Soldier Page 30

Even though I knew full well our dragon sides would never be satisfied with that.

“Hey, Firebrand,” I greeted softly as her gaze met mine. “Yeah, we’re here. Or, as close as we’re going to get in the car.” I gestured at the fence and the deserted lot beyond. “The facility is somewhere on this property, according to Wes. You ready for this?”

She nodded eagerly and slid out of the car. I did the same, then turned to Wes, watching grimly from the passenger seat. “You know the drill,” I said, as Ember unzipped the duffel lying on the floor and took out a small black pistol. “Keep the engine running. We stay in contact the whole time, and if I say get out, just go.”

Wes sighed and adjusted the headset he was wearing. “I have a bad feeling about this, Riley.”

“You have a bad feeling about everything.” I smirked as he slid into the driver’s seat. “Back in a few minutes. Like I said, we’re just scouting the area. It shouldn’t take long.”

“Famous last words,” Wes muttered as I closed the door and turned to Ember. She solemnly handed me a gun, and I felt a prickle of both pride and unease at how quickly she was picking this up. A few weeks ago, she’d been reluctant to touch a firearm, much less use it. Now it had become routine, though I knew she still hated actually pulling the trigger.

Not for the first time, I wondered why Talon had her pegged to become a Viper, an assassin for the organization. And why they had chosen Lilith, Talon’s best, to train her in the art of killing. Had they seen something in Ember that I didn’t? Or were they just hoping she would become as ruthless and practical as her trainer, a killing machine who showed no remorse when ordered to destroy Talon’s enemies?

Ember frowned at me, and I realized I’d been staring at her, lost in my own thoughts. “What?” she asked, and I quickly shook myself. “What’s that look for?”

“Nothing,” I said, looking toward the fence “You know what we’re doing, Firebrand?”

She bobbed her head. “Recon.”

“Yeah, so be on the lookout for guards, cameras, security, hidden entrances, anything like that. We want to avoid a fight, and we don’t want anyone to know we’re here.”

She frowned. “If there are cameras and alarms all over the place, how will we get through unnoticed?”

“Leave that to me, Firebrand. I’ve done this before. I know what to look for, enough to keep us from tripping an alarm, anyway. But still, we have to be careful.” I gazed through the fence at the distant buildings, narrowing my eyes. “We only get one shot at this. If this is the facility, if there are breeder dragons here, the last thing I want to do is go in blind.”

Ember gave a grave nod. “I’m ready.”

We hopped the fence and started walking across the barren lot.

* * *

“It’s too quiet,” Ember remarked several minutes later, after we’d passed the first set of buildings, all dark and abandoned. Weeds poked through the cracks in the cement, but the buildings themselves were eerily intact. No broken windows, no streaks of graffiti, no signs of break-in or vandalism. Nothing moved in the stillness except us and a couple startled birds. “How can they hide a bunch of dragons in the middle of nothing? This place seems completely deserted.”

“One of the things they do best, Firebrand,” I replied, still scanning the grounds for security measures. So far, there had been nothing, which made me even more wary. I guessed it would be more heavily guarded the closer we got to the actual facility, but the complete lack of security was disconcerting. “Talon excels at hiding in plain sight,” I went on. “This is just a front, to make sure no one comes poking around. They certainly can’t keep their breeders in a hospital, or anywhere close to people for that matter.”

“Why not?”

“Because know.” I looked at her; she seemed truly baffled, and I winced. “You’re kidding. Your tutors didn’t teach you Dragon Hatching 101?”

“Not really.”

Wes snickered in my ear. “Oh, this should be good,” he muttered. “The infamous breeding conversation. Hanging on every word here, mate.”

“You know, you should really ask Wes,” I told Ember. “It would make his day, I’m sure.”

“What?” yelped the voice in my ear. “Don’t you dare point her at me.”

Ember frowned. “Just tell me, Riley.”

I groaned. “All right, fine. So, breeding. Not an awkward conversation at all.” Wes gave another snicker, enjoying my discomfort far too much. I tried to ignore him. “You know that dragons in Talon don’t...uh...mate with whomever they want, right? It’s yet another thing that the organization controls. Talon maintains a strict schedule of who gets mated to whom, and once the female has been...impregnated...she can’t remain in human form after the first couple months.”

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