Authors: Christine Feehan
“I’ll be right back, angel.” Savage kissed the corner of her mouth and then caught her chin, forcing her head up so she was looking into his eyes. “Get ready for bed. I’ll expect you to be in bed when I come back inside.” He waited for her to nod before he went to join the others.
Savage followed Joseph and Hank out and carefully closed the door. He didn’t look at either man as they turned to face him. He looked at Destroyer. Destroyer was a tall, imposing man with wide shoulders, all muscle, once handsome, now covered in scars and tattoos. He wore his hair long, his dark eyes flat and cold. Maestro stood to the left of the door with Keys beside him. Keys had hazel eyes and dark hair, while Maestro had dark hair streaked with silver. Savage nodded to them, pulling on his gloves as he stalked past them.
Hank turned toward them. “You don’t scare me, fucker . . .”
Savage hit him in the stomach so hard Hank collapsed in on himself. His knee caught the guitarist under the chin, straightening him back up. He proceeded to beat him viciously until Keys stepped in. Savage turned and hit Joseph. When he staggered back and went down, a hairbrush slid from his pocket onto the ground. Both men looked at it. Joseph made a grab for it, but Savage’s hand got there first.
“What were you doing with this?”
“She wanted me to have it.”
Savage looked up at Maestro and then Destroyer, shaking his head. The brush had belonged to Seychelle’s mother. Seychelle kept it on her nightstand, but she didn’t use it. He handed it to Maestro, and as he did, Joseph let out an animalistic growl and swung his fist at Savage’s jaw. Savage slipped the punch easily and proceeded to beat the man nearly unconscious. Again, it was Keys who stopped him before he went too far.
“Take them to their car. Get them away from here. This is their only chance. And get their phones to Code.”
“You know Arnold is never going to stop,” Maestro said. “That was pure bullshit with the brush. Fantasy stalker mentality. He was fixated on her long before he approached her as a scout. They have to have some kind of history.”
Savage nodded. “I’ll figure it out. Thanks for the help tonight.”
He watched Destroyer heft Joseph Arnold to his shoulder, and Maestro followed suit with Hank Waitright. They disappeared into the fog and he went inside the cottage, flexing his fingers before locking the door. Seychelle was in bed. He put the hairbrush back on her nightstand.
“Arnold stole it. Had it in his pocket,” he said, his voice gruff. She looked so horrified he couldn’t scold her for leaving her place so easily broken into. He just stripped and padded barefoot and naked into the bathroom. “Tell me about you and Joseph. How did you meet?” He turned the shower on.
“He was at a bar in San Francisco where I was singing. It was a little dive, really, but I liked it.”
Of course. Savage suppressed a groan. Anyone hearing her voice would be enthralled. She had magic. She could cast a spell.
“He bought me a drink.”
“Tell me you didn’t drink it.” Knowing Joseph Arnold, the man would have put a drug in her drink. No question, he would have.
“No, I’m not that fond of alcohol. I did sit and talk with him. He appeared charming at first, but the longer I sat and talked with him, the less I wanted to go out with him. That’s always the way. I’m attracted on the surface, but then I’m with a man for a few minutes and that attraction just disappears.”
“He asked you out.” He made it a statement.
He turned off the water and stepped out of the shower, snagging a towel and drying himself off. Normally, he
would have put on a pair of jeans, but it was a little too late for that. He just walked to the bed and slid under the sheet. She wasn’t under the covers. She sat in her usual position at the headboard. He reached up and caught her hips, tugging until she sprawled out, lying on her back.
Savage rolled over and pillowed his head on her belly, wrapping his arms around her hips. It was fast becoming his favorite place to sleep. “You told him no, and he didn’t like that, did he?”
Seychelle’s fingers went to his scalp, immediately beginning to massage his head. “No, he definitely didn’t like it. He asked me out numerous times. He got . . . pushy. I quit singing with the band to get away from him. It wasn’t a big deal. They weren’t a great band, and I never stuck around for very long. I hadn’t moved up here at that time. I was . . . tired.”
He tipped his head up to look at her. “What do you mean, ‘tired’?”
Her fingers never stopped moving in that circular motion that felt like caring to him. He found himself tracing those same patterns into her hip and then down her thigh.
“After my father passed away, I was worn out. Sometimes I’d join a band because I needed the company, but it took a long time to get back on my feet, and singing was draining.”
“Arnold always found you?”
“He did. Eventually, he came up with the scout gig. If he really is one, he can’t be very good at it. He just needs to hear the word
. He doesn’t seem to know what it means.”
Savage knew Joseph Arnold wasn’t going to ever hear it where Seychelle was concerned.
“You locked the windows and back door, but you deliberately didn’t remind me to lock the front door, didn’t you, Savage? You knew they were going to come to my house.” Seychelle continued to massage his scalp, her fingers magic.
“Yeah.” He shrugged. “At least I thought it was a good bet they’d come. I had a good guess that third man they
were talking to in the coffee shop was Brandon Campbell, that man you and Doris were talking about. I just had this gut feeling. I thought maybe he was watching your house and directed the two of them here. The description fit. Arnold had been here earlier, watching the place. I think he was taking photographs. You ever have anything disappear from any of the places you were living after you met Arnold? Anything at all? Something small?”
He felt the little shiver that went through her body, and he tightened his hold around her hips. His hand moved over her thigh, rubbing along the scars that belonged to him, tracing each one of them. He knew them by heart now.
“Yes. A few items. A toothbrush. A book I liked on wildcats. A candle. A pair of my red lace panties that were part of a matching set. I still have the bra.”
Savage swore under his breath and kept caressing the scars on her leg. Joseph Arnold was definitely a first-class stalker of the worst kind.
“You and your friends beat the crap out of them, didn’t you?”
did. My brothers just watched and made certain there were no witnesses and that their cell phones were not going to record the event. They also confiscated the phones so we could ensure you were safe. Just in case.”
“I don’t know what that means.”
“I don’t like the fact that Joseph Arnold keeps coming back around when you’ve told him no over and over. When you sang at the bar in Willits, it clearly hadn’t been your first confrontation with him. I beat the crap out of him and yet he came back. Hank is a punk, but he’s no real threat, and I doubt if we’ll be seeing him anymore. Arnold really is a problem. I want to know how much of one. Code can take a look at his phone and tell us if he’s been watching you. I’m a scary man, Seychelle. Most people take one look at me and they don’t ever want to mess with me once, let alone a second time. After what you just told me, I think he’s a major problem.”
“He didn’t know I lived here until someone told him.” She turned her body slightly, easing over onto one hip. “I hope you’re wrong and it wasn’t Brandon.”
Savage accommodated the change, sliding his head to the side, his hand moving around to her bottom. He heard the slight tremble in her voice. “You haven’t lived here that long, Seychelle, and Arnold did know you were here. He was taking pictures earlier.” Her fingers felt good on his head. Even when she shifted her weight off her butt, she never stopped massaging his scalp. For such a small woman, she had surprising strength in her hands. “Both of them know I’m here with you now.” He wanted to reassure her.
She was silent again, and he wished he knew what she was thinking. Sometimes he felt very connected to her, and then in the next moment, she eluded him, sliding away. He rubbed her thigh, brought his palm up to her hip and then slid it around to her bottom again. His heart clenched hard in his chest. He had spanked her hard. Maybe too hard for her first time. Did he really want that for her? Did he really want a monster like him for her?
Tomorrow he was going to talk to Absinthe, one of his brothers in the club. There were few people smarter than Absinthe. He had to figure out exactly what he was going to do before he made his next move with Seychelle.
Savage stood for a long time in silence, staring at the bubbles flowing upward endlessly between the thick glass of the wall in front of the glass room Scarlet had given Absinthe. It was there for her man to go to when he needed silence. A place where his demons couldn’t reach him. He could relax and just let his mind be at peace.
Savage had such a place. He’d discovered it by accident. His place was a woman named Seychelle. When he was with her, she held back the terrible well of demons that howled and raged at him to open that endless vault of violence inside of him and visit it on others.
He sighed, uncertain what he was even doing there. He already knew the answers to the questions he was going to ask Absinthe. He’d spent a great deal of his time researching, but Absinthe was the smartest person he knew. By coming to Absinthe, he was revealing how desperate he truly was.
He turned to face his brother, a little dismayed that Scarlet, Absinthe’s wife, was with him. Savage knew she would be, but still, he didn’t like it. He kept all expression from his
face. Absinthe indicated the chairs in the living room. Lana, another Torpedo Ink sister, had chosen those chairs. They gave off Lana’s comforting vibes. Savage needed that comfort. He took the chair across from the two sitting across from him.
“Can I get you something to drink, Savage?” Scarlet asked.
His first inclination was to say no, but it was a way to get her out of the room if only for a few minutes. “Thanks, Scarlet.” What the hell would keep her gone the longest? “Coffee sounds good right about now.”
She looked surprised. “No problem.” She got up and left the room.
“I thought you were going to be on the work crew heading into Sea Haven this morning,” Absinthe said. “Scarlet and I were just getting ready to head out when we got your text.”
“Yeah. I’m going after we talk. Just wanted to ask you a couple of questions. This woman, Seychelle. The singer. I suppose everyone knows about her. And they’ve got to be worried.”
“It isn’t any secret that you’ve been hanging with her, Savage. It’s a little out of character for you. So yeah, there’s some concern there.”
Savage took a deep breath and just asked, “Will really loving someone change what I am? What I have to have?”
He knew the answer because he
being with Seychelle, having her tied, his whip marking her skin. He dreamt of it. Was obsessed with the idea of it. Still, he despised himself. Loathed what he was, loathed his needs. He wanted to see red marks on her. He’d reveled in his handprints on her bottom, and that just made him crave to see the gorgeous patterns he could put on her pristine skin. He wanted the real thing in his hands. Not some pretend whip one bought in a toy shop, but one he could wield like the master he was.
Absinthe held his gaze for a long time. “You know you’re not a true sadist, right, Savage? You don’t need to humiliate
a woman, or anyone for that matter. You don’t need to constantly cause pain. You have a cycle. That’s unusual.”
Savage shook his head. “That’s not true. To be aroused, I need to cause pain. The level of pain can be different. The need is always present when it comes to sex. You’re stalling. Just answer the question, Absinthe.”
“You already know the answer. I can maybe lessen the demand for you over time. Help with it, but I don’t know for certain if I can really do even that. I’m willing to try. I will say, if you want to be with this woman, you have to be honest with her. You have to lay it out for her. Tell her what you need. It isn’t easy. I had to be honest with Scarlet about my fetishes.”
Savage stared at Absinthe, trying to decide if he was attempting to be funny or not. “Are you seriously comparing you talking to Scarlet about your need to have her dress like a kitten occasionally to me having to tell Seychelle I want to use a real whip on her in order for me to get off? You think that’s going to go over very well?” He stood up and paced across the room, afraid of Absinthe seeing his expression.
“Savage, you’re not remembering who you are. You were able to get those girls to enjoy what was done to them. If she consents because she returns feelings for you, you can help her get to a place where she responds to the things you need.”
Savage stood in front of that wall of bubbles rising slowly toward the ceiling and then rolling back toward the floor. “I have no doubt I can do that, Absinthe.” He knew he could. Absolutely he could. “But is it right?” He turned back to face his Torpedo Ink brother. “Every fucking day, I have to look at myself in the mirror. I don’t want her to look at herself and hate who she is.”
“Why should she do that if she’s giving a gift to a man she loves?”
Savage pulled in a breath because he’d run out of air. His
lungs felt raw. Burning. He despised that he was a monster and there was no way to be anything else. He had to remind himself Absinthe had no idea what it was like to be him. To have to see a woman’s skin marked to be aroused. To want
woman to have tears running down her face for him. To need her to suffer for him. That was about as fucked up as it could possibly get.
There was no doubt that he could “train” Seychelle. She already had a proclivity in that direction. They had unbelievable chemistry, but there was so much more between them. It went far deeper than that, and both of them knew it, which was why she was so leery. She was susceptible to his voice. To him. And she’d told him about Brandon Campbell and what a dick he was. About his psychic talent and how he used it against women.
“You were a child; we were all just children,” Absinthe said, pushing both hands through his hair. “We were just trying to survive.”
“I survived by teaching girls to accept pain with sex. To like it,” Savage said. “I was so fucking good at it, they branded me. They put that shit into my skin permanently, just the way they branded it into my soul so that I needed it.”
“If you hadn’t trained those girls to accept or even like pain with sex, they would have been tortured repeatedly. Reaper would have been killed. Alena and Lana would have been. Hell, Savage, the sacrifices you made saved us over and over. None of us had choices. We lived in hell and we got out alive. None of us are ever going to be what the world calls normal. We live with what they did to us, and the women who love us have to live with it as well. That’s what we ask of them.”
“How are we supposed to do that?”
“It’s called free will, Savage. It’s her choice. You shouldn’t make that choice for her. If you think she cares at all for you, you have to lay it out for her, not walk away from her. If you don’t at least give her the chance to say no,
she’ll never know why you walked away in the first place. She’ll always think she was never good enough for you.”
Savage swore under his breath. Absinthe had no idea what he was talking about. He didn’t know the extent of what Savage would be asking of Seychelle. Once he trained her to need pain, to crave it, she wouldn’t magically get over it if something happened to him. She would always be that way, with or without him to take care of her.
“You have to give her back something of equal value to what she gives you,” Absinthe added quietly. Before Savage could protest, he held up his hand. “I’m not saying you have to think it’s equal. Only she has to think that. You have to find something that matters to her. And you have to give her back everything she’s giving you.”
There wasn’t anything here for him. Nothing was ever going to change for him. He was always going to be a monster, craving things others found abhorrent—others knew were wrong. Absinthe could talk about laying that shit out to a woman one fell in love with, asking her to join him in a life of pure hell, knowing what he was asking of her, what he was going to do to her . . .
What was he going to do? Give her up? Never see her again? She was already so deep inside him. She’d crawled right in and wrapped herself around his heart. He didn’t know how or why. It made no sense to him, when he barely knew her. Except she was honest and direct and she saw him. Saw inside of him and didn’t flinch away. She might be scared, but no matter what he said or did, those blue eyes of hers would meet his when he called her name.
Savage knew nothing was going to change who he was, and no one, not even the smartest man on the planet, was going to make it happen, not even if they both willed it. “Not sure I want to thank you, Absinthe, but you gave me your best advice. I’d better get back to Sea Haven. That woman can get into trouble in a heartbeat. Tell Scarlet I had to get back to building the porches, since I initiated it.”
He couldn’t stay there. Abruptly, he spun around and stalked out, lifting his chin at Scarlet as she came toward him in the hall. She’d most likely taken her time making the coffee, giving him time to be alone with her husband. She was intuitive when it came to the Torpedo Ink brethren, and she respected the members of the club. Savage held Scarlet in high regard. She was an asset to the club as well as being perfect for Absinthe. He was happy for his brother, that Absinthe had found the right woman for his wife, but comparing Absinthe’s fetish to his monstrous cravings was simply ludicrous.
He took the ride not to Sea Haven to work on Doris’s porch but to Caspar and the house he’d bought the moment he’d laid eyes on Seychelle. He’d found it a couple of years earlier. It had been everything he could want, but the price was steep, and what the hell was he going to do with a house? He knew eventually he was going to have to take that last ride in order to keep his brother or Czar from having to put a bullet in his head.
This house was for her. Seychelle. It was beautiful. The property was beautiful with the views. He’d put in a state-of-the-art security system. He’d taken his time, watching her, learning the things she liked and finding furniture he thought she would love. He walked through the house to the master bedroom, where the very large sliding glass door revealed a deck that led to a private courtyard. He stood at the glass door, looking out into the courtyard, where he had set up multiple targets—mannequins. He practiced his craft every single day. Now he practiced more than once a day.
Like the other men of Torpedo Ink, he had to command his body to work when he was desperate for relief. He could flog a woman and let her blow him and he’d be okay for a short while if he was lucky. But he never could do this—be who he was. Become Savage the whip master. The real man. He wouldn’t give that to just anyone. The moment he
lay on the hospital bed beside Seychelle, he thought of nothing else. He thought of no one else. He would give this part of him to one woman. The only woman. She would have to accept the real man, and deep down, where rage and pain came together in a black-and-red swirling mass of raw, violent energy, he knew the only woman he had a shot with was Seychelle.
He stood for a long time looking at the mannequins and the patterns he’d cut into the thin paper he’d covered them with. He didn’t want to admit, even to himself, that minute by minute, thinking of having his own woman accepting him totally, and giving him her tears freely, just as she’d given them to him that first night in her hospital room, aroused him like nothing else ever had. He had so many sins damning his soul that asking her to love him was just adding to them. Still . . .
He sighed, shook his head and turned to go find her. The ride on his Harley helped calm the turbulence raging in his gut as he moved with the machine, the wind battering at him the way his thoughts did. He had always known there was only one way to end it. He had always held that option open to himself, knowing if the rage in him got too bad and he couldn’t bleed it off enough to relieve the pressure, he’d take that option before he ever hurt an innocent. Now there was Seychelle. He just had to work it out in his mind. Find a balance.
She wasn’t at the cottage. Her car was gone. Little Miss Independence. He knew she would have already gone to Doris Fendris’s home to make certain the woman was doing okay with all the bikers showing up with tools and wood to fix both porches for her. They were going to have the work done fast, and it would be done right. He knew Doris would be in her element, ready to lord it over her friends—especially Inez.
There was a row of bikes parked in front of Doris’s home, and Savage backed his Harley into the spot at the end. Glitch, one of the prospects, nodded to him. Savage sat straddling his motorcycle. He didn’t look up. He wanted to hear her first. He knew right where she’d be—with Doris,
out front. Probably sitting in the ridiculous lawn furniture that looked as if it had seen better days. He’d seen it the day before, when he’d come to collect his woman.
There it was. The single sound he was waiting for. Laughter. Magical. Soft, yet the sound carried. He looked up, and sure enough there were the notes, gold, drifting through the blue sky. His heart clenched hard in his chest. How the hell was he supposed to give that up? Worse, how was he supposed to drag her down to his level? Ask her to let him hurt her? Cursing under his breath, he swung his leg off his bike and started up the walkway toward her. As long as she was in the world, he’d be drawn to her.