The only time hitman Dane ‘The Butcher’ Ryan makes the "right" choice, he loses the only girl he's ever loved.
Dane intends to be a Captain for the powerful Fitzgerald family, like his father. His only weakness is his (former) best friend's little sister, Zara Fitzgerald. Until he stumbles into a dark family secret and Zara swears him to silence. Dane knows staying quiet puts her at risk—so he breaks the promise. And her trust.
Years later, tragedy—and a brewing mafia war—brings them back together. Too bad The Outfit wants a marriage to settle the scores. And only a Fitzgerald daughter will do…
Her unearthly gaze finally met his. He cursed whatever whim of the universe gave Zara Fitzgerald fairy-fucking-princess eyes: bright, blue rings around melted chocolate. Weird, impossible eyes meant to haunt your dreams at the worst moments. Tonight, her pupils were blown so wide the brown was almost invisible. When she spoke again, alarm bells sounded in Dane’s head: “I don’t suppose you mean you’re going to drop me off at the nearest all-night diner?”
“You always were the smart twin.”
“Come on, Dane. Just let us head out. You don’t have to get all responsible and tell Dad, do you?” She was suddenly all velvet and honey. “It’s just you and me. And nobody’s gonna believe him.” She pointed at Kirke. Her small hand brushed his sleeve and traced the seam, nails gleaming silver and black, inviting him into the void. Her touch burned through his leather coat and the ruined gray shirt. “I don’t want to go home yet.”
The routine might’ve worked if he hadn’t spent his entire life building up an immunity to the twins’ angelic faces. Or most of an immunity. Though his blood pressure was having trouble remembering that with Zara so close. Touching him.
“Zara? Have you concluded that my dick is bigger than Kirke’s?” He chuckled and squeezed her elbow a little harder. Her gaze flitted down to his belt, and a blush finally showed though the makeup. But she wasn’t struggling against his hold, either. Fuck if he didn’t get the faint impression that she liked it.
God, do not think about that. You fucking cannot think about holding Zara down and…
“I suspect your dick’s bigger than pretty much anyone’s.” That simple, lust-edged whisper almost broke his resistance. Zara never shied away from teasing him when she had the chance, but this was a new level. One he already felt haunting his future dreams.
“Fucking yikes. You’re drunk,” Dane laughed. He had to. If he took her seriously—even for a second—she’d be against the wall again. And if he touched her, he wouldn’t stop or let go. There’d be no cure besides her dad’s bullet in his brain.
And I’d still die happy.
Zara huffed and stepped into him, resting her head against his chest. Like there wasn’t blood all over his shirt. Or an unconscious cokehead drooling at their feet. Dane kept his eyes on the ragged door and tried not to move or think about her warmth seeping through his clothes. Or that if he bent his head, he could bury his nose in her messy hair and breathe in her scent. “I may be somewhat very drunk,” Zara whispered. “That doesn’t mean I’m wrong.”
“Let’s collect your sister. I’ll call someone to come deal with Kirke.” He kept his voice calm, the words gentle. She’s high as hell. You know she wouldn’t act like this if she wasn’t out of her mind. Zara Fitzgerald was not the girl who felt you up at a party. She was the shy, sweet girl who volunteered at animal shelters and spent every spare moment in the dance studio. Or she was two years ago. What is she now? Doesn’t matter. She’s still too good for you.
He’d known the twins since their parents brought them home from the hospital when he and their older brother Ben were three—and daily playmates. Before Ben’s demons showed up. She’d always been kind. The one who found lost puppies and read stories to other kids. Had she even thrown a punch in her life?
She’s the only person who still smiles when she sees you. Don’t fuck that up.
Zara giggled, her breath kindling a wildfire in his chest. “Are you hoping Gia can protect your virtue?”
Before he could stop himself, his arm circled her with impossible, outrageous ease. Like it knew what it was doing. “Maybe I’m not the one who needs protecting,” he whispered. It was like holding onto a star, too hot and bright. Impossible. Certain to end in radiation poisoning.
“Oh, I’m pretty sure you are.” Zara’s head moved, and the flutter of her breath at his collar was all the warning he got before her lips touched the pulse point below his jaw. The ignition flash swept his entire body. He tightened his hold, drawing her soft curves closer. Her face gleamed in the filthy light as her head tilted up for him. She felt so good. Perfect. The kind of meant-to-be rightness he’d mocked in his mom’s old romances. Fuck my life.
“Zara.” He touched her cheek with his calloused palm before curling a finger beneath her chin. His lips were only a breath away from hers. “I still have to tell your dad.”
“Not about this part.” She leaned up, closing the last distance between them so her lips grazed his. “This is just for you.”