After their moment of torrid passion is interrupted by clanging alarms, Emma, Max and Jack face off against a horde of zombies. Her small Outlands farm is quickly overrun by the endless stream of undead, and the trio has no choice but to make a run for it. Just when all seems lost, a Zed team from Outpost Nine saves the day.
But Emma quickly discovers that being claimed as a mate by the two capable, commanding cyborg officers carries consequences she never dared to imagine. Separated from her men and tossed into quarantine, Emma questions her decision to trust Max and Jack.
When Max breaks every rule in the book to break into the quarantine unit, Emma will have to choose what she wants: a future with Max and Jack or a new life, alone, in the Outlands.
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Emma ended her transmission and switched off the power on her radio. Jack walked over, took the radio from her hand and tucked it into the small front pouch on her backpack. He clasped her hand and led her to the waiting helicopter. The rotors were kicking up dust and grass as they spun faster and faster. Jack put his hand on the top of Emma's head, keeping it down and out of harm's way. It was a silly and overprotective thing to do considering Emma was only an inch or two over five feet but it made him feel better.
When they reached the wide open doors, he grasped her by the waist and handed her up to Max. Jack jumped in after her and directed her to one of the chairs behind the cockpit. After helping her out of her backpack, he strapped her in with the harness and slapped a pair of headphones over her ears to dampen the loud noise. He gave her a thumbs-up that she mimicked with a silly grin on her face. He ruffled her hair and moved over to the door where he hooked a safety harness around his waist.
One of the cyborg soldiers handed him a rifle. Jack clipped a tether onto the rifle as an extreme precaution to keep it from falling out of the helicopter and slipped into the safety harness. As the helicopter lifted from the ground, Jack glanced over at Emma. She had an almost envious look on her face. He decided then and there he would find a way to sneak her onto a helicopter some day and let her go sky hunting with him. She would love it.
The flight was uneventful. Jack split his focus between scanning the ground for zombies and watching Emma. She seemed to be handling the shaking and speed of the flight well. Sometimes people got sick during their first helicopter rides. The longer they traveled, the more her eyelids drooped. She needed hot food, a hot shower and a comfortable bed.
As they crossed into Outpost territory, Jack allowed his arm to relax. He noticed movement by Emma and watched as one of the human soldiers sitting near her feet tapped her bare leg and offered her a granola bar. She stared at the packaged bar suspiciously before opening the wrapper and taking a tiny bite. She made a face and shuddered before trying to hand it back to the soldier. He just laughed and pushed it back toward her mouth. He made an eating gesture and then unscrewed the lid from his canteen. Emma reconsidered his offer and gave a little nod. She ate the granola bar and sipped water from the canteen for the rest of the ride.
When they started to descend, Emma returned the canteen to its owner and mouthed the words thank you. The young kid winked back at her, rubbed her thigh and returned his canteen to his pack. Jack's gaze slid to Max's face. Sharing his supplies with Emma was one thing but winking at her and touching her leg had crossed one of Max's lines. Jack figured the boy was in for an earful when they set down. Human males competed with the cyborgs for female affection. They tended to be more successful than cyborgs, a fact that would set off Max's insecurities.
Max was out of his seat the second the helicopter touched the landing pad. Jack started to rise, worried Max was going to approach the young soldier right there in the back of the helicopter. He was pleasantly surprised that Max crouched down in front of Emma and unbuckled her from the seat harness. While the rest of the team jumped out of the helicopter, Jack weaved around them to reach Max and Emma.
"I can't believe you guys eat those things," Emma was saying. She made a disgusted face. "They're awful. Seriously, they taste like sawdust. Is that what all of your food tastes like?"
Jack smiled and shook his head "No, Emma. Those are just battle rations. The food here on base is just as good as what you served us."
"Thank goodness! I thought I was going to starve to death if that was typical of the food here at the Outpost. I didn't want to be rude to the guy who gave me his ration so I just choked it down."
"I wanted to choke him," Max muttered as he lifted Emma to her feet.
"Why?" Emma frowned up at him. "Because he touched me?"
"Yes." Max ground out the word angrily. "No one should touch you but me or Jack. You're not some plaything for the other men to put their hands on."
"Are you jealous, Max?" Emma stroked his arm. She smiled sexily at Jack and touched his chest. "Honestly, after last night, the two of you don't need to worry. I'm not interested in having anyone else touch me but you two."
Heat sizzled through Jack's groin. Emma's impish smile and the way her fingers walked up and down his chest made him hard. How easy would it be to sneak a few kisses in the back of the helicopter without getting caught? She made him crazy with lust and need.
"Captain Stillwater? Major Cardwell?"
Max growled and stalked toward the open doors. "What?"
"Uh, sir, I think you've got a problem."
Jack didn't like the sound of that. He grabbed Emma and slid her behind him. He reached back and put his hand on her hip. "What is it, Max?"
"I don't know. Stay here." Max hopped from the helicopter and disappeared from view.
"Sh, Emma," Jack admonished. "I need to listen." He engaged his enhanced hearing and heard the smooth roll of tires and the squeak of brakes. Boots hit pavement. Irritated voices snapped back and forth.
Quarantine, Jack. They want to lock her up for seventy-two hours and do a proper intake.
Max’s message hit Jack like a punch to the gut. "Shit."
"What?" Emma's fear radiated through his chest. “What is it?”
He spun around and clasped her face between his hands. "Listen to me, Emma. We're going to be separated from you for a few days."
"What?” She recoiled in terror. “No!"
"Emma," Jack tried to quell her panic but it was no use. "It's standard procedure when there's been a big incident like this. They'll put you in a hospital room, run some tests and then let you go."
"No!" Tears filled Emma's eyes. "Please, don't make me go. I don't want to leave you or Max."
Guilt clawed at Jack. Emma had been raised to fear the government and all cyborgs. This must have been horrifying for her. "Emma, please, don't make this worse than it has to be. It's just temporary."
"Jack." Max's strained voice came from the open doorway behind them. "The med team is here for Emma."
Emma took a few steps back and looked as if she might try to bolt out the opposite door. That would only make things worse. Jack snatched her by the waist and lifted her, kicking and screaming, from the helicopter's floor and carted her out of the aircraft. She put up such a fight that he feared they would sedate her. "Emma, stop! Just calm down. It's only three days."
"You promised," she wailed pitifully. "You promised you'd protect me."
"We are," Jack said, his gut wrenching at the betrayal etched on her face
"Please, Jack," she sobbed. "Don't make me go with them."
Jack wanted nothing more than to run her straight to the home he shared with Max but it wasn't possible. There were rules and regulations. He wouldn't break them. "I'm sorry, Emma."
Jaw steeled, he handed her over to one of the medics decked out in full biohazard gear. Emma's shocked face broke his heart. She screamed as they tried to tie her down to a gurney. "Max! Max! Please, Max!"
Beside him, Max stood rigidly, his face emotionless. Emma was finally strapped onto the gurney and lifted into the back of the ambulance. The slamming doors cut of her terrified shrieks but Jack doubted they would ever stop echoing in his head. Feeling lower than low, he watched the ambulance speed away from the tarmac. Jack's heart sunk as he realized they had probably just lost her completely.
This was a betrayal Emma would never forget.