Runaway. Experiment. Superhero?

The streets were the safest place for Dani, until the night she was caught by traffickers who sold her to a laboratory. She survived five years of experiments: biotech implants, gene therapy, and other things she could barely comprehend. The pain, though, that she understood. The lab pushed her body past its limits, drove her mind to its darkest corners, but somehow her spirit remained unbroken. She escaped, and sought refuge on the streets once again. But this time she doesn’t run away from cries for help. Now, she runs toward them.

Playboy. Dilettante. Sidekick?

Kevin Moynihan is the youngest son of Point Sable’s most wealthy and storied family. A permanent fixture in the society pages, he’s known for his good looks, his charm, and his aversion to an honest day’s work. His life is a whirlwind of fast women, faster cars, all night parties and endless champagne – until his latest drunk and disorderly charge lands him a stint doing community service in the roughest part of town. The part of town where someone is always screaming for help.

A chance meeting will bring two unlikely people together – first as reluctant allies, then friends, and finally partners.

Chapter 1

A ragged voice screamed for help somewhere in the night. Dani ignored it. She’d worked hard to shoplift this meal, she was going to eat it, by God. A sandwich with some kind of chicken salad type substance smeared between two slices of stale bread, a chocolate candy bar, a little bag of chips, and a can of warm soda. A veritable freaking feast. On top of that, she had a prime spot staked out in an abandoned building, out of the chilly spring rain. Dry cardboard to sleep on.

Hell if she was moving.

Another scream, same voice, closer this time. Dani dropped the sodden sandwich and swallowed a long drink of soda. It tasted like old battery acid, but there had been a camera near the cooler with the bottles of water. Tomorrow she would find a store with easily accessible water, and a better place to spend the night, too. A building with more walls left intact, windows to block out the rain and the noise. Maybe see if the shelter had any empty beds, though it might be too much of a risk. She just wanted off the streets for one night. A shower. God, to be clean again. She hadn’t realized it but she’d gone soft in some ways during her years in the lab. Gotten used to a bed and regular meals and being clean and dry.

She’d paid for it, though. What little comfort she’d found there, she’d paid for dearly.

This time the scream came from almost directly below, in the alley. Dani swore. She was getting tired of doing this. Sure, it offered a certain satisfaction. It also had the potential to draw attention, and that was the exact opposite of what she needed. What Dani needed was to disappear, like she’d never existed. Never come to this city. Like she’d just melted away into nothing, because you couldn’t find nothing and she was pretty sure there had to be people looking for her.

“No, please, don’t!”

Young. Female. A chorus of laughter was the only answer to her plea. Two men, older and bigger. Goddamn it. Dani took another drink of soda then stood. She crossed the room to peer out a busted window at the alley below, ignoring the debris that littered the floor.

The smaller of the two men had the girl pinned to the brick wall, holding a knife at her throat. The other man was laughing, his hands at the fly of his jeans.

Dani spent a few precious seconds surveying the alley, then pulled up her hoodie and hoisted herself out the window, dropping the four stories to street level. Training and muscle memory kicked in as she landed kneeling, feet apart, one hand stretched out on the ground. The impact rattled her from the soles of her feet to her teeth. She raised her head to see the two men and their would-be victim staring at her. She stood slowly, keeping her muscles loose and relaxed.

“Wanna try that with someone who can fight back?”

The knife flew at her, cutting through the air with a faint whistle only Dani could hear. She leaned far to one side, the blade passing over her chest and clattering against the opposite wall. Before either man had a chance to fully register what had happened, she rushed the big one and took him out with a hard kick to his knee. The force of the blow bent his leg at an unnatural angle and he went down screaming.

The other guy stood gape-mouthed, staring stupidly at his partner on the ground. Dani punched him in the gut twice in rapid succession. He doubled over, covering his stomach with his arms and swearing.

The young girl snapped out of her shock and ran. A car pulled up to the curb outside the mouth of the alley. Dani cocked her head and listened carefully. Swift footsteps running around and away from the car – that was the girl, getting away safely. The vehicle’s engine idled smoothly, indicating a much better ride than what normally rolled through this neighborhood. No other sound came from the car. A gentle rain pattered on the concrete, background noise to the mix of cursing and moaning coming from the guy on the ground.

“You.” The other guy straightened, one hand still over his midsection. “Bitch.” With his free hand he reached around to the small of his back.

Dani didn’t wait to see what kind of weapon he had. She threw her weight forward and rotated her body, legs snapping out in a flying kick. Her boots made contact. The faint but satisfying crack of bones sounded, punctuated by the guy screaming as he collapsed.

Dani hit the ground in a heap, scraping her palms on the rough concrete. The actual flips and flying kicks were easy for her; it was the defying gravity and landing gracefully on her feet part that she still couldn’t manage despite the hours of practice. She rolled and hopped up, feet spread and fists up in a fighting stance.

“Hey, can somebody give me directions to the Lee Street shelter?”

Damn it. Dani risked a look behind her, cursing herself for missing the sound of the car door. At the top of the alley, a man stood next to the idling car.

“The shelter? On Lee Street?” He pulled a bill from his pants pocket. “I don’t mind paying.”

The car was black and sleek and belonged on the other side of town. So did its driver. Tall with a slim build and expensive clothes, his hair gleamed like dark gold under the yellow streetlight. No way did this guy need to spend the night in a homeless shelter.

The nearest assailant landed a kick on her ankle. She wobbled just enough to give the guy another shot at her. This time he got a solid punch to her calf, just below the knee. She spun on her heel and kicked, sending his head snapping against the alley’s brick wall. She kicked him several times in rapid succession. It took a moment for her to realize he was unconscious.

Stop. Stop. Don’t kill him.

The one on the ground clutching his knee stared at her, fear shining in his dark eyes. Dani looked away, a mixture of rage and shame churning in her gut. Rage that these assholes had attacked someone in the first place. Shame that she still couldn’t control her own anger, that she always went just enough too far to regret how much she’d hurt someone, even though it was a bad guy. She tamped down on the emotions and reminded herself of one good thing: the young girl these guys had tried to prey on was safe.

Satisfied neither could stand and follow her, she turned and strode to the street as she tugged her hoodie closer to keep her face hidden. Mr. Uptown stood by his fancy car, still holding a folded bill aloft.

He said, “Is there a problem?”

“Nope.” Not one that was any of his business.

“So can you give me directions?”

“Yeah.” Dani snatched the bill from his hand. “Get back above a hundred and tenth where you belong.”

She didn’t look back but she could feel his eyes on her until she ducked into the next alley. By the time she got back to her spot, rats or God knows what had eaten her shoplifted dinner.

Goddamn it. She had to stop doing this.

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