CenCom, Book 1
by Shelby Morgen
Ebook ISBN: 07341-02367
[ Cyberpunk Romance, MF ]
Problem. Cob’s the worst mistake she ever made. When this is over, she’s going to have to walk away from Cob. Again. And this time her heart may never recover.
Simple mission. Simple fucking mission. Pick up the fucking shipment. Escort the fucking truck from Point A to Point B. Deliver the fucking shipment.
Why was it always the simple fucking missions that ended up kicking my ass?
The heels of my standard issue boots clicked on the broken pavement as I marched down the deserted street, my four remaining men at my backside.
This wasn’t stealth mode. Avoiding detection was not part of my plan — no matter how much I hated the plan. We needed to be seen. Recognized. And fast.
Simple. Fucking. Mission.
Until it all went wrong.
We’d been set up. By now I was sure of that. I just wasn’t sure yet who. Or why. And if I wanted to live long enough to find out, that meant finding Cob.
Or, more to the point, having him find us.
Because right now we were prime targets. Five heavily armed CenCom Security Officers marching down a semi deserted street outside the perimeter of New Chicago. Enemy territory. No cover. No back up. If we went missing, no one was going to come looking for us. Out here, our weapons alone were worth our lives. Hell, those who survived outside the wall would kill us for our boots.
Our only hope was being seen, and fast, and by the right people.
Cob would find us.
Either way, the odds were against any of us seeing the sun come up again.
But the odds were even worse for the rest of my men. And the longer it took to find Cob, the worse the odds we’d find them at all, let alone alive.
* * *
Boot heels echoed against the quiet of the night, moving fast, running, headed straight at them. Cob shifted his weight, angling against the wall, pushing off, moving out of the shadows, but still staying to the dark side of the alley, as far away from the fire barrel as possible.
The runner skidded to a stop beside the fire, out of breath, choking over his words, too out of breath to make sense yet. Cob nodded once and James shook himself loose from the fire escape and laid a hand on the boy’s shoulder. “Slow down. Take a deep breath, son, and then deliver your message.”
“Yesir.” Deep breath. Shaky in, stronger out. Another. “You commed the LT to investigate smoke coming from the thruway. Says to tell you it looks like jackers forced something big off the thruway and made off with it. Left pieces of two mobile escort units burning just off the exit ramp.”
All of which was pretty routine and could have been conveyed a whole lot quicker if Carroll had just commed him back.
“And?” Cob prodded.
The boy took another deep breath. “The escort ain’t all dead, sir.”
“Why not?” Escort meant a CenCom Security unit. No reason at all for Carroll to have left them alive.
“LT says you better come deal with her yourself.”
“Deal with her? What her?”
“The CenCom survivors, Sir. Their Lieutenant’s your ex-wife.”
Cob worked his jaw into an angry knot before he keyed the radio, then let the button go. It took him a full twenty seconds to get enough control to key the mike again. “Bring ‘em in.”
* * *
Jet black hair in a braid that hung half way down her back. Sun baked skin the color of rich, aged honey in a glass jar. Long, lean limbs ate up the ground as she marched straight at him, her rage showing in every stride.
Strip away the Security uniform and he’d find the sun didn’t mold her to fit its image. Every inch of that skin reflected her mother’s Latino heritage. The only trace of her father’s Slavic roots was the flashing steel blue of her eyes.
Son of a fucking bitch. Three years. Three long Goddamned years, and the moment he saw her, he was back there again.
Hard. Needy. Wanting.
Back in lust with her.
Back in love with her.
And back wanting to kill her. All in the time it took to hear the sound of her boots on the pavement, look up, and register her face.
“Took you long enough.” He didn’t mean the hour since his spotters had first seen what was left of the CenCom Security team march away from the burning wreckage, and she knew that.
And ignored him. Ignored the armed scouts who’d marched her right to his alley. She kept on marching. Right up to him. Face to face. Punched him hard. In the gut.
If she’d hurt her hand, she didn’t let it show. But then, she’d never let anything show on her face. Not in public, anyway. He swallowed the impact with as little reaction as he could manage and grinned at her. “That the best you can do? You’re slipping, Novak.”
“Where are my men, Cob?”
“I had an eight man platoon. Now I have four. Nothing happens in this quadrant ‘less you lay it out. So give me my Goddamned men back.”
He stared at her, trying not to blink. She’d always said it made him look like an owl. “You’re in my quadrant, all right, but I don’t have your men. Never did. Saw the skyline light up with the explosion. You really think I’d blow up a supply shipment? Hijack it, maybe. Blow it up? I don’t think so. Not that stupid. Not going to waste explosives on a whole lot of nothing.”
“I.” She stomped on his instep, but he jerked his foot out of the way. “Want.” He barely deflected an elbow to the sternum. “My. Men!”
She did her best to deliver a roundhouse kick to his ribs. He deflected her kick with his forearm — barely — and let the force of her momentum carry her leg up his arm until he could wrap it around his waist, throwing her off balance, leaving her dangling from the one leg, now locked around his waist.
He countered by clamping her head still and delivering a heart stopping kiss to her angry, incensed mouth, until she tried to pull away, gasping for breath, then leaned in again, kissing him back for all she was worth. He shoved her back before she could pierce his tongue with her teeth. “Yeah,” he managed, his voice ragged. “Nothing’s changed, has it Novak. Still need me. Still don’t trust me.”
“Not like you’ve ever given me any reason to.”
He thought about it, realized she was right. “That works both ways.”
She puzzled over that for a moment too long, then nodded. “Maybe not. And you’re right. I do need your help. We’re in deep shit, Cob. Not you. Not me. All of us. Not just my men missing. Medical supplies. Vaccine. Escort carriers got toasted. Whoever hit us got away with the vaccine. Sixty-four cases, in a box cooler truck, two armed escort trucks.”
One refrigerated truck, and a shorty at that. “What’s that to me?”
“Vaccine,” she repeated. “Sixty-four cases of one vaccine, under guard. Think about it. What vaccine would they send out in that kind of quantity?”
He thought about the numbers. And hated what he was thinking. “Sixty-four cases.”
“All the same code?”
“Sonofabitch.” He slowly lowered her leg and she slid back down to the pavement, though his arm was still locked over her ass. There was only one reason to need enough vaccine to vaccinate the Central population of every major city in the territories that had once been known as the United States. “They’re planning to start a pandemic.”
* * *
I could still feel that kiss on my lips, powerful, bruising, addictive, just like he’d always been. And the situation was just as hopeless. Maybe more so. I wanted to kick something. Likely myself.
His rock hard body generated enough heat to sear me from the inside, the instant attraction warring with my need to list everything he’d ever done wrong, and make him pay, the way only I could. One delicious inch at a time. And that kind of thinking was exactly why I hadn’t gone after him when he walked off three years ago.
Now he stood surrounded by his men, a rag tag lot. Hard looking men and women mixed with some who were barely more than kids. Half ex-military, like himself. The rest looked like he’d fought the local gang leaders for control of the town, and conscripted the losers. Which was likely exactly what he’d done.
Outer Chicago’s streets were likely safer than they’d been in a hundred years.
“So what’s your plan?”
I shoved away from the heat of his cock and gave him my best Are you still an idiot? look. “Beyond finding you and kicking your ass?”
His smile was slow and lazy, and my face warmed as I remembered the heat of his dick, hard and swollen within his too tight pants, grinding against my pussy. I was so damn wet it was hard to think. “Care to try that again?”
“Yeah. I would.” Any time. Any place. I took a ragged breath and got back to the disaster at hand. “Four members left of my eight man platoon. Didn’t find any bodies. Truck’s gone. Men are gone. Stands to reason if we find the truck we find the men and the vaccine.”
“I don’t have your truck.”
“But you know where it is. Or you can find it.” Which was why I was here. I’d come around, crawled out of the wreckage, and immediately gone looking for the man I swore I’d never speak to again. Because, damn it, four of my men were missing, the truck we were escorting was gone, and I wanted them back. All of them. Dead or alive.
My men and I knew the city, or we had, before the collapse. We knew where Cob had been. Stood to reason, being Cob, he was still there, because that’s the kind of guy Cob is. The total collapse of the Federal government, which had led to the CenCom corporation fencing off the best parts of the cities, areas like Central here in Chicago, that was not going to deter a guy like Cob. So if I wanted out of the remains of this city, with my shipment and my men, I was going to have to have Cob’s help.
Hey. It was a plan. Not a perfect plan, but a plan.
And now I was staring at Cob.
Watching him try to figure out what the hell he was going to do with us.