Singe (Men of Inked - Heatwave #8) by Chelle Bliss



Prologue





Carmello





I craved forgiveness. Needed it more than the air I breathed.

Spent eleven years trying to find it, too.

First, I did good deeds for anyone I could, but after a short amount of time, the small measure of happiness they provided me wore off.

Next, I tried a relationship, thinking settling down with someone would fill the darkness caused by my actions. But that didn’t work. I got hooked to a crazy-ass bitch who tattooed my name on her body after forty-eight hours, and any thoughts of future relationships fizzled.

Awkward doesn’t even begin to describe the entire breakup with that chick.

After that, I gave up on anything long-term, deciding to find forgiveness somewhere inside me by the simple act of enjoying life—coupled with therapy, of course.

I was smart enough to recognize I needed help.

My therapist was male so there’d be no chance I’d have her body bent over her desk, seeking more than advice. I went to his office once a week for six months, paying thousands of dollars to him, and I still felt the same each time I walked out the door.

Empty.

I knew I didn’t cause my former girlfriend’s death. It was ruled an accident because no one can control Mother Nature, especially not a group of asshole deer bolting into the middle of the road.

But deep in my mind, back in the darkest recesses, I still blamed myself for not swerving the opposite direction and not forcing her to put on her seat belt.

We were young and dumb. Death felt like something that couldn’t touch us…until it did.

Some people deal with their guilt and grief by getting lost at the bottom of a bottle of booze or pills. I’d never been one to dull the pain without there being some pleasure in it too. There was no pleasure in waking up with a hangover or fiending for another fix.

I tried to find my redemption another way.

One full of satisfaction instead of numbness.

Women.

But a man cannot find salvation buried deep in pussy.

I tried. Lord knows I tried.

All types of pussy, too.

Tight pussy.

Loose pussy.

Easy pussy.

Hard-to-get pussy.

Nameless pussy.

Faceless pussy.

Pussy in every position.

None of it mattered.

They were all the same.

Each encounter ended with emptiness.

I couldn’t go on this way.

Each year ticks by, no better or worse than the one before.

I am wasting my life.

It may have been one hell of a ride, but it is still completely unfulfilling.

Most of my cousins have moved forward, even my twin brother, while I am stuck somewhere in the past, floating through each day without an anchor.

My life needs to change, or else I’ll end up alone, watching those around me revel in their happiness.





1





I take a long sip as the clock strikes midnight. The crowd cheers when the confetti falls from the ceiling like feathers floating to the floor.

The people around me are kissing each other as they make promises for the next year. Resolutions they most likely won’t keep.

This is my first New Year’s alone.

The first not surrounded by my family and friends, instead, sipping on a whiskey neat as I take in the ridiculous joy all around me.

I turn my head to the side, noticing the only couple not kissing in celebration. The woman’s back is pressed against the bar, her head angled to the side, with a man crowding her space.

“Come on, sweetie. One kiss. It’s New Year’s.” I hear him say to her.

“No,” she snaps, her voice soft but audible above the music. “I don’t even know you.”

He places his hands on her hips, and she flinches. “Please don’t,” she begs, squeezing her eyes shut.

The man smiles, but there’s nothing friendly about the look. “One kiss,” he tells her, not giving up and not giving a fuck either.

I set down my drink on the bar and take a deep breath, hoping I don’t end up in jail for the night.

I stalk up behind them. “Hey, darlin’. Sorry I’m late.”

Her eyes snap open and widen as I give her a nod, letting her know I know she’s not okay.

“Are you bothering my girl?” I ask the back of his head.

“Piss off,” he snarls, glancing at me out of the corner of his eye.

I cross my arms, squaring my shoulders, and cock my head. “You have two seconds to take your hands off my girl, or I’m putting your ass on the ground.”