I promised yesterday that I would share a teaser from the fourth book in Zeth and Sloane's story with you guys, and this is me making good on that promise.
I am loving how the dynamics are altering between the characters as this series develops, but that said you guys don't need to worry. Zeth isn't turning into a pussy, that's for sure. I wish I could share more about what happens, but that just wouldn't be fair. I'd be robbing you of the fun of experiencing things within the books as they happen, and that's what's so great about reading, right? You'd probably punch someone in the face if they told you the twist to a movie just as it was about to come up (Bruce Willis was dead all along, BTW).
And in the same vein, I don't wanna share all of the sexy moments between these two either. That totally ruins the surprises as they arise (pun totally intended), so I know a few of you might be disappointed but I won't be giving too much away on that front. I'll give you hints here and there in my visual teasers, but for the most part I'm keeping that stuff under wraps. What I can say is that there are definitely a few more boundaries being pushed in this book, ;)
Alrighty, let's get this show on the road! Please be aware that this teaser is UNEDITED and may contain typos or errors. If you enjoy the teaser or wanna have a chat about it, please make sure to comment below!
Zeth winces as he tries to sit up straighter in the chair, the bandages pulling tight across his chest. If he keeps on like this, he’s going to open all of his stitches.
“Freeze, mister.” I place my palm against the flat, toned skin of his stomach. The heat pouring off him makes my hand burn. He looks down himself, studying the point where out bodies touch.
“I’m fine, Sloane.”
“You’re not fine.” And neither am I. I want to tell him that, but my pride won’t let me. Even when I was a kid, I’d never admit to physical pain. It seemed like a weakness to me then, and it sure as hell feels like a weakness now. Zeth’s not stupid, though. He’s seen me blanch every time I try to move my left arm.
“Is it broken?” he asks, running his fingertips across my bare shoulder.
“No, not broken. Just sore.”
“So you’re gonna be fine?” There’s an old stillness to him as he asks me this. It’s entirely new, and makes me think he’s holding his breath. He’s such a huge hulk of a man—a fighter’s physique, a wall of intimidating muscle. It seems as though he was made to destroy things, to grind them to dust, and yet he can be gentle. He is so gentle when he touches me right now. His hand raises to my face, fingers skimming over my forehead, exploring an area that stings sharply. I must have a cut from where the glass shattered all over me.
“I don’t like this, angry girl,” he informs me. His voice is low and soft.
“Mmmm. Well I can’t say I’m entirely happy about the situation, either.” I begin to pack away my medical supplies, replacing them carefully back into my bag. It’s good to have something to do with my hands. Much better to keep busy than to collapse under the weight of everything that’s just happened.
“We’re gonna finish our conversation from the park now, Sloane,” Zeth tells me.
“What?” My head snaps up. Of all the things to talk about, I really don’t feel like rehashing about that. This really isn’t the time or the place. Plus our talk in the park, well, it was awkward to say the least. I doubt I’ll ever stop feeling like I betrayed myself when I told him what I did.
“You were honest with me, Sloane. Which means you were honest with yourself. I’ve been waiting for that.”
I feel like laughing. Honest with myself? He’s completely right. You’d think it impossible to deceive yourself, to hide something and pretend you don’t know it or see it or feel it, but I’ve been doing that for years. I’m good at hiding everything. I’ve been hiding from myself, from him, from my parents. From absolutely anyone who gets remotely too close. It’s been safer that way. My parents have been happy enough to pretend I was okay, even if they could probably see for themselves that I wasn’t, and I managed to somehow trick myself into believing that if I kept busy and didn’t give up searching for Lexi then I could hide myself away and simply survive. Zeth, on the other hand…Zeth knows. He’s known all along. He knows I’m not okay, that I haven’t been okay for the longest time. He sees straight through all of my shit, and he’s known how I feel about him for a while now, too. The most infuriating thing about this whole messed up situation is that I can’t see anything as clearly as he sees me. I can count on my hands how many real things I know about his past, but the fact is that I’m too scared to ask. I’m scared because he will tell me the truth, and then I’ll know everything, and I won’t be able to run and hide anymore. I’ll have to face it all. Him. That darkness inside him that both terrifies and excited me at the same time.
I stop winding the lose bandage around my hand.
“Are you going to ask me?”
My skin breaks out into goose flesh. Somehow I find enough courage to look up at him. He stares back at me, unblinking, dark eyes burning with intensity. “Am I going to ask you what?” I reply.
“What you’ve always wanted to ask me,” he says, a small smirk teasing at the corner of his mouth. His eyes are still serious, though. Focused and fixed on mine. “The question you’ve been thinking about since the day we met in that hotel room. You don’t care about how much blood I have on my hands.” I open my mouth—I sure as hell want to disagree with that—but he cuts me off. “You don’t care about prison, or Charlie, or Lacey. You don’t care about where I get my money, or how many women I fucked before you. You might tell yourself you do. It might even bother you a little bit, but none of that burns at you like this one question.” He sits forward, growling at the back of his throat as he moves. I don’t tell him to keep still anymore. I’m too mad at him for seeing inside me so easily. It makes me feel simple, like an open book that anyone can just come along and read any time they like.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” I think I do, though, and that’s the worrying part.
He tips his head to one side, expression flat. A little angry. “Sloane.”
“Zeth. I’m sorry if—”
He lunges forward, grabbing hold of my face with both of his hands, pulling me to him. For an insane heartbeat I think it’s going to happen. Goddamn if I am not the stupidest woman on the face of this planet. I thought he was going to kiss me. It feels like my heart is burning in my chest when he doesn’t. He stops just an inch shy of my lips. “Ask me, Sloane. Fucking ask me.”
I’m about to tear my way free from his hold, but as soon as I touch his wrists I change my mind. I place my hands over his instead, holding them to my cheeks so that I no longer feel trapped, but rather safe. It’s the look in his eyes that’s done it. Flipped everything around on me and left me reeling. He looks…with that look in his eyes, it’s almost as if he’s begging me to do it. So I do.
“Okay, fine. Why? Why are you the way that you are?” It’s like a light goes on behind Zeth’s eyes. He blows out the breath he’s been holding, his eyelids fluttering. It’s like a tension inside of him has been cut or extinguished somehow. I know instantly that I’ve asked the right question. “Why do you have that black duffel bag? What happened to you? Who made you the way that you are?” I pause. Take a deep breath. “Who hurt you?”
The pressure of his hands increases as he tightens his hold on my face. He leans in even further, so that our lips are a hair’s breadth apart. The close proximity is torturous; I’m trembling by the time he speaks. Even the movement of his lips faintly brushing mine as he talks is enough to make my heart slam against my ribcage.
“There we go, angry girl. The million-dollar question. Are you ready for the answer?”
I don’t know if I am or not, but the time has come. I nod my head just once, dizzy from the sensation of his breath skating over my mouth.
“Nobody hurt me, Sloane. No one made me who I am. I wasn’t molested or abused, or made to perform disturbing sexual acts. You have to know that there isn’t always a sinister shadow standing over the shoulder of someone like me. We’re a rare and dark breed. I carry that bag because I like it. I cut myself while I’m fucking sometimes because I like it. I play with a knife occasionally because I like it. I do all of the things that I do to you because I like it. And you know what, angry girl? The thing that disturbs you the most…”
My breath catches in my throat. I can hardly fucking breathe. Zeth’s tongue carefully flicks out, teasing my upper lip just once. I close my eyes as his words hit home, words that are whispered yet more powerful than a shout.
“…is that you like it, too. You’re just like me, Sloane. You’re just like me.”