But as her blades crackled in the too-quiet room, and waves of electricity spiraled around them, Dex wondered if he’d made a mistake. He hadn’t seen her in years, but he’d heard the rumors. He hadn’t known if she truly could wield those weapons with a glory and grace that drew blood and split bones.
But now, as Androma rasped, “I’m going to kill you,” and her words sent a slice of regret cutting through Dex’s heart, he knew.
Gone was the young woman he’d once known, that shivering thing he’d found bruised and broken in the markets of Uulveca.
In her place stood the warrior he’d trained and hardened and turned into something devilishly delicious.
Dex reached for his gun as the Bloody Baroness attacked.
* * *
The world slowed, but Andi moved like a flash of light.
She hurtled her way through the first wave of Patrolmen before they could blink, lashing out her swords, removing smoking limbs from bodies as they screamed and succumbed to the trademark agony of the Bloody Baroness.
Her white hair sprung loose from its braid, the dyed purple streaks almost a blur as she whirled and leaped. She knocked her varillium cuffs into faces, drawing bursts of blood, and kicked her legs out, toppling her opponents like stars falling from the sky.
The Patrolmen finally regained their wits and lifted their rifles to shoot.
An unfortunate weapon they’d chosen. For as soon as they loosed their bullets, the girls dove behind Breck’s towering form. The bullets pinged off her skin, flattening and falling to the floor.
Bless her New Vedan blood, her bulletproof skin.
“You’re going to have to do better than that, gentlemen,” Breck said, hands on her hips, the girls still protected behind her. “What? You’ve never shot at a New Vedan before?”
“Take them out!” Dex shouted. “Save Androma for me.”
His words sent a spike of rage straight through Andi’s heart.
He’d threatened her crew. For that, his life—and the lives of the Patrolmen—were now forfeit.
“Forward!” she shouted. Breck moved, and the girls followed behind as bullets continue to barrage her chest, useless.
A ball of white light shot past Andi’s shoulder. An enemy was blasted backward, already a corpse as he slammed into the door frame.
“Oh, that was a good shot,” Gilly said, giggling and brandishing her double-trigger gun. One trigger killed, one disabled. She blew smoke away from the barrel and grinned as she ducked back behind Breck.
“I want the floor stained with their blood!” Andi yelled to her crew above the chaos.
Gone were her emotions, gone was her heart.
The killing mask of the Baroness slid into place.
* * *
Patrolmen dropped around them as the girls attacked, lunging out from behind Breck’s body at random. Andi swung her swords, lashing out with a fury she kept locked inside for moments just like this. Years of dancing and training at the Academy had turned her body into a fluid, ferocious thing.
A Patrolman turned his rifle around and swung it at Breck’s head.
“Take him!” Andi roared.
Gilly unloaded her gun on the man.
Behind them, Lira flipped, twisted. She was a blur of glowing scaled skin and black bodysuit, fists cracking jaws, legs locking around throats. They moved forward, leaving moaning bodies in their wake, silenced soon after by Gilly’s gun and Breck’s whip as the fight carried on into the hall.
Still, the remaining Patrolmen fought on.
“Take them all down,” Andi commanded her girls as she sliced a Patrolman’s hand off at the wrist. Breck scooped up the gun still clutched in the hand before it could hit the floor and fired it. Silver blood exploded against the metal wall beyond. “But remember, Dex is mine.”
He was standing there, beyond the wave of his fighting men, staring at her as she came out from behind Breck’s protection.
A Patrolman shot.
Andi lifted her arms. The bullet slammed against her varillium cuffs before it could lodge itself into her throat.
“Take care of him,” she said as the bullet clattered to the floor. Breck was suddenly beside her, twisting the man’s neck with a glorious pop. Music to Andi’s ears.
Now there were only three men between Andi and her enemy.
They stood at the ready, guns out, a solid line in front of Dex.
She could see his shadowed outline leaning up against the metal wall of the hallway beyond, his stance so cool and casual it made her want to tear his eyes out.
“What’s wrong, Dex? You don’t want to come out and play with me?” Andi said, her voice a dangerous purr.
Dex chuckled, his mahogany hair falling across one brown eye as he stepped forth to meet her gaze. “You were always one for theatrics, Androma. My little bitter ballerina.”
“I am not—and never will be—yours.”
“We’ll see about that.”
“These three can live,” she said, nodding her head at the final Patrolmen. “It’s you I want a fight with, Dextro.”
She saw his brow furrow at the use of his full name. Definitely not a name one would associate with a Tenebran Guardian, let alone with the most notorious bounty hunter in Mirabel.
“Is that mercy I hear?” Dex smiled as he walked backward, stopping at the silver ladder that led to the deck below. His fingers curled over the railing, his boots poised over the hole in the floor. “Surely not from the Bloody Baroness.”
“Don’t pretend you know me,” Andi retorted. “Though they did invade my ship, and since they insist on protecting you...”
With a crackle of her swords, she lunged forward and cut off three heads in one scissoring slice. The bodies sagged, then landed in a heap at Andi’s feet. The familiar scent of singed flesh wafted up to her nose. And with it, a stab of regret that she buried deep.
Dex blinked once, his only reaction thus far, and Andi’s blood raged at his air of nonchalance. “They were a terrible crew,” he said.
Then he slipped down the ladder. Andi, after holstering one blade, charged after him, not even bothering to use the footholds as she slid down. She landed with a slight thud before turning toward the long corridor behind her.
“Andi, Andi,” Dex said. “So predictable.”