Claimed (Outlaws)

By: Elle Kennedy

1





“I need to get drunk and laid – not necessarily in that order,” Rylan announced as the group crossed the threshold into the bar.



Connor had to duck his head to clear the top of the doorway. So did the others. All five of them stood well over six feet tall, making an imposing sight as they entered the candlelit room. Every head turned their way, but fear dissolved into mild apprehension and disinterest once the patrons discerned that the men didn’t have Enforcer logos on their clothing. Most turned away, refocusing their attention on their companions or the alcohol in front of them.



“And look at that,” Rylan said in delight. “The bartender’s cute. Must be new, ’cause I’d definitely remember those tits.”



Connor followed his friend’s gaze to the long metal counter tended by a thin blonde with serious cleavage. Yeah, Ry would remember screwing her. Skinny and big-busted was his flavor of choice. Blondie glanced up and winked at the men, her pouty red lips lifting in a sensual come-hither-and-fuck-me smile.



A sense of desperation hung in the air and mingled with the cloud of tobacco smoke hanging over the room like a canopy. Sex, booze, and cigarettes – rare luxuries these days, unless you knew where to find ’em. And hell, you didn’t even have to pay to fuck anymore. Currency meant shit outside the city, and besides, most women were as eager to get screwed as the men who wanted to screw them. But Connor wasn’t here for sex. He was looking forward to a nice date with Jack Daniel’s. It’d been way too long since he’d felt the burn of alcohol coursing through his veins.



The bar used to be a morgue, and the compartments where stiffs had once been stored now contained bottles of alcohol and supplies that the owners of the establishment had amassed over the years. They’d brought in mismatched furniture, tables and old couches, splintered wooden chairs. No power in the joint, so they’d lit dozens of candles, which danced on the cinder-block walls and shrouded most faces in shadow. The small hospital on the floors above them lay deserted, because hospitals were a thing of the past. You got sick or injured, you died. Population control, the fuckers in the “government” called it.



Connor chose a seat that allowed him to monitor both the door and the smoky main room, while Rylan, Pike, and Xander scrambled for the rest. Kade got stuck facing away from the door, which meant he’d be the first one to get a bullet to the back of his head if trouble arose.



The tabletop was scratched and stained with shit Connor didn’t even want to know about. Without any discussion, Rylan went up to the counter to order their drinks. That meant he’d be the one paying the tab, but he didn’t seem to mind in the slightest. Blondie over there was right up his alley. In a barter-and-trade era, you sometimes paid a high price for whatever you were trying to acquire, but this was win-win for Rylan – he’d get the booze and the pussy. Which made him a damn lucky bastard, because the last time they’d come here, the bartender had been male and Connor had been forced to trade a rifle for a bottle of Jack.



Fate smiled on the attractive and horny, he supposed.



“So… do we move?” A trademark scowl twisted Pike’s face as he voiced the question they’d all been thinking.



Connor rubbed the stubble coating his jaw. He wished like hell he had a razor, but the one back at camp had rusted to shit, and their next raid wasn’t scheduled until tomorrow. “Don’t know. I think we should wait it out. The rumors might be bullshit.”



“Word is Dominik is heading south,” Pike reminded him. “He did a sweep last week, cleared out an entire camp only a few hundred miles from here.”



Bastard sure had, and damned if that didn’t make Connor uneasy. Of all the Enforcers in the Colonies, Dominik and his band of bloodthirsty psychos were the worst. They were vicious, determined, and damn good at their job. Dominik answered only to West Colony’s Enforcer commander, who in turn answered to the council members above him. The group’s orders were simple: round up every last outlaw in the colony, force them to rejoin society, or kill them if they refused.



If Dominik really was closing in on them, the smart move would be to get the fuck out. Head for South Colony, or try to find a ship heading east, but traveling was a bitch these days. More checkpoints, more Enforcers, more bandits.



Kade spoke up. “I say we stick it out. We’ve got a good thing going here.”



Connor couldn’t disagree as he thought about the abandoned wilderness resort they’d been living in for the past year. Tucked in the foothills of the Rockies, the camp consisted of two dozen cabins and a main lodge nestled in the trees. After scouting the area for weeks, the men had claimed the old place and promptly turned it into a fortress. The resort was more secure than a military facility, just the way Connor liked it.

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