Beautifully Broken:Reckless Bastards MC(10)

By: KB Winters

But he looked at the menu with a deep frown on his face. “Octopus tail?”

I couldn’t help but laugh at him. “Don’t tell me such a tough guy is afraid of a little octopus?” At his affronted look I laughed even more. “I’m ordering it because I love it, but I think you should taste it.”

He stared at me for a long time and I found myself turning away so my scar was less visible, but his gaze didn’t waver because he was focused on my mouth. “Okay.”

And that was it. Just okay. “Why are you taking art classes, Max?” He seemed to have some artistic skill but his discomfort last week had been apparent.

He sighed and the look in his gray eyes darkened to a gunmetal color as his entire demeanor changed. A big hand slid through short black hair and he leaned back. “Can I get away with saying that I like art?”

“Sure. Your secrets are your own. Do you draw at home?”

“Not for a while, no. Maybe I should. How about you, why do you take the class?”

“It gets me out of my house and I get a chance to improve my skill with Moon’s help.” I started taking the art classes about six months ago as I started to experiment beyond drawing and painting.

“So are you some kind of artist?”

I shook my head even though the more I looked at him, the more my fingers itched to draw him. Paint him. Put him down on paper for future civilizations to discover. “Nope, it’s strictly a hobby.”

The waiter stopped and flashed me a grin as he set down our starters and drinks. “Maybe it shouldn’t be. You’re damn good Jana.”

I felt my skin heat up from his compliment. “Thanks.” Other than Teddy and my satisfied clients, I didn’t hear many compliments and I was all right with that. I didn’t need accolades for my looks or my work, but it was nice to hear once in a while. “You’re not bad either, but you’d be better if you believed in yourself. As trite as that sounds.”

His deep laugh sounded in the near empty restaurant and it was rich and multi-layered. It was a bit rusty, paying truth to his words last week that he hadn’t laughed in a while. “When I first got out of the service I…struggled. I couldn’t sleep most nights so I would go out and paint, wherever I was. The desert, the forest, lakes and rivers, oceans and everything in between.”

“So you don’t have much practice painting anything else?” He nodded and I felt an answering grin tug on my lips. “I know how that is. I first started painting and sketching. Self-portraits. You wouldn’t believe how quickly I got over them.”

His grin deepened and I swallowed. Hard. Max was too much man, far too big and muscular, and he had that rugged handsome thing going on that definitely spelled danger to a woman like me. Guys like him didn’t go for girls like me. They’d pretended in college to get my help with papers and homework, only to drop the pretense immediately after. And after college when I worked at a large accounting firm, a few guys had tried to get me to do their reports with the vague promise of a date in the future. I learned my lesson quickly and stayed far away from men. All men. “I can only imagine.”

“What branch of the military did you serve?”

Again, his gray eyes took on that cold, haunted look. “Navy. I was a SEAL.” He braced himself and I knew what he was waiting for because I’d seen the way women got all giddy with stars in their eyes at Navy SEALs, and I can only imagine how crazy they went over a guy like Max.

“Thank you for your service. Before…everything, did you feel fulfilled by it?”

He blinked and thought about it as I sliced the octopus, offering him a few pieces along with the garlic and herb butter. “I never thought about it like that, but yeah, I was. Shit, maybe that’s why it’s all been so hard.” He stabbed the slice of meat with more force than necessary and slid it off the fork into his mouth. “Fuck me, that’s a tender piece of meat. And this is octopus?”

“It is,” I told him and sliced a few pieces for myself and pushing the plate to the middle of the table. “Why did you retire?” He frowned and I held up a hand. “I meant, isn’t it common for hardcore guys like you to teach and pass on the knowledge?”