I was the only one left.
That made me angry.
All three of my sisters had been taken from me. Now, I was the last Stryke standing, the youngest of the four of us and the only one remaining to lead our band of human survivors. I’d had to grow up pretty damn fast.
But, even with all that in mind, we were thriving.
Just last night, we caught a wild boar. The caves still smelled of bacon and pork belly, enough to make my stomach rumble. Now, I was focusing on preserving the leftovers so that we would have enough food and provisions for when winter came. Already, the temperature was beginning to drop, enough to cause me to shiver every now and then.
“Kaela. Earth to Kaela,” my friend Sophie whispered. One of the many human females in our camp, she’d been my right-hand girl the past few weeks. She’d been crucial in planning of a few key resource-gathering missions that had gone very well for us, like finding a wine cellar stuffed to the brim with expensive bottles.
“Is there something you need?” I smirked.
“You had that look on your face again. Stop thinking about your sisters. Remember we have to think of the future, right?” she chided.
“I know,” I scoffed, turning my head to watch a couple walk by hand in hand.
“Oh. I get it. You just need a man to distract you a little bit. You know… I caught Liam checking you out the other day. I bet he’d totally be down to give you some much needed stress relief,” she said, unable to stop herself from chuckling even harder. I rolled my eyes but smiled at her teasing.
“You’re bad,” I scolded her, but even I couldn’t keep myself from giggling at her antics. She knew I wasn’t well versed in love. In fact, I’d never been with a man.
I wasn’t destined to find love. My only mission was to survive and remain free. To be the last Stryke standing.
Plus, I couldn’t afford to be distracted like that. I had more important things to worry about, like continuing to survive and keep my people safe.
“You want it,” she winked.
I rolled my eyes and she giggled.
“Kaela!” one of the guys called out. Sophie snorted, and we looked up to see it was Liam. He was running toward me, the look on his face one of full-blown panic. Shit. A gnawing worry began to grow in the pit of my belly.
“What is it?” I asked with an increasing level of concern as he reached me, his face pink with exertion, like he had run a long way, and maybe he had in order to get to me. In my sisters’ absence, I had assigned a group of five men to monitor our perimeter and Liam had been one of them. That duty also included keeping track of all the cameras and traps that Kira had built some time ago in order to protect us.
In our time living deep in the woods, we’d only actually utilized a few of them in order to kill some Vakarrans that were wandering too close to our camp. There were many more that remained inactive, many more that we could use in the face of danger.
“Vakarrans spotted. A group of four of them. They don’t look like the typical unit. They look pretty hardcore,” he spat out, trying to catch his breath.
“They seem like bad guys, Kaela. Worse than usual. They’re carrying an ass load of weapons. Their trajectory is heading straight toward our camp. I’m afraid we might be in trouble if we don’t act soon,” he said, standing up and catching my eyes with his. His gaze was bold, but also scared.
“Only four of them?” I asked.
“Yes. Just four,” he replied.
“How far are they?” I pressed,
“Maybe a day and a half away,” he answered.
“Okay. Let’s go. When we get to the command center, show me what traps we can use right away,” I ordered, and he nodded curtly. We had defenses and now was the time to utilize them.
Within a few hours, I had gathered the men of his unit along with Sophie and we set out to the command station that my eldest sister Kira had set up long ago. Liam showed me a series of traps that might prove useful for us. One had hidden explosive plates just under the ground, concealed by dirt, moss, and leaves. A dangerous mine field for anyone wandering in our general direction. Others dispensed dangerous gases, some highly flammable, others highly toxic to anyone in the immediate area. One even involved a rocket launcher that we’d found on an abandoned military base nearby.
I chewed my lip. Decisions. Decisions…
Together, we watched the video footage of the four aliens coming our way.
All four had dark purple skin. Ram-like horns. One of them, the tallest had bright green eyes, which was unusual. I’d never seen that before. The other three had copper-colored irises, which I’d come to expect. None of them were small, not in the slightest. Dressed in black combat gear, they looked formidable. Their outfits did little to cover up the hard muscles hidden underneath. Bulging biceps, wide shoulders that tapered to lean, trim waists, with thighs as thick as tree trunks, they looked incredibly tough.
Their waists were strapped to the nines with various weapons. All sorts of laser guns and other things I couldn’t identify clipped onto their belts, but that’s not what worried me.
It was the expressions on their faces. They appeared far more dangerous than any Vakarrans I’d seen before in any of the surveillance footage we had. It was unnerving. They looked determined, focused, like men on a mission, and they were heading straight in our direction. Now that I could see them with my own eyes, I had no doubt they were coming for us. They knew we were here. In my mind, it was no longer a question. It was reality.
Then, the four of them stopped.
The one with green eyes stared into the camera almost as if he could sense it was there. Like he knew I was watching, and I swallowed anxiously. In his eyes, I saw a strong resolve. I saw an insane level of focus. I also saw a level of determination that made me feel in my gut that he would do anything to achieve his mission.
Even with all that considered, I reminded myself that there were only four of them. There were many more of us. We had the advantage of numbers and we knew they were coming. We could prepare for their arrival in the best way possible. I saw the challenge there and despite my nervousness, I slowly began to smile. I was a Stryke. They didn’t know who they were messing with.
It occurred to me then that it was entirely likely that these four aliens knew our exact location, that perhaps under extreme duress, maybe one of my sisters had given us up. I hoped that wasn’t the case, but I knew it was a distinct possibility.
Maybe we could learn something from them. Maybe we could use them before we disposed of them.
It was possible that we could benefit from capturing the group of four and seeing what they knew, before we rushed to kill them. But how? How could I capture and question them safely, without endangering the rest of my people?
My eyes scanned over the traps at our disposal and one in particular captured my attention. Another piece of pilfered governmental technology, this one was based on gravity. Four gravity traps stationed in a square. When activated, the gravity within the square multiplied, making it impossible for the targets within to move, let alone escape. Then, electric solar-powered webs hidden beneath their feet could shock them, proving to be an effective interrogation technique that I could employ.
Once trapped, a secondary measure could be employed as a kill strike, an ultra-strong, barbed wire grid that would burst upward in a fraction of a second, brutally killing anyone inside. It was perfect, only it was slightly off their path.
Somehow, I’d have to get them moving in that direction, get them within the confines of that trap.
I watched the footage for some time. I knew I couldn’t wait until they got much closer to our settlement. I had to act much sooner, so that my people could remain safe.
Sophie placed her hands on my shoulders and sighed.
“If you need me to, I could act as bait,” she offered.
I shook my head.
“No. It should be me. I don’t want to put any of any of you in danger,” I replied. She nodded, her respect for my command obvious in her expression. My people would follow me, no matter what. Of that, I had no doubt.
I was strong. I wasn’t afraid. My sisters had always thought I was the quiet one. The one who obeyed and sat aside while they led, but now that everyone was depending on me, I had to prove I deserved my leadership.
I’d be the bait the Vakarrans were looking for. They’d tell me everything they knew, and then I’d kill every last one of them.
I could feel her watching me. Even though I couldn’t see her anywhere around me, I knew she was there. She knew I was coming for her. A human woman, ripe and prime for the taking. I could feel my cock hardening just thinking about it.
The Second and Third Battalion had chosen me and my comrades to capture and deliver Kaela Stryke for them and return her to the Resistance, and her sisters.
In return, our Vakarran brethren promised me rights to Kaela as our mate and I had gladly agreed. To the victor go the spoils of war, right?
It had been a long time since I’d had the opportunity to be with a woman, without paying for it that is. Not since the time of our exile.
Once, we were the Fourth Battalion, but that had been a long time ago. The four of us—Valdus, Caleb, Zane, and I—had seen many battles together, had conquered entire planets in search of compatible mates in order to carry on the Vakarran species.
Until Nix got involved. I fucking hated that man. Our exile had been entirely his fault.
Many years ago, we’d conquered a planet and taken the women captive. They had rebelled, and he’d ordered us to execute them. We had refused.
And we suffered for that decision.
As a result, Nix stripped us of our rank, had us arrested and dishonorably discharged from the army. Then, he exiled us to the darkest reaches of the universe, never to be part of Vakarran society again. After we’d left, we heard rumors that Nix had killed the women himself.
We learned that Strohass had been killed about a year ago or so. Now, probably the result of some heavy bribery, Nix was the reigning commander of the entire Vakarran military. A position bought solely with money, corruption, and thievery that left me feeling sick to my stomach.
He didn’t deserve any of it.
After the exile, the four of us stuck together. We made a living by honest trade most of the time, providing a shipping service to countless planets. Occasionally those trips included illegal merchandise, but we tried to keep those to a minimum. The payouts far outweighed the risk, most of the time. We had friends in high places, and many of them were extremely wealthy. Despite the odds stacked against us, we had done well and lived a comfortable life. We were free to choose what we wanted, when we wanted and best of all, we didn’t have to deal with the corruption of the Vakarran upper levels. We didn’t have to deal with Nix.
When I’d heard of the rebellion taking part on a small planet called Earth against Nix, my battalion and I had decided we couldn’t miss out on our chance at revenge. We’d rushed to take part and had brought a fair number of resources with us on our own vessel in order to support the Resistance, many provided by wealthy allies that were not especially friendly toward Nix and the Vakarrans. Ryder, the leader of the Second Battalion and leader of the Resistance, had been especially pleased.
To be honest, I wasn’t really here to help our allies or the human species, or my Vakarran counterpart. My comrades and I were here to kill Commander Nix.
We wanted revenge. That was our one true goal.
A human female was just an added incentive.
I’d heard the name Stryke before. From what I understood, they were a group of human sisters who had escaped Vakarran detection for a long time. The sisters had grown in infamy over the past year or two. It had started with Kira and now, whispers on dark cyber had talked about Alaina and Danika. There were rumors that Danika had attacked and scarred Nix pretty badly, but I had yet to see evidence of that myself. Nix hadn’t attended any major publicized functions recently, so I hadn’t seen any images, but I hoped it was true. He deserved to be mutilated and miserable. He deserved nothing less than death, but I would see to that myself.
“Tavik, there’s a camera over there,” Valdus murmured quietly and I looked over to where he indicated. The device was small, circular, and almost invisible, hidden in a knot in a great oak tree. I stared it down and grinned.
Good. Kaela would know we were coming for her.
“What do you think she’s like?” Caleb asked.
“If she’s anything like her sisters, she’s going to be a handful,” I responded.
“I know how to take care of disobedient females,” Zane answered darkly, his smirk growing by the second. I chuckled. He certainly did. We’d visited a number of alien brothels over the years and he requested only the most flexible of women who weren’t afraid of things that might hurt, or things that might leave a mark. He liked to make women cry and then fuck them so hard that they begged for mercy, but they always ended up pleading for him to return. Some of them, he visited many times upon their request.
He was a sadist and he was damn proud of it.
“The marker isn’t that much farther. Only about another day’s walk,” Valdus said.
“Good. Let’s keep moving. I want to see the woman that’s destined to be our mate,” I replied.
I really couldn’t wait. Kaela must be a formidable woman to have escaped Vakarran rule for so long. I learned that she was also the leader of a secret hideout of humans, deep in the forests. She wasn’t a human like any of the others I’d read about. She was different.
Most human women were easily subdued. At least that’s what the reports said. But not Kira and her sisters. I’d met Danika and Alaina after we’d been chosen for the mission to rescue Kaela. I knew they were strong and fiercely loyal to each other. I had no doubt Kaela would be just as tough. I would rise to the challenge though. I had no doubt.
I stepped quietly through the woods, using my superior sense of hearing to monitor the land around me. All was quiet, except for the scampering of a few Earthen species of rodents and bugs. It was strangely serene. I enjoyed it actually.
The further we trekked, the more impatient I became. I started to hear the trickle of water nearby, potentially a river or a waterfall and then, the scuff of a shoe against a rock. I froze, and my comrades did too.
For a few long minutes, everything was silent. I looked warily to my right, away from the source of the sound, and adjusted our trek a little bit more westward. For ten to fifteen minutes, all was quiet, until I heard the sound of a branch cracking in the distance.
I sighed with contained excitement. We were being followed. I wondered if it was Kaela. I hoped it was. I wondered if she would fight us. I grinned at the prospect.
An hour passed and then another. It became increasingly clear as more time passed that only one individual was trailing us. The steps were light, careful, and calculated, indicative of a human woman’s stride. The thought of her so close had me constantly hard and I knew my comrades were suffering in a similar fashion. After a while, I began to realize she was herding us in a particular direction. West.
Using a hacked satellite, I had surveyed the area before venturing out here. I knew there were anomalies scattered throughout the forest, but I didn’t know what they were. The Second Battalion hinted at some kind of traps, so I and my men were going to have to tread carefully from now on. Slowly, I activated the tracking ability of my headband and set it to look for human-like heat signatures. I turned my head slowly, assessing the projected hologram screen, seeing nothing until I turned all the way to my right.
Not too far off, there was a human form. Feminine, small, curvy in all the right places.
She was beginning to move quickly, almost as if she was trying to get around us. I slowed my pace a bit and my men followed suit. Then, she hurried along a bit faster. I knew then that my assumption had been correct.
This continued for another hour, until she stopped about a quarter mile ahead of us. I motioned my men forward and despite my suspicions, led them into a clearing.
The woman cleared her throat and emerged into the clearing with us.
As soon as I saw her, I knew she was mine. By the fierceness in her eyes, there was no doubt in my mind that this woman was Kaela Stryke.
Reddish-brown waves cascaded down her back, a rich burgundy that I ached to run my fingers through. Forest green eyes stared me down, flecked with browns and blues that left me breathless. Her cheeks were pink with exertion, highlighting high cheekbones, a small narrow nose, and beautifully kissable lips. She wasn’t overly tall, maybe five foot four inches or so, but she was slender and incredibly curvy. Full, pert breasts lifted up and down as she breathed anxiously before us. Wide curvy hips tilted to one side and I licked my lips, knowing her ass was probably an equally beautiful sight. The wind picked up for a long second and her hair rippled with it. The scent of oranges overtook me, and my breath caught in my throat. She was perfect.
One look, and I wanted to throw her on the ground, rip her pants off, and fuck her so hard that she’d beg me to stop, only after I’d made her come countless times. I smirked, meeting her eyes. She faltered for a fraction of a second, before gathering herself.
“Kaela Stryke, I take it,” I began.
She stilled, and her gaze ripped to mine. Calm. Cool. Assessing, but behind it all, I saw the tiniest glimmer of fear. Good. She should be scared. I could work with that.
“How do you know who I am?” she asked. I noticed she was fiddling with something in her hand. I narrowed my eyes, studying it, realizing it was some sort of remote. Time seemed to slow as I watched her fingertips press a single button and my eyes tore back to hers. Her eyes narrowed with challenge and I gritted my teeth.
“Men, move!” I yelled out, but it was too late. All of a sudden, my body felt ten times heavier and it took all my strength to lift my foot off the ground by only a few inches. After another moment, the feeling multiplied, and then I couldn’t move at all, my foot slamming back to the ground with incredible force.
It was some kind of gravity trap. I almost laughed with relief, but I contained myself just in time for her eyes to find mine.
I schooled the features of my face. In terms of weaponry throughout the universe, this type was fairly common. As a result, we carried solutions for it. I wasn’t particularly worried about this one, now that I realized what it was. For the time being, I’d play her game, make her think she had us captured and that she was in control. I wanted to get to know her first, before I taught her that she was no longer in control and she never would be again.
“Easy, men. Let’s talk to our conquest first. Wait for my signal,” I said, using our telepathic link.
“She’s quite the human specimen,” Valdus said, his voice warm, surprising me. He was usually all business and thought getting to know a female was a waste of time. He never booked any woman at the alien brothels either, because it was beneath him. He was odd, to say the least, but dependable
“I’ll say it again. How do you know who I am?” she asked, her quiet anger almost palpable.
She stared at me, clearly enthralled by my green eyes. I watched her body language. She seemed confident, but the twitching of her fingers gave away her nervousness. It turned her on too. I could see her nipples hardening beneath her thin cotton t-shirt.
She was aroused by our presence. I grinned.
“I’ve heard some things about you,” I began.
“Liar,” she replied. “You don’t know me.”
“I do. I’ve met your sisters,” I countered.
She stilled, her eyes narrowing with anger. Her fingers flexed and the ground beneath us began to buzz. At once, an arc of electricity buzzed through my body, a painful jolt that forced me to grit my teeth together, hard. So, the trap had additional features then.
I fucking hated electric shocks. She was going to pay for that.
I would look forward to punishing her, long and hard while she begged for mercy. I would give her none.
She didn’t know it yet, but she would like it too.
“My sisters would never tell you anything,” she countered, disbelief and worry crossing her features. The skin on the sides of her eyes crinkled slightly with anxiety, as her lips turned down in a frown. “You’re lying.”
She pressed the button on the remote in her hands again and I braced myself for the next electric shock.
“Hold, men,” I commanded telepathically.
The electric jolt tore through my legs into my chest, causing my heart to hammer and my blood to race. I fisted my hands at my sides and struggled not to flinch as it grew stronger still.
“Dammit, Tavik. That hurts,” Zane growled.
“I know. Just a little longer. Wait for my signal,” I instructed and the three of them grunted in agreement. They were good, loyal men and I knew they would follow me to the ends of the Earth, if not the edges of space and whatever was beyond that.
We’d experienced far worse together and Zane knew it. The only difference this time was that there was a ripe human female at fault, rather than one of our enemies. My palm twitched at the very thought of it.
The woods around us rustled. More bodies began to circle around us and that’s when I realized the entire settlement had come to support Kaela. Both males and females surrounded us, and I stiffened. Turning my head back and forth, I realized that about ninety percent of them were female, but I didn’t allow it to distract me from Kaela. I stared back at her in challenge.
“What do you know of my sisters?” she asked, trying to stand her ground.
“I know you have three of them and I know where they are. All of them. Right now,” I replied, purposely goading her into action.
I could see the struggle to stay calm playing out on her face.
I took a deep breath and snaked my hand behind my waist, brushing against the dial that controlled the airflow underneath my boots. They worked as a hover device and would counter the effects of the gravity trap that she had us snared in. I turned on the anti-gravity function, just enough that I could take a single heavy step toward her.
“Hold, men,” I commanded again.
She began to look nervous.
“I have a message for you, you’ll just have to listen to me,” I said to her.
She set her mouth in a firm line and shook her head.
I was the enemy and there was no getting past that with her. Not yet.
I’d teach her that she was wrong.