She’s been looking for the perfect man. She found two.
When Rachel Riley sacrificed a life in Eden to protect the O’Kanes, she earned her place in the powerful Sector Four gang. But the former crime princess is tired of being everyone’s sweet little sister . It’s time for her to get wild, to embrace her fantasies as only an O’Kane can—with a delicious exiled soldier and the gang’s wickedly sinful tattoo artist.
Lorenzo Cruz is a warrior, taught by his commanding officers in Eden that involvement equals distraction. Emotion is a liability, and desire a sin. In Sector Four, he finds decadence, shameless sex—and his own dark urges. No battle strategy prepared him for how Rachel makes his heart race…or the way his rival for her affections sets his blood on fire.
...and a sinner.
Ace Santana has a dirty reputation and a mind to match, especially where his new lovers are concerned. He’s eager to help Cruz embrace his dominant side, and to explore the lines between pleasure and pain with Rachel. But corrupting them quickly becomes an obsession, a need he can’t deny—and a love he never imagined.
Three hearts on the line means a hundred ways their ménage a trois could go wrong. After all, even O’Kanes do forever two-by-two. One of them could be the missing piece that makes them all whole…or a temporary diversion destined for a broken heart.
Read Chapter One...
She’d turned into a creeper, and it was all Ace’s fault.
Rachel drained her third shot of tequila and fought a losing battle to drag her covetous gaze away from the cage—and the man inside it.
Of course, everyone was watching. It was hard not to when Cruz was setting a Sector Four record by taking on three opponents at once. And he’d apparently decided to go big or go home, because not a single one of the poor bastards had managed to land a solid shot on him.
It wasn’t fair, when even three-on-one odds couldn’t bring a man down.
Rachel half wished she’d laid money on the match, just to have an excuse for her galloping pulse, not to mention the tiny drop of sweat that rolled down the small of her back. But she’d never been good at lying to herself, so there it was. The truth, in mesmerizing Technicolor.
Lorenzo Cruz, stripped to the waist and fighting like his life and dark mood depended on it, was a beautiful sight. Damn near enough to make a woman come from thirty feet away.
A tug on her shirt pulled her attention away from the cage. “Show me where you want this?”
Shit, she’d forgotten all about Gunner, their conversation—and, frankly, anything that didn’t have to do with licking a path straight down the center of Cruz’s chest. “Uh, yeah.” She lifted her hands automatically, allowing Gunner to pull her shirt higher. “I know the ribs hurt, but I was thinking my left side?”
“Sure, sure. No problem.” He grinned at her. “I can put it anywhere you want.”
“A tattoo,” she said firmly. “Don’t go getting your hopes or anything else up.”
Gunner winked, the gesture more playful than it was suggestive. He knew better than to push his luck with an O’Kane, especially in the heart of their compound. “I’ll be a perfect gentleman,” he assured her, crouching to get a better look at her side. “So you want a fallen angel right across here?”
“Falling,” she corrected. Not just an angel, and not one lying on the ground, her wings broken. That wasn’t her. What she wanted to capture was the journey, the dizzy, spinning descent. “I want—”
Someone reached around her waist and jerked her shirt back down into place. Even before she looked down at the brash, beautiful sleeves of ink covering those arms, she knew who it was from the zing of awareness that rocked her.
She slapped his fingers and turned to face him. “Hands off, Santana. I’m having a conversation here.”
Ace’s gorgeous face twisted into a scowl. “Not with him, you’re not. Hell no.”
It wasn’t enough for him to dominate her thoughts, her fantasies. He had to own her skin, too. “Seriously? You think I’m gonna come to you for this?”
He ignored her, shifting his gaze to Gunner as if she hadn’t spoken. “I thought we had an understanding, man. You got a sudden death wish?”
Gunner raised both hands in clear surrender, and Rachel shoved him out of the way. It wasn’t about him anyway, not really. “If you have a problem with my life choices, Ace, have the respect to take it up with me.”
Now she had his attention, one hundred and ten percent of it. Ace was usually so easygoing that she forgot how intense he could be when he fixed that dark gaze on a person. “Letting that bastard ink you isn’t a life choice. It’s a fuck you.”
“Even if that were true, don’t you think you’ve earned it?”
“Maybe, but there are better ways to say it.” He leaned in, the air between them heavy, electric, and even the roar of the crowd around her couldn’t shatter the illusion that they were trapped in their own tiny world. “Did you think past sticking it to me? About how long it would take, how much it would sting? How high you’d be flying, with only some fucking outsider there to catch you if you fall too fast?”
“I hate you.” The words slipped out, and she immediately wanted to snatch them back. Not because they weren’t true—he’d hurt her, more than once, in ways that couldn’t have been accidental—but because they revealed too much. How much she cared, when she shouldn’t have, not at all.
Her cheeks burned. She turned on her heel and fled, heading for the back hallway and its maze of rooms and exits. Plenty of places to hide until the waves of mortification settled. She’d blame it on the tequila, laugh it off the way she did everything else—
“No fucking way.”
Ace caught her arm and hauled her to a stop. “Fucking hell, woman, stop for a second!”
“What?” She jerked away and smacked her shoulder against the hallway wall—hard. At least the darkness would hide the sudden tears of pain that stung her eyes, even if it did nothing to conceal her stupidity. “What do you want from me, Ace?”
“Fuck.” His hand hovered over her shoulder. “I want to stop hurting you. But it’s the one thing I manage, no matter what I do.”
Did he stop to wonder why? To think about all the ways he was in her face, every day, showing her there was nothing he couldn’t have if he wanted it. Nothing and no one, including Cruz.
“I don’t—” Her voice failed her, and she fought to speak past the thick, painful lump in her throat. “I don’t want to do this anymore. We should just stay out of each other’s way, okay?”
“Easier said than done,” he whispered, dropping his hand to her wrist. He slid a fingertip over her wrist and the cuff obscuring her city bar code, the first tattoo he’d ever given her.
The moment was burned into her memory. Ace had set her at ease with his friendly jokes and warm smiles, turning a terrifying moment into something simple, almost sweet. She’d clung to it, the only solid thing in a whirling storm of uncertainty.
He pulled away. As light as the caress had been, its absence was a punch to the gut. “If you don’t trust me with your ink anymore, all right. But Emma’s got more talent in one toe than that bastard will ever have in his life. And she’s one of us.”
“Okay, you win.” The words caught on a hitch, and Rachel shook her head. “You always win.”
“Sure as hell doesn’t feel like it, angel.”
“That’s your own damn fault.” She looked away, toward the low red light glowing at the end of the hallway. “You didn’t even ask me why.”
“Would you have answered?”
He was leaning closer. She could feel it, and she steeled herself against the seductive tug before she looked up and met his gaze. “Anything.”
The space between them was too precise not to be deliberate. He should be touching her somehow—an accidental bump of his hand, his chest grazing hers when she dragged in a breath—but the prickle along her skin was pure anticipation.
He let her hang there forever before closing his eyes. “Maybe I don’t want to hear you say how much you hate me again. Once a night is all my wounded, delicate heart can handle.”
His words should have sparked her temper again, not a tiny frisson of guilt. “I meant it. But not the way you think.”
The corner of his mouth kicked up. “My mistake. It’s the good kind of hate.”
“The frustrated kind.” He always found a way to hide behind his joking words. Exasperated, Rachel reached down and grabbed his belt buckle, curling her fingers beneath the warm metal. “I know what sorts of games you and Cruz are playing these days. How come you two haven’t knocked on my door yet? Think I can’t handle it?”
“And what do you think you know?” Ace demanded, his eyes snapping open. His hands hit the wall on either side of her head, caging her. Trapping her. “Don’t skimp on the filthy details. You know how I love dirty talk, angel.”
She’d lost her mind—it was the only explanation for why she didn’t retreat. “You’ve been sharing your women.” She leaned closer, her mouth next to his ear. “Is it about pleasure or conquest, Ace? And do you take turns, or fuck them at the same time?”
“Conquest?” His eyes narrowed, and a new expression darkened his features, one she’d never seen directed at her before.
Good. She could work with him hating her, too. At least that made sense.
Rachel snatched her hand back. “Sorry, I forgot the rules. Everything’s a joke until it’s not, and words don’t mean anything until you want them to.”
The arms on either side of her tensed, muscles flexing under ink. “We fuck them at the same time, because that’s what they want. What he wants. Is that what you really need to know? What your city boy’s doing now? How filthy he’s gotten? Because you sure as fuck don’t seem to give a shit about me.”
Her eyes burned, and she bit the inside of her cheek until she tasted blood. It didn’t stop the first hot tear from spilling down her cheek, or the ragged sob that tore through the knot in her throat.
“Fuck. Fuck, fuck fuck.” Ace cupped her cheeks, a warmth on her skin that lingered for only a heartbeat before vanishing. “Ignore me, angel. You’re sweet and you’re perfect and Cruz is in love with you. You’re both too good for the likes of me, so don’t cry.”
The only thing that hurt worse than his censure was his pity. Desperate for escape from both, Rachel stumbled blindly toward the door. Any place was better than standing in front of Ace, hearing awful, hurtful words spill from her lips, when all she’d ever wanted was—
It doesn’t matter. She repeated it like a mantra, a tiny whisper under her breath until she was outside, her breath puffing out into the frigid night air. She was heading in the wrong direction, toward the warehouses instead of the living quarters, but she didn’t give a damn.
She had to get away.
It wasn’t difficult to track down Rachel. Cruz had successfully stalked more elusive prey across far more expansive terrain, and had done so with less intimate knowledge of his quarry. When Rachel was rattled, she fled to higher ground, to fresh air and open skies.
So he wasn’t surprised to find her on the roof. She sat with her back to the low wall edging the rooftop, a nearly empty bottle nestled between her knees. “Emergency tequila,” she explained, holding the bottle aloft. Her teeth chattered, and her lips were several shades darker than their usual pink. “To keep me warm.”
Liquor didn’t work that way. It opened the capillaries, flushed the skin with what seemed like a rush of warmth, but in the end it only hastened the loss of body heat. Especially now, when they were well on their way to winter. It got cold in the desert at night, and for all that Eden had fought to hide the fact with irrigation and reservoirs and carefully cultivated greenery, that was exactly where they were.
“Here,” he said, slipping out of his jacket. His blood was still pumping from the fight, but the icy wind cut easily through his thin T-shirt. He could only imagine how chilled she was, huddling against the stone.
She relaxed into the fabric with a soft moan. “You’re so warm. And I’m so stupid. I shouldn’t have come up here, but now I can’t leave.”
It didn’t make sense, but she was so wasted it probably shouldn’t. Rachel could match any O’Kane drink for drink, which made him wonder how full that bottle had been when she’d come up here. She might have even started drinking while he was still in the cage, before he’d claimed victory only to discover a guilt-stricken Ace, hitting the whiskey hard enough for it to hit back.
It wasn’t a surprise that the two people he cared for most couldn’t exchange two words without shredding each other to ribbons. That had been his life forever—the agony of divided loyalties. His orders or his conscience, the sectors or Eden…
Rachel or Ace.
Ace would have to fend for himself tonight. Cruz crouched and held out a hand. “Share the tequila?”
“Take it. My head is spinning.” She passed him the bottle, then pressed her palms over her closed eyes. “You talked to Ace.”
“He didn’t have much to say.” It wasn’t a lie, because he hadn’t needed words to know. The pain in Ace’s expression had told Cruz who, and enough of what. Only a fight with Rachel could put that look in the man’s eyes.
She changed the subject. “Congratulations on your win. That’s a record, you know. I hope you were smart enough to bet on yourself and clean up.”
“I’ve got some cash now, yeah.”
She leaned her head back against the brick. “Good.”
“Rachel, honey. It’s too damn cold to be out here. Why don’t you go back to your room?”
“I don’t want to be alone.” Her eyes fluttered open and fixed on him. “Up here, I’m killing time. If I go home, I’m alone.”
The offer hung heavy on the tip of his tongue, but he bit it back. It would be too easy to cross this line. He’d crossed so many others lately, stumbling across them in blind pursuit of pleasure.
He could stumble into her, too, but not like this. Not drunk and sad and shivering from the cold. His words had to be careful, precise. Comfort with no hidden strings, no temptation. “You don’t have to be alone. There are plenty of places you could crash tonight.”
She smiled—slow, with no hint of amusement. “Everyone feels sorry for me these days.”
“I don’t think that’s true.”
“Maybe not. Fine.” She reached out. “If you’re not going to let me sit here and feel sorry for myself, the least you can do is help me up.”
Now it was safe to smile as he straightened and took her hand. “You promise to go somewhere warm, and I’ll let you brood all night long.”
“I don’t want to.” She tripped over her feet and pitched against him, bracing her free hand on his chest. “I don’t know what else to do. This isn’t how things were supposed to turn out.”
The line always blurred when she put her hands on him. But this was the first time she’d touched him in the days since he’d killed Russell Miller, and that had been a turning point. The moment he’d given up on some impossible idea of being a hero.
Of being her hero.
He gripped her shoulders to steady her and ignored the way even that small contact stirred arousal. “Turn out? That’s awfully final.”
Her fingers tightened in his shirt. “Yes, it is.”
Careful. “Your life’s not over. Anything could happen tomorrow. You and I both know that better than most.”
She looked up at him, her expression serious. Her eyes clear. “I’m glad you’re happy. Doubt anything else, but not that, okay?”
He wasn’t happy. He was falling, losing himself in vice because fucking and fighting where the only things that gave him a taste of pleasure. But she looked so somber, so fucking sad that only a monster would take that small comfort from her. “All right.”
She huffed out a laugh and hid her face against his chest. “You’re a terrible liar. Just wretched.”
It wasn’t funny, but his lips twitched as he gave himself permission to touch her hair. He’d missed running his fingers through it, feeling the slippery blonde strands slide over his skin. It was longer than it had been during their brief time together, long enough that he could imagine wrapping it around his fist—
No. “I’m actually a damn good liar,” he said, mostly to distract himself. “Just not with you, I guess.”
“Not with me.” She arched closer, rubbing her cheek against his shirt. “I miss you.”
“Yeah?” His heart kicked into his throat—an amazing fucking feat with all the blood rushing to his cock.
But Rachel didn’t respond, and she wasn’t just leaning into him for support anymore. He allowed himself a single sigh before scooping her off her feet. She barely murmured as her head tucked itself neatly under his chin.
She’d be feeling the tequila tomorrow, and the chances were good she wouldn’t remember a damn thing she’d said to him tonight. That was the only reason he let himself speak at all as he carried her toward the stairs.
“I miss you, too.”