Page 8

Author: Pepper Winters

Fox shook his head. “Not till I get some answers. Plus, she cut me so she owes me a small debt.”

Oh, God. A debt? Images of him extracting a toll from me made my core clench despite my anger.

“Clue?” Corkscrew appeared. His black eyes widened taking in the scene before him. He’d obviously just finished his fight—and most likely won judging by the lack of injuries.

Clue stepped toward him. “I’m glad you’re here.”

In a lightning move, Fox wrenched the knife out of my hand and pressed it against my side. He’d stolen my blade so fast no one had seen.

I went desperately still. Ice-cold fear siphoned through my blood. Shit. A second ago I battled attraction and lust. Now, I fought the urge to scream and run.

“Is everything okay here?” Corkscrew puffed out his chest, looking entirely terrifying with chiselled muscles and dark skin.

Clue waved at us. “This idiot won’t let my friend go. Make him.” She smiled coldly at Fox. “You haven’t had the pleasure of meeting the top ranked champion of the Stingrays.”

Fox nodded at Ben. “I know of you. You’re good, but you don’t want to get in the middle of this.”

Corkscrew paused, head cocked to the side. Then a burst of excitement filled his eyes. “Wait. You’re Mr. Obsidian. Wow, it’s an honour, sir.” Gone was the angry vibe, replaced with interest.

I couldn’t believe it. This man was like a rock star with fans and crowds screaming his name. The entire time we’d argued not one person had come near him. Eyes never stopped watching, but everyone preferred to keep their distance.

Clue’s mouth hung open. “That’s the guy you were talking about?”

Corkscrew smiled. “Yep. Undefeated in every fight. Sets the bar high.”

My stomach fluttered then turned to stone as Fox smiled thinly. “You’re correct. Undefeated.” He stressed the word. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have unfinished business with this woman.” He angled the knife deeper into my side, threatening heat and pain—entirely too close to puncturing my skin.

I glared, wishing I could knee him in the balls. We didn’t have unfinished business. I wanted my freedom.

Clue shook her head and came closer. “You don’t have to go with him, Zel. Doesn’t matter if he owns this joint or not.” Her almond eyes sparked when she looked at Fox. “Come on. Let’s go home.”

I wanted to tell her about the knife in my side. I wanted to run home and hug Clara. I wanted to scream bloody murder, but Fox twisted the blade until I winced, shattering everything I wanted and leaving me with the only thing I could do.

“Just a chat. That’s all,” Fox whispered, so low only I heard.

The fact he’d willingly kidnap me at knifepoint just to ‘talk’ made my protective instincts swell to protect Clue. I needed her safe, so I didn’t have to worry about anyone while I laced into this maniac.

It was time to show Fox he’d captured the wrong woman to interrogate.

Plastering a convincing smile on my face, I said, “No, it’s fine, Clue. I’ll go and talk. I’ll see you back at home, okay?”

Clue shook her head. “No. I’ll wait. Whatever he wants to talk about can’t take very long.”

“You’ll leave,” Fox snapped. “I have a lot of questions to be answered. I’ll make sure a car sends her home when we’re through.”

Clue glared at Fox, her eyes full of fire. She never took orders well. Coming closer, she whispered in my ear. “Blink twice if you want me to kick his ass.”

I almost did it. Almost.

But this was my fight—not hers. I needed her gone so I could win. Plus, if I couldn’t go home yet, I would rather Clara be cared for by her Auntie rather than a strange babysitter.

“I’m okay. Honestly.” I forced my eyes to stay wide, hoping she saw a relaxed and willing conversationalist. I didn’t want her to see just how terrifying Fox truly was. And not just because he was a lunatic. I didn’t trust him. I didn’t trust myself with him. I didn’t trust what would happen if he took me away from the public eye.

Fox didn’t just want to talk. The awareness bound us together—a static charge vibrating ceaselessly where we touched.

I tried to make myself care that the moment he got me behind closed doors, I expected we’d both give in to more than just talking.

And I hated myself for needing a small dirty moment where I was nothing more than a woman seeking a release with a menacing man.

After a tense moment, Clue nodded. “Don’t worry about Clara. I’ll take care of her.” Squeezing my hand, she murmured, “I’ll wait up for you.”

Corkscrew gave me a concerned look. “You’re sure you’re okay?”

His concern flurried my heart. He was a good man—worthy of my best friend. “I’m sure.”

Clue narrowed her eyes. I had no doubt she’d harass me for every detail of whatever was about to happen.

I stifled my groan as Corkscrew wrapped an arm around her, and they disappeared into the crowd.

Fox murmured, “We’ll go to my office. It’s quiet, and we won’t be disturbed.”

My heart rabbited.

Office. Undisturbed.

He should’ve said dungeon, and then I would’ve believed him.

A steely resolve came over me. It helped me ignore the spark smouldering between Fox’s body and mine. Clue was gone. She was safe. Now I could worry about how to free myself from this crazy idiot stabbing me with my own knife. I’d had a moment of weakness, entertaining thoughts of forbidden sex, but now I was clearheaded.

“I’m not going to sleep with you, you know,” I muttered as Fox pushed me toward a wide set of stairs leading up into the dark.

He huffed. “I said I wanted to talk. Not to fuck.”

Such a crude word.

I hated that it turned me on.

A shudder travelled the length of my spine. His voice was perfectly level, restrained and controlled, but beneath his careful tone lurked lethal potency.

Climbing the wide stairs, he said, “I expect answers. I want to know who you are. I want to understand why you’re different.”

My stomach erupted with fluttering winged things. “What makes you think I’ll answer? Having a knife pressed against me doesn’t make me very eager.” I sucked in a breath as he twisted the blade once more before withdrawing. Holding the knife up, he tucked the blade away and slipped it into his pocket.

“There. Now, you’ll talk.”

No, now I’ll lie.

Chapter 4

I’d learned from an early age to use people’s weaknesses against them. Taunting the fragile, mocking the littler. Instead of being told no, I was encouraged. Given the tools to excel in murder, and browbeaten into being the perfect obedient machine.

The moment I set eyes on her, I tasted a delicious combination of fear and strength. Weakness and bravery. Sadness and resignation.

Instincts and needs that I’d buried and ignored volcanoed to the surface. I lost control. I broke every rule and didn’t give a fuck.

She woke a part of me I didn’t know existed—a man not layered in ice and coldblooded disassociation. This new man ached with every inch; he craved heat and fire and lust.

And so I stole her.

And I took her.

Over and over again.


How the hell had this happened? This never happened. Never in my life had I submitted to a bodily craving. That sort of thing had been tortured out of me. I didn’t suffer from a lack of discipline.


Until now.

The instant I saw her I lost a part of myself. I became drunk on a new sensation. Something about her drew me. I didn’t lust or fuck or need. To be close to another filled me with horror not joy. So why the hell did I want to know her? Why were my thoughts full of nakedness and heat? What the fuck am I doing?

I glanced at her. With her shoulders back and chin thrust forward, she looked like she was headed to war not a conversation. Every step was calm and brave; every motion full of confidence and poise.

The stolen blade hung heavy in my pocket, thudding against my thigh with every step. I’d lost control and kidnapped someone at knife point. Not just anyone—a woman I touched.

I fucking touched her!

I never touched anyone voluntarily unless it was in a fight. It just wasn’t done. My entire life I’d avoided every iota of touch and contact. And yet the instant I wrapped my fingers around her arm, my entire body shuddered with some unseen power filtering from her to me.

It intoxicated me. It bewitched me. It fucking scared me.

Only when I looked directly into her eyes did I taste just how much passion, fear, strength, sadness, and rebellion lived inside her. She was like an unlit firework—contained and neatly packaged on the outside, but a hazardous explosion on the inside.

“I want my knife back,” she murmured, her eyes connecting with mine. All I could think about were emeralds and every green gemstone I’d ever seen. Her eyes mocked my own—whereas I had no colour, she had every spectrum.

“You’re not getting it back till I say you can.” Until I understand this insane drive to touch you.

“You’re not my owner,” she snapped. “This isn’t a discussion. It’s my property, and I want it back. I don’t know who you think you are, but I’m not playing your crazy mind games anymore.”

The familiar strength and rage shot up my spine. Tearing my eyes from hers, I strode faster up the steps.

She took the steps two at a time and brushed past with a cold look. Her shoulder grazed mine. My vision turned red, muscles locked down, and the familiar command to hurt made me tremble. My jaw locked as I fought the orders.

Shit. She isn’t different after all.

My fucking heart sank. I’d chased her, trapped her, and dragged her up here because I’d dared to hope. Dared to believe that I was drawn to her because she might be impervious to my training. That I might be able to touch and be touched.

Turned out I could touch her without falling into old patterns, but she couldn’t touch me.

My heart hardened in disappointment. So she wasn’t my cure after all. I’d hoped—

You’d hoped it was fading. That you could finally live a life where you wouldn’t automatically punch someone in the fucking face or slam a dagger into their heart.

Tough shit.

I doubted I’d ever be free, and that just made me fucking homicidal.

Reaching the top of the stairs, her lips parted as she took in the large landing. Skating her eyes over the table and black couch, she drifted toward the glass perimeter. From here, the arena looked like a modern day version of the coliseum. Men fought in cages and rings, unconscious bodies were tended to by medics. All that was missing were the lions and other exotic animals the Romans used to kill unlucky slaves.

I shared a certain bond with those unfortunate souls.

No one would look at me and think I was slave. But I had been. I still was. I probably would be forever.

I didn’t say a word as she pushed off from the balcony and moved toward a statue of a twisted and gnarly tree.

The sculpture took me eighteen days with barely any sleep to finish. I’d warmed the metal just enough to twist and distort. I turned a pristine lump of bronze into a tortured piece of art. The tree looked like it was heralded by demons and designed by masochists. Its branches only suitable for carcass-eating vultures to perch.

But I liked it. In fact, it was one of my favourite pieces. It represented nothing, but at the same time, everything.

It was me. Bared raw.

Slowly, almost hesitantly, she ran her fingertips over the cold metal. The instant she touched it, my cock lurched. It fucking lurched for the second time in my sorry existence.

Heat. Delicious wanting heat blazed in my blood. Lust. So unknown and almost unrecognisable. It grabbed me around the balls, making me hard, filling my cock with new life.