After a devastating war decimated most of the world, Hudson Lane has only known the oppressive life under her own father’s tyranny. She finally escapes, branding herself an outlaw and hunted by the Enforcers. Her best chance at survival is Connor Mackenzie, an aggressively sensual fugitive who opens her eyes to the wicked possibilities of a world without rules.
As the leader of a band of outlaw fighters, Connor can’t resist the beautiful stranger who asks for his protection. Despite his reservations, he agrees to introduce her to a whole new way of life. But when Connor discovers Hudson’s connection to the enemies of liberty, he wonders how far he can trust the woman who has abandoned all inhibitions to challenge every forbidden desire.
About the Author
RITA-nominated and USA Today bestselling author of the Killer Instincts novels (Midnight Action, Midnight Captive), Elle Kennedy grew up in the suburbs of Toronto, Ontario, and holds a BA in English from York University. From an early age, she knew she wanted to be a writer and actively began pursuing that dream when she was a teenager. She loves strong heroines, alpha heroes, and just enough heat and danger to keep things interesting!
Read an Excerpt
“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.
Rylan returned to the table with a full bottle of whiskey and five shot glasses, which clinked together in his hand. Unscrewing the bottle, he poured a stream of alcohol over the glasses, the excess liquid joining the other stains on the rotting wood.
“Hey, don’t waste it,” Xander grumbled. “Who knows when we’ll have another chance to get shit-faced?”
Rylan flopped down in his chair, slugged back a shot, then poured himself another. “So what’s the final consensus?”
Xander rubbed the thick beard covering his jaw. “Pike thinks we should go. Kade wants to stay. Con is undecided.”
Rylan was quick to throw in his two cents. “I vote for staying. I like it here. And by the way, brother, what’s with the beard? You know it’s like a gazillion degrees out, right?”
“If your pretty-boy face were capable of growing a beard, you’d look like me too right now.” Xander sighed. “Shit. I hope we find some razors on the raid tomorrow. Maybe even an electric one.”
“And candy,” Kade added, brightening at the thought. “Some real sweet shit. It’s been ages since we came across any chocolate.”
“And some really filthy porn,” Rylan added with a grin.
Connor didn’t join in, mostly because he was scared he’d snap and piss everyone off. But seriously, chocolate and porn? A war had ravaged the entire globe, for fuck’s sake. Bombs had fallen on cities like raindrops and eliminated entire populations, and those who survived were now prisoners—sorry, citizens—of the Colonies.
And Kade’s biggest problem was that he couldn’t satisfy his sweet tooth?
They’re making the best of this shit.
Yeah, maybe. Maybe Connor was a negative motherfucker for dwelling on the chaos and destruction, but what was he supposed to do—act like everything was fine and dandy? Pretend that his life was filled with rainbows and lollipops?
He raised his glass to his lips and gulped the alcohol. It burned his throat on the way down, heating his stomach in a familiar, welcoming way. Screw candy and porn—the only thing he wanted from the raid tomorrow was a crate of booze. Even cheap wine would do. Anything to numb the angry, powerless feelings swirling in his gut.
“You know what? Who needs porn when you can settle for the real thing?” Rylan scraped back his chair. “’Scuse me, boys.”
Rylan headed to the counter, where he leaned forward and murmured something that made the bartender giggle. A few seconds later, the blonde eagerly followed him toward a corridor in the back, but not before tossing a not-so-discreet look at Connor and the other men.
“Think she’d be down for some company?” Kade wondered aloud.
Xander grinned. “One hundred percent yes. Did you see the way she looked back just now? That hot little number is dying to be tag-teamed.”
“Can you assholes forget about your goddamn cocks for one goddamn minute?” Pike snapped. “We’ve gotta make a decision. If Dominik’s on his way here, I say we go.”
“Since when are you scared of a fight?” Xander taunted.
Pike scowled at him. “Some battles aren’t worth fighting. Let Dominik do his thing, as long as he leaves us alone.”
And right there was the problem—Connor didn’t want Dominik to leave him alone.
He was itching for a face-to-face with that bastard, and if he didn’t have the other guys to think about, he would’ve taken off and fed his hunger for vengeance ages ago. But his men looked to him for guidance. Somehow, despite his many protests, he’d become their leader. They did what he said, even Pike, who didn’t like to take orders from anybody. Connor didn’t want any of them getting killed just so he could satisfy the bloodlust that had been poisoning his body for years.
Getting to Dominik was virtually impossible. Not only was he constantly surrounded by his legion of soldiers, but nobody knew where the West Colony Enforcers were headquartered. It wasn’t in the city, where those who survived the war had been shipped off to after the Global Council took control. Rumor had it the Enforcers moved around constantly, never making themselves targets. This was the first time Connor had an inkling of where Dominik was going to be. It was an opportunity he refused to let pass, but . . . did the men who trusted him deserve to die during his own quest for revenge?
Uncertainties rolled through his head like tumbleweed, then faded as the creak of the door grabbed hold of his senses. His head jerked up, hand instinctively reaching beneath his jacket to hover over the butt of his pistol.
Even after he decided the threat level was low, he still couldn’t look away.
The woman who appeared in the doorway held his gaze captive. Tall, slim, with wary gray eyes and long hair the color of warm honey. She wore tight black pants that showcased a spectacular pair of legs and a white tank top that revealed plenty of mouthwatering cleavage. A leather jacket and knee-high boots completed the bad-girl ensemble.
Connor’s mouth went dry.
Christ, he wanted her naked.
It’d been a long time since he’d experienced such a sudden, visceral attraction to a woman. His cock strained against his zipper, but another look in the woman’s direction and he knew the eager bulge in his pants wouldn’t be getting the attention it demanded.
She might be dressed like a bad girl, but she sure as shit wasn’t one. The fearful desperation clouding her eyes revealed her for what she was—a lost little lamb who’d wandered into a den of wolves. And yet . . . there was also determination flickering in her gaze. A sense of to-hell-with-you bravado that gave her a purposeful stride as she stepped into the room.
“Dibs,” came Xander’s low voice.
“Don’t even think about it,” Connor muttered.
He registered the surprised faces around the table realizing what his command had sounded like. Possessive. Like he was staking a claim. But that hadn’t been his intention. His body might be throbbing like crazy at the moment, but he had no desire to claim the woman. Every instinct he possessed told him to stay away from her. To keep his guys away too.
He watched as she approached the counter and spoke to the young man who’d taken over for the girl who probably had Rylan’s cock in her mouth at the moment.
The conversation was hushed, the blonde’s shoulders going rigid as the bartender said something she clearly didn’t like.
A flash of movement caught his eye. She’d slid something toward the kid, but Connor couldn’t make it out. A moment later, the bartender tucked the item in his pocket and slid a beer bottle across the counter. The blonde took it and went over to a table in the corner of the room.
Connor tore his eyes off her. He was still semihard and not at all happy about it. He shouldn’t be thinking about fucking, not when Dominik was finally within his grasp.
He could get off any damn time he wanted, but revenge? That was something he could carry with him for the rest of his life.
• • •
Hudson couldn’t believe she’d been forced to trade a Swiss Army knife for a measly bottle of beer. It wasn’t her last weapon, or one she was especially fond of, but handing it over to the bartender still grated. She hadn’t realized the wad of cash in her pocket was useless beyond the city walls, and that was just another disheartening item to add to the growing list of things she didn’t understand about this world.
She found an empty table and sat down, twisting off the beer cap and swallowing the lukewarm alcohol. She didn’t like the taste of beer much, but she wasn’t in the mood for anything stronger. She had to stay alert. And she definitely needed to find a place to sleep tonight.
Panic bubbled in her throat as she imagined spending the night outdoors again. She kept expecting bandits to pop out of the shadows, which made it impossible to fall asleep. She’d been in outlaw territory for nearly a week now, and she wasn’t even close to adapting to her rough, dangerous surroundings. She’d thought her training would help her survive out here.
She hadn’t expected to be this damn afraid all the damn time.
Taking a breath, she glanced around the room. Despite the low chatter and occasional chuckles, nobody looked relaxed. Shoulders were stiff and gazes were guarded. She was beginning to suspect this kind of behavior wasn’t uncommon. Since she’d left the compound, she’d realized that nobody was immune to the Global Council’s control. Even those who considered themselves free—the outlaws—continued to look over their shoulders.
When the GC had taken over four decades ago, they’d decided the only way to avoid another war was to rule with an iron fist. The council members insisted that the devastation of the world would not have happened if a strong global regime had been in place, so they’d eliminated conflict-causing factors like class, religion, free will. The new system worked, to some extent. Hudson couldn’t deny she’d been happy in the city, at least before Dominik had turned her into a prisoner in her own life.
She supposed she was an outlaw now too. A target like the rest of them. It was a culture shock to be thrust into this new world, surrounded by people who were determined to cling to whatever freedom they could.
Her gaze drifted to a table near the door, where four men spoke in hushed tones. They made a formidable sight. Gorgeous, masculine, oozing deadly intensity.
One in particular captured her attention. Late twenties, early thirties maybe, with cropped brown hair, cold hazel eyes and muscles galore. He wore a fitted olive green jacket that most likely hid a slew of weapons beneath it, and everything about him screamed warrior. The broad set of his shoulders, the way his hawklike gaze swept over the room even as he carried on a conversation with his companions.
Her breath hitched when the object of her perusal turned his head and looked at her.
Holy crap. Nothing cold in his gaze anymore, just bold, undisguised fire.
He wanted her.
Ignoring the sudden pounding of her heart, Hudson wrenched her eyes away and gulped down some more beer. She felt flushed, her hair like a heavy curtain smothering her shoulders and back, but she didn’t dare pin it up. Even though the tattoo at the base of her neck was buried under layers of makeup, she still wasn’t taking any chances. If anyone so much as suspected who she was, she’d be killed in a heartbeat.
A high-pitched giggle sounded from the other end of the room, and Hudson turned to see a woman with blond hair and double D’s emerge from a dark corridor, flanked by a tall man with piercing blue eyes and a killer grin. He had the arrogant swagger of a guy who’d just gotten laid, and his companion’s bee-stung lips and tousled hair confirmed it. The man gave the woman’s ass a playful spank, then sauntered over to the table Hudson had been observing.
Surprise, surprise. Sexy blond guy was with the sexy foursome.
As he sat, his gaze collided with hers, and a faint smile lifted the corner of his mouth. It faded when the dark-haired outlaw she’d been trying not to ogle muttered something that silenced the group.
Hudson sighed. Now definitely wasn’t the time to get all hot for a sinfully sexy stranger. She had more pressing matters to deal with, so many of them her head was starting to spin.
Find a place where she could lie low for a while. Scavenge some supplies. Figure out how to get the hell out of West Colony. Evade Dominik, who’d no doubt sent an army after her.
Maybe the folks who ran this place would help her find a safe haven—
“Down on the floor, assholes!”
She’d been so lost in thought she hadn’t sensed the danger until it was too late. She didn’t have time to unsheathe the knife on her hip, because cold fingers grabbed her arm and yanked her to the dirty cement floor.
“Stay down, bitch!”
There was a blur of movement, loud expletives, and angry shouts as a dozen men stormed the bar and advanced on its patrons.
The man who’d thrown her down had neglected to search her for weapons, so she still had possession of her knife, along with the rest of the sharp steel blades strapped to her body. She gripped the bone handle and slowly slid the hunting knife down to her side, lifting her head to assess the situation. She’d heard of bandits, but this was her first encounter with them.
They looked a lot like the homeless people she’d seen in her father’s photographs of prewar Los Angeles. Threadbare clothing, dirty, reeking of booze. The Enforcers didn’t differentiate between bandits and outlaws, but Hudson needed only two seconds to recognize the difference. Outlaws fought for freedom, and sure, they raided GC supply compounds when it was needed, but they were fighting against a government they opposed, not with one another.
These men were scavengers. Broken, desperate vultures that didn’t belong, not in GC society and not among the rebels. She’d heard that bandits had no consciences, no remorse about robbing and killing and raping anything in their paths.
Her heartbeat accelerated as she stayed flat on the floor while the bandits manhandled the patrons in the smoky room, kicking anyone who so much as yelped. The leader of the band, a man with dark hair and a bushy overgrown beard, hopped the counter, assault rifle in hand.
“We want all the booze,” he snapped at the bartender.
Hudson slithered under the table. From the corner of her eye, she noticed that the five outlaws had remained seated and were watching events unfold with bored expressions on their respective handsome faces.
“Get down on the ground!” shouted one of the bandits. He was a short, skinny man with a shaved head, his unimposing physique made deadly only by the gun he waved at the group.
“No, thanks,” the outlaw with black hair and an even blacker scowl replied.
“You wanna die? Is that it?” The bandit cocked his pistol. “Because I’m perfectly happy to—”
The five men sprang into action. One second the table was upright; the next it was whipped on its side with two of them diving behind it for cover. Hudson saw a blur of arms and legs, flashes of steel and silver.
An outraged moan cut the air as the skinny bandit suddenly found a knife lodged in his upper arm. He staggered forward while his fellow robbers launched themselves at the men, their quest for alcohol forgotten.
It was a bloodbath. A gunshot boomed, sending one of the bandits crashing to the floor two feet from her head. More shots echoed in the room, making her ears ring.
She watched the scene unfold in morbid fascination. The outlaws didn’t even break a sweat, and they were completely unfazed by the fact that they were outnumbered. Fists connected with jaws. Grunts heated the air. Another explosion of gunfire took chunks out of the cement wall.
A furious male curse made her wince, and she twisted her head in time to see the blond outlaw stumble backward. He lifted a hand to his neck in amazement, and even from across the room she saw his hand come back stained with blood. He’d been hit. And yet he didn’t even miss a beat as he raised his gun and fired twice, eliciting a shriek of agony from the long-haired bandit who’d been attempting to finish him off.
A thud. Two. The bandits were dropping like flies.
Silence finally descended over the room, broken only by the groans of those lucky enough to be alive.
“Well, that was fun,” the man with the black eyes remarked. He sounded thoroughly bored.
A scuffed boot crossed her line of vision. She shifted in time to see the thick sole stomp on the chest of the bandit leader, the one with the beard. When she raised her gaze, she discovered that the boot belonged to the man with the smoldering hazel eyes.
“I suggest you round up your buddies—the ones who are still breathing—and get the hell out of here,” he said coolly.
“Fuck you,” was the strangled reply.
With a heavy breath, the man hauled the bandit to his feet. “Fine, we’ll do it the hard way.”
He grabbed the guy’s arm and broke it with a sickening crack.
Hudson flinched at the bandit’s shriek of pain, watching in amazement as the outlaw manhandled the injured man to the door. He stopped, glanced over his shoulder in an unspoken command, and his men wasted no time hauling the remaining intruders out of the bar.
Patrons slowly got to their feet. Dazed. The bartender rushed toward the blond man, but he brushed off her arm and continued toward the door, an unconscious man hanging over his broad shoulder.
Hudson stood up on shaky legs and stared at the bodies littering the floor. Eight in total. A bloody massacre. She wasn’t surprised when a few customers made a beeline for the dead, frantically rummaging through pockets and looting the lifeless men.
She was sheathing her knife when the outlaws returned. The blond had his palm clamped over his neck, and she could see blood oozing between his fingers.
“Everybody all right?” their leader asked gruffly.
The bartender hurried over. “Thank you,” she blurted out.
He ignored the declaration of gratitude. “Two of my guys will stay here tonight in case those assholes decide to push their luck and come back. But I suggest you close up shop. Location’s been compromised, which means you’re bound to encounter more of this shit.”
She nodded rapidly. “We will. We’ll close up tomorrow.”
He glanced around the room, his hazel eyes resting on Hudson. Warmth instantly flooded her belly, traveling through her body until every inch of her felt hot and achy.
After a long moment, he broke the eye contact. “Let’s move out,” he barked at his friends. “Xander, you and Pike take care of the bodies and make sure these folks stay safe.”
“No problem. Oh, and, Connor,” the other man added dryly, “get Ry cleaned up. He’s bleeding like a stuck pig.”
Connor. The name suited him.
Hudson couldn’t take her eyes off him as he turned and marched to the door, providing her with a nice view of his taut backside. It wasn’t until he disappeared through the doorway that she snapped out of her trance.
Ignoring the startled looks from the other people in the bar, she raced out the door, blinking to adjust to the darkness. The lights that had once illuminated the parking lot of the hospital had been knocked out, and parts of the pavement were black and cracking, most likely from the fires or explosives that had been set off by the looters all those years ago.
Everything beyond the walls of West City looked this way—dead trees and blackened earth, crumbling buildings and overgrown neighborhoods, and the coastal cities that hadn’t ended up underwater were still flooded to shit.
Hudson stopped only to grab the duffel bag she’d stashed in the bushes, then raced across the parking lot. She caught up with Connor just as he reached the beat-up Jeep parked in the lot.
He froze. Turned his head slightly, greeting her with suspicion.
She stumbled toward the vehicle, aware of how foolish she was being. How reckless.
But she knew without a shred of doubt that the answer to all her problems was standing right there in front of her. This man, with his warrior body and cold eyes and military precision—he was the solution.
“Yeah?” he muttered.
“You . . . What you guys did back there . . . I just wanted to . . .”
A soft chuckle sounded from behind her. She spun around as the blond guy with the bloody neck—Ry?—approached the Jeep, tailed by another dark-haired outlaw.
“See, I told you chicks got off on violence,” Ry told his friend. He fixed his blue eyes on her. “But listen, gorgeous, don’t bother with Connor. He’s too bossy in bed. Me, on the other hand . . . I’ll let you do whatever you want to me.”
She couldn’t help but smile. “Thanks, but that’s not what I want from him.”
“Your loss,” he said lightly before hopping into the backseat.
“What the fuck do you want?” Connor demanded.
Their gazes locked, and a rush of awareness sailed through her again.
“Say whatever you want to say so we can get the hell outta here.” Irritation crept into his deep, raspy voice.
“I . . .” She swallowed. “I—”
“Spit it out, sweetheart.”
She opened her mouth, and four desperation-laced words flew out of it. “Take me with you.”
Take me with you.
Definitely not the words Connor had expected to hear. They were strangers to her, and in this day and age you didn’t cozy up to strangers. You stayed the fuck away from them.
“Did you hear me?” She rested her hands on her slender hips. “I want to go with you.”
“Didn’t anyone ever tell you that you can’t always get what you want? I think someone even wrote a song about it once.”
“I don’t care. I still want to come with you.”
“Sorry, sweetheart, but this is a boys-only club.”
Her agitated expression gave way to indignation. “Wow. So you’re rude and sexist.”
From the backseat of the Jeep, Rylan snorted. It wasn’t every day someone stood up to Connor; no doubt his friends were totally digging this.
He didn’t enjoy it one bit, though. He hated being out in the open like this. Yeah, he and the boys had scouted the area dozens of times, but the Enforcers were unpredictable. They lived in the shadows and ambushed you when you least expected it.
Connor just wanted to get back to base, where he could finally let himself breathe. And he had no intention of taking this woman with him.
“Please,” she implored when he didn’t respond. “I don’t have anywhere to go.”
“Not my problem.” He headed for the driver’s door.
She trailed after him like an annoying puppy. “I saw the way you handled those bandits. Effortlessly. You guys know what you’re doing. You’ve had training.”
“What’s it to you?”
“I’m all alone.” Her voice wobbled. “The people I was with were killed. I need . . . protection.”
He noted that her expression remained shuttered and emotionless when she mentioned that her group was dead. Not necessarily a sign of dishonesty, but the story didn’t sit right with him.
“Just take me with you. I promise I won’t be a nuisance.”
“You already are.”
She ignored the accusation. “Look, I can help your friend. I’m good at treating battle wounds—”
“So are we, sweetheart. Trust me, he’ll be fine.”
“Then I can cook for you guys, or . . . I don’t know . . . clean, be a lookout . . .” She trailed off.
He almost laughed. Right, because they were in the market for a fucking maid.
“Tempting offer,” he said, “but I’ll pass.”
“We don’t have anything for you to cook, anyway,” Kade piped up, irritating the hell out of Connor. “At least not until the next raid. So your offer for home cooking ain’t needed at the moment. Appreciated, though.”
Her expression brightened. “Raid? I can come along on a raid. I’ve had training too and—”
Those gray eyes flashed. “I have.”
“Says the woman who hid under a table when the bandits showed up.”
He was goading her, but he couldn’t stop himself. Something about her rubbed him the wrong way. The conflicting air of vulnerability and danger. The beautiful face and out-of-this-world body. He didn’t trust her.
“I could have defended myself. They just caught me off guard,” she muttered.
“I’m sure you think—”
She moved so fast, he didn’t even have time to blink. Next thing he knew her knee was jammed between his thighs, and she had one hand on the nape of his neck while the other held a knife to his throat.
Connor stiffened, resisted the urge to curse. Man, she was fast. And lethal, judging by the skillful way she pressed the blade to his skin. He knew he’d get nicked—or worse—if he tried to wrench away. The feel of her firm thigh between his legs got him hard, instantly, and his cock grew harder still when he peered down and glimpsed the deadly glint in her big gray eyes.
“What now?” he couldn’t help but taunt. “You’re gonna slit my throat to prove your point?”
Her throat bobbed as she swallowed. Didn’t take a genius to figure out she felt the hard ridge digging into her thigh.
“That’s right, babe. I’m hard as a rock,” he murmured. Then, with a smirk, he eased closer so his erection rubbed against her pelvis.
When she made a soft noise, he chuckled. “Ah, you like it, don’t ya?”
She didn’t answer. The warmth of her body seared his, making his cock jerk. His gaze moved to her mouth, watched her tongue dart out to moisten her bottom lip. He could kiss her right now. Fuck her too, he realized, as she moved her groin ever so slightly over his denim-clad leg.
“Why don’t you undo my pants?” He tipped his head suggestively. “You could blow me right here, right now. Hell, you could blow Ry and Kade too. I’m sure they’d enjoy it.”
Heat flickered in her eyes, and he saw her pulse hammering in the hollow of her throat.
Rotating his hips, he ground harder against her. “Maybe we’ll bring Pike out. He likes to watch, and I’m sure you’ll give us a damn good show—won’t you, sweetheart?”
The blade dug deeper into his flesh. “You know, you’re kind of an asshole.”
“And you’re completely out of your element.” His voice lowered to a menacing pitch. “So let’s stop playing games, huh? Either slit my throat or suck my dick, because we don’t have all night.”
Damned if his dick didn’t jump at the prospect of getting some attention. Fuck. His body was primed and raring to go.
“Um, Con? I’m kinda bleeding here.”
Sucking in a breath, he snapped out of his lust-filled stupor. Rylan’s voice was the reminder he needed, the kick in the ass to regain control of the situation.
In a lightning-fast motion, he curled his fingers around her forearm and yanked hard enough to make her cry out. He twisted her wrist, and the knife clattered to the pavement, its silver blade gleaming in the moonlight.
“What’s your name?” he said roughly.
She blinked a couple of times, as if shocked that he’d managed to disarm her. “Hudson.”
“Hudson. Well, it’s been fun, but like I said before, we don’t pick up strays.” He bent down to collect her knife, then held it toward her, handle side out. “My advice? Find someone else to protect you.”
Her lower lip trembled.
Shit. Was she going to cry?
To his relief, she tightened her lips and grabbed the knife instead, reaching underneath the back of her jacket to tuck it away.
“Fine,” she muttered. “I guess I was wrong. Chivalry is dead. Have a good life, boys.”
A sigh lodged in his throat as Hudson marched off in the direction of the deserted road. Refusing to be affected by the waves of disappointment she was radiating, he hopped into the driver’s seat and glanced back at Rylan. “How’s the neck?”
“Hurting. Just a graze, though.”
“Good.” Connor started the engine, but he didn’t put the gear in drive. His gaze flitted over to where Hudson was walking, head held high, the strap of her duffel hanging off her shoulder. The balmy night breeze tickled her long hair, making it ripple down her back in golden waves. To his dismay, both Kade and Rylan were also looking in her direction, their expressions somber.
“I like her,” Rylan remarked.
Kade voiced his agreement. “Me too. But maybe it was the home-cooking line she gave us. I can’t remember the last time I actually had a good meal. Xan’s bean soup makes me want to kill myself.”
“Forget the cooking,” Rylan grumbled. “Thanks to Con, now I can’t stop thinking about that luscious mouth wrapped around my dick.” Connor felt the other man’s mocking eyes on him. “She got you hard, huh?”
He gritted his teeth, finally yanking on the gearshift. “Doesn’t matter. We’re still not taking her back with us.”
Rylan sighed. “You’re no fun at all, Con.”
“And you’re a fool if you think that woman isn’t trouble. She’s running from something.”
“Who isn’t?” Kade said with a laugh.
“I like trouble,” Rylan added. He opened his palm to show them the blood dripping from it. “Trouble’s fun.”
Connor rolled his eyes. “Your kind of trouble gets you an infection and robs us of our last stash of antibiotics.”
Without turning on the headlights—one of them had burned out a while ago, anyway—he pulled out of the lot. The Jeep bounced as it hit several potholes, hinting at the bumpy ride they’d endure on the way back to camp. It had been decades since any kind of road maintenance had been performed on areas outside the city walls, and that was the way the Global Council liked it. If they didn’t rebuild, people wouldn’t have anywhere to settle down and breed, and the last thing the GC wanted was for the world to get overpopulated again—resources were too scarce these days.
Since they had a good forty minutes of driving ahead of them, Connor forced himself to concentrate on the road, though it was difficult to ignore the leather-clad blonde marching along the shoulder.
“I think she gave you the finger.” Rylan chortled, twisting around in the backseat to look at the woman they’d left behind.
Connor’s hands tightened over the steering wheel. He didn’t glance in the rearview mirror until he’d put several miles between them and Hudson. But the memory of those defiant eyes refused to leave him.
Take me with you. She’d sounded so desperate. What was she running from?
Was he a total dick for shooting her down?
“We could’ve let her stay for a couple nights.” The frown marring Kade’s face confirmed that he thought yes, Connor was a major dick. “You know how tough it is to travel alone. Especially for a woman. And she said everyone in her group had been killed.”
“Keep your bleeding heart in check,” Connor grumbled. “We can’t take in every person who gives us a sob story. We can’t afford to take anyone in, period.”
“You took me in,” Kade countered.
Yeah, and Connor was beginning to regret it, what with Kade’s disapproving stare pinning him down. Having people who depended on him had robbed him of his independence. He’d been perfectly content roaming the colony in search of Dominik, and then he’d met Rylan and Pike, who’d become his shadows despite his numerous objections. Next came Xander, whom they’d encountered on a raid. And finally Kade, who’d escaped from the city and never looked back.
Four tagalongs were enough for Connor. Bringing a new player into the mix would only spell disaster.
So why was he easing up on the accelerator?
Rylan chuckled. “Aw, is someone’s conscience making an appearance?”
“Fuck off,” Connor said through clenched teeth.
He jerked the steering wheel in a U-turn, tires raising a cloud of dust. Fucking Kade and his fucking guilt trip.
“One night,” he snapped. “Two, max. And then we’re sending her on her merry fucking way.”
Neither man said a word, but Connor saw their lips twitching. Fighting back laughter. Assholes.
Up ahead, a flash of yellow caught his eye. Sure enough, Hudson was still ambling along, her black bag swinging back and forth with each step she took. Her body immediately stiffened in a defensive posture when she heard the hum of the engine.
Connor stopped on the other side of the road. “Get in,” he called, his voice carrying in the night air.
She hesitated for a moment, then dashed over without a word. She tossed the bag inside and hopped in next to Rylan, so fast that Connor had zero chance of changing his mind.
Twisting around, he scowled at her and repeated what he’d told the guys. “You can crash with us for a night or two. No longer.”
She nodded. “Fair enough.”
Fair? Uh-uh. There was nothing fair about this. Just seeing her again made his body tighten with arousal.
Their gazes connected, and along with gratitude and slight amusement he saw something else flickering in her eyes.
He pulled another U-turn and sped off, trying to ignore the introductions going on behind him. When Hudson leaned forward to shake hands with Kade, her arm brushed Connor’s shoulder and he nearly jumped out of his seat.
He kept his eyes on the road, cursing himself for the stupid decision he’d just made. Inviting a total stranger back to their camp. What the hell was he thinking?
“Let me see.”
Hudson’s soft demand had him glancing at the rearview mirror. His jaw tensed when he saw her reach for Rylan, whose face was looking dangerously pale. Well, no kidding. His neck had been grazed by a bullet. Said a lot about Ry that he was only now starting to show signs of it.
“Gorgeous, I’ve had a lot worse than this,” he told her, his Southern accent flaring as he got his flirt on. Rylan’s ancestors had once lived in Texas, and although the state was now underwater, some remnants of the South still existed, at least in the form of Rylan’s easy drawl.
“Well, good for you. But humor me. You look like you’re about to pass out any second.”
With a sigh, Rylan capitulated.
Using the mirror, Connor watched Hudson examine his friend’s wound. She leaned in so close that her hair fell over his chest and her breasts pressed up against his arm, and from the way Rylan’s eyes twinkled, Connor could tell the bastard was enjoying every second of it.
“It’s still bleeding,” she chided. “You’re not putting enough pressure on it. And I think you’ll need some stitches.”
Connor had just refocused his attention on the road, but his gaze darted back to the mirror when he heard a rustling noise. His throat turned to dust. Hudson was wiggling out of her jacket. She dropped it on the seat, then reached for the hem of her tank top.
He was so busy watching her strip he failed to notice the pothole, a deep depression that made the vehicle bounce like a rubber ball. The Jeep wasn’t the only thing bouncing, either. Nope, Hudson’s mouthwatering tits bounced too, emphasizing the cleavage spilling out of her black bra.
Rylan’s gaze met his in the mirror. “Eyes on the road,” his friend said in a singsong voice.
Connor’s fingers clenched around the wheel.
“There,” Hudson said, pleased. She’d balled up her shirt and was holding it tightly to Rylan’s neck. “I can take a better look when we get to your camp. You have supplies, right?”
As Kade turned to tell their guest about what she could find at their camp, Connor blocked out their voices. This whole night had been nothing but a major headache, starting with the bandits who’d decided to cause trouble in the only bar in the area and ending with the mysterious woman in his backseat.
Too many questions ran through his head. Who was she? What was she running from?
And more important, how the hell was he going to get rid of her?
• • •
One look at the men’s camp and Hudson knew she’d made the right decision by imposing her presence on them.
Their place was as secure as the Enforcers’ compound, with trip wires and motion sensors set up around the perimeter and C-4 strung through every inch of the place. She didn’t bother asking where they’d gotten the equipment. She was simply glad they had it.
Still holding her shirt to Rylan’s neck, she studied their surroundings as they drove through the camp. She spotted a dozen small A-frame cabins on the left and several more of them deeper in the forest, their wooden roofs peeking out from the trees. The buildings were old and shabby, boasting paint-chipped doors, broken porches, and boarded-up windows. The men hadn’t tried to pretty the place up, but at least they’d secured the hell out of it.
“How long have you lived here?” she asked curiously.
“About a year,” Rylan answered. “We stumbled on it after a group of Enforcers ambushed us on the Utah coast.”
If Hudson’s father were alive, he would have shaken his head at those words—the Utah coast. He was one of the rare people who’d been around when America had been divided into states, when the word coast referred to places like California and Oregon and somewhere else she was forgetting. But those areas were gone now—underwater, thanks to the earthquakes that had ravaged the country after the bombs were dropped.
Utah, she mused. Five hundred miles west of where they were. Dominik had visited that area a few months ago, and the Enforcers didn’t sweep a region again until they’d worked their way through the entire colony first. If she went west, chances were she’d be able to evade Dominik for a while. Maybe forever.
The thought of living her life without Dominik in it brought a rush of sorrow to her chest, a knot of emotion wrapped in anger and accusation directed at her brother.
Damn it, what happened to you, Dom?
The Enforcers used to be honorable. They’d protected the citizens and given the outlaws a chance to reintegrate into society. Dominik had been a good leader. A good man.
So what the hell had changed? When had the Enforcers decided they liked killing? And raping? Ambushing camps and weeding out the sick?
When had her brother turned into a monster?
And why the hell hadn’t she seen it?
Hudson choked back the pain and bitterness clawing up her throat. She had to stop thinking about Dom. When she’d orchestrated her escape, she’d known it meant that she’d never see her brother again, and dwelling on the past wasn’t going to help her adjust to her future. Her fucking uncertain future.
“We keep most of the supplies in the main lodge,” Kade told her as the vehicle stopped in front of the main building.
“Get Ry inside,” Connor barked. “I’ll stash the Jeep and check the perimeter.”
Hudson’s heart did a little flip at the sound of his raspy voice. The man might be a total asshole, but she was finding it impossible to rein in her body’s response to him. He was so masculine, rippling with quiet power. And when she’d felt his erection pulsing against her leg earlier . . .
The second they’d come into contact, pure liquid heat had rushed to her pussy. She’d never felt anything like it.
She wanted to feel it again.
A door creaked open, and she realized Kade and Rylan were waiting for her.
Swallowing, she hopped out and followed them up the rickety steps to the double doors of the large log building. When she noticed Rylan swaying on his feet, she wrapped her arm around his massive shoulders, summoning a protest from his lips.
“I’m fine. Really.”
She rolled her eyes. “Sure you are, big boy.”
Kade flicked a light switch, and a warm yellow glow illuminated the room, revealing a wood-paneled lobby in disarray. Dust motes danced in the air, flying apart as Kade stalked forward and gestured for her to follow. They climbed a small set of stairs and walked into a large dining room littered with dusty round tables and wicker chairs. Kade kept walking all the way to the back of the room, where Hudson found three tattered couches and an enormous metal cabinet filled with supplies.
She left Rylan on one of the sofas and examined the contents of the cabinet. Dozens of pill bottles, everything from painkillers to sedatives. Another cubby held bandages and gauze and a third contained surgical tools. There were syringes and sutures and transfusion equipment, even a defibrillator.
And the possession of any one of those items was an offense punishable by death.
“Where did you get all of this?” she breathed.
Rylan chuckled from the couch. “Raids. We can open a clinic, huh?”
“And face a firing squad if the Enforcers found out about this stuff.” Medicine was strictly forbidden in the Colonies—the GC held the firm belief that Mother Nature should be the only deciding factor in life and death. The sick and injured were meant to die, and withholding medical treatment was not only necessary to control a population that had once totaled seven billion, but it also served as motivation for citizens to be more careful.
Avoid injury, avoid disease, stay alive. The motto had been branded into Hudson’s head from the day she was born.
She pulled a few items off the shelves and went back to Rylan. His blue eyes dipped to her chest, a reminder that she was wearing nothing but a skimpy bra.
She turned to Kade. “You think you can find a shirt for me to wear?”
Rylan laughed as his friend dashed off. “Well, nobody said he was smart.”
Hudson poured iodine on a gauze square. “What do you mean?”
“Just if it were me, I wouldn’t be hurrying to find you a shirt.” His gaze smoldered, still fixed on her cleavage. “I’m gonna come out and say it, Blondie. Your tits are amaz— Shit! That fucking stings! Warn a guy next time.”
She batted her eyelashes. “Don’t be a crybaby. It’s not attractive.”
“Neither is what you’re doing to my neck.”
He continued to grumble and complain as she cleaned him up, but quieted down when she told him to shut up so she could assess the wound. She might not be schooled in the outlaw way of bartering and trading, or making camp, or dealing with bandits, but this was where she excelled. Treating battle wounds, making snap decisions and barking out orders. Although she’d been trained to fight, she’d chosen to work in the city’s medical sector instead of joining the military, and a sense of relief washed over her as she realized she could be useful out here in this unfamiliar land. She could be an asset, if these men only gave her a chance.
Rylan’s neck had stopped bleeding, but the bullet had taken off a nice chunk of skin. More of a burn than a cut, and it would definitely leave a scar.
“I don’t think stitches are necessary. All we can do is bandage it up,” she concluded, reaching for more gauze and a roll of medical tape.
Kade returned, followed by Connor, who still wore a scowl on his handsome face. Hudson gathered up her bloody shirt and iodine-stained gauze. “What should I do with these?”
“I’ll take care of it. Here, this is for you.” Kade took her items and handed her a flannel shirt.
She accepted it gratefully, quickly slipping it over her shoulders and doing up the buttons. The worn fabric hung down to her knees, but it was better than nothing.
“How you doing?” Connor asked Rylan.
The other man grinned. “All better. Hudson fixed me up and kissed all my boo-boos.”
Connor just frowned.
She cast him an apprehensive look. “Why aren’t there more people here? You’ve got so much space, and the place seems secure. People could have a nice little community here.”
His features sharpened. “We don’t take people in.”
“Because we don’t.” His voice brooked no argument, and she decided not to keep pushing.
“Where do you get your electricity?” She awkwardly gestured to the glowing light fixtures on the ceiling.
“Generator,” he said curtly. “There’s a well on the property, and the plumbing works, but we try not to use hot water unless we absolutely have to, because heating the water tank drains the genny. There’re a few outhouses too, and every cabin has a shower and a bathtub.”
Her breath caught. A bathtub. Holy hell. The thought of sliding into a tubful of water, even cold water, made her shiver with pleasure. She’d been traveling for seven days, so eager to put distance between herself and Dominik that she’d barely had time to sleep, let alone bathe. She’d passed streams and lakes along the way, indulged in quick dips, but she still felt dirty and unkempt.
She sensed Connor’s eyes on her. They were more green than hazel, she realized. The color of the dark leaves on the trees outside.
“You want to take a bath,” he said with a sigh.
“More than anything else in the world.”
She thought she saw the corners of his mouth twitch. “Fine. I’ll take you to one of the cabins.”
Happiness danced through her. “Really?”
“I just said it, didn’t I?”
But he was already stalking off, forcing her to hurry after him.
They’d reached the door of the lodge when he spoke again. “One night,” he said brusquely, his big hand landing on her arm. He squeezed her wrist as he stared at her. “One night, and then you’re gone.”
She nodded weakly. The response seemed to satisfy him because he released her arm and walked out the door.
Hudson trailed after him, glad that he was in front of her so he couldn’t see the determined set of her shoulders. Her show of agreement hadn’t meant shit, because she had no intention of staying for one measly night.
She needed to find a way to convince Connor to let her stay.
“Bath’s ready.” Connor stepped out of the bathroom and found Hudson on the edge of the double bed, bending over to unzip her leather boots. She kicked one off, then the other, while he stood there trying not to check out her endless legs.
He was getting tired of the lust surging through his veins. He’d been sporting a hard-on since the moment he’d met her, but he was determined to ignore his dick and start using his head.
He’d given her the cabin closest to the lodge, the one right next to his, mainly because he wanted to keep an eye on her, but also because the cabins in the forest were in shambles. He’d asked Kade to bring some clean sheets, fluffy pillows, and a thick duvet, and he’d even set the water temperature in the bath to lukewarm instead of frigid. Not out of the goodness of his heart, though. Oh no, he wanted her to lower her guard, to trust him, and once he lulled her into a false state of security, he would go in for the kill and get the answers he needed.
Hudson stood up. “Thanks again.”
“You’ll find soap and shampoo in the cabinet under the sink,” he said graciously.
She disappeared into the bathroom and closed the door behind her, but Connor made no move to leave. He stood outside the door instead, waiting, listening. He heard rustling, fabric sliding over skin and softly hitting the tiled floor.
His mouth grew dry as he envisioned her naked body, imagined kicking open that door and yanking her into his arms, feeling her tits crushed against his chest, her hot pussy clamped around his cock.
What People are Saying About This
Praise for Ellen Kennedy
“An adrenaline filled, exhilarating ride.”—Fresh Fiction
“Fans will be eager to see what Ms. Kennedy has in store for her mercenaries.”—Shannon K. Butcher, author of Edge of Betrayal
“Takes readers on a terrific emotional rollercoaster ride full of relentless action, heated sexual tension, and nail-biting plot twists.... breathless passion will leave the reader begging for more.”—Publishers Weekly
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
A Promising Start to a Series, not for Prudes for sure. I was a First Read Winner of this book, and I thoroughly enjoyed it for the most part. Now I never thought I would say this, but there was just a bit too much sex in the book and not enough storyline. How they ever got anything done is beyond me. I loved the characters and the series sounds extremely promising but you never really got to know anybody well, or for somebody who lives in constant fear of being discovered, nobody seemed to be guarding the compound. I am so glad I was not the only one who felt this way, and I am no prude at all, but give me a little bit more substance please, because I want more of the series. This was my first book by Elle Kennedy but it won't be my last.
I ordered the sample and thought it might be ok but it was so incredibly far from ok. Misogynistic, sexist, voyeuristic pile of trash. God I wish I could get my money back plus get paid to have read this. I like my romance novels with some steam, eroticism but this wasn't even hot. The author tried way too hard and missed the mark by a mile.
Before reading Claimed, I hadn't read any of Elle Kennedy's books. She was one of the authors I had prejudged as being zero storyline beyond the erotica component. Don't ask me what I based that opinion on because I can't remember...and because I couldn't remember, I took the hilarious Kelly's recommendation and finally checked it out. One thing I loved about this book is the strong dystopian/post-apocalyptic storyline. Yes, the sexual content was generous and intense but it fit into the desperation of the world Ms. Kennedy created and bumped the whole experience up a notch. Plus it was just plain fun to read ;) I would recommend Claimed to fans of story-based erotica. Through this reading experience I was reminded to never judge a book by its cover and never judge an author...period! My favorite quote: “There is no tomorrow, Hudson. Right now is all that matters.” “Live in the moment,” she murmured. “That’s what we do, sweetheart. You take pleasure where you can get it, because who knows when you’ll get another chance. So yes, we live in the moment … And what a f@cking moment.”
Loved it! Hot and sexy! Cant wait for the next ones in the series
Iam so not into stories of the future but hell yeah this was hot as hell. Could not put it down and as usual fell in love with all the secondary characters as well and can't wait for the next book in this series...a fabulous read, action, sex, and and intriguing storyline that keeps you hooked. Elle Kennedy took me out of my comfort zone and I loved it!!
I don't even know where to start with my review. This book was scorching hot and I honestly could have kept reading about these characters for hours on end. Not to mention, I LOVED that it was dystopian! I am so excited about this new series. I was really interested in the set up. People are grouped into Enforcers, Citizens, Outlaws, and Bandits. Citizens are those who live in the cities and Enforcers are the ones who keep control in cities (and even have bases of operation outside to keep Outlaws and Bandits in check). Outlaws are those who have decided to live their lives completely separate from the laws of the Global Council. Many of them such as Connor and his band of men don't agree with how GC runs things and would rather do things their own way. Bandits are wilder than Outlaws, more desperate and can be quite dangerous. Connor, Rylan, Pike, Xander, and Kade are our sexy Outlaws and I have to say I fell for all of them. Connor is the leader of the group, even though he never asked to be. He is good at being in control and the others recognized that inherent leadership in him. Rylan is probably the closest to Connor and I ended up really liking their friendship. Rylan is more fun-loving and easy going, where Connor is serious and gruff. I will say Kennedy definitely created a rather.... interesting dynamic to their friendship, especially where our heroine Hudson was involved. Pike was the most stoic one and definitely didn't warm up to Hudson like the others did. I wasn't sure if I would like him, but sure enough Kennedy had him win me over. Xander and Kade were also good guys, though we didn't get as much of them as the others. I really liked Hudson. She may be from the City and on the run, but she is not weak. She can hold her own, but she isn't immune to fear. She's realistic and I liked that because she was a heroine we could actually buy into. Having run into Connor and his group at a bar, she isn't too proud to admit she needs help. Connor is pretty against the idea, even though he's seriously attracted to her. He doesn't let outsiders in because they are liabilities. Once you find out his past, you can't really blame the guy for being the way he is. Connor and Hudson have sexy as hell chemistry and their scenes are five degree burn hot. Kennedy knows her way around a good sex scene and she isn't afraid to push the boundaries either. Sex is very open and freeing among the Outlaws. They aren't ashamed of it and they certainly aren't afraid of a little voyeurism. Seeing Hudson and Connor progress to more definitely made me happy though. Their feelings ran too deep to be blasé about their sexual experiences so I definitely enjoyed seeing them become more intimate together. Hudson is keeping a pretty big secret from Connor though and you know that it's not going to end well, considering Con's nature. I really hope we get more about Hudson's brother in the future. I don't think his story is finished yet. We met so many other intriguing secondary characters and out of all of them I hope we meet Reese in future books. She is the leader of a nearby community and she is one of the very few that can resist Rylan's charms, so naturally I would love for the next book to feature those two. I really can't wait for the next book in the series. I am definitely hooked and I am already excited to see the group again. We still have some incredibly sexy Outlaws to learn more about....
Claimed is book one in the brand new series, Outlaws, by Elle Kennedy. I have been admiring the cover of this book for awhile now, anxiously awaiting the book’s release to see if the book lived up to the cover. Well, let me go ahead and tell you now, it did!!! There was a terrible war, and the world was forever changed. A new society was formed and is led by the Global Council. All classes are eliminated; there is just the regular people, and the council and enforcers that enforce the rules. You have no freedom of choice, all decisions are made for you. Hudson Lane has been raised in such a society. Her father is the one who formed it. She has never known anything different, until her father died. Her twin brother is now in charge. But he’s changed. He’s become angry and malicious. And the day he presented her with a marriage contract, first drawn up by her father, to an evil man, she knew she had to get out. There is freedom outside these walls and she was going to find it. “We all belong to him,” Rylan said simply. “The sooner you accept that, the better off you’ll be.” Conner Mackenzie is an outlaw. Outlaws are the names given to those who flee life within the walls of the Global Council. Outlaws are hunted down and usually killed. This is exactly what happened to the group of people Conner used to live with, including someone special to him. Now he wants revenge against the murderers. He would rather be alone, but he eventually gains a few tag-a-longs which become his new band of outlaws, with Conner in charge. He doesn’t want to lead these men but they look to him for guidance. On a day when they have ventured outside of their own camp, is the day Hudson walked into his life. She begged him for protection but he didn’t want to add another to his group. But he couldn’t turn his back on this blonde haired beauty. “Freedom was a drug, one that grabbed hold of you the second it entered your bloodstream. It made you giddy and reckless if you didn’t know how to channel it.” Hudson can’t tell Conner who she is, he would most definitely kick her back out. So she shares just enough to satisfy his curiosity. The chemistry between these two practically blew a fuse in my e-reader. But this is no sweet romance. This is raw and rough and freeing. Conner shows Hudson just what it means to lose her inhibitions and to be free. The longer they are together, though, Hudson is able to very slowly chip away at the walls Conner has built up. She knows that she has to tell him the truth about who she really is. But she can’t lose this, lose him. This book has everything. There are plenty of sexy times, but there is so much more. This world is dismal and scary. The lives the outlaws are forced to live just to be free! But, really, are they ever free as they are constantly having to look over their shoulder to survive? Will Hudson be a death warrant to those who have sheltered her because of who she is? Will Conner ever forgive her for keeping her identity a secret? There is plenty of heat in this book but also suspense and hope and so much more. So did I love this book? YES YES YES! I haven’t seen anything about what or who the next book is going to be about but I am so excited to find out. Thank you to Elle Kennedy for another fantastic read. I am most definitely a fan! “Nothing is ending, Con,” Her palms stroked his cheeks as she brushed her lips over his again. “It’s just beginning.”
Hot, sexy, and filled with suspense, Elle Kennedy takes her readers on an adventure they won't soon forget. I've enjoyed Kennedy's novels in the past, and when I read the synopsis for Claimed, I just couldn't pass this one up. I enjoyed the dystopian feel of the novel, as well as the edge of your seat suspenseful times. The characters were great. Conner Mackenzie is a hot, sexy, bad***, alpha male and I did like him for the most part, even if he did tick me off a few times. Hudson is a great female lead with all the qualities you look for in a heroine. She's brave, kind, loves with her whole heart, and is fiercely loyal. That said, she isn't perfect, but if she were, that would make her too good to be true. As far as the secondary characters go, I absolutely loved Rylan. I really hope he gets his own story. Overall, the story itself was thought provoking and the romance was hot, but this is definitely a novel for those 18 and over only. Let me say also, this novel is not only heavy on the sexy at times, but it also incorporates some kinky situations, which were not for me, but to each his own. This definitely affected the way I felt about Connor, and I would have liked him a whole lot more if he'd have handled a few things differently - again, strictly just my personal taste. Nevertheless, Claimed is a great first installment in what has the promise of being an outstanding series. Fans of Elle Kennedy, as well as fans of this genre should definitely consider checking out.
CLAIMED is the first installment in Elle Kennedy’s adult, post-apocalyptic/dystopian Outlaws erotica, romance series. This is Outlaw leader Connor Mackenzie, and nurse Hudson Lane’s storyline. NOTE: CLAIMED contains scenes of M/F and M/F/M sexual situations and may not be suitable for all readers. Told from dual third person perspectives CLAIMED focuses on the post-apocalyptic USA where the country is now divided into a number of respective territories without government control. There are various factions of bandits, enforcers, outlaws, and the people from the city. Life on the outside is hard; there are no laws, no law enforcement, and death is often the better option. Hudson Lane is on the run and needs protection-enter Connor Mackenzie-leader of the local Outlaws-and the man who would break Hudson’s heart. Connor is a reluctant leader but a man who commands and demands the respect of the small band of Outlaws he oversees and controls, and with it comes the decision making that could make or break the cohesiveness of their small family unit. When Hudson asks for help, Connor demands something in return and Hudson is willing to give Connor what he wants to ensure her future protection. Connor is a man whose past is dark; he has lost everything to the enforcers, and with it comes betrayal, distrust and a heavy heart. Our hero is on a mission, and he isn’t afraid to use whatever means necessary to get what he wants. CLAIMED has a large cast of secondary and supporting colorful, charismatic, animated and energetic characters-an ensemble storyline with graphic and aggressive sexual situations, dystopian style lawlessness, and a barter system where nothing is for free and payment can be whatever the seller demands. We are introduced to Connor’s band of Outlaws: Rylan, Pike, Xander and Kade; as well as several different factions of Outlaws, bandits and people who go it alone. Connor’s Outlaws are the epitome of sexually aggressive alpha males who make no excuses for their wants and needs. The world building focuses on the lawlessness of the Global Council’s control where the self appointed people in charge are evil, dangerous and not afraid to destroy everyone who questions their controlling ways. OUTLAWS primary focus in on the area once known as Utah, and with it comes a disturbing scenario about the power and control of people, places and things. Survival is never a guarantee. My only concern is the lack of history and information as to what happened to incur the wrath of a destructive force that all but destroyed what was once the US of A. As an erotica storyline CLAIMED is heavily weighted in graphically detailed $ex scenes such that the actual story gets lost in the numerous sexual situations; where nothing is off limits; and $ex is often a commodity used to barter for one’s life, a favor or for food. If you have issues with questionable or coerced consent and detailed aggressive $ex scenes, CLAIMED may not be your first choice in reading material. Connor is a man whose initial sexual aggression towards the storyline heroine makes for some dubious acceptance and compliance but in the end Hudson knows what she wants, and she wants Connor all to herself. CLAIMED is a provocative storyline with a passionate heroine, an intense hero, and a powerful need for revenge and retribution in a world of desolation and pain. The characters are challenging and hopeful; the romance is uncertain and sometimes angry but in the end Connor and