Zane (Inked Brotherhood #3) - Jo Raven

Jo Raven - Inked Brotherhood #3 - Zane

Zane (Inked Brotherhood #3)
Jo Raven

romance/new erotica

Part I

Zane

I never knew my parents. There’s no record of the person who abandoned me behind a dumpster one summer morning. My only inheritance is my almond-shaped eyes and straight dark hair.

When I was little and watched Japanese cartoons on TV, I imagined my mother dressed up in a red kimono, her dark hair held up with sticks. I imagined her walking through the streets, looking for me. Calling my name.

Took me years to realize how stupid that fantasy was. I mean, even my name is borrowed, bestowed on me by a social worker. See, I have no past and no family. I have no one.

Except for Emma, my adopted sister.

And now she’s leaving me, too.

Chapter One

Zane

The gym is packed. Most of the guys are here. Rafe is showing Shane some kickboxing moves, while the others are in pairs, practicing what he taught us today.

Dylan is facing me, sweat dripping off his face, his bangs plastered to his forehead. “Come on,” he mutters, hopping from foot to foot, full of restless energy. “Come on.”

He feints, and I take a step back, raising my fists. He swipes his leg, aiming at the back of my knee, but I twist and block. He throws a punch at my jaw, and I thrust my arm up in the last moment, stopping the blow.

“Wake up, Z-man,” he crows and punches the air with his taped hands. “Move it.”

“And you calm down,” I growl. I’m trying to get into it, but I can’t, not tonight. My heart ain’t in it.

What I want…

Dylan aims a kick at my shin, but I see it coming, and step back. Avoid as many hits as possible, deliver as much damage as you can. I move into his defenses and throw a punch at his jaw, which he blocks with his arm.

We both backtrack a little, lower our fists. Voices buzz around us, the smell of sweat is strong on the air. It’s summer, and it’s too hot in here. Too many guys, too many bodies, too many fights.

What I really want…

“Watch out,” Dylan snaps, but it’s too late. The punch catches me in the stomach, and I stumble back a few steps. I can’t draw any air, and I double over, gasping.

“Zane, dammit.” Dylan plants a hand on my shoulder, his blue eyes wide. “You all right? Why didn’t you block?”

Because my mind is elsewhere. Because I haven’t been able to focus on anything for weeks. Because the other guys have noticed, and take it easy on me, but Dylan is too caught up in the downward spiral of his own life to pay attention right now.

“You okay, man?” Rafe is in my face now, pulling me upright.

Fuck. I push down the pain, even as I struggle to draw breath. “Never been better.”

Rafe’s shoulders relax marginally. “Take five, you two.”

Dylan shoves a hand through his bangs, jaw clenching. Shooting me one last glance, he stalks off to the benches.

I think Dylan probably cracked a rib or two. They hurt like a bitch. I won’t be telling Rafe this, though, because the guilt will kill him. Training us was his idea, and he feels responsible for anything that happens to us here.

I’d take a bullet before I cause Rafe worry. He’s the reason I survived until Emma found me. He began my initiation in the world of ink, secured my apprenticeship for what would later become my profession. I worked at the tattoo shop in the afternoons. Later, after the murder of his parents, he bought the shop and changed the name to Damage Control.

Fitting.

“Zane.” Rafe shoots me a knowing look, and I want to punch him in the face. I so don’t need this right now.

“I said I’m fine. Shit happens when you train.”

“He caught you off guard.”

“As I said. Shit happens.”

“Wanna talk about it?”

“Have I grown tits or something? Do I look like a chick? No, I don’t f**king wanna talk about it.” I rub my stomach where the punch landed. Pain radiates outward and down. My whole chest feels as if it’s burning from the inside. “Go train Shane. Fucker’s useless with his fists.”

Rafe shakes his head and rubs a hand over his face. “You want me to back off, I’ll back off. As long as you get your shit together, and don’t let random guys punch you in the face.”

“It was in the stomach,” I mutter, just to say something. “Not the face. And he