A double cross is what brought them together.
Alice is content with her life of solitude, but when a deal she made goes wrong, she finds herself no longer alone. She is forced to team up with Rixton and his group of wanderers. The more time she spends with them, the more she finds herself rethinking her life of solitude.
James has spent the past several months with an inward struggle. The second Alice knocks Rixton out with his own gun, James knows he's going to fall for her. She's enough to keep his mind off the decision he needs to make. The only thing that could ruin everything is Rixton.
Rixton is arrogant, reckless, and good with the ladies. Normally having a girl pass him up for his best friend would irritate him, but Alice drives him so crazy he doesn't care. A letter from his sister takes him to the last place he wants to be and has him rethinking his life and his opinion of Alice.
Secrets are what threaten to tear them apart.
"What do you want Snake?" Rixton demands as he walks into the office. Snake sits in a high-back chair across the room from him. A dark oak desk separates them.
When Snake sees Rixton, he spreads out his hands like he's offering a hug. "Nice to see you too Rixton." He says with a polite smile.
Rixton frowns and crosses his arms. "You sent your men to collect me. I'd like to know why?"
Snake leans back in his chair and looks Rixton over from head to toe. "I heard you were in town." He says then pauses.
"And?" Rixton asks.
"And I have a job for you." Snake says.
Rixton shakes his head. "We already have a job."
"Right. Your deal with Irene."
"How do you know that?" Rixton asks. He puts his hands on his hips and frowns.
"Irene and I talk. Occasionally." Snake shakes his head. "That's not the point. The point is, I have a job for which you will receive payment. Not just a charity work."
Rixton shifts his weight from one foot to the other. "What it is?"
The corner of Snakes mouth turns up in a smile. "I have a map."
Rixton rolls his eyes. "To what?" He demands.
"To a gas station with cash in it."
The word cash catches Rixton's attention. He raises his eyebrows. "How much cash?"
Snake leans forwards and rests his hands on the desk. "I'm not sure."
"But there is cash?" Rixton asks.
"Yes." Snake says.
Rixton bites the inside of his cheek as he considers Snake's offer. "What's our cut?"
Snake opens one drawer of the desk and pulls out a small cloth bag. He tosses it to Rixton, and Rixton opens it. Inside is ten purple poker chips.
"You'll get the other ten when you bring me the cash." Snake says. "That's ten thousand dollars' worth."
Rixton closes the bag and smiles. "You've got a deal."
Alice pulls out a crumpled piece of paper from her pocket and smooths it out. Scribble on the paper is a map with directions written on the top left hand corner. Alice studies it for a minute then looks up at her surroundings. Cracked pavement stretches out in front of her. On her right are the remains of what used to be a house. In what used to be the front lawn of the house stands a charred oak tree. Alice looks at the map again. According to the directions, she should be getting close to the gas station, only another mile or two to go. Alice shifts her backpack and starts walking. A rocky mountain looms up in the distance just like the directions on the map said.
"So far so good Snake." Alice says to herself.
Fifteen minutes later she spots a building in the distance that resembles a gas station.
"Snake for once you weren't lying!" She exclaims as she quickens her pace.
Alice is a wanderer. A wanderer is someone who braves the desolate lands between the major cities scavenging the old building for anything of value. The day before she had reluctantly taken the map from Snake, the debt lord of Las Vegas. He told her that the gas station might have money left in it.
After the government fell apart casinos had become the ruling power of the county. Every city had at least three casinos and at least one of them controlled that city. Soon so many people went to casinos that paper money was running out. The factories that printed dollars had to close. To fix that problem people replaced money with poker chips. It made sense, seeing how the casinos had become the main source of income for the country.
Snake didn't want to risk any of his men venturing into the dry lands so he hired Alice. Reluctantly she had agreed. She didn't like Snake, and she certainly didn't trust him. But this time he had something she wanted.
As Alice nears the doors to the gas station she rests her hand on the handle of her gun, ready to draw it at the first sign of danger. She picks her way across the cracked cement to the doors of the building. Grabbing a hold of the handle she pulls on the door; it doesn't budge.
"Seriously? You should be falling off your hinges by now." Alice says to the door.
She pulls out her pocket knife and tries to pick the lock. After a few failed attempts she looks around for something to smash the window. On the ground a few feet away lays a metal pipe. She picks it up and walks back to the door. After a quick glance around to make sure no one in sight, Alice swings the pipe forward and smashes the window. She steps back as glass shatters to the ground. Knocking the last bits of glass out of the frame, she carefully steps into the building.
Inside Alice takes a moment to scan the room. Refrigerators line the back and right walls of the building. Rows of shelves are lined in the middle of the floor. Most of them are empty but a few have boxes of candy and bags of chips lining them. Alice goes straight to the cash register. It's old and rusty. The numbers on the keys are faded, and the screen is cracked. Alice grabs the money drawer and tries to pull it open. It doesn't budge, just like the door.
"Seriously." Alice huffs. She pulls out her pocket knife again and pries open the drawer. A smile spreads over her lips as she sees a stack of five-dollar bills laying in one slot. She picks it up and counts it, forty-five dollars total. She stuffs the cash into her bag then moves onto the rest of the station.
Alice inspects each shelf in the station, pulling off anything that isn't rotten or falling apart and shoves it into her backpack. After she looks through the shelves she walks over to the wall of refrigerators and opens one door. She tosses bottles of water and soda into her backpack. She's about to open the next refrigerator when she hears the click of a gun behind her. In a whirl of red hair she spins around, pulling out her gun as she goes. She aims at the person behind her and pulls back the hammer.
The first thing that comes to Alice's mind when she sees the guy pointing the gun at her is hot. Tall, tan, and muscular. Short, wavey black hair and dark green eyes. An angular face, defined features, and angled cheekbones. A five o'clock shadow, a brown leather vest over a white shirt, jeans, and brown leather boots. Altogether ruggedly handsome.
"That's my gun." The guy says. His voice low and smoky.
"What?" Alice asks unable to hide her confusion.
"The gun you're holding in your hands. It's mine."
Alice shakes her head and says the first thing that she thinks of. "You already have a gun." Realizing how lame that sounded she adds. "Besides, I don't see your name on it. So if we're done here I'm going to leave now." She takes a step to the side.
"Not so fast." The guy says moving to stand in front of her again. "I want the gun... and the bag."
The guy is a good 6 inches taller than Alice. She comes up to his shoulder and has to bend her head back to look at his face.
"You're kidding me right?" Alice demands. Who does this guy think he is?
"You're the one with your back against the wall." The guy says with a smug smile.
"What's stopping me from shooting you and running?" Alice demands. She was tiring of his games.
"What's stopping me from shooting you? And besides if you did shoot me you wouldn't get very far." The guy looks relaxed as if he doesn't have a gun pointed at his head, and Alice hates him for that.
"And why is that?" She demands getting irritated.
The guy's smile widens. "I'm not here alone."
Alice looks past him and out the windows. Outside the building are two guys, both of them have guns strapped to their belts. One of them leans against a gas pump. The other stands by the broken window. They periodically glance at Alice and the guy standing in front of her.
Alice curses under her breath. How could she not have heard them coming? "Fine." She says lowering her gun. "You win."
"Smart move." The guy moves forward and reaches out to grab Alice's gun. Alice takes this moment to make a run for it. She darts to the side but is instantly stopped. The guy catches her by the waist and pulls her back. Alice's chest tightens at his touch. She stumbles backwards, slamming her back into the wall.
"You are not getting away that fast." The guy says.
The arrogant confidence in his voice is enough to send Alice over the edge. She swings her arm up, hitting the guy in the temple with the butt of her gun. He lets out a cry and crumples to the floor. Alice reaches down, picks up his gun, and stuffs it into her backpack.
The guy that was standing by the broken window shouts something and runs towards Alice. She darts to one of the windows. Behind her a gun goes off and instinctively she drops to the ground. A bullet flies over her head and shatters one of the windows. She jumps up and runs out the window. The guy outside the building, realizing what's going on, raises his gun and points it at Alice. Alice freezes and stares at him. At the last second the guy moves his hand to the side and shoots. The bullet hits the ground a few feet from Alice. Alice looks at the ground then up at the guy. He shrugs his shoulder. Alice stands still for a few seconds, trying to make sense of what just happened. When the guy gives her a look and raises his hands she snaps back to attention. She takes off running.
She runs down the cracked road headed back to Las Vegas. A gunshot rings out behind her. She glances behind her to see that a third guy had appeared. He enters the building leaving the guy who let her go standing next to a pump staring after her. Alice can just make out his smile.
"Better luck next time boys." She yells back at them.
The first thing that Rixton realizes when he comes to is the pounding in his head. He blinks open his eyes and sits up. Instantly his head starts to throb. With a moan he presses a hand to his temple.
"She hit you pretty hard. You've been out for a while." James says, barely hiding the amusement in his voice.
"Shut up." Rixton snaps as he looks up at James. James stands over him, a smile plastered on his face. "Wipe that grin off your face and help me up."
James grabs Rixton's hand and pulls him to his feet. Rixton's vision goes black at the edges and he sways on his feet. The throbbing in his head worsens.
"Where is she?" Rixton asks after the dizziness fades.
"She's gone." James says.
"She's gone? What do you mean she's gone?" Rixton demands.
"After she knocked you unconscious she ran. Looked like she was heading to Las Vegas."
"And no one went after her?" Rixton asks, straining to keep his voice calm.
"For someone so small she sure could run. And we were too busy worrying about you. You got hit pretty hard, remember?" James says with a teasing edge to voice.
Rixton clenches his fists and closes his eyes, trying to calm himself down. "Sometimes I want to strangle you." After a second he spins around and storms out of the station.
"Look who's finally awake." Mason says as Rixton approaches, a teasing edge to his voice.
Rixton reaches to his gun holster only to find it empty. He spins around looking at the ground like he expects his gun to be lying around somewhere. "Where's my gun?" He asks looking up at Mason.
Mason shrugs his shoulders in reply.
"She took it." James says.
Rixton spins around to see James and Jackson stepping through the broken window. They walk over and join him and Mason next to the gas pump.
"Great, now she has both of my guns." Rixton mumbles to himself.
"She dropped this on her way out." James says. He steps forward holding out a piece of paper. Rixton takes it and looks at it. Once he sees what's written on it his eyebrows shoot up. He glances at James.
"Look familiar?" James asks.
Rixton reaches into his pocket and pulls out another piece of paper. He holds it up next to the one James just gave him. They're identical, each one has the same map and direction written on them.
"Snake." Rixton growls. He jerks his head up. "Jackson get the horses. We're going to Las Vegas."