Big badd wolf, p.11
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       Big Badd Wolf, p.11

         Part #7 of Badd Brothers series by Jasinda Wilder
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  Both of my hands seized his buttocks and clawed at the firm muscle--I was clutching flesh, somehow. Had I pushed his jeans away as I came apart under his touch? I vaguely recalled my fingers hooking into denim and elastic, and his body lifting. And now I had his skin under my hands, the soft smooth round hardness of his buttocks tensed against my palms. I was still shaking with the intensity of my climax, gasping, and whimpering as aftershocks racked me.

  His mouth was lapping at my breast, his tongue flicking my nipple, but I was too sensitive for that, and nudged him away. Before I knew what was happening, my hips were lifting and he was tugging at the stretchy fabric of the yoga pants, yanking them down past my hips, and my feet kicked them away, and I was naked, totally bare, and he was on his hands and knees above me, shirtless, body hard and lean and toned, his jeans around his knees, hair loose. I followed the lines of his body, the broad sweep of his shoulders, the hard planes of his chest and the furrows of his abdomen, and the sharp V slicing from abs down to his manhood. Which was bare. Hard. Huge. Jutting upward flat against his belly. He shoved his jeans and underwear down to his ankles, where they caught on his laced-up boots. He tore at the laces and kicked his boots and everything else off, and then we were both naked together, and my heart was slamming in my chest at this.

  His eyes stayed on mine, and I saw the fierce need in him, how he was riding the edge of his control.

  My hands, resting possessively on his ass, slid up his back; he remained utterly still. My fingers grazed his chest, fingertips aiming downward, palm to his skin. Lucian shook, trembled, growling with each exhalation as I grasped his erection.




  He filled my hand, iron hard and silk soft at the same time. I squeezed him, and explored his length, stroking slowly downward and then back up.

  He shuddered at my touch, holding still, allowing me to touch him at my leisure.

  He felt amazing in my hand.

  I wanted to make him feel even half as good as he'd just made me feel. So I touched him. Stroked him slowly, watching the way his thick pink erection slid between my fingers, protruding from above them, and then the head vanishing into my fist. He growled yet again, and his hips flexed.

  "Joss--" His utterance of my name was a breathless snarl.

  He collapsed against me, as if his arms and legs couldn't support his weight, and for a moment, I was pinned beneath him, all his weight on me, his breath on my face.

  In that instant, the past rose up like a venomous serpent and struck:


  Pinned beneath a weight I couldn't shift, couldn't fight against--

  A brutal hand wrapped around my throat, cutting off my oxygen--

  The jingle of a belt, a rough voice telling me to shut up, that I knew I wanted it--

  "Joss!" Lucian's voice snapped me back to the present.

  I came back to myself, curled up on the bed, arms around my knees, throat aching, stinging. There was blood on my knuckles.

  I blinked, looked around, and saw Lucian across the room, back to the door, naked, half-hard still, blood sluicing down his nose and mouth and chin and chest. He was gasping, breathing raggedly, staring at me in confusion.

  "Lucian?" My throat was on fire, my voice hoarse.

  "What the fuck, Joss?" he demanded, droplets of blood flying from his lips.

  I'd left a bath towel on the floor after my shower yesterday; he bent, lifted the towel to his nose and wiped away the blood, and then held it against his face, pinching his nose and tipping his head back.

  I shook my head, unable to formulate words, to understand what had just happened.

  I was naked. I couldn't face him like this, naked. I couldn't face myself. I hauled the flat sheet up and wrapped myself in it, worked to a sitting position, and then slid off the bed on shaky, weak legs. Lucian watched me warily, his head still tilted back to halt the flow of blood.

  There was a knock on the door, Mara's voice, worried, frightened. "What the hell is going on? Joss? I heard you scream, honey--are you okay?"

  Neither of us answered.

  "Joss!" Mara said, panicked now.

  "I'm okay," I managed, raspy, each word pained.

  "What happened?" Her voice on the other side of the door was worried.

  "Just--just give me a minute," I said.

  "Are you sure?"

  "I said I'm fine. Just give me a minute," I snapped, and then gentled my tone. "Please."

  "Okay," Mara said, sounding dubious. "I'm here if you need me."

  Lucian drew up to his full height, shoulders going back, eyes searching mine. "What...the...fuck...was that?"

  I shook my head, tears now streaming down my face. "I don't know--I don't know--I'm sorry, I'm sorry."

  "You don't know." His voice was flat with disbelief. "One second we were enjoying what we were doing, and then you were screaming and punching me. You just...snapped. And you don't know what happened?"

  I fumbled on the floor for my clothing, not daring to look at Lucian. I dropped the flat sheet, turned away from him, stepped into my pants and shrugged into my shirt, and then turned back to Lucian. Still holding the towel to his nose, he used one hand to tug on his jeans and zip them. Snagging his shirt off the floor, he tossed it over his shoulder and stood in the middle of the room, just staring at me. Waiting.

  "Joss." He took a hesitant step toward me. "Talk to me. Please."

  I shook my head, crying too hard to see or breathe or talk or function. The images from my attack, the memories that had so violently ruined the moment with Lucian, were flashing through my head, as fresh and raw as if they'd happened yesterday instead of more than two and a half years ago.

  He took another step and I felt myself freeze, tensed, fists clenched. "Joss, come on. Talk to me. Tell me what happened."

  "I can't--I can't."

  "Joss, come on." He reached out a hand, intending to...I don't know. Comfort me?

  "Leave me the fuck alone!" I shouted in a rasp, my scream having shredded my vocal chords. "Just...just go away."

  "Jesus, okay, fine. I'm sorry." He backed away. "I'm sorry for whatever I did. I thought you--I'm sorry, Joss. I wouldn't have--" He shook his head, cutting off and turning away, hand on the doorknob.

  It's not you, it's not you--

  The words wouldn't come out.

  He twisted the knob, opening the door, but paused in the opening. "Joss, I--"

  I forced the words out, and it was like forcing myself to vomit. "It wasn't you, Lucian. It wasn't you. It was nothing you did."

  "Then I'm really fucking confused."

  "I'm the one who's sorry," I whispered.

  "Then explain. Help me understand."

  I shook my head, unable to get the truth out, unable to make myself trust him with it, with any of it. I saw the anger and the hurt blossom in his eyes, and I hated myself for putting it there.

  He pulled the towel away from his nose, dabbing, and, satisfied he wasn't bleeding any longer, held the blood-soaked towel loosely in his fist. His eyes were closed off, angry.

  "Fine, don't fucking tell me." He spat the words furiously. "Whatever. I'm done being teased and fucked with and jerked around. Do whatever the fuck you want."

  And then he was gone. I heard Mara calling after him, concerned, and the slam of a door. Mara appeared in the doorway, Jax on her hip, the baby chewing on a toy, drooling, and whacking her shoulder with a fist.

  "Joss?" She hesitated in the doorway. "What happened?"

  Again, I could only shake my head. "I'm fucked up, Mara. That's what happened."

  Mara's eyes narrowed. "Lucian, you and he--nothing happened? He didn't--" She stopped, unwilling to finish articulating the idea.

  "No!" I protested. "It wasn't like that."

  "It's's been a long time since I've heard anyone scream like that." Mara entered the room and set Jax down on his butt on the floor, and then sat on the edge of my bed. "Someone hurt

  "Not Lucian." I swallowed hard and sat down, a million conflicted feelings raging inside me. "Don't think that."

  "None of these boys are capable of that, but a scream like that? It only comes from a very particular brand of fear and pain, Joss. I know what that sounds like. I've seen it, I've heard it, I've treated it."

  "Treated it?" I asked, curiosity getting the better of me.

  She nodded. "I was a combat medic. I did tours in Iraq and Afghanistan."

  "I didn't know."

  "You wouldn't. It's not something I talk a lot about." Her eyes met mine. "But Joss, if there's one thing I know, it's that you can't avoid or suppress your problems forever. At some point, you have to face things so you can move on from them."

  "Easy for you to say." I watched Jax playing on the floor of my bedroom. "You have all of them." I waved a hand at the walls, my broader meaning obvious.

  "Yeah, but I didn't always." She eyed me. "And for that matter, you have them, too. All of us."

  "I don't. I really don't."

  "You could, if you'd let yourself."

  I shook my head. "It's not that easy."

  Mara sighed, standing up and scooping Jax up off the floor. "Trust doesn't just happen, Joss. You have to work at it. It's not easy, god knows I know it's not, but it's worth it."

  I had no answer to that, and Mara left.

  I heard Dru's voice. "Is Luce okay? He had blood all over him."

  "I don't know. I can go check on him. Looked like a broken nose, though."

  "Do you know what happened?" Dru asked.

  "I think things got out of hand faster than she was ready for," Mara answered. "Something triggered her, and she socked him or something. I don't know for sure, I'm just guessing."

  "She wouldn't talk about it?"

  "Nope. She's walled up like Fort Knox."

  They moved out of earshot, then, and now that I was alone everything came slamming through me--the reality of how far things had gone with Lucian, and how they'd ended. He'd been slow, and careful, and patient, making sure I wanted what we were doing at every step. His touch had been gentle, his kisses passionate. He'd been voracious and eager, but cautious. He'd done everything right. I'd wanted it, wanted him.

  And then...exactly what I'd anticipated had happened. I'd ruined everything with my fucked-up baggage.

  Fine, don't fucking tell me. Whatever. I'm done being teased and fucked with and jerked around. Do whatever the fuck you want.

  I heard his voice snapping at me, and I saw the hurt and the anger.

  Teased and fucked with? Is that what he thought I was doing? Teasing him? Jerking him around?

  He had no clue what I'd been through, what I was dealing with.

  I was angry at the insinuation that I was intentionally messing with his feelings, that I'd--

  Like I could fake the reaction I'd had? Clearly I'd been reacting to something traumatic, and he had the gall to make it about him? To accuse me of fucking with him?

  I tried to keep it in, to keep it down. Tried to remain where I was, which would have been the smart thing.

  The problem is, once my temper is up, there's no stopping me, no calming me down until I've thoroughly vented my rage.

  Anger coursed through me, burning hot and implacable, propelling me to my feet and out the door, a vitriolic tirade on loop in my head.



  * * *

  I knew I'd reacted like an asshole. She'd obviously been triggered by something I did--unintentionally, but still. And I'd freaked out, snapped at her. Stormed off like a petulant dick.

  But holy shit, her sudden violence had shocked me witless. One second she'd been stroking my cock like it was her favorite thing in the world, shaking post-orgasm, staring up at me as if she couldn't believe we were doing what we were doing. She was into it; there was absolutely no doubt in my mind. It had been 100% consensual. She'd been the one to reach for my fly, to take me in her hand. I'd have been utterly content to give her an orgasm and leave it there, if that's what she wanted--I had zero expectation of reciprocity. Hope, yes; expectation, no.

  Her small, soft hand had been gliding up and down my cock and she'd been watching intently, mesmerized, lower lip caught between her teeth. Her touch had been...beyond perfect. Exquisite. Incredible. I'd lost myself in her touch, in the silky slide of her hand around my cock. I'd collapsed onto her, turned sideways slightly so she could continue touching me.

  That's when she'd just...snapped.

  She'd frozen, tensed completely, and stopped breathing. I had immediately begun backing away, wondering what had upset her so suddenly. And then, without warning, she began screaming--an ear-piercing shriek of agony and rage and terror the like of which I'd never heard before. Her fist had shot out, connected with my nose in a blast of shocking, unexpected pain, and she'd kicked at me, shoved me, thrashing wildly, screaming at the top of her lungs.

  I'd scrambled off the bed, blood dripping down my nose, my whole face throbbing. When I turned to look at her, she was curled up in the fetal position, silent, shaking, arms around her knees.

  I could not have been any more baffled. Then, or now.

  I had my shirt on my shoulder, my boots in my hand, socks shoved into them. My nose, mouth, chin, and chest were sticky and crusted with blood. My balls ached and my cock throbbed--I'd been moments from coming when she'd freaked out. My head spun, and my heart clenched, twisting with confusion.

  What the fuck, though? I didn't get it.

  My bare feet slapped on the sidewalk as I stalked from the bar toward the studio and the apartment above it. Despite the chaos inside me, I was lucid enough to notice that the travel agency, which was usually open from eight to five each day, was darkened. I paused, glancing inside. The shelves were empty, and boxes were stacked in clusters. The owner, an elderly man named...God, what was his name? I'd only met him a few times. Dave...Lipinski? Something like that. Dave was in the doorway, an armload of boxes towering past his head, one foot trying to kick open the door. I tossed my boots aside and hauled open the door.

  "Here, let me help," I said, taking the boxes.

  An aging Honda crossover SUV was idling at the curb, hatch open; I set the boxes inside and pushed them as far forward as they would go.

  "Thank you, young man," Dave said. And then he frowned, looking at my face. "Looks like you were on the losing end of a disagreement."

  He was on the far side of sixty, neat and trim, graying hair swept over a bald spot. He also sported a silver goatee.

  "Something like that, yeah." I gestured at the rest of the boxes, half a dozen more or so. "I can grab the rest for you."

  "I'd be grateful."

  I loaded the rest of the boxes into his car, and then snagged my boots off the sidewalk. "Closing up shop, huh?"

  Dave sighed, glancing back at the dark and empty interior. "It's time. My wife passed away last June, and I just can't stand to be in there without her anymore."

  "Yeah, I heard about your wife. I'm sorry to hear that."

  "Thanks." He jingled change in his pocket with one hand. "Heading to Florida. My brother lives down near Sarasota."

  "Well, good luck and have a safe trip," I said.

  He nodded. "Appreciate your help, son." He turned away and leaned into the front passenger seat, pulling out a FOR SALE sign and a roll of tape. He taped the sign in the window, locked the door, got into his car, and drove away with a wave out his window.

  I stood for a moment, eyeing the spacious interior of the empty shop, and the FOR SALE sign, which read: "For sale: 1500 sq.ft retail space and 1500sq.ft living space above. Sold as a unit. Cannot be split." The price he was asking for the place was...well, low enough that it was obvious he just wanted to unload it as quickly as possible. "Priced to sell" would be a generous assessment, although I wasn't a real estate expert by any means, and had no real concept of the comparables in the area; Mara would know, I was sure.

  Why was I wasting my ti
me considering it? I had no use for a retail space, or my own living space.

  But if we owned this unit, we could connect the living spaces, and I'm sure someone could find a use for the retail space.

  I got my phone out and snapped a photo of the sign with Dave's phone number on it, just in case, and then headed back to the apartment above the studio. Corin was on the couch, playing a video game while Tate lay with her head on his lap and her feet propped up on the armrest, her hands laced on top of her belly. As I entered, they both shot me a glance, and then they both did a double take.

  "Jesus fuck, Luce!" Corin paused the game and shot to his feet, helping Tate to sit up. "What the hell happened to you?"

  I kept walking right past them toward my room. "Don't wanna talk about it."

  He caught at my arm and spun me around. "Too fucking bad, dude." He gestured at my face. "Your nose is broken."

  "No shit."

  He braced his fingers on either side of my face, preparing to set the broken cartilage, but I knocked his hand away.

  "Don't need your fucking help, Cor. Thanks anyway."

  Corin frowned at me. "When did you become such a grouchy asswipe, bro?" He stepped away and held up his hands. "Fine, though. Whatever. Have a busted-up face. See if I fuckin' care."

  I growled in my throat, tilting my face up to the ceiling, realizing I was, in fact, being a grouchy asswipe. "Sorry, I'm sorry. I'm being a dick, and I apologize." I gestured at my nose. "Go ahead. Please."

  Corin braced his hands on my face again, and then glanced at me. "Deep breath. This doesn't feel great, just in case you've never had your nose broken."

  "Nope, this is my first--FUCK!" I broke off with a shout as he jerked my nose straight forward so it settled back into place. I could immediately breathe more easily, and the pain, while still an intense throb, faded somewhat. "That does NOT feel awesome."

  Corin slapped me on the shoulder. "Welcome to the broken nose club, Luce." He grinned at me. "You're a real man now, son."

  I couldn't help a smirk. "Fuck off."

  He jutted his chin at me. "Seriously, what happened?"

  At that moment, Tate appeared with a wet washcloth and a gallon Ziploc bag of crushed ice. She gently used the washcloth to wipe away the blood from under my nose and my chin, and then shoved the bag of ice into my hands.

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