Authors: Sherri L King
|Sterling Files |
|Sherri L King|
|Jasmine Jade (2009)|
Book one in the Sterling Files series.
After a year-long coma, Marla has returned home from the hospital. But something about her has changed. Something unbelievable.
Brian Steele, a vigilante and ex-underground boxer, has come into Marla’s life to protect her and help her understand her strange new abilities. But before long, he also has plans to seduce her down to her very soul.
How will Marla, still weak and confused, cope with such a virile man as Steele? She doesn’t know, but she’s ready to learn. As soon as possible.
An Ellora’s Cave Romantica Publication
ISBN # 1-4199-0389-6
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Steele Copyright© 2005 Sherri L. King
Edited by Kelli Kwiatkowski.
Cover art by Darrell King.
Electronic book Publication: October 2005
This book may not be reproduced or used in whole or in part by any means existing without written permission from the publisher, Ellora’s Cave Publishing, Inc.® 1056 Home Avenue, Akron OH 44310-3502.
This book is a work of fiction and any resemblance to persons, living or dead, or places, events or locales is purely coincidental. The characters are productions of the authors’ imagination and used fictitiously.
The following material contains graphic sexual content meant for mature readers.
has been rated E–roti
c by a minimum of three independent reviewers.
Ellora’s Cave Publishing offers three levels of Romantica™ reading entertainment: S (S-ensuous), E (E-rotic), and X (X-treme).
love scenes are explicit and leave nothing to the imagination.
love scenes are explicit, leave nothing to the imagination, and are high in volume per the overall word count. In addition, some E-rated titles might contain fantasy material that some readers find objectionable, such as bondage, submission, same sex encounters, forced seductions, and so forth. E-rated
titles are the most graphic titles we carry; it is common, for instance, for an author to use words such as “fucking”, “cock”, “pussy”, and such within their work of literature.
titles differ from E-rated titles only in plot premise and storyline
execution. Unlike E-rated titles, stories designated with the letter X tend to contain controversial subject matter not for the faint of heart.
Sterling Files: Steele
Sherri L. King
The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of the following wordmarks mentioned in this work of fiction:
Expedition: Ford Motor Company
Mini Cooper: Rover Group Limited
“Dad, I don’t want to do this.”
“Well, you’re going to whether you like it or not, you little bastard.”
“Please don’t make me, Dad,
I nearly killed the last guy. I can’t do this again!”
“Boy, you’ll do as you’re told with no more backtalk.” His father reached up and cuffed him on the side of the head.
Steele looked down at the tape covering his knuckles, head ringing, and felt a sinking sensation low in his belly. Here he was, the thirteen-year-old champion of an illegal boxing ring, and all he could think about was how not to throw up.
What would the other fighter think if he knew?
Steele’s father ushered him out of the small utility room that served as Steele’s gym locker and dressing room. It was a strange sight, this shuffling of feet, for Steele was so much bigger than his father. He was only thirteen but he was already six feet two inches tall. And not only was he tall, he was also very well built, with bulging muscles that should have and could have graced the form of someone much older.
The boy was exceptionally good at bare-knuckles boxing, no matter his handicap of youth. His father had been taking him to these matches since he was ten years old. Steele had climbed the ladder to a certain kind of stardom among the gamblers and trainers that flocked to the illegal boxing rings. He’d never once lost a match.
But the last match had been grueling. Steele had thought, at first, that it would be his first loss in the ring, the man had been that good. But Steele’s reserves of strength had not surprisingly been limitless. After thirteen rounds he’d nearly killed his opponent, so badly did he beat him.
Steele was done. He wanted no more of this world of fists and blood. He wanted out.
But how to convince his father, who was perfectly happy making money off of his boy, that it was time to quit? Steele didn’t know the answer to that.
The cheers of the crowd reached his ears before he’d even made it to the ring in the center of the mass of gathered people. They had seen him coming and let out a roar of adulation as he passed through them.
Steele hated them all. It was because of them and their love of gambling that he was even here to begin with.
Steele stepped into the ring. His father eyed him stonily. “Try to make it to the tenth round before you throttle him. I’ve got my money on the tenth round and I sure don’t want to lose it. And if you even think to end it sooner, remember my stick and stay the course. You got that boy?”
Steele nodded, putting a rubber bit in his mouth. His opponent, a large, dark-skinned man named Oscar, also stepped into the ring. The two eyed one another, each sizing the other up as they prepared themselves for the fight ahead.
The crowd roared as the two opponents stepped to the center of the ring and touched fists. Steele looked Oscar in the eyes and saw fear. It made his stomach roll sickly to know his opponent already feared him, and before the first punch was thrown no less. The bell rang and the match was started before he could even think to walk away.
Oscar immediately pummeled the thirteen-year-old with his fists, wasting no time in attacking him. But Steele barely felt the blows, his body capable of withstanding far more damage. Oscar’s blows merely bounced off him, without leaving a single mark behind. Oscar’s knuckles split on Steele’s stomach and first blood was drawn. The bloodthirsty crowd screamed its approval.
The smell of sweat and smoke was suffocating, even up in the ring where the two fighters battled. Steele punched his opponent square in the jaw and he watched silently, resignedly as Oscar went down on one knee. Steele had remembered that he must make it to the tenth round or his father would use the stick on him, and he’d pulled his punch at the last second. But he’d still hit the man with enough force to make it look good for the crowd.
Steele had honed his showmanship to a fine art. He’d had to, to survive the fickleness of the crowd who would turn on him in a second if he dared to show weakness.
Oscar rallied and began dancing around the ring. Steele followed his every move, careful to never let his opponent out of his sight. A few moments of this and the bell rang, signaling that the round was over.
Steele looked into the crowd, searching for his father. What caught his attention first was the strong, steady gaze of a tall, gray-haired man. The man was quieter than those surrounding him, barely moving. His gaze caught Steele’s and held it fast.
Steele looked away, feeling strangely ashamed. Then, unable to resist, he looked back and found the man’s gaze still solid upon him. He looked away again and caught sight of his father, waving around a fistful of cash, drunk on beer and the victory he felt sure was imminent.
Steele realized that the only thing keeping him in this ring was love for his father. Steele was still a child, even if he did have an adult’s body. It was his fondest wish to make his father proud. But he knew, deep in his tortured heart, that his father would never love him in return. He’d long ago accepted that, but Steele still wanted to please him. Why? Even Steele knew his father certainly didn’t deserve his devotion.
Steele clenched his jaw. He’d never been one to think such disloyal thoughts of the man who had sired him. He felt the gaze of the quiet, gray-haired man in the audience and knew that this stranger had something to do with it. He didn’t have to look to know the man still watched him in that strange, quiet way. But he looked anyway.
Why was he doing this? Did he really fear his father’s stick so much? It only hurt because his father wanted it to, bruising Steele’s heart more than his body.
The second round began and Steele stepped into the center of the ring, suddenly resolute in what he was going to do. Oscar danced up to him and threw a wide punch that glanced off Steele’s ear.
Steele took the dive and fell onto the mat with a crash. He stayed down, eyes closed, as the referee counted out the seconds to total knockout. As the man reached the count of ten, Steele opened his eyes a crack and saw the gray-haired man walking toward his father.
The match was over. A new victor had been named. Steele let himself be led off the stage, staggering and wincing for show. His father came up to him, yelling and sputtering in his rage. “Boy, you’d better explain why you threw that match.”
“I didn’t, Dad. He really beat me hard.”
It was more than clear that his father didn’t believe him. “When we get home I’ll show you what a beating truly is.”
Steele felt his stomach clench in fear and dread.
The gray-haired man reached them. “Mr. Steele, may I speak with you?”
“What do you want?” his father growled.
“I want your son.”
Steele’s father started, then laughed. “What, you want him for sex?”
The man never batted an eyelash. “No. I wish to train him for the big ring.”
“Bullshit,” his father spat.
“I want to take him off your hands for good. And I’m prepared to offer you a nice lump sum for the honor.”
His father eyed the man warily. “How much? I wanna know how much you’re offering.”
“Fifty thousand dollars,” the man replied flatly.
Steele’s heart sank heavily.
“I’ll take it,” his father said. “The boy is useless to me now anyways.”
“I don’t want to go!” Steele pleaded with his father, already knowing the battle had been lost. Fifty thousand dollars was too good a price to turn down—even Steele knew that.
“Shut up boy,” he said. “You better be glad this man—what’s your name?”
“You’d better thank Mr. Murdock for saving you from the beating you so richly deserve.”
“I can make a comeback,” Steele swore. “Just give me one more chance Dad, please.”
“Whether you can make a comeback or not doesn’t matter to me anymore boy. You’re soiled goods now. You’ve broken your winning streak. I don’t have any use for you now.”
Steele’s eyes stung with tears as he watched his father and William Murdock talk over the particulars of his sale. He felt like an object, a slave to the cruel whims of fate. He didn’t know what he would do with this William Murdock, this man who had no idea of his strange abilities. His dad knew of them, had always known.
Steele knew his new owner would have trouble believing him if he told him of his ability to withstand even a bullet at point-blank range without injury. He wasn’t a normal boy by anyone’s standards—especially when one took into account his incredible endurance and power. He had the strength of ten grown men—he could bench-press a Mini Cooper for goodness’ sake. Steele was just a freak in a world populated with freaks, and what’s more, he knew it.
A few minutes later, after the details had been worked out, his father left with a briefcase full of money, never once looking back at his son. Steele watched him go with a hopelessness that threatened to drown him. He felt Murdock move closer to him. “He would have taken half that much, you know,” Steele murmured softly to his new owner.
“I know. But you’re more than worth the money. Not to worry son, I’ll take good care of you, you’ll see. Your days of struggle are over.”
“I threw that fight because I wanted out of boxing. And you want to train me for the ‘big ring’, as you called it? I don’t want that, thank you very much, sir.”
“That big ring I referred to is life,” Murdock said gently. “I will train you to use your abilities to their fullest, and with training comes understanding. You’ll know yourself at last, and you’ll be safe in my care as you learn. I wish to prepare you for the world, my boy.”
“What do you know of my abilities?”
“I’ve been watching you for some time now, Brian Steele. I know you’re incredibly strong and capable of withstanding an enormous amount of damage with nary a qualm. You can deflect a barrage of blows without batting an eye, much less sustaining an injury. You can run for miles on end and never become winded. You could destroy a man with only one blow if you so choose. You’re resilient in a way that I’ve never seen before, and I want to help you learn to use this to your advantage in every way.”
Steele tried not to fall for Murdock’s easy, gentle ways, but it was impossible. Steele’s heart had already softened and his fear was fading.
“Come on. Let’s leave this ruckus behind us forever,” Murdock said, putting his arm about Steele’s shoulders, taking him through the crowd. “Have you ever been to Cleveland?”
Steele shook his head and left in the care of his new guardian.