Authors: Christine Feehan
“Well, honey, he hit on you several times. Brandon Campbell. I couldn’t believe you turned him down. He’s so handsome and sweet. He would always come over when she had her screaming fits and apologize to me. We’d sit and
drink tea together. He’d ask my advice on what to do with Sahara, how best to handle her. He’s still so good, comes to see her a lot of the time, trying to reason with her. I thought for certain you’d want to go out with him.”
Savage had his piercing blue eyes on Seychelle’s face. She knew she couldn’t keep her dislike from showing on her face. Brandon Campbell was an arrogant bully. Extremely good-looking, charming, almost mesmerizing like a cobra, he’d definitely tried to get her to date him. Or at least sleep with him. When she hadn’t, he had been very cutting to her. She’d seen right through him. He also had a psychic gift that he used, a subtle persuasion, and he didn’t use it in a good way.
“How old was the woman he tossed his old girlfriend out for?” Savage asked.
“I think she had just graduated from high school,” Doris said vaguely. “They aren’t married. They live together.”
“Isn’t he pushing forty?” Seychelle asked.
“Oh, no, dear,” Doris shook her head. “He isn’t that old.”
Seychelle inclined her head. “I’m afraid he is, Doris. He’s a total creeper. You can’t believe a man just because he comes off all charming sometimes. That woman he told you all about, she might just need a friend or two.” She indicated the house across the street. “You say she has her groceries delivered? Does that mean you never see her leave the house?”
“Now that you mention it, no. She never comes out.” Doris stared at the house for some time. “Did Brandon do something to you? Is that why you never went out with him? I’ve never heard you say a bad word about anyone, Seychelle.”
“I didn’t exactly say anything bad, only that you can’t believe everything a man says just because he comes off as charming. He wasn’t very nice when I turned him down.”
Savage had somehow managed to slide back onto the porch until he was between her thighs. He’d done so when
he’d scooped up several cookies. Laying his head back in her lap, he stared at the windows across the street. “Where does this creeper live now, Seychelle?”
The question was delivered in his very low voice. Very soft. Something about the tone sent a chill down Seychelle’s spine. Looking at him, he appeared as relaxed as could be. Legs stretched out, one arm casually circling Seychelle’s left thigh while the other was propped on her right one so he could feed himself the cookies. She wasn’t buying into that seemingly tranquil pose, not for a moment. She could feel that well of violence in him rising like a red tide.
“Baby.” He turned his head, his blue eyes meeting hers. “Asked you a question.”
Her heart stuttered. Those eyes pierced right through her. Savage could look very scary when he chose. The arm circling her thigh shifted, and his palm slid back and forth in a mesmerizing glide on the back of her leg, as if he could soothe her, countering the absolute demand in his eyes.
“Not going to ask again, Seychelle.”
“I don’t keep track of him. I have absolutely no idea where that man lives.”
“He bother you? Even after he decides to live with this child out of high school? He still come around and bother you? Is that why you call him a creeper?” His blue eyes never left her face. His posture never changed from that lazy panther relaxing on the porch. His voice was pitched low, almost gentle, but she caught the underlying menace, that ever-present rage swirling too close to the surface.
“I made it clear, Savage.” She leaned down and deliberately took a bite out of the cookie he held in his hand. “It’s getting late and I have to get working on the porch. I don’t want Doris falling through the stairs. The second step is rotted almost all the way through.”
“I’ll take a look at it, but we’re going to have to stick a couple of decent tools in this toolbox if you’re going to insist on going around fixing things.” He sat up. “And the
conversation isn’t over. You’re racking up all kinds of trouble, baby.”
“What does that mean?” Seychelle asked.
“Just don’t want you saying I didn’t warn you.”
“I don’t have a clue what you’re talking about half the time.” She found herself speaking to his back as he opened the toolbox again and peered inside. He ignored her, swearing under his breath at the multitude of pink tools inside the box.
Seychelle looked up at Doris. “Stop fanning yourself. Do you have any idea what he’s talking about?”
“Does it really matter, dear? He’s magnificent, and you’re engaged to him.” Doris looked very smug as she looked at the empty cookie plate. “I do wish it were bingo night.”
tell your friends I have a fake fiancé.” Seychelle had the unexpected urge to kick Savage right in the middle of that very broad back. She couldn’t take her eyes off him as he stripped away the rotted top boards from the stairs. He did it easily, with no wasted effort.
“Not fake, Doris,” Savage said without looking up. “Ice is working on the ring. I told him exactly what I wanted for her, Doris. She’s got those eyes. I know everyone wants traditional diamonds.” He yanked on a board on the next stair down, swore and shook his head. “Told Ice I wanted something to match her eyes. He showed me these killer blue diamonds. Dark, almost teal blue. Never saw anything like them. Just like her eyes.”
“You’d better be making that up.” Seychelle turned her blue eyes on Doris. “He’s totally making that up to make me crazy.”
“Babe.” He gave her his one-word response, which he seemed to think spoke volumes.
She rolled her eyes. Doris fanned herself again. She was absolutely no help, and she clearly was going to repeat every word of the conversation to her friends.
“Seychelle, come look at this. It’s all rotted. All of this has to be replaced. If it isn’t, Doris is going to have an accident on her porch. I’m going to get the brothers out here tomorrow to take the porch apart. I’ll measure everything now with your bullshit pink tape measure. We’ve got wood lying around the clubhouse takin’ up space. It’s a small enough job that we should be able to knock it out in an afternoon, if that’s all right with you, ma’am.” Savage glanced over his shoulder at Doris for confirmation. “Master and the others will be glad to get rid of the lumber. They get so much extra from all their jobs, and frankly, we don’t have a place to store it. You’d be doin’ us a favor.”
Doris raised a hand to her hair. Seychelle could see it was trembling. She had a lot of pride. “If you’re certain they need to get rid of the lumber. I can’t pay them for it. It looks like it would be a lot.”
Seychelle felt herself slipping just a little more down that inevitable path toward Savage. She didn’t want to go there. She knew it was too dangerous, but the way he leveled his cool blue eyes at Doris and shrugged had her heart stuttering.
“You should see the stacks of lumber we have layin’ around the place, ma’am, not only at the clubhouse, but it’s spillin’ over to Player’s house now.”
“Savage.” Doris conceded with a nod. “May I get you some tea?”
Savage winced. “Don’t drink the stuff, Doris. Blythe tried to convince me it wasn’t poison, but so far, I think she’s full of . . .” He broke off. “Let’s just say no, thanks.” He beckoned to Seychelle, and she put down her teacup and moved closer to examine the boards that he’d uncovered beneath the stairs.
Savage waited until she sat on the porch before he dug at the exposed network of wood with the claw part of the hammer, pulling it apart easily. “It’s rotted. The lumber should have been treated and sealed. I’ll talk to Master and
Player. They’re good with this kind of thing. You don’t want Doris or any of her guests falling through.”
He wrapped his hand around Seychelle’s ankle beneath the hem of her jeans, touching her bare skin, and the moment he did, a thrill shot through her, proving just how susceptible to him she really was.
“Doris, do you have another entrance you can use? One safer than this?” Savage’s hand moved up and down Seychelle’s calf while he questioned the older woman, instantly establishing a connection between them again.
“Through the kitchen. The back door leads to a porch.”
“After we measure, I’d like to check that porch as well, just to make certain it’s safe, if you don’t mind. Seychelle, you do have a paper and pen or pencils in here, right?” He scowled down into the toolbox as if it might bite him if he put his hand inside.
a baby.” She pulled a pencil and notepad from an inner pocket.
He groaned. “Who knew they made pink pencils and notepads? And why aren’t you afraid of me the way everyone else is?” He shook his head and knelt to use the tape measure.
He had to repeat himself three times because she was fascinated with the way his muscles rippled when he was crawling around on the porch. The faintest hint of a smile lit his eyes, but he kept barking out measurements and then had Doris take them through her house to the back porch, which turned out to be in just as bad a shape as the front one. He measured that as well.
“We’ll be back tomorrow, Doris,” he promised, “but I’ve got a steak and some tofu marinating, so I need to get Seychelle home, if you don’t mind.”
“Not at all, Savage. It was wonderful to meet you. No need for you boys to worry about food—I can make something.”
“Alena will not be happy if you do that, other than make
your cookies. She’s going to want to meet you, and she always brings food. Tons of it, but when I tell her about your amazing cookies, she’s definitely going to want to taste them,” Savage assured her. “She gets her feelings hurt if she isn’t the one bringing the food. I hope you don’t mind letting her cook.”
“No, of course not. I just need to do something when you’re helping me,” Doris said.
“You’re helping us. Czar’s going to be happy the lumber’s gone. It’s a fire hazard. And Alena gets to show off her cooking as well as meet you. You’re doing us a huge favor, whether it feels that way or not. Expect a big turnout. The club will use this as an excuse to have a barbecue together. Another reason to thank you.”
Doris looked so happy she might burst into tears. She nodded several times, her lips trembling, but she didn’t say anything.
“Thanks for looking after Seychelle for me. She’s a bit of a handful sometimes.” He carefully replaced the tools, took Seychelle’s hand and tugged until she went with him to her car.
“I’ll meet you at home, babe.”
Great. Now he was referring to her house as home right in front of Doris. She didn’t know how to feel about that. Correction, she knew how she felt, but she also knew how she
“Are you going to ask me how I got in the house to marinate my steak and your tofu and put the baked potatoes in the oven, Seychelle?” Savage turned his steak on the grill and flicked a quick look at her. Her tofu was on a separate mini grill.
She sat wrapped in a blanket, legs pulled up the way she liked on the chair so her chin could rest on her knees, watching him grill the meal. She’d already made the salad for them and had come outside dressed in her pajamas and the blanket.
“I can’t believe you know I don’t eat meat.”
Was there a little challenge in her voice? He sent her a small smile. “Was in your home, babe. There wasn’t much in your refrigerator. Definitely no meat. Tofu for certain. I’m observant when it comes to you.” He’d made it his business to know as much as he could about her because she mattered to him. “You were going to tell me how I managed to get into your house while you were gone with the new locks I installed.”
“I imagine you walked in. Or you dove in through the bedroom window. I was airing out the house. I did have the screen closed.”
That long sexy hair of hers slid down one side of her face in a way that made him want to bury his fists in it and yank her face to his. She had just enough sass in her voice to let him know she knew she’d been wrong to leave her house open while she was out, but she wasn’t going to admit it to him. He’d installed the damn locks for her, but she’d just walked off and left the house open. The screen might have been closed, but it hadn’t been locked.
She’d gone off for a week and hadn’t told anyone where she was—least of all him. Nor had she said when she’d gotten back. She’d ignored 90 percent of his texts until he’d said he was worried about her. She’d answered him then. He should have started right there.
“Yeah, babe. Walked right in, just like any fucker could have done. Like that pretend agent, Joseph Arnold, you tangled with. Spotted him at the local coffee shop with your old friend Hank, the guitar player who can’t tune his own guitar. I imagine they’ll be dropping by later for a visit. If not today, then in a couple of days.”
Joseph Arnold had been around the headlands walking with a camera. Standing not far from her cottage, pretending to watch the ocean, but he was more interested in what was going on behind him in the empty house. The supposed music scout hadn’t noticed Savage or any of the Torpedo Ink members, and eventually, after snapping pictures, he had joined Hank back at the coffee shop, acting as if he hadn’t known where Seychelle resided.
Her color changed slightly. If it was possible, she went even more pale than she was naturally. “They don’t know where I live,” she denied. “I was careful.”
She looked scared to him. Her long lashes swept down to veil her eyes. He speared his steak onto a plate and then
put her tofu onto a separate plate, turned off the gas to both grills and walked over to her.
“Tell me about Brandon Campbell. What does he look like? Why don’t you like him? What makes you think he’s not a nice man? Because I could tell you thought everything he said to Doris about that woman was pure bullshit.”
She was silent, rubbing her chin on the blanket, a little frown he found adorable on her face while she thought about what she was going to tell him. He liked that she always thought things through.
“He’s extremely good-looking. Dark hair and eyes. Dresses nice but not over the top. He looks like he goes to the gym, keeps himself in shape. He’s the kind of man women would look at when he walks into a room, and he knows it. He’s very confident.” She hesitated.
“Just say it.”
“Do you believe in psychic talents?”
Savage regarded her silently. She was wrapped in her blanket, for the first time looking at him as if she was afraid he might disappoint her.
“Yeah, babe. I know psychic talents are a real thing. I think most people have them, they just don’t develop them. Why?”
She looked relieved. “Because Brandon Campbell has one and uses it as a kind of persuasion, almost, in my opinion, like a date-rape drug. He influences those he talks to, swaying them to do whatever he wants, to believe whatever he wants them to believe. He definitely is capable of controlling someone or taking away their self-esteem. I think he persuades Doris to believe anything he says. I think he’s controlling that woman in his house. He definitely tried to use his voice on me when he asked me out.”
Savage’s gut tightened into a thousand knots.
was capable of controlling with his voice. Persuading. Training. He could use it, and he had. Often. Over and over. He could
hear the condemnation in her voice when she talked about Brandon Campbell. What was she going to think about him? He was far, far worse.
“Come on, babe, let’s eat while it’s hot.”
“Do you think Hank and Joseph are going to come by my home this evening?”
“They aren’t here right now, and we’re not going to waste a good meal worrying about them.” But he wasn’t leaving her tonight, no matter what she said. He had a bad feeling she was going to be paid a visit. A third man had been sitting at the coffee shop with Hank and Joseph. He looked like a real charmer to Savage. He looked exactly like the man she’d just described as Brandon Campbell. What were the odds that Campbell would meet up with Arnold and Hank?
Even after Savage had his little “talk” with his sassy little lady, if he had to spend the night outside in the cold, he planned to stay right where he was. He held his hand out to Seychelle. She took it without hesitation and stepped onto her porch with her bare feet. He just shook his head. She was already cold in the foggy air, but she persisted in not wearing shoes.
“It was nice of you to cook dinner,” Seychelle ventured, placing two bowls of salad on the table for them.
He sat down across from her, pissed at her. Pissed at himself. He knew he shouldn’t be there. He’d left determined not to come back. If he stuck around, he wasn’t going to be able to give her up. She was too big of a temptation. He’d lasted twenty-four fuckin’ hours and then he’d come back to her—but she hadn’t been there.
He glared at her as he cut up his steak and watched her carefully butter her potato. “A week. Seven fuckin’ days. You just took off without a word.” She’d lasted a week. He hadn’t lasted twenty-four hours. Hell. He was totally obsessed. Like some stalker he’d have to hunt down and kill if they acted the same. “Lost a lot of sleep over you.”
Her lashes lifted, and her gaze collided with his. “You’re really angry with me.”
“Damn straight. You scared me. I don’t get scared. Nothing scares me. You disappearing like that, without one fucking word to anyone? Not answering when I called or texted? Yeah, baby, I’m fucking pissed.”
He ate the steak, contemplating what he was going to do with her, because he wasn’t giving her up. Figuring out how to get her to understand what he was and what he needed and how she was going to have to agree to be all that was a huge fuckin’ problem—especially after what she’d just said about Campbell.
Seychelle sat across from him looking like an angel. She smelled like heaven. She was so beautiful he could barely breathe just looking at her. “Why’d you take off like that?”
“You know why.” Her voice was very low. She ate a bite of salad.
“If I knew, I wouldn’t be asking you, now, would I? Didn’t I tell you I prefer answers?”
She frowned, and again her lashes lifted, her blue eyes meeting his. “You scare me. I asked you straight out if being friends with you was going to end up with me being hurt. You know it will. Physical hurt isn’t the same as emotional, Savage. I’m not built to take a lot of emotional pain. I’ve gone through enough for a lifetime.”
He held her gaze for a long time. Letting her see he wasn’t going anywhere. She didn’t want him to go. She was having a difficult time overcoming fear. He couldn’t blame her. She saw things in him others didn’t. They saw the outside of him and were scared. She not only saw the outside, but she caught glimpses of other, dangerous traits.
“You don’t want me going anywhere.” He made the statement for her.
“Maybe not,” she conceded.
“You’re not a coward.” He indicated her plate. “Eat your food, babe. Should be great—it’s Alena’s recipe, and she’s
always the best. You lost weight while you were gone. And tell the truth about wanting me to stay. Just admit it to yourself and admit it to me. I need to hear you say it. It might go a little way toward getting you out of trouble, although I doubt it.”
Her blue eyes met his again. She must have finally seen that he meant that shit. He was fighting to keep himself under control. She really had scared him, and that wasn’t a good thing to do. He hadn’t realized it was even possible. Her lashes veiled her expression.
“Fine. You’re right. I don’t want you going anywhere. I don’t know why. You’re as annoying as hell.” She started eating. “And the tofu is wonderful.”
She made him want to smile. It wasn’t getting her out of trouble; in fact, he was planning on asking more questions once they got in bed. Seeing if she was up for a round of sinful daring. She didn’t back down from a challenge. He needed to start teaching her. Training her. She was an incredible human being. Incredible. How had he managed to find her? How come he wasn’t strong enough to save her? He had thought he was. He’d left her thinking he was. But then she hadn’t answered his text and the bottom had dropped out of his world.
“You’re frowning, Savage.”
“Did you start smoking again?”
“No. I wanted to. I thought about it, but I’d already quit, so it seemed silly. What are we doing? Really, Savage, what are we doing?”
He watched her eat. She was beautiful even when she ate. Delicate. Refined. “You got under my skin, woman. Was going to do the right thing and leave you alone. I know you’re too damn good for me, but I couldn’t stand not having some connection to you. Just a small one.”
Her lashes lifted again. A quick glance. His statement meant something. He could give her truth. It was all he had to give her.
“That’s a nice thing to say. I have to admit, I liked hearing from you, even though I’d made up my mind it was for the best we didn’t see each other.” She ate another bite of salad.
“You didn’t answer right away.”
“I had to think about it.”
“Babe, you know me. We have a strange connection and you see inside me. You know what kind of man I am. You don’t do that to me. When I reach out to you because I’m looking to see you’re all right, you fucking answer me or there’s going to be trouble. Consequences. And don’t tell me we barely know one another. You know what I’m like even when you don’t want to.”
Seychelle pushed the food around on her plate, sat back and picked up her drink. “We weren’t even going to be friends.”
“We were always going to be friends. Don’t kid yourself. It didn’t matter whether or not I was here with you, we were going to be friends. I told you, I have Torpedo Ink and I have you.” He indicated her plate. “Are you finished?”
She nodded and stood up. “Thank you for cooking tonight. I’ll do the dishes if you want to clean the grills.” She frowned. “Where did those grills come from?”
“Transporter and Mechanic dropped them off for me. Once I knew you were back in town, I knew I’d need them. They’re small, but they get the job done.” He liked watching her move around, filling the sink, doing little things that were domestic. He didn’t know why. He did his own dishes as a rule and never considered it anything but a task.
Watching Seychelle, doing dishes became something altogether different. He leaned back in the chair, eyes half-closed, legs stretched out in front of him, and found himself content. At peace. For just those few moments, with the sound of the ocean in the background and the scent of this woman drifting through the small room, filling his lungs, the demons always howling for freedom had quieted.
“Tell me what’s really wrong, Savage. I don’t like you so upset.”
Seychelle’s voice was that pure tone, like an angel’s, slipping beneath every guard until she wrapped herself inside him. That was how she got in. He rubbed his hand over his aching chest. He was a big man with a lot of muscle, but still, she got in.
He was used to pain. Taking it. Giving it. He never let pain get to him. He never thought anything could take pain away or give it to him in a way that would distress him to the point that he couldn’t eat or sleep. Or even think clearly. She’d done that to him.
Savage didn’t answer her right away, contemplating what he could say. He would never give Seychelle less than the truth. In this case, he wasn’t certain he knew the truth, only that he had to have her in his life. That was terrifying when nothing ever scared him. He couldn’t afford to be out of control. He couldn’t have anything in his life be outside of his control. He was too dangerous. He lived carefully. He was regimented in the way he lived. He had to be, in order for everyone around him to be safe.
She glanced at him over her shoulder, that hair of hers, all golden and platinum, soft silky strands, flying as she turned her head. His stomach dropped. It shocked him that she could do that to him without even trying. It wasn’t like she was trying to be sensual. She wasn’t trying to seduce him, yet she was the most seductive woman he’d ever met.