Authors: Christine Feehan
It took a few minutes before he realized he was so caught up in her voice, in the woman, in the brief glimpses of the damage on her skin that belonged to him, that he wasn’t doing his job. He was Torpedo Ink, first and foremost. His club came first. His brothers. He should be making certain he had his pulse on the room. He should know which clubs had members in the bar. Who was likely to cause trouble. Who the problem drunks were going to be. Which of the patrons considered themselves badasses and which really were. He should have been scanning the bar, the dance floor, the tables, noting who was the drug dealer and who was always stepping outside with someone.
He forced his gaze away from Seychelle and deliberately scanned the room, noting each person at or near the bar. One man on the end, a tall, dark-haired man wearing a denim vest and motorcycle boots but no colors, sat watching Seychelle, drumming his fingers on the bar top. Three members of a local rider’s club sat drinking, watching
Seychelle as well. Most of the others in the bar were regulars, or they were locals, coming to dance.
Maestro leaned up against the wall next to him. “I think we’re too late. Some asshole pretend scout is looking to sign her. Her band knows he’s here and they’re pissed as hell.”
“They can’t play worth shit,” Savage observed.
“True, they’re amateurs thinking they’re cool, but the only thing they have going for them is the singer.”
“Seychelle. Seychelle Dubois,” Savage offered, without looking at Maestro or Seychelle.
There was a small silence. “You know her?” Maestro proceeded with caution.
“Yeah. I know her.”
“If you have any influence, tell her the scout is as full of shit as her guitarist. He’s trash, looking for easy money, looking to ride on her coattails. He may have a couple of second-rate contacts in the music industry, but men like him are cons. He’ll talk her into believing he can offer her a glamorous world, but he’ll just take everything she has and then dump her when he’s used her up. I saw the bastard buy drugs from the dealer.”
“Dealer has lots of spiked hair and a strange orange jacket?” Savage already had the dealer pegged.
“Is that the color? I thought it looked like vomit. Yeah, he’s the dealer. He’s doing a brisk business.”
“She’ll listen to you,” Savage said. “She isn’t the type to be snowed.” He knew, from the brief time with her, that he was right. She made her own decisions; she wasn’t going to be pushed into anything. But she could be influenced . . . “Give your pitch and then let me talk to her. See if I can do a little persuading.”
Just the thought of sparring back and forth with her again sent the blood rushing through his body in anticipation. He found himself looking forward to just talking to her. That was so far out of character that he couldn’t let himself
examine the why of it. Frankly, he didn’t give a shit. He just wanted to be close, to talk to her, to breathe her in.
“She one of your crazy bitches?” Maestro studied the singer.
“No.” Savage didn’t offer any more information, although he read the curiosity in Maestro. Of course he’d be curious. Savage never talked about women or what he did with them. If they wanted to talk, that was on them. “You have Code look into her?” He asked the question of Maestro deliberately without inflection, as if the answer wouldn’t mean a damn thing to him.
“Yeah. The one thing I do have going for us is that she lives in Sea Haven. She owns a little cottage there, so she’s very close to Caspar. Maybe she can work in the bar when we’re not playing. She has experience as both a bartender and a waitress. I think she’ll draw a crowd.”
“You already draw crowds,” Savage pointed out, watching the supposed scout at the bar. “Who the fuck is he?”
“Name’s Joseph Arnold. Came here from San Francisco. And Code couldn’t find much on Seychelle other than her parents were French. Both of them deceased. Father came over from France, met her mother and fireworks went off. Seems like life with her parents wasn’t everything it should be.”
Savage’s gut tightened. He didn’t know why, other than he just plain didn’t like the fact that Maestro was going to make him ask. Testing him to see what Seychelle was to him. He remained silent, letting her voice carry him away from the sounds of screaming. Of blood. Of eyes begging him to save them when he couldn’t even save himself. Silence stretched out for nearly an entire song, but in the end, it won him the information.
“She took care of both of them. Father had heart disease and mother had a rare type of blood cancer. Mother went first, and her father died about two years ago. From everything Code found on the parents, they were decent people, just sickly. She stuck it out with them, though. Fortunately, the
father made a great deal of money from home. Like Code, he was good on a computer. He came up with some kind of software that made them a fortune. She doesn’t need money.”
Savage didn’t acknowledge the additional information. He simply filed it away like he did everything. He wasn’t a man to forget details. He’d learned that details saved lives, and he’d learned the hard way.
The music faded, and the lead guitar player stepped forward and all but yanked the microphone from Seychelle. Savage didn’t like the way he did it, grabbing it out of her hand and nearly pushing her aside with his body. She stepped back, avoiding contact, and then walked off the stage on the opposite side of where Savage had draped himself on the wall. She hadn’t seen him, or at least if she had, she didn’t acknowledge him. Maybe she’d been too ill to remember him. She’d definitely had a concussion.
He began to thread his way through the crowd, lagging just a little behind Maestro and Keys. Both men followed her while Master and Player blocked Joseph Arnold and refused to move so he could get around them. They did it easily, naturally, a move they’d perfected years earlier. Backs to their target but mirroring his every move so he couldn’t do anything but get frustrated.
Maestro was imposing, and when he moved through a crowd, others got out of his way. Savage hung back just a little farther, staying to the shadows so he couldn’t be seen. He didn’t want Seychelle to know he was there. He definitely wanted to hear what Joseph Arnold had to say to her.
She kept walking until she neared the end of the alley, her back to them, and lit a cigarette. That pissed Savage off. First, she’d separated herself from safety and didn’t even check behind her when she went off alone. Then there was the fact that he detested cigarettes and no woman of his was going to smoke. He’d had enough cigars and cigarettes and other hot objects put out on his body. He had the scars to prove it, and just the smell could trigger him to episodes of extreme violence.
What the fuck was he thinking? She wasn’t his. She couldn’t be his. He was like some whack job, stalking her. He was becoming the very thing his club went after. Still, he didn’t move from the shadows, where he knew Seychelle Dubois would be safe from everyone but him.
“Seychelle?” Maestro spoke softly, hoping he didn’t startle her.
She swung around fast, gasping, smoke drifting through the alley. “Yes?”
Savage had to give her credit. She covered up her shock fast. She even managed a faint smile directed vaguely toward Maestro.
“My club, Torpedo Ink, owns a bar in Caspar. Caspar’s a small town right off Highway 1.”
“I’m aware of it. Hank does all the booking.” She gave him another smile and started to turn away.
“We don’t want to book your band,” Maestro said. “Can you give us a few minutes of your time? This is Keys.” He indicated Keys, who tried not to look intimidating. “I’m Maestro. We have our own band, and we play mostly our bar, but take a few gigs other places, so not a lot of travel, but it tends to be very lucrative. We’d like you to come to our place next Thursday night and listen. If you like what you hear, we’d like you to sing for us. If it works out, we want to hire you to sing in our band.”
“You don’t have a contract with this group, do you?” Keys gestured toward the door of the club.
She shook her head. “Hank was adamant he didn’t want a contract with me because he said I didn’t have any experience, no fans, and he wanted to be able to dump me when he could.” There was no bitterness in her voice. If anything, there was amusement.
“You have perfect pitch,” Maestro said. “Perfect. You have to be aware that Hank can barely tune his guitar.”
She gave him a much more genuine smile. “Only he seems unaware of that fact.”
“Oh, he’s aware,” Keys said. “He’s so aware he’s trying to make you think you need them. You don’t. We’ve been looking for a singer for some time and held out for the right one. We think you’re that singer.”
Maestro handed her a card with their number and the address of the bar. “Please come on any Thursday. The other two members of our band, Master and Player, are holding back some idiot scout who is high on coke and wants you to listen to his proposal. Before you take his offer, give us at least another opportunity to persuade you.”
She inclined her head and watched them as they left. She had that little enigmatic smile on her face that told Savage nothing. She looked beautiful, even there in the shadows as she watched Joseph Arnold approach. He looked puffed up with his own importance. He didn’t walk, he swaggered. Seychelle’s eyebrow went up and the smile was instantly gone.
“Mr. Arnold. I thought we’d settled this already. I see you’ve tracked me down again.”
Savage had been leaning against the wall, but something in her voice made him come to full attention. Evidently, she’d met the man before and she didn’t like him. He watched as she carefully put the cigarette out under her foot but kept her eyes on Arnold the entire time, almost as if she expected an attack.
“Don’t be such a fool, Seychelle. You’re not going to make two dollars with this group, not unless you whore yourself out.”
“You have such a pleasant personality. I’d like you to leave.”
Joseph Arnold stepped forward, right into her personal space, forcing her back against the wall of the building. “You think you’re so high and mighty, always superior. I’m not putting up with it. You’ll work for me or you’re going to be very sorry. No one in the industry will touch you. You’ll spend your life with going-nowhere bands.”
“Better than spending my life with a grubby little man who tries to force himself on women. First you try to ask me out a million times, and now you’re suddenly a music scout. It’s a crock of shit. Get away from me.”
“You little cunt. You’re nothing without me.”
“You’re drunk and high, just like you were the last time you made your pathetic little pitch. Get away from me now.”
He grabbed her around the throat and started to shake her, squeezing hard with his big fingers. Savage was already on the move, exploding out of the shadows with blurring speed. “Get the fuck off her,” he snapped, grabbing the scout by his hair and wrenching him back away from Seychelle.
Joseph hung on grimly to her, roaring with rage that someone dared interfere. He pulled Seychelle with him over backward so the two nearly fell to the asphalt. At the last moment, to try to save himself, Joseph let go of her and threw out his arms to prevent his face from hitting the hard surface.
The moment Joseph let go of Seychelle, Savage was on him, punching his ribs, his chin, back to his ribs and then pummeling his face. The nose squelched with blood, was sickening when it broke, and then Savage smashed a fist to his face again.
Seychelle caught his arm when Savage pulled back for another punch. He whirled around, nearly knocking her over.
“He’s had enough, Savage,” she said. “He’s the type to call the cops and then sue you.”
“I don’t think so.” Savage took pictures of her neck and then crouched down beside Joseph. “You call the cops, I’ll make certain you go to jail for attempted murder. If you go near her again, this is nothing compared to what I’ll do to you, you piece of shit.”
He straightened slowly and turned to Seychelle. She was attempting to light another cigarette with shaky hands. He pulled it out of her hand, crumpled it up and tossed it right onto Joseph’s bloody face, and then, catching her by the
arm, walked her to the far entrance, away from the groaning, writhing man.
Savage pushed her up against the wall, back into the shadows where he was most comfortable. “You’re not smoking anymore. I don’t like it.”
Seychelle raised her eyebrow and edged back a little from him. “I don’t think that’s your business, Savage. I pretty much do whatever I want.”
“You can kiss that good-bye.”
She gave him that faint smile, a flash of the dimple that might someday really manage to drive him insane. He seemed to be able to read everyone but her. That mysterious little smile intrigued him and yet made him want to do all sorts of sinful things to her that he would get off on, but she might not like so much—at first.
“Nice to know what you’re really like. You do realize I might not want to smoke but I’m addicted, so I can’t stop.”
“That’s pure bullshit. Everyone is addicted to something, Seychelle. You’re strong. If you want to quit, then you will. I say you will. I don’t want to see you with these again.” He snapped his fingers. “Give me the pack.”
She stood there for a few long moments, studying the hard line of his jaw. His expressionless mask. Those blue eyes of hers drifted over his face, and for a few moments his heart stuttered as if she were touching him. He couldn’t let her mesmerize him.
“Baby, you don’t hand them over, I’ll just take them.”
She shook her head, her chin going up defiantly. Savage was all instinct. He didn’t do well with defiance from his woman. In any case, he had to test the waters. So far, she’d reacted exactly the way he needed her to. He caught her hips, spun her around so she was facing the wall, yanked that fuckin’ little sexy dress right up over her hot little ass encased in the prettiest, sexiest, mint green lace panties he’d ever seen. He smacked her ass hard. Three hard strikes
on each cheek and then whipped her dress down before turning her back around.
“Give me the fuckin’ pack of cigarettes, Seychelle. I’m not playin’ games here.”