stopped around their leader, letting him handle the negotiations. While they waited, their eyes crawled the town, the stock of supplies in and around the cabin, and the only woman in sight.
"I hope you don't mind company until morning."
Edward shrugged, keeping his tone polite. "You don't mess with mine and I won't mess with yours."
The leader chuckled, stepping forward with a hand out. "I'm Marshall Sanders."
"Edward." He shook hands, noting the calluses on the skin of the leader. That was encouraging. Soft men didn't last in this world.
"We’ll be taking some trees for fuel, and water from the springs. Other than that, we won't mess with what's yours."
Edward pointed to a small thicket of trees on the opposite end of town that he and the other men had decided would be their next firewood supply. "You can have three quarters of that. Stack the rest as payment."
"Deal." Marshall scanned the five men lined up behind Edward. "Have you been here long?"
"A week or so."
“Taking a weather break, on your way somewhere?" Marshall studied them, picking out details.
"Taking a break for the winter. If you survive whatever battle you're on the way to, maybe we can trade on your way back through."
Marshall was glad to hear they had items for trade. "We're low on food and ammo."
"Neither of those is easy to come by now, depending on what you have to offer." Edward saw the man's eyes go to the cabin door behind him and shook his head. "I know where stashes are. I didn't bring them here. Moments like this are the reason why."
Marshall shrugged. "I have an army to outfit. Right and wrong mean little behind that."
"I believe that right and wrong mean everything in that situation." Edward pointed toward the springs. "Stay out of the biggest one. We use that for bathing."
Marshall turned around and began to give instructions to the men closest to him.
Edward wanted to turn and look at Alexa to determine how well he’d done. He resisted the urge. He had no doubt the leader of the group was going to inquire about her. The mood of the men watching her wasn't good. It was a situation any leader would be forced to deal with. Edward hoped this one made the right choice.
Marshall's men began handling the chores that had been assigned.
Marshall turned back to Edward. "Is she for rent?"
"Is she for sale?"
"No. She's pregnant. She's also my wife."
Behind them, Alexa twisted the uncomfortable ring on her finger. She had no idea why Edward had been carrying it, but it worked out well.
Marshall shook his head at his men and moved toward the chuckwagon. "We'll try to keep the noise down, but the men like a little drink in the evening. I'll try to keep them under control."
"If you don't, I will."
Marshall turned back with a hard look. "You’d kill your own over a female?"
Edward nodded. "In a heartbeat. Make sure they know that."
Marshall glanced at the other fighters. “What about them? Family or hired hands?”
Marshall frowned. “Volunteers for what? Why are you here?”
Edward sighed. This part was like holding a lit stick to a fuse and hoping it didn’t catch. “I’ve told you she isn’t for sale or rent. You can’t use my men against me to get to her. They’re loyal.”
Each of the fighters nodded at Marshall when he scanned them for verification of those words.
“Where are you heading? Why are you here?” Edward demanded the same answers the man had tried to get from him without observing the proper niceties.
“We’re going to the big bunker in the east. I don’t want your woman. I need your men.” Marshall smiled coldly. “And you, of course. I need fighters.”
Edward snorted. “You’ll have to look elsewhere for that. We’re not for sale either.”
Marshall frowned. “We’re going to conquer the last government bunker, so all men can be free. You should be on the front lines with us. In five years, all males will be born slaves, per the new laws. We have to stop that.”
Marshall’s face froze at the insult. Edward could see him making a choice and decided to help with it. “You might get lucky enough to win, but it’ll take more than half of the help you brought. No fight with the bunker if you challenge me. I’ll make sure you personally never get there.”
Marshal grinned. “Hardasses. Nice.” He relaxed. “We’ll eat, sleep, and go. Thank you for your gracious hospitality.”
“Go blow smoke up someone else’s ass.”
Marshal laughed this time. “Fine.” His eyes went cold. “You don’t mess with mine and I won’t mess yours. That’s our deal.”
“Agreed.” Edward felt the danger pass and evened out his hard one. “We’ll have a trade talk in a couple hours if you’re interested.”
“I am. Just call me when you’re ready.”
Edward motioned his men back into the cabin. He followed them in and shut the door. He leaned against it, staring at Alexa.
Alexa shook her head. “He’s not buying it. They’re searching the other cabins for the leader of your group. They think it’s a woman holding you hostage.”
Edward snorted, but didn’t speak his thought.
Alexa caught it and chuckled. “Yes, and no. I see the similarities.”
“But we can leave when we want,” Edward pointed out. “We chose not to.”
“And the same is true of me. I chose to be with you. That’s what makes our setup feel so perfect at times.”
Edward handed her guns back from his cloak pocket. “It doesn’t feel that way unless you have these.”
Alexa tucked the worn weapons into her cloak instead of donning them. “We’ll keep playing it this way until it pops. Be generous in the trades; make them happy. I don’t want to kill them unless we have to.”
“Same here.” Edward pushed the curtains aside. “I don't really want you to go out there."
Alexa kept moving toward the door with the buckets she’d picked up. "We need water and they're not going to believe it if you do it. In the old world, this would have been considered woman's work. I have to play the role."
Edwards frown grew deeper. "Maybe we should just skip the role."
Alexa paused. "If you choose to play it that way, that's what we'll do. What do you see coming out of that?"
Edward said. "I think we’ll have to kill them all or let you out."
Alexa chuckled. "Very good." Alexa stepped out into the cold chill with the buckets and shut the door.
Edward scanned the other men, reading his uneasiness in their expressions. "It's nice that she doesn't want to kill them… Right?"
Everyone nodded, but it was obvious they didn't want to trade Alexa for one peaceful moment.
"Do you think she should have a guard?"
Edward shook his head. "With her scars, they would never believe she's a timid woman. I'm hoping she'll be able to pick up some details by herself that we may have missed."
“Was that Alexa's idea or yours?" Jacob glared.
Edward had the grace to flush. "I suggested it. She went for it. Then I tried to pull it back and she wouldn't let me."
Billy and Daniel chuckled. That was the Alexa they knew.
Jacob marched to the window to get another view of the men and keep an eye on Alexa.
Edward allowed it, not seeing it as a violation of an order. He also wanted Alexa protected. If a fight broke out between her and the slaves, Edward wanted to know about it so he could help her. The time they'd spent here getting ready for winter was already wearing on their nerves. And I'm getting very hungry.
End of Free Sample
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