Authors: Christine Feehan
She was so fucking honest she tore his heart out. He hadn’t met too many women who just put it out there. Every word she said felt like a brand sinking through his flesh right into bone. Her brand. Her name. His addiction, his craving for her wasn’t going to get better. They were both in trouble. He wrote his name on her thigh with his finger.
“I didn’t come here for sex, Seychelle. I can pick up any bitch in a bar and get what I want. I came here because . . .” He trailed off.
His hand went back to the long, pitted lacerations in her leg. The ones that were raised. So many. He felt his heart shift. His stomach did a slow roll. She stayed silent.
“I couldn’t sleep. I haven’t slept in days. If I do, I get nightmares. They’re bad,” he confessed. “I wake up fighting. It can be . . . dangerous.” What kind of pussy was he to tell her the truth when he wouldn’t even tell his brothers? He let go of her leg and lay back, staring at the fan on the ceiling.
Her hand went to his head again. Her fingers drifted over his scalp. He counted his heartbeats there in the darkness. Felt the magic in her touch as her fingers began a deeper massage.
“You came to me because you couldn’t sleep? I’m not certain how to take that. It could mean I’m the most boring woman you know.”
“Take it as a compliment. I’m not the kind of man to
throw that shit out there very often. You’re restful. You chase the demons away.”
Seychelle looked down at Savage as he closed his eyes. She didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. She did neither. He was the most beautiful—and damaged—man she’d ever met. He was absolutely gorgeous. He had the kind of physique a sculptor would go crazy over. Every line in his body was purely masculine. He had more muscles than she’d thought possible in a man, and she was so attracted to him it was a sin. But she knew better.
He was everything she shouldn’t get near. Everything she was attracted to. Those scars. Those burns. Those terrible words someone had burned into his flesh permanently.
. He needed violence. He craved it in the way others might a drug. His world revolved around it. Worse, he had a darkness in him that she couldn’t even fathom, but she knew it was real and he was capable of things she couldn’t conceive of. She was drawn to that darkness like a moth to a flame, and she would burn up in his fire. She would. She had no protections against a man like Savage. She felt his loathing of himself and the demons that plagued him and she wanted to be the woman to bring him peace.
Savage was the type of man she wouldn’t resist, and if she got too close, he would eventually take all of her. She knew she would want to sacrifice herself for him. Give him everything she was, and he would swallow her whole. Men like him couldn’t help themselves, they didn’t look after someone like her. They took and took until there was nothing left.
Savage . . .
She sighed and scooted closer to him, so she could use both hands to massage his head. She’d learned to do a scalp massage when she was ten years old from a professional masseuse, so she could massage her father’s head when he was in pain.
“Baby, you don’t have to do that,” Savage said without opening his eyes. “Just lying next to you makes it better.”
Her heart lurched. That was bad. Really, really bad. He
wasn’t there because he thought she was beautiful. Or because he was so attracted, he just had to have her. He could lie in bed next to her and not reach for her, which really was an insult because Savage was the most sexual man she’d ever encountered. He radiated sex, and not just sex, but carnal, sinful, wicked sex, the way he radiated pain and rage. His kind of sex was something she’d dreamt of, fantasized about, was scared of and knew was not for her. She was too . . . tame. He was too wild.
He wanted to be with her for purely platonic reasons—she brought him peace. That was her gift and her curse. She had hoped he wouldn’t feel it—that what worked for some, didn’t work on him. It wasn’t like she didn’t have men flirting outrageously all the time. She sang in bars. That would naturally follow. Aside from the fact that she was maybe—okay, very—curvy, she was good-looking if she wasn’t being critical of herself. She just didn’t react to men the way she should. She craved . . . something she couldn’t name. She needed something darker. Something someone like Savage might offer, just not quite so intense.
“You’ve gone quiet on me, Seychelle. I’m not sure what to think about that.”
Looking down at him, she could see those ultra-long lashes. No man who looked as scary as he did should have his lashes. “I’m thinking.”
He sighed and started to turn his head upward, so he could see her. She held his head still. “Don’t move. Just lay there. You’re disturbing my sleep, so I should get to do whatever I want with you.”
His mouth curved into a smile, but she couldn’t see his eyes, so she couldn’t tell if it was real. She doubted it. Savage wasn’t a man given to smiles.
“I crawl through your window, take off most of my clothes, get in bed with you and all you want to do is rub my head?”
“You are bald. It’s possible I could get three wishes to come true.”
“That would only work if I were really bald. I shave my head. There’s a difference.”
“Receding hairline?” Deliberately, she pushed sympathy into her voice, when she wanted to laugh.
He moved so fast she barely had time to blink when he caught both her arms and yanked her down over the top of him. She landed across his lap, face buried in the mattress. His hand smacked her bottom hard and then he pushed her back into a sitting position over his head. Clearly, he was much stronger even than she had imagined.
“Ow.” Seychelle rubbed her bottom and glared at him, not that he was looking at her. “Sheesh. Will you stop doing that? It’s not like I’m wearing much padding. I guess I should qualify that statement—I meant in the way of clothing.”
“You deserved that. And don’t remind me of your lack of clothing.”
exception to your reasoning. Receding hairline is the number one reason for men shaving their heads. I’m sure I read that statistic on the internet.”
He reached over his head, found her hand and put it on his head. “Get to work, woman, and stop trying to defend a completely indefensible position.”
“You told me I didn’t have to massage your scalp.”
“I changed my mind. Fuck, woman, you have a mouth on you. Why aren’t you afraid of me like everyone else?”
She could tell him the truth. But if she did, if she told him she could “see” inside him, he would probably take out one of his many weapons and shoot her. Or he’d leave, and she’d never see him again. Because she wasn’t going to go to the Torpedo Ink bar and audition with their band. She didn’t dare be around Savage more than she absolutely had to. He wouldn’t want her to know his secrets, and he had so many it was frightening. She could see straight into him where no one else could, where he had gifts he didn’t want anyone—especially the men and women of Torpedo Ink he loved—to know about. She saw into him and knew he was
a good man, when he didn’t know it and would never believe it even if she told him.
“If you crawled into my bedroom to hurt me, you already would have done it.”
“Not if I wanted a killer scalp massage first.”
She heard the trace of amusement in his voice, and it slid inside her like a gift. Instinctively, she knew Savage didn’t do with anyone else what he was doing with her—sparring verbally and enjoying himself. It was a little exhilarating.
“I see. You plan to kill me
“Maybe, so you’d better make it a long one.”
She gave an exaggerated sigh. “Turn over, then. I’ll massage your shoulders and back. You carry a lot of tension in your shoulders.”
There was the briefest of hesitations. If she wasn’t so tuned to him, she wouldn’t have noticed, but she saw everything about him. Inwardly she cursed herself for gravitating toward the wounded and the dark. She couldn’t go near him after this night. She vowed to herself she wouldn’t.
Her life had been about taking care of others, watching herself, being disciplined when she had to, so she could take this night, for however long he stayed, and enjoy herself. He’d made it clear he wasn’t after sex, so she didn’t have to worry that she would have a wild night with him and then stalk him evermore.
He rolled over, a show of muscle, and the light spilling through the window spotlighted his back and the tattoo he had there. She’d seen the Torpedo Ink insignia on their vests. But this one was very detailed. The light also highlighted the terrible burns on his back. Like on his chest, someone had burned letters into his flesh.
Master of Pain.
The letters were distinct in spite of the fact that the skulls buried in the roots of the trees had been inked over them. She hadn’t known one could ink over burns, especially burns so severe they went layers deep.
She reached for a bottle of lotion she kept on the
nightstand, shifted position and straddled his thighs, reaching up to run her hand over the exquisite ink work. “Who did this? It’s beautiful.” It was. She wasn’t going to comment on the
Master of Pain
and what that meant because she was afraid she already knew. She’d seen the other burn, the one in front proclaiming him the
“Usually don’t let bitches touch my tatt.” His voice was gruff. Muffled by the blankets. He turned his head and looked at her with cold blue eyes. So cold. Flat. Almost dead.
“Well, since I’m not a bitch most of the time, and I’m massaging your shoulders and back, I guess it’s sort of mandatory that I touch it.” She didn’t. She waited for his permission, because it meant something big to him. Huge. The tattoo was not just on his skin. It was a part of him and it had great meaning.
She actually felt him at war with himself. He didn’t show it outwardly, other than in the tension running through his body, but instinctively she knew this was another first. No one really touched his tattoo—or those burns neither of them were going to talk about.
Seychelle counted her breaths while she waited. She didn’t know whether she wanted him to give her permission or not. It would tie another thread between them, and she knew she couldn’t afford too many more. Being close to a man like Savage was dangerous. Trying to soothe him, trying to help him with the horrible monstrous demon that was eating him up inside, was a two-edged sword. She wanted to just take it all away for him, tell him she’d do whatever was necessary, be whatever he needed, but she already knew she wasn’t that woman. He was so damaged, and she was terrified for him and terrified for herself.
“Get to it, woman.”
She closed her eyes briefly, not certain if she was drowning in those dark waters already. Taking a breath, she poured the lotion into her palms and started with his shoulders. He was much taller than her and she had to lean over
his body in order to work on his shoulders, but she didn’t want to sit on his butt, or just above it, where part of the tattoo was. It was very large, spreading across his back and down to the very edge of his buttocks. Thankfully, he’d kept his jeans on, but she could see the roots and skulls crawling below the low-slung material.
“Yes?” She tried to calm her accelerating heart at his tone. He always sounded so dictatorial. So in charge.
“Slide up higher. You’re going to get tired trying to massage my shoulders like that.”
He had eyes in the back of his head. That was the only explanation. “You just said no one should touch your tattoo. I don’t want to sit on it.”
His body jerked, and for a moment she thought he might be laughing. She couldn’t imagine it, but one never knew. “You don’t want to sit on my tattoo?” he echoed. “Why? Do you think it would be disrespectful for your sweet little pussy or your prizewinning ass to rub around on my tattoo? Get serious, babe.”
“Don’t talk about my ass or my . . . er . . . pussy. You don’t know me that well.” She forced indignation into her voice and then scooted up, settling herself comfortably before her fingers dug into his shoulders extra hard. He didn’t so much as flinch. He had scars everywhere. Everywhere. And burn marks. Really awful burns aside from the letters. She didn’t ask him a single question about them.
“I talk about anything I damn well want to when it’s mine. I claimed you, remember? I’m your fucking fiancé. I wouldn’t forget that if I were you.”
She burst out laughing. Who knew that Savage would actually have a sense of humor? “Fine, but if I’m your fiancée, I should know a few things about you.”
“Before you get all nosy, it goes both ways.”
She put more pressure on his muscles, determined to loosen them. “I’m agreeable to that. It’s not like I have tons to hide.”
“Anything we say doesn’t affect the relationship. You can’t get weird because you don’t like an answer I give you, or a question I ask.”
That gave her pause. She moved over him to work the muscles she could feel were knotted and giving him trouble. Maybe it wasn’t such a good idea to enter into this strange game with him. It was the middle of the night, and she was draining herself by letting him take pieces of her. Still, she didn’t stop. She couldn’t. She could only try to save herself.
“I thought you were going to sleep.”
“You’re not a coward, Seychelle. Ask a question.”
“What does the tree represent?”
“It’s not a what, it’s a who. The trunk of the tree represents Czar—he’s president of Torpedo Ink. There are seventeen branches. That’s the rest of us. The crows are those that never made it out. The skulls are the ones we did in to escape, or for our country.”
She closed her eyes against the wave of rage rising in him. It swirled hot and fast, threatening to engulf her. As it was, the waves crashed over her like a tsunami, drowning her in his terrible need. He didn’t even know what he was doing to her. He’d lived with that feeling for so long he didn’t acknowledge it to himself. She saw how it stayed inside of him, waiting to flare, building slowly, waiting for a moment to erupt. Savage was a very scary man. She tried to remind herself he wasn’t a pet. He was more of a feral tiger, raging in a cage, waiting to rip anyone apart to escape.