Read Beneath the Burn Online

Authors: Pam Godwin

Tags: #Romance, #Music, #Adult, #Thriller, #Contemporary

Beneath the Burn (10 page)

If he were another man, the stiff prod of his groin would’ve been at odds with his words. “I would kill you if you tried.”

Knowing he fed on her rebellion, her question rolled out anyway. “Would you survive my death?” He would either hit her or fuck her, but maybe, just maybe, he’d give her an answer.

The torso between her thighs rose and fell with his breathing. A cyclone of emotions stormed over his expression. Eventually, his cheeks smoothed and his eyes cleared. “You belong to me, beautiful girl. I retain what is mine, even if I have to retrieve it from hell myself.”

As he flipped her to her back, she wasn’t sure if his response reassured her or terrified her. Knowing her death might bring about his was an option to consider, but if one were to believe in afterlife, would she never escape him?

He moved over her and entered her in one urgent stroke, hammering his hips and slamming her head into the headboard. “Not even death will separate us.” He reached beneath her ass and shoved a dry finger into her rectum.

The pressure was horrible and wonderful. She bit her tongue and bottled the cry bubbling in her chest, her hands wringing the bed sheets.

“I own you.” His hot breath curled around her ear. “Now come for me.”

Two months of training pushed her over. He’d mastered his strokes, knew how to balance the pleasure and pain to perfection. As with all the orgasms before it, her body shook and her tears flowed.

His attempts at humiliation had bounced right off her, but the manner in which he’d degraded her sexually might’ve been beyond repair. What kind of person climaxed while being raped? She wept, limp beneath the weight of his body, as he grunted and thrust his way to his own finish.

When he caught his breath, his tongue roved over her cheeks, collecting her tears. “I’m meeting with my security staff in the dining room tonight. You’ll be joining us for dinner.”

A dinner party. Her stomach bottomed.

11

Jay strode out of the airport terminal and choked on the humid Missouri air.

“Damn, dude. Seriously.” Laz zigzagged behind him, veering around the flow of pedestrians. “Slow it down a notch. Or ten.”

“Didn’t ask you to come.” He whistled at an approaching taxi, and it stopped at the curb.

“And miss watching you try to romance the girl who’s turned you into a faggot?” Laz held the cab door open and waved Jay inside, smiling like an asshole.

“Fuck off.” Jesus, he was wound tight, but he hadn’t seen Charlee in two months. How would she react to him seeing him? After all the unanswered voicemail messages, he could guess.

They slid into the cab, and Jay directed the driver to Kilroy Tattoo.

“I’m just here for the tat.” Christ, he needed to see her. “We’ll barely have enough time to finish it and fly back to L.A. for tonight’s show.” The ink on his back tingled. For the first time in twenty years, he
looked
at his scars when he took his shirt off. Not only that, sometimes he took his shirt off
just
to look.

“You flew eighteen hundred miles on a redeye to get a tat?” Laz’s eyes danced. “Come on, man. Just admit you’re a lovestruck chump.”

Jay stared out the window but could only see her pearlescent blue eyes. He wasn’t lovestruck. It went so much deeper than that. Somehow she’d managed to dig her needles into his scarred up mind and leave them there where he couldn’t stop thinking about her. Maybe it was infatuation that first night, but all the nights since had burned into a heartsick, soul-saving kind of love. The kind of love chumps like him wrote songs about.

“Listen.” Laz shifted in the seat beside him. “The guys and I have been talking.”

He groaned. It was his preface for the lay-off-the-drugs speech. “Save your breath. I’ve been clean for over two months.”

Two months without his unhealthy coping strategies. Two months without setting off emotional triggers. Two months living clean, normal, and deserving of Charlee. And along the way, he’d decided she wasn’t just a cure. She was the secret fucking ingredient to happiness.

“That’s just it,” Laz said. “The smack, the self-loathing lyrics, the angsty sex…don’t look at me like that. The girls talk. The point is it’s all mellowed since you met Miss St. Louis. Since you won’t let me see the tat, I got to know. Was it her soul-piercing artwork or her brain-sucking pussy—”

“Jesus. I didn’t fuck her.”

“That might be true, seeing how you’ve lost your will to fuck at all.”

He stared at the roof of the cab. He hadn’t had sex since that night in St. Louis, and he couldn’t blame it on a limp dick. No, that organ worked just fine…when he thought about the pixie with huge blue eyes.

“I didn’t tag along to scold you, man. I’m here to help you catch your girl.” Laz’s hair stuck up every which way, and his eyebrows hopped behind his aviator glasses. Laz couldn’t scold if he tried.

“My girl? My encounter with her was so brief, I’m not sure I could even consider her an acquaintance.” He hoped his eyes impressed the words his heart rejected.

“Bullshit. What about
Huntress
?”

A prickling sensation stiffened his spine. “What about it?”

Laz clutched his chest, cleared his throat, and belted, “Huntress of the room in my head. Fearless and knowing. Your blue eyes plunder the depths of my song. Tonight is only the beginning.”

And that was the consequence of having no separation between his soul and his lyrics. “Don’t knock it, douche bag. It’s our bestselling single.” The song he wrote the night he met Charlee. Lucky fucking break. A record promoter caught wind of it, came to a live show to hear it, and ran with it.

“That song is carried by the brilliant guitar solo, my friend.”

He smiled. There wasn’t a musician on the planet who could shred a diminished chord in lowered fifth as drugging and eerie as Laz Bromwell. “Ah yes, the charms of the devil’s note.”

“And someday soon, women everywhere will cluster in overcrowded arenas chanting
Bromwell note
.” He cupped his mouth. “Raaaaah.
Bromwell note.
With their shirts off, of course.”

“Of course.”

They shared a look, one born in high school where they met over a clutter of scrawled lyrics in a clichéd garage. Neither of them hid their expressions, their smiles overflowing with equal measures of excitement and uncertainty.

The driver slowed the cab. “Kilroy Tattoo.”

Laz paid the fare and twisted on the seat to look him in the eye. “Let’s go get the girl. And try not to fuck it up.”

He gripped the door handle. “Tone down the battle cry. I’m pretty sure there’s a boyfriend.”

Laz smiled, all teeth and mischief. “There’s two of us and one of him. I’ll hold him while you show him how it’s going to be.”

Yeah, that would win the girl. “This is why I never ask you for advice.”

He jumped onto the sidewalk beneath the neon sign. A thrill fluttered through him and settled in his gut. He wiped his sweaty palms on his jeans, sucked in a deep breath, and pulled the door knob. It didn’t budge.

A knot clotted in his throat. Maybe she took the day off. He peered through the dusty window between cupped hands.

No furniture. No supplies. No Charlee. His heart pounded and his stomach dropped. “She’s gone. Fuck, her shit’s gone.” His greatest fucking fear.

Laz mirrored his pose beside him. “What’s with the police tape?”

He followed Laz’s point at the floor just inside the door. Pieces of yellow tape stuck to the tiles and nearby wall. A suffocating dread fell over him. He couldn’t move. Laz was running his mouth, but his voice was so far away. What the fuck happened in there?

He unlocked his muscles and scanned the neighboring businesses. “There.” He jogged toward the bar across the street. A car honked. At him? At Laz? Who the fuck cared? He quickened his pace.

Inside, the woman behind the bar slung a towel over her shoulder. “Hey, boys. What can I get you?”

His body buzzed with adrenaline as he moved toward the bar on autopilot. “What happened at Kilroy Tattoo?”

Her brows knitted, and she looked out the front window.

“Sorry.” Laz shouldered past him. “My buddy left his manners in L.A. He’ll have Johnnie Walker Black. Neat with a water back. Same for me.”

She poured the whiskey. “So you’re from L.A.?”

Laz nodded as they settled on the stools at the counter.

“Then I guess you wouldn’t have seen it on the news. There was a shooting a couple months ago. Double murder. The owner and her boyfriend.”

A dark tunnel engulfed his vision. He flew to his feet, and the stool tipped back, crashing to the floor. “The owner? Who was the owner?”

“I-I don’t know. A young girl. Mid-twenties maybe. Real pretty—”

“Charlee?” A red hot burn kindled in his throat and choked his voice. “Was her name Charlee?”

“I’m sorry.” She licked the hoop piercing her lip. “I don’t know. She was a quiet little thing. Kept to herself.”

No, that didn’t sound like her. “Blue eyes? Hair cropped short?” He scrubbed a hand over his own short hair.

“Yeah, that was her.”

Was.
The fire in his throat burst into an overwhelming helplessness that spread through his body, sent him pacing in a circle. He felt dizzy, sick. He was going to be sick.

“Jay. Jay, you need to sit down.” Laz stepped in front of him, tried to guide him to a stool without touching him.

“Sir, I don’t know if this would help, but one of the investigators left his contact info.” She pulled a business card from a drawer and slid it across the counter.

He fumbled his phone from his pocket, scanned the card for the number, and dialed.

“Winslow Investigations. Maurice Crane.”

He glanced at the card, his hand shaking violently. “I’m calling for Nathan Winslow.”

“I’m sorry, sir, but Mr. Winslow is unreachable. Who’s calling?”

“I understand he was involved in the Kilroy case. I’m looking for one of the employees. Charlee…” He swallowed back the anxiety piled up in his throat. “I don’t…fuck I don’t know her last name.” The silence on the other end was stifling. He could’ve really used some fucking C-dust to clear his head. “You there?”

“Sarah Teves was the shop owner and only employee.”

He blew out a shuddering breath. “No, there was a tattoo artist there. Couple months ago. Name’s Charlee.”

“Who am I speaking with?”

“Jay. Jay Mayard.”

“How are you affiliated with Kilroy Tattoo, Mr. Mayard?”

“I’m a customer of Charlee’s. Is she okay? Where is she?”

“One moment. I’m connecting you with Mr. Winslow.”

Click
. A long pause.

He was vibrating out of his skin. “What the fuck is going on?”

“Easy, man.” Laz flanked him, almost touching him. Definitely hovering too goddamned close. Jay paced away to the far end of the bar.

Click.

“Jay Mayard?” The voice was deep, hushed.

“Yeah. Is this Nathan Winslow?”

“Speaking.”

“I’m looking for Charlee. There was a double homicide at her shop?”

“Where did you hear that name?”

Strange fucking question. “She gave it to me. I came in for some ink—”

“When was this?”

“Couple months ago. Where—”

“What day?”

“Uh…night after Independence Day.” He palmed his nape, tried to slow his breathing. “July fifth.” The line went deadly quiet. “Hello? Mr. Winslow?”

“Yeah…hang on a minute. I’m stepping onto an elevator. If we get disconnected, I’ll call you right back.”

A series of dings echoed down the line, followed by silence.

He wore a path on the hardwoods in front of the bar, sweat beading on his forehead.

Revving motors and car horns barreled through the phone, breaking the silence. “Jay? You still there?”

“Yeah. Where is Charlee?” The fever in his cheeks paled and flushed, and his chest tightened. He was not going to pass out.

“So you came into the shop on July fifth, and she told you her name was Charlee. Describe her.”

He ground his teeth. “White-blonde hair. Slender frame. Mouthy. Strangely perceptive. And eyes so blue you’d never fucking forget them. Now tell me, dammit. Tell me she wasn’t one of the victims.” His voice was raw.

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