Knox (The Boundarylands #12) - Callie Rhodes

Chapter One

"Something tells me we're not taking that sweet ride to county for processing," Josie Price said to the officer with the close-cropped hair at her side.

He didn't answer, of course. He simply tightened his grip on her upper arm and forced her to pick up her pace as he led her across the airport tarmac. The metal chains linking her ankles jangled as she was forced to shuffle her feet even faster.

Josie had to admit she'd been surprised when she'd spotted the airport control tower out of the back of the police cruiser. Up until that moment, she'd figured that the officers were hauling her down to the station to press routine charges…just like every time before.

But now she wasn't sure what was happening.

All she knew was that slipping through the side security entrance and directly on to the tarmac meant that there were no prying eyes to see her get hauled off. She almost had to admire the cop's ingenuity. Her face had become pretty recognizable in the last few months. Surely, if they'd brought her through the terminal, even at three o'clock in the morning, someone would have recognized her and told the story of her being hauled off in chains. But the department couldn't get more bad press over its handling of protesters if no one was around to witness it.

But Josie's alarm had spiked when she'd caught sight of the ominous-looking, unmarked matte black helicopter they were dragging her toward. They weren't seriously whisking her away in that thing, were they?

Who the hell was she kidding? Of course they were.

None of this was truly surprising. From the pounding on the door of her hotel an hour earlier, to the crashes that followed as they battered it off its hinges a half-second later, to the sudden bursts of light from several tactical flashlights filling the room—Josie had been anticipating all of it for a while now.

Unfortunately, it was the kind of thing that happened to people who had the audacity to demand better treatment of women in so many areas—equal pay, reproductive health, domestic violence—and attracted a huge audience doing so. Josie had published essays, led marches, been interviewed on television, and been invited to speak at academic institutions.

But nothing had focused the spotlight on her like the anti-testing stand that she had taken and promoted. Organizing activists across the country against the government push for mandatory omega testing for all women had quickly turned that spotlight into a target on her back.

Josie was no stranger to hate mail and threats. Every woman working for equality in the beta world experienced the same sort of treatment. But lately, things had gotten much worse. Now it wasn't just random strangers calling her names on social media; it was pundits and politicians. Talk show hosts made all kinds of unfounded allegations. Someone on social media posted her address and phone number, and conservative groups protested in front of her parents' house. Even the head of the FBI jumped on the bandwagon, the difference being that instead of slashing her tires or spray painting "whore" on her front door, he threatened her with charges of sedition in a hastily arranged news conference.

Josie thought it had been just a media stunt. Now she wasn't so sure.

She straightened her spine, refusing to let her fear show, as the door of the helicopter slid open in front of her. Sitting on the long benches inside were two more men covered head to toe in black tactical gear that bore no insignia, badges, or any other indication who they worked for—though it was pretty damn clear they weren't new recruits. Wedged near the front was a middle-aged man in a terrible suit wearing a bland expression, as though he was waiting for his coffee order rather than surrounded by heavily armed agents.

These guys were feds—Josie was certain of it. They were imbued with the smug attitude she'd learned to recognize even across a city block filled with protestors, the one that proclaimed that wherever they happened to be, they were on their own turf.

It also helped to explain why the men who'd stormed into her hotel room had trussed her up so thoroughly. In Josie's experience, the feds didn't know the meaning of overkill, sometimes using lethal force when a loudspeaker would do. They'd cuffed her hands behind her back and manacled her legs like she was a dangerous killer rather than a petite strawberry blonde with a degree in philosophy. The only thing

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