Welcome, and join us as we count down the final 10 days before Beyond Ruin by revisiting some of our favorite Mad, Dylan, Scarlet & Jade moments from the past six books! We’ll be posting an image each day on social media, but here on the blog we’ll be doing a longer excerpt and maybe even a few notes about the scene. 🙂 And today is…
Scarlet Sings in Sector Three
Remember Day 7 when Jade said she knows the difference between a man seeing something he wants and something he needs? This scene is Mad, seeing both. Maybe for the first time. And I would say this, more than anything else, is the moment that changed everything for our four would-be lovers.
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Mad had seen more of the sectors and beyond than most people knew existed. He’d visited pre-Flare cities left abandoned and gutted, every useful thing stripped away and buildings left like skeletons to decay and die alone. He’d seen miracles of human ingenuity and things that could only be the hand of a higher power—the vastness of the ocean, the beauty of the Grand Canyon.
He’d seen Scarlet a hundred times. He’d seen her laughing and angry, had seen her capacity for violence when she fought for her people, and her protectiveness in the way she handled Jade.
He’d seen so much of her, but before tonight he’d never seen her sing. And when she was singing, she was the most transcendent damn thing he’d ever laid eyes on.
It seemed like half the residents of Sectors Three and Four agreed with him. The crowd spilled out into the street, where speakers kept them from rioting and a makeshift bar kept them drinking, but the place closest to the stage had been reserved for the O’Kanes, giving Mad an unobstructed view of Scarlet as she cradled the microphone.
She was a rough-and-tumble woman, pierced and tattooed and often packing almost as many weapons as Mad himself. He’d expected her music to be the same—angry, sharp edges, loud and brash and unapologetically aggressive.
Not this. Not low and sweet, sliding over him like warm honey. Not so sensual his body stirred with the first notes and throbbed when she met his eyes from beneath her blonde bangs.
The first time, he thought it was a trick of the light. But her gaze returned, seizing his and daring him to look away.
The lyrics blurred together, leaving her sultry voice and the steady, suggestive drumline. The music curled around him, tugged at him. Found an echoing darkness inside him, a pain too vast and old for anything to touch—and stroked it.
I understand, whispered the song, as Scarlet sang breathlessly about loss and need, a craving so deep it could swallow the world. I know your pain. I know your heart. I know you. I see you. You are not alone.
It was the lie behind music. You looked into it and saw what your heart desired, as if every note, every syllable, had been written just for you, instead of being the solitary work of some narcissistic creator who didn’t care about the wounds on your soul.
A lie, and yet still truth. Scarlet might not give two shits about most of the people crushed in front of the stage, but—for the length of a song, a set—they felt less alone. Believing the lie was enough. Hope healed in tiny increments, but it still healed.
Scarlet’s eyes drilled into his. Her body swayed in a hypnotic rhythm, one he’d seen before. Then, she’d had her hands on Jade’s body, her hips rolling in a way that had left him uncomfortably hard. He’d blamed it on her dance partner at the time—Jade, who was made of mouthwatering curves, whose every movement was graceful to the point of absentminded seduction.
Softness, that had always been Mad’s weakness. Sweet women who just needed a little tenderness to wake them up. Making them feel good made him feel good, and everyone walked away with fond, pleasant memories and mild feelings.
Mild wasn’t always satisfying, but intensity was complicated.
Scarlet wasn’t soft or sweet, and she didn’t do mild. She could eye-fuck him from the stage all night, but if the two of them ever ended up locked in a room together, it wouldn’t be warm honey and slow swaying.
They’d fight for the top. She’d play rough, fight hard. Fuck, she’d probably win. Not because he couldn’t, but because the stakes were too damn high. It was one thing to shore up vulnerabilities that were already there, but when you made someone vulnerable, when you demanded their surrender—
You had to be worthy of it.
No, not just worthy. You had to be strong. Whole. You had to be unshakable, hard enough to protect them in their vulnerability, not be the one likely to shatter apart.
You had to be a fucking hero. And that was the one thing Mad had promised himself he’d never try to be again.
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