THE LONE WOLF'S LADY Part 19
One thing Tamara had always liked about working for Ambrose was that the Chancellor never led from behind. If his people were walking into a dangerous situation, he was right there with them. After dividing his crew into four groups, he directed each one to a specific staircase that led down to the lowest level of the factory. She and Rand lined up right behind Ambrose, weapons at the ready.
Everyone stood in silence as the K-9 dogs ranged out ahead of their human handlers to once again scan the stairs and the floor below for any signs of explosives. While they waited, she leaned in closer to Rand. "I want this to end today. I have better things to do with my time than playing tag with a bunch of murderous idiots."
Rand's grim expression softened just a bit. "Do any of those things involve a lot of alone time with me back at the cabin?"
"Yes, indeed they do." Then to tease him, she whispered, "I figure you'll need my help learning all your new duties as the Beta for the pack. Once you have those mastered, maybe we can figure out what else the two of us can do…you know, together. I'm sure we'll come up with some fun ideas."
His mouth spread wide with a grin. "Good news, lady. I've already got a long list of things for us to try out."
Sadly, their conversation was cut short when Ambrose raised his hand to get everyone's attention. He must have gotten the all-clear from below because he then pointed forward, signaling it was time for the Coalition forces to move out.
Rand matched her step for step as they marched down the stairs. There was no reason to tiptoe; the enemy knew they were coming. That didn't mean it was easy for any of them. The tension built with each step they took. It was as if the air thickened and grew more viscous, making it harder and harder to keep pushing forward.
For the first minute or two, a wall enclosed the stairs on each side, blocking her view of everything except the people immediately ahead of her and Rand on her right. She hadn't missed the fact that he'd made sure his big body would be between her and any threat as soon as the stairs cleared the wall and they were exposed to the room below. She didn't bother to argue. He was already fighting his wolf's desire to prevent her from going anywhere near known danger.
When their contingent finally reached the basement floor, they quickly spread out to take advantage of what little cover there was to be had. Rand nudged her in the direction of an upturned conference table. It wouldn't hold up under heavy fire, but it was better than nothing. As they knelt on the floor, she grabbed the front of Rand's shirt and dragged him close for a kiss. She poured everything she could into it, hoping it would convey without words how much he meant to her. Whether they had the rest of their lives together or just this one day, it was worth it.
His eyes flashed gold as he kissed her back, both man and wolf staking their claim on her to reaffirm the powerful bond between them. When he released his hold on her, she cupped the side of his face with her palm, the touch calming them both.
Then the shooting began.
Rand cursed as the bullets began to fly. He loved kissing his mate, but it was time to get his head back in the game to protect her. Putting a little distance between them, he risked a quick peek around the end of the table to determine the enemy's location. With their own forces entering the basement from four different directions, it would be all too easy to find themselves exchanging fire with their own people.
They needed to stick to the plan, keeping Riley's forces occupied and their attention focused on the Coalition forces in the building while Ian and his people made things interesting for them outside. He checked the time. Once Ian's team located the tunnels below, it wouldn't take long to get the explosives in place.
Tamara inched close enough to be heard over the sporadic gunfire. "How much longer?"
"Twenty minutes, thirty tops. It depends on how long it takes them to locate the escape routes and how deep they have to dig to plant the explosives."
During a brief silence, an odd shuffling noise caught his attention. Cocking his head to the side, he listened to see if it happened again. This time, it came from directly overhead. A second later, the source of the sound had moved on past them, but it was moving faster now. It didn't take him long to realize what was happening. The rogues had created a crawl space between the joists of the floor above and the ceiling at this level. If it were him, he would have also added passageways behind faux walls that would allow them to drop down to surround the Coalition forces from all four sides. It would be a bloodbath if they succeeded in controlling the perimeter.
Which meant they'd had a few people keeping Ambrose's people pinned down, using the cacophony of shots to cover up the sounds of their movements. Without hesitation, he immediately took aim and fired a quick burst of shots in the direction the person or persons hidden above them were moving, but a little ahead of where he'd last heard them. A muffled scream confirmed his suspicions.
Tamara immediately joined him in raking the ceiling overhead with continuing bursts of fire. Others around them quickly joined in. Bits of ceiling tiles rained down on their heads, leaving behind gaping holes that gave them clear shots at the enemy forces who were scattering lick cockroaches. Several fell through to the floor, dead or at least badly wounded.
Ambrose's voice rang out over the room. "Surrender or die. You have ten seconds to decide."
The offer blunt, brutal even, but fair. He hadn't given them much time to make up their minds, but they hadn't done much to deserve mercy at this point. Rand knew Ambrose wouldn't leave his own people mired in this deadly situation just to give their enemies a chance to go out in a blaze of bloody glory. To that point, Ambrose had his hands in the air, quietly counting down to zero.
"So be it." His face was grim as his hands dropped and the dying began.
When the silence returned, the air was clogged with the dust of ceiling tiles and drywall and scented with blood. Rand's hearing was shot to hell from the gunfire, but he could still hear the soft whimpers of the wounded. Their side had taken a few hits, hopefully none of them fatal. The medics were making the rounds, some patching up the walking wounded while others evacuated those who needed to be flown to the closest trauma hospital.
The enemy hadn't fared as well, but the few who were still breathing were also transported to receive the best care the Coalition could offer. Rand wasn't sure they were doing them any favors. If they survived the day, they'd be facing judgment for their actions. The Coalition wasn't known for its mercy when it came to acts of terror. At best, they'd be looking at life in prison. At worst, well, they'd chosen the path that led them to this point.
"I don't see Riley among the wounded or the dead."
"We'll get him."
Rand sealed that promise with a kiss as he slipped his arm around Tamara's waist and held her close. This whole situation had to be hell for her. His wolf wanted to track down Riley himself and make sure the bastard didn't live to breathe another day. The rogue had to be at the top of Ambrose's list to stand trial for the crimes he'd committed. There was no doubt the man deserved to face the death penalty for his crimes against the Coalition as a whole but especially for his betrayal of the people he'd served with, especially Tamara. Rand would be there for her if she had to testify against her former fiancé at his trial. It might be selfish of Rand to hope it never came to that. A trial wouldn't change Riley's ultimate fate, and it would hurt her.
His phone beeped as did Tamara's. Rand glanced at the screen to see a message from Ian. They were about to blow the three tunnels they'd found. Ambrose was already marshalling his forces, stationing most near the metal doors in case the rogues came pouring back in their direction. The rest of his people surged up the steps to support Ian and his people once they set off the explosives.
"Where do you want to be?"
Tamara didn't hesitate. "Outside with Ian."
Rand caught Ambrose's eye long enough to point toward the steps that would lead them out on far side of the building, the closest exit to where Ian had set up shop outside. Ambrose cut through the crowd, angling his approach to meet them at the bottom of the steps.
Tamara looked surprised when Ambrose gave her a quick hug. "Be careful out there. Take him alive if you can but not at the cost of more lives, especially yours."
Then he stepped back and shot Rand a grin. "Better get a move on. Ian will never let you forget it if the party is over before you even arrive."
Ambrose wasn't wrong about that. "Watch your back, Ambrose. Once we have them trapped between here and the hell that Ian's about to unleash, there's no telling what they'll do. They've already shown they don't care if their own people die as long as they take others down with them."
The Chancellor's fangs were on full display at this point, his eyes glittering with pure fury. "They'll find I'm a hard man to kill."
Tamara knew he wasn't telling them anything they didn't already know. Better men than Riley had tried to take down Ambrose in the past and failed every time. That didn't stop her from giving her boss one last hug. "We all know how tough you are, Ambrose. That doesn't mean we don't still worry. Breaking in a new boss would be a major pain, you know. Heck we've barely got you trained."
He ruffled her hair. "Brat."
She grinned at him. "Doesn't mean I'm wrong."
He shook his head as he walked away from her, but at least he was laughing. None of them had had much to smile about recently.
Turning to Rand, she said, "We should go."
Hand in hand, they followed the last of Ambrose's people up the stairs and out into the sunshine. It took only a couple of minutes to locate Ian. He was studying the screen on a small computer screen, but looked up at their approach. His dark gaze met Rand's and then Tamara's. "Are you two ready for this? It won't be pretty."
"No, it won't, but it's necessary."
He nodded and called out, "If you're not part of my crew, move back."
Rand remained at his brother's side, so Tamara stayed right where she was. When the area around them had cleared out, Ian did one last check to make sure his people were ready to start the party. Once everyone had checked in, he announced, "Fifteen seconds, everybody. Brace yourselves."
As he pressed a button, Rand tugged her down to the ground, covering her body with his. Ian dropped down beside them just before there was a deep rumble and the ground in the distance erupted in a shower of dirt, rocks, and death.