Branded sanctuary, p.44
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       Branded Sanctuary, p.44

         Part #7 of Nature of Desire series by Joey W. Hill
Page 44


  That caught the attention of some of the nearer tables, and Chloe felt a flush burn across her cheeks. Brendans expression changed. The current of rage that jettisoned through him was strong as the vibrating thunder. When he surged forward, she reacted instinctively. She slid between the two of them, pressing her back firmly to Brendans chest, putting a quelling hand on Tims.

  In hindsight, it told her something pretty significant about how she felt with Brendan. Shed become far more timid about inserting herself into a potentially volatile situation, but this time she hadnt hesitated. Of course, once there, surrounded by combustible violence, her mind was jerked back to the memory of a face thrust into hers, saliva spraying her as his screamed accusations hurt her ears.

  She struggled past that. Though she was standing between two men simmering with past ill feeling, her head barely coming up to their chins, Brendan would never hurt her, even if it meant backing down from a fight. Nor would he let anyone hurt her. She knew it. Because she knew that, she stayed where she was, hoping it would defuse before the young female manager, even now glancing over at them warily, called the cops.

  You son of a bitch, Brendan said, trying to keep his voice down. Ive done nothing to deserve that from you. A nd she sure as hell hasnt.

  A pologize to her, or Im going to ruin that bleach job youve had done on your teeth.

  Shes protective, Tim ignored him to give Chloe a mocking look. Like a cute Pomeranian.

  Chloe gritted her teeth. Seems to me you werent enough for him, either, because hes not with you.

  No ones enough for him, sweetheart, Tim scoffed. Except his Mistress Marguerite. Shes the only one hes ever begged to brand him like her personal slave.

  Brendan went rigid behind her, his hands closing on her biceps, whether to steady her or thrust her out of the way, she didnt know. But she couldnt move anyhow. She blinked. W-what?

  Brendan said something else to Tim, but she didnt hear it. Instead, she was spinning back to the very first night Brendan had stayed with her.

  When shed first seen the brand. She remembered how shed come out of the bathroom, looked at it while hed been lying on his stomach. The way shed pressed her mouth to it, with the odd idea she was overriding someone elses claim on him.

  She thought about the fleur de lis , the way his eyes changed when she passed her fingers over it. I wont refuse to answer any question you ask, but Im requesting that you hold off on that one I dont want to scare you off. I like being with you too much.

  Studying her face, Tim nodded with satisfaction, stepped back. Ill see you around, Brendan. Paybacks a bitch, isnt it?

  Youre a coward, Brendan said with venom. Youre too scared to strike out at your real target. Which is a good thing, because if she didnt finish the job she started, her husband sure as hell would. Youre still running scared, Tim. Being an abusive bully and running scared.

  Excuse me, Chloe mumbled. She pushed away from them both, not really caring if they pounded one another to crumb cake. Heedless of the rain, which was still falling but fortunately had gone to a more gentle drizzle, she got out the door, hardly aware of the people coming in that she bulled her way through.

  Her mind was swirling with it. Marguerite. Mistress Marguerite. The brand. The way Brendan acted toward Marguerite, and her toward him.

  Then her mind dragged her to how protective M was. Take care of yourself or we will do it for you What better way than to send her someone who would watch over her, show an almost inhuman propensity for putting her needs before his?

  No lover acted like that, male or female.

  No, it made no sense. Marguerite wasnt duplicitous. But she was very secretive, and Chloe didnt completely understand this odd world of Domination and submission. Particularly what a Mistress could or couldnt command a slave to do.

  She closed her mind. It was easier to think of nothing, because behind the pain of betrayal was the return of nightmares, the feel of brutal hands, the insidious whispers through the night.

  Slut, whore, liar. None of what you think is real


  His shout made her feet move more quickly. She couldnt stand the idea of him touching her, being near her. She was a billion years old, and the touch of another organism, anything living, was capable of disintegrating her, just like those bones under glass shed seen at a museum once when she was young. Before she was nine, before she realized that everyone was like those bones, and they all lived in fragile containment environments, so easily shattered.

  She yelped as she was forcibly jerked backward, a moment before shed have stepped off the curb into the four-lane Tampa traffic. Horns and squealing wheels blasted open the door of her emotional fog like a SWAT team entering, ratcheting up her heart rate and adrenaline so abruptly pain grabbed her chest. She struggled against the arms holding her like iron bands, fighting to be free. Oddly, she realized she still had hot chocolate taste on her tongue, the remembered pleasure of a few minutes before.

  You really need to not do that when youre upset, Brendan muttered in her ear. Chloe, calm down. Breathe. Just breathe. Youre okay. He got her to one of the coffeehouse benches set under the spreading canopy of a couple live oaks, providing some coverage from the rain.

  He eased her head down to her knees but she pushed against him, letting him know her chest hurt and she needed to sit up. While he backed off, he remained cloyingly close, his hand seeking her fingers. She pulled them out of reach, crossed her arms over her chest.

  A s she oriented herself, she realized Tim was a few feet away, his face white, short of breath. A pparently he wasnt a totally unredeemable asshole, because hed run out here with Brendan when they both realized she wasnt aware of her surroundings.

  She okay? He spoke tersely.

  Go away, Tim. Brendans voice was flat, dangerous. You dont want to be here.

  The face of Brendans former lover became wooden, but he nodded, turned away. In a matter of steps he was out of her field of vision, probably headed to the parking area. Vaguely she wondered what flavor latte hed gotten from the shop before he chose to ruin her day.

  Brendans awkward silence cut her, but his words were little better. He cleared his throat. Would you like me to go get your hot chocolate?

  The half snort, half hysterical chuckle spat from her lips like a curse, full of scorn and self-deprecation. Sure. Why not? I mean, you dont want to let five bucks go to waste, just because I feel Hell, how am I supposed to feel about this?

  However you want.

  Of course. Of-fucking-course. Chloe surged up and rounded on him. Its always about what I want, what I feel. So what, did she order you to do whatever I needed if I called you?

  The shock and hurt on his face was so instantaneous, she had some small comfort in knowing she was off base on that, at least. Chloe, everything Ive said to you, felt about you, is real. I told you that I didnt want to lie to you, and I told you why.

  Because you were afraid it would scare me off. She rubbed her forehead. I remember. I justI never imagined this. God, thats why shes so protective of you. Youre hers.

  A s much as you are. Thats the way Marguerite is about everyone she He stopped, but she finished it, bitterly.

  She loves.

  But its not like that between us.

  Of course not. But its not some Sir Percival routine, lady from afar. She branded you, Brendan. Shes been at the club with you, not just with you. The flicker in his gaze told her she was right, and the knife drove in a little more. So shes probably done all sorts of weird, perverted Its not perverted, he snapped, real anger sweeping his expression.

  It wasnt a word she normally would have chosen, either, but Tim seemed to have rubbed off on her, and those words that had been trundling through her head with every stressful moment came forth now. Dirty. Filthy. Perverted.

  However, it was his anger that froze her in her tracks, not the abrupt flashback poss
essions of her mind that were no longer a big surprise to her.

  When you got pissed off at Tim a few moments ago, it was the first time Id seen you get ticked off about something. A nd it was because of what he said about her.

  It was because of what he said to you, in front of you.

  A nd now, she continued, as if he hadnt spoken, this is the first time youve ever raised your voice to me. A gain, because of her. The first time you have a fucking real opinion on anything, and its about her.

  Its not like that. Chloe, Ive told you

  I should have seen it. Even that night at the auction, you looked at her first. I was so overwhelmed, because you latched onto me like some guy dying of thirst in the desert, but you looked at her first.

  Chloe, you dont

  Understand? She shrugged, though the hated tears were threatening. Why had she ever gone down this road? Like she needed a relationship barely begun to fall apart, on top of all the other shit shed been handling in her head, her heart? No, I dont. Its not my world, is it? It wont ever be, because its not who I am. So how can any of this be anything more than an A lice-trip-to-fucking-Wonderland? You wear her brand, Brendan. I know what that means, if I dont know anything else. I want to go. Im going.

  She turned on her heel, wouldnt look at his face, not wanting to register any of his emotions, because she was having a hard enough time holding onto her own. For that nice, short time in the park, shed felt like she was getting a grip of things. She should have known it was a farce.

  Ill take you.

  No. I have friends near here. Ill walk, crash there. Get one to pick me up

  Chloe. His hand closed on her arm. Surprisingly, when she tried to shrug him off, he didnt budge. It brought her gaze unwillingly back to his face. His expression was tense, his mouth a straight line, eyes unhappy but determined.

  Youre upset, and I about pulled you out from beneath a truck. Even if you were completely calm, Im not going to leave you on a city block to go find yourself a place to stay, miles from home. Come back to my place. Before she could object, he held up his other hand. Ill find someplace else to stay. Youre more comfortable there right now. Theres no reason you shouldnt take advantage of it.

  Correction. Was more comfortable there. She felt meanly vindicated when he flinched, but what did he expect? She was supposed to lie in his bed, smell his scent, think of what theyd done there, and then think of Marguerite Fine, you can drive me. But not to your place. We can pick up my stuff there, but I want to go home. We all know Im safe there, Im just being paranoid.