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Asa (Marked Men #6)

By:Jay Crownover

Asa (Marked Men #6)
Author: Jay Crownover





INTRODUCTION

We made it! The end. Oh, my word-or many, many words, to be more accurate-I don't know how, but six books in and we're finally here. It's unbelievable and sort of fitting that Asa closes this particular circle. He wasn't supposed to be part of the group-wasn't supposed to be family-wasn't supposed to get a book or an HEA, and yet fate had other plans for him. Sort of like it did for me. He had to fight to get where he belonged, and a couple of times along the way I've felt like I had to do that, too. I tell ya what: this southern boy undid me on a lot of levels, and not just because he's closing the chapter on this series that forever changed my life.

It's unbelievable to me when I think about the fact that Asa's book will be number eight in a little over two years, and that's just insane and superexciting. I never thought I'd have even one book published in my entire life! So the fact that we are all here at the end together is pretty damn amazing.

Initially, I had written a very different intro for this book. It was long and drawn out and outlined all the things I struggled with to get to this place where I am now … the end … and the beginning. It hasn't always been a smooth journey for me, but I realized somewhere along the way that this wasn't what I should be focusing on as we close this chapter together.

No, what I needed to focus on was this moment. This exact second, when I am able to say good-bye along with my readers, and when I hopefully entice them with me into starting the new series. I needed to be present in the here and now and not looking over my shoulder at all the would'ves and could'ves and should'ves … that's something I struggle with on a daily basis. I sometimes forget I'm not the boss of the entire world and letting go of the want and need to control particular outcomes and situations is very hard for me.

But I'm doing it NOW.

Right now, I'm sitting here being overwhelmed with gratitude that I got to give each of these men and women a story. I'm overcome with emotion for the support and love my stories and ideas have found along the way. I am humbled by the amount of people that are willing to take a chance on me time and time again. And mostly I am filled to the brim with so much love for these books and the people that love them as much as I do that I can't even stand it. Readers bring such joy and excitement into my life, and any struggle, any complaint, any gripe I have pales in comparison to that.

Thank you for being here. Thank you for letting me be here …

As always Love & Ink

Jay

CHAPTER 1

Asa

Not too long ago when I watched a girl purposely get as drunk as this pretty one did, I would've moved in for the kill. I would have taken her home, taken her to bed, and not felt guilty at all about knowing that she was making choices without all her cylinders firing. I used to never let an easy opportunity pass me by, and I never felt bad that my actions weren't exactly going to win me any awards for morality. I used to like it when things were handed to me with no effort on my part, and I liked it that when I walked away, I could always brush off any kind of responsibility for wrongdoing and put it on someone else. Accountability was a foreign thing, and back in the day I avoided it like I owed it money.

But times had changed and somewhere between dying on a hospital bed and coming back to life and seeing the last chance I had at any kind of normality flicker in and out of my little sister's eyes, the barest hint of a conscience had woken up inside of me. Now, when I watched this very pretty drunk girl, obviously out of control, obviously looking for trouble, I wanted her to know how heavy an anchor regret could be. I still wanted to take her home and take her to bed, only I understood the connotation was different. Now that sliver of conscience was poking at me to do something I had never done and pretend that I was chivalrous and save her from herself.

No one would ever call me altruistic or considerate, but if I didn't step in, the beautiful redhead was going to get herself into a whole world of hurt. I knew from firsthand experience that some hurt and some mistakes could weigh you down forever. Carrying the load was exhausting and she deserved better than that, even if at the moment she seemed to have forgotten it.

I wiped my hands on the bar towel that was hanging loosely from my belt in the back and lifted an eyebrow at my cocktail waitress, Dixie, who was watching the same show on the dance floor that I was, with wide eyes. It was a Saturday night, so the bar was pretty full and there was a live band playing on the tiny stage, but pretty much every pair of eyes in the place was trained on the way the redhead was moving across the dance floor. I knew I should have cut her off, she was a lightweight as it was, but her big, chocolate-colored eyes were so sad, so tormented, I had a hard time telling her no. Now that I could actually feel shit like empathy and compassion, I knew that I had overserved her, which led up to the virtual striptease that was now happening in the middle of the dance floor.

"You think all those guys trying to grind on her would flip out if they knew she's more than likely armed?"

Dixie's voice was laced with dry humor as she took the Jack and Coke I mixed for her order from me.

"When a girl is clearly intoxicated, looking for a good time, and just happens to look like her, a bullet isn't very much of a deterrent. I'm gonna go pull her out of there. After you drop that off, will you watch the bar for a second?"

She lifted her own eyebrows back at me with a grin. "Are you sure you want to do that? That's like a pack of jackals circling a fallen gazelle. It might get ugly if you go and ruin all the fun."

The band that was the live entertainment for

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