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.
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He didn’t say anything, just watched her for so long that the intensity would have terrified her if being the focus of his attention wasn’t thrilling in a different way. Finally, he sighed. “I don’t know what to do with you, Lili Fleming.”
Her heart lurched, and the words that spilled out were reckless—the most unguarded of her life. “What do you want to do with me?”
Again, the hesitation. “There are ways I could help you,” he admitted, rubbing his thumb over the bowl of his glass. “Ordinarily, I would have already offered. But somehow it seems complicated now.”
She watched his thumb make another slow sweep and couldn’t not imagine it smoothing over her skin. That was what he was talking about—he had to be. Touching her. Showing her the things her body wanted, even as her mind shrank away.
“That’s not why—” Her voice cracked, and she took a long sip of wine and wished it was whiskey. “I’m not asking you for that. I don’t know if I—if I could…” God, she couldn’t even say it, her tongue tangling around the mildest of euphemisms.
“I know you’re not asking.” He shrugged. “I guess that’s what makes it complicated.”
Because trades were simple. They never left you vulnerable. And he hadn’t really answered her question—he was so deft that she hadn’t noticed. “What do you want to do?” she repeated softly.
Jared held her riveted, so completely that she barely noticed when he moved. She couldn’t look away, even when he took the glass from her hand. Even when he laid his hands on her face, his fingers curled around her neck to hold her, and lowered his mouth to hers.
She’d imagined kissing. Mouths touching, lips brushing.
She’d imagined wrong, because Jared’s tongue was the first thing she felt, hot and shocking, as if he knew it would make her gasp. Because when she did, he went deeper, his tongue finding hers.
It was too much. Too fast, too intoxicating. Her entire body throbbed along with her racing pulse, and her knees felt unsteady. She clutched for the only steady thing she could find, grasping his upper arms to keep from melting through the floor.
Then his hands tightened, tilting her head back, urging her mouth open. His tongue swept over hers again, rough and rasping, and every tiny shiver of sensation built into an ache that settled between her legs. Not just an ache, a need, and she whimpered into his mouth.
Jared broke the kiss with a shudder and smoothed his thumb over her tingling lower lip. “See?” he whispered. “Complicated.”
She closed her eyes and tried to catch her breath. “Not sure that helped,” she said, an attempt to turn it into a joke. It had to be, or fear and longing would crash together and vaporize her. “I’m feeling all sorts of things now.”
“It doesn’t have to stop.” His hands trembled on her face. “But that’s your choice to make.”
An impossible choice—need or fear, pleasure or peace. And all of it shrouded in mystery, because she couldn’t reconcile the O’Kanes’ wild glee with her mother’s whispered warnings to lie still so it would be over faster.
“I don’t know.” She forced herself to look at him, to meet his patient, waiting eyes. “I don’t know anything. How can I make a choice when I don’t understand what you’re offering?”
“You’re right.” He smiled again and brushed her hair back from her forehead with a careful, gentle touch. “It’s not exactly fair, is it?”
She was still clinging to him. Slowly, shyly, she eased her grip until she was touching, instead. His arms were solid, muscle flexing as she rubbed her thumb against his sleeve and wondered if he felt the same spark of sensation. “When I was on the drugs, everything seemed so clear. I thought they were all pretending. I didn’t believe in pleasure.”
Now it would be like not believing in water while she was standing outside in the rain. This wasn’t some gentle mist, either. She was caught up in a storm, and she’d seen what heavy rain could do to the desert. The clay couldn’t absorb the water, and the riverbeds couldn’t contain it.
She wasn’t made for pleasure. Too much would sweep her away. “Now I’m scared.”