Rehabbing the Beast

Romance on the Darker Side


“Don’t you have someone else to abuse?” Seth O’Rourke growled. Even before the accident that had broken nearly every bone in his body and all but decimated his internal organs, his voice had been low and deep enough to command instant attention, but now it was downright scathing.

He saw the brief flash of hurt in the physical therapist’s eyes and felt a perverse twinge of satisfaction. He knew he was being cruel, just as he knew that on some level, it should have bothered him more than it did. A warrior and a fighter, he’d never been a nice guy, but these days, even simple human considerations were lost in the red haze of rage and frustration that consumed him.

His beast, the one who lived deep within him, blinked lazily and swished its long black tail, waiting to see what would happen next, peripherally curious. Seth was kind of wondering that himself. With Quinn, one never knew.

“Yes, but no one’s as mean to me as you,” Quinn replied evenly. The hurt in her soft gray eyes had morphed into grim determination, and, possibly, a hint of defiance. “I figured if I start with you, the rest of my day will be all downhill.”

One pointed ear stood up, the only indication of the beast’s casual interest at the sound of her voice. Subtly and unintentionally sensual, it always roused its interest. There was so little for it to do these days, trapped inside his broken body. It waited and watched for anything that might alleviate some of the boredom. Aggravating the female who had the misfortune of dealing with him every day was one of its favorite ways to pass the time.

Seth grunted in response, a purely masculine sound that was meant to remind her of just who she was dealing with. Seth wasn’t like the other warrior types that occupied the rehabilitation facility. Even incapacitated as he was, everything about him screamed alpha male, and the fact that his body needed her help to perform even the simplest of tasks pissed him off to no end.

She was a tiny little thing, but those delicate, fragile-looking hands and arms held surprising strength. She lifted his left leg with ease and began a series of painful exercises meant to stimulate the blood flow and keep his muscles from atrophying while his body tried to heal after the latest round of surgery. He grunted again, more softly this time, in his deliberate attempt to conceal the pain, and saw her wince.

“Why do you do this kind of shit anyway?” he couldn’t help but ask, his question accompanied by a malicious sneer. “You don’t have the guts for it. Christ, you look like you’re going to cry when I’m the one feeling like my fucking leg is on fire.”

She ignored him, completing the series and using her small, strong hands to deeply massage the muscles she’d just worked. Quinn was the only one of the therapists who did that and it felt amazing, but he would never admit that, especially not to her. His beast purred softly, quietly relishing the bliss of her touch.

“And you suck at it,” he added, just because he was feeling extra nasty. “Where’s Karl, anyway?”

“He’s on his honeymoon.”

Honeymoon? Seth hadn’t even known the guy was engaged. Then again, it wasn’t as if anyone shared their personal lives with him. Quinn was the only one stupid enough to try to talk to him anymore.

“Stupid fuck. He had everything going for him. What did he go and throw it all away for?”

Quinn released his left leg and moved around the front of the table to his right. She was careful to broadcast her moves and stay in his direct line of sight, proving that she had some inkling of a self-preservation instinct. He, like so many soldiers, hated having anyone behind his back. He much preferred having her – and everyone else – where he could see them. Since the rehab center dealt with a lot of injured GI’s, it had probably become second nature to her.

She began the same grueling series all over again on his other leg. He refrained from uttering a sound this time, but she had to have heard his quick intake of breath. She glanced up briefly, probably noticing the bead of sweat breaking out above his upper lip, too.

“Some people actually believe that finding that special someone enhances your life,” she said softly.

His eyes flashed to hers and wisely, she dropped her gaze immediately.

Seth’s gaze moved from the sight of her delicate hands on his flesh to the curtain of honeyed blonde that fell across the side of her face. She was wearing it loose today. When she bent over him, sometimes it would stroke against his skin, the sensation like that of fine silk. He clenched his hands at his side, the familiar anger building at the nearly irresistible urge to run his fingers through it. The beast pawed at his insides. It wanted to stroke her, too.

It took him a moment to realize that she was looking at him again, peering up cautiously through half-lidded eyes. Who had eyes like that? Impossibly long, thick lashes fell like perfect feathery crescents against her creamy skin every time she blinked, outlining the biggest, softest gray eyes he’d ever seen. They held so much expression when she dropped those professional shields. At that moment, they held genuine bemusement and a hint of curiosity. He fucking hated that. She shouldn’t look at him like that. As if he was a person. The beast growled in agreement.

“Then they’re stupid fucks, too,” he said through gritted teeth.

Was that a quirk he saw at the corner of her mouth? The possibility, however slight, enraged him. He didn’t care what anyone said, but if Quinn laughed at him, he couldn’t bear it.


Copyright © 2017 – 2018 Abbie Zanders / Avelyn McCrae.

Written by Abbie Zanders as Avelyn McCrae.

All rights reserved.