Book 4 in the Bay Ridge Royals
Every moment of my life was planned out before birth…
Family legacy dictates everything from type of education to suitability of friends to eligible marriage opportunities to the type of business I’m expected to go pursue. It’s more than just DNA, it’s also about birth order, gender, and unfortunately—the family name.
I was born a Reed and the weight that carries isn’t limited to the doors that it opens, but also the ones it bars shut. When I was tapped for the Royals, I saw my first way out—but it only proved to be a deeper trap.
Every single move I’ve made has been to tear us all free from King, from our parents, from our families—but there is no way out. There is only through.
We can’t break away, we have to take over.
Lies, betrayal, family.
The only woman I’ve ever loved is a the center of the board, courted and pursued on all sides by new players and old. There can be no truce.
My best friend? He’s lost his damn mind, avoiding me, and agreeing to plans he swore had long since fallen by the wayside.
Yet here we are. He’s surrendered.
I refuse to accept that.
I refuse to accept it for her, for him, or for us.
If the only way out is to destroy everyone in our path—then that’s exactly what we’re going to do.
WICKED SURRENDER is a full-length mature dark, new adult romance with enemies-to-lovers/love-hate themes. Please be aware some situations may be uncomfortable for readers. Trigger warnings can be found in the foreword should you require them. This is book four in a six book series that is a why choose with multiple new adults exploring and coming to terms with their evolving sexuality, identities, and relationships.
Book 4 in the Bay Ridge Royals
“Get your left up,” Liam O’Connell warned with a smirk on his face as he delivered a one-two combination that had damn near broken my jaw the first time we sparred like this. I wasn’t a fan of facial bruises. They were too hard to disguise for formal events and they pissed my father off.
The latter was fine, but the former could cost me. Still, I got my left up and not only blocked both hits but pivoted, rolling along his arm the way he’d done to me so many damn times. I got one punch towards his kidneys, but he was too fast for the second.
Laughter exploded out of him as he half-danced, half-bounced away from me, gloved hands in the air. “It’s about fucking time!”
Panting, I glared at him and the open grin on his face. We were both sweating. But where I felt like I was constantly on the run, Liam didn’t chase me. It was like he knew I’d have to come at him.
“Nice move,” he said, the ease of that compliment seemed to cost him nothing. Then why should it? The wealth and affluence of his adopted parents aside, Liam seemed far more comfortable in the streets. He loved the fights. He didn’t even seem to care about the whys behind the fights.
Frankly, I was more likely to let him have them. When the king contacted us about assignments or warnings to be meted out, it was the one area where Liam rarely asked any questions. Then again, most of his opponents were grown men and capable of wading into the fight even if he left them hopelessly outclassed.
“Thanks,” I said, still panting, then spit out my mouth guard.
We wore them more to keep from cutting the inside of our mouths or maybe losing a tooth. The bruise on my jaw promised me that it had only helped “some.”
“I’m never going to win one of these, am I?”
That cost me some to admit. We were roughly the same age. He didn’t outweigh me anymore, even if there were times I was convinced he’d been working out by bench pressing a car. Still, it didn’t seem to change the results. I’d worked with any number of trainers over the years, but I learned more from him in our random spars than I ever did in those rings.
“Depends on how much you want it,” Liam told me, after spitting out his mouthguard. He moved over to the side of the ring where we’d left our water bottles.
I followed, stripping off one glove so I could crack the bottle open. I gave him a moment to drink, then drained a good third of my bottle before I focused on him.
“How much I want it?” I’d challenge that assertion. “I sure as shit don’t want you to kick my ass so easily.”
“It’s not that easy,” he said, ducking under the ropes to sit on the edge. The interior of the gym was warm and humid, even if most of the lights were off. The ancient air conditioning couldn’t keep up. We rented the space and shut it down so we could work out here when we wanted. Not that he was around as often. Instead of coming back east for university, he’d stuck closer to Braxton Harbor.
Made sense, I supposed and the king hadn’t protested.
I had a feeling that was coming. We’d all been summoned to the city between semesters. New orders, I had a feeling.
“My ego appreciates the attempt,” I told him as I dropped to sit next to him. “But you don’t have to humor me.”
“I’m not,” Liam said. “You don’t care about the best. You don’t care about winning.”
That was bullshit.
“When it comes to fighting me.”
“Look, you and me, we connect in a few areas. But you don’t see me as competition.”
I wasn’t sure how to feel about being read so clearly. Liam O’Connell was not my friend, but he was my ally. “Good to know.”
“Now, if I go after something you want or try to keep you from something you want?” The corners of his mouth tilted. “You’ll hit like a tank, but you won’t let me see you coming.”
Yeah, I wasn’t so sure about that. Before I could respond the door to the gym slammed open and the third member of our little “sparring” club arrived, late. He looked like shit too, hair askew, eyes bruised, and clearly…
“Drink water,” Liam said as he, like I, studied Ezra.
“I’m fine,” Ezra said, jerking his shirt off with one arm and letting it land on the duffel bag he’d dropped. There were fresh red marks on his back, visible when he turned away and I curled my fingers into a fist. Those weren’t just fresh bruises, but distinct signs of welts.
He toed off his shoes before shucking his sweatpants until he was wearing only his shorts. Just like us.
“Drink water,” Liam repeated. “You’re hungover.” It was more a statement of fact than a criticism. But the raw fury on Ezra’s face as he stalked forward had me bouncing off the edge to intercept.
Liam rarely threw the first punch, but Ezra could bait a saint and none of us were that. “Don’t,” I ordered him, one hand on his chest and that yanked Ezra’s fury from Liam to me. “I mean it. You want to burn off some rage, you spar with me first.”
Although easy going with a sarcastic edge, Liam didn’t pull his punches. Ever. He could fucking kill Ezra if Ezra decided to take his mood out on him.
“Whatever,” Ezra said, rolling his head around. The crackle of tension writhing over him seemed to leave the illusion of a wave of heat rolling off the pavement. “You said get here to fight, I’m here to fight.”
“Mouthguard,” Liam ordered. “Then come here, I’ll wrap your hands.”
“Don’t need them,” Ezra argued before he shoved past Liam.
I didn’t sigh, the cheerful idiot was in a mood. He craved pain, but I didn’t have to say a word because Liam hauled him backward. He had a hold of his wrist and locked his arm in a grip that could easily break it.
“Mouthguard,” Liam repeated. “Hand wraps, and gloves. Or I’ll knock your ass out right here and go back to sparring with him myself.”
The air buzzed with his wild energy and it tickled over, my flesh, like the static gathering just before the electrical storm hit.
“Cooperate,” I suggested, catching Ezra’s gaze. He might want the beating. Maybe he even thought he deserved it. Neither of us wanted to be the ones who had to deal it out.
All at once, the fight seemed to go out of him. “Fine,” he said and it was the closest to admitting surrender he ever got. “I’ll wear them.”
Liam caught my eye from behind Ezra and raised his brows. Did I want him to interfere more? No. Whatever this was, I’d literally need to beat it out of Ezra because something had happened.
Ten minutes later, Liam eyed us both then lifted his phone. “I have to make some calls. Try not to spill too much blood while I’m gone.”
“We’ll be sure to save it for you,” Ezra said around his guard and I rolled my eyes. I appreciated the time though, because even after he was geared up, Ezra rolled into the ring just ready for a fight.
He swung hard and wide. His movements were jerky. He wasn’t thinking just flailing, striking out, reacting to some attack only he could see. So I played defense, keeping him on his toes and having to chase me. It hit me that was also why Liam stepped out. Giving me time with Ezra to chill him out.
“Want to tell me what happened?” I blocked his next two swings.
I switched directions on him abruptly, stepping into his strikes, then turning him and sending him flying. He tumbled, his shoulder hitting hard before he was back on his feet. Real pain flashed across his face. Not my favorite method of getting through to him, but sometimes, Ezra had to get out of his own head.
Those were his preferred methods.
Pissing him off was mine.
Liam’s prowess in the ring paid off here. He’d taught me to move and keep moving. Never repeat the same maneuver—especially if it were successful, cause it was easier to anticipate—and to keep my opponent on his toes. The chase lasted several minutes as Ezra’s temper began to fray.
When he spit out the mouthguard and charged at me, I took him down in a tackle, twisting his leg up and then shoving his shoulders against the mat with my legs locking him down. He had one arm free.
“You asshole,” he spit, but I didn’t let him go.
“Odd way to say you’re tapping out,” I told him, aware of the strength in his leg where I had it bound and the pressure I had to keep on his other thigh to keep him from closing the scissors the way I had. We were both sweating and slick, one slip and he could turn this on me.
“Just fucking hit me,” he muttered.
“No,” I told him. “Not until you tell me what’s wrong.”
Because the bruises and welts might be fresh, but they weren’t new. His father had some twisted fucking idea that beating Ezra’s habits out of him would work. Ezra never talked about it, not even when I’d had to put him back together after a particularly brutal bout.
Ezra groaned, the denial in his eyes. Whatever it was, he didn’t want to talk about it. I didn’t care. He needed to tell me.
“I can’t help you if you don’t tell me,” I reminded him. The fight left him and he sagged, then tapped my leg. I loosened my hold and let him go, but I didn’t move away. For his part, Ezra lay there on the mat, panting.
“They found me a wife.”
“I’m sorry,” I said, eyeing him. “What?”
“Dad—business partner in Russia and Eastern Europe. His daughter. She’s fourteen and away at school. But she will be spending the holidays with us so I can get to know her.”
I frowned as I studied him, then pulled out the mouth guard. He was serious. “Fourteen is too young to get married.”
“Not in New Hampshire or Massachusetts. Though you and I both know it has nothing to do with age.” He covered his eyes with his forearm. “They are negotiating the contracts.”
“For what?” Arranged marriages was a really old school concept.
Really old school.
“For terms. Stock. Money. Investments. Her family is powerful, it will give us what we need to make the expansions. Eventually, we’ll absorb their businesses into our own. Lots to inherit for future progeny.”
He made it sound like fait accompli.
“I’m assuming eighteen, though her father wants me to be a little older. A little more settled. So—that’s something. That’s part of the negotiations, particularly if I have to wait for my bride to perform her so-called duties.”
I snorted and Ezra shot me a weak smile.
“We’ll get you out of it. We have time.”
“Sure,” he said, but he didn’t believe me. “Who knows, maybe he’ll find someone else in the meanwhile…”
Or Ezra could. We were twenty-one this year. Three years would make him twenty-four. “How old?”
“How old does her father want you to be?” How long did we have? There had to be a way out of this. Granted, money and inheritances were all tied up in family business. But we could find something.
“At least twenty-five. Though I suggested she might want to go to college, you know. So maybe we can push it until she’s at least twenty-two.”
“That’s at least seven, eight years…”
A lot could happen in that time.