Home > Still Waters(3)

Still Waters(3)
Author: Anne Malcom

He wasn’t entirely good either.

I moved my attention back to the smiling devil in front of me, studiously avoiding the place in the crowd where fire burned at my temples.

“I’m not curious?” I repeated. “About what syphilis feels like?” I shook my head. “But I ever get that way, yours will be the first door I knock on,” I replied sweetly.

He laughed, something he did easily and often.

He killed too. Something I knew he also did easily and often.

But that didn’t make me love him any less.

It didn’t make me love any of them any less.

Especially when Bull was the one who pulled the trigger on… him.

That’s why I loved him the most; somehow it had created an intangible connection between us. A comradery, maybe. These men had all shared blood, bathed in it. But Bull and I, what we had lost was more than blood.

Me? A piece of my soul so small I could build around it. Sure, it would never be whole—it was broken and mangled, if I was being honest—but I’d be able to laugh with Lucky as I was now. I could smile and enjoy the taste of the sweetness of this life.

But Bull?

I feared that it had shredded his soul so much that it was little more than ashes in the empty column of his chest. Ashes that I feared he’d always taste on his tongue.

And no one could fix that.

My eyes touched on Gwen, the way she sauntered through the party in clothes made for the Upper East Side and not the dying grass of a motorcycle compound littered with bottles and perhaps a condom wrapper or two.

She glowed with the happiness, the easiness that showed she was tasting that sweetness on her tongue, despite the bitterness life had given her.

When she reached Cade, who had put Belle down for a scarce moment, he yanked her to his body for a kiss that wasn’t strictly made for public consumption. Not because it was risqué—it was. His hands kneaded into her silk-clad ass immediately, but that wasn’t out of the norm here. Shit, a near topless woman was grinding on Gage in the corner at that very moment, and there were babies present.

No, it wasn’t the pure physical act that made it private. It was the way he clutched her, like he was a drowning man who’d finally found his own personal source of oxygen. It was the small smile that was unheard of on the man’s face, and I’d known him for nigh on two decades. The way he rested his head on hers, murmuring like no one else in the world existed.

I glanced back to Bull, who was still blankly contemplating the fire, maybe seeing the Devil reflected in the flames.

Maybe hope existed. Maybe redemption for even the most lost of souls. Maybe a woman could burst into his blackened life and help him rise from the ashes.

Or maybe that was all shit, and Cade and Gwen were a freak accident gone right.

For Bull, I prayed for his freak accident.

Me? I didn’t need any of that. My soul may have been mostly whole, but it was invariably damaged, and I didn’t need a man to reveal to him, and myself, just how much.

I was safe in my blissful ignorance.

“I’m not talking about me.” Lucky yanked me back into our banter that was little more than second nature. He winked. “Though I know you fantasize about me and this delicious thing I call a temple.” He gestured to his body and the skintight tee showing off the ridges of his abs.

I snorted.

He narrowed his eyes.

“So, you either use it for the purpose that God intended—to ruin you for all other men—or you strap on your big girl panties, step away from the sex god—” He raised his brow and pointed to his muscled chest. “—who is me, if you didn’t get that, and you march over to Keltan and tell him to rip those big girl panties right off,” he ordered.

I swallowed. “His name is Keltan?” I breathed, tasting it on my tongue. “What kind of name is that?”

Lucky grinned, looking over his shoulder. “Well you’re about to find out, darlin’. And I’m about to find a warm body that is going to be lucky enough to share my bed tonight.”

He leaned in to kiss me full on the mouth, grinning mischievously as I flipped him the bird and he sauntered back into the crowd, snatching a scantily clad girl by the waist while he was at it.

I rolled my eyes. That man had a way. It wasn’t just because he was deliciously handsome, nor the rugged ridges of his muscled physique and granite face. They all helped, sure, but it was the way the menace all added up to something akin to Jekyll and Hyde. He was a man who you didn’t expect to smile, yet it was his default. And jokes were his language, not grunts like Cade or Bull.

Most of the time he was a charming, yet silly teenager trapped inside a man’s body.

Then Hyde came out.

And that smoldering menace that you didn’t notice because it hid carefully under the joker exterior? It presented you with a man who could kill as easy as blink.

And boy, did women love a charmer. They wouldn’t likely tell you, but they liked a depraved motherfucker too.

Well, most did. Apart from the ones who had stared at true depravity. Felt its ice freeze their skin, the very blood in their veins and snake around the heart that used to be so warm and open.

Something chased away the ice and the demons that came with it when a large body stepped into my space. Like way in.

I blinked up, mentally cursing myself for getting lost in my head long enough for the man I’d been avoiding all night to make a surprise assault.

He was hotter up close. Way hotter. Adonis had competition. Shit, Ragnar from Vikings had competition. His skin was milky chocolate and smooth, apart from the peppering of stubble on his sharp jaw. His close-cut hair only accentuated his sharp features, and the eyes that were now twinkling with a lot of amusement and something else.

“Caught you,” he murmured, his voice deep and smooth, an accent marring the words, making them slightly unfamiliar and him about twelve hundred times more attractive.

“What?” I stuttered, trying to find the cool demeanor that had done me so well for twenty-six years.

He grinned, his face losing that harsh sculpted quality with the expression. He had one dimple on the left side of his mouth. I had a sudden urge to lick it.

I actually found myself leaning forward before I snapped back, scowling at him and then my glass. I didn’t think I’d imbibed enough alcohol to render me into a bumbling idiot. But maybe my tolerance was waning with old age.

That was a scary thought.

Much scarier than crow’s-feet.

“Your glass do anything particularly offensive to you tonight, sweetheart?” he asked, his accented voice dancing with amusement. “Need me to rough it up for you? I’m sure it’ll give a hell of a fight, but I’m ready to do it. To protect the fair maiden’s honor.”

“I can protect my own honor,” I told him sharply. “And I’m no maiden, honey. In case you haven’t noticed, you’re at a biker party. The only princess here is Lucky.” My eyes went to the biker, who was grinning and giving me a not-so-subtle thumbs-up.

How in the world could a biker covered in tattoos, practically the face of Muscle Weekly, give a thumbs-up? And pull it off?

I brought my icy gaze back to the man I was currently talking to, careful to avoid those eyes. I focused on a small scar above his eyebrow instead. “And if you haven’t noticed, I’m far from a princess myself. No pink in sight. In fact, I might just burst into flames if pink or taffeta touched my body,” I continued.

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