When the cards are stacked against you, the Kings will even the odds.
Eduardo “Lucky” Morales is a fighter, from his childhood days in Cuba to his time as a Special Forces Green Beret. Scarred by the wars of his past, Lucky has learned nothing lasts forever. Guarding his heart is second nature, and getting emotionally involved is not an option. As co-owner of Four Kings Security, Lucky works hard alongside his former brothers-in-arms and fellow Kings, but he also plays hard. Flirting with sexy Texas cowboy and detective, Mason Cooper, is too much fun to resist, until Mason turns the tables on him.
Mason Cooper may not be a soldier, but he’s fought his share of battles as an openly gay cop and now as a detective for Major Crimes. Mason has no idea when things changed between him and Lucky, but the gorgeous fiery Cuban has turned his world upside down. When a mistake leads to a suspension, Mason turns to the least likely person for help: King.
Determined to keep Mason at arms-length, Lucky is surprised to find the man at Four Kings Security. The Florida nights might be getting cooler, but the heat between Lucky and Mason burns hotter with every passing moment. Working private security can be dangerous and unpredictable, but so can falling in love.
It’ll be okay.
It would not be okay. He wasn’t okay.
“Fuck. Fuck.” Lucky tightened his hold on the mini-ape handlebar grips of his Harley-Davidson Road King Special. He knew better than to drive when pissed off, so he forced himself to focus on his bike and the road instead of his anger. Ace was probably annoyed with him. Definitely worried. His cousin worried about him too much. His family was always concerned about him for one reason or another.
Tienes que calmarte, Eduardo.
How many times had he heard those words from his parents, from members of his family? As if by them telling him to calm down, he would somehow change his ways. Make him less… him. There was nothing wrong with him. It had taken him years to realize who he was and longer to accept himself. Did his family not see that their blood ran through his veins? They were all as dramatic and hotheaded. But he refused to play by the rules, always had, and that made him problemático. Difficult. He was not difficult. Complicated, yes. Certainly that. His life was especially complicated now, thanks to a certain blue-eyed, fair-haired cowboy.
Lucky clenched his jaw at the memories of that sinful son of a bitch. He still felt Mason’s touch on his hand, those calloused fingers pressed gently against Lucky’s palm, his thumb stroking Lucky’s skin. Soft expressions of comfort had slipped from Mason’s full mouth, the words unexpected, the gentleness more so.
“Look at me.”
Stupidly, Lucky had.
“Well, damn, aren’t you pretty. I know the timing is for shit, but how come I never noticed before?”
Lucky shouldn’t have listened. Why didn’t he get out of the car? He should have gotten out of the car. The padding of his motorcycle helmet against his jaw had his brain conjuring up the memory of Mason’s thumb on his cheek before it slowly traveled lower to Lucky’s bottom lip. All Lucky had to do was part his lips. What would Mason have done? Would he have slipped his thumb inside Lucky’s mouth? On instinct, Lucky ran his tongue over his bottom lip. Mason had leaned in, but Lucky managed to get ahold of himself. More like fear had taken hold of him and forced him to take action.
Few things frightened Lucky, but at that moment, he’d been terrified of the gorgeous cowboy and the unexpected feelings the man stirred up inside him, feelings he’d managed to avoid just fine until then. Forever was not a word he associated with relationships. Family was forever. His brotherhood was forever. Everyone else in his life came and went like the tide.
Fuck Mason Cooper.
And fuck this heat! Florida in August was un infierno. Ninety-two degrees, but the humidity made it a hundred and five. With his motorcycle moving, it was fine, but every time he stopped, the sweat dripped down his back, making the Balmain jersey T-shirt beneath his graphite Mojave motorcycle jacket stick to his back. He might have thundered away from the café like a bat out of hell, but he wasn’t stupid. Not even his temper could make him ignore safety. It was ingrained into him. He approached riding his motorcycle like he did sex. No matter the circumstances, he didn’t ride without protection. First chance he had, he’d pulled his jacket and gloves from his saddlebag and slipped them on. He’d worn his DSquared2 Blue Simplice city biker jeans and his Bowery distressed leather boots from Frye.
In the right saddlebag, he carried his Kings equipment, including a locked compartment with his Glock, and in the left saddlebag, he had a wardrobe change and a small cooler with two bottles of icy water. He’d planned on hanging out with his brothers, but that plan went to shit fast.
The sudden appearance of a moving object to his right had his adrenaline spiking and his body reacting on instinct. He swerved into the empty oncoming traffic turning lane to avoid getting plowed into by a silver BMW. Lucky hit the brakes, turned off his engine, and lowered the kickstand before he pulled off his helmet. The driver skidded to a stop beside him, and the window slid down to reveal a white-haired man, somewhere in his midfifties, in a business suit. He glared at Lucky as if he’d been the one to fuck up.
“You need to slow down, buddy.”
“What?” The balls on this guy. “I wasn’t speeding, and you ran the stop sign.” He thrust a finger toward the unobstructed red sign the man had clearly ignored. “That’s how innocent people die.”
“Yeah, well, maybe you should learn how to speak English.”
The fuck? Lucky straightened. “What does how I speak have to do with anything? And last time I checked, I am speaking English.” Tienes que calmarte, Eduardo. Okay, this would be one of those times where he did need to calm down. Assholes like this weren’t new to him. Take the high road. That’s what King always said. Be the better man.
BMW Douchebag looked him over, his lip curling up in a sneer. “I can barely understand you.”
“That’s your problem, not mine.” Maybe his accent was thick, but he always did his best to speak as clearly as possible, and it was rare someone didn’t understand him. English wasn’t his first language, and it didn’t help that he’d started learning the language fourteen years after everyone else his age. It hadn’t been easy, and even now many words and phrases confused him, but he continued to learn and improve because America was his home. His country.
The man snorted. “Um, no. You’re the immigrant.”
“Excuse me? I’m an American citizen.” Lucky didn’t call the guy an asshole, but his tone implied it. He was not in the mood for this.
“Yeah, but you’re not a real American. You don’t belong here.”
“You almost killed me, and you’re going to come at me with your racist bullshit?”
“I’m not racist.”
Lucky’s eyebrows shot up near his hairline. “Um, yes, you are.”
“I don’t think I like your tone.”
Lucky couldn’t help but laugh. “Oh shit, is this guy for real? Are you for real right now?”
“Go back to Mexico,” the guy spat out. “You’re not welcome here.”
“One, I’m fucking Cuban. Two, you’re a racist piece of shit.”
“Mexican, Cuban, Puerto Rican. It’s all the same shit. You should all go back to your countries and stop fucking up ours.”
Lucky peered at him. “Are you high right now?” He held up three fingers. “Tell me, how many fingers do you see?”
Lucky put down two, leaving the middle one up. “How about now?”
“Fuck you!” The guy hit the accelerator, flipping off Lucky as he tore down the road.
“¡Vete con la puta madre que te parió, pendejo!”
The car skidded to a halt, then started to reverse. If the asshole wanted to start something, Lucky was in a damn good mood for it. He got off his bike, and marched toward the car, pulling off his gloves as he went. “You want a piece of me, motherfucker?” Seeming to have second thoughts, the guy burned rubber and took off.
Lucky’s cell phone rang, and he removed it from his pocket. “¿Qué mierda quieres?”
“What do you mean what the fuck do I want?” Ace growled. “How about we start with you not snarling at me, bro.”
“I’m sorry. I just—it’s been a shit day, you know?” A police siren broke the silence, and Lucky grinned. BMW Douchebag had been stopped the next block over. When the police officer got out of the car, Lucky’s grin widened, especially when BMW Douchebag poked his head out of the window, took one look at the very large white man in uniform, and a smug grin came onto his face. He’d clearly taken one look at Officer Murphy and like any judgmental prick, made assumptions. He was about to learn a thing or two about assumptions.
“What’s going on?” Ace asked.
“Let me call you back. Two minutes,” Lucky replied before hanging up, his attention on Officer Murphy and BMW Douchebag, who started talking and pointed at Lucky. Murphy looked over, and Lucky waved, earning a smile and wave in return from Murphy. Karma was a bitch. You put nasty shit out into the world, and that’s what you got back. Lucky would bet his Harley that Mr. BMW thought he was about to get himself out of a ticket, but he didn’t know Murphy. Lucky did.
Wait for it.
BMW Douchebag grinned, and Lucky didn’t have to be within hearing distance to know he’d just spouted some racial slur against Latinos, because the way Murphy’s body went rigid, his expression darkened, and his jaw clenched tight enough Lucky saw it from where he stood, said it all. BMW guy laughed at his own words until Murphy murmured something, and BMW Douche turned gray. The color literally drained from his face. He said something—most likely an apology—held his hand out for the ticket, took it when offered, then drove off.
Murphy shook his head before making his way over to Lucky. He held out his hand, and Lucky pulled him into a hug.
“Hey,” Murphy replied, still tense, and why wouldn’t he be after someone obviously insulted his wife. Martina Murphy was Mexican, a stunning and valiant woman who’d fought tooth and nail to escape the horrors of her life in Tijuana. The fight continued when she reached America, and one day she found herself in St. Augustine. She’d been serving tables at one of the Old Town bars when some drunken asshole groped her. Murphy happened to be there on his night off and stepped in, unaware the guy wasn’t alone. The asshole’s equally drunken friend rushed Murphy from behind, a knife in his hand, only to be knocked off his feet by Martina and the serving tray she’d swung at his face with far more strength than anyone would believe a tiny woman barely over five feet tall would have. Murphy had set out to save Martina, but it was Martina who’d ended up saving Officer Murphy.
Lucky loved hearing the story. How in the middle of all the chaos, men brawling, and glass flying, Martina smiled up at Murphy and that was it for the big Irish man. He’d lost his heart that night, and they married not long after and had two girls, who’d grown into young women as beautiful and fearless as their mother. Lucky felt for Murphy. The man had no hope of ever getting his way. All his girls had to do was bat their lashes, and he was done. He loved his girls. God help the poor bastard who tried to hurt one of them.
Lucky met Murphy’s family at the beach back when Ace and Mason dated. Mason had invited the Kings to a charity event on the beach hosted by his precinct. They’d met all of Mason’s fellow officers and superiors, the event cementing a bond between the Kings and their local law enforcement.
Not wanting Murphy to dwell on that asshole’s words, Lucky smiled at him. “How are the girls?”
Murphy groaned. “Estrella has a boyfriend.”
Lucky barked out a laugh, quickly covering his mouth at Murphy’s scowl. “I’m so sorry, bro. I know this is very painful for you.”
“I’m trying not to be an overbearing, overprotective Neanderthal, but she’s my baby. How is she dating already?”
Murphy’s pout was too cute, and Lucky patted his huge bicep in sympathy. “Estrella is a smart and strong young lady. She won’t take any bullshit, you know it.”
“Yeah, I know,” Murphy said with a sigh.
“Hey, it could be worse,” Lucky teased. “She could be dating a guy like me.”
Murphy narrowed his eyes at Lucky, making him laugh. “Sir, did you know your motorcycle is illegally parked?”
Lucky threw his hands up. “Okay, okay. I’m going.” He pulled his gloves back on and returned to his motorcycle. “Have a good day, Officer Murphy. Say hello to the girls for me.”
“Stay out of trouble, Morales.”
“No promises,” Lucky called out, his phone ringing as soon as he was astride his motorcycle. “¿Sí?”
“Where are you?”
“I’m fine, Ace.”
“That’s not what I asked you. Where are you?”
Lucky sighed. “Not far. I need to decompress.”
“You do that. Be safe.”
“Always.” Lucky hung up, and once his helmet was on, he turned his bike around and headed in the direction he’d come. Mason would be long gone by now, but there was always a chance Lucky would run into him if he wasn’t careful. Why the hell did they both have to live in the same fucking city, and one as small as St. Augustine Beach? He decided he’d done enough thinking about Mason, but that lasted only as long as it took him to reach the parking lot behind the pier.
They’d flirted that day. It was no different than any other day. Lucky never hid what he thought, and anyone could see what a gorgeous man the cowboy was, from his long powerful legs to his broad chest and huge biceps. He had large hands, which Lucky loved, and his low gravelly voice with his Texas accent sent delicious shivers through Lucky, but all Lucky did was flirt. It meant nothing. Mason would grumble at him, flip him off, bitch at him about his motorcycle or the cost of his designer clothes. It had been fun. Then something changed, and Lucky had been unprepared.
Once his jacket and gloves were secured in the saddlebag of his parked bike, he headed for the pier. The beach was busy, and a few people sat on the old wooden boards of the pier, legs dangling off the sides, but the very end was usually empty. He was far from everyone else, so he did what he’d done many times.
After stripping down to nothing but his black boxer-briefs, he inhaled deeply and closed his eyes. Mason’s voice filled his thoughts, and Lucky let out a low growl. He was so stupid. Idiota. Letting himself get worked up, angry. It wasn’t their first argument, by any means, but it had been their first real fight. It hurt, and he couldn’t get Mason’s words out of his head.
“Damn it, Lucky, wait.” Mason had grabbed Lucky’s arm and jerked him around to face him.
No. Not this time.
“Fuck you, Mason. ‘One and done. It meant nothing.’ That’s what you said about Oscar, no? And when did you say this? Less than a week after all the bullshit you said to me in the car, after you almost—” Lucky shook his head in disgust. “Then I go to the club, and there’s Oscar on his knees with your dick in his mouth. You are a lying piece of shit.” He was so fucking stupid. Stupid for letting Mason’s pretty words get to him, for making him even consider….
Mason thrust a finger in Lucky’s face. “Better a liar than a goddamn cock tease. You’re the one giving mixed signals. One minute I think I know what you want, the next you’re ready to stick your dick in whatever hot piece of ass shows up. You want to talk about what happened in the car? Let’s talk about how the second we’re outside you’re flirting with the first potential fuck you see. What the hell am I supposed to think?”
“Not ‘let me go find someone’s mouth to fuck.’ Yes, I flirted, but that was all it was. What you said came out of nowhere, so excuse me if I needed time to make sense of what the fuck was going on. I’m not a replacement for my cousin.”
“No shit. Ace was never this fucking exhausting.”
Lucky flinched. He recovered quickly from the blow and shoved Mason away from him. “Yeah, well, I don’t make a habit of going after my cousin’s sloppy seconds.”
Screw Mason Cooper. Screw his beautiful face, sad eyes, and enticing mouth. Cock tease?
“Fuck you, Mason.” Lucky jumped off the end of the pier, his arms wrapped around his knees as he hit the water.
The darkness surrounded him as he sank, eyes closed, legs crossed, and arms at his sides. He welcomed the silence, the calm, the nothingness. The world around him ceased to exist, leaving only him and the quiet. He’d been doing this since he was a kid. Back in Cuba, he’d go swimming either alone or with his friends in the Bay of Cojímar, not far from the little village where his parents lived. He’d jump off the rusty old dock, arms wrapped around his bony knees, and sink, letting the water silence his thoughts and hungry belly. It was a lifetime ago, and yet it felt like yesterday. He thought it funny how he had more nightmares about being back in Cuba than he did of his time in the military.
Lucky stayed beneath the water for as long as he could, which was longer than most people. Part of his Special Forces’ training. His mother had cried when he’d declared he was joining the military along with Ace. Their mothers argued over it, Lucky’s mother blaming Ace for Lucky wanting to join, but the outcome would have been the same had it been Lucky’s idea. The two of them had done everything together. Lucky didn’t want to be left behind in Miami while Ace was on his own who knew where.
When Lucky arrived from Cuba, he’d been afraid of his own shadow. Everything had been too big, too loud, too much, but he’d never had to worry. Ace protected him like a big brother, even though they were only a year apart. He’d taught Lucky how to defend himself, helped him with his English every day, and paved the way for Lucky coming out. Ace announcing he was gay during his sixteenth birthday party gave Lucky the courage to come out as bisexual a few months later.
Of course, when Lucky came out, his family believed he was confused. While they found it hard to understand Ace’s attraction to other men, they didn’t question his declaration because Ace was confident, strong, and always knew what he wanted, even at a young age. When he got something in his head, no one could deter him. With Lucky, his family came up with many excuses for his sexuality. Some of his family believed he was trying to be like Ace, while others thought he would pick one or the other. It had been frustrating and led to many arguments, because if he could choose, then why not choose only women? It had been infuriating.
One day during a Special Forces training, in the tenth hour of a twelve-hour hike carrying heavy sandbags, it hit him. His body screamed in pain, his head pounded from dehydration, and he was ready to collapse from exhaustion, but his mind became clear. Why was he trying to please everyone? Maybe it was time he did things for his happiness.
Lucky broke the surface and smiled as he wiped the salty water from his face. He felt Ace’s presence before looking up confirmed his cousin was there, sitting on the edge of the pier.
“Feel better?” Ace called down.
“Maybe.” In truth, just having Ace around made him feel better. “Where’s your man?”
“Colton’s in the car, where there’s air conditioning and he won’t spontaneously combust from being exposed to the surface of the sun. His words, not mine.”
Lucky laughed. “Your man is very dramatic.”
“Says the guy who jumped off a pier in his underwear because he got into a fight with my ex-boyfriend.”
Lucky wrinkled his nose. “Why do you have to always remind me he was your boyfriend? You have a new boyfriend. Who you love, by the way.”
“Yes, I know. I remind you because you need to understand what you’re getting yourself into. How many times did I come to you about the problems we were having?”
“I’m not getting myself into anything, especially not Mason. Can we not have this shouting conversation with me down here and you up there?”
“Good point. I’ll bring your clothes and meet you down there.”
“Thanks.” Lucky swam beneath the dock toward the shore. By the time he got to shallow waters, Ace was waiting for him with a towel and his clothes. Making sure no one was watching, Lucky ditched his wet underwear and quickly pulled on his jeans. He waited until he was off the sand to pull on his socks and boots, then followed Ace to the black SUV. With a grin, he tapped on Colton’s window, chuckling as the window was lowered, revealing a scowling Colton.
“Get in the car. It’s disgusting out there. Look.” He pointed to his fogged-up sunglasses.
“You act like this is your first Florida summer.”
“Just because I live in Florida doesn’t mean I enjoy the August sun’s attempt to set me on fire. I’m rolling the window up now. Talk inside.”
With a laugh, Lucky opened the back door, then climbed in. The air conditioning did feel good. Ace sat in the driver’s side, and he turned in his seat to look at Lucky.
“You want to tell us what happened back there?”
Lucky shrugged. “What happened is that Mason Cooper is a lying piece of shit and an asshole.”
“Lucky, Nash calling Mason about Oscar doesn’t mean they were going to get together.”
“Like I care.” Lucky crossed his arms over his chest, his gaze out the window.
“Don’t give me that bullshit. The second Bibi confirmed it was Oscar, you were out of that chair so damned fast you almost gave me whiplash. I know you, bro. There’s you pissy, pissed, and then pissed. What happened between you two? What changed?”
“How do you know?” Lucky asked, as if his cousin had all the answers. Even now as a grown man, Lucky always turned to Ace for reassurance.
“How do I know what?”
“That he wasn’t going to hook up with Oscar?”
“I don’t know. How do you know he was?”
Lucky moved his narrowed gaze to Ace. He hated when Ace was right. Not that he would tell Ace that. “Why wouldn’t he? They already hooked up at Frank’s. Why not now?”
“Maybe because he cares about you,” Colton offered gently.
Ace let out a heavy sigh. “Come on, Lucky. If he didn’t give a shit, he’d still be hooking up with Oscar, and he certainly wouldn’t have gone after you at the café when he saw you were upset. Tell me what happened?”
Lucky and Ace talked about everything. They were each other’s confidants. Now that Ace was with Colton, Colton had become one of Lucky’s closest friends as well, mostly because he balanced them out. Colton was the best thing that happened to Ace. He was the reason Ace took fewer risks, which Lucky appreciated. Ace had a terrible habit of thinking he was invincible. He still did, but at least he was more cautious now and thought things through before jumping into the fray. Most of the time.
Giving in, Lucky told them everything, from what happened in Mason’s police cruiser the day Laz was shot at, up until earlier that morning when Lucky left Mason standing in his dust.
“Shit,” Ace muttered.
“See? He’s an asshole.”
“Lucky, I love you. You’re the brother I’d always wanted,” Ace said, meeting his gaze and holding it. “I say this with all the brotherly love I possess.”
Lucky peered at him. Waiting.
“Get your head out of your ass.”
“This does not sound like brotherly love to me.” Lucky looked to Colton. “Does that sound like brotherly love to you?”
Colton shrugged. “I wouldn’t know. I’m an only child. Maybe?” Amusement danced in Colton’s gray eyes.
“You are not helping.”