Beyond Denial

Beyond Denial

DABWAHA is a yearly event run by popular blogs Dear Author and Smart Bitches, Trashy Books where readers fill out brackets pitting beloved books against one another and then engage in a couple weeks of all-out warfare as they try to encourage people to vote in the best interests of their bracket–or in the worst interests of the brackets of people in the lead.

In 2013, Beyond Shame was one of the 2012 finalists pitted against some of our personal favorites in the Paranormal and Speculative Romance subgenres. In the tradition of bribery and mayhem, we offered to provide a deleted scene featuring Ace and his friend Jared at the O’Kane party held for the Sector Three recruits, as seen in Beyond Control.

The chances of our plucky little self-pub novel surviving round one were always tiny, but we planned to share the story either way.  So for all of you who voted, or didn’t, or just want to read about Ace being dirty and in denial…enjoy!

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Beyond Denial

It was an O’Kane party all right, from top to bottom, and Ace should have been having the time of his life.

Jared pushed a drink into his hand with a sigh. “Are you going to tell me what’s wrong, or shall I guess at it? Twenty questions to figure out why you’re brooding?”

Of course it was beer. Ace scowled at the cup for a moment before giving in and taking a sip. Rachel’s homebrew always went down smooth and delicious, and inevitably led him to wonder if she’d go down the same way. The last thing he needed right now was the mental image of her with those sweet lips anywhere near his dick.

Chances were good she’d bite it off if he gave her half a chance.

“All right, then.” Jared finished his own drink and shrugged. “Looks like I’ll have to ask around until I stumble across someone in the know.”

The bastard would too, which meant Ace had to shake it off. Tonight wasn’t a night for O’Kane vulnerabilities, not with a handful of jackasses from Sector Three measuring everyone with their eyes.

So what if Rachel had damn near broken her ankle trying to escape Ace earlier that day? She was skittish. That wasn’t news.

Not unless Jared made it news. “Lay off, man,” he muttered, tearing his gaze from the table where Dallas had his head together with the men from Three. “I just don’t like having them so close to the ladies. Men from their sector don’t have your pretty manners. Fuck, they don’t even have my pretty manners.”

“Do you think they’ll make the cut?”

Ace finished his beer and turned to face Jared. “Not if they keep pissing off Lex. O’Kane has to close his eyes sometime.”

The corner of Jared’s mouth ticked up. “She didn’t seem terribly impressed, not that she let on in so many words.” Then he shrugged. “It is what it is.”

“Eh.” Ace nudged him toward the bar, intent on finding some sort of distraction. From the politics, from the urge to scan the crowd for Rachel—shit, he didn’t care what form it took, as long as it was fun. “If the guys are solid but mouthy, a few rounds in the cage’ll straighten them out. Jas could beat chivalry into a brick.”

“I imagine he could.” Jared’s smile widened. “I won’t be climbing in the cage with him anytime soon.”

“We’re lovers, not fighters,” Ace said before grinning at the bartender they’d brought in for the night. “Toss me a bottle of the good stuff, will you, pet?”

The girl’s cheeks turned delightfully pink, but her gaze stayed fixed on Jared as she fumbled under the bar. Even Ace could admit he stood out tonight, especially with all the O’Kanes dressed in their barbarian best. Jared had compromised by ditching his perfectly tailored suit, but the cut of his leather jacket and the quality of the shirt beneath still screamed taste and class in a club that reveled in having neither.

He returned her regard easily, his effortless smile still in place. When she handed over the bottle, he turned to Ace and lowered his voice. “New, or just here to assist with the festivities?”

“Temporary.” Ace slung his free arm around Jared’s shoulders and dragged him into the writhing mass of dancing bodies. He had to raise his voice to be heard over the throbbing bass, but it was worth it to be in the midst of so much life and movement, with the music trembling through his bones.

“Temporary,” Jared echoed. “Usually one of your most desired traits in a woman. And yet…”

And yet his gaze was already drifting over the dance floor in search of a familiar blonde. “Hey, Dallas’ll kick my ass if I distract the…” The rest of his words vanished as Jas spun Noelle out of his line of vision and suddenly she was there.

Obscene enough words didn’t exist for whatever the hell she was wearing. The tiny leather shorts hugging her hips had a zipper down the front that he could already taste between his teeth. Her top wasn’t a top, just some sort of halter thing that clung to her tits while leaving them half bare, and goddamn it wasn’t fair that she could make him this hard, this fast.

Rachel had always been his weakness, but this was ridiculous.

Her eyes locked with his, and in the heartbeat before she turned away—

Hunger.

Jared laid a hand on his shoulder and spoke, right next to his ear. “Let’s get out of here.”

Primed as he was, Ace wasn’t surprised when the other man’s breath against his skin burned. Pleasure uncoiled, lazy and slow. If he couldn’t have what he wanted, at least he could have something familiar. “Yeah, let’s.”

He considered snagging a woman on their way across the dance floor. The thought held a certain appeal, to be sure, but it didn’t seem fair. Not with thwarted lust throbbing in his veins, the kind of frustration that could lend passion a mean edge.

At least Jared could handle it.

The back exit was closest. Jared pushed through the door and held it open with his shoulder. “Where to?”

The answer was easy. Ace swung around the corner of the building and nodded to the iron fire escape. “The view from the roof’s nice.”

They took the grated steps two at a time. Clouds lightened the night sky to gunmetal gray, an effect heightened by the glow of electric lights and fire from the streets below.

Jared dragged the liquor bottle from his hand and cracked open the seal. “You want to talk about it?”

No, Ace wanted liquor, enough to numb him inside and out, and maybe Jared’s tongue halfway down his throat. Or his dick halfway down Jared’s throat. “Does talk ever fix anything?”

“I think that depends very much on the situation.” Jared drank from the bottle and held it out. “She wants you. Does it help, or just make it all that much harder?”

“If she didn’t want me, I’d get over it,” Ace replied roughly, holding up a hand so the ink around his wrist caught the moonlight. “This is what makes it harder.”

Jared captured his wrist, strong fingers wrapping a shade too tight. “You could have her tonight,” he offered softly. “I could help.”

For one dizzy moment, Ace let himself consider it. Between the two of them, they could overcome any reluctance, coax wanton enthusiasm from the shyest virgin. But he didn’t want to coax Rachel, and he sure as fuck didn’t want to share her.

Especially not with Jared. The man’s touch stirred competition as quickly as lust, and that suited all those not-so-nice impulses just fine. With Jared holding the booze in one hand and Ace’s wrist in the other, there was nothing stopping Ace from sliding his free hand down the other man’s chest to grip his belt. “You think you could succeed where I failed, huh? Cocky.”

“I earned every bit of my arrogance,” Jared murmured. “And I did it by paying attention. By seeing through people’s lies.”

If Jared saw through his, he’d be the first. Ace eased his friend’s belt open. “Rachel’s not one of your weak-kneed city girls. She’s an O’Kane. We’re not so easily seduced.”

“Nothing easy about it.” Jared set the bottle on the low wall edging the roof and shrugged out of his jacket. “Slow and hard, I bet that’s what she likes.”

The words conjured the image in Ace’s mind, just as Jared had known they would—a flushed Rachel, moaning her pleasure as he dragged her into a deep thrust. “Fuck you, brother.”

“That’s right.” He tangled one hand in Ace’s hair and dragged him closer, close enough to crash into a hot, open-mouthed kiss.

Ace was a liar. He was fucking easy to seduce. A few dirty words and some rough handling, and he was ready to rip them both out of their clothes for some fucking release.

Digging his teeth into Jared’s lower lip, he snarled and tore at the other man’s pants. The denim yielded, baring warm skin and soft cotton over his burgeoning erection.

Jared groaned as Ace worked his hand under the boxers and went straight for curling his fingers around his shaft, and his thumb trembled as he traced it over Ace’s lower lip. “I like the way you look at her. You’d fall head first into making her scream, and drag the rest of the world along with you.”

The yearning under the words shifted Ace’s focus from his own frustration’s to Jared’s. “How long has it been since you fucked for fun?”

The question tore a low laugh from him. “What am I doing right now?”

Acting like it’d been too damn long. Ace knew all too well how fast the game could twist you up, and how much worse it was to be a man, who was supposed to love to fuck so much that being obligated to perform on command was no hardship.

Ace tightened his grip and pumped his hand up and down. Slowly. “Aren’t you fucking tired of having to be careful, man?”

“Tired, but not of that.” Jared leaned in to him, thrusting against his hand. “Tired of no one seeing me like you see her.”

No one would, not as long as Jared was working the bed. He was too good a whore to give his clients the messy reality of a person over the sleek fantasy of a man. “You know what I see in her?”

Jared’s teeth scraped his ear, and his free hand closed around Ace’s fingers on his dick. “Tell me.”

“Someone I can’t have and don’t deserve, but want anyway.”

“Liar.” One quick, rough bite, and Jared freed himself only to reach for Ace’s T-shirt. It ripped coming off, and the sound only seemed to spur him on. His mouth skimmed skin—lips, throat, collarbone—before settling on Ace’s jaw. “Open your pants.”

Not a request. When he cared to, Jared could compete with Jas and Dallas when it came to growling commands, but he usually had them beat at rewarding a man for his obedience. “You know what I see in you?” he asked as he jerked his belt buckle open.

“Do I want to know?”

Ace left the belt hanging open and slid one hand around the back of Jared’s head, drawing their foreheads together. “Need, brother. You say you’re not a joiner, but this is a hell of a world to be a loner in.”

Their eyes met, and Jared sucked in a breath between clenched teeth. “Not alone right now.” He laid his palms on Ace’s shoulders, then stroked down over his chest to his stomach.

Lower.

There was nothing gentle about the hands that jerked open his pants, and Ace was glad. It meant he didn’t have to be gentle either as he grabbed Jared’s hair and pulled his head back. He set his own mark in the man’s skin with his teeth, groaning when warm fingers curled roughly around his dick.

“You understand.” Jared squeezed tight and flicked his thumb over the head. “You understand that I’m going to suck your cock, then go find a woman who doesn’t know me, doesn’t want to. Because it’s easier.”

“Isn’t that the goddamn truth?” Ace hissed out a breath and tilted his head back, already pushing against Jared’s shoulders, urging him down. He wanted the heat of that mouth, the skill and oblivion. He wanted to feel what the women under him always did, the careless bliss that came when someone else had taken over.

Jared didn’t go gently. He snarled against Ace’s chest and bit his hip when he hit his knees. Everything was rough—his grip, his growl. The burn of stubble across his thighs. The rasp of tongue on his cock.

“Fuck.” Ace caught the back of Jared’s head and thrust forward, groaning at the answering bite of fingers on his hips. No teasing, no power games. Jared would answer his silent demands with brutal skill, sucking his cock until pleasure flattened them both.

Life should always be this simple. This fucking easy.

Jared fisted his hand around the base of Ace’s shaft and drew back to tongue the crown, a momentary tease that ended with a deep, hard suck. Ace opened his mouth to encourage him, but stopped when he caught movement out of the corner of his eye.

Not much, a glint of moonlight off blonde hair, but his gaze jerked to the left and—

Rachel. Mortified, hypnotized Rachel, frozen just outside the door that spilled out onto the roof from the top floor. The coffee can ashtray that usually doubled as a doorstop sat forgotten a few feet away, which meant the door had closed and locked, and the only way off the roof was behind him.

A better man would haul Jared’s mouth off his dick.

Rachel squeezed her eyes shut only to open them again when Jared groaned. The sound vibrated through Ace, and he bit his lip as the suction intensified and the caress deepened, taking him past the back of Jared’s throat.

If she’d turned away, he would have stopped it. If she’d seemed distressed or upset, if she’d done anything to trigger the protective instincts that seemed to kick into overdrive around her…

But she just watched him, her chest heaving. When another wave of pleasure dragged a noise from him, Rachel’s lips parted—as if she was inches away instead of clear across the roof.

As if she could drink it in.

Ace didn’t even know which one of them to blame when he came.

The man at his feet jerked but didn’t pull back, not until the world swam into focus and the hot pulses of pleasure began to subside. Rachel was still there, still staring, and Ace stroked a shaking hand over Jared’s head without tearing his gaze from hers. “That was fucking hot.”

She shifted, tiny pebbles scraping under her boots, and Jared looked over. “Shit.”

The hoarse word seemed to startle her into movement. “The door locked,” she mumbled, striding across the roof, her cheeks flaming. “I’ll get out of your way.”

“Wait—” Jared rose and reached for her. “Stay, and you—”

She shook away his touch and held up both hands. “Don’t, okay?”

Ace caught Jared’s arm and hauled him back so hard he nearly stumbled. “Don’t worry about it, angel. No harm done, right?”

That brought her up short. Her brown eyes flashed fire, the promise of a fight that vanished in an instant, blinked away as she shook her head. “Dallas is taking the prospects on a little tour. They might end up here eventually—fair warning.”

Confident that Jared wouldn’t make another move toward her, Ace released him long enough to get his dick back into his pants. “I’m sure we’ll be long gone.”

“Yeah.” She grabbed the abandoned bottle of whiskey and paused at the top of the fire escape. “And Trix was looking for you two. Don’t keep her waiting.” Then she fled down the stairs, into the darkness.

Awkward silence fell, broken only when Ace exhaled sharply. “Christ. I’m gonna pay for that.”

Jared handed him his shirt. “For which part?”

“Hell if I know,” he grumbled, examining the fabric. A torn T-shirt would fit in just fine with the O’Kane dress code for the evening, so he shrugged back into it with a sigh. “It’s not my fault she thought it was hot.”

Jared flashed him a knowing look as he fastened his pants. “It’s rude to bullshit a man who just had your dick in his mouth.”

It’d probably be ruder to throw a friendly elbow to his gut for being such a goddamn know-it-all, so Ace settled for a scowl. “I’m an asshole. I hurt her feelings. I don’t even know how, but I know I hurt her.”

“Okay.” Jared fell silent as he retrieve his jacket and brushed it off. “You want to go after her?”

Ace could read the man’s honest confusion. Jared was wondering why he didn’t chase Rachel down and give her all the words she needed to hear. It wouldn’t be so hard to figure out the right ones, not if he played her the way he’d played clients for so many years, the way Jared played damn near everyone.

“It’s not that easy,” he said finally. “We’re O’Kanes. We don’t run game on each other. It’s real or it’s nothing, because it’s not just a morning after on the line. We’re in each other’s lives for good.”

“I see.”

“Do you?”

“No,” Jared admitted, slipping an arm around Ace’s shoulders. “But what do I know?”

Only what Ace had known before he’d started running with Dallas O’Kane. How to fuck for money, through frustration and maybe in search of pleasure…but not how to fuck someone you were falling in love with.

To be fair, Ace still wasn’t all that great at it.

Putting aside his own discomfort, he slung an arm around Jared’s waist. “I know there are a half dozen ladies down there hoping you’ll end up balls deep in them before the night is out. And that I owe you an orgasm. Wanna kill two birds with one bone?”

Jared groaned. “That was terrible.”

“I’m an artist, not a poet.”

“Clearly.”

“Don’t worry, I’ve got better uses for my tongue.” And he planned to employ them—soon. He’d made a fucking mess of things with Rachel, but Jared’s immediate needs would be easy to satisfy. A hot woman, some hotter fucking, and a night of being the seduced instead of the seducer. Ace could give him that—and really, ignoring his own troubles to get his friend good and laid wasn’t cowardly. It was fucking noble. Martyrish, even.

That was him. The god damned saint of sinners.

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