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Coming 2014 "Take"
Max finished straightening the sheets on her bed and walked into the adjoining bathroom to shower. She peered at the bandage on her neck, her finger trailing across the gauze Glunk had applied. The skin was tender, but not as bad as the bruises on her side when Abby took her to the ground in one swoop.
She rubbed her arms as the memory shifted across her mind. It happened so fast, so unexpected, but it wasn’t fear that raced through her. Max wasn’t scared of pain any longer. She was numb to the horrors in this world, but the memories—yes, the memories that woke her in the night still came. Often she’d wake up screaming and have to check all her limbs to make certain the chains weren’t still there.
She avoided looking in the mirror as she pulled her flannel pajamas off, tied her mouse-brown hair up in a knot and fastened it with a clip, then leaned over and turned on the taps. She stepped under the spray, avoiding her neck, as she quickly scrubbed her body down with closed eyes. Her fingers slipped over the scars and she cringed, trying to get the task done as efficiently and quickly as she could.
Showering was one of her least favorite tasks of the day. There were too many reminders. Teeth marks, burns, scars from the shackles. Her Scar sat on the top of her left foot, a tattoo of a black widow spider. It was disfigured, a jagged, white scar running through the center of it.
Max turned off the taps and climbed out of the tub. As she reached for her towel, the door burst open.
She gasped as she made a dive for her towel and wrapped it around herself. A man stood in the open doorway appearing rather unperturbed by his discovery. He merely stared at her for several seconds, shadowy eyes unwavering as his tall, lithe form blocked the doorway.
She felt the clip in her hair slip and fall to the floor making a clang as it hit the ceramic tile. Her hair fell to her shoulders then down her back. He never moved a muscle. And he was definitely all muscle.
But it was his eyes that gave her goose bumps and caused her stomach to bottom out. They were darker than wet glistening roads in the night with no moon. Mesmerizing. He was watching her as if he could see right through the towel. Hiding her scars was paramount. She wrapped her arms around her chest and stepped back.
It happened fast. The backs of her knees hit the toilet seat at the same time she reached out for the towel rack, which slipped out of the holder when she put the slightest amount of pressure on it. She lost her balance. The metal rod clanged as it hit the floor. She grabbed for the lifted toilet seat cover to steady herself. It came crashing down on the rim with a bang. Falling to the side, Max dropped the towel and landed naked on the ground next to the toilet.
The burning in her face was indescribable as she scrambled to her feet while taking the towel and pulling it up in front of her. Had he seen her disfigurement? Was he mortified by all the scars? She was surprised to look up and see him still standing there. Her nakedness hadn’t sent him running.
“Impressive.” His voice was like velvet playing on an acoustic guitar.
What do you say to that? The polite response would be a shy, embarrassed smile; her response was—are you going to back the hell off? But of course, that was only in her head.
He crossed his arms and leaned up against the doorframe. Is he kidding? Seriously? Hot bad-ass was going to stand in her bathroom to carry on a one-sided conversation?
“Assumed this room was vacant. Going to be staying the night. Or two.”
You assumed wrong buddy. But the only belongings she kept in view were her vase of weekly-picked flowers that sat on her bedside table. She wished Xamien had warned her he was having more company than Delara. A locked door would’ve prevented this incident.
He continued while leering, “Jasper.”
So, this was Xamien’s friend from…everywhere. He’d stayed here briefly a few times, but she’d never met him. She avoided conversations and meeting others.
She hated speaking in the best of times. It was pointless anyway, people rarely actually listened and if they did, they didn’t care. It was all pretense. Learning to remain quiet as a child had been her savior, the vamps forgot about her more often than not.
She looked down at her legs to make certain the towel was long enough to hide her burns.
She noticed he watched every move she made, yet his expression rarely changed except for the mild tension in his muscles. He was more muscular than Xamien. His dark brown hair had that sweet bed head look, short, but still long enough to curl in a fist. Tattoos ran up both his arms, disappearing under his T-shirt only to reappear on his neck. She suspected he had them all over his back and chest. He gave her the impression that he was a hard ass, although he could be wearing a pink tutu and she’d still guess he was a hard ass just by his expression.
Controlling, she decided. This man was always in control and would never relinquish it. Her body quivered. This was a new emotion, one that had no business in her life.
“Got a name, babe?”
And, she still hadn’t said a single word. “Max.”
He nodded to the bandage on her neck. “Ah, Xamien’s pet. Didn’t recognize you from the girl on the floor with vamp drool all over her.”
She met his eyes. Bastard. It was obvious wasn’t it? Vamp attacked someone in this house and she had a bandage on her neck. Go figure.
He casually strolled across the tiled floor. Confident. Self-assured. He stopped when he was toe to toe with her and she bowed her head. His scent was a mixture of coumarin, almonds, and vanilla, maybe a hint of rose—extraordinarily sensual. She took a long, deep breath as it wafted into her senses and she felt a wave of heat run across her skin in response. Damn, this sucked. She wasn’t scared of getting hit, beaten, tortured, or bitten, but she was terrified of the raw attraction she had towards this man. She kept her eyes lowered.
“Standing right here. Best look at me, babe.” His finger came under her chin as he urged her head upward. “Not one for repeating myself.” He held her clip in his opposite hand. When had he picked that up? She slipped it from his grasp and waited for him to back away. He didn’t.
Instead, he stared, eyes watching her with such magnitude that she was unsure of what he was doing.
“A Senses with unreadable thoughts and…does Xamien know you’re a Healer? Thinking not.”
How the hell did he read that? She’d never once let anyone know she was a Healer. All these years, she’d managed to keep it hidden. She tilted her head down to avoid his watchful eyes and his hand fell away. A lesson she’d learned real young—appearances were everything. Never let anyone know your true emotions.
She could see Jasper’s tattooed chest through his white shirt. She licked her dry lips.
“Liking the lip action, but keep it tight or you’ll be losing that towel,” Jasper said. She slipped her tongue inside. “Morals rarely cross my mind, babe. Think I’ll take the bedroom next door.”
She had to say something and the best she could come up with was, “Yes, sir.”
“Sir? Not your sir, babe. Anything but one, best you remember that.”
She looked up for a second and their eyes locked. She gasped when she noticed the corners of his mouth curve upward and sparkling warmth invaded his eyes. Jasper was breathtaking.
He turned and walked out, leaving the bathroom door ajar.
Max collapsed onto the toilet seat. She just met the devil himself.