Authors: Kit Rocha
Tags: #Romance, #Adult
She refuses to be owned.
Alexa Parrino escaped a life of servitude and survived danger on the streets to become one of the most trusted, influential people in Sector Four, where the O'Kanes rule with a hedonistic but iron fist. Lex has been at the top for years, and there's almost nothing she wouldn't do for the gang...and for its leader. Lie, steal, kill--but she bows to no one, not even Dallas O'Kane.
He'll settle for nothing less.
Dallas fought long and hard to carve a slice of order out of the chaos of the sectors. Dangers both large and small threaten his people, but it's nothing he can't handle. His liquor business is flourishing, and new opportunities fuel his ambition. Lex could help him expand his empire, something he wants almost as much as he wants her. And no one says no to the king of Sector Four.
Falling into bed is easy, but their sexual games are anything but casual. Attraction quickly turns to obsession, and their careful dance of heady dominance and sweet submission uncovers a need so deep, so strong, it could crush them both.
For Vivian Arend. For all the reasons she knows and a few she hasn't figured out yet.
Copyright © 2013 by Kit Rocha
Edited by Sasha Knight
This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the writer's imagination or have been used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, locales or organizations is entirely coincidental.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any manner whatsoever without written permission from the author except in the case of brief quotation embodied in critical articles and reviews.
The night was on fire. Lex could smell it, wood smoke and plastic burning in barrels and trash heaps. Gas, coal--anything that would take flame and light up the darkness.
A shatter of glass accompanied by victorious shouts echoed close by, maybe only three or four narrow streets over, and Lex lifted a hand instinctively to the pistol nestled under her jacket. It was the worst thing about these nights, the crime that swept through like a plague when the sectors went dark. People stole without thought or discrimination. Being disgusted by that might have made her a hypocrite, except that she never did either.
There was nothing
The marketplace had been stripped of its wares, and the stalls stood like skeletons in the moonlight as she wound her way through the narrow street. Smart of the vendors to take their goods home with them, because boards and locks wouldn't keep out prying hands, not on a night like this.
Lex ducked into the alley behind Walt Misham's shop, sidestepped a pile of rotting trash, and knocked on the dented metal door.
Chains rattled on the other side before a rough voice challenged her. "Whoever it is, you should know I'm armed."
"I should hope so, Walt," she shot back. "Let me in."
The door creaked open an inch. "Lex? What the hell are you doing out on a night like this?"
"Business," she answered. He peered at her, one rheumy blue eye appearing out of the darkness, and she tilted her head to meet his gaze. "I finally got my hands on something you've been looking for."
"Let me see it."
Lex shoved her hands in her jacket pockets and squinted at him. "You know better. Mad's bringing it. He's on his way."
Walt's bark of laughter turned into a wracking cough as he pulled open the door far enough for Lex to slip inside. She had to ease carefully past a six-foot stack of crates in one corner, and a jagged wooden edge still snagged her hair.
She yanked it loose and followed Walt deeper into the back room of the shop. "You'll be glad to get out of here, I bet."
"Past time, to be sure." His breathing was raspy, and he led her toward a candlelit table before lowering himself heavily to his chair. "If these blackouts don't kill me first."
"The solar converter will help." She sat across from him and studied his face, which was heavily lined and shadowed in the dim light. "I tested it this afternoon, so it should be fully charged. You can try it out tonight."
His lips twitched. "If I meet your asking price, of course. You'd best give me a good deal, girl, if you want me around to buy your stolen goods."
"You're not my only customer," Lex drawled. "Still, it'd be a shame not to have you screeching at people in the market."
"Don't tease an old man, Lex." He grunted as he lifted a lockbox onto the table. "Name your price--unless you'd like to trade."
"Ten." A few grand less than she could get elsewhere, maybe, but Walt had cut her plenty of deals in the past based on her association with Dallas. Besides, it seemed wrong to play hardball over something like this. A pretty bauble, sure, but not a legitimate medical need.
Walt groused--he always groused--but fumbled with the lock on the box. "You want cash or clean city credits?"
"Half and half. And bust the credits up onto a couple of different sticks."
A hollow knock sounded on the front door as Walt pried open the box. "Drag your young body over there and let your friend in, if that's him. I'll load up your creds."
"Cranky ass." But Lex crossed the room and peeked out the dirty window. "It's him."
It took a solid minute to disengage all the locks and chains, but Mad didn't seem impatient. He smiled as if the night wasn't alive with the threat of violence and held up a crinkled brown paper bag. "Old man willing to deal?"
"I'm very persuasive." She opened the door far enough to admit him, then glanced around the square outside before securing the locks again. "Show the man what he's bought, Mad."
"The finest tech money can't buy." Maddox was nearly twice Lex's size, but he moved with deceptive grace, claiming a chair across from Walt. "I'll have you know, old timer, that these aren't available to private owners. City-issue, strictly reserved for councilmen and military police. I still don't know how Lex managed to find one, but it's a thing of beauty."
"Never you mind how I found it."
she corrected silently. Not that it mattered.
Walt's gnarled hands shook as he reached for his breathing device. "Flex those clever fingers, girl, and help me hook it up. If it works, the money's yours."
Walt's assisted breathing device delivered oxygen through a simple set of nasal tubes. The complicated part was the apparatus itself, a small black box that worked as a conductive purifier. The small intake drew air in, filtered it, and both isolated and concentrated the oxygen content. It worked without power, but barely any more efficiently than simply breathing.
Lex slipped one of the small rechargeable battery cells from the solar converter and fit it into the slot Walt indicated. A tiny light on the side of the purifier flashed blue and then a solid green, and an almost imperceptible hiss filled the room as Lex helped Walt loop the tubes over his ears and fit the points into his nostrils.
Walt closed his eyes and inhaled deeply. Mad watched them both, a tiny smile curving his lips. "See, old man? Tech so smooth it's almost magic."
"Hush," Walt grumbled in between more of those relieved breaths. "This one, Lex--he has no trouble getting air, and he wastes it on so many words. Does he ever stop talking?"
"Nope." Mad talked all the time--and mostly, Lex suspected, to convince people he was simple. Shallow. "Don't let it fool you though, Walt. He's sharp."
Walt huffed. "The whole lot of you O'Kanes are sharp."
"That we are," she teased.
The old man squinted at her. "I heard Dallas had himself some trouble, though. Should I be worried about moving out to the edge of the sector? Is the place coming down around our ears?"
"No more so than usual." Lex gathered the cash and credit sticks in one hand. "Anything else you're on the lookout for? Just in case I stumble across it?"
"I've got a new customer, a collector. He'll pay top credit for pre-Flare videos. Westerns, he wants. Cowboys and outlaws." Walt showed his disdain for that preference with a loud sniff. "Fools with more money than sense. But fools make my living, don't they?"
"We've all got our something." Some people wanted porn, others wanted priceless art. And others wanted vintage Clint Eastwood. "I might be able to scrounge up a few. Keep in touch."
Walt followed them back through the labyrinth of crates and boxes to the back door, and Lex lingered outside long enough to hear the click and scrape of every lock and chain. "Got plans?" she asked Mad, her hands in her pockets.
"That's what I was about to ask you." He nodded to her jacket. "I saw you got credits."
She still had her fingers wrapped around the paper and plastic in her pocket. She pulled out the handful and shoved it at him. "You and Doc can split it. You know the drill."
"Doc's got a girl who can use some of this tonight." He folded the bills before dumping the credit chips into his pocket. "Pregnant. She almost drowned in the river trying to get out of Two before--"
Lex closed her eyes, as if doing so would shut out the words, as well. "It's better if I don't know, Mad."
"You're doing good work, honey, helping people who need it. Why don't you ever want to hear that?"
Because it wasn't her job. Because it wasn't enough. Because Dallas would make her stop--or worse, try to throw in with her and do more. "This is the way I want it."
"Ah, Lex. All right." Mad threw a friendly arm around her shoulders and tugged her to his side for a brief hug. "You gonna let me walk you back to the compound?"
"That wouldn't be very sneaky," she demurred. "I've got to slip by Dallas somehow. I'm not supposed to be out after dark."
"Well, be good and sneaky, then." He squeezed her shoulders. "I know you can take care of yourself, girl, but have some pity on the rest of us. Dallas roars around like a lion with a thorn in his paw when he thinks you've been putting yourself in harm's way."
She'd planned to wait until morning to run her errand. She'd tried, even, but in the end she couldn't. "Was I supposed to let a sick man huff and puff all night just to keep Dallas from flipping his shit?"
"You snarl and snap all you want, Lex. I know your dirty secret." Mad laughed and poked her in the chest. "You have a heart."
she couldn't let stand. She grabbed his finger and bent it back until he winced. "What I have is money, along with a tiny bit of a conscience. That's not the same thing."