Caution: this story is not meant to stand alone. The Beyond Happily Ever After stories are vignettes and outtakes showing the O’Kanes in their daily lives, in between the adventures and often after their happy endings. These stories were written exclusively for readers and fans of the series, and will probably not make very much sense to anyone not familiar with the characters.
Fight Night is part of our Girls Night Out series of shorts, written for our Patreon supporters. In it, Nita, Ana, Laurel, Grace & Avery are scouting out locations for Maricela’s big pre-wedding bash…with hijinks to follow. Their first stop: Fight Night.
(Note: Patreon stories are exclusive to subscribers for the first six to nine months. After that, they’ll be available to download free on our website.)
Characters: Nita, Grace, Laurel, Ana, Avery, Jyoti, Nessa
Timeline: Set after Ivan
The brand new warehouse the O’Kanes had built to house their fights was shabby in a way that only money could accomplish.
The brick walls were pitted and chipped, just like the concrete floors. Bare bulbs hung from the ceiling, casting shadows on the exposed metal rafters while bathing everything else in harsh, aggressive light. The bar that lined one wall, while well-stocked, had been constructed of wood reclaimed from O’Kane shipping crates, and burned-out bits of the gang’s logo dotted its surface.
It was a marvel of construction and design, all the lived-in grunginess the O’Kanes were famous for, with none of the energy waste or wiring problems. Laurel was impressed.
Nita looked around, eyes wide. “This is amazing.”
Avery brushed her carefully curled hair back from her face with a smile. “It’s expertly crafted, is what it is. Expect nothing less from my sister and her lover.”
Beside her, Grace tugged at the plunging neckline of the skimpy leather romper she wore. “I didn’t expect it to be so…well-lit.”
“You’re still wearing more than plenty of the people here,” Ana commented, her gaze sweeping the crowd idly. She’d worn her usual off-duty clothes: battered jeans, a black tank top and boots. “But you can borrow my jacket if you want.”
Laurel waved one hand as a roar went up from the center of the warehouse. “You’ll be fine. People are gonna stare at your tits–because, let’s face it, they’re really nice tits–”
Grace pressed one hand to the center of her chest and tilted her head. “Thank you, Laurel.”
“No problem. Anyway, they all know better than to get grabby.”
“Yeah, the O’Kanes don’t play.” Ana was surveying the VIP section now, where a handful of O’Kanes had already congregated on their reserved couches. “So, I don’t know what a bachelorette party is supposed to be like. What are we looking for?”
“It’s not really a Sector One tradition,” Nita replied. “But it should be. I have researched this extensively and according to all vids we need intense fun, mild debauchery and maybe some light crime.”
“Then we came to the right place.” Laurel grinned at her and gestured to the bar. “Intense fun.” Then she indicated a group of guys standing at the edge of the dance floor, looking at them. “Mild debauchery. And, not to be missed…” She jerked her head toward the huge cage in the center of the warehouse. It was a slightly raised platform ringed with chain-link fencing and spectators.
Grace squinted at the cage. “Does assault and battery count as light crime?”
“It’s not a crime at all,” Avery countered. “Not if they agree to let you punch them in the face.”
“And that, my friends, is the charm of Sector Four.” Laurel spotted Jyoti, who waved and made her way over.
“Avery!” The leader of Sector Two embraced Avery and kissed her cheek before smiling at the rest of them. “I didn’t know you were coming to visit. And you brought friends.”
“I brought reconnaissance,” Avery countered. “We’re trying to figure out where to have Maricela’s bachelorette party.”
“Well, then. You’ll need the full experience.” Jyoti lifted a finger, and a waitress with a huge tray made a beeline for them. “Bring us glasses, and a bottle of Nessa’s top shelf bourbon. Thank you, darling.”
The waitress nodded and hurried past Ana, who had turned to fix the cage with an appraising view. “Who fights in there?”
“Whoever wants to,” Jyoti replied. “It’s too bad Six isn’t here tonight. You haven’t lived until you’ve seen her take down a man three times her size. She has quite a fan club.”
Of course, that just meant everyone knew she could fight. If Ana climbed in the cage, she’d take everyone by surprise, because most of the bastards still thought Six was an anomaly. “They’re clean fights,” Laurel told Ana. “You should do it.”
Ana tilted her head, considering. “There’s betting?”
“Oooh, I want to bet.” Nita’s eyes sparked with excitement. “I can’t do it in Sector One. The other nobles won’t even play cards with me anymore, and it’s unsporting to bet against anyone else.”
Avery stroked her arm. “Just…don’t bankrupt the house. I know it’s a challenge, and you find those very satisfying, but in this case? The house is my sister. Have some mercy.”
“Also, the only thing worse than being kicked out of Sector Four by an angry Dallas O’Kane would be having to explain it to Gideon,” Ana murmured. “And your brother.”
“And Hunter,” Grace added mildly.
Nita pointedly ignored her. “It would be something of an achievement, you have to admit. Reyes has always been the rebel. If I’m going to be a scandalous heiress, I should get kicked out of a bar. Or a Sector.”
“Baby steps, darling.” Jyoti put a hand on Nita’s shoulder and turned her gently towards the VIP section. “Why don’t you girls take a seat. Your drinks are on me. Anything for Maricela.”
“Thanks, Jyoti.” Laurel eased a path through the crowd toward one of the free leather couches.
A spot in the O’Kanes’ VIP area wasn’t exactly a normal bar experience, but Maricela probably wouldn’t notice that. Nita didn’t seem to, and even Avery simply climbed up onto the low dais like she belonged there–because she did.
Only Grace and Ana hesitated, and Laurel urged them up onto the platform. “You understand, if we bring Maricela here to celebrate, we’ll have to enlist help from Jyoti, Scarlett, and Dylan, right?”
Nita dropped onto the couch with a groan. “Yes, someone has to keep Mad away. Better them than me. He still thinks I’m twelve.”
Grace chuckled. “Imagine how Maricela feels.”
Laurel tried, but she couldn’t. No one had ever treated her like a twelve year old–even when she was one. “With the O’Kanes as security, we can probably convince the rest of the Riders it’s safe. With a few glaring exceptions.”
“Don’t look at me,” Ana said, perching on the back of the couch. “I’ll deal with Ivan. But if we want Kora to come, we’re going to have to put up with Ashwin. I know how to pick my battles on that front.”
“We all do.” The tray arrived, and Avery busied herself with expertly filling the glasses and passing them out. “So Ashwin’s presence is a certainty. But I don’t think we should deal with Ivan. I think we should invite him.”
“You think so?” Nita narrowed her eyes. “I thought the guys could throw him some sort of party.”
Ana made a rude noise.
Grace elbowed her knee.
Nita frowned. “Ana?”
Ana rolled her eyes skyward. “The Riders are fine for parties when they’ve got other people around. But if you leave Ivan with your brother, they’re just going to sit around playing Best Way to Die or something. It’s not…very celebratory.”
Grace considered that. “We could send them to the Broken Circle.” Then she gasped. “We could send us to the Broken Circle!”
Nita clapped her hands together. “Yes! No, wait. First we check out Fight Night. Next time we see the Broken Circle. Doesn’t one of the O’Kanes run a speakeasy in the city? We could go there, too!”
Ana raised an eyebrow at Laurel.
Before Laurel had a chance to intervene–to encourage or discourage them–a man stepped up to the couch. He was tall, muscled in that way that meant he worked hard for it. Dark blond hair. Clear eyes.
He stopped in front of Nita and held out one hand. “Want to dance?”
Nita hesitated, a refusal clearly hanging on the tip of her tongue. Laurel saw the moment her public mask slid into place. She tossed back her drink, rose gracefully from the couch, and slipped her fingers into the man’s waiting hand, every inch the confident heiress. “I’d love to.”
“Oh boy,” Ana murmured as the man swept her into the dancing. “She turned on the charm. Let’s hope the cage-fighters of Sector Four are made of sterner stuff than our guard recruits. We do not need them following her home to throw pebbles at her window.”
Grace grinned into her whiskey. “I give the poor bastard an hour until he’s begging her to run away with him.”
“Two.” Laurel held out a credit stick.
“You’re on.” Grace pulled a stick from her bodice, of all places.
Avery swept up both, her eyebrow arched in a way that made her look eerily like Lex. “You’re both on. Fifteen minutes.”
Grace whooped and downed her drink. Her gaze landed on another man standing nearby, watching them. When her eyes met his, he tilted his head toward the dance floor.
She rose, smoothing a hand over her hip. “Don’t make any bets about me while I’m gone.”
“Only friendly ones.” Ana flicked her fingers in a shooing motion. “Go. Have fun.”
Avery watched Grace descend and disappear into the crowd. “They are both so young.”
“We’re not that much older,” Ana countered, her gaze drifting back to the cage. “But they sure make me feel it some days.”
Ana and Avery made Laurel feel old, which meant compared to Grace and Nita? She was practically a cranky old grandmother. “We all grow up at different times, in different ways.”
“Yeah, we do.” Ana finally tore her rapt attention from the fighting, only to grin sheepishly at them. “How bad is it going to be if I get in that cage? I mean, is it even fair to them?”
Avery pursed her lips. “Define fair.”
“Sporting.” Ana grinned. “Ashwin’s been putting me through his badass Makhai soldier boot camp for months. Maybe I should tie one hand behind my back…”
“No, it wouldn’t be fair.” Laurel poured another round. “It’s up to you whether or not that’s gonna stop you.”
“It better fucking not.” Nessa climbed over the back of the couch and landed next to Avery with a grin. “Those assholes are starting to convince themselves Six is just a freak anomaly. Get in there and make’m cry for their daddies.”
Ana raised an eyebrow at Laurel. “You got Nita and Grace?”
“Does anyone?” Laurel smiled. “Go on. Have your fun.”
Ana bounced off the couch and disappeared into the crowd as Nessa leaned forward to examine the bottle of liquor. “I wondered who Jyoti was breaking out the good stuff for. It’s good to see you, Avery.” The younger woman grinned. “And it’s always a party when you show up, Laurel.”
“No need to butter me up, Nessa. Just name the time and place, sweetheart.”
“Ha. Don’t play chicken with an O’Kane.” Nessa kicked back on the couch and put her boots up on the table. “So what brings you lot over from One? Tired of all the fancy wine?”
“Recon,” Avery said primly.
“One last bash before Maricela gets hitched,” Laurel explained. “Nita called it a bachelorette party. We’re looking for a venue, preferably one not populated by overprotective people who changed Maricela’s diapers.”
“That is a noble damn mission.” Nessa rolled her eyes. “None of these fuckers knew me when I was in diapers and it didn’t stop them from smothering me within an inch of my life. I can’t imagine how bad Maricela Rios has it.” She hesitated. “Wait, yes I can. Because Mad was one of the worst.”
Avery laughed. “And Gideon taught him everything he knows.”
Nessa shuddered. “That poor girl.”
“She’ll live,” Laurel muttered absently. Grace was already on her way back. She didn’t look upset, but she didn’t look happy, either.
She sank down beside Nessa and grabbed the bottle with a sigh. “I should have worn my overalls.”
Laurel frowned. “Trouble?”
“Nah, not really.” Grace tugged at her low neckline again. “I wanted to fit in, but I think I did it a little too well. All the asshole did was press me for info about Dallas and how to join up. I think he assumed I was…”
“O’Kane-adjacent?” Avery asked gently.
“Something like that.”
“Girl, I have been there.” Nessa thrust out a hand. “Hi, I’m Nessa.”
“Grace.” She shook the proffered hand, then gestured to herself. “I don’t normally dress like this. I’m actually a priestess.”
“Really?” Nessa tilted her head and studied Grace. “I mean, you’re pulling it off. Most people don’t the first time they try.”
“Most people aren’t brilliant fashion designers,” Jyoti said, appearing at Laurel’s shoulder. “Grace is quite gifted, isn’t she, Avery?”
Nessa grinned and bounced to her feet. “Wanna raid my closet? I’ve got all sorts of shit in there that I don’t know how to pull off. And then I can show you who to dance with.”
They bailed like their asses were on fire, and Laurel turned a rueful grin on her companions. “That didn’t take long.”
Jyoti’s smile was affectionate. “Nessa is the enthusiastic champion of all young women who are trying to figure out where they belong. Grace is in good hands.”
“Of course she is.” Laurel offered her a drink. “What’s up?”
“I found Scarlet. She’s going to keep Mad suitably distracted tonight, so you shouldn’t have to worry about that.” A sudden roar of excitement from the crowd drew their attention to the cage, where a barefooted Ana had stepped in to face a man easily twice her size. “I expect they’ll be telling stories about her for weeks, though.”
Ana’s opponent had no idea what was coming for him. Oh, he might suspect that she was a fighter, some ringer that O’Kane kept in his back pocket for nights the house needed to win big.
But he’d never in a million years think he’d just climbed in the cage with a warrior.
“Let’s hope Nita was too busy dancing to place her bets.” Laurel winked at Avery. “For your sister’s sake.”
Jyoti laughed and slid onto the couch next to Avery. “Everyone betting against Ana should cushion the blow. You’d think they’d learn, considering what a thorough thrashing Six has given most of the fighters in the Sector, but I suppose stereotypes are comfortable.”
Judging by the excited noise from the crowd, some people had learned. A cluster of young women had elbowed their way to the front. They wore their hair in tight ponytails, and they were dressed in the same banged-up jeans and tight T-shirts that Six favored. A few of their faces were vaguely familiar–Laurel had seen them hanging around, in this sector and in Three, trying to get Six’s attention.
Her old boss had been busily gathering admirers.
The fight wasn’t fair, that much was clear from the first bell. Ana played it slow, testing her opponent with feints meant to draw him out and quick jabs that wounded his pride more than anything else.
He kept his temper longer than most would have. Laurel had seen plenty of men lose it when faced with the prospect of a public ass-whooping at the hands of a woman. The man’s expression shifted from confident to concerned to tense. He wasn’t a bad fighter…
But Ana was so much better.
“I heard she and Deacon are together,” Jyoti murmured, watching the fight. “Is it true?”
“Very,” Laurel answered, then winced as Ana landed a solid kidney shot.
“I’m glad he found someone.” Jyoti picked up a glass and swirled the liquor around. “I owe him a great deal. He probably saved my life and Mad’s more than once near the end of the war.”
“I don’t doubt it. It was his job…but he would have done it, no matter what.”
A roar rose up from the crowd. Ana had grown tired of playing and was driving her opponent back across the cage with a flurry of blows. He swung his arms, trying desperately to drive her back, but Ana dodged with breath-taking speed and rebounded off the side of the cage to execute a showy takedown that ended with the man flat on his face, one arm wrenched behind his back, and Ana’s knee pressed down between his shoulders.
The crowd erupted in groans and cheers as the bell rung, announcing the end of the match. Nita broke free of the surging bodies and hopped up onto the stage, her face flushed with excitement.
Avery straightened, alarmed. “Nita…”
“Oh, don’t look at me like that.” Nita dropped to the couch with a wide smile. “I only bet a little. I don’t want your scary sister coming after me.”
Lex was legendary around all the sectors, but she had a special claim to fame in One: during the war with the city, she had once pointed a gun at Kora Bellamy’s face–right in front of Ashwin–and lived.
Laurel finished her drink. “You gonna split your take with Ana? I mean, it’s only fair.”
“Oh, she can have all of it. If she’ll take it.” Nita beamed. “It’s the betting that’s the fun part.”
Rich girls were weird.
Jyoti gave Laurel a sympathetic look before patting Nita’s arm. “If you like betting, you should visit Jared and Lili’s speakeasy inside Eden. It’s much more fun to take money from terrible rich people, trust me.”
The guy Ana had pummeled limped by on his way to the bar. Laurel watched him go, then shared a look with Avery.
“Maybe we should have the party someplace with a little less blood,” Avery suggested. “You know how Maricela feels about violence.”
As far as Laurel could tell, Maricela’s thoughts on bloodshed were avoid it, if possible. If not, make your shredded enemies rue the day they fucked with you.
“Oh, I certainly do. And don’t worry,” she reassured Avery. “I know just the place.”