Broken Rebel

By: Sherilee Gray

A Lawless Kings Novel


PROLOGUE


Ruby

The window creaked loudly and I froze. If Valery knew I was sneaking out, she’d start yelling again. She’d yell if she knew I called her Valery, too, even if it was only in my head. I had to call her Mommy. But she wasn’t. My mommy was dead. So I only said it because I had to, but I wouldn’t think it. She couldn’t tell me what to think. I hated when she yelled. I tried not to make her angry, but I kept doing stupid things. Valery didn’t like having a stupid kid with nothing between her ears.

The sound of the fridge banging shut made me jump, and a pain started in my belly. Frank was here. Valery drank more when he came over. Since Dad died, she drank all the time. Frank scared me. He came into my room one time and when Valery caught him sitting on my bed, she screamed at me and called me lots of names. She made me go outside until he left the next morning. It had been dark and cold. I didn’t like the dark.

I rolled over, wriggling back, legs dangling, and dropped from my open window, onto the grass. It was cool and damp between my toes. It was also dark. Some of the boys thought it was funny to shoot the streetlights with their guns. Boys were silly like that.

Except Neco.

He was like Superman. When I looked at him, I sometimes imagined him wearing a red cape, how it would blow in the wind behind him when he picked me up and we flew away to live somewhere else. Because of Neco, I didn’t have to sit outside in the dark by myself anymore. The stones dug into my feet as I ran across the street, the air cold through my pajamas. I could see Neco’s mommy through the window. She had a man with her, so I ducked my head and raced to the back of the house. The light was off in Neco’s room, so I tapped on the glass.

I saw his shadow behind the curtain before he pulled it back and opened his window. Without a word, he motioned me forward, then leaned out and lifted me in. He was strong like Superman, too.

He pulled the covers back for me, then he tucked me in and climbed behind me. Dragging the extra quilt on the end of his bed over him, he put his arm around me and relaxed.

“Okay?” he whispered.

“Valery and Frank are drinking,” I whispered back.

“Close your eyes. I’ll wake you when it’s time.”

“Okay, Neco.”

Neco sometimes stayed awake all night, so I didn’t sleep in and get in trouble. He told me he’d take care of me the first night I came to him crying and so scared I thought I would die. Neco doesn’t like it when I cry. And Neco always keeps his word. Always.

A banging noise started up, a thumping sound against the other side of his bedroom wall, and then his mommy made a moaning sound. Neco went still behind me, then reached for his Discman. His mom got it for him to use when she had her friends over. He put one of the headphones against my ear and one against his and then he held me tighter. Neco didn’t like it when his mom had men over either. She did a lot, and I knew it made him angry and sad. But Neco’s mommy was nice. She made me breakfast and made me laugh and didn’t mind that I stayed here sometimes.

I felt Neco’s chest vibrate against my back and I knew he was singing quietly, his breath tickling my hair. I wanted to hear what he sounded like, but he never let me.

I fell asleep listening to a song I liked, one Neco played a lot, a man named Usher singing about a girl he once knew.

I wanted to be Neco’s girl.

One day I would.





CHAPTER ONE


Ruby

“Good class tonight, guys!”

I clapped with everyone else then headed to my bag, grabbed my towel, and wiped the sweat from my face. I’d been coming to this self-defense and close quarters combat class for three months. It was good, really good, but I was ready for more, for the next step. I wanted to learn holds and some kick-ass defensive moves. I wanted to be able to disarm a hostile skip during a fugitive recovery and then immobilize his or her ass so I could take them in. I wasn’t going to get that here. I needed to find a new class, something more advanced.

If Neco wasn’t such a goddamn control freak, I could ask one of the guys from the King Agency—the P.I. firm where I worked as a receptionist—to train me. But he was a control freak, completely unbendable, and I couldn’t see that changing any time soon. So, that ruled that out.

I enjoyed my job. I was grateful that Van and Hunter King, brothers who had grown up in the same neighborhood as me, had been willing to give me a shot behind the desk, but now it wasn’t enough. I needed more.

Becoming an agent was something I’d wanted for a very long time. Van knew, and had made rumblings about training me, but nothing ever came of it. I knew Neco was behind it.

It hadn’t been easy, not after the shit I’d been though, but I knew who I was, what I wanted out of life. Yes, I slipped occasionally. I had my insecurities and fears like everyone else. But I was a different person. I was strong and resourceful and confident. Neco refused to see that, though. He refused to see any-damn-thing except what he wanted to when it came to me.

So, I’d been forced to take matters into my own hands. I’d been moonlighting at Hains Investigations for three months now. Harry, the owner, was teaching me how to research and trace, and had sent me on a couple of surveillance jobs. Nothing risky or anything, but it felt good. He’d also referred me to a friend who gave weapons training. I liked that he had faith in me and my abilities. I finally felt like I was heading in the right direction.

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