Snake in the Grass Sneak Peek: Chapter 1

WAIT. BEFORE YOU READ…

Snake in the Grass is a sequel to Deer in Headlights. If you haven’t read that yet, you can find it free on Amazon by clicking here. Chapter 1 has spoilers in it, so if you haven’t read DIH, you should probably turn around and read it first. You’ve been warned!

Day 1

Ares strolled into the crowded theater room and rolled his eyes at Hermes, who stood in front of the screen checking his watch. He scanned the room, his eyes coming to rest on Dita who sat in the big theater chair. Her legs bent in front of her and disappeared under her oversized sweater. Her blond, wavy hair fell softly around her face as she looked him over coolly. But even though she tried to look tough, her sapphire eyes twinkled, and he saw a smile just at the edge of her lips. It matched his own.

Hermes huffed, making a show of it. “Ares, have you finally chosen your player? We’ve been waiting all day, and the natives are restless.” He motioned to the seats where the Olympians sat eyeballing Ares. “I’m not sure why it took you all day, since you had all of last month while Dita competed with Apollo. Though, perhaps the god of war should just forfeit when it comes to matters of love?”

Ares scowled as his blood boiled, and his mouth landed on the first thing that came to mind. “I’ve chosen, Herpes—I mean, Hermes.”

The gods laughed, and Hermes glared at him with a sardonic smile on his lips. “Well, I’m so glad we haven’t inconvenienced you. You didn’t strain anything, did you?”

Ares stalked up to Hermes and snatched the remote from him. “I’m good.” He pointed the remote at the screen and turned the projector on. Two bloodied men were frozen on the screen with bright lights glaring off their bare, sweaty chests. They stood in a makeshift ring in a warehouse packed with people cheering and yelling, with their fists in the air.

One man’s lip curled in fury with his taped fist extended, inches away from connecting with the face of a blond.

Dita snorted. “Please tell me your player is the guy about to get punched in the face.”

He scowled at her and hit play, and the entire room flinched at the smack of skin on skin.

*

Dillon saw stars.

Tiny bursts flashed in Dillon’s vision, and he shook his head with his fists up. Patrick bounced around him, but Dillon couldn’t focus as his sight dimmed and brightened with his pulse. He blinked and shook his head again, his other senses on alert as he waited for his vision to come back to him.

He felt the movement when Patrick swung. Dillon ducked instinctively, and a big arm swept over his head in a whoosh. Dillon raised up and slammed his opponent in the ribs, going purely by feel. Patrick let out an ‘oof’, and spit sprayed Dillon’s face.

His vision came back, and everything slowed down when he hooked Patrick in the jaw. He felt the power shift and took advantage, pummeling his stunned opponent with a left, then a right, then another left. His fists flew in quick succession, the percussive smacks fueling him as he laid into his opponent.

Patrick staggered and fell to the ground onto his back. He rolled over to his side and spit out a gob of blood, hanging his head. He tried to lift himself up, but his arm gave out, and he laid out flat.

He didn’t get back up.

Dillon walked around the ring with his eyes on the man on the ground, unable to break the connection, waiting to put him back down. The noise of the spectators slowly made its way into the quiet of his mind as Brian, his manager, ducked under the ropes with a towel and water. Dillon was barely aware when he took the water from Brian and poured it on his face and into his mouth.

He scrubbed a hand over his face and spat a mouthful of blood-tinged water onto the floor. The ref grabbed Dillon’s hand and lifted it up in the air.

The crowd lost it.

He climbed out of the ring and made his way to the back of the warehouse. People clapped him on the back as he walked by and called to him, but they could have been a million miles away. His body hummed like an engine, and the faceless mob pressed in around him.

When they left the people behind, Dillon sat down on a stack of pallets. Brian chattered around Dillon as he unwound the wraps on his hands and wrists, and stuffed them into his bag.

“Did you hear me, man?” Brian held Dillon’s shirt out. His heavy brow raised, and he hung his hand on his hip.

“Sorry, what?” Dillon took the shirt and pulled it on.

“We’ll meet at MacLennan’s. You’ll be there, right?” Brian side-eyed him.

Dillon picked up his bag and hung it over his shoulder as he headed for the back door. He didn’t want to go. He never wanted to go. All eyes would be on him, which always made him uncomfortable outside of the ring. In the ring, he didn’t even know they were there.

“Do I have a choice?” Dillon stuffed a hand in his pocket and leaned against the door.

“Not really.” Brian smirked with his meaty arms folded over his broad chest.

He pushed the door open with his back. “Then I’ll be there.”

Brian’s shoulders relaxed. “I’ll handle the cash, and I’ll see you at the bar.”

Dillon nodded, and as the door closed behind him, the cool winter air sharpened his senses another notch.

He popped the trunk of his shiny, black GTO parked in the alley between warehouses that stretched up around him. He tossed his bag inside and closed the trunk with a soft thump, then slipped into the driver’s seat. The deep red leather creaked underneath him as he leaned forward and turned the keys in the ignition. His car thundered all around him.

Dillon gripped the wheel with his bloodied, swollen hands. He was going to feel like shit in a few hours, but until then, he wanted to drive.

He took off through the streets of Brooklyn, appreciating every moment that a red light turned green and he could hear his engine climb. When he pulled into the alley behind his brownstone in Brooklyn Heights, the sound of his car echoed off the buildings around him. He parked in his stupidly expensive garage and closed the door, shutting the evening out behind him.

Dillon climbed the stairs to the main floor and found his brother, Owen, on their L-shaped, black leather couch, reading a book. His flash of dark hair swept back from his face, and his dark eyebrows rose as he took in Dillon. Judging by his expression, Dillon figured he looked like shit.

“You look like shit,” Owen said, and Dillon laughed.

“Yeah, I figured.” Dillon dropped his bag by the stairs.

“How’d it go?”

Dillon stretched. “Long. I won though.”

“Well, I figured that. When was the last time you lost? Three years ago?”

“Four.”

“Such a bad motherfucker.” Owen snapped his book closed. “Want some help from the doctor?”

Dillon cocked a half smile. “If you wouldn’t mind. Though, let’s put doctor in quotations. You haven’t graduated yet.”

Owen shrugged. “It’s not like I haven’t had plenty of practice, seeing as how you’ve been getting your ass kicked regularly since you were ten.” Owen gave Dillon a sad smile as he set his book down and stood. His long legs spanned the space between them easily, and when he approached, he leaned forward to give Dillon’s face a once over. “You may need a stitch or two, but we’ve seen worse, eh? Any broken ribs?”

“Not sure, I’m still amping. I don’t think so, though.”

“Take a deep breath.”

Dillon inhaled deep. “No pain.”

“All right. I’m convinced.” Owen stepped around him and walked toward the bathroom. “Come on, meathead. Let’s get you camera ready.” He asked Dillon over his shoulder, “Where’s the party?”

“MacLennan’s. I’m sure Brian is already there buying rounds with my money,” Dillon said with a smirk and followed.

“Don’t act like you mind,” Owen said as he opened the cabinet and pulled out a box of supplies.

Dillon got a good look at himself in the wide mirror as Owen lined up bottles, scissors, and bandages in a row on the granite countertop.

His blond hair was wild from sweat and the fight, and the light threw shadows across his eyes and jaw. He turned his head to the side and rubbed his bruised jaw. A cut bled under his eye, and his lip was cracked open and swollen. He yanked his shirt over his head and assessed his torso. His sore muscles rippled as he twisted from side to side, then turned all the way around to look at the bruises on his back.

Dillon leaned down to the sink and rinsed his face, wincing when the cold water hit his cuts. He sat on the edge of the tub and waited for his brother.

Owen ran a washcloth under the cold water and rang it out. He folded it into a neat rectangle and walked over to Dillon to press it to the cut under his eye. “Hold this,” he said, and turned back to his supplies. He dipped a cotton swab in adrenaline-chloride and leaned in to dab it on the seeping cut. “That should stop the bleeding.” He leaned in a little closer. “No stitches after all.” Owen motioned for Dillon to stand. He got up, and Owen circled him, mashing his ribs and kidneys. “Anything?”

Dillon winced. “Nothing broken. Just tender.”

“Let’s see the money makers.”

Dillon held out his hands, palms down. His knuckles were split and bleeding, his hands swollen. Owen flipped on the faucet and pulled Dillon’s hands under the stream to scrub them clean. He patted them dry with a fresh towel and inspected them, one at a time, digit by digit. “You are one lucky son of a bitch.”

Dillon snorted. “Luck’s got nothing to do with it.”

“Go put some ice on those, before they get ugly.” Owen turned to pack his supplies up.

“Shower first, then ice.”

Owen raised an eyebrow and sniffed. “Yeah, that’s probably a better idea.”

*

 

Dita unfolded herself from her seat and slinked across the room, very aware of Ares’ eyes on her. She took the remote from him, and when her fingers brushed his palm, she felt it all the way up her arm.

“I think I’ve seen enough to choose my defender. Meet Katsumi.” She smiled playfully at Ares, who smoldered back at her. Her heart fluttered in her chest. Dammit. She wasn’t going to be able to stay away from him. No way.

A small shiver ran down her back at the thought.

She pointed the remote at the screen and mashed a few buttons. The image flickered from the brothers to an olive skinned, almond eyed, Japanese beauty in a 1969 gunmetal gray Camaro, her face the picture of calm concentration as she gripped the steering wheel white knuckle. Dita hit play, and the low rumble of the engine filled the room.

*

 

Kat glanced over at the red Corvette next to her and she revved her engine. The guy inside leered at her, his hair in douchey spikes, his lips curled between his overly manicured goatee. He licked his lips suggestively before he flicked his tongue at her.

She rolled her eyes and pumped her accelerator with one foot on the brake, then turned her attention to her tachometer, watching it redline as she waited for the light to turn green. Her heart thumped in her chest, and her Camaro rumbled under her. She squeezed the wheel with one hand, her stick shift with the other, and stared at the light in anticipation.

Green.

She let her foot off the brake, and her wheels smoked, the force pushing her body back in her seat. The Corvette fell behind her.

Kat sensed the need to shift and threw the car into second. Out of her periphery, she saw him nose up. Her foot pushed into the floor, and she scanned the streets for traffic as the engine climbed. She slammed it into third. He inched up enough that she could see him glowering at her through the window.

She glared right back. None of them could handle getting their asses beat by a chick. Ever.

Her engine hit the sweet spot, and she smiled when she shifted to fourth and pulled away from him. She sped under the light just as she redlined. Her heart cranked in her chest, and her hands were numb from adrenaline as she downshifted, then again, then pulled over at the meet spot a block from the finish.

Kat killed the engine and sat back in her black leather seat. She ran her hands over her steering wheel, content for the first time in over a month. It felt like it had been forever.

She popped open her door and stepped out of her car and trailed her fingertips down the length of shiny metal as her combat boots thumped on the pavement. Oh, Sheila. Her car was her baby.

The Goatee stepped out of his car and slammed the door. He marched toward her, red faced. “No fucking way. No way some bitch just beat me.” He stopped a few feet away from her and pointed at her. “You don’t have any business being here.”

Kat folded her arms across her chest, and a cynical smile passed her lips. It was the same bullshit, every time. “Don’t I? Seems I have plenty business here. But, what did you want? An apology?” She shifted her hips, and her long legs in black skinnies formed a brazen ‘v’. “Fine. I’m sorry that you’re a misogynistic fucktard who wildly underestimated my skills and equipment. Both of which are clearly superior to your own.”

His lip curled. “Fuck you, bitch.”

“In your dreams, asshole. You can go fuck yourself. It’ll be just like a regular Saturday night for you.”

The small crowd watching them argue broke out laughing, and the promoter, Charlie, stepped forward with an envelope. He handed it to Kat. “Damn, girl. You’re good.” He rubbed the back of his neck when he saw Kat’s eyes dart over to The Goatee. “Don’t mind him … he thinks he’s hot shit.”

“Nothing I’m not used to.” She chuckled and she took the envelope. “Thanks, Charlie. Keep me in the loop on races, okay?”

“Sure thing, Kat.”

She headed back to her car as The Goatee shouted insults at her. Kat flipped her long, black hair and swung her hips a little wider as she walked away, turning to waggle her fingers at him before she got in the car. She laughed and watched him go berserk.

When she turned the keys in the ignition, Sheila came to life all around her, and as Kat’s heart slowed down, it flashed with guilt. She shouldn’t have raced. It was a stupid thing to do.

But I’m so glad I did. 

She smiled as she peeled out and flew down the street, away from her high and back to reality.

 

Dillon parked in front of MacLennan’s and stepped out of the car. He looked up at the green and gold pub sign with a small four-leaf clover next to the name. They hadn’t been there in forever, since Brian liked to tour Brooklyn’s Irish pub circuit, to “keep it fresh.” He walked up to the door with his hands shoved in the pockets of his leather jacket, his grey hoodie hanging out of the neck, and Owen walked behind him with his collar flipped against the cold.

Dillon hated these after parties. He didn’t drink. Drinking made him too unpredictable. On top of that, he was always wiped out after fights. He’d much prefer to be home, but there was no way around it. The bigger he got, the more people expected to see him after a fight.

Brain said that it was all about PR. If the people who bet on him got to hang out with him, they’d be more likely to bet on him again, but the attention was too much for Dillon. He was honored that so many people wanted to wish him well, but the whole ordeal exhausted him.

He grabbed the brass handle to the pub door and gave Owen a look before pulling it open. The sound of music and people hit him like a wave, which surged once the crowd saw him and exploded into cheers. He smiled and ran a hand through his hair. The crowd parted, and Brian stepped through to him, grinning.

“Took you long enough. Come on, this way.” Brian turned, and the crowd opened up to let him through. They called Dillon’s name, some slapped him on the back. A few tried to hand him drinks, which he graciously turned down, and followed Brian to the bar with Owen in his wake.

They reached the long bar, all mahogany and brass, and the minute he sat down, a small pack of girls led by a bleached blond pushed their way in next to him.

“Hey, Dillon. Congrats on the fight.” Her glossy lips turned up in a smile, and she batted her mascara heavy lashes at him. She squeezed in close and laid her hand on his forearm.

“Thanks, Jessica.” He slid his arm out from under her hand and turned to Owen.

She poked out her lip for a split second, then pasted her smile back on and tried again. She pressed her arm against his as she leaned over the bar and shoved her breasts together. “So, you gonna buy a girl a drink?”

Dillon’s gaze swept over her cleavage spilling out of her low-cut shirt and he rolled his eyes. “You should ask Brian. He’s in charge of rounds.”

Her lip popped out again, and her cheeks flushed. A brunette next to her gave her a nudge and whispered something to her.

Jessica put on a seductive smile and slipped her hand down to his thigh. “Come on, Dillon.” Her words were sugary sweet. “For old time’s sake?”

Dillon looked her over again, his jaw set. “There weren’t ever any ‘old times’.” He turned in his stool and jerked his chin at Brian. “Hey, Bri. Jessica wants a drink. Can you help her out with that?”

Brian snickered. “Yeah, come on, Jess. The bartender’s down here. What are you drinking?” He draped his arm over her shoulders and steered her away. She looked back at Dillon, blowing him up with her eyes with her cronies on her heel.

Owen laughed and shook his head. “God, she never quits.”

“If I had known she was crazy, I never would have hooked up with her.”

“She’s not just crazy, she’s the queen of the asylum.” Owen leaned over the bar. “Damn, what does it take to get a drink around here?” Owen flagged his hand behind the bar.

A girl bent down behind the bar, hidden by a sheet of long, black hair, and when she stood up and turned to face him, all the breath left Dillon’s lungs.

His eyes met hers, intense and gray-green, lined with thick, black lashes. He traced the bridge of her long nose, over the tiny freckles sprinkled across it and onto her flushed apple cheeks. Her rosy lips were full and parted, and his gaze lingered there before pulling back to her eyes, snapping his to hers like magnets.

Owen’s face ping-ponged between the two, amused as they stared at each other. The noise in the bar was almost deafening, but the two of them were still and quiet, two unmoving points in an ocean of people.

Dillon shook himself, and she did the same. She turned to Owen. “I’m sorry, I didn’t hear what you ordered.”

Owen cocked a smile, his eyes on his brother as he answered, “Uh, Guinness. Thanks.”

“And for you?” Her voice was smoke and fire, and she turned to Dillon again, he swallowed hard.

“Just water,” he said, his eyes fixed on hers.

“Sure,” she said and turned to walk to the taps, looking back over her shoulder at Dillon.

He watched her walk away, and Owen gave him a sly smile.

Dillon blinked a few times as his brow dropped. “What?”

“Nothing.” Owen smirked and turned back to the girl.

She came back a moment later and set their drinks down. Owen pulled out his wallet, but she put her hands up. “This goes on Brian’s tab.”

Owen snorted. “Right, Brian’s tab. Hey, what’s your name?”

She stood tall and confident, with her eyes on Dillon, and his on hers. “I’m Kat.”

“Hi, Kat. I’m Owen, and this here,” he slapped Dillon on the shoulder, “is Dillon, my big brother.”

“Yeah, I heard.” She cracked a smile, and Dillon’s heart beat a little faster. “Brian’s been talking you up for the last hour.” Someone shouted to her from the other end of the bar. “Nice to meet you,” she said casually and turned to the mob.

Kat blinked a few times as she walked away. For a second, she had been connected to him, his eyes holding her captive like a snake charmer, and she couldn’t look away. Her brows knit together while she poured a drink, trying to understand what happened. She glanced back over at him and found his eyes on her. His blond hair shone under the lights, and her eyes swept the line of his jaw, resting for a moment on his lips before moving back to his eyes. He looked at her fiercely, and she flushed, dropping her eyes back to the drink in front of her.

The swinging door to the back of the bar opened, and her sister Kiki walked out with her arms full of liquor bottles. A few patrons nearby cheered, and her bright smile flashed on her face as she winked and shimmied her shoulders. Kat rolled her eyes and reached to take a few bottles from her.

“Here, let me help you.” Kat grabbed some rum, and the sisters turned to stock the bar. Kiki’s long, black hair swung in a high ponytail, and the deep cut of her tight black t-shirt making her long neck look longer. Bartending meant selling it, and Kiki was an unparalleled expert.

“Is the boxer guy here yet?” Kiki craned her neck around.

“Yeah, over there.” Kat jerked her chin toward the brothers. She shook her head when she saw the younger one’s mouth hanging open as he got a good look at Kiki. Kat’s sister tended to have that effect on guys.

Kiki looked over at the brothers with one dark eyebrow cocked. “Body shots.” She winked, and her jade green eye disappeared behind a curtain of black lashes.

“Oh, god, Kiki.”

Kiki picked up a bottle of tequila, a lime, and a shot glass. The crowd parted for her and cheered as she slinked by, knowing her plan. It wasn’t her first time at the rodeo, and it was always a good show.

Kat followed Kiki from behind the bar as she made her way through the crowd to the brothers. Dillon’s eyes followed Kat, and the room started to fade away again.

Kiki came to a stop behind Dillon and tapped him on the shoulder. He blinked, breaking their trance to look over his shoulder, then swiveled to face Kiki.

“Congratulations on your win, Mr. Malloy. Complimentary body shot, just for you.” Kiki held up the bottle of tequila and gave it a little shake with her hand on her hip. She flashed him a mega-watt smile.

Dillon laughed, and it was a good laugh. “I don’t drink,” he said, “but my brother here does.” He slapped Owen’s shoulder, and Owen shook his head to clear it.

Kiki shifted her attention to Owen. As she looked him over, her face morphed from foxy to curious, her smile transforming from sultry to genuine.

“Well, then,” she said. “I didn’t catch your name?”

Owen blinked several times and straightened up, clearly trying to get his act back together. “Owen.”

“Well, Owen, I’m Kiki. Are you ready for this?”

“Not really.”

Kiki laughed and leaned between the brothers to pour the shot. Dillon backed out of her way, but Owen didn’t move. His face was just a few inches from her ear, and Kat could see that Kiki recognized the challenge. It was clear by her body language that Kiki was very aware of his body so close to hers.

Kiki stood in front of him holding the shot, and every man’s eyes within twenty feet were on her as she stuck out her tongue and licked her thumb, then trailed her wet digit down her neck. She reached past Owen again, brushing against his chest. Her neck was stretched inches from his mouth as she reached into the salt tray and grabbed a pinch, then lifted her chin to spread it down the wet path. She backed away, her eyes on Owen’s, and laid the lime between her breasts.

She held the shot out to him and smiled in invitation.

Owen stood taller than Kat expected and took the drink from Kiki. His deep brown eyes held hers, burning with intent. His lips inched into a smile as he took a step toward her.

He reached for her to slip his hand into the curve of her neck, his thumb in the hollow behind her ear as he leaned in slowly to kiss it long where the salt lie. She pushed into his hand with her mouth hung open, and closed her eyes.

He broke away and knocked back the shot, then turned his focus back to her. Her eyes were wide as his hand skimmed her neck, down her back, and he lowered his lips to her breasts. He took the lime gently, and a shiver racked through her when she looked down at him.

The crowd of onlookers broke into whistles and cat-calls. Kiki’s cheeks flushed hard, and Owen looked quite pleased with himself as he sat back down at his stool to a few hearty slaps on the back. Kiki was rooted to the spot with heavy lids.

Kat chuckled. She’d never seen Kiki get handled before. She had to admit to herself that it was pretty funny to see her sister on the other side of that game.

A breeze stirred in the bar, and Kat thought she smelled roses. How strange, she thought as Kiki’s body shifted. Her chin dropped, and she straightened up, her eyes on fire as she closed the space between them. She grabbed Owen’s arm and spun him around, held his face in her hands, and kissed him. She melted into him, and he wrapped his arms around her waist, pulling her close as she kissed him long, hard, and thoroughly. She popped away, and Owen let her go. She leaned in to his ear and whispered before she slinked away.

The crowd went crazy, screaming and whistling.

Kat blinked and realized that her jaw was on the bar. She closed her mouth, but the surprise didn’t leave her. That was definitely not part of the usual act.

Everyone laughed, and even Kat couldn’t help herself. Dillon turned, laughing himself, and they shared a smile. Her stomach fluttered, and she turned to the busy bar, leaving part of herself with Dillon as she fumbled through drink orders and tried to keep her head straight.

Owen sat in his stool with glassy eyes, and Dillon laughed even harder. “That was quite a display, little brother.”

“Hmmm?” Owen’s eyes were unfocused, his pupils dilated.

“You look like you’ve been shot through the heart. You need a cold shower?”

“Did that really just happen?” Owen blinked again.

“It did. I’ve never seen you get taken before. She practically ripped your shirt off.” Dillon took a drink and watched Owen drool in his seat.

“I’ve got to talk to her. I’ve got to get her number,” Owen mumbled.

Dillon’s voice dropped with his brow, and he set his water down. “Whoa, there. I don’t think you should go after that. Owen, you get attached, and she’s not the kind of girl you want to get attached to.”

“How do you know?”

“Most girls don’t go around making out with random guys in bars. At least, not the kind of girls you want to take out for a steak dinner.” Dillon glanced over at the girl in question, her cheeks pink while she tended to the waiting patrons. He scoffed. “Trust me. I know her type.”

“What’s your problem?”

Dillon scrubbed a hand over his face. “I’m tired, and I don’t want to be here. I think that chick’s a problem, and I think you need to leave her alone.”

Owen looked hurt, but Dillon was still aggravated. Kat stood nearby. He called her name, and she turned to him.

Dillon asked, “Is that something she does often?”

Kat sighed. “Unfortunately, yes. Though that show was a little … different than usual. She’s not usually so into it. I suspect it had something to do with your brother’s tongue.”

His eyes narrowed as he wondered if she was being a bitch, or if she was joking. He didn’t know for sure, but he was annoyed that Owen was into Kiki, and he wanted to make sure Kat knew. “I’m pretty sure it had something to do with the lime in your friend’s cleavage,” he snapped.

Kat stiffened and folded her arms across her chest. “She’s actually my sister, so watch your mouth.”

He bristled. “Yeah, well, if you ask me, she was asking for it.”

“Hey—” Owen tried to interject.

“Asking for what?” She glared at him, and he sensed an opportunity to turn it around. An opportunity he was all of a sudden too annoyed to take.

“I’m just saying. Don’t act like Owen brought that on, because it seems to me like she asked for his face in her tits.”

“Jesus, guys—” Owen tried to jump in again, but Kat was too pissed to hear him out.

Her hand hung on her hip, and her eyes were lasered on Dillon’s. “What the fuck is your problem? Don’t roll in here and pick a fight with me for no fucking reason, asshole.”

His body tensed, his muscles straining, but he smiled and shook his head. “Wow, you’re a real gem. You know that?”

Kat leaned forward, smiling sweetly, and said cheerfully through her teeth. “Go fuck yourself.” She turned on her heel and sauntered away as her heart banged against her ribs. She was swept up in the rush of drink orders and grateful for the distraction. As hot as he was, Mr. Fisticuffs wasn’t the charmer his brother was.

 

In the early hours of the morning, Kat sped through the streets of Brooklyn and pulled up to their garage, yawning while she waited for the door to open. She eased her car in and killed the engine, and yawned again as she stepped out.

Kiki closed her door with a thump. “Stop yawning,” she said, her words stretched as she spoke through a yawn of her own. They walked out into their garden, trudging past the low lights that lit the line of landscaping against the fence, and Kat slipped her key into the back door.

Their father had spared no expense for them, even though Kat had asked him not to go to the trouble. He insisted, like usual. She had money, and always preferred to take care of herself, but her father was a control freak with too much cash, and spoiling his daughters was one of his favorite hobbies.

He bought them a four story, dual master brownstone in Brooklyn Heights, and he had decked it out. It was brand new, everything modern and expensive. He must have had a decorator put it together, because their rooms were tailor made for both of them. Kiki’s was all high-end, hip, and a little girly while Kat’s was clean and simple. Everything in the place was perfect.

Kat unlocked the back door and clicked on the kitchen light as she dropped her bag by the stairs up to the living room.

Kiki followed and closed the door, leaning against it as she stretched. “What a night.”

“I’ll say.” Kat reached into a cabinet for a glass. “What was that whole thing with the body shot?”

Kiki pulled her ponytail out and shook her hair with her hands. “I don’t know,” she said, her voice full of wonder, her green eyes wide. “He took me by surprise.”

“I’d say you took him by surprise. That kiss … what the hell? That was a little much, don’t you think?” Kat shook her head and pushed her glass into the water dispenser.

Kiki laughed and lifted her foot to take her boot off. “I don’t know, seriously. When he kissed my neck, I almost jumped him right there. And after it was over, he walked away. I was looking at his back, trying to make my feet move and something came over me. That’s the only way I know to explain it. All I could think was ‘Mine.’ I had to kiss him.”

“That was crazy, Kiki. And you should have heard Dillon. He didn’t seem very excited about the prospect of you being in close proximity to his brother.” She took a drink before she could tell her what the prick had said about her, not wanting to say too much.

“He doesn’t even know me.” Kiki pouted, and Kat was glad she’d kept quiet.

Kat leaned against the counter and stretched her neck as she yawned again. “It doesn’t matter anyway. It’s not like we’ll see them again. Besides, it’s too soon for you to get involved with anyone. I don’t know how you could even consider it, after Eric.”

Kiki stiffened as she untied her boots. “It’s not too soon. We’re starting over, right?” One boot hit the ground with a thunk. “Plus, just because I have a terrible track record doesn’t mean I can’t find a good guy, does it?” The other boot clunked to the floor in echo.

“Saying you have a terrible track record is like saying Hannibal Lecter just hosted bad dinner parties.” Kat crossed her arms across her chest. “How do you know that he’s even a good guy?”

“His name is Owen,” she said starry-eyed, then shrugged. “I just have a feeling.”

“Because that’s served you so well in the past.” Kat’s eyebrow climbed and she took a sip of water

“No comment.” Kiki wiggled her liberated toes and walked over to lean on the bar, changing the subject. “So, what was the deal with Dillon? One minute you guys were giving each other fuck-me-eyes, and the next you turned into The Bickersons.”

Kat took another drink and set the glass down on the counter. “He’s a dickhole, which is too bad because he’s super hot. Even with his face all cut up. In fact, that might have made him even hotter.”

Kiki giggled. “What did he do?”

She picked up her glass and put it in the sink, avoiding Kiki’s eyes. “He just said some off-color stuff, and it pissed me off.”

“Well,” Kiki said, and combed her fingers through her loose hair, “it doesn’t take a lot to piss you off.”

“True.”

“And you’ve kind of been on edge since we left Vegas,” Kiki hastily added, “with good reason.”

“Also true.” Kat gave Kiki a pointed look.

Kiki didn’t see it, and sighed. “I wish I’d gotten Owen’s number. His brother shuffled him out before I got a chance.”

“Aww, did you get twat blocked?” Kat poked out her lip and pretended to wipe a tear away.

“You’re such a jerk.” Kiki chuckled and rested her head on her hand. “Maybe they’ll come back.”

“I hope not.”

“I hope so,” Kiki said, wistfully.

“I think you must be delirious from exhaustion. You should sleep.” Kat snarked, smoothing her sister’s hair as she walked by, heading for the stairs. “See you tomorrow, Kiki.”

*

 

Dita stared at the wall, listening to Bisoux snore like a teeny tiny freight train. She sighed and rolled over for the hundredth time that night.

Kat and Dillon’s first meeting hadn’t gone well. Dillon was definitely an Ares type: angry, presumptuous, and a fighter. How predictable. Kat was his match, but she was suspicious and a loner, and her ego was ridiculously large.

That would be the real challenge. Their egos. If she could get them in the same room long enough, winning would be a piece of cake.

Nudging Kiki in Owen’s direction had been easy, and she could use them to force Kat and Dillon together, by proximity at least. The deciding factor in choosing Kat as her player was that her sister was Owen’s love match. The two-for-one deal was too much to pass up.

She could find at least one love match for anyone in their own city, provided that the city had over a hundred thousand people. It was part of the reason that she didn’t have to work to win. A real love match was almost unstoppable. Their attraction, the pull that they had on each other, it was just about a sure thing. She was always on defense. Winning was just a matter of swatting away the lame plays that the other gods made.

Dita wondered, not for the first time, why Zeus didn’t find a way to change the rules to make it more challenging. Though, he had tried, once. It hadn’t gone well.

She flipped onto her back again and stared up at the dark ceiling, her eyes straining to make out the lines of the patterned tiles above her, wishing for sleep and dreading it. She had been back to Elysium every time she slept, but Adonis hadn’t come to see her yet. Every single time it hurt. But even more than that — she was annoyed. If he wouldn’t speak to her, how would they ever work things out?

She missed him like crazy, but he was being such a massive baby about it that a big part of her didn’t want to see him at all.

Of course, an equally big part had been without in the days since they fought, and she was antsy. She hadn’t gone without sex for more than a day or two since…her brow furrowed. She couldn’t remember the last time she went without. Dita rolled over again and punched her pillow under her head. Abstinence was not going to help her stay away from Ares. Getting into bed with him was like slipping on her favorite pair of jeans. Her lips curved into an unwilled smile, and she was annoyed with herself for it.

Ares was a jerk. He’d always been a jerk. It had been thousands of years since they had been together on a regular basis. Ever since Adonis died.

She never believed that Apollo killed Adonis, or at least she didn’t believe he acted alone. All signs pointed to Ares. She had even resorted to using a token to try to get him to admit it, and even with that, his story never changed. Ares was too smug, which for him was a feat in and of itself. So she clung to Apollo’s confession. It was just easier. It was nice and tidy and neat, and she didn’t have to think too much about what it would mean if Ares was involved.

But she never trusted him, and for the most part, she had stayed away from him for centuries. When they were competing, it was almost impossible. Their need to win, to own, was nothing but fuel to their explosive relationship. He was determined, driven, and knew what he wanted. And he would do anything to get it.

Dita didn’t know how she could resist him, and didn’t know if she wanted to. They had been companions for so long. They had seen wars, watched empires rise and fall. They had loved, they had fought, and they had lost.

It had been ages since Ares had warmed her bed, which was probably about to change. And that was a thought that she should have probably been less happy about.

 

Ares couldn’t sleep.

He kicked his sheets off and rolled over again to stretch out on his back. The moonlight streamed in through his windows, transforming the room into shades of blue.

Ares wasn’t sure how to handle the competition. Not by a long shot.

Dillon was an easy choice. Ares had deep hooks in him, with easy triggers that put him into a blind rage. That was when the beast would come out. Dillon’s father was the same way. Worse, even. Like father, like son. The drunken Irishman was a rage-aholic that thoroughly enjoyed beating on anybody that got in his way. He was a favorite pet of Ares’ and part of the reason he was so attached to Dillon.

Dillon did his best to shut down Ares’ nature inside of him, but Ares didn’t think he would ever succeed. He could play all day like he had his shit under control, but the God of War knew better. His influence was so deep in Dillon that he could be controlled without being touched.

Then, there was Kiki’s ex boyfriend. Eric was the move.

Ares shook his head. If he used Eric, things really might go south, and Dita would go ape. And if he pissed Dita off, it would be hard to convince her to stay with him for good.

Adonis was out of the picture entirely, for the time being at least, and Ares planned to take full advantage. He had waited thousands of years to win her back. It was finally his chance.

Ares wished again that he could stack the game and pick someone truly evil, a psychotic drunk or a maniacal thug, but he’d get too much shit about it from the other gods. They were such elitists. Zeus would berate him in front of everyone and say he wasn’t meeting the “spirit of the competition,” and everyone would shake their heads like he was the ultimate fuck up.

Assholes.

Even if he had picked a psycho though, Dita would have found a way. She always found a way.

She was too good. He would probably lose, but at least he’d have her. And forever, if he played it right.

Ares slipped his hands under his head and smiled up at the ceiling. He’d visit her tomorrow, and they’d see about getting things started properly.

Release date: July 30, 2013.
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