“So, are we going to kill your brother now?”
More tempted to say yes than he ought to be, Ryn grimaced at the question. Honestly? He wanted to gut Darling slowly and without mercy until the treacherous little bastard bled out at his feet, and then strangle him with his own intestines. Tie them in a bow around his scrawny little neck, and then revive him and start over.
Not necessarily in that order. And he was the first one to admit, none of that made sense.
But then, he was genetically a Cruel, through and through.
And given the two years he’d just spent in a League prison because Darling was a first-rate tattletale vindictive bitch, Ryn was barely sane.
However, there was only one thing on his mind tonight. Sadly, it wasn’t killing his kid brother.
“Right now, I just want to get laid.”
Utran, his best friend longer than either of them could remember, stepped back and held his hands up. “While I love you, drey . . .”
Ryn snorted at his friend’s exaggerated panic. “I’m not my brother, Uttie. And while your ass has a nice, perky quality to it, I have no interest in it whatsoever . . . other than for you to remove it out of my way so that I can see about taking care of what truly pains me. So unless you want to test the full boundaries of our relationship . . .”
He moved aside so fast that it was comical.
Shaking his head, Ryn headed into the bar that held the markings of a circled freighter— the universal sign that it was Tavali friendly and safe from League presence, sanctions and hassles. No need in chancing another run-in with League drones, especially since his release from incarceration was somewhat questionable and a little less than legal. He’d seen enough of them to last a lifetime. He wanted no more of their uniforms, tech, or laws for a while.
Like the rest of his life, while.
All he needed was expensive alcohol and a cheap woman. Or vice versa.
Really, he wasn’t that picky.
“Are you really going to do this, Mack?”
MacAdough Hinto took a deep breath at the sound of her best friend’s grating tone. Honestly? She’d had enough of Liga’s endless nagging. It was enough to make her downright bended. For that matter, she was tempted to shoot the woman at her side, and in this particular crowded bar, no one would notice or care. Other than to remark on what a waste it would be to kill a woman so incredibly beautiful, and Liga was that. What with her dark, flawless skin and perfect spiral curls, and large dark brown eyes, she turned heads everywhere they went.
“Ach now, Lee! On with you if you’re planning to spend the night sounding like me maither! Or worse, that mangey thing that doubles as me worthless brother.”
Liga rolled her brown eyes so far back in her skull it was a wonder they didn’t stay fastened there. She let out a breath of supreme aggravation. “Just look around the bar, woman. It’s nothing but slim pickings. There’s nothing here.”
“Night be young yet.”
“And I won’t live another day should either of your parents find out about this.”
“Then don’t you be telling on me, eh?”
Grinding her teeth, Liga pressed her fingers to the bridge of her nose and shook her head. “I swear, I love you . . . but you’re impossible.”
Mack snorted at the most commonly uttered phrase by those around her. But then what could be expected from someone who’d been born in the midst of battle? It was said that her mother hadn’t even stopped fighting while she’d birthed her. Not until they were safe. Only then had her mother paused briefly to cut the cord, wrap her up, shoot two more enemies, then renew her fight.
And that same fighting spirit flowed thick through Mack’s veins. Cut from the cloth of two of the strongest Tavali bloodlines, she knew nothing save war and conflict.
It was what she thrived on.
What she lived for.
All her life, she’d looked forward to this day. The day she’d be admitted to their Nation, in her own right. A fully vested member. What better way to celebrate it than to find her a man and become a woman in the full sense of the word as well?
It was what she wanted and no one deterred Mack Hinto from what she wanted.
Not her brother. Not her maither or her da!
Definitely not her girlfriend.
Although, it seemed as if the gods might be trying as Liga was right. There were slim pickings here tonight. Not a single man seemed worthy of even a second glance.
At least not until she turned away from the bar to see two newcomers.
Her jaw went slack.
Holy Maither and then some . . .
While he wasn’t quite as tall as her massive father, he was still taller than most. With dark auburn hair and a caramel-tinted skin that made her mouth water for a nibble or two, he moved like a true predator through the crowd. Head low, thumb casually hooked in his holster to let everyone know that he wasn’t afraid, nor would he hesitate.
Aye, this was exactly what she’d come here seeking.
Chiseled patrician features. Wide shoulders. A calm confidence that wasn’t arrogant or overbearing. It simply was. An easy charm that said he knew his place in the world and accepted it.
“Oh dear God . . .” Liga made a holy gesture beside her. “Mack, I know you love drama, but c’mon, girl, Not even you can be that reckless. Don’t you even go there with your thoughts. You know who that is, right?”
The panicked question shocked her. “You know him?”
Liga laughed. “Yeah. I forget how sheltered he is . . . and you.”
“Sheltered? He don’t look a bit sheltered to me.” Indeed, he held a worldly air about him that said he knew well the ins and outs of the universe.
And the ways of the bedroom even better.
“His identity is. Like yours.”
“Then how do you know it?”
“Because your father pays me a fortune to know his enemies and to ferret out every piece of their dirty laundry, no matter how small the stain. Or how major.”
“What you saying, gel? He’s someone’s stain?”
“Yeah. In a manner of speaking. That’s Ryn Dane, love. Son of Hermione Dane. HAP of the Wasturnum Nation and head bitch to us all.”
Mack’s eyes widened with that disclosure. Holy Maither, indeed.
That made him the mortal enemy of her own Nation. The Danes and the Hintos were notoriously at war with each other. So much so that they could barely be in a room together without bloodshed. Ever since Mack’s great-great grandfather had slaughtered Ryn’s great-great grandda.
“Well that settles it then, don’t it?” Mack flashed a grin at Liga.
Then headed straight for him.