Life was fucking messy as always.
Ryan King scooted down in the booth and closed his eyes. He wasn’t sure why he came out, except his brother asked him to. Manny was still dealing with the fallout from his last big mistake. Maybe because Ryan needed a distraction.
He was about to spend a month training for a role in an upcoming spy movie with two of his closest friends. Luke Chance and Raven Star. Then four months of filming in several countries.
The world thought Raven and Ryan were a couple. Ryan was in love with Luke, who couldn’t be more straight. And very few people knew Ryan wasn’t.
Another beautiful woman slipped into the booth. Unfortunately, she did nothing to take his mind off a man he could never have.
“Ryan King, I’m a huge fan…” his buzzing phone pulled his attention.
Raven – Busy? I’m going to hang out with the guys from Emerald Horizon. Want to come?
The perfect escape. Raven and Ryan would be busy later that night. He could blow off some steam with an old fling, and Raven would do the same.
Remembering the woman, Ryan offered a smile. “I’m sorry. I’m leaving.”
Her dark eyes smoldered as she leaned closer. “I could buy you a drink, keep you here a little longer. Then I’ll take you somewhere more private.”
Ryan scooted out the other side of the curved booth. “Thank you, but I have plans. Good luck on your hunt.” He barely kept himself from rolling his eyes.
He found Manny on the dancefloor with a redhead, seeming to enjoy her company. She wasn’t the usual sort. No tiny, flashy dress. Instead, she wore something more elegant. Her makeup enhanced but didn’t give her the same plastic look of so many others.
Normally, Manny wanted the beautiful star chasers that got him into trouble last time. Maybe this woman would be different.
Ryan made his way through the crowd, avoiding a few bold women who tried to pull him closer for a dance. Finally, he made to his destination and touched his brother’s shoulder.
Manny turned to him with a grin. “Hey, Ryan, meet Aubrey.”
Aubrey smiled. “Hi.” That was it. She didn’t even seem to recognize him. In fact, she turned her attention back to Manny.
Ryan nodded. “You two have a good night. I’ll talk to you tomorrow, Manny.” He winked as he walked away.
Aubrey seemed like a safe bet.
Time to get laid. Ryan hurried to the valet and gave his ticket to the guy. While he was there, he pulled out his phone and sent a message.
Ryan – I’ll pick you up in 15.
Raven – I need a night to unwind. Thank you.
You and me both, he thought but didn’t send. The valet brought the car. Ryan tipped before climbing in.
* * * *
O’Neil stared at the training schedule he’d created on his laptop. He still couldn’t believe he was going to be up close and personal with some of the hottest stars.
His life had been crazy. His father pushed him into attending the Naval Academy. And from day one he planned to find a path that would keep him away from good old Dad who was a high-ranking admiral by the time he retired.
O’Neil had studied hard and trained harder. He had graduated at the top of his class and went above and beyond to become a Navy SEAL to start his Naval career. And if a bullet hadn’t fucked up his shoulder for nearly a year, he wouldn’t have taken a good hard look at his life.
There was no such thing as a fast recovery for a shattered shoulder. Everything had been rebuilt. Then months of physical therapy with no guarantee to get 100 percent mobility back in his left arm.
Could he have fought to stay in the Navy? Sure, but he took the honorable discharge and joined one of his oldest friends in LA to start a security firm.
His father disowned him. Mom had left Dad years before and still very much supported O’Neil. His sister didn’t agree with some of his personal choices, but they were still close.
The one thing he was proud of? Not turning into his asshole father who believed everything had to be one way. And the biggest plus to civilian life—very few people cared who he stuck his dick in or had a relationship with.
O’Neil took another swig of the Blue Moon beer and leaned forward to add more to his weapons training plan. Then he glanced at the stack of books. The movie was based on the first book in the Midnight Daughter series by Leona Shay.
Stories that were well-thought-out and researched. Something he enjoyed. He had a hard time putting the books down. Reading the series had given him a solid idea of what the actors would need to learn to play the roles in a believable manner.
He just hoped the group of actors weren’t assholes. The last group was all complete pricks. The studio assured him that wouldn’t be the case, but so did the last.
And he had to admit, the cast had him intrigued.
He swiped up his phone as it rang. “Why are you calling this late?”
“Want to go out?” Peter asked.
“Uh, where? And is Annette coming?”
“Swerve, Emerald Horizon has a surprise gig. And Annette is having a ladies night.”
“Sure, why not. I can finish this up tomorrow.”
“Nervous about the consulting deal?”
“You know last time I nearly quit because Jackson Crabtree was a diva asshole, right. I want to make sure this goes more smoothly.”
“Please, that wasn’t your fault. That was Jackson’s. And he’s not on this movie. I’ve met Luke Chance and the author who wrote the books. Luke swears Ryan and Raven aren’t like the last crew.”
“I hope that’s the truth.” Shannon glanced down at his worn track pants. “Let me get a quick shower and I’ll be ready.”
“I’ll pick you up in twenty. Hurry it up, O’Neil.”
* * * *
Of all the damned clubs in LA, they were at Swerve. At least it wasn’t Verge where Luke damn near died. That was fine, he planned to unwind and get off.
The valet took his car, and Ryan followed Raven in. Cameras snapped their picture, which was the plan. The questions about who they were dating turned to if they were dating each other, which they never answered. But the press stayed off their backs for a few days at least.
It was the best they could do, short of him coming out to the world.
Raven pulled him toward the table where Rocco and Max Snyder sat. Ryan’s gaze caught on someone far more interesting than an old fling who would be nothing more than a good time. Then again, Mr. Green Eyes who couldn’t stop staring probably recognized him. Maybe he was starstruck.
The guy looked far too military to be interested. Built, deep green eyes, short hair, and something about him screamed soldier. Ryan couldn’t read his expression, but he’d love to find out if he swung his way.
Ryan tore his eyes away as Raven slid into the booth. He offered a smile at Max, who licked his bottom lip. The sexy bastard was a sure thing. And right now, his body burned for release.
Raven leaned close to Rocco. “When do you go on?”
He glanced at his watch. “Another hour. Afterward, where do you want to go?”
“My place is big enough for the four of us. The other members could bring someone back, if they so choose, as long as it’s not a big crowd,” Ryan answered. And they knew the drill. No one mentioned what happened behind closed doors, but that was always the policy.
Max nodded. “We’ll be there, but Alex and Donny have plans. The four of us will work.”
Rocco moved his eyes over Raven, his mouth curved into a smile. “We’re not in town long, just wanted the opportunity to unwind after the show.”
“Then my house. You have a vehicle? Or are you riding with me?” Ryan asked.
“I have a rental,” Rocco answered. “We’ll follow. That way we can leave when it’s time.”
Raven nodded. “Not staying the night?”
Max shook his head, keeping his eyes on Ryan. “Not tonight, I’m afraid. We leave town early in the morning.”
One corner of her mouth tipped up. “Then we won’t have time to bicker.”
Rocco captured her hand. “Too bad we can’t get along more than a couple days at a time.”
“Hmm,” was all she answered.
And honestly, Ryan knew they would be volatile if they had a more permanent relationship, and not in a good way.
Ryan and Raven made a sad pair. Neither trusted anyone enough to do long-term, but neither of them truly wanted it either. Until recently, at least.
* * * *
Goddamn, Ryan King was hot in person. Sure, he’d been a fair distance away, but to have Ryan’s eyes on him sent a shiver down O’Neil’s spine.
Was that interest he’d seen for a split second?
“What is it?” Peter asked. “Someone caught your attention.”
Hell yes, only Ryan followed Raven Star to the booth where they joined Rocco and Max Snyder from Emerald Horizon.
Shit, were they together? It was the rumor, but he didn’t put much stock in rumor.
Sighing, he turned to Peter. “I find it interesting that Ryan King and Raven Star are here.”
Peter glanced over with a smirk on his lips. “Ah, the million-dollar question, are they or aren’t they together.”
O’Neil wanted to say not a chance. Raven seemed into Rocco Snyder, while Ryan was paying far more attention to Max than anyone else.
Maybe it had been desire, which meant he had a secret. And O’Neil didn’t stand a chance.
Shrugging, he faced Peter. “Don’t really care. Not like it affects me.”
“Please, I know you’d take a shot if you thought you had half a chance.”
“Nope, aren’t you the one who said never mix business with pleasure?” He drank the shot down and winked.
Peter glanced back at their table. “For a chance at Raven Star, I’d break my own rule.”
“No, you wouldn’t. You love Annette too much,” Shannon stated.
“Okay, maybe not. But if I were single, I would take any chance with her.”
O’Neil nodded. Raven was beautiful, though a bit young. At least a decade younger than him.
A woman climbed into the stool beside him. “Did you serve?”
He turned with a grin. “That obvious?”
“Mmhmm.” She brushed her fingers through his buzzed hair. “You have the look of a soldier.”
“Navy SEAL. That was a few years ago, though.”
“Were you hurt badly?” she asked.
Shannon glanced back to find his drink refilled. He nodded and slung it back.
“Want to dance?”
“Sure.” He climbed out of the seat with a smile at Peter as he took the blonde’s hand. “Catch you later.”
The bastard chuckled. “Have fun.”
* * * *
As much as Ryan wanted to focus on Max, the guy he’d spotted at the bar kept his attention. The way the worn jeans hugged his ass and thick thighs made his mouth water. And the T-shirt stretched across an impressive torso and big arms.
He was tempted to walk up to the bar and take the empty seat next to him, but that wasn’t going to happen. Too many curious eyes. He couldn’t pick someone up in a crowded club unless he wanted to give up his secret.
A beautiful blonde approached Mr. Green Eyes. Ryan focused on Max when it became clear that he was interested in the woman. He was probably straight as an arrow.
Before he knew it, Max and Rocco were headed to the stage for their portion of the entertainment.
Ryan sat back with a sigh.
Raven leaned over. “Distracted?”
He leaned closer to whisper, “Yup, did you see the guy with the buzz cut and all the muscle?”
Nodding, she smiled. “Definitely gorgeous. But I think he found his distraction.”
Ryan snorted. “He didn’t look the type to be interested.”
“Why?” she asked, her brow cocked.
He lifted a shoulder. “Doesn’t matter.” He glanced over and found the guy dancing close with the pretty blonde. Yup, he was into women. And it killed him because the man could dance.
“Never know,” she whispered.
“Please. It’s hard enough finding someone to hook up with who won’t expose the secret. I’ve always been more careful than some random, potentially straight guy in a bar.”
“True.” She sighed. “Being a celebrity sucks.”
Ryan rolled his eyes. “Let’s go up front.”
“Sounds good. And after, as soon as they’re ready, we go back to your place for the night.”