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By´╝ÜCandace Blevins

Chapter One


Some people talk about going off the grid like it's sexy, fun. But sometimes, the reality sucks.

I made my choices at twenty-one, and I’ve made it to twenty-five against all odds. I've successfully evaded law enforcement from the top dozen or so countries in the world, not to mention having members of the Russian Mafia after me, but now I've come up against another hacker, and for the first time in over four years, I'm not sure of my ability to elude him.

The asshole drives a Harley. He's tall and thin, all sculptured wiry muscles with a cocky assed attitude. If he wasn't my arch enemy, apparently out to kill or capture me at all costs, I might actually be interested. Genius hackers don’t usually come with muscles, speed, strength, leather clothes, and motorcycles.

However, he was most certainly after me — pissed at me for breaking through his firewalls and selling his MC’s secrets, and he's been on my tail for more than a week.

I used a fake identity he doesn’t know about to rent a high dollar hotel room. While I'd like to think the penthouse’s fancy security was good enough to keep him out, if he figured out where I was, I knew it’d barely slow him down. He drives a Harley and wears biker clothes, but I doubt he’d have trouble infiltrating even this place.

I hadn't slept in days, though, so I was going to have to crash and trust he wouldn’t figure out my location.

I chose this hotel, in part, because the penthouse suite has a balcony with access to the rooftop pool, giving me three exits — stairs, private elevator, and through the pool area to the public elevators and stairwell.

Of course, this meant he also had three ways to get to me, all of which required a key card, but he wouldn’t have any problems making what he needed to get past the electronics.

I was beginning to talk myself out of how safe this place was, but I was exhausted.

I hacked into the hotel security and rigged it to ring the hotel phone if anyone used a key card to access the penthouse. I hung bells on all the doors — it might be low tech but it would wake me if anyone entered.

And I crashed, fully clothed with my knife, pepper spray, and taser in my pocket, and my backpack ready to go in case I had to make a hasty exit.

I don't know how long I slept when the phone rang, and as I rolled out of bed and grabbed my backpack, the bell on the terrace door jangled.

He silenced it in a microsecond, though. He's inhumanly fast, but I already knew that.

I’d left the window open, and I pulled my knife from my pocket and slung it open as I neared it, prepared to slash the screen so I could make it onto the terrace, and then hopefully get up to the pool and onto an elevator before he could get to me.

My ability to run fast has saved my ass more times than I can count, but this dude can run faster, and he terrifies me, which is why I chose to run instead of going for my pepper spray.

I lifted my hand, and a millisecond before I swiped down to cut the screen, he grabbed my arm and wrenched the knife from my hand.

The next thing I knew, I was on the bed, face down as he strapped my wrists and ankles with zip-ties. Panic threatened, but I’ve managed to get out of close scrapes before — I just needed to keep my head on straight and figure out how to get away from him. I breathed through my fear and reminded myself I needed to keep my wits about me if I was going to get away from him.

My eye had been tender from wearing my contact so long, and I’d taken it off before going to sleep.

When he rolled me over, I kept my eyes closed.

“You’re Ice?” he asked, but I kept my mouth and eyes shut.

“I already know you wear colored contacts,” he said, his voice soft, deadly, “so you may as well open them. Before we’re finished, I’m going to know everything about you, so open your eyes and let’s get started.”

My left eye is two-thirds brilliant blue, the other third an orangish-yellow, and my right eye is brown. Most of the time I wear a brown contact over my multi-colored eye, but other times I wear green or blue contacts designed to look natural. Sometimes, I’ve been known to wear cat-eye contacts, or unnatural colors like hot pink, purple, or fuchsia. Besides the Russians, no one who knows my hacker name has ever seen my eye without a masking contact, though.

They’ve also never seen me as a girl.

I wasn’t going to get out of my current predicament in the next few minutes, though, so I opened my eyes and looked at my captor, defiant.

“Heterochromia?” he asked, and I was so impressed he knew the medical term, I nodded before I remembered not to.

“Do you have any of the associated syndromes?”

Okay, now he’s really impressed me, but I was also ready to stop talking about my fucking eyes, so I snapped, “What, you’re a medical doctor who hacks on the side, moonlighting as a bad-ass biker? How many people are living in your fucking head, asshole?”