Yayyy!!!! Twisted Teaser Time! Try saying that after a few glasses of vino.
So this scene...I wanted to share it with you as a little taster for what's to come. A lot's gonna go down in Twisted, some of which is pretty violent and downright scary, some of which is a little softer. Zeth and Sloane's relationship is hopefully gonna have you squealing in this instalment. Our man is opening himself up a little more, but we're also going to be seeing a lot more of the darker side to him in this book, too. I hope you're ready!
Please be aware that this is an unedited excerpt and subject to change.
I open the door and there she is, sitting on the sofa—a sofa that was once white but is now mottled with splotches of bright, ruby red. She’s been bleeding. She’s been bleeding all over that fucking couch, and I was off running around Seattle, trying to get Lacey to calm the fuck down. I should have been here. I should have known she was hurt. Her face in the back of the car when Michael drove her away was totally washed out, her expression terrified, but I’d put that down to the ordeal she’d just been through. Not even considered for a second that one of those shots had gotten lucky. I silently enter the apartment, feeling my pulse throbbing oddly in every single part of my body. I’m measured and careful as I set down the duffel I’ve carried inside and walk towards the table in the middle of the room. I can’t go straight to her. I can’t even look at her. I’m struggling to keep my fucking cool; there’s a desperation inside of me that’s demanding to be answered, though no good can come of that. Sloane won’t be better if I smash up my apartment. She won’t be magically healed if I break every last stick of furniture, smash every single plate, punch holes in every single wall I can reach before my knuckles turn raw and bloody.
“Are you okay?” I ask.
She nods, looking like a small child bundled in the blanket she has tucked around her body. “It was just a graze.” She gingerly lifts her left arm, indicating where she was hurt and wincing at the effort. “Still hurt, though.”
Fucking hell. I can’t believe she was actually shot. Graze or no graze it should never have happened. I suddenly regret not doing more damage to that DEA agent; that would have been a small consolation for what they did to Sloane. I brace myself against the table and close my eyes, trying to somehow maneuver past the urge to go on a rampage. Trying to breathe through it all. If only Dr. Walcott, the psyche guy from Chino, could see me now. Well done, Zeth. Gold fucking star, Zeth. Keep it up.
“I’m sorry, okay?”
My head snaps up. Sloane’s eyes look huge in her face—she’s staring right at me, unblinking, and she looks exhausted. And heartbroken. And a hundred other things I can’t even put a name to, though none of them good. “What are you sorry for?” I whisper.
She swallows. Her head tips back to rest against the sofa, and I can see the fine strands of hair plastered against her forehead. She’s been through hell tonight; you can see just from looking at her that she’s in pain. “I’m sorry for leaving the warehouse. We took Michael, though. I thought…” She trails off, like the effort of even speaking is just too much for her.
I am a wretched, wretched man. I wasn’t here to help her, and she thinks I’m mad with her. Fuck. “You have nothing to apologize for, Sloane. Never apologize to me again.”
She makes a surprised sound at the back of her throat, a combination of choking and pained laughter. “I’m sure you’ll be taking that back in a couple of days.”
I shake my head. Pull in a deep breath. I’m not really ready for this, but I’ll probably be waiting forever to get to a point where it seems right to feel the way that I do. To not be absolutely fucking stunned by how weak it makes me feel. “You’re never going to apologize to me again, Sloane. If you fuck up and make a mistake, that’s on me. If you get hurt, that’s on me. For as long as you’re willing to tolerate being in this situation, everything that happens to you is on me. I’m the one who’s sorry.” I straighten up, scrubbing my hands through my hair. I can hear sounds in the apartment: Michael taking care of Lacey, making sure she’s okay. He’s been here this whole time, watching over them while I couldn’t. I feel sick.
“Zeth, come here.” Sloane’s holding up a hand—the right one, her uninjured arm—and the image, the very sight of her reaching out toward me makes my stomach feel like it’s filled with ice water. She shouldn’t still be doing this; she shouldn’t still be reaching out. She should be pushing me away by now, but she’s not. And I’m the worst kind of monster because I’m relieved. So relieved that my body feels like it’s going into shock. I walk toward her, not quite sure what to do when I get there. I don’t think I’ve ever been unsure of anything in my life. Ever.
Sloane doesn’t seem to be having the same problem. She takes ahold of my wrist and tugs at me gently, pulling me down to sit beside her on the sofa. She places my hand palm up in her lap, and carefully traces her index finger across the lines, creases and callouses that I’ve collected over my lifetime. They’re not the focus of her interest, though. It’s the multitude of scars, deep and ugly, that her fingertips linger over.
“You might be responsible for the fact that I’m not sitting at home, watching a rerun of Seinfeld on my own right now, Zeth. You might be responsible for the fact that I’m not voluntarily working an extra shift at the hospital. I had a safe life, I did, I know that, and it really does suck that being shot at is now a part of my everyday routine. But…” She takes a deep breath. “You heard what I said to Oliver. What I told him…how I feel about you. I did mean that. So while you’re responsible for a lot of crappy things right now, you’re also responsible for that. You’ve woken me up. You’ve made me stronger. You’ve made me feel something I thought I’d never feel.”
My head is spinning. I want to curl my fingers closed and withdraw it from her touch, but that seems like the coward’s way out of this conversation. I leave my hand where it is, forcing myself to hear it. To hear her say the words. To feel it, too.
“I know you probably never wanted this, Zeth. I can understand why. But I do…I do—”
“I know,” I say, cutting her off. I may have heard the words once today already, but she wasn’t actually giving them to me. Handing them over to me like a fragile, delicate gift. A gift so overwhelming, and confusing and undeserved that I feel like packing up my shit and leaving the fucking state. She was telling someone else, and I’m not prepared for her to be telling me just yet.
“What are you afraid of, Zeth?” she whispers. “Why am I scaring you so badly right now? It’s not like I’m expecting you to say it back.”
I laugh, unable to fight it anymore. I just can’t help it; I close my hand into a fist. “I’m not scared of you, Sloane.”
She gives me a sad look. It’s the kind of look that can make a man feel two inches tall. “Yes, you are,” she says. “Of course you are. You’re terrified.”