Rival Page 15

But I found out that they were part of a façade that he adopted. When the clothes came off, so did Madoc’s mask. At night when he’d hang out in just jeans and nothing else, it was like I was seeing an entirely different guy.

Strong. Powerful. Mine.

Apparently others had seen his good side, too, if he could count Tatum Brandt as a friend. As far as I could tell, she was ambitious and levelheaded.

And although her boyfriend and Madoc’s best friend could go piss up a tree as far as I was concerned, I had to admit that he seemed to have grown up. He had some nice ink, a gorgeous tree tattooed on his back, covering almost the entire area. My tattoos were smaller, but I had more. We might even have a thing or two in common now.

As much as I wanted to know Jared and Tate’s story, I was more and more satisfied as the night wore on that he deserved her. He didn’t say one wrong word to her, or talk to any other girls, and always touched her when they were close. An arm over her shoulder, a hand at her back, a kiss on the top of her head.

And these people were Madoc’s best friends. They were people that didn’t make me cringe or despise being around them.

After I’d toweled off, I put my clothes back on and poured myself a beer from the keg, while Jared and Tate joined Madoc and some blonde over at the fire pit.

The sun had set and while it wasn’t chilly, there was a nice breeze coming through the trees. The party was still loud and still busy, but people were spreading out. Some went into the house to watch movies or play video games, while others filtered out onto the grounds. I was sure there were several bedrooms already occupied, as well.

“So how does Madoc have a sister?” A deep, velvety voice came up to my side.

I tipped my head up from the tap and did a double-take, my mouth falling open.

Holy crap.

The guy—a young one, too—was entirely too beautiful for words. Who the hell . . .

He had a smooth face, but a strong, angular jaw and high cheekbones. His eyebrows were straight and at a slant, making his striking blue eyes stand out even more against his tanned skin. Or maybe that was his natural skin tone. He wore his dark brown hair long, but it was pulled back into a ponytail.

He had no tattoos, and he didn’t need them, either. With his height and toned build, why cover any of that up? Looking like that shouldn’t be legal. Hell, looking at him like I was probably wasn’t legal yet, either. I hardened my eyes, hoping my glasses obscured my gawking.

“Madoc doesn’t have a sister.” I pursed my lips. “Who are you?”

“Jaxon Trent,” he said lightly. “And don’t worry, I’m not trying to hit on you. I think I’d have to get in line, what with you showing the whole world how you look in lingerie.” He smiled with a twinkle in his eye. “I like your spunk. Just wanted to say hi.”

“Trent? As in Jared Trent?” I took a sip of my beer and peered up at him.

“Yeah, he’s my brother.”

He looked so proud saying it I didn’t have the heart to be sarcastic.

“I like your piercings.” He motioned to my ears. “Are you the one that inspired Madoc’s?”

“Madoc’s what?” We started walking toward the fire pit, my flip-flops sloshing through puddles on the now drenched pool deck.

“Piercing,” he answered, leaning in to whisper. “Rumor is that he has one somewhere, but we can’t see it. Tate thinks it’s a Prince Albert. I’m going with a Jacob’s Ladder. Madoc’s either all in or all out.”

Madoc with a piercing? And that ass**le gave me so much shit about mine. I let out a bitter laugh. “Well, I wouldn’t know.”

“Yeah, it’s driving us all nuts,” he joked as we sat down in the circle surrounding the fire.

The pit, along with the Jacuzzi, helped make the outdoor area usable all year long, even during the bitter-cold Midwest winters. It was a large copper bowl stretching about four feet in diameter, and it burned real wood. Not only did it create substantial flames, but it also generated a lot of heat.

Since the evening wasn’t nearly cold enough, there was only a small amount of wood burning. The soft glow kept the area dim except for our eyes that were brightened by the dance of the flames across our faces.

Jared sat on the ground, leaning against a rock, with Tate between his legs and her back pulled up to his chest. Madoc was in a similar position; however, he sat on a chair across the fire from me with a girl on the ground between his legs.


He had his hand around her neck, but not in a threatening way. His fingers lightly caressed her while his thumb moved in circles. She stared into the flames, closing her eyes every so often, clearly enjoying the attention.

I watched his fingers, mesmerized by how she was putty in his hands. He was soft and slow, gentle and attentive. Possessive. Pressure built low in my belly, and I clenched my thighs, feeling the long-forgotten burn.

And then I looked up. My chest heaved.

His eyes were on me. Pinning me with the absence of everything they usually held. The amusement was gone. The mischief had disappeared. The game was silent.

The mask was off.

In This Moment’s “Whore” poured out of the speakers, and I stared into his hard eyes that were hot and urgent on my skin. My tongue moved around my closed mouth, trying to quench the dryness in my throat.

He touched her with his hands but held me with his eyes, and every time he stroked her jaw or ran his finger across her cheek, I could feel the tingle on my skin.

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