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I briefly consider going for the talk first. I could straddle her, keep her wrists pinned, and force her to talk. But the lance of frustrated pain right through my balls tells me that’s a bad idea. I need to fuck her. I think she needs it too. Besides, a good orgasm will loosen both of us up so we can finally clear the air between us.

In fact, I know a fantastic way to loosen Vale up. Pushing up, I release her wrists and straddle the tops of her thighs. She raises her head and looks at me with lust-blurred eyes. I use the few moments I know that she’ll be dizzy from our foreplay to move as quickly as I can. I undo her jeans, scramble backward, and pull the denim material with silky panties underneath right down her legs to her ankles. The flash of red and green from the roses on her inner left thigh offends me but I don’t pay it any attention. It’s not my end goal.

From the foot of the bed, I pull off the dainty black ballet flats she had on before stripping the jeans and underwear right from her body. I can see comprehension starting to dawn on her face, and to avert a flight response, I take her by the ankles. Yanking her legs apart, exposing that sweetest and most delectable part of Vale’s body, I take a moment to stare at my prize. The haze of red and green roses seems to throb in my peripheral vision, but I don’t let it distract me.

In fact, I slide my gaze up her body, the top half of Vale completely covered with a plain, navy blue T-shirt, and meet her eyes head on. Those verdant orbs spark with lust, anger, fear, and challenge.

“We’re talking after this,” I warn her, just in case she thinks I’ll get sidetracked from my ultimate goal.

She gives a grunt of denial and now all I see is challenge left on her face.

I give her a return evil grin and crawl onto the bed between those gorgeous legs. Flopping down, face hovering right over her pussy, I use my arms to drape her legs over my shoulders, that offensive tattoo laying inches from my right ear. I push that thought away, spread her apart, and run my tongue up her center.

“Hawke,” Vale cries out loudly as her hands fly to my head. Her fingers sink into my hair, grasp hard, and then hold me in place.

She’s all in. So am I.

I lower my mouth to her again and I go to town. I eat her out as if my life depended on it, intent on giving her a climax so dizzying she won’t think twice about me flipping her over and fucking her from behind.

Fuck, she tastes good. She squirms underneath me, punching her hips up, demanding more. She makes mewling sounds, pulls so hard on my hair I’m pretty sure it’s close to ripping out, and calls my name softly…imploring me to finish her off.

When I stab my tongue in deep, her legs fall off my shoulders and her knees spread wide in complete and utter surrender. That vividly monstrous tattoo flashes again in my periphery and I can’t fucking help myself.

I raise my face up from her, go to an elbow, and wipe my mouth off. Vale’s hands release me and her head immediately pops up to look down at me with pleading question. She was close to coming; I could tell because her body is still the same. I know exactly what flick of the tongue would set her off too, but that’s forgotten momentarily.

My eyes drop down and to the right. For the first time since last weekend in my bathroom, I take a look at the blanket of roses that obliterated me from Vale’s body. Deep red petals of blood with thick layers of vines and leaves; sharp thorns sticking out, all of which is woven through a pale white lattice that runs up her inner thigh.

I literally can’t stomach it, so I look back up at her. My voice is raw and tinged with anger. “I hate that fucking tattoo.”

Vale’s eyes go soft with understanding and her lips curve up in an empathetic smile. She reaches a hand out and strokes my jaw. Then she stuns me by the confidence in her voice when she says, “Look at it again.”

I blink at her, trying to understand the message she might be trying to impart.

Does she want me to man up? Own the pain?

“Look at it, Hawke,” she murmurs. “Look at it closely.”

Her eyes aren’t challenging me anymore, but are full of encouragement. I doubt the genuine nature of her gaze, but still my head turns to look back at the tattoo.

Blood-red petals, dark green vines and leaves. White lattice.

I look closer.

The roses are ordinary but done with good detail. They are of varying sizes and shapes, some fully bloomed, while others are just tight buds. The leaves are all original in design, some even bending and overlapping others. The lattice is pale white rungs—five in all—which are interesting, because you don’t see white ink used often. But they are set off nicely with the layer of roses and leaves thickly woven in between them providing contrast.

In fact, if memory serves, the rungs are spaced apart almost directly over the place where my name resides under this fresh layer of ink. I bend in closer, place my fingertip on her skin, and trace the space between the first and second rungs.

And that’s when I see it.

The letter H.

I peer closer, narrowing my eyes. I stare hard at the greenery, let my vision go lax, and focus.

And almost like it’s emerging from a forest of craftily inked camouflage, my name starts to appear.


All five letters, one in the space between each rung, still there but completely surrounded by leaves and roses so it’s almost unreadable.

She didn’t cover my name.

My gaze slams back to hers.

Chapter 18


Unmitigated relief shines in Hawke’s eyes and they glow bluer than I think I’ve ever seen them. I expect a tender sentiment, maybe a statement of surprise, but he shocks the hell out of me when he growls, “Fuck me,” and surges up my body. He lifts my left leg, clasping his hand firmly behind my knee. He glances at the tattoo again, mutters “Fuck me” again, and then turns that intensity straight to me.

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