Knock On Wood (Riders of Tyr #6)

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Morning After

Tamie

I wake up and immediately close my eyes back down, struck by the effort of keeping them open. My head is spinning and I feel the urge to puke so I roll to my side and get up one elbow. Slower this time, I open my eyes and look around.

This is not my room but I know where I am instantly. I am in Wood’s room. Like a waterfall, memories from last night fall on me with the same fortitude and coldness.

I remember spending the day broken by what I have seen. I remember pretending to listen to whatever Iris was saying. I remember finding one sole bottle of whiskey in the house and I remember taking a pair of scissors as well. And when Iris and Rage fell asleep, I hitched a ride to Valhalla drunk out of my mind and with a new outfit.

There’s a haze after the first six shots I was offered but I remember Wood’s dark eyes looking at me with anger. And then he pulled me here and we-

“Tamie?”

I jump up and my eyes snap open. Wood is there, standing at the bathroom door, wearing his jeans and shirt. His hair is wet and his… God! There are some thin scars on his cheek as if someone… I did that! I scratched him and hit him and I… I don’t know what got over me. Shame floods me and I hide my face in my hands.

“Tamie, look at me!”

I shake my head and I suck on air to keep from crying in front of him.

“I said look at me!”

His tone is not harsh but is demanding and I do as he asks. His look is heavy and strict and I bite my lip seeing him like that.

“It is not your fucking fault, Tamie. None of it.

I drive my fingers through my hair to dull the throbbing headache. All of it is my fault. Every little thing in my life. I should have left with Iris back then. I should have made an effort to get us out of that shithole. Maybe then, we wouldn’t be given to that man. I wouldn’t be turned into a sex toy, Iris wouldn’t be…

“Did you hear me, Tamie?” Wood’s whip of a voice snaps hard. “It was not your fault.”

I hear it now. I hear it clearly. He doesn’t say it but I hear it. “It was not your fault. It was mine.”. Isn’t this a fun game we are playing? Constantly asking for forgiveness, blaming each other. I open my mouth to say something, to take it upon myself, to take the blame.

But then an image flashed before my eyes. The Riley woman, rubbing herself on him, kissing him. That was not all of it, I know it wasn’t. I’d be a fool to think I would so easily get out of what I have been through so quickly. I will never get over it. Magda was right to tattoo that cross on her back to remind her of her burden.

Seeing Wood with that woman, though, that was too much, that stained the one thing I was holding on to, a little sliver of hope that not all men are filthy pigs, the one man that made me feel... cherished. And he behaved like all those other men, going after easy women, looking for casual sex.

“Yeah,” I nod to him and look at him seriously in the eye. “It is your fault.”

He seems taken aback by my abruptness. I expect him to be angry. After all, I provoked him, I insulted and hit him. But instead, he smirks and rubs his neck.

“Shit, kitten. Wanna tell me what the fuck did I do wrong to make you behave like a rabid cat?”

He moves and sits across me, on the edge of the bed. I try to concentrate but flashes from last night come forth and I feel a flame coming over my cheeks. I don’t have the whole picture, but the little I get is hot. His hands on me, his lips and him, pounding in me. I remember the heat in my body, that rush over my limbs. I... I remember enjoying it last night. Enjoying it because a man was taking me. I have never…

“Tamie, stop fucking blushing and cover yourself,” his voice is strained.

I look down and I see that while wondering into last night, I clutched the sheets and bared my naked legs to him. I look and I see I am wearing one of his t-shirts but nothing much else. When I look back at him, his eyelids are hooded and his thumb goes over his thick lips. Those lips...

I gather myself and hide behind the sheets once more. I shake my head to chase away those thoughts. I can’t be going down that road though it is a warm, nice road with a big, hard body giving me so much pleasure. Stop, stop, stop!

“I saw you,” I say simply.

I let the anger – no – the sorrow - take hold of me as he scowls seriously. He doesn’t know. Of course he doesn’t. That’s what men in this club do, that’s what he does. He has women for his pleasure, he only sees them as objects to be used for his satisfaction. I was that object last night for him.

“Saw me do what, kitten?”

“Don’t call me that!” I demand.

“Why not?” Wood seems unfazed by my outburst. “You sure have the claws,” he says as his fingers go over the lashes I left on his cheek.

My stomach plummets. I feel ashamed of myself and what I did. I was so angry, so lost and frustrated I behaved like a bitch, like a whore. Like the whore I was trained to be. And he? He responded to that! Not me asking to spend time with me, not me wanting to be with him. But the whore? He sure jumped on her right away.

“Well, you deserved it,” I throw at him, wrap the sheets around me and make for the bathroom.

He is up before I get the chance to notice how quickly he moved and he grabs my wrist. The sheet falls and I am exposed to him. I have no underwear underneath and the t-shirt barely covers my ass. But he just looks in my eye.

“You are going to tell me, kitten. What did you see?”

“I saw you with that girl!” I yell. “Riley or what her name was.”

He throws his head back as if I hit him in the jaw. But his grip on me doesn’t slack. I try to free myself, get dressed and get the hell away from that guy that is making me so mad. His dark eyes shift quickly from one sentiment to the other, too fast for me to register.

“And why did that make you so angry?” Wood demands.

Is he seriously asking me that? Is he taunting me? Is this all a joke to him? I look back at him and I frown. I hate him so much! I hate him so so much! I hate his voice, his sturdy body, his eyes. Those big, dark eyes looking at me, demanding, challenging. I open my mouth but I don’t know what to say so I shut it back down.

“I asked you something, kitten,” he purrs deeply and pulls me closer. “Why did you get so mad seeing me with some bitch?”

“I…” I stammer.

I did get mad because I thought he was different than all the men I have encountered in my life. I thought that’s why he didn’t touch me when I gave myself to him that first night. That he was decent. But I guess I just had to find what was floating his boat like I did for everyone coming to me for a good time. And his was seeing me with other men.

But he with that girl, that stung me deeper than that. I know why that is, I have heard other girls talk about it, read it in books, saw it movies. I have fallen for him, I knew the moment my heart shuttered into pieces as he kissed her back. I have fallen for that man. This I am never going to admit out loud.

“Talk to me, kitten.”

His lips are so close to my ear, I feel his breath on my skin and I lose command of my logic. I can’t let him do that to me. No man has ever made me feel this way and I am not a blushing schoolgirl to be weak before him.

“Let me go!” I demand not as strongly as I thought.

“I am not letting you go till you tell me,” he replies and holds me flush against him.

If I tell him, he will mock me, make fun of me and then discard me. I will be one of his conquests, one of the many women he had. And for me he will be another man that stole pleasure for me. Stole? He gave as well, my subconscious still seems to be holding on some stupid sentiment over him.

“She meant nothing, Tamie,” he says when I fail to answer.

“That’s even worst,” I fight to get away from him.

“I was trying to fucking forget you,” he growls.

I cease my attempts but I do not dare to look him in the eye. What if I do and I see that he is telling the truth? What if I do and I see that he is lying? Both those options make me terrified.

“Look at me, kitten,” he orders and gives me no choice.

I do and I know instantly. He is not lying. He hasn’t lied to me ever since he busted that door open to free me.

“You have been in my head, in my mind, under my very skin, stuck there, even before I met you,” he admits and I melt. “I can’t stop fucking thinking of you all the time. But I shouldn’t.”

His finger traces my cheeks, right under my eye and his look is that of a man ready to say goodbye. No, don’t.

“Wood,” I whisper and lean to him.

“No, Tamie,” he pushes so lightly away. “I am fucked-up. This is fucked-up. I am not the man for you. I am barely a man,” he chuckles cruelly. “So, I tried, I tried so fucking hard to stay away. Last night... I shouldn’t have.”

“I don’t want you to stay away,” I plead. “We both wanted what happened last night. I wanted it. I wanted you. I can’t stay away from you either.”

Wood looks down at me with his so familiar bitter smile. How can a man like him, a strong man, look so broken and lost?

“My kitten,” he caresses my cheeks with his thumb before he caresses that mark on my neck. “You are so beautiful and pure. The most precious thing in my life. But I will taint you. I will hurt you. I can't let that happen. You deserve more.”

His hand drops and he takes a few steps away. I feel him drift away, his look descending in those dark depths I saw him in when he woke up from his nightmares. He has told me he was a soldier and he is still there, fighting. I can’t let him fight alone.

“Wood,” I say and throw my hands around his neck.

We both stand still at the contact, our eyes locked in a world that only our souls exist and the yearning for one another. He is the one to break the contact.

“No, kitten,” he shakes his head and unwraps my arms. “You only see the man that busted that door open, that drove you away from that hellhole. It’s gratitude you are feeling. That man? He doesn’t exist.”

“Please, I...” I plead once more, throwing my arms at him but he grabs my wrists and stops me.

“You’d better go, Tamie,” is all he says, turns and leaves the room.

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