Home > Dance with the Devil (Mercenary Librarians #3)

Dance with the Devil (Mercenary Librarians #3)
Author: Kit Rocha

 


ONE


Hubris. It got ’em every time.

Dani cast a sidelong look at the man walking next to her. Though he looked about a decade younger, Christopher Bianco was forty-six years old, which meant he’d been born just before the Flares, when the world went dark. He was too young to remember the solar storms that had damaged power grids beyond repair, toppled entire governments, and left the survivors scrambling to regain some semblance of order. But growing up in the chaotic aftermath of those events—freezing, starving, struggling just to stay alive—must have shaped the man he’d become.

And Dani knew a lot about that man. Bianco had never been married, bore seventeen separate identifying tattoos and scars, and liked whiskey and redheads. His brown hair was burnished with hints of gold, and his wide, easy grin was more suited to a twentieth-century movie star than a murderer. But a murderer he was, nonetheless—commanding officer of the Golden Lions, an up-and-coming Protectorate squad that had been thriving under Captain Bianco’s leadership.

She smiled back at him.

“So where are we going?” he asked, the grin lingering in his voice.

“Wherever the night takes us, of course.”

He laughed. “I should demand details. You could be dangerous.”

“I could be,” she agreed solemnly. “Would it change your mind?”

His hand slid across her lower back to lightly grip her hip. “Not a chance.”

Dani tossed her newly auburn hair over her shoulder and barely managed not to roll her eyes. She was as fond of a good game of cat-and-mouse as the next person—more, if she was being perfectly honest—but it wasn’t as much fun when it was work.

And work was all she had lately. It turned out that mounting a guerrilla campaign against an all-powerful corporate dictatorship like the TechCorps monopolized your life hardcore, even with the workload split between an even dozen people. You had to monitor digital transmissions, gather intel from the streets, conduct a little creative spycraft, support the community in case of retaliation, and somehow manage to fund the whole damn op.

And then there was Dani’s specialty: quick, bloody strikes against strategic targets.

Tonight’s strategic target let his hand drift down until he was practically groping her ass. Dani gritted her teeth and lovingly imagined throwing an elbow at his face.

Patience.

He was steering her toward an alley just off of Forsyth. She’d checked it out during her reconnaissance earlier—it was a narrow dead end, no more than two and a half, maybe three meters wide, littered with garbage and broken glass. It was secluded, grimy, and disgusting.

It was perfect.

“Nice place,” Dani murmured dryly.

The hand on her hip tensed, and he whirled her around a split second later. Her back hit the pitted brick, and he loomed over her, a tiny smile on his lips. “Only the best for you, darling.”

Oh, he was smooth. She had to grant him that, from one practiced honeypot to another. It was part of what made Captain Bianco a strategic target, after all. He had a knack for covert work, was adaptable and quick on his feet, and his instincts were top-notch.

Still, as much as she admired his dedication to the fine art of seductive deception, it was getting late. And she had a job to do.

Almost there.

His smile only grew as Dani slowly wound one hand in the front of his shirt, his lips curving as genuine amusement sparkled in his eyes.

So she asked the question she was supposed to ask. “What’s so funny?”

“Oh, nothing,” he practically purred. “It’s just … you have no idea you’ve been made, do you?”

Finally.

“Made?” She tightened her hand in his shirt.

He didn’t answer, but he didn’t have to. The near-silent shuffle of boots tickled Dani’s ears, and she turned her head just far enough to see four shadowy figures file across the narrow mouth of the alley, effectively forming a human blockade.

“You brought your whole crew,” she murmured. “I’m flattered.”

“I don’t know if you’re brave or crazy, lady, and I don’t care.” Bianco’s silky voice hardened. “You’ve been taking out Protectorate squads, and now it’s your turn.”

“So … what? You haul me in like a good little boy?”

“Not exactly,” he countered. “Terminate on sight.”

So much for negotiation. She watched as Captain Bianco drew his arm back, his fingers already curling into a wicked fist.

Dani considered the situation.

A few things were immediately obvious. First: they knew what she’d been up to, that she’d been targeting Protectorate squads for elimination, but almost certainly not who she really was. If they had, Captain Bianco’s orders would have been very, very different.

A random, murderous rebel who’d gotten lucky a few times while facing off against their men? The TechCorps no doubt considered that woman dangerous—and expendable. But Danijela Volkova, former Executive Security operative turned legendary assassin? One of only two survivors of an experimental nerve-rewiring procedure that had left her with superhuman speed and reflexes, not to mention impervious to pain?

No way would they let her slip through their fingers. Not when they could haul her back to one of their labs and dissect her like a fucking frog.

Second: the Golden Lions had turned the alley into an efficient killbox by deploying across the mouth of it like a firing squad, but they couldn’t use it as one. They wouldn’t risk their CO’s life. No, they’d try to take her down via nonlethal means, then finish her off.

Finally, third: she had to be at the top of her game. All of her previous targets had been varying degrees of oblivious or overconfident. The Golden Lions would be neither.

She dodged Bianco’s fist as it flew toward her face. It crashed into the wall instead, shattering brick and bone. He grunted in pain, but he wasn’t about to let a crushed hand interfere with his mission. He reached for her with his other hand, already calling out an order to fire.

His second mistake. Dani grabbed his lapels and spun him around, putting him between her and his men. They fired their Tasers, long-range models that used wireless signals instead of cords and took forever to reload. They were designed to deploy an electrical current as soon as they burrowed into flesh—in this case, Captain Bianco’s back.

They worked like a charm. The good captain went down, and Dani turned her attention to his men.

Two of them started reloading their Tasers. A third charged at Dani, while the fourth went straight for his gun.

Smart.

An old fire escape hung off the wall overhead, with only a few rusty bolts still securing it to the building. Dani took a running leap, grabbed the lower edge, and swung out, kicking the advancing Golden Lion in the face. His neck snapped with a sharp crack just as the metal frame pulled loose, and she reached for her knives as she fell. She hit the ground rolling and came up with her blades in her hands.

This was her sweet spot, the part of the hunt that made all the makeup and simpering worth it. Direct, decisive action to address a specific, discrete issue.

See a problem, stab a problem.

The armed soldier fired high, aiming for her head with the kind of confidence that spoke of excellent marksmanship. Dani ducked the shot and went in low, slicing across the front of his thigh. The blade bit deep, tearing through reinforced cloth, skin, and muscle.

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