Torpedo Ink is Aleksei “Absinthe” Solokov’s whole life. They’re his brothers, his family—his everything. But that doesn't stop him from wanting something that only belongs to him. That’s why the tough biker has spent the last six weeks at the library, reading every book he can get his hands on and watching the prim and proper librarian who makes his blood rush.
For the past six weeks, Scarlet Foley has been fantasizing about the handsome, tattooed man whose eyes follow her every move. She senses he's dangerous. She wants him to get close enough to touch. She wishes she could let him know the real woman, not the one she pretends to be. But Scarlet has a plan to carry out, and she can’t afford any distractions.
Absinthe is well aware that Scarlet is hiding something. She’s a puzzle he intends to solve, piece by intoxicating piece….
Related collections and offers
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Aleksei "Absinthe" Solokov loved books. He loved the smell of them. The sight of them. The information in them. He especially loved the places he could go in them. Books had saved his life on more than one occasion. He'd originally come to this place needing the quiet and peace, needing the scent and the words. And once again, books had led him to find something so unexpected, so spectacular, he still hadn't accepted the offering, the gift, not quite believing yet, but he couldn't walk away.
He sat in his favorite place right in front of the tallest stacks. The table was smaller and less inviting due to the crowded space. He didn't like being disturbed. He came to the library to get respite from the continual bombardment of other people's thoughts and emotions. He could command with his voice, and sometimes the temptation to tell everyone to not think or speak for five minutes was brutally hard to resist. He needed to feel normal when he wasn't. He wanted to see if he could fit in somewhere, but he knew he couldn't. He needed to stand on his own, but it was impossible.
His small table, nearly hidden there beside the taller stacks, not only protected him from unwanted company but gave him a direct view to the desk where the librarian checked out books, recommended reads and sometimes-make that often-helped teens with their homework. He had been coming for over a month. Six weeks to be exact. And he just watched her. Like a fucking stalker. The librarian. She was so damn sexy he was shocked that the place wasn't overrun with single men-because she was single. He'd made it his business to find out.
When he first came to the library, he hadn't worn his colors. It was more to be anonymous than for any other reason-at least he told himself that. Sometimes, he just got a feeling. Whenever it happened, he acted on it, and he'd had that feeling-the one that often saved his life-so he'd removed his colors and gone into the library feeling a little naked without them.
He didn't want to be noticed, although he was covered in tattoos and scars that couldn't be seen beneath the tee that stretched tight across his chest. Just his sleeves showed, those tattoos that meant something to him but wouldn't to anyone else. Memorials to his lost family and the children who hadn't survived that nightmare he'd lived through.
Now, he still didn't wear his colors for the same reason, although he felt a fraud, because he was Torpedo Ink. His club colors were tattooed onto his back, but it was more than that. His identity went beyond skin and sank right into bone. He knew with absolute certainty that he couldn't live without his club, nor would he want to. Torpedo Ink was his identity. His life. His family-brothers and sisters-and their lives were bound together irrevocably.
They were woven together like an old tapestry, and nothing could take them apart, and yet, he felt as if he had betrayed them. Skulking away. The members rarely went off alone, certainly not daily for six weeks. And they didn't go six weeks without wearing their colors. It wasn't done. He might as well have gone naked. He didn't know why he kept this place to himself . . .
He did though. It was the librarian. The little redhead. She moved like poetry. Flowing like words across the pages of a book. One moment she could be a lady in a historical, taking the hand of a gentleman and gracefully emerging from a carriage, the next, a modern-day woman striding down the busy street in a business suit with her briefcase. Or a sexy librarian dressed in a pencil-straight skirt that hugged her curves and gave him all kinds of very dirty and graphic thoughts, like bending her over that desk of hers when the rest of the world went away.
Still, that feeling of staying anonymous, of keeping his identity secret, so that no one had a clue what or who he was, persisted while he unraveled the mystery of the woman who ran the library so efficiently.
He was back. Oh. My God. The most gorgeous man in the entire world and he just walked in off the street like he owned the place. Like the library was his home and gorgeous men came in every single day. He was tall with broad shoulders and a thick chest and arms. Really great arms. Muscles. Really great muscles. Scarlet Foley spent a lot of time perving on his muscles. And all those delicious tattoos. Who knew she'd fall for tattoos when she'd never been all that fond of them?
He had thick blond hair, a lot of it, and it spilled across his forehead, making her fingers itch to smooth it back. His eyes were very different. Blue. But not. More crystal blue. But not. Like two really cool crystals. She couldn't decide. When she wasn't perving on his muscles or fixating on his fascinating mouth, she was definitely wondering how to describe his eyes, and she was really good with words as a rule.
She knew she shouldn't be around him. He left her breathless and tongue-tied. If she had girlfriends, she would be over at their houses every night after work so she could share the mythical pictures she would secretly sneak of him like a crazy stalker. They would have dropped by the library to see him and giggled like schoolgirls.
Instead, she acted the part of the librarian. Dignified. Hiding behind the glasses she didn't really need. She had that role down perfectly. No giggling. No snapping contraband pictures to stare at in the middle of the night and fantasize over and pretend she might actually have some sort of a love life. Worse, get out every single toy known to single women that wouldn't help because he was too gorgeous, and nothing ever was going to match the real thing. But as long as he kept coming to her library, she was going to do some daydreaming; no one could take that away from her.
He liked science fiction. He read psychology books. Not self-help books, but the real thing, industry books. He also read a lot of obscure reference books on the pyramids of Egypt. The building of them. She knew because she watched his every move, and sometimes she helped him find the books he wanted. Up close, he smelled like sandalwood, and at night, when she was alone, she couldn't get that scent out of her mind. She knew she would always associate it with him. Man. Muscles. And sex. Worse.
Yes. It did get worse because she'd looked down his body. It wasn't her fault. She didn't mean to. She practiced keeping her eyes up on his chest. But she handed him the book and her gaze just dropped and there it was . . . in all its glory. Hard as a rock. The full ultra-impressive package. So now, she had it all to take to bed with her. And quite frankly, it sucked that the man wasn't in bed with her as well.
He would ask her for help in finding a particular book, and when he did, his voice was mesmerizing. Velvet soft. She swore she felt the sound sliding over her skin. Stroking her. An actual physical sensation. A little shiver always slid down her spine and a very inappropriate flutter in her sex accompanied that shiver. Now that she knew what he had, her wayward gaze strayed often and her panties went damp more than they should have. She had no respect for herself. None. But that didn't stop her.
She'd never had that kind of reaction to any man, not in college and not when she'd traveled to other countries. His voice was always pitched low, very soft, but it was commanding, and she heard a little twist of his words as if he had an accent under the English pronunciation, but she couldn't place it. She'd never heard a voice like his before, and she'd traveled extensively. He was very much a gentleman, and yet he gave off an extremely dangerous vibe. She'd been around dangerous men and she would have placed him right there with them, but she didn't know why. He seemed as if he'd be more at home in a suit and tie than casual clothes. And he wore his clothes like a model.
She had a lot of time-too much time-to think about him when she went home from the library and sat alone in her reading chair, surrounded by her books and little else. He was the fastest speed-reader she'd ever seen in her life and she knew he was for real. At first, she thought he was faking his ability to read that fast, but then she realized after time that he clearly was reading the books and must be comprehending what he was reading.
She was impressed. She'd taken several speed-reading courses and, in the end, had gone with the advice of the fastest reader in the world, learning from his books. She picked up things fast, she always had. The more time spent, the faster she learned. It was a gift she had, and she used it often, which made it all the more readily available to her.
She'd made certain to touch him. The first time had been a brief brush of their fingers as she handed him a book. Frankly, she hadn't been certain if he'd made that initial contact or if she had, but she would never forget it as long as she lived. The spark had gone up her finger to every nerve ending in her body, spreading like a wildfire, bringing her to life as if she'd been asleep-or dead-her entire life and it had taken him to wake her up.
She had been dead. She'd chosen to be dead. She'd shoved the woman in her aside out of necessity and become what she had to be. Now she was simply surviving. Until he walked in. She had no idea what to do with him-but she wanted him. She'd sworn she would never-not ever-go there again. Put herself in a situation where the dark things inside of her had a chance to escape. She'd seen the results of that, and yet she couldn't stop thinking about him . . . wanting him.
Touching him was dangerous, but she couldn't seem to resist no matter how hard she tried, and every touch brought something new. She couldn't get to him, couldn't uncover him or strip him in layers like she did others, but something connected them so strongly, melding them so tightly together that there was no going back, and she knew it. Every time he was close to her, he melted away that shell of a hardened human being that wasn't real and, for a moment, she felt alive and genuine-and vulnerable.
Right now he sat in her library, disturbing her beyond all measure. She hadn't thought it possible. She thought she was stone-cold when it came to the opposite sex, but she lit up around him. On fire. Hot as Hades. She apparently had red hair for a reason, and it wasn't her temper. Okay, maybe it was that too. She hadn't made up her mind how she felt about Mr. Aleksei Solokov. That was the name on his library card. She didn't know if her body coming to life was a good thing or a bad thing. If fantasies were wonderful or a curse. There was a lot to think about, but then she had a lot of time to think.
She jerked her head up, her breath exploding out of her lungs. No one had managed to sneak up on her in years, and yet just by perving on Aleksei Solokov she had failed the first lesson in survival. She turned slowly, already knowing who was behind her, identifying him by his voice.
"Hi, Tom." He was sixteen and trying desperately to learn to read at his age level. His English teacher was no help, giving him assignments far beyond his comprehension. It made Scarlet angry that the man couldn't take the time to help the boy.
"I was hoping you'd come in today. I have plenty of time to help you." She flashed him a reassuring smile.
The boy's face flooded with relief. "Thanks, Miss Foley."
She waved him toward the table where they often worked together, and where she was most comfortable. She could see out the windows, but no one could see her or the boy she tutored. She was always careful just in case, so no one could ever harm any of the teens just because of her. She put aside the rest of the evening's work and settled down to help Tom do his homework. She would have plenty of time to finish her own work before the close of her shift.
The librarian moved, drawing Absinthe's attention. It was growing late, and she walked the boy she'd been helping with his English paper to the door, reassuring him he was getting better with every paper and she was proud of him. She moved like someone who could handle herself, always balanced, even when she was carrying stacks of books. He'd noticed that about her almost immediately. When you were as fucked up as he was, you always assessed the men and women around you to see who the fighters were. Under that sexy prim-and-proper librarian façade she could handle herself.
She wore her hair up in an intricate, twisted bun, but twice, after work, he'd seen her let it down. It was bright red, shiny red. There was no other word for the color. Just red, and that color hadn't come out of a box. It was a waterfall of true, thick, silky red. Her hair, once let loose, refused to be tamed. It snaked down her back to her waist, drawing attention to just how small her waist and rib cage were and how curved her hips were. She had an ass, and tits that were high and firm, and very generous. Her curves were deceptive considering she was very fit.
Absinthe's entire body reacted to her in an entirely unprecedented way. He didn't have normal erections. Those had been beaten or raped out of him when he was a child. To achieve one, he had to command his body to cooperate, and why the hell bother? To sit in the library-that quiet and peaceful place-and feel his body respond to a beautiful woman was a form of magic. He enjoyed the feeling, knowing he would never take it for granted-and it happened every damn time he looked at her.