Beyond Ruin

Beyond, Book Seven

Adrian Maddox fled his royal life—and tragic past—in Sector One, choosing instead to join up with the O’Kanes. For years, he’s lived by one rule: love fast, love hard, and always be willing to walk away. He’s managed to guard his heart, keep it whole and untouched—until now.

They couldn’t be more different—Dylan, the brilliant, burned-out doctor from Eden who drowns his pain with drugs and self-destruction. Scarlet, the sensuous, sexy rocker from Three, a woman unafraid to embrace the world. And Jade, the whore turned spy from Sector Two, who battled addiction and came out stronger than anyone he’s ever met.

Separately, they make Mad long to open his heart, to tumble head-first into a sea of possibilities and wild love. Together, they make him burn, inside and out, with lust and unbearable, unimaginable pleasure.

Then one fateful moment shakes their world to its foundations—and leaves the sectors on the verge of all-out war with Eden. It’s the biggest fight the O’Kanes have ever faced, and Mad and his lovers are at the dead center of it. They could end up with everything they never knew they wanted—or lose it all. Including their lives.




Read Chapter One...

Chapter One

From the time he was old enough to understand words, people had been assuring Mad that he was blessed. He was the cosseted grandson of the Prophet, a holy prince adored and anointed by God himself. Everything he wanted should fall into his open hand. It was his destiny to do great things.

For a blessed man, he had terrible timing.

He paused on the threshold of the garage as Scarlet scowled at the broken-down amplifier on the bench in front of her. Shitty timing or not, the sight of her still kicked him in the gut as she pulled the wires away from the circuit board to get a better look.

She was wearing beat up jeans and an even more battered tank top. Her newly blonde hair had a bluish tint and was twisted on top of her head in a messy ponytail. The cigarette dangling from her lips emphasized her frown, which did nothing to diminish her overall impact.

Scarlet was hot. Not in spite of her clothes and her attitude, but because of them. Because Scarlet was unapologetically herself.

And because of who she was—protective, dangerous, stubborn—she was going to be trouble.

He’d hoped to slip out of Sector Four without attracting attention. Dallas had always granted Mad a certain amount of autonomy, a choice driven by politics and cemented by trust, but tonight Mad was treading a line dangerously close to disobedience.

She pulled the cigarette from her mouth without looking up. “Hey.”

“Scarlet.” He pushed off the doorframe and headed for his bike. She sounded distracted, so maybe luck was with him after all. “You’re working late.”

“Amp’s got a short in it. The garage has the best tools, but you have to use them when some motherfucker’s not banging them on an engine.” The soft glow at the tip of her cigarette flared as she took another drag. “What about you?”

“I have an errand to run.” Close enough to the truth.

“Alone?” Scarlet rolled her stool away from the work bench and propped one solid boot on the shelf. Her brows came together in a severe slash over her clear blue eyes as she looked him over. “I thought O’Kane had rules about that these days.”

These days had started the moment Eden tortured one of Dallas’s operatives. Started—or returned. Mad could still remember the early years, when no O’Kane ever ventured out of the compound without a partner to guard his back. Success and relative safety had made them all cocky, careless.

Now wasn’t the time for cocky and careless. Even Mad wasn’t that stupid. “I’m just bending the rules, not breaking them. I’m meeting a friend in Three.”

“Uh-huh.” The corner of her mouth tipped up in a sly smile. “Sure, Saint Adrian.”

The nickname made him tense instinctively, though he preferred the faint mockery in her voice to hearing the words whispered in earnest. “You can’t become a saint until you’re dead, sweetheart. That’s not on my agenda.”

“I bet.” She rose and crossed the garage, passing within inches of him before circling his bike. The proximity sparked heat all over his skin, and her low, husky laugh was even hotter. “Be careful anyway. And if—if—you make it all the way into Sector Two, do me a favor?”

That was the sexiest thing about Scarlet—her clever brain. “It never hurts to ask for a favor.”

“Mmm. Avery Parrino.”

It shouldn’t have surprised him. Avery was Lex’s baby sister, but she was also an old acquaintance of Jade’s. “She’s worried about her?”

“Of course. They’re friends.”

Somehow, Mad thought Jade might worry even if they weren’t. She’d won her freedom from Sector Two, but she still carried the place inside her, the same way Mad carried Sector One. A duty and an obligation. A painful scar.

At least Jade had Scarlet. Protective, dangerous, stubborn Scarlet. Whatever crazy shit was going on with Two, Jade wouldn’t have to face it alone.

“That’s why I’m going,” he said, reaching for his helmet. “We all know there’s trouble over there, and it can blow back on too many of our people. We need to be ready.”

“Spoken like a good little soldier.”

There was the mockery again. It dug under his skin this time, scraping at wounded pride he didn’t want to acknowledge. He was a good soldier. Even damaged and worn down, he held the line for his brothers and got the job done. “You got a problem, Scarlet?”

“A problem? Nah.” She crushed her cigarette out on the sole of one boot and tossed the butt on the work bench. “Just seems like you talk a big game about teamwork and brotherhood, but when you get right down to it? You’re gonna do whatever the fuck you want. You always do.”

She was leaning against the bench again, just a few feet away. He crossed the garage in two long steps that brought him into her personal space. Their bodies almost touched as he leaned past her to jab the switch that opened the big bay door.

Her ponytail brushed his cheek. Her hair smelled like vanilla and cinnamon. Like Jade, and the reminder of their relationship was a distraction Mad couldn’t afford.

He pulled back far enough to get a good grasp on his sanity, then smiled. “I’m gonna do whatever the fuck needs doing. Count on it.”

“You’re offended.” It wasn’t an accusation, just a statement of fact. “I meant it as a compliment, you know. O’Kane doesn’t need a bunch of blind followers. He needs men who can think for themselves.” She brushed a lock of hair back from his cheek. “Men like you.”

Her fingertips were soft. So was her touch, gentle and easy and nothing like his fantasies. And she could not be touching him right now—not with where he had to go and what he had to do tonight.

He caught her wrist and eased it away. “I’ll ask my contacts for news about Avery.”

“Thanks.” She turned away, but he could hear the smile in her voice. “You’re a prince.”

She was back to poking him, but it was almost a relief. The poking and the scratching and even the mockery were easy, safer than soft touches that tempted him to want what he couldn’t have. “Since the day I was born.”

Scarlet ignored him as he swung a leg over his motorcycle. He returned the favor as he shoved his helmet into place and roared out of the garage—maybe faster than was advisable.

He told himself it wasn’t running away if you had someplace to be.

The sector was mostly dark. It only took a few minutes to shoot past the final line of street lamps, and then the only light came from his bike and the moon.

He could still tell when he crossed the invisible border between Four and Three. Sector Four was rough around the edges, but Three was a mess. It had been almost a year since Dallas claimed ownership, but even long hours and determination couldn’t roll back the clock on total destruction.

Once upon a time, Sector Three had been a thriving business hub. An industrial center full of bustling factories that turned out the electronics and technology desperately needed by a civilization trying to drag themselves back from the brink of annihilation. But with raw materials hard to come by, profits were narrow—even when you paid your workers a pittance. And when you stopped paying them at all…

Mad could remember his grandfather talking about the strikes. A noble cause, he’d proclaimed. The people rising up to demand their due. A cause sure to shake Eden to its very foundations.

His grandfather might have been the Prophet, but he had no gift for prophecy. Eden’s foundations had stayed intact. And all eight sectors learned the price of disobedience when the sky filled with fire and Eden’s drones turned Three into rubble.

It remained rubble for more than a decade. None of the petty leaders who had risen to power in the sector had bothered expending time and resources to make things better. When the O’Kanes finally took over, half the roads were still impassable, and some were straight-up death traps.

Progress didn’t happen overnight. It would take years to turn Three around completely and rebuild what had been lost. But for now, at least Mad had a clear path through the sector as he guided his bike north, toward the East Road that marked the boundary between Three and Two.

The road wasn’t the only boundary. Even before the bombing, Sector Two had their wall. Ten feet high and running nearly a mile out, it encircled their paradise and did its best to keep out the undesirables on both sides.

It also did its best to keep girls like Lex’s sister—girls like Jade—inside.

The man waiting on an idling bike in the middle of the East Road was one of the ways those girls got out. Mad pulled to a stop next to him, rested his boots on the cracked pavement, and tugged off his helmet. “Deacon.”

“Mad.” The nickname still tripped clumsily off Deacon’s tongue, like a man speaking a language he’d learned to sound out but didn’t understand.

For good reason. Addressing a member of the Rios family casually approached blasphemy. Deacon might not have been the truest of true believers, but he was high up in the leadership of Sector One, the commander of the sector’s police force, and fiercely loyal to Mad’s cousin, Gideon. And this was why Mad hadn’t brought another O’Kane with him tonight. The way Gideon’s men looked at him—the way they treated him, with a hint of reverence and lingering deference—was too stark a reminder of all the things he’d fled.

But right now he needed Deacon and his connections.

“Another night might be better,” the man said slowly, squinting into the darkness surrounding them. “My friends in Two say security’s thin on the ground these days. Someone must have pissed off the MPs.”

Only one person could irritate Eden’s military police that much—the leader of Sector Two. “Cerys is usually more careful than that.”

“Guess she’s feeling the strain.”

They all were. But if Two had lost the support of the city, Dallas needed to know, and soon. “We can handle any trouble that comes our way.”

For a moment, Mad thought Deacon might argue. But he only bowed his head in submission.

Responsibility was a heavy weight. Sometimes he wasn’t sure how Dallas carried it every day. Mad felt it pressing down on him as they stashed their bikes and headed for the easiest place to slip over the wall.

Deacon went first, launching himself with a half-jump off the bottom of the wall to grip the top of the brick. He pulled himself up with no other leverage, then reached down from his perch atop the wall. Mad sighed and let Deacon haul him up.

They hit the ground on the other side together, their boots digging into the soft grass. The trees lining the river made this the best place to slip in undetected, but by the time they’d eased out of the sparse woods and into the shadows of one of the larger warehouses, Mad realized it didn’t matter.

Security wasn’t just thin. It was absent. So were the people who were usually going about their business, even at this late hour. He and Deacon made it two blocks without encountering anyone, and that was chilling enough to make Mad stop in a sheltered alley with his back against a brick building. “What the hell is going on?”

“No fucking clue.” It must have unnerved Deacon just as much, because he seized the opportunity to check the pistol tucked into his shoulder holster.

The shadows were deep, but Mad’s eyes had adjusted enough to pick out the tattoos winding down Deacon’s left arm. Every man who joined Gideon’s Riders was given the same initiation tattoo on his left shoulder—a sparse, leafless tree growing out of a skull. Deacon’s shirt sleeve hid most of it, but not the little black ravens spilling down toward his wrist, each one signifying a life taken in his quest to protect Sector One.

Gideon was tattooing his men long before O’Kane formed his gang. Maybe Dallas had even been inspired by the memorial tattoos—there was no denying the intimidating impact of a Rider with an arm full of ravens. But Mad preferred the promise of brotherhood inked around his wrists to the silent penance etched into Deacon’s skin.

Too many reminders of why he’d left. His shoulders tight, Mad checked his own pistol. “Let’s go see Lincoln so we can get the hell home.”

They made it only a few blocks before an unmistakable sound drifted out of the darkness—a blade clearing a leather sheath.

Mad spun, but his companion was faster. As the figure rushed from the shadows, Deacon surged in front of Mad. Silver glinted, but Deacon didn’t even grunt as the knife slashed across his chest. He gripped his attacker’s head, whispered something low and unintelligible, and snapped his neck with a vicious twist.

Just like that—in less than a heartbeat—it was over.

“Looks like Three.” Deacon kicked the knife away before kneeling beside the dead man. His jacket had fallen open, revealing a tangle of gold chain, credit sticks, and the occasional jewel. “Must have gotten cocky, with none of the fancy folks fighting back.”

He spoke so casually, as if he wasn’t bleeding from an entirely preventable wound. As if he wouldn’t be going back to Sector One to receive another little black raven tattoo, penance Mad owed for dragging him over the wall to begin with.

Mad retrieved the credit sticks and a couple of pieces of jewelry that looked easy to fence and shoved them in his pocket. Lincoln could use the credits to save a few more lives, to give a few more girls like Jade a chance at a future of their own choosing.

Triage. That was all it ever felt like. But he kept trying, even in the face of relentless hopelessness.

Maybe he was still a Rios at heart after all.




Want a bigger taste? Read the first three chapters!