Better When It Hurts by Skye Warren Release Blitz
Better When It Hurts by Skye Warren Stripped #2 Publication Date: June 4, 2015 Genres: Contemporary, Romance
Five years ago we lived in the same house. He was the ultimate bad boy. And my foster brother.Now he's back. Tougher, harder, meaner. All of it aimed at me, because I was the one who sent him away. It's payback time. He wants his pound of flesh, and I am helpless to say no. **************** Books in the Stripped series ½. Tough Love (prequel) 1. Love the Way You Lie 2. Better When It Hurts 3. Pretty When You Cry Praise for the Stripped series by Skye Warren: "It's gritty, edgy, and sexy, served to you in the well-written, absorbing style that Skye is so talented at delivering. I can't wait to get my hands on the rest of the Stripped series." - Shameless Book Club "A jagged, layered and enthralling adventure that weaves darkness and light with precision and purpose." - the lusty literate "It's dark, mysterious, sexy, and I loved every page of it! There were twists and turns that I never saw coming! I love when an author is able to keep me guessing until the very end of the book." - Book Fancy Book Blog "Love The Way You Lie was heartwarming, exhilarating and tantalizing with just the right tinge of darkness." - Warhawke's Vault
About Skye WarrenSkye Warren is the New York Times and USA Today Bestselling author of dark romantic fiction. Her books are raw, sexual and perversely romantic.
I try not to scan the floor when I enter. There’s already a buzz in the air, the hunger and desperation of a strip club on Saturday night. I’m ready to earn money, ready to move my body.
Ready to pretend Blue doesn’t bother me.
He’s nowhere in sight, and I breathe a sigh of relief. A group of men are still gathered near the railing. They’d tipped me pretty well while I was up there, so I figure I have a good shot at a lap dance. I saunter over, my breasts barely contained in the red bikini top, my skin coated in sweat and glitter and the thick smoke of this place.
“Nice set,” says a low voice from behind me.
I turn to see Blue standing there, arms crossed so his muscles bulge, lids lowered in that intense way of his. Shit. “Thanks,” I say, but the only thing I’m really thankful for is that my voice doesn’t shake.
He’s the head of security at the Grand, which should make me feel safe. Except we have a history. And he hates my guts. So there’s no affection in his eyes when they scan me up and down. No kindness in his voice when he adds, “You look great.”
The way he says it, it sounds like a threat. He makes me feel like the scared little girl I used to be when I knew him before. And him? He’s like the big bad wolf, sizing me up before he swallows me whole.
I force myself to shrug at him, to toss my hair. “Thanks, sweetie.”
He circles me, surrounding me. “But then, you always look great. That’s what you like, isn’t it? Having men panting after you? Leading us along by our dicks?”
My throat gets tight. I know that’s what people think of me. They take one look at my lipstick and my short skirt and assume the worst. God, they’re right. But it’s worse to hear it from him. Worse because he once believed in me. “Do you expect me to apologize for earning a living?”
His lids lower. “Not for that.”
I can’t meet his eyes. I know exactly what he wants me to apologize for. And he’ll never believe me. Even showing weakness in this game is enough to get me killed. “I don’t apologize to anyone.”
“Of course you don’t,” he says, his voice full of loathing. “But I don’t want your words.”
I can’t help but whisper, “What do you want?”
That makes him smile. It’s not a nice smile. “I think you know the answer to that.”
He wants to hurt me, to use me. He wants to fuck me. I swallow hard. “That isn’t for sale.”
“I wasn’t planning to pay you.”
This should be easy. Tell him no. Make him believe it. I’ve done this for a thousand men before. Somehow he’s different. Maybe because I don’t really believe it myself.
I know he’s watching me. I know he’s hatching his plans. My heart speeds up every time I turn away from him, wondering if this is the time he’ll pounce. One of these times, he’s going to dig into me with his teeth and his claws. He’s going to hurt me, and I’m not sure I’ll survive it.
Not tonight, though. Not now.
I take a step away from him. “If you aren’t going to pay for my time, I think I’ll find someone who will.”
His eyes darken. “Your call, gorgeous.”
I hear the unspoken message beneath his words, steel under velvet. For now.
The whistle of a belt coming off follows me into Blue’s bedroom. My breath stutters in my chest. I hear the threat of the movement, the speed and power behind it. It’s more than a man getting undressed.
There’s a hundred ways a belt can be used to hurt me. I know them well.
I turn my head to the side, addressing him but showing deference too. It’s an instinct now. It’s survival. “What are you going to do with that?”
“I’d rather show you,” he says, approaching me, prowling around me.
I don’t want him to hit me with that belt. Not because I can’t take the pain. I know I can, because I’ve done it before. I don’t want him to hit me because I might start hating him.
“Wait,” I say.
He doesn’t wait. One hand takes my wrist. Standing behind me, he leans close. “What do you think I’ll do with this? Make your pretty skin all red? Make you cry?”
I tense, twisting my arm. It only hurts me, and I’m still held tight. “Don’t.”
“I’m going to do both of those things before we’re done here, Lola.” He pauses, loosening his grip slightly. “But I’m not going to whip you with this.”
There’s only a second where I can feel relieved before I feel him drawing my other hand behind me. It’s a mistake to relax around him. Whatever I’m thinking, he’s doing something different. However much I brace myself, it’s still going to hurt.
He wraps the soft leather around my wrists, binding them together behind my back. It pushes my breasts out in front of me. Cool air brushes over my skin, tightening my nipples.
There’s weakness in this pose, being held, being open.
And there’s strength too, the pride of being wanted, the power of desire.
“On your knees,” he says so softly I almost don’t hear him.
I don’t know what he’s thinking. Whether he sees me as an object he can use or as an enemy he can conquer. I’m a little off balance, lilting to the side as I sink to the carpet. His hands cup my arms, helping me down, guiding my gently. It feels more like worship than anger, more like kindness than cruelty.
At least until the sharp sound of his zipper rips through the air.
His voice follows. “Candy doesn’t think I’ll hurt you.”
I shiver at the foreboding underneath the words. “Yes.”
He undresses slowly, methodically, exposing rough skin and dark hair and a thick, jutting cock.
I have seen his cock before, but only in the dark, holding it in my fist while I jerked him off, shadows and motion. Now I see the skin like the dark side of a peach, almost the color of a bruise. I see the curve of a vein underneath. I see the head of his cock, fat and proud and already glistening at the tip.
I see everything clearly because the saturated late-afternoon light still streams through his window. Our hours are all backward and twisted. Where another woman would do this at midnight, would expose her shame to the moon, mine comes open at five o’clock.
“She thinks you’re safe with me because I protect the other girls.” He approaches me, his cock near my face, his eyes looking down on me. “I even protect you.”
I choke out the words. “Because only you get to touch me.”
He nods approvingly. Candy doesn’t understand, he means. I understand. He’s showing me that we’re together on this, like some perverted joint mission where I agree to be hurt. And haven’t I? I showed up here of my own free will. Maybe I do want what’s coming to me.
The door slams open, and Blue strides into the room. A burst of sound follows him in the seconds before the door swings shut. I shrink back against the lockers before I can help it. That doesn’t stop him. It doesn’t even slow him down as he steps right into my space, just inches from my face, still breathing hard.
“What the fuck are you doing here?” His eyes are still wild from the fight, violence and victory mixed together.
I try not to flinch. “I wanted to…to talk to you about something.”
“How did you know I was fighting tonight?”
I’m not going to tell on Candy, even if he’ll figure it out as soon as he sees her here. Instead I bite my lip and try to remember the speech I was going to give him. “Congratulations?”
That wasn’t it.
He shakes his head. “No, Lola. This isn’t one of your little games. I’m not one of the men you can lead around by my dick. Not anymore.”
And then I do flinch, because the reminder of our past is too painful not to. “I’m not trying to lead you anywhere,” I whisper.
His lips curve into a cold smile. “No? You brought me here, didn’t you? Just you and me and the rest of the world locked out. You made that happen.”
Something pricks my eyes—tears. No no no. I can’t possibly cry in front of him. I don’t know why I’d cry at all. This is my life. I’m long past wishing for something different, aren’t I? I look down at the concrete floor so he won’t see me struggle.
Of course he doesn’t accept that. His fingers—sweaty and gloveless—lift my chin. “Why’d you come here, Lola?” His voice is suddenly lower and strangely seductive. Maybe that’s how fucked-up I’ve gotten, that cruelty turns me on. “What do you want?”
My fingers fumble as I pull the wallet from my back pocket. It’s still warm from my body as I hold it up. “This is yours. I stole it. I—I took it by accident.”
That wasn’t what I’d meant to say at all. I’d meant to explain the situation like it happened—that I’d woken up with the wallet in my bed. That I had no memory of it, but obviously there had been a mistake. I’d taken nothing from the wallet, no harm no foul.
Instead I’d stuttered like I was thirteen again, stealing everything I could slip into my pockets, confessing to my foster dad before he whipped me with his belt.
Blue takes the wallet from me, his expression speculative. It’s almost as if he’s never seen it before, even though I know it belongs to him. I rifled through his things, touched the stone-faced plastic image on his license. And he knows I invaded his privacy that way, just like I invaded his pocket when he brought me home.
He tosses the wallet onto a bench behind him, dismissing it. His hand lands on the locker beside me, blocking me in. His eyes meet mine. “You still steal.”
“No,” I say, but his wallet calls me a liar. Naturally he’d remember the worst thing about me. I’d helped him remember. “Not anymore. Not usually except…I must have been drunk or something.”
“You didn’t used to drink.”
“A lot’s changed.” I used to hate the taste of beer. It reminded me too much of foster brothers with groping hands and tongues. I still couldn’t touch the stuff, but every now and then I used alcohol to try and numb the pain. It was just a shame it never worked.
His gaze scans my body, unapologetic as it measures me, probes me, demands all my secrets. “I can see that.”
I shrug, pretending to be unaffected. No, I am unaffected, damn it. “You see more than this every night.”
“Less. When you’re naked up there onstage, that’s what you show to every man.” His eyes are hooded. “This is what you wore for me.”