Jay Crownover’s New York Times and USA Today bestselling Marked Men series continues with the much anticipated story of southern charmer and certified criminal Asa Cross.
Starting over in Denver with a whole new circle of friends and family, Asa Cross struggles with being the man he knows everyone wants him to be and the man he knows he really is. A leopard doesn’t it change its spots and Asa has always been a predator. He doesn’t want to hurt those who love and rely on him, especially one luscious arresting cop who suddenly seems to be interested in him for far more than his penchant for breaking the law. But letting go of old habits is hard, and it’s easy to hit bottom when it’s the place you know best.
Royal Hastings is quickly learning what the bottom looks like after a tragic situation at work threatens not only her career but her partner’s life. As a woman who has only ever had a few real friends she’s trying to muddle through her confusion and devastation all alone. Except she can’t stop thinking about the sexy southern bartender she locked up. Crushing on Asa is the last thing she needs but his allure is too strong to resist. His long criminal record can only hurt her already shaky career and chasing after a guy who has no respect for the law or himself can only end in heartbreak.
A longtime criminal and a cop together just seems so wrong . . . but for Asa and Royal, being wrong together is the only right choice to make.
And don’t miss the previous books in The Marked Men Series!
She puffed out a breath and her bangs fluttered over her winged brows. “He’s a survivor for sure, but there is a difference between merely getting by and living the life you’re supposed to live. I had no idea how love was supposed to look or feel until I met Jet. I wasn’t living a full life until he gave me the strength to let go of everything else.”
Her eyes flared hot, gold just like Asa’s did when he was excited about something. I was a tiny bit jealous that just saying her man’s name had that effect on her.
“I want Asa to do more than survive, Royal. I want him to finally be happy for once in his life. I want him to do more than just get by. I want him to have something that is his and his alone that he doesn’t ever feel like he has to fight for.”
I gulped a little bit as emotion started to clog my throat. I set my almost empty beer down on the table in front of me and twisted my fingers together. “He has all of that within his grasp, but his hands are too busy holding on to the past and reaching for the future to grab on to it.”
She opened her mouth and then snapped it closed as she leaned back in her chair. She crossed her arms over her chest, covering up the Valkyrie straddling a flaming guitar and the word enmity as she did so. The shirt with the ripped-off sleeves that showed the sides of her black bra seemed out of place with her pointy red cowboy boots, but it was Ayden, so she rocked it and looked perfect doing so.
She shook her dark head. “I know he is. I was hoping that since he can’t stop staring at you, and keeps looking at me like he wants to drop-kick me across the bar, maybe you had convinced him to let some of that go. We can’t go back in time and we can’t predict the future. He’s living in suspended animation.”
I shifted again as the jukebox switched to an old Christina Aguilera song, which had several middle-aged ladies climbing up from the table they were sharing and doing some serious booty shaking. It made me grin even though the topic of conversation wasn’t exactly cheerful.
“Every once in a while he puts it all away, and every now and again I feel like he’s reaching for a lifeline to stop himself from sinking. It gives me enough hope that I’m willing to stick around and see how it all plays out.”
She ran her finger around the rim of her shot glass and licked the salt off. “What are you going to do if you ever have to lock him up again? He’s a trouble magnet. Even when he’s trying to keep his nose clean.”
I sighed and shoved my hands through the front of my hair. “I keep telling myself I’ll cross that bridge if I ever come to it.” I leaned closer to her when the dancing women moved a little closer and their laughter got loud enough that I had to talk over it. “Did you know he was willing to do time, to sit in jail for a crime he didn’t even commit because he’s so twisted up on the inside about everything that happened before? How can someone even function with that kind of guilt filling them up?”
My voice caught and I let out a shuddering breath. I started a little when Ayden’s hand reached out and landed on top of the fists I hadn’t even been aware I was making. I mean I knew about guilt and the way it could affect a person’s thinking. My own guilt had kept me away from Dom when he needed me most, but I let it go when I realized it was poisoning everything in my life. I would always feel bad for what happened that night in the alley and I would never get over seeing Dom fall, but it couldn’t be the only moment that defined my life or my career. I needed Asa to realize everything he was missing by refusing to let go.
Ayden’s fingers squeezed mine, and I had to squeeze back because she was the only other person alive that could understand how hard caring for a man like Asa could be.
“That’s why I worry. All he’s done since I brought him to Denver is function. Nothing more and nothing less. That’s no way to live. But now he watches you like you matter, like he’s worried I’m going to scare you off with all the stories of his past misdeeds. So I have hope, a thin, tiny thread of hope that there is finally something out there in the world that he’s going to realize he has to wake up and live for.”
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