Ember (Men of Inked : Heatwave #7) by Chelle Bliss


Prologue





Rocco





There’s nothing peaceful about dying.

Not for the person taking their last breath.

Not for the person there as witness.

Not for the people left behind.

And yet, the world doesn’t stop moving for a single second to mourn their passing. There’s no universal pause for the life that’s been extinguished. One minute, they are alive, and the next, they’re gone.

I had a romanticized version of dying before that day. I never thought it was as brutal as the reality.

I was naïve, stupid, and young.

It was my youth that made me delusional, but that day…that very moment Carrie took her last breath, I was left with the reality that those whom I loved would die someday, along with myself.

I’d forever be haunted by the sounds of the life being choked out of her. Eternally traumatized by the way she pleaded for my help with nothing except her eyes.

I was powerless to save her. Unable to do anything except comfort her. I made a promise to myself after her body finally stilled.

I’ll never allow myself to fall in love, opening my heart to someone so wide that they have the ability to destroy me from the inside out.

There was no guarantee of growing old, even though my family had seemed blessed with years well beyond the norm.

I knew every second that passed was another moment I was closer to the end. That simple fact stayed rooted in my mind for years.

I’d live life to the fullest, never tying myself down to something that could destroy me. I’d enjoy every moment, savoring new experiences. I’d lose myself in the opposite sex, forgoing emotional relationships and indulging in carnal pleasures instead.

At least, that was my goal, and I had every intention of keeping the promise I’d made to myself.

But then, she happened…

The one who had the power to destroy me if given half a chance.

The only person who made me believe the wonders of loving someone could outweigh the pain of losing them.

The one who changed everything.

And for the first time, the one I couldn’t walk away from.





1





Rebel





“Rebel,” he whispers, repeating my name.

My belly flutters, something it rarely does. His voice is deep and caresses my skin as it washes over me.

I tip my head back, peering up at him, and the air catches in the back of my throat when I lock eyes with him. His gaze is so intense, I feel as if he’s looking deep into my soul.

“You look like a Rebel, sugar.” He smirks.

My knees go weak, but I keep myself upright by planting my hand firmly on the hood of my pickup truck. I suck in a breath, trying to fill my lungs.

The man is beautiful.

No.

He’s more than that.

He’s a work of art, clearly molded from someone’s vision of the perfect male specimen.

Wide shoulders.

Thick biceps.

Big strong hands.

And a face that could make panties hit the floor with one single glance and very little effort.

I bite my lip, grounding myself with the twinge of pain, and remind myself he’s only a man. A hot one, but still…just a man.

“Baby, I’m more like trouble than a rebel,” I reply, somehow keeping the quaver out of my voice.

His smirk grows, exposing a dimple in his cheek.

Yep, a dimple.

Dimples are my weakness and not just those on the face.

The back ones, the two right above the ass…fuuuuuuck. I’m a goner for those every time.

“You two play nice,” my best friend Carrie says as she takes her guy’s hand, following him toward the cabin with the biggest shit-eating grin on her face.

I’m not sure if I want to give her the finger or blow her kisses for hooking me up with her man’s twin brother.

She’s been talking about this weekend for days. I didn’t understand it until this moment. There were thousands of men on campus we could’ve partied with, but she said no one compared to the Caldo twins. I figured she was full of shit, but standing here, staring at one of them… She was not wrong.

Carrie gives me a wink across the yard before Carmello yanks her inside, no doubt in a race to get her naked.

“Whatcha wanna do, Reb?” Rocco’s gaze is still firmly planted on me as if nothing else matters.

“I…uh.”

Shit.

What I really want to do is climb him like a tree, removing the thin clothing from his body to see what lies underneath and explore.