For years, Jared has existed on the fringes of both Eden society and Dallas O'Kane's Sector Four gang. He travels between these worlds, protected by his money and power--money he earned selling his body, and power that comes from knowing secrets. He's untouchable—until he starts a new life gathering intelligence for the O'Kanes.
Lili Fleming walked out of Sector Five with a gun, the bloodstained clothes on her back, and an icy determination to survive. She finds herself in a world where people live hard and love harder, and nothing's more terrifying than how much the O'Kanes wake her up, make her feel—especially Jared.
Emotion is a risk he can't afford, and a complication she doesn't need. But neither can resist the lust simmering between them, and the sparks that could either melt the ice around both their hearts…or get them killed. Because the only thing more dangerous than loving an O'Kane is loving a spy.
“So how long have you been spying for Dallas?”
Cruz’s casual words startled Jared enough to throw him off balance. He almost missed blocking the man’s next blow, and wood scraped over wood as their staffs collided.
Jared spun around and tried to recover his composure. As tactics went, this one was murderously lethal—throw out something shocking, as boldly as possible, then take advantage of your opponent’s distraction to strike your killing blow.
“You’re a good soldier,” he murmured, tightening his fingers around his weapon. The staff was solid red oak—deadly and perfectly balanced. “I bet you’re an even better interrogator.”
“Not really.” Cruz planted his staff on the floor and met Jared’s gaze squarely. “My psych evaluations were consistently disappointing. I’ve always been burdened with an overabundance of empathy. The Base has plenty of soldiers not operating with that particular handicap.”
“I’ll keep that in mind.” Wiping his face with his arm did fuck-all to clear Jared’s vision, because every inch of his bare skin was dripping with sweat. He could make it through a solid hour of forms, no problem, but sparring with Cruz was a far more intense workout. “What gave me away?”
“Nothing obvious.” Cruz shrugged one big shoulder. “I doubt anyone else will notice. But I know a lot of people inside Eden, so I hear the gossip. And I watch you.”
“Good to know.” He made a rush, swinging one end of his staff up toward Cruz’s unprotected side. Cruz pivoted smoothly, his block effortless, his movements lazy as he flipped into a counterattack that pushed Jared back.
His next words were just as casual, just as easy. “I haven’t talked to Dallas about it. I figured if he wanted me to know, he’d have told me. Unless something was stopping him.”
“Not letting it go? Fine.” Jared tossed his staff aside with a sigh, and it clattered to the floor. “Ace can’t find out. That needs to be a promise.”
Cruz hesitated only a moment before nodding. “The fewer who know, the safer you are. But I need to know. If something goes wrong, I’m the one most likely to be able to get you out.”
“Bren’s on it.”
“Bren doesn’t have my connections.”
“Really, now?” So, quiet Cruz was the one with the friends in high places. “I’m impressed.”
“I can’t use them for information, not the kind Dallas needs. But if you get in trouble…” Cruz’s expression stayed serious. “Don’t underestimate how far I’ll go to protect Ace’s heart.”
Not just a promise, but a warning. “You took the words right out of my mouth. Which is why you need to stay the fuck out of it.”
“I’m not going to trip you up at fancy parties—or your new club. But you need to check in with us regularly.” Cruz swept up Jared’s abandoned staff and tossed it to him. “And I need to make sure you can kill a man with whatever’s handy.”
“Your newest project, huh?”
“I don’t want to get too soft living in all that O’Kane luxury.”
It wasn’t the high living on Dallas’s compound that was bringing out all of Cruz’s latent protective instincts—and that was exactly what this was, no matter how he tried to spin it. No, it was all that time he’d spent curled up between Ace and Rachel.
Caring. Once you let go and let yourself do it, it got to be a habit.
Jared kept his mouth shut for a few minutes, focusing instead on the careful coordination of his breathing and his muscles and the weapon in his hands, all moving in concert. But the words spilled forth anyway.
“It’s not so different,” he panted. “In my bedroom, or in a bar. Half the time, all I do is wait for them to say things they already want to say.” That much he understood now—the compulsion born of secrecy, how silence was its own sort of prison. The relief that came with being able to tell someone, anyone, all those things you were supposed to keep locked up.
“People want to be heard.” Cruz wasn’t as breathless, but he wasn’t moving so smoothly now, either. He blocked Jared’s advance only inches from his ribs and broke away to regain space to maneuver. “The bar’s a good idea. Eden’s elite are getting bored and reckless.”
Bored was one of Jared’s longstanding clients tripling her number of monthly visits. Reckless was the time she brought two friends with her, both the wives of powerful, devout men. Of true believers.
Bored and reckless. Separately, they made people dangerous. But together? Bored and reckless had toppled empires.