Authors: Kit Rocha
To Jay & Tracy, who keep the lights on at the Broken Circle while we're plotting revolution.
The book you're reading is part of the
series, stories set in a post-apocalyptic world where the rich and powerful have claimed ownership of the country's only self-sustaining city. Those who live within Eden's walls must abide by a strict moral code or risk exile to the brutal, lawless sectors.
Gangs and petty dictators rule the slums, but not all kings are created equal. Dallas O'Kane and his brotherhood of bootleggers are the only authority in Sector Four. Cross them at your peril. But pledge your loyalty, and you might be invited into their world of passion and power, sex and sin. Just remember: if you're an O'Kane, you're an O'Kane for life.
#1: Beyond Shame
#2: Beyond Control
#3: Beyond Pain
#3.5: Beyond Temptation
#4: Beyond Jealousy
#4.5: Beyond Solitude
#5: Beyond Addiction
#5.5: Beyond Possession
#6: Beyond Innocence
#7: Beyond Ruin
#8: Beyond Ecstasy
#9: Beyond Surrender
The O'Kanes have a reputation for working hard and playing harder--except for Hawk. He joined the gang with one goal: to ensure his family's survival through the impending war with Eden. It's been years since he had the luxury of wanting anything for himself. Now, he wants Jeni. From the first moment he saw her, he’s been obsessed with making her his. Not for a night--forever.
Jeni's been lusting after the former smuggler for months, but he keeps shutting her down. She's almost given up on getting him in her bed when he offers her the last thing she ever expected--a collar. Accepting it means belonging to him, body and soul. It's a reckless gamble, but Jeni can’t resist the chance to slip under Hawk's armor.
The only thing more shocking than the dark, dangerous pleasure they discover is how right it feels. But falling in love is even more reckless when forever is far from guaranteed. Because they aren't just at war, they're out of time--and every breath could be their last.
Hawk couldn't decide which would drive him crazy first—the shadows or the light.
The shadows, that was the easy answer. The sectors had been dark for a month now, driven back to the earliest days after the Flares. Back home in Six, things wouldn't be so bad. The farms had always survived off wind and solar energy, and as powerful as Eden was, they couldn't still the air or blot out the sun. But sectors like Four relied on whatever electricity they could borrow, beg, or steal from Eden's grid. Blackouts had always been an infrequent annoyance.
Now they were a constant reality—and Sector Four was unraveling under the strain.
That was why Hawk was out for his fourth night in a row, patrolling the market square with Jasper. He could
people watching them from behind closed doors and windows, from hidden alleys and sheltering walls. Watching and waiting. Calculating their chances of getting away with whatever trouble they'd been planning to start. Out of fear or desperation, or just to relieve the unrelenting tension.
But all those stares couldn't raise the hair on the back of his neck the way glancing over his shoulder toward the city did.
The darkness was awful, but the light posed the real danger. Hell, it was going to make them crazy. Eden's damn glowing walls, sparking with the power they'd stolen from the sectors. Precious electricity twisted into a weapon and a warning and brazen, bragging psychological warfare.
During the day, you could almost ignore it. But when the sun dipped below the western hills, all anyone could see was Eden's walls lighting up the night in a silent reminder that everything had changed.
“Nothing,” Jas growled. “I hate the waiting.”
I hate the waiting
. Words that summed up life in the sectors now, on every fucking level. “It's only a matter of time.”
“The intel is good.” Jasper pulled a cigarette from his pocket, but he didn't light it. “Two shops and someone's house have been hit on this block in the last week.”
The intel might be good, but crime wasn't simple anymore. Some people were stealing out of greed and need, but more and more had been starting shit just to start it. The wave of petty crime had dropped after the O'Kanes bumped up fight night to twice a week—an approved outlet for violence with a chance to make some money was math even an idiot could do—but the
was back, seething from the shadows, growing day by day.
If something didn't happen soon, every damn night would have to be fight night.
Jas rubbed the spot between his eyes with the heel of his hand. “Let's take a walk.”
Hawk nodded in agreement and fell into step next to Jas as he turned toward the city. Even this far away, an ache was already forming behind his eyes. He knew how many blocks they could walk before the ache blossomed into pain, and how many more before nausea joined the party.
No one could live this close to the wall anymore. Some of the shopkeepers who'd kept homes above their shops had been driven back after the first two weeks. A few stubbornly stayed—pale and drawn and increasingly sick from the constant exposure.
Hawk couldn't understand
. When they cleared the last row of buildings, he could feel the damn thing in his bones, thrumming,
. It took all his self-control not to turn the fuck around and run for it.
But he couldn't. Not until he and Jas had completed their most grisly task of the night.
The open space closest to the curving walls was strewn with abandoned carts and trash no one had bothered to pick up. No shadows lurked here—just eerie, unnatural illumination that made Hawk's eyeballs itch and washed everything out into silver and blue.
Especially the dark form standing at the wall, his hands wrapped around a line of wire.
“Fuck,” Jasper muttered. “
Suicide-by-Eden. The newest threat facing the sectors, and the most hopeless.
Jas was pushing through the carts, looking for something they could use to knock the body loose. They'd pry this poor bastard off the wall the way they'd done the ones before, but they couldn't hide what was happening. The whispers would spread, and tomorrow would be a little worse than today.
People were giving up. Old-timers who'd lived through the first terrible years after the Flares, who couldn't face doing it again. Their children, who'd grown up with the horror stories, with nightmares that only intensified in the telling.
The worst were the kids. Teenagers, really—adults by the rules that guided the sectors but still fucking
in the way that mattered. Too young to understand mortality and too fucking scared to fight, because they'd already spent all of their short lives fighting. If they had to drag another kid off the wall—
Jas came back with a board, and Hawk reached for it. “I'll do it.”
He hesitated only for a moment before handing over the plank of wood. “Careful, man.”
Hawk didn't relish getting closer, but Jas couldn't afford to take the risk at all. Too much rested on his shoulders—and Hawk sure as fuck wasn't going back to the compound to face Noelle after letting her boyfriend fry himself. “I got it.”
He approached carefully, setting each foot down firmly to eliminate any chance of tripping. By the time he was within swinging distance, his teeth were vibrating. The low buzz filled his ears, and maybe that was a blessing.
There was nothing pretty about trying to knock a corpse off the wires that had electrocuted him.
The first swing didn't budge the man. And it was a man—or had been. His clothes were as singed as his skin, burned black by the heat generated by the high current coursing through him. The sickly scent of roasted flesh invaded Hawk's nostrils, and he held his breath as he swung again. Harder.
This time, the blow managed to dislodge the dead man's grip on the wires, and he tumbled to the cracked pavement in a heap.
Jasper closed his eyes with a low, pained noise, then dropped to a crouch beside the prone body. “Burial detail?” he asked hoarsely. “Who's on it tonight?”
“Flash and the new kid. Tank.” Hawk joined him. “Do you recognize him?”
“No.” Jas looked up. “Seems like that would make it easier, doesn't it?”
Nothing could make this easy. This moment—the horror of it, the fucking useless
of it—it would always hurt. And it should.
But at least they didn't have to go back to the compound and break the news to the dead guy's friends. Not like last week, when they'd trudged home to face Tatiana. The woman they'd peeled off the wall that night had brought Tatiana lunch from her food cart every day for damn near five years.
Hawk might still end the evening drunk, but he wouldn't be covered in someone else's tears this time. Practically a banner fucking night—his most morbid thought yet. “I hope it never gets easy. I don't want to think about what that would mean.”
“Truth.” Jas turned his head away from the wisps of smoke rising from the corpse and stood up. “I worry about the effect this has on people.”
Hawk had spent enough time with Jas now to read between the lines. The man would never betray a weakness in the king and queen of Sector Four, but shit. You'd have to be a monster not to feel it, and while Dallas and Lex's reputations could be plenty monstrous, Hawk knew they were both very, very human.
And, friend or not, Jas had to break this news to them every damn time.
There was nothing Hawk could say to make it better. No way to fix it. All he could do was toss the board aside and grab a ragged tarp from one of the carts to cover the body. “I'll find Tank and Flash. Get it taken care of.”
“No, I'll handle it.” Jas punched him lightly on the shoulder. “You've been working hard. Have some fun tonight.”
Hawk huffed. “Fucking hypocrite.”
“Hey, it's my load to bear, not yours.”
Easy words, but they were the reason Hawk had come to this sector. The reason he'd joined the O'Kanes, and the reason he had come to embrace them. For Jas, they weren't only words. He meant them. The O'Kanes didn't just believe in the pleasure that came with power. They believed in the responsibility, too.
For that, Hawk would follow them into hell. Maybe literally.
He squeezed Jas's shoulder. “You sure? I got nowhere to be.” No one waiting for him, either.
“Hell yeah.” Jasper jerked his head in the direction of the O'Kane compound. “Go. Crack open a bottle. We're all gonna need it tonight.”
Hawk should have protested again, but an order was an order, and his churning gut and aching head were motivation enough. Dignity kept him out of a flat run, but he still made it through the market in record time, not slowing down until he reached the first row of tall apartment buildings and their reassuring shadows.
The darkness definitely wasn't the enemy.
Neither was the silence. Noises teased at the edge of his senses—a slammed door, the scuffle of footsteps. Voices carried on the wind, too far away to reach him as more than a whisper. Hawk kept his hand close to his gun and pretended he wasn't half-hoping someone would see a guy on his own as a tempting target.
It was two more nights until he'd have a chance at climbing into the cage. Two more nights of twisted-up tension and anger and frustration with no damn outlet, because the only outlet he wanted—