Today was the day, Savin ‘Savage’ Pajari was going to die.¬† And it was okay.¬† If it hadn’t been for the boy, a part of him would be rejoicing.¬† He was a monster and monsters weren’t for this world.¬† But there was the boy and that meant he had to try no matter what.¬† Not give up.
He wasn’t going to make it.¬† He’d been too slow.¬† The truck was too fast.¬† The mother screamed seconds too late to draw his attention. ¬†He’d laid his bike down to get to the kid as time tunneled.¬† Slowed down.¬† He scooped the boy up, right out of the middle of the street and ran like hell.
He sprinted to get the kid out of harm’s way, but he knew his effort was futile.¬† He was just a step too late.¬† All he could do was try to protect the child.¬† He wrapped him up in his arms, tight against his chest, hoping when the truck crushed him, his body would keep the boy alive.¬† He was a big man, heavy on the muscle, so maybe the kid had a chance.¬† He kept running, but it was over, probably for both of them.
As if in a distance, he heard the scream of the brakes as the driver slammed them on, the skid, the smell of burning rubber and brakes, the desperate cries of those on the sidewalk watching the drama unfold.¬† Then the vehicle was there, much bigger as it bore down on them.¬† He kept running, that next step, heart pounding, because there had never been a time in his life that he could give up—and he had that little boy who deserved to live. ¬†Something hit him hard in the back coming at him from the side, throwing him forward, giving him that last momentum, the speed he needed. ¬†That one extra step.
He found himself rolling on the ground, the kid tucked into his body to prevent him from hitting the asphalt. The roaring in his ears was loud, but not as loud as the distinct and sickening thunk he heard.¬† He knew immediately it was the sound of metal hitting a real flesh and blood body.¬† He turned his head to see a woman rolling across the road.¬† Other sounds erupted around him, screams, the driver’s door slamming.¬† He swore, forcing his body to move, getting his legs under him, standing, the boy still protected in his arms.
The kid’s mother rushed to him, tears streaming down her face, thanking him as she took the child.¬† He thrust her aside and sprinted to the fallen woman.¬† She was small, a broken doll lying on her belly.¬† The denim she wore hadn’t protected her leg.¬† The material was shredded along with her skin.¬† The wounds looked ugly, vicious even, going from the top of her ankle to the top of her thigh.¬† He couldn’t tell if her leg was broken.¬† The rest of her clothes were shredded on that side as well, her narrow ribcage bloody, the side of her breast and her arm.
Savage crouched down beside her. ¬†She groaned, letting him know she was conscious at least.¬† She had hair, a lot of it, a rich honey color.¬† He gathered it into one hand and pulled it away from the blood on her arm.¬† “You’re alive, baby, but don’t move until the paramedics get here.¬† Tell me where you’re hurt.”
She made little sounds of distress in the back of her throat, and then turned her face toward him.¬† Her eyelashes fluttered.¬† They were exceptionally long and there were diamond-like drops on them.¬† She opened her eyes and he found himself looking into the bluest eyes he’d ever seen. ¬†That got him straight in his scarred, uncooperative cock.¬† She was lying there broken and bruised on his account and his fuckin’ body suddenly decided to come to life all on its own.¬† He was shocked.¬† More than shocked.¬† He didn’t let it show, but that had never happened that he could remember.
She would have bruises and lacerations on her otherwise flawless skin.¬† Her bone structure was perfect.¬† Savage noted every detail the way he did everything. ¬†Her mouth was‚Ä¶. Bog.¬† Her mouth.¬† Deliberately, he looked away from her face and once more looked at her body, trying not to notice that her ass, cupped in those tight jeans, was just as perfect as her tits.
“I’m going to run my hands over you, looking for broken bones.¬† I’m not taking advantage.”¬† He knew he looked rough.¬† He was rough.¬† He was wearing his colors, so it wasn’t difficult to tell he was a biker.¬† He was tattooed, and he kept his head shaved.¬† He was intimidating, because he was the kind of man that beat the fuck out of someone if they crossed him.¬† “That all right with you?”
She tried to move her arm and groaned.¬† He put his hand over it to stop her.¬† “Tell me your name.”
Her eyelashes fluttered.¬† A tear rolled down her face and he had an uncharacteristic urge to lick it off her cheek.¬† He hadn’t done that in a long, long time.¬† Now that she’d woken that beast, it roared hungrily, eyeing her ravenously.¬† He shoved his cravings away.
“Come on, baby, I can hear the sirens.¬† Medics are coming.”¬† When she moved her head slightly, he saw the bump on her head.¬† It was pretty impressive.¬† “Tell me your name.”
Her tongue touched her lip, drawing his attention to her mouth again.¬† He didn’t want to look there.¬† The moment he did, his fuckin’ cock jerked.¬† There was no precedent for that.¬† None.¬† He was always in control of his body and here this woman—who most likely saved his life—was lying on the ground injured and he was having some kind of a perverted reaction to her.
Her lashes drifted down, and his heart jumped.¬† For a man always in control of his body, he was losing it.¬† “Babe.¬† Tell me your fucking name right now.”¬† He wasn’t going to lose her, so he poured command into his voice.
A few of the bystander’s gasped and one started to protest, but when he turned ice-cold eyes on him, the protester thought better of it.
“Seychelle,” she whispered it.¬† “Seychelle Dubois.”
The ambulance arrived and when the paramedics hurried to them, he gave them a cold stare as he shifted to one side.¬† “Thank fuck.¬† She’s trying to drift away.”
The two men moved their hands over her body and something twisted in his gut.¬† He stepped back.¬† The deputy sheriff had arrived, and he didn’t want any part of that.¬†
“He saved my boy.”¬† Savage heard the woman distinctly and he began to make his way through the crowd toward his bike.¬† Shit. It was still on the ground where he’d laid it down to run for the kid.¬† That was what he got for interfering.¬† And now this woman.¬† Seychelle Dubois.¬† What the fuck kind of name was that?¬† He’d killed three people in France.¬† He knew the language and she pronounced it with a French accent.¬†
He crouched down beside his bike to inspect it for damage, not looking around.¬† He knew the voice.¬† Jackson Deveau.¬† They’d met on several occasions.¬† Technically, they hadn’t exactly exchanged names and pleasantries, Savage left that to others in the club, but they knew each other.¬† A shadow fell across him and as he rose to pick up the Harley, Jackson helped.¬† Ordinarily, Savage would have decked anyone touching his bike, but the man was helping, and he wore a badge.¬† So, maybe not the best idea.
“A few scratches. I got lucky.”
“From the sounds of it, very lucky.¬† They’re taking Seychelle Dubois to the hospital in Fort Bragg.¬† Do you know her?”
Savage was tempted to tell him he did, but he had no idea why, so he shook his head and kept going over his bike.¬†
“You saved the kid.”
“Technically, she saved the kid.¬† She shoved me out of the way and took the hit.¬† I don’t know how she angled it, but at least she wasn’t killed.”¬† He glanced across the street to the mother who was rocking the little boy, more to comfort herself than the child.¬† “The kid all right?”
“Yeah.¬† I’ll need your statement.”
Savage leveled his gaze at the man.¬† “Just gave it to you.”
Jackson shook his head.¬† “You’ve destroyed your hard-ass image, Savage. You’ve got all these people looking at you like you’re some kind of hero.”
“Shut the fuck up,” Savage snapped.¬† He swung his leg over his bike and settled on the familiar leather.¬† His Harley felt part of him.¬† Home.¬† If he had one, it was on this bike.¬† It was a Night Rod Special, all matte black with dull gunmetal gray trim and blacked-out chrome and his one concession—the image of a dripping gray skull.¬† He loved his bike and it was a fuckin’ road rocket, sheer speed thanks to Harley Davidson and a little help from Transporter and Mechanic.
“You headed back to the club?”
“You my mother now?”
Jackson grinned at him, not taking offense.¬† He never did.¬† He wasn’t a man to pull a power play just because he wore a badge and that told Savage he was someone to contend with.¬† Jackson was confident, which meant he didn’t need an ego for a reason.¬†
“Don’t forget to wear your helmet,” Jackson said.
Savage flipped him off as he fitted the ridiculous half dome to his head and then waited for the deputy to step back.¬† He got the hell out of there, thankful his bike had minimum damage, all cosmetic, and the kid lived through the entire thing.¬† With the wind in his face, he let the sea air unravel the knots in his gut he always got when he was around too many people.¬† Usually, he could dismiss everything when he rode and just feel complete freedom when he was on his motorcycle, riding along the coastal highway.
Yeah, he was going to the clubhouse.¬† He told himself that a million times as he neared the turnoff to Caspar, but he didn’t make the turn.¬† Swearing, he continued to ride the highway, cursing himself for being all kinds of a fool.¬† He knew better.¬† He didn’t give a shit about a woman.¬† He didn’t need or want one.¬† He knew what he was and what he would do to one—what he needed from a woman.¬† He got those things from women he paid or the patch chasers who would do anything at all for a chance at a man in a club.¬† When he was particularly bad, he went to the underground clubs for satisfaction.¬† No woman would want him or ever stay with him. ¬†She sure as hell would never love him.
He swore as he turned off the highway onto the road leading to the farm.¬† Six families owned the farm jointly and all had their own five acres.¬† The rest of the acreage was dedicated to the very thriving farm.¬† The ornate gates were open, and he drove through, knowing better—telling himself to turn around and mind his own fucking business.¬†
He knew the way to the president of Torpedo Ink’s home.¬† They all did.¬† Half the time the entire club ate there.¬† He rode in slowly and parked his bike in the designated area.¬† He was thankful there were no other bikes present to indicate anyone from his club was there. ¬†He didn’t need any witnesses when he made a fool of himself.
The front door burst open and Emily and Zoe waved enthusiastically from the doorway. The two girls had been adopted by Blythe and Czar along with their sister, Darcy, a boy, Kenny and the newest boy, Jimmy.¬† The new kid was only six and still scared, but Savage was certain Emily and Zoe would help him adjust.¬† They were sweet kids.
“Uncle Savage.” Emily jumped up and down.¬† Zoe just smiled.
Savage picked up Emily and hugged Zoe.¬† “Hey, you two, is your mom home?”
“In here,” Blythe called from the great room.¬† “Having a cup of tea.¬† Your favorite.”¬† There was laughter in her voice.¬† She knew he despised the stuff.
He put Emily down and watched as the two girls skipped off and then he shut the door and stood there awkwardly, leaning against it.¬† He wasn’t a talker.¬† He left conversations to others.¬† He was the man who took out their enemies, and he lived mostly in the shadows.¬† Blythe was‚Ä¶sacred.¬† To him.¬† To all of them.¬† The last thing he wanted to do was upset her in anyway.
“Is everything okay, Savage?”
It wasn’t curiosity.¬† That was the thing about Blythe.¬† She really was compassionate.¬† She cared about each of them as individuals.¬† Czar had brought the club members to her when he’d returned to his wife.¬† Seventeen members, all trained assassins and every one of them royally fucked up.¬† She didn’t flinch.¬† She took them on right along with her husband.
He hesitated.¬† If he told her, she’d share what he said with Czar.¬† They were like that.¬† What one knew the other did.¬† “Need to give this to you, but‚Ä¶”
“I’ll tell Czar it’s confidential.”
That was Blythe.¬† Quick to understand.¬† She was difficult not to love.¬† He glanced toward the stairway and then the kitchen, not wanting the kids to overhear.¬†
Blythe read his concern easily.¬† “They’re in the den watching television.¬† They only have an hour, so they’ll hang there.¬† The girls heard the bike and thought it was Czar coming home.”
He decided to quit stalling.¬† If he was going to do something stupid, he might as well just fucking do it.¬† “There was a thing.¬† Happened in Fort Bragg.¬† Little boy ran into the street.¬† Truck coming fast.¬† I laid the bike down, scooped the kid up and ran for it.¬† Knew I wasn’t going to make it.”¬† He talked fast, clipped.¬† Abrupt.¬† Feeling like an idiot.
Blythe put down her teacup, genuine concern on her face.¬† “Oh, Savage.”
“This chick hit me from behind, shoved me and the kid to safety but took the hit for us.¬† At first, I thought she got away with maybe a broken leg, maybe just hurt, you know, but then she turned her head and she had this bump the size of an ostrich egg on her head.¬† Definite concussion, but I don’t know how bad.¬† Asked her name, she told me, but kept drifting off.”
“You’re certain you weren’t hurt?”
He shook his head.¬† “Kid’s fine too.”
“I’m so sorry this woman was injured, but grateful to her at the same time.”
Savage shrugged, doing his best to look as if it didn’t matter one way or the other.¬† “You still friends with that nurse?¬† You talked about her a lot.¬† She’s head of the emergency room or something like that.¬† She’s a big deal.”
“Tammy O’Neil? Yes, of course.”
“Think you could ask her how this woman is doing and whether they’re keeping her there or if she was sent home?”
Blythe studied his face for a moment too long.¬† He didn’t like that she saw things she wasn’t supposed to see.¬† At least not in him.¬† He wanted her to think he was naturally worried about a woman who had saved his life.¬† He told himself that was the reason he was asking a favor, but it was so far out of character, he knew she thought there was more to it.¬† He didn’t know what to think so he kept his expressionless mask and forced himself to look straight at her.
“Yes, of course, I can do that for you.¬† Do you know her name?”
She stood up.¬† “Give me a minute.”
“If they’ve kept her, can you get her room number?”¬† Shit.¬† He hated to ask that.¬† “Should probably thank her.”
Blythe studied him again and then slowly nodded.¬† “I agree.¬† She’s definitely owed at least that much.¬† I’m extremely grateful that you’re still with us.”
Savage wasn’t certain why.¬† He had the opposite point of view to Blythe’s every time.¬† She never seemed to take offense and she didn’t start yelling to make her point.¬† He appreciated that trait in her.¬† She’d gotten under his skin.¬† It was the children.¬† She genuinely loved them.¬† The club had rescued Darcy and Zoe from human traffickers.¬† They’d had no family other than Emily. ¬†Blythe had lied her ass off, bringing forged papers with her to claim the children.¬† Darcy had backed up her claim and Czar and Blythe eventually adopted the three girls.¬†
The club had found Kenny in the basement of a mansion in Occidental.¬† Needless to say, the teen had nowhere to go.¬† No one knew what to do with him so they’d brought him home to Blythe.¬† She had taken him in and the adoption was in process.¬† They’d be signing the papers to make the boy theirs in a couple of weeks.¬† Kenny was pretending it didn’t matter, but everyone knew he was happy.
The latest acquisition, a six-year-old boy named Jimmy, they’d stumbled across on the internet.¬† There was an auction for him and they’d ended up in Vegas to free him.¬† He had no family so naturally, Blythe and Czar took him in.¬† He hadn’t been with the couple long, but Savage knew it was only a matter of time before he came around.¬† He seemed to like the survival classes Torpedo Ink gave to the children every other week.¬† That was Blythe, taking the children in and then allowing them to do whatever it took to find their way to sanity.
Even Savage could see that Blythe was special.¬† Every single member of the club would give their life for her.¬† She was that kind of woman—the kind for pedestals.¬† He hadn’t believed a woman like her existed, although Czar had told them she was the best.¬† Now, they all knew it and guarded her like the treasure she was.
He stayed close to the door, looking the way he always did, calm, expressionless, menacing.¬† He didn’t move a muscle, going still, so that he seemed to fade into whatever background he stood in front of.¬† Shadows were what he was most familiar and comfortable with.¬† He didn’t feel calm inside and that was something he wasn’t familiar with.
He didn’t like anything that he couldn’t explain.¬† Whatever the weird reaction he had to Seychelle—and God help him if he was that big of a monster that his body reacted because she was hurt or crying—he had to see her.¬† He shut down that way of thinking.
He knew he needed violence.¬† The rage would begin to build in his gut first, churning there like some terrible storm he couldn’t control.¬† It would spread through his body like a cancer, and when it finally hit his brain, he would go to San Francisco and participate in the underground fight clubs there.¬† His brothers went with him to pull him off his opponent before he killed them.¬† He needed violence.¬† He needed to feel his fists hitting flesh.¬† He needed the blood‚Ä¶
“Savage, she’s got a concussion and there’s some damage to her leg. ¬†She didn’t call anyone, nor did she put down anyone as an emergency number.¬† She was just admitted.¬† This is her room number.”¬† Blythe pushed a folded piece of paper into her hand.
He closed his fist around it.¬† “Thanks, Blythe.¬† I appreciate it.”
“Please tell her thank you from me as well.¬† If you think she needs anything, let me know.¬† I don’t like to think she’s alone in the world and needs help after saving one of ours.”
He hesitated, but he wasn’t the type of man to hug or kiss.¬† He didn’t like to be touched.¬† Reaper, his birth brother, was the same way.¬†
Savage stuffed the paper into his jean pocket and gave a casual shrug.¬† “Not certain when I’ll have the chance to follow up, but I’m going to try.”¬†
That performance should win him a fuckin Oscar.¬† Not because Blythe believed him, but because he was trying to believe it.¬† He told himself it was the truth and he wasn’t going anywhere near Seychelle Dubois—that if he did go, it was to thank her.¬† Or just check on her like any decent man would.¬† He knew he was lying to himself and Blythe.
He turned abruptly and stalked out, heading for his bike, the only real thing in his world.¬† His club.¬† The bike.¬† They were wrapped up together and ever since Reaper found Anya, and Savage knew he was happy, he was slowly separating himself from his brothers.¬† He took more and more trips alone.¬† He spent time away from the others.¬† He talked less and less.¬† There wasn’t a place for a man like him in the new world Czar was creating for the club.¬† There wasn’t a place in the world for him period.¬†
He wasn’t a man to pretend.¬† His brothers were fucked up.¬† Hell.¬† Alena and Lana, his sisters, were fucked up.¬† Reaper was a mess.¬† But not one of them was a monster. They might think they were.¬† They were dangerous, and they didn’t hesitate to kill, but they weren’t like he was.¬†
There was no cure for a man like him.¬† He knew because he’d looked that shit up.¬† A person could find that information on the internet and he’d logged over a hundred hours looking.¬† He wasn’t the only one looking.¬† Absinthe, the brainiac of their club, and his wife, Scarlet, put in even more hours referencing journals in order to try to find a way to make him different.¬† That hadn’t happened and he’d finally accepted the fact that he was what he was.¬† He had a code he lived by and he kept to it.¬† That had to be good enough.
He took his time heading to Caspar.¬† He even looked at the sign as he went on past.¬† Shit.¬† There was no hope for him what-so-ever.¬† He kept going, though.¬† Even knowing he was acting like a moron, he kept going.¬† He drove straight to the hospital and parked his bike, sliding off to stand in front of the doors for a few minutes, pretending to himself that he was debating about whether or not to go in.
He wished he smoked, but he hunted men and it was easy enough to find them if they smoked.¬† The scent carried and sooner or later, anyone addicted to cigarettes or weed, had to light up.¬† The moment they did, he had them.¬† Easy enough to slide up behind them and slit their throat—or arrange an accident—and he was stalling.¬† He knew he was going in so he just had to get it over with.
He stalked inside, putting on his most intimidating face.¬† It wasn’t hard to do.¬† He pretty much just had to look at anyone and they pissed their pants.¬† He went straight up to the desk, pulled out the paper Blythe gave him and told the woman sitting at the desk the room number.
The woman was older, and it said right on her little power badge that she was a volunteer.¬† She didn’t like him.¬† She pursed her lips.¬† “I can’t just let you into the hospital.”
“Actually, you can.¬† Seychelle is my fianc√©.”¬† He was pretty damn certain, since Seychelle hadn’t given anyone’s name as an emergency contact, he was safe.¬† “I want to see her now.¬† Visiting hours aren’t over so point me in the right fuckin’ direction.”
The woman, Ms. Pruit, gave him her prune face of absolute disapproval.¬† He wanted to growl, but he’d probably give the bitch a heart attack.¬† She told him how to get to the room and he didn’t waste any time stalking past her to the door.¬† She took her time hitting the button to unlock the door, but he didn’t so much as deign to turn around.¬† He was used to the bullshit.¬† He was tatted, bald, wearing his Torpedo Ink colors and looked what he was—a killer.
He just needed to see Seychelle look at him with that same bullshit, judgmental, dismissive look he got everywhere he went, and he could walk out of the hospital and never look back.¬†
He pushed open the door to her room.¬† The curtains were drawn to darken the room and she didn’t have a roommate, which he thought was good, or maybe it wasn’t.¬† He went straight to the bed.¬† Her gaze jumped to his face immediately.¬† Bog.¬† Those fuckin’ blue eyes of hers. Long lashes.¬† She didn’t give him the prune face.¬† She gave him a faint smile instead.¬† Bog.¬† That fuckin’ mouth of hers.¬†
There were bruises and scrapes on her face.¬† One cheek was swollen.¬† The bump on her head just above her eye was enormous.¬† Her arm was bandaged in places and what he could see of her leg, it was as well.¬† He couldn’t help himself, he touched one of the scrape marks near the giant goose egg.¬† “Looks like it hurts.”
Her smile widened just a bit and he caught the faint hint of a dimple on her left side.¬† His heart contracted.¬† “A little bit. They gave me something for it.¬† I remember your face.¬† You tried to help me.”
“You saved me and the kid.¬† Thought I’d thank you, but Ms. Prune at the front desk thought your virginity had to be protected so to get in, I told her I was your fianc√©.¬† I was going to add that it was too late for your virginity to be protected but thought she might have me arrested just for sayin’ the word.”
He figured she’d order him out.¬† He was deliberately crude and thought the claim on her would frighten her, but she did the unexpected.¬† She laughed.¬† Little golden notes flickered in the air above her head and surrounded him, taking his breath.¬† It had been a long time since he’d seen notes like that floating just from a voice.¬† The sound played over him like some kind of song and once again, just to piss him off and show him it wasn’t a fluke, his body responded.
He became aware of every nerve ending coming to life.¬† His blood surged hotly and rushed through his body to pool like hot magma in his groin.¬† His cock was scarred and filling with life all on its own was impossible—and yet—she’d managed to do just that.¬† Not to mention, he had learned almost before he knew what a cock was, to control that shit.¬† The shock was almost too much for him to comprehend.
“Thanks for the laugh.¬† I’m not fond of hospitals.”¬† She turned her face away from him.
He parked himself on the side of the bed, crowding her a little.¬† He heard the note in her voice that told him she really didn’t like hospitals and there was a reason—a sad one.
“I could break you out of here,” he offered.¬† “I brought my bike, so it might be rough going, ‘specially with you in that gown, but it’s doable.”
She laughed a second time just like he’d hoped and the golden notes scattered in the air around him like confetti.¬† He fuckin’ loved that sound and ignored the strange phenomenon.¬† He could only deal with so much.¬† She turned her face back to him.¬†
If he was any kind of decent man, he’d wince at the damage, but instead, he touched the scrape marks gently with the pad of his finger.¬† They were badges of courage.¬† She’d done what no one else had done.¬† She’d risked her life to save him—to save the kid.¬† Those raw scrapes and that hellacious egg were suffered to save him.¬† She’d made that choice.¬† He couldn’t help but think those lacerations, bruises and bumps said quite a lot about her.
“Are you going to tell me your name?” Seychelle asked, her blue eyes drifting over his face, touching on the scars there, on his jaw and the light growth of beard and mustache.
Was he?¬† Hell.¬† “Yeah, baby, I can do that.¬† My brothers call me Savage.¬† Probably for a reason you don’t really want to hear.”
That little dimple flashed again, and his cock jerked.¬† His reaction to her was genuine.¬† Real.¬† Maybe it was because she had risked her life and wasn’t a vain, haughty, judgmental bitch, or one that chased after him, not because they knew the first thing about him or cared, but because they wanted something from him.¬† Seychelle hadn’t wanted a thing except to save him and the kid. More likely it was because of the of the lacerations and bruises that belonged to him.
“Savage.”¬† She repeated the name softly. Her voice was melodic.¬† A whisper of sound, that played down his spine like the touch of fingers.¬† Three golden notes floated into the air.¬†
He liked the way she said his name a little too much.¬† He shook his head.¬† If he had any kind of sense at all, he’d leave.¬† Right the hell now.¬† Just get up and walk away.¬† He was there to thank her, and he’d done that.¬† He wanted to know she was all right and he done that too.¬† Instead of thinking with his brain, he was thinking with his dick.¬† He looked around the bare room.¬† “How long you in for?”
That smile came out again tying his gut into tight little knots.¬† The dimple was a turn on any way he looked at it when nothing turned him on.¬† Her mouth?¬† Those lips?¬† She was lying there bruised and scraped and his body was reacting all on its own, proving he was an even bigger monster than he thought.¬† But damn, it felt good.¬† He hadn’t known he was capable of getting it up without commanding it first in his brain.¬† His brain wasn’t even engaged.¬† He had proof of that because he was still sitting on her bed.
“It is kind of a prison, isn’t it?”¬† She looked around the room as well.¬† “Although, I’ve never actually been to prison, have you?”¬† She looked up at him.
His gaze met hers.¬† Those damn eyes.¬† So blue.¬† Seeing too much.¬† One eye was very bruised.¬† She was going to have a hell of a shiner. ¬†It was already coming up, dark purple and swollen.
“Grew up in a prison.¬† Been there a time or two since.”¬† Both times he’d been there to assassinate a prisoner.¬† Why the hell had the truth come out of his fuckin’ mouth?
He never talked.¬† He kept his mouth shut.¬† He didn’t like people or their reactions.¬† He didn’t understand them, and he didn’t want to.¬† Most of the time, he was contemplating killing them.¬† He was disciplined and had been since he was a child, yet he couldn’t stop himself from telling her the truth because he hadn’t thought before he answered.¬† Staring into those blue eyes, he drowned.¬† Went under and acted like a fuckin’ pussy-whipped asshole.¬† He had to get out of there before he ran his mouth and had to take her out.¬† He had too many secrets to just sit there and cough them up because his dick was hard.¬†
“Harsh.¬† But you survived.¬† Good for you.”¬† Her voice sounded drowsy.¬† Sexy.¬† It was that tone she had.¬† Musical.¬† Low.¬† Soft.¬† It played over his entire body as if she was stroking him with caresses—or licking him with her tongue.
Her lashes lowered, those long, thick feathery lashes that he knew he was never going to get out of his mind.¬† At the same time, she touched him.¬† A brush of her fingers against the back of his hand.¬† On his bare skin.¬† His body went still.¬† That small brush got under his skin and rippled outward, spreading slow flickering flames that kept growing hotter and hotter.¬† It was as if she’d branded him inside his body and that stream of heat turned into a smoldering fire that began to consume him from the inside out.
He had to get out of there.¬† She was tying them together in some undefined way he didn’t understand, but whatever magic she wielded, it was dangerous to both of them.¬† She was‚Ä¶nice.¬† She was beautiful.¬† She was normal.¬† He couldn’t be in her life and she sure as fuck, couldn’t be in his.¬† He didn’t want a woman.¬† He didn’t need a woman. Not full time.¬† Not when he knew if she belonged to him, he’d become an even bigger monster than he already was.
He picked up bitches all the time.¬† Always, always, he was in charge.¬† He did his thing, they blew him and some of the time it brought relief.¬† Not most of the time, but some of the time.¬† Once in a very long while, he snagged a woman who let him use her roughly, completely on his terms and when she blew him, the relief lasted more than a few hours.¬† The results were days, weeks and once in a while a month or two where the monster in him settled.
“You goin’ to sleep on me?”¬† He hoped she was.¬† He didn’t want her to.¬† He’d never sat with a woman in the dark and just talked quietly.¬† Maybe he just needed to hear the sound of her voice.
“No.¬† I don’t like places like this.¬† They walk in and out and think they aren’t disturbing you, so you have to be nice.¬† They’re helping you.¬† But if I fall asleep, when I jerk awake because they’re in my room, my heart goes wild and I don’t like the way it makes me feel.”¬†
Her lashes fluttered.¬† The dimple appeared.¬† He found himself looking into the deep blue of her eyes.¬† His heart contracted.¬† She was so fucking beautiful he had no right to even look at her.¬† He’d heard the fairytale—Beauty and the Beast.¬† Sitting on her bed, looking at her face, that body that was created just for him‚Ä¶that story could have been theirs.
“Savage, why are looking so sad?¬† Everything ended the best way it could.¬† The little boy lived.¬† You lived.”¬†
Once again, she touched him.¬† This time on his face.¬† That same brush of her fingers, feather-light, but she created that same strange, shimmering fire that sank under his skin and spread through his body like living flames.¬† He should have knocked her hand away, that would have been the sensible thing to do, but already, those flames had made their way into his bloodstream and were growing, spreading fast, picking up speed as the firestorm rushed through his body and then settled in his groin, robbing him of breath.
He wondered what she’d do if he took out his cock and jerked off.¬† Could he do that without ordering his dick to actually work?¬† Coat her skin with him?¬† With his seed?¬† Brand her his?¬† Fuck.¬† Write his name on her from breasts to pussy.¬† His alone.¬† His property.¬†
“Savage?¬† You look tired.”¬†
She scooted over, wincing when she did.¬† Her leg?¬† She had it completely out of the sheet now.¬† He ran his hand over it very lightly, feeling the swelling, feeling the scrapes, most of all aware of her body giving a little shudder as he inspected the damage.¬† It obviously hurt her to be touched, but she didn’t pull away.¬† She seemed to know he needed to see what she’d suffered on his behalf.¬† What she didn’t know, was that she was putting even more steel in his cock.¬† So much so, that he dropped his hand over the front of his jeans and rubbed in an effort to try to ease the ache.¬† The burning.¬† The rabid hunger that was beginning to consume him.
“That hurts, doesn’t it?” He whispered, stroking caresses over the scrapes.¬† He could feel each individual laceration, where the asphalt had chewed up her skin.¬† He was the devil, courting disaster for both of them.
“Yes,” she admitted.¬† “Not as bad as my head, but it hurts.”
He shifted his weight, until both legs were on the bed and he could ease some of the strain on his groin.¬† “Did you cry?”
“Yes.”¬† She whispered the confession in that velvet voice that wrapped him up in sin and temptation.¬†
He leaned back and when he did, she lifted her head, took one of the pillows and pushed it behind his neck.¬† When she moved, a soft, hastily cut off groan escaped.¬† He touched her face and found it wet with a few more tears leaking out.¬† His cock reacted, leaking his own pearly drops as he leaned into her to sip at the ones on her face.¬† He closed his eyes to savor the taste of her teardrops.¬†
“You need to stop moving around, Seychelle.¬† Just lay still.”¬† He made it a command.¬† When he told others what to do, they tended to obey him.¬† Her gaze moved over his face almost as if she found his tone amusing, but she didn’t attempt to move again.
His hand slid over her injured thigh and found more scrapes there.¬† A very small shudder slid over her body when, feather-light, the pads of his fingers found the lacerations and stroked small caresses over them.¬†
He kept his gaze on her face.¬† It was easy to read her every expression.¬† He moved his hand up higher, still gentle, still that light touch, stroking along her ribcage.¬† “Are you hurt here?¬† Bruised?”
“A small scrape.¬† The road chewed me up more than the truck did.¬† It was already stopping and caught me at an angle.”
He pushed her hospital gown aside, easy enough to do when it was simply tied around her neck.¬† He leaned down to examine the laceration along her ribs.¬† The scrape went up her side, shaving skin off, pitting some gravel that they’d clearly dug out.¬† “Fuck, baby, this looks angry.”
He ran his finger up her side, until he was touching the underside of her breast.¬† “Did they put any antibiotic cream on this?¬† Not certain I was worth all these scrapes and that goose egg.”¬†
She started to move but his gaze pinned her to the bed.¬† She went very still again.¬† “You were worth it, Savage.¬† I honestly didn’t see the child from the angle I was coming.”¬† She winced when his finger slid back down the scrape and then over the side of her breast where the full curve was scraped.¬† The sensitive skin clearly hurt because she shuddered when he ran the pad of his fingers over the marks, but she didn’t pull away.¬†
“You need more ointment on this.¬† Where is it?”¬† His heart had nearly stopped when she admitted she’d flung herself in front of the truck for him.¬† To keep him alive.¬† To keep him safe.
“They never leave anything in here.”
“Would you do it again, knowing you would have to endure this all over again?”¬† He kept his voice low.¬† His heart accelerated while he waited for her answer.¬† Hot blood rushed through his veins and pounded through his cock.¬† He dropped one hand over the front of his jeans and rubbed through the material.¬† It was sick.¬† It was perverted.¬† She should have screamed for the nurses.¬†
Her lashes lifted all the way and he found himself staring into her clear blue eyes.¬† “I told you, it isn’t that bad.¬† You’re worth this and much more.”
“With my fuckin’ hand on my cock in your hospital room.¬† I’m worth it.”¬† Savage wanted to sneer.¬† He wanted to rip down his zipper and pull the monster from his jeans and jack off. ¬†He wanted his brand on her.¬† Everywhere.¬† Dirty.¬† His way.¬† His voice, damn him, stayed soft and the question was genuine.¬† He was angry at her.¬† Terrified for her.¬† For him.¬† For both of them.
“Of course, you are.¬† Everyone masturbates.¬† If a nurse comes in, you’re going to shock her panties off.”¬† There was that hint of laughter in her voice and he caught the glimpse of her dimple.¬† “That would be the most entertaining thing I’d see my entire stay, but she’d have you arrested, so not worth it.”
He couldn’t help rubbing his finger back and forth over the scrapes on her ribs and the side of her breast.¬† Each pass sent more blood pounding through his cock, but that only made him feel as if he was really alive when he’d been dead for so fucking long.¬†
Savage closed his eyes against the sight of her bruised, swollen face.¬† Her tears.¬† She wept, but silently.¬† He wasn’t positive she knew her tears were there, but he did—and that was so dangerous when she was with a man with cravings and addictions like him.
He shook his head.¬† “You do know that something’s wrong with you.¬† Why aren’t you screamin’ for help?”
“You’re my fianc√©, right?¬† You’re my very first fianc√©.¬† I’ve never had one before.”
The laughter in her voice stunned him.¬† She was hurting.¬† He read it on her face easily.¬† He could feel the fine tremors racing through her body as it shuddered in pain.¬† Still, she had that sense of humor.¬† A little sick like his.¬† He was trying to scare her, so she’d throw him out.¬† He didn’t belong in the same room with her.¬† Not now.¬† Not ever.¬† He was trying to let her know what a sick bastard he was, but so far, he hadn’t succeeded.¬† She was making it impossible to save her.¬† To save both of them.
He stroked caresses over her cheeks, those high cheekbones.¬† Her soft mouth.¬† Both eyes.¬† He lingered over the dark colored bruises and then swept the pads of his fingers very lightly over the knot on her head.
“This hurts bad, doesn’t it?”¬† His breath was a whisper of warm air blown softly over the swelling.¬† He brushed his lips lightly over it as if he could kiss her better.¬† He kissed both eyes lightly and then followed the trail of her tears, licking and sipping until he was certain he’d collected every last one of them and there were none left.
“Yes,” she whispered again.
“I can make it all better.¬† I can turn your pain into something else.”¬† His voice, his touch, was mesmerizing.¬† He knew because he had been raised to be compelling.¬† He knew every expression to use, the tone of his voice, the octave that appealed.¬† He just hadn’t bothered for years, because he didn’t want to keep anyone.¬†
Savage pulled back abruptly.¬† What the fuck was he thinking?¬† Tying her to him?¬† That wasn’t happening.¬† Not now.¬† Not ever.¬† He sat up and rubbed his head.¬† He kept it shaved, although he had thick hair.¬† He liked the look and he knew it added to the intimidation factor.¬† He was Savage and he always would be.¬† He didn’t keep women.¬† Certainly not a woman, not one like this woman, not one for himself.¬† He slid off the bed.
“Gotta go, Seychelle.¬† Hit the call button after I leave and tell them to up your meds.¬† There’s no reason for you to suffer like this.”¬† For him.¬† She was suffering for him.¬†
He turned back to her because he couldn’t stop himself from making what he knew was a huge mistake.¬† “I’m fuckin going to kiss you, Seychelle.¬† Just this once.¬† Gotta leave with the taste of you in my mouth.¬† If you object, now’s the time to say it.¬† Don’t know if it’s goin’ to matter to me, but I’ll take any objection you might have into consideration.”¬†
He wasn’t joking, but that dimple of hers came out again, making his cock leak like a sieve, and his heart stutter in his chest.¬† She didn’t voice an objection.¬† Her blue eyes drifted over him as if she was claiming him.¬† He felt the touch of those blue flames licking his skin, burning him so deep he knew he wasn’t getting her out of him any time soon.¬† It didn’t matter.¬† He would never see her again.¬† It wasn’t safe for either of them.¬†
His mouth settled on hers.¬† Her lips were full, soft and paradise just to feel.¬† He was risking everything just to kiss her and the moment he did, the moment his mouth was on hers, she gave herself to him.¬† Fire.¬† Flames.¬† Passion.¬† They poured into him.¬† She tasted like heaven.¬† Something he’d never experienced.¬† An angel sent to save him and all she got for her trouble was bruised and scraped flesh.
It didn’t matter.¬† Nothing mattered but kissing her.¬† Taking her taste into his mind, then his body.¬† Setting up an addiction.¬† He was a fucking fool for kissing this woman.¬† He’d known he’d be lost and he was.¬† Thunder roared in his ears.¬† His blood thickened into molten lava.¬† Electrical sparks seemed to dance over his skin.¬† She tasted like innocence.¬† She tasted like sin.¬† Passion welled up, hot and undeniable.¬† Real.¬† Every single nerve ending that had been dead since he’d been ten years old flared into fiery, hungry predatory need.¬†
Abruptly, he lifted his head.¬† He caught her jaw in his hand, thumb pressing deep.¬† “Look at me, Seychelle.”¬† He waited until those eyes of hers looked straight into his.¬† “Your life is worth far more than a fucking bastard like me.¬† You don’t ever trade it again for anyone’s.¬† You got that?¬† You deserve it all.¬† The white picket fence.¬† The dream.¬† All of it.¬† Don’t throw it away on someone like me.¬† Do you understand?”
She was looking right into his eyes.¬† She had to understand.¬† She had to see him.¬† Right down to his rotted soul.¬† He was a killer and she couldn’t fail to see that.¬† He wanted her to see him, to see inside where he never let anyone see.¬† He wanted her to know what she’d saved today.¬† How close she’d come to death for a man who was trained to kill and had been doing so since he was a young child. A man whose first thought was to kill when anyone crossed him.¬† She saved that.¬† Worse, he was a monster.¬† The real deal.¬† She saw that.¬† And still she didn’t flinch.¬† He wanted to shake her.¬†
Instead, Savage’s hold on her face gentled and he touched his lips almost tenderly to hers.¬† He wasn’t going to see her again—not ever.¬† That would be a disaster.¬† He knew her now, knew how soft she was inside.¬† Knew her compassion and her need to save others.¬† He had to stay as far from her as possible.¬† He wasn’t a man who saved lives—he took them, but he would make an exception this one time even though she saw the monster he never let anyone see unless they were going to die.
Seychelle took a deep breath and stared at the door.¬† The moment she had put her hands on the man and pushed him to move him out of the way of the truck, she had felt an overwhelming darkness in him.¬† Her heart beat too fast.¬† She couldn’t look away from the door.¬† She didn’t react to men.¬† She just didn’t.¬† Women either.¬† There was something terribly wrong with her.¬† Until him.¬† Until she saw him in motion, running across the street directly in the path of that oncoming truck.¬† She didn’t know why, only that such a beautiful man couldn’t die.¬†
Touching him wasn’t a good idea.¬† Having him lie on the bed in a dark room with her wasn’t a good idea.¬† Kissing him was probably the worst idea of all.¬† He’d moved his hands over her lacerations as if he claimed them—claimed her.¬† It hurt, yet she couldn’t make herself pull away.¬† In some way she wanted him to do it because she felt even more connected to him.¬† The way he looked at her, touched her, was more intense than she’d ever experienced in her life. ¬†For the first time in her life, despite the fact that she was hurting like hell, when he touched her like that, even before he kissed her, she felt herself go damp with arousal.
It was a damn good thing she was never going to see him again.