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 realizes how Very Complicated everyone’s feelings are.
Ahhh, yes. This is the scene, the one where we let people who were paying attention know just where these characters were headed. Jade, Mad, Scarlet & Dylan have been complicated from the beginning, but this is the scene where you get a peek of just how complicated. Because Jade likes Scarlet, and Mad likes Doc, and Scarlet likes Jade, and Jade likes Doc, and Scarlet likes Mad, and and and and…
It’s never going to get less complicated. But I sure the hell think it was worth it.
* * *
If only the bastard wasn’t so damn hot.
Scarlet brooded into her fourth drink—vodka, neat—and watched Jade smile up at Dylan Jordan. What she had to smile about was anyone’s guess, not to mention a mystery. Every time Scarlet herself had spoken to the man everyone called Doc, she’d come away irritable. Hot under the collar, in more ways than one.
Doctor. Back in Sector Three, there was no such thing, not really. People assumed the title, of course. Some were even good at healing, provided they’d apprenticed with someone skilled in folk medicine. Other, more affluent sectors had real doctors, older men and women who’d trained for years in the formal schools that had existed before the Flare.
And then there was Eden. Rumor had it Dylan Jordan had learned his trade in one of the city’s state-of-the-art facilities. Exiled since then, no doubt, but that didn’t change facts. He wasn’t some back-alley job with a bag full of drugs smuggled out of Sector Five. He was the real deal.
And a real asshole. Scarlet’s stomach flipped over as Jade leaned closer to him, her smile widening. Whatever knowledge and skills Doc possessed were practically buried beneath a drug-fueled haze. He spent half his time high and the other half doing suicidal shit that would get him killed sooner rather than later.
Scarlet would be damned if she let him take Jade with him when he went down.
A drink thudded next to hers, liquor sloshing over the edge of the glass as Adrian Maddox leaned against the bar beside her. “When did that start?” he asked, jerking his head toward Jade and Doc. “He never sticks around to unwind after a visit.”
Scarlet shrugged. “Beats the shit out of me.”
Mad considered the pair for a few moments before shaking his head. “It’s not going to happen. I don’t care how pretty Jade’s smiles are. Doc’s not going to start smiling back.”
He sounded almost jealous—though of which one, Scarlet couldn’t begin to guess. She nudged Mad with her hip and snorted. “You know better than to go there. Just like I do.”
He exhaled sharply, and it almost sounded like the start of a laugh. “Yeah, that’s you and me, Scarlet. Smart.”
“Liar.” Her gaze drifted back to the dance floor, where Doc had laid a hand on Jade’s waist. “We’re both stupid as hell.”
Mad’s gaze followed hers, and she felt the sudden tension roll through him. “Stupid,” he agreed. “But never selfish. You just met him. You don’t know how good he was, how good he could be again. I tried to make him see it, but…”
He sounded so damn sad, and the answering twinge in Scarlet’s chest pissed her off more. “The man’s a fucking burnout, Maddox. Everyone knows it.”
“Do they? Everyone knows you collect lovers, even though you’re stone cold.” He leaned closer, his voice dropping lower with every word. “Everyone knows you like the easily controlled, submissive ones. The ones you can play mind games with.” He straightened abruptly. “And everyone in Sector One knows my grandfather performed miracles and I should bless their kids. Everyone knows shit.”
Adrian Maddox on a defensive tear was a sight to behold, all clenched jaw and fiery, dark eyes. Scarlet smiled and fished a cigarette out of his pocket. “Stop trying to convince me your boyfriend is a prince and give me a light, would you?”
One thing was for sure, at least Mad could laugh at himself. He slid out his lighter, a nice, shiny silver one engraved with an intricate logo she didn’t recognize. “I thought you knew, honey. I’m the prince.”
“You’re something close.” Scarlet lit her cigarette and turned the lighter over between her fingers. “Are you gonna break up the party on the dance floor, or should I?”
Mad frowned and said nothing.
“It’s okay to want to, you know. Whatever your reasons.”
His frown deepened, and Scarlet knew what was coming. Anyone who’d known Mad more than five minutes would have. “If she can make him smile, I’m not about to get petty.”
“Saint Adrian.” Scarlet slipped her cigarette between his lips and raised both eyebrows. “Maybe you should go bless some babies, after all. Me? I think I’ll go get laid.”
She made it two steps before his laughter rolled over her, deep and warm, because Mad could be a stuffy martyr but he never took himself seriously for long. “Show me how it’s done, Scarlet.”
Scarlet eased up behind Doc, running one finger up his back a heartbeat before dancing a hip-swinging circle around him to slide her arm around Jade.
Jade wasn’t stingy with her smiles. She laughed and turned her head, and Scarlet got the full force of one as Jade leaned back into her. “Am I not dancing with enough enthusiasm?”
“You’re doing fine, sweetheart. Doc’s technique could use some work, though.”
The man smiled, easy and blurred around the edges, a perfect match to his red eyes and flushed skin. “Scarlet likes to tease me,” he said, his tone lending a lascivious double meaning to the word.
“I think she teases all of us.” Jade eased closer. They were the same height, and the movement thrust her ass against Scarlet’s hips. Gone was the fragile woman whose body had suffered through all the worst rigors of addiction. She was solid now, curves filling out more and more as the weeks passed.
Scarlet wanted to touch her, so she did, drawing one hand slowly up Jade’s thigh. “Sometimes it’s not a tease,” she mused. “It’s a promise.”
Jade shivered under her fingers, turning her head just enough to whisper against Scarlet’s cheek. “So which do you give him? The tease, or the promise?”
“Who, Doc?” Scarlet rolled her hips, urging Jade to move with her. “Nah, he’s a special case. The tease doesn’t work, and he’s not interested in the promise.” She looked up, her eyes locking with his. “Right?”
Tension had straightened his back, but that was the only sign anything she said affected him at all. His mouth curved into a lazy smile, and he shrugged. “You’re not my type. No crime there.”
It stung. Not his type…because she didn’t need him to save her. Scarlet bit her tongue. The words wouldn’t touch him, but they could cut Jade to the bone, and she’d be damned to hell before she did that.
Jade slid her hand over Scarlet’s, twining their fingers together as their hips swayed in a slow, taunting mimicry of sex. “Maybe you haven’t found the right promise,” she murmured, turning them both in a lazy circle.
Mad was watching.
Only watching didn’t cover it. He was fucking them with his eyes, his face shadowed with lust, and Scarlet’s heart skipped a beat. The only thing keeping him from touching them was the space between them, and that could be gone in a few insistent strides.
She’d assumed Mad was carrying some kind of torch for Doc, but the truth hit her in a rush.
It was much, much more complicated.
* * *
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