Mira closed her eyes and allowed relief to flood her veins. For one brief moment she could embrace the euphoria of knowing Adrik lived. His pack had survived. Seven hundred and thirty two sleepless, pain-filled nights of worrying had come to an end. Her eyes burned with unshed tears.
God, she’d missed him.
He’d been an enemy when he and his pack warriors first arrived to turn farmers and middle-aged men into hardened resistance fighters. What a joke, she’d thought. Somehow Adrik replaced her distrust with curiosity.
Mira had watched Adrik for days, memorizing the way he moved, the cadence of his voice. Enthralled by him, she’d pleaded with her brother to allow her to join the movement. Eron had been against it, but soon realized she wouldn’t accept no. As a runner for The Alliance, she’d spent countless days sprinting across the barren lands between The Alliance camp and Redemption, carrying intel and provisions.
Adrik and his pack had welcomed her, offered her moments of normalcy in an otherwise bleak existence. She’d fallen in love with him before she realized. Then everything upended.
And now she returned to the one place she’d felt protected. Wanted.
To The Alliance, she’d only ever be Eron’s little sister. They had no expectations, no need for her at all. In the darkest moments of her incarceration she’d wondered how long it’d taken them to notice she wasn’t there.
Adrik probably noticed five days afterward—when she’d been expected to return to Redemption for another provisions run.
Her fingers ran along the electronic scanner on her left wrist. How many credits had she received for the nightmare she’d endured? She’d expected an uphill battle to get Adrik’s help, but she hadn’t expected outright animosity. It was justified, she supposed. The last time he’d seen her, they’d almost…and then argued over what ifs, and then hell had broken loose. Literally.
The palpable rage flowing off him battered her defenses and crumbled her into a thousand fragmented pieces. The hurt, the accusation darkening his gaze did what the NAH hadn’t achieved. The hope she’d harbored dimmed. She needed his understanding, his help. Leaving him would’ve never entered her mind.
NAH forces had grabbed her shortly after she left Redemption. Imprisoned without cause, she’d been “tried” and “convicted” as a spy for The Alliance. Sentenced to two years, she’d been carted off to a sector facility to serve her time as a “volunteer.”
Most Impures accepted the existence of the NAH facilities. They offered an easy way for people to get credits needed to survive. All they needed to do was spend two years as a lab rat for the organization that’d declared them unworthy of residing with humanity. When added to the convenient fact they wouldn’t remember the two years they spent there, the NAH had more volunteers than needed.
Mira loathed the sector facilities even before she’d been captured. She doubted anyone realized they sometimes used captives as “volunteers.” Eventually she’d need to get word to The Alliance. They needed to know their runners were at risk.
What mattered now was getting someone to take down the facility where she’d been held captive because infiltrating it wouldn’t be a violation of the treaty. It’d been in Hell’s Playground—the area of land no one controlled. Apparently the five known sector facilities weren’t the only ones around.
She shuddered under Adrik’s scrutiny and forced the shards of fractured memories aside. Later she’d fall apart. Right now she didn’t have the time or energy.
“What the hell are you doing here, Mira?”
Collapsing against the examination table seemed wise, but untended wounds burned along her back. She bit her tongue and suppressed the discomfort. Adrik didn’t need melodrama right now. His tense posture and crossed arms made her heart ache.
He wasn’t the Adrik she remembered.
“Hear me out and then I’ll leave. I swear.”
“Five minutes, Mira. Then I turn Peyton loose on your ass.” The female wolf behind him snarled in approval.
Bitch. They’d never gotten along. Five minutes to explain away seven hundred and thirty two days of hell and beg him for help.
“The NAH grabbed me.”
“Try again,” Adrik replied.
“We contacted Impure Embassy headquarters. You weren’t listed as a casualty, a prisoner or a volunteer,” Sweet, ruthless Marek added with a grim look. Damn, she’d missed the chess matches they had—the ones she always lost.
She’d missed them all—even growly bitch Peyton.
“The paperwork must’ve gone through after you checked,” she countered.
“We checked every week for over a year,” Peyton growled.
“We searched every building in a hundred square miles for you,” Ren said.
Okay, so someone had noticed she was gone. They’d searched for a year? Mira shifted to alleviate the pain shooting up her spine. Doc took a step forward, but Adrik dragged him away.
“I don’t know why there wasn’t paperwork, but I left here and headed to The Alliance camp on my usual route. Halfway there I ran into a caravan of NAH buses and guards. I tried to run, they detained me.”
“You were in Hell’s Highway. They have no authority there,” Marek challenged.
“I know, but my KBAR didn’t do much good against a legion of NAH soldiers who weren’t exactly in favor of obeying the treaty. I was taken south into Hell’s Playground, some facility outside of Baton Rouge. They questioned me for days before declaring me an enemy of the NAH and sentencing me to two years within Facility Six.”
“There is no facility six, Mira.” Adrik’s voice softened. “Why did you come here?”
Mira grew up in a savage tract of existence known as Hell’s Highway—a parcel of land for genetically impure humans (Impures) cast out during a savage battle between humanity’s government (the NAH) and the Paraspecies. When a cease fire was declared, the two opposing sides retreated, regrouped, but the fight for survival had just begun for Impures forced to exist within a kill or be prey existence.
As a runner for The Alliance, Mira ran messages and provisions back and forth between her camp and Redemption—a bartering outpost created by the Paraspecies to help Impures within Hell’s Highway. But for the past two years Mira has been a prisoner of war, detained and tortured in an unsanctioned NAH facility within the lawless lands of Hell’s Playground. Now free, she must risk her life to fulfill a promise made to a fellow prisoner—travel to Redemption and enlist the aid of the Paraspecies. Returning to the outpost, though, means reuniting with the Alpha wolf she’d once hoped to have a future with.
As Quadrant Alpha of the most dangerous section of Paraspecies land, the last thing Adrik needs is the Impure from his past suddenly returning after two years. He ripped Hell’s Highway apart searching for her two years ago, and his pack reaped the consequences of his shattered soul. Now, with a civil war threatening on his southern border, the constant battles with the succubae on his eastern border, and the latest command from Headquarters to assume the role of Alpha Commander, he doesn’t have time to wander around Hell’s Playground searching for a secret facility no one believes exists.
But the temptation to spend time with the Impure he’d once intended to mate proves too tempting. Together they must heal the wounds their time apart created and find a way to survive the dangers awakened.