Undercover cop Clay Navarro left the Sultans biker gang a changed man. Its ringleaders may be awaiting trial, but he wears the memory of every brutal act he was forced to commit tattooed across his skin. He doesn’t have space in his messed-up life for anything gentle—not now, maybe not ever.
Dr. Georgette Hadley is drawn to the damaged stranger’s pain, intimidated but intrigued by the warmth that lies beneath Clay’s frightening exterior. But when the Sultans return looking for revenge, she finds herself drawn into the dirty underbelly of a life forged in violence…that not even her touch may be able to heal.
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“Several sessions, definitely. A few months, certainly. I would venture to say close to a year. Possibly longer.” She’d seen tattoos take ages to fade. And some…some never went away. “There’ll almost always be remnants, Mr. Blane. I just need to make sure you understand that. Your skin’s never going back to how it looked before.”
He nodded and sighed, that big back curving slightly, as if in defeat. Were he a woman, she’d put a hand on his shoulder, comfort him, but this man… No. Better keep that to a minimum.
“I’ve got a couple farther…uh…farther south.” One wide, ink-blackened hand gestured vaguely to his legs, and she smiled nervously, nodding as if this were all just par for the course. As if she hosted half-naked bad boys in her office every day.
“Yes, well. How about we start with one session whenever we can fit you in, and we’ll—”
“Oh. No. There’s prep that needs to be done. We need to numb you for big surfaces like this. And then when you come in, we’ll also ice you down. For the pain.”
“Doesn’t matter.” He swallowed, his Adam’s apple bobbing visibly, and she could feel his nerves or fear or whatever that edge was. “Clock’s ticking, Doc.” His expression grew impossibly harder: jaw tight, lips curving down into a sharp, pained sneer. “Just…” One of those big, rough-looking hands skimmed his chest. “At least my face and knuckles. Here too. Whatever a suit can’t cover up to start with, but—”
That surprised her. “A suit?” she asked before she could hold the question in.
He gave a tight smile, one brow arched high. “Yeah. Can’t picture that, huh?”
“Oh, no, that’s not what—”
“I know what you meant, Doctor.” He caught her eye, held it, intimidating, but also human behind the markings.
“Look.” She glanced at her watch, trying not to think of the parody of a timepiece etched into his wrist. “It’s late on a holiday weekend and—”
“I don’t need pain meds. I can do this. And I know you got family waiting. But maybe you could just…”
He looked away before nodding once and turning back to her with a harshly expelled breath. “You’re right. Not the best time. I’ll let you get back to your life.”
He stood, swiftly and smoothly, and George couldn’t help but stare at the mess of his skin, contrasted with the perfection of his body—the mystery of the man within.
All sorts of bodies came through her clinic, young and old, tight and saggy. She’d examined some whose scars were hidden and others whose damage was obvious.
There’d been babies, fresh and new and already marred for life, and yes, there were sometimes men she admired. Next door, for God’s sake, was a plethora of hard bodies to choose from. The MMA school overflowed with them—men who lifted and punched and
fought and worked, but this…this was masculinity in its purest form. This man didn’t primp in the mornings or even look in the mirror. He got up, he washed, he walked out the door. Only there wasn’t a door in her musings. There was nothing but the great outdoors, savage and unkempt, or the mouth to a cave.
Hard and dark, his hair almost black, with brows that arrowed straight out from three deep frown lines. And his body—she stared, caught up in the realness of this man, which was the oddest thought, as if the rest of her patients were somehow less than this one.
This wasn’t just another epidermis to examine. This was muscle, undeniable in its curves and hollows. And even the damage was heartbreakingly appealing, layered as it was on top of that firm flesh, his energy palpable, tensile strength, so real that she could almost feel him vibrate with it.
Beneath her gaze, under the harsh, white light, she could have sworn his nipples hardened, and viscerally, her body felt it, reacted as if separate from her doctor’s brain.
Keep it in your pants, Hadley! The man is probably dangerous, possibly in trouble, and, if nothing else, completely inadvisable.
Out of guilt, as if to make up for her rogue brain or overactive hormones or whatever the hell was pushing her to skim the line between brazen and professional, she put a hand up to stop him.
“Fine. We’ll do your knuckles and your eyes and see how it goes from there. Your face is… You’ll need injections and metal eye shields. Would you like something to drink? Water or tea?”
“Tea?” he asked, that brow up again, and she felt herself flush. Right. Not a man who drank tea.
“All right, well I’ll need to numb your lids first.”
“It’ll be painful, Mr. Blane. Like being splashed with hot bacon grease.” I know firsthand, she almost added but decided to keep that detail to herself. “And if you accidentally open your eyes, it’s… Look, I don’t recomm—”
“No numbing,” he repeated firmly.
“Okay, then. But I’ll have to insert eye shields. They’re like big metal contact lenses.”
“Sounds sexy.” His voice was low with what might have been humor—an apology, perhaps, for his abrupt words before.
George’s eyes flew to his to find him watching her, and rather than dwell on the way his gaze affected her, she looked quickly away and busied herself by collecting supplies. If nothing else, she could at least pretend to act professional.
She was, after all, a doctor.