Home > Branded (The Ignite Trilogy #2)

Branded (The Ignite Trilogy #2)
Author: Tara Sivec

I killed her.

The beautiful, smartass firecracker that exploded into my life with the force of an atomic bomb – she’s gone because of me.

All those moments spent fighting with her were a waste of time. Time that could have been better spent getting one of those rare laughs that were just for me, memorizing every freckle on her nose and showing her just how much she meant to me, even though I fucked it all up in the end when she needed me the most.

From the very first time I tasted her lips, she was mine. With that cherry red lip-gloss and her hands on her hips, all sass and snark and attitude – she was mine, but I fucked things up with her that time, too, at that damn graduation party.

Who the fuck knows at eighteen-years-old that the girl he felt up at a party would turn out to be his entire world years down the line? I sure as hell didn’t. I drank too much and I didn’t even get to remember what should have been the best fucking night of my life. I kissed those perfect lips, slid my hands up her tight shirt and tried not to blow my load when she moaned into my mouth. Then I blacked out, forgetting all of the important things, and walked away the next morning like the cocky little punk I was and tried to forget about her. I thought I’d done a pretty good job of it until four and a half months ago, when she walked back into my life. All that bullshit I’d spouted off to my best friend about how it’s unnatural to spend your life with one woman…fuck, what I wouldn’t give to go back and beat the shit out of that stupid asshole who thought he knew everything.

Eighteen weeks spent fighting her continued brush-offs and fighting with her when I should have been on my knees begging her to never leave me.

Eighteen days spent learning about what made her into the woman she was and trying my hardest to prove to her that she was worth more than she thought.

Eighteen minutes spent praying to a God I’d never believed in, begging Him not to take her from me.

Eighteen seconds too late.

I’ve counted each and every minute with her these last few months, the good and the bad. 181,440 minutes that I would give anything to do over. Sitting here with a half-empty bottle of whiskey in some dive bar I don’t even remember the name of, I count the drops of condensation on my glass as they slide down, each one fading away and disappearing into the napkin underneath it, just like every moment I spent with her. I had her and I let her slip through my fingers. I should have held tighter, fought harder, gotten there sooner.

I’ll never run my fingers through the long, crimson hair that reminded me so much of fire when the sun hit it. I’ll never feel the heat of her body pressed to mine again, or the way she’d whisper my name against my lips right before she came.

Fuck, that goddamn sigh…it was like she just breathed my name, as if it were the oxygen in her lungs that gave her life. I can still hear that fucking sound every time I close my eyes, and it completely guts me.

She branded her name on my heart and I know I’ll never be the same. I’ll never get the chance to tell her that I don’t fucking care about the scars on her body. I don’t care about anything but seeing her smile and hearing her laugh.

Staring up at the clock on the wall behind the bar, I realize it’s been eighteen hours since I last saw her alive. In my mind’s eye, I see her standing there, a flush on her cheeks and determination in her eyes as she told me to go. I did as she asked because I was angry and I knew she was hurting. I couldn’t stand the thought of causing her any more pain than I already had. It seems that all I’ve ever done is hurt her.

She told me to go, and I did.

If only I would have stayed.

Eighteen days earlier…

Seraphina Rosalia Giordano. I know, it’s a mouthful and I have hated it since the day I learned how to speak, which is why everyone just calls me Phina. Like, Feena, long e. The boys in school got a kick out of chanting, “Seraphina, you’re so fine-a” whenever I walked by.

Hilarious.

I perfected the art of the resting bitch face, however, and one nasty look from me shut them right up. It probably didn’t hurt that, on the first day of high school when my name was announced and my fellow classmates snickered, I told them my name means fiery one and they shouldn’t piss me off or I’d burn their asses. I may or may not have also said something to the effect of my family being in the mob…what can you do? High school is a bitch, and so am I.

Standing in front of the full-length mirror behind my bedroom door, I stare at my body. As bodies go, it’s not a bad one. Some might even say it’s pretty damn hot. There’s a pun hidden somewhere in there that has everything to do with a few well-placed scars I keep hidden beneath the right pair of lace boy shorts. It’s gotten a little tricky over the years, but I’m nothing if not resourceful. I’m not a slut by any means, but I like sex. I like being in control and bringing a man to his knees. I like the salty taste of a man’s skin against my lips and that initial burn when he thrusts inside of me. I’m not opposed to a firm smack against my ass and I’ve been known to demand a little hair-pulling here and there, too. No one gets to see me fully naked though, that’s where I draw the line – underwear stays on or the lights go off. Until the other night, I’d never had any man argue over my weird little demand. They see my flat stomach, sculpted by hundreds of crunches a day, my long legs, toned through an abhorrent number of squats and lunges, and my 36C all-natural breasts, straining against a miniscule piece of lace, begging to be touched. With my long hair, big green eyes, thick black lashes and full, heart-shaped lips, I am the total package and they care fuck-all about anything else outside of getting their dick inside me. They don’t mind moving my underwear to the side or blindly feeling around in the dark. They do as I ask or they leave. Period.

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