Skin Deep (MF)
Secrets at Midnight
Mirabel Soto disconnected herself from the many people and places that triggered memories of her husband following his death. She’s avoided everything that might remind her of him for three years and never looked back. Until the owner of Midnight, the BDSM club they frequented, calls her for a favor and she finds what she was missing in the form of a very large, very troubled former marine.
Carson Brewer returned from the service broken. Discovering the source of his trauma may be the key to helping him cope with post-military life, but he shuts down whenever he’s confronted about what happened. Only pain brings him peace. Can they both find love and healing in each other?
Be Warned: BDSM, sex toys
She entered the room as silently as she could, but Carson knew at once that someone had entered, though the angle of the mirror wouldn’t allow him to see the door from where he knelt. The musculature of his back was worthy of a marble sculpture, despite his skin being marred with the same old scars she’d seen from the front.
His head came up so his spine was straight as a length of rebar. “Is he sending me away?”
Carson turned to look at her over his shoulder. His light brown eyes were striking, almost golden. His closed off expression made the bottom drop out of her stomach. Something terrible lurked just under the surface of this man and he was only holding it together with the force of his will. The part of her that identified as a prey animal wanted to flee, but she’d locked down that aspect of herself a long time ago because Benny had needed the predator more.
Carson glanced over her. “You’re not like the others he sent.”
“Nope. I’m Mirabel.”
“What is it that you’re looking for here, Carson?”
“Clarity. There’s a lot of noise up here.” He tapped his temple. “I just want a few moments of peace and quiet.”
“And pain gives you that silence?”
He nodded. “It’s the only thing that does.”
“You should see a doctor.”
“I’m not good at talking to people.”
“You don’t seem to be having a problem right now.”
He tilted his head. “Yeah. That’s strange.”
She crossed the playroom slowly and with every step she felt more sure of the decision she’d already come to. Carson followed her progress, but other than his head he didn’t move an inch. She stopped in front of him, placing herself between him and the mirror, and looked him over again. He was even more huge up close. She gestured for him to stand.
He rolled to his feet, eerily graceful for such a big man. She’d been wrong about the difference in height between them. He was fourteen, possibly fifteen inches taller than her, and so broad she wouldn’t be able to get her arms around his shoulders.
Mirabel didn’t lift her chin to meet his eyes. It was a trick to staring down larger men that Kumiko had taught her. “If you think I can’t hurt you because I’m so much smaller than you are, you’re very mistaken.”
“My ma was smaller than you, and she packed a punch.” A whisper of a smile touched his face, but was gone as quickly as it had appeared. She knew now why Anton though he wouldn’t harm her. Carson’s affection for his mother was obvious.
“I have a few rules if we’re going to do this.”
“Let’s hear them.”
“You will stop hurting yourself. That is non-negotiable.”
He hesitated for a beat before nodding for her to go on.
“I’m serious about that. If I see one mark on you from now on that I didn’t put there, we’re through.”
“You will tell me if I do anything that makes you uncomfortable. We don’t know each other so it’s important that we communicate as much as possible.”
“We’ll use stoplight style safe words. Green is go. Yellow is slow down. Red is stop. If I don’t hear red from your lips I don’t stop, not even if you’re begging for your ma to save you.”
His lips twisted into an almost smile. “Got it.”
“I know you don’t like to be tied, so for your safety you need to do what I say when I say it to the best of your ability. If you can’t hold yourself up any longer, you need to tell me immediately.”
“That’s all. Do you have anything you’d like to add to the list?”
He frowned. “You didn’t say anything about your safety.”
“Are you planning on doing something that endangers my safety, Carson?”
“Of course not, but—”
“Then we don’t need to discuss it.” He was about to say something else but she held up her hand to stop him. “This doesn’t work if there isn’t a basic amount of trust between us. I trust that as long as I fulfill your need for pain you won’t hurt me. That seems reasonable doesn’t it?”
Carson stared into her face for a long moment. “All right.”