Sasha Boisette heaved in a deep breath and let it out slowly as she sat at Mikale Warres’s desk, which had been moved to a new secret headquarters as soon as his death had been reported to her. She’d known her step-brother had been into some serious shit. He’d unleashed a plague. He’d had plans to repopulate the globe. He’d hunted down the one doctor who could stop him. He’d behaved like the villain in a cheesy graphic novel.
But he’d been her family along with his mother. The only family she’d had since her own parents had dumped her off in Boston.
Now she had no one. Well. That wasn’t exactly true. Now she had all the associates still loyal to Mikale looking to her for direction. She didn’t want the job. She was no leader, no warrior, no disillusioned chemist. Sure, she wanted a better life just as Mikale had, but he’d gone about it all wrong.
And now he was dead.
And he’d named her his successor.
What was he thinking?
Unfortunately, she couldn’t ask him. Sasha wanted to dissolve Mikale’s organization, but his followers were rabid in their dedication to his mission of cleansing and repopulating. When she’d had her initial meeting with his closest associates—the ones not being held at the Boston Police Department awaiting pickup from the government—they’d talked so adamantly about continuing his work.
There had been talk about unleashing a new plague, but none of them wanted to run the risk of getting the disease themselves. Besides, none of them were as smart as her step-brother had been. They didn’t know the first thing about manufacturing plagues. Another blackout was also tossed onto the proverbial table, but no one wanted to give up the restored power that had crawled back after Dr. Ashby’s cure was administered globally.
Heated arguments had raged on, and every time Sasha suggested working with the police or the government, glares lasered into her, and if glares were knives, she would have been reduced to minced female by now. She had to be careful among these wolves.
She’d understood where Mikale was coming from with his mission. He’d been wronged by Emerge Tech, the company where he’d worked so hard. He’d lost his mother. The world was in the dark. Everything had been a mess, so he’d done what he thought was best.
Of course, the plans he’d devised were crazy. Wiping out the human population except for a few choice members to repopulate the globe was completely insane. Sasha needed to find some people among Mikale’s associates who believed as she did—believed in finding another way to improve all their lives. Currently, she was a team of one. Not very mighty. Not likely to succeed.
Sighing, she gathered her long, black hair into a ponytail then fiddled with the feathery ends.
Tired. So tired.
Trying to lead and convert an organization of treasonous zealots was exhausting, especially when you didn’t agree with their objectives.
She looked up to see Firrus Almstead standing in the doorway to Mikale’s… no, her office. She didn’t want an office. What she wanted was a tiny house. Not a domicile, but an actual, old-fashioned home somewhere on the water, maybe a nice, quiet lake in the woods, and a single rocking chair on a porch.
Well, maybe two rocking chairs. Not that she had anyone to fill the second one, but one chair sounded pathetic.
“Where are we on the Podster fleet repair?” Firrus flexed his biceps as he waited for her reply. Impressive may have been a word used to describe those biceps. Hell, Sasha may have even been the person to use the word, but she didn’t care about those biceps now.
Two years ago, she cared. She’d hardly cared about anything that didn’t relate directly to this man standing before her now. Firrus was over six feet of muscle with a shaved head that made his intense brown eyes all the more powerful. You couldn’t look him directly in the eyes for too long. The energy behind them was too much.
And that brown gaze was on her now.
She looked down to Mikale’s desk—a desk she would never consider her own—then met Firrus’s stare. “Last report said a third of the damaged Podsters have been fixed.” Though no one from the last battle where Mikale had apparently been killed had returned to the base, the Podsters were all programmed to autopilot themselves to the new headquarters in the event of an emergency. The crafts that had returned were in shitty condition to say the least.
“And the other two-thirds?” Firrus stepped into the room and took a seat on one of the black leather couches lining the far wall.
Sasha gripped the edge of the cold, steel desk and wheeled her chair back and forth, not wanting to go to the couches, not wanting to look at Firrus, not wanting to remember how things had been between them. It was over now. Men like Firrus had the incredible ability to take something and become so singularly focused on it that the rest of the world melted away. Unfortunately for Sasha, she had not been that something Firrus had become focused on. Mikale’s mission had been instead.
And it still was.
“The remaining two-thirds will be finished up soon, I’m sure.” She stood, not wanting to seem like a sitting target.
Firrus shook his head. “You can’t wait for things to happen, Sasha. You’re in charge now. You tell people what the timeline is.”
She shrugged one shoulder then scolded herself for doing so. That seemed weak and noncommittal, two words she didn’t want Firrus to associate with her.
“What’s the rush, Firrus?” She rounded the desk and made her way over to the couches after all. Best to show him he had no power over her. She’d moved on, and as he’d said, she was in charge. “Most of our people are still brainstorming next moves. No one is ready to hop into the Podsters and launch the next offensive.”
The longer the associates quibbled amongst themselves, the longer she had to figure out an alternate course of action. It would come to her eventually.
“But once a new plan is agreed upon, we need to be ready to roll.” Firrus leaned forward, his elbows resting on his knees, and ran his hands over the smooth skin of his shaved head. “Sasha, why don’t you let me handle things? I know, in detail, what Mikale’s vision was. I can implement the right steps. I can bring about the world he wanted. The other associates will listen to me.”
A twinge tightened her heart over the confident authority in his voice, but she couldn’t let Firrus get to her no matter how Alpha he was. No matter how much she wanted someone to swoop in and rescue her from this situation.
She shook her head. “You know Mikale was wrong in doing what he did. He wasn’t a god. He didn’t have the power to decide who lives and who dies. Neither do you.”
Firrus shot to his feet. “Don’t I? We’re surrounded by less than average humans out there.” He pointed to one of the blacked-out windows in the office. “How long before we devolve so much we’re back to walking on all fours and grunting to each other?”
He paced to the darkened windows then swiveled on his heel to pace back to her. “Sure, the power’s back on. Yes, they’re rebuilding the city. Okay, the world is getting back on track, but none of it is happening fast enough and how long before it all comes crashing back to the ground? A simple unplug shut us all down. It won’t take much to throw this mini-Renaissance into the toilet. We need more drastic and permanent solutions.” He stopped in front of her.
Sasha could smell his familiar scent and an unwanted longing flared inside her. How could she both crave Firrus’s touch and cringe over the possibility of it? She knew all too well the man had fabulous hands, but unfortunately those hands had rarely touched her.
“And none of Mikale’s tactics made the world any better, did they? He’s dead. Some of his people are in police custody. We live like fugitives, Firrus. How is that a good thing?” Why was she the only one around here who saw the absurdity of this entire organization?
“Rainbows and kittens aren’t going to fix anything either, Sasha.” He gripped her shoulders and she flinched. He immediately let her go, staring at his hands as if he wasn’t sure how they’d gotten on her shoulders in the first place. Jamming them into the pockets of his cargo pants, he said, “We have to keep true to Mikale’s wishes. We owe him that.”
She nodded if only to keep Firrus calm and hopefully get him to leave. A mega headache was quickly blooming in her skull, and a headache never made anything better.
“Check on the rest of the Podsters at least.” His voice held an irritating note of disappointment, as if Sasha hadn’t met his expectations.
He didn’t exactly meet mine either.
But he always forgot that part. “I’ll check on them, but I’m sure I’m going to get the same answer I gave you.”
Firrus mumbled something Sasha couldn’t quite hear, which was probably for the best. Without a look back, he exited the office while she stood in the middle of the room, blinking into the silence.
Blinking into the silence. Yeah, that pretty much summed up their relationship. At the end of it anyway. It hadn’t started out that way. In the beginning, there had been passion and excitement and connection. Firrus had been everything Sasha wanted. Strong, intelligent, sexy, determined, she hadn’t been able to find a single thing wrong with him when they’d first met.
Then everything was wrong with him.
She’d introduced him to Mikale. Like a good brother, Mikale had put Firrus through the So You Think You’re Going to Date My Sister interview. Firrus had scored such high points Mikale actively encouraged Sasha to date him.
So she had.Then she married Firrus, and everything went to shit.
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