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Craving (Steel Brothers Saga #1)
Author:Helen Hardt

Maybe a cup of tea would help. Caffeine or not, tea always relaxed me. And I’m talking tea, not an herbal infusion that people like to call “herb tea” when there’s not a speck of real tea in it. I got up and quietly stole out of my room, down the hallway, to the mammoth kitchen in this amazing ranch house. I turned on the light…and gasped.

Talon sat at the kitchen table, a glass of water in front of him, Roger at his feet, tail wagging. Talon’s magnificent chest was bare, his dark nipples surrounded by black chest hair—just enough to make him deliciously masculine but not too hairy. His right arm sat on the table, his forearm beautifully corded, and his upper arm… Oh, God… The muscles bulged even while he was sitting in a relaxed position.

Why hadn’t I bothered with a robe? My boobs were plainly visible beneath the tight white tank top I wore. A pair of Colin’s old boxers covered my lower half. I’d thrown out most of his stuff, but these were just so comfy. I crossed my arms over my chest quickly, hiding my hard nipples.

“I…I’m sorry,” I stammered.

He didn’t respond.

“Why are you sitting here in the dark?” I asked.

“Couldn’t sleep.”

That didn’t really answer my question, but I decided not to push it. “Neither can I. I’m sorry to disturb you. I just thought I’d see if you guys had any tea. It relaxes me.”

“The small canister on the counter.” He pointed.

I wanted to go back and get a robe, but that would just make me look even more conspicuous, like I was trying to cover myself up. Which of course I was. I fumbled with the tea bag and started looking through cupboards for a mug.

“Cupboard to the right of the oven,” Talon said, not turning his head.

I opened the cupboard door, and indeed, coffee cups and mugs appeared. I grabbed one, filled it with water, and placed it in the microwave for a few minutes. As usual, the two minutes were the longest two minutes ever. Talon still sat, facing away from me, not drinking his water.

When the microwave dinged, I grabbed my cup, added the tea bag, and set it on the counter. Should I sit down at the table and join him? That same wall encased him, and right now, it seemed to encompass the entire table. Only Roger’s wagging tail breached it. He stayed at Talon’s feet, and as much as I wanted to squat down and pet his soft head, I held back.

I did not feel welcome.

“Come on and sit down if you want,” he said.

I grabbed my tea and sat down across from him. Sitting next to him didn’t seem right, but sitting across from him turned out to be a big mistake. He was right in my line of vision. I couldn’t not look at him.

His hair was tousled and sexy, and he raked his fingers through it, mussing it further. His gorgeous brown eyes were sunken and rimmed with dark circles.

“I…I’m sorry you can’t sleep,” I said.

He cleared his throat. “Don’t be. I never sleep.”

That couldn’t be possible. All humans had to sleep. But again, I wasn’t going to push it. “I don’t normally have any trouble,” I said, “but the first night in a new bed is always troublesome for me. I’m sure I’ll be fine tomorrow night.”

“Yeah, you’ll be fine. The demons in this house can’t get to you.” Talon pursed his full dusky lips.

Demons? What the hell was he talking about? He probably had nightmares from his time in the Marines. Perhaps he even had post-traumatic stress disorder. Was he getting any therapy? Certainly wasn’t my place to ask.

“I don’t really have any demons. Except, of course, my ex-fiancé, who totally humiliated me a little over a week ago.”

Talon raised his eyebrows. Had I actually piqued his interest?

“I’m sure that was rough.”

His tone unnerved me. While it seemed to hold sincerity, something bit through it. A touch of sarcasm? I wasn’t sure what he meant by the comment, so I decided to take it at face value.

“Honestly, I’m more embarrassed than anything else. I really don’t think we were in love anymore. We were together all four years of college in Denver, and then I stayed and went to law school and he headed to New York to intern for his father’s company. Somehow we held it together, but long-distance relationships are hard. In retrospect, we shouldn’t have stayed together.”

Talon stood. “I’m sure you’ll be just fine. Believe me, things could be a lot worse.”

My skin warmed. How dare he belittle this? I wasn’t sitting in here asking for his pity. I had told him point-blank that the relationship had been a mistake and we should have called it off years ago. Of course things could have been a lot worse. Things could always be worse.

I stood as well and looked him straight in his blazing black eyes. “You’re right. I will be fine. Did I ever say I wouldn’t be? I know there are a lot worse things in the world than being left at the altar. However, that doesn’t take away the fact that I was completely humiliated.”

Talon shook his head, chuckling. “I get it. You’re fine.”

His words crept under my skin, and my hackles rose. Why did everything he said cut through me like an ice pick?