“And I thought you were rough. Those girls are …” Dallas Gutierrez shuddered. “What’s way worse than rough? ‘Cause that’s what they are.”

“What, exactly, are you trying to say?” Mia Snow leaned away from her desk, crossed her arms, and peered at the gorgeous man across from her. Perfectly tanned skin, perfectly symmetrical features—or so he liked to brag—and the perfectly formed body of an underwear model. Lean, yet sculpted with muscle. All that perfection aside, he was an absolute pain in her ass. “And by the way, I’m not rough.”

“Perfect” ice blue eyes rolled. “You once kneed me in the balls and asked me how they tasted. Just to say hi. You’re rough.”

She had, hadn’t she? Memories were fun. “Why are you complaining? There were no complications during your testicle retrieval operation. So, anyway, what’d they do this time?”

They. Best friends. AIR—Alien Investigation and Removal—trainees Ava Sans and Noelle Tremain.

Dallas tangled a hand through that thick, dark mane of his, looking like a lost little puppy rather than the stone-cold killer he was. “Get this. I took all ten of the advanced placement trainees on an assignment last night. Call came in, you see. Was told a predatory otherworlder was picking on humans at a bar. The fine group of boys and girls I took was just supposed to observe as I threw my pimp hand around, bitch slapping as necessary, and calming things down.”

Okay. What had happened to the morose, utterly annoying Dallas of the past few months? The one who whined and complained about, well, everything? There’s a smoking-hot alien queen who wants to screw me, but I can’t encourage her because her partners always turn into cannibals, whaa, whaa, whaa. My best friend Devyn married his vampire lover so I don’t have anyone to play with, whaa, whaa, whaa. I’m your husband’s blood slave, whaa, whaa, f**king whaa. If she heard that last one more time, she was going to make him taste his balls again.

He was alive, wasn’t he? He had cool new powers like mind control and superspeed, didn’t he? Kyrin, her too-sexy-for-words husband, had saved Dallas’s ass by sharing his Arcadian blood—and was now training Dallas’s ass. Dallas should have been this happy all along.

But at least the old, everything-is-a-joke Dallas was making an appearance today, she thought, rather than the new I-want-to-slash-my-wrists Dallas. Courtesy of Ava and Noelle, a two-woman Apocalypse? She’d have to send the girls a fruit basket. Or maybe something they could actually use, like a fire and brimstone basket.

“Continue,” Mia said with an imperial wave of her hand.

Dallas nodded, a bit disappointed. Probably because she hadn’t complimented his bitch-slapping abilities. Baby. “The otherworlder refused to calm vdown, said the humans told his woman she hadn’t just been hit with the ugly stick but the entire tree had fallen on her, and the ass**les owed her an apology. The humans, of course, told me they’d only spoken the truth and that I should arrest the bastard alien for harassing them about it.”

“Which you didn’t.” Even though the arrest would have been standard protocol. But Mia was head of AIR now—three cheers for her boss deciding to retire early!—and was in the process of making a few changes. No longer would aliens be arrested for defending themselves or demanding respect for their race.

Secretly part otherworlder herself, she was flat-out done with prejudice. And now that Kyrin’s blood flowed through Dallas’s veins—again secretly—Dallas thankfully was, too.

“Nope. I didn’t,” her second-in-command confirmed with the slightest hint of relish. “Anyway, while I was apologizing to the otherworlder for all humans and their idiot tongues, Ava and Noelle went Death Match on the ass**les in question. Now, I didn’t see who started it, you understand, just heard a commotion and turned around. By that time the humans, who were both big, burly males, were unconscious and bleeding on the ground, and Ava and Noelle were grinning and banging their fists together in a job well done.”

Mia cut back a moan. Changes, good. High incident rate, bad. There was going to be hell—and apparently hospital bills—to pay for that Death Match. Not just for the males, but for herself. ‘Cause yeah, top brass would rip into her until she begged for mercy. Which meant they would pretty much rip into her until she bled to death, because she never begged for anything. Well, except when Kyrin got her into bed.

Three boos for her boss deciding to retire early. Had he stayed, this would have been his problem.

“So what’d the girls say when you asked about the carnage?”

“Ava said her hand accidentally slipped and made contact with her guy’s nose. I said, Repeatedly? And she said, ‘Uh, yeah. I’m really clumsy.’ And Noelle said her guy was trying to escape, so she took him down like we’d trained her. And oh, we shouldn’t worry about the gaping wound in his neck because he probably had that before he entered the bar.”

First, how was Noelle such a hardass? The girl was Jaxon Tremain’s cousin, and Jaxon was one of AIR’s staunchest rule followers. Not to mention, both were richer than Kyrin, who was richer than God. Noelle had been raised in a mansion, for all that was holy, her every need attended to by servants. She should be delicate.

Jaxon’s wife a bad influence, maybe? After all, Jaxon was married to the meanest female Mia had ever met. A female who was part robot—literally! Mishka actually had a longer kill list than Mia. And while Mia’s list consisted of gunshot and knife wounds, Mishka’s featured acid, thumbtacks, and for the people Robot Girl really hated, spoons.

Nah, Mia thought then. The pair hadn’t been married that long, and Noelle’s first disorderly conduct arrest had happened years ago. Mia knew because she’d studied Tremain’s lengthy file before allowing the overindulged delinquent anywhere near the AIR building.

Now, poor but deceptively sweet-looking Ava, Mia understood. The girl had double the arrests, but then, she’d grown up on New Chicago’s dirtiest streets. Just like Mia had. There, you were predator or prey, and there was no middle ground.

How had the wealthy girl and the impoverished girl hooked up? Jail? And how the hell had they remained friends all these years?

Mia sighed. “So what you’re telling me, Dally, is that it’s time to promote these two heathens.”

Dallas grinned, revealing straight white teeth. He made a production of that grin, reminding her of a curtain rising from a movie screen, an eager crowd desperate for the show to begin. “I don’t know how you do it, Mee, but you always reach the moral of the story without any prompting from me.”