A Stone in the Sea (Bleeding Stars Book 1)
by A.L. Jackson
As the lead singer of Sunder, I come with a reputation.
A bad one.
I’m no stranger to trouble.
It follows me wherever I go.
So, I should have known Shea Bentley would be a problem. But this sexy Southern girl is all I can see.
Now, we’re both drowning in a sea of desire, sinking hopelessly into a world of lust.
But she has an inescapable past.
One that might destroy both of us . . .
A Stone in the Sea, book one of Sebastian and Shea’s epic duet, and the beginning of the unforgettable, bestselling rock star series from NYT & USA Today Bestselling Author, A.L. Jackson.
Excerpt A Stone in the Sea by AL Jackson
Baz followed me into my shadowy room. The door to the bathroom rested partially ajar and the bright overhead lights bled a dim hue of light in a wedge across the floor. It was messy, clothes strewn across the floor, tossed onto the large chair sitting under the window, the bed unmade.
I stopped in the middle of it, trying to still the thunder pounding through my veins while I listened to the soft click of my bedroom door being closed.
Slowly I turned around. The air just leaving my lungs hitched when I took him in, the captivating force of this man magnified, grey eyes turned to pitch, the most brilliant kind of black.
I all-out shook beneath the severity of it all, knowing after tonight, I was never going to be the same.
He was going to mark me.
“You see me, Shea?” The gruff question threw me, and he lifted his chin in a challenge I wanted to meet. I knew what he was offering. One last chance to back out. A warning that came with all that fierce beauty because we both knew he had the power to lay me to waste.
But where there’s beauty there’s also pain.
And I wanted to share in his, because I felt it every time he looked at me. I wanted to immerse myself it, in him. To be set adrift in all he kept hidden, to slip under, to see and feel and experience what he shored up tight inside.
Slowly, I lifted my own chin. But not in challenge. In surrender. “Show me.”
He watched me closely as he pulled a strip of six condoms out of his front pocket.
One was missing.
Jealousy curled through me like a sickness, and I attempted to swallow around it, knowing this wasn’t going to end well. My heart was never going to make it.
But in this moment, I didn’t care.
Because I was falling.
He tossed them onto the center of my rumpled bed. “Glove box,” he said as if he felt the need to explain.
Awareness swelled, that perception that belonged only to us, lifting in an arc, barbs of energy prickling at my fevered skin.
Never releasing me from the grip of his gaze, he reached for the collar of his tee at his nape and tugged it over his head. Almost defiantly, he stood up straight and stared back at me.
All that insane, confusing attraction I’d somehow managed to keep under semi-control, hidden inside, burst, a slide that wasn’t so slow pushing heat through my veins. Gathering fast.
My mouth went dry and I shifted on unsteady feet.
He knelt down and unlaced his boots, rose and toed them off, ticked through the buttons on his fly. Shoving his jeans down his legs, he shrugged out of them, kicked the pile of clothing aside.
He stood there in nothing but a pair of tight, tight short boxer briefs, his thick erection straining against the fabric, pushing at the elastic band in a play to break free.
Just like the first time he lifted his face to me, I was again confronted with more beauty than I could fathom. Again imperfect. And again I was sure that was part of the problem, because my heart lurched in a bid to meet with his, and my stomach clenched with the flood of desire that sailed straight through me.
In the dim light, my eyes soaked him in.
Dragging across wide, wide shoulders. Tracing collarbones and exploring all the coarse, rigid muscle that defined his chest. I sucked in a broken breath when I let them wander, down to take in how those wide shoulders and chest tapered into the flat planes of his abdomen. Hipbones jutted out from his narrow waist, a deep cut of muscles on his lower stomach that disappeared beneath the waistband of his underwear.
The strength of him was overbearing. Foreboding.
And I was sure I’d never seen a more brutally beautiful man.
But just like his face, scars were etched into his skin, lanced across his chest, one slashed in a long gash across his side. Some deep. Others shallow.
Both of his arms were completely covered in ink, colors and swirls and more beauty that spoke of pain, bleeding crosses and indecipherable words and hidden innuendo, one arm covered in the depiction of a darkened sky, the night infinite. Eternal.
My attention was drawn to the mermaid on his opposite upper arm. Her face was fierce and evil and somehow angelic, sitting on a rock next to a raging sea swishing her tail. A pocket watch was held gingerly in the scoop of her hands. The watch appeared to be disintegrating, slipping through her fingers, like sands of an hourglass falling through the cracks.
But his torso was bare, all except for one tattoo than ran down his side. It was a monkey. A green monkey that clearly was supposed to be some sort of stuffed animal. The artwork was crafted to appear fluffy, the arms and legs long and lanky. The face was white with plain black dots for the eyes and nose, the smiling mouth a black seam.
But it was turned upside down, bent backward, the arms and legs flailing, as if it were tumbling in a free fall.
It left no illusion of a chance to be saved.
The childlike simplicity of it was gut-wrenching.
And I knew. And I knew. And I knew.
“You see me, Shea?” he asked again, hands in fists at his sides, his voice tight. There was no missing the sharp edge of vulnerability that bled into it.
“Yes,” I whispered, stepping closer, letting my fingertips trail across his collarbones, down the strength of his chest that jumped beneath my touch, the to the monkey falling at his side.
When there’s beauty, there’s also pain.
A big callused hand out came up to cup the side of my neck, to steal my breath, because it was sweet and completely unexpected. He tilted my chin back with his thumb, his fingernail scratching up and down the hollow of my neck as he stared at me, the brush of it stirring me up more.
“Tried to stay away from you,” he murmured, the song of that velvety voice wrapping around me like a full body embrace. “Tried. But there wasn’t one goddamned thing I could do to get you out of my head.”
Remorse flashed through his eyes. “Don’t wanna hurt you.”
We both knew it was already too late.
My face was turned up to his, and he leaned in, slowly, his full, full lips parting just enough to catch my bottom lip between them, tugging soft, letting go.
“Shea,” he whispered.
The skin tingled, and a rash of chills skated down my spine. Keeping hold of my neck, Baz followed them with his opposite hand, his palm running flat as it pressed firm into the small of my back, all the way down to my ass where he gripped me tightly, pulled me up close against his cock where it urged against my belly.
A short gasp escaped me.
Like the sound was fuel, heavy hands found my hips, and he spun me fast and slammed me up against the wall next to my door. I hit it with a grunt, and I clung to his shoulders as my knees went weak.
He captured my mouth with a blinding assault of lips and tongue and teeth. His tongue was wet and warm. Demanding. Just as demanding as his fingers that kneaded into my hips, palms sliding down the back of my thighs, trailing back up. As he did, he dragged one of my legs up and then the other until I was tacked against the wall beneath his weight, my legs begging around his waist.
And God, I begged.
He smiled against my mouth as he threaded his fingers with mine and pinned my hands above my head. Rocking against me, he leveled me with darkened eyes. “Say it again.”
“Please,” I whispered madly, my back arching from the wall, all coherent thoughts slipping away and every kind of irrational, foolish idea rushing in to take their place—all supplied by the euphoric feel of his cock rubbing at the denim between my thighs.
It’d been too too long. Yet somehow just the right amount of time. This moment for him. This moment for me. For us.
Even though it would crush me, I knew it had to be.
A groan rumbled deep in his chest, and he lifted me from the wall, hiking me farther up his chest. He began to carry me across the room. One hand was tangled in the mass of my hair, bunching it up, the other an iron band around my waist.
He laid me in the center of my bed. My chest took a stuttered heave when he stepped back and looked down at me, my knees rocking with unsettled nerves, my booted feet propped flat on the bed.
Staring down over me, he just stood there, an impenetrable expression hardening his face. Unreadable, yet anything but blank. Like he were processing a million thoughts, while I didn’t know much of anything except how I was aching, how each second he wasn’t touching me he was driving me closer to going mad.
How it was only one more second I didn’t get to be with him. One second lost. One second closer to when he would leave.
He kissed the inside crease of my knee and fire rocketed straight to my core.
I exhaled toward the ceiling, hands twisting in my sheets, hips jerking in anticipation. “Please,” I said again, because I wasn’t sure how much more of this I could take.
He placed another midway at the inside of my thigh, letting a hand glide down the opposite leg, all the way down to brush his fingers along the seam of my shorts.
A little show of fireworks. The promise of more.
His movements were slow and sure when he pulled back to tug the boots from my feet, one by one, peeling off the cushy socks I wore with them. I stretched my toes and dug them into the bed, and he smiled all soft as if he liked it, just as he was pressing my knees apart and setting a single knee on the bed. He leaned in far enough to jerk at the button of my shorts, and a trembled breath escaped me when he angled back and dragged them down my legs.
“Goddamn.” Baz wet his lips, and he shot me an unfettered glance before looking back at me lying there in my panties and tee. “Got the best legs, baby.”
Hot hands splayed wide, riding up the outside of my thighs, scraping over my hips and sides, gathering up the material of my shirt as he went. He ripped it over my head and tossed it to the floor.
My hair fell around me and my heart beat so hard I could feel it in my ears.
His yanked me closer to him, close enough to the edge that he could snake his hands under my back and unclasp my bra. He slid it off, leaning back to take me in with all that hunger he’d been watching me with for weeks. Beneath his severe gaze, my breasts got all heavy and tingly. God, I couldn’t breathe. His voice dropped low as he reached up to cup them both. The brush of his thumbs were like flames as he swept them back and forth across my nipples. “Best tits.”
On my hell.
He was unraveling me.
He touched the tip of his index finger to the center of my chest.
He traced it down my belly where he dipped it into my navel, before he inched it low low low to snag in the front of the band of my lacy boy-cut underwear. He pealed those off too, leaving me a naked, quivering mess atop my bed, waiting for him, wondering just how deep those scars he’d leave me with were going to go.
“Got the best everything.”
Then he seemed to snap and let loose of whatever thread of control he’d been holding onto.
He dragged the tips of his fingers through my wet center.
I jerked. Oh, that felt good.
He hissed a groaned, “F*ck.”
He climbed over me, nudging me farther up into the middle of the bed and twisting out of his underwear all at the same time.
Hit with an overload of sensation, I was suddenly drowning beneath the stunning bulk of this magnificent man.
Because all at once he was everywhere, kissing me on the mouth, the neck, delving down to my chest, soft sucks across the buds of my breasts, harsh lashes at my tongue. Fingers plunged deep inside of me, and I panted a strangled, “Yes,” because I hadn’t been touched in so so long, and never in a way that made me feel quite like this.
Fingers coated with all my wet went sliding back to swirl around the sensitive skin of my ass, and a shocked gasp shot from my mouth and I jumped, before he slipped his fingers back through my sex, dragging up to circle my clit.
Pleasure wound up fast, my head pressed back into the bed and my mouth gaped open, unable to process that he would touch me this way. Everywhere all at once. In places no one else ever had.
Terror nicked at my belly when I realized I was ready to submit every last one of those places to him.
Baz licked a path up under my jaw, before he edged up onto his knees. All his attention was focused on his fingers that were still sliding deep in my pussy while he grabbed the pack of condoms with the other hand. He ripped one free with his teeth.
My entire body was alive with energy. With this energy, with whatever it was that connected me to this man, whatever it was that made me feel tied to him in an essential way, like nothing in heaven or hell could have stopped this moment from coming to pass.
Staring up at him, he stared down at me. Those eyes brimmed dark and bold. Because maybe we’d been purposed this way.
That for tonight I got to touch on heaven before he left me in hell.