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Damaged Like Us: Chapter 34

FARROW KEENE

“WHAT THE FUCK,” Maximoff mutters as he inspects a box of hair dye and then he rereads the back label.

We’re in my bathroom, same hellishly small size as his, but no decorations exist. See, both townhouses are currently empty. No Jane or Quinn around while they spend the night in Manhattan, visiting her twin brothers. So we have free reign of my place for today and most of tomorrow.

“Missing something?” I ask while I’m at the sink. I fit a #2 blade into my hair clippers.

“Gloves.” He rummages in a plastic bag of shit he just bought at the drugstore. That outing took three hours, extra security, and my knee in a fucker’s groin.

When we exited the store, a middle-aged photographer tried to grab Maximoff by the crotch. Tried being the key word.

The man ended up bent over in pain.

Maximoff may be used to hands all over him in massive crowds like a packed concert—people tugging at his shirt, his waist, even pulling at his hair and neck—but no way in fucking hell am I letting anyone cup his ass or grab his dick.

“More disposable ones are under the sink,” I tell him and set the bladed clippers on the edge. Our eyes lock in a hot beat. And he hones in on my abs, my shirt off and tucked in my back pocket.

He licks his lips. “I can get them.” Maximoff nears, then kneels and digs through the cabinet. His shoulder brushes my leg.

“You look good on your knees,” say.

“Even better than you,” he rebuts.

My lips lift. “That’s not what you said last night when you came in my mouth.”

Maximoff shoots me a half-hearted glare. I’m going to be honest here: he’s basically smiling. Gloves in hand, he straightens up—and his chest accidentally bumps into mine.

Stubbornly, we don’t move.

His irritation and slow-growing smile surface with a look that says, you’re the one in my way.

I’m definitely starting to love this whole lack of space thing. I reach up and slide my fingers through his thick hair. “So you want to match your roots then?”

Maximoff stares off a little bit as my fingers skate along his scalp. He really likes that. His body shifts closer, waist knocking into mine.

I rake my hand through his hair again. “It’s not too late to go blue.”

“What?” He blinks out of his stupor. Where’d you go?

He didn’t hear me.

“Blue hair, wolf scout,” I repeat, massaging his head.

His brows knit. “I like your black hair.”

I almost laugh. I’d pay to see what he’s picturing when he tunes out his surroundings. “Okay, but I didn’t mean blue hair for me. I meant for you.”

“No way.” He turns, just to grab his box of dye, but my hands drop off him. “That’s something you can shelve in the never fucking happening category.”

I lean my side on the sink. “Isn’t that the category where you placed me driving?” I give him a look. “Seems like a flexible category.”

He flips me off. “It’s not.”

I watch him open the box and start to mix hair dye in a plastic bowl. Maximoff always dyes his hair himself, so the whole process isn’t new for him.

We share the mirror and the tight space in front of the sink. I plug in the bladed clippers.

Next to me, he tugs off his shirt. Damn, those abs. Maximoff throws his gray crew-neck aside.

And he suddenly asks, “You think I’m a prude?”

Maximoff. “That wasn’t even on my mind.” I remember what Kinney called him two days ago. “But I see it’s been eating at yours.”

He rubs lotion on his forehead near his hairline. Just so the dye won’t stain his skin. “I’m just thinking about how I didn’t get a piercing with my siblings, and I’m thinking about what that means. And maybe it says I don’t love them enough to get one.”

“Or it says that you’re not easily peer pressured, not even by your siblings.” I stare at him through the mirror. “You refused a piercing, knowing you didn’t want one—that’s hot.”

He’s smiling. And trying not to. He puts on his gloves.

I push back the top, long black strands of my hair. I’m only lightly trimming the sides. “Anyway,” I say, “I don’t think you’re a prude. But you’re definitely another ‘p’ word.” I run the blade above my ear.

“It better be philanthropic.” Maximoff spreads dye in his hair like shampoo. In the mirror, he watches my hands more than he watches himself.

My smile widens. “Pure.”

He blinks into a glare. “I forgot that you don’t know the definition of purity.”

I run my blade over the same spot. “You can have a lot of sex and still be pure.” I’ll always see him as being genuinely good-hearted. “And if anyone disagrees with me, I don’t give a flying shit.”

His throat bobs like my words just fisted his cock. He tenses, and then slicks his hair back with dark brown dye. “You know why I’m going back to my natural color?”

“I can crack a guess, but no, I don’t know for sure.” I didn’t want to pressure him to tell me. I figured he’d open up when he was ready.

Our gazes meet through the mirror. “It felt right,” he says strongly. “I didn’t mind dyeing my hair lighter or wearing more red instead of green, but all it was doing was adding conflict in my family. So it felt right to go back.” He combs more dye through his hair. “I’ll find another way to show the world I’m proud of my dad. Just not this anymore.”

I trim the other side of my head. I’ve always believed he’s damned if he does, damned if he doesn’t, and all he can do is trust his gut instinct. He once asked what I thought, and I just said, “I’d go with the option where you’re not fighting with yourself.”

Maximoff knows who he is better than most people know themselves. If something felt wrong, he’d be the first to recognize that. And I’m happy he didn’t hesitate.

“You know I’ll stand beside whatever you do,” I say with a smile, tilting my head to run the blade further back. “Unless it’s bullshit. Then I’ll call you out and you’ll stand beside me.”

“What a turn of events,” Maximoff says, no sarcasm present, “the rebel wants someone next to him.”

“Yeah. I want your smartass.” I hold his gaze. I’ve never spent this much time with anyone. Not even my last client. Not an ex or a friend, and if there were extra hours in the day, I’d choose to spend them with this guy.

Fuck, I’m hooked.

Maximoff holsters his fuck me eyes. Just to slick his hair back one last time. He snaps off his gloves, and after tossing them in the trash, he sets a ten-minute timer on his phone. “Need help?” he asks me.

No, wolf scout. I can easily cut my hair myself, but no one has ever asked to help me either. Hell, it’s more than cute.

“Here.” I pass him the clippers, and Maximoff comes up behind me, all confidence. I look at him through the mirror. “Cut from the back of my neck upward, no higher than my ear.”

Got it.”

I clutch the edge of the sink. Standing in a slight lunge, head dipped, so he can reach my neck without extending his arms high.

Maximoff grips my shoulder to keep me steady. Then he runs the blade across my neck. He’s doing better than a good or decent job. I’d seriously believe he’s trimmed my hair a thousand times before. I remember what his brother said. How Maximoff is a pro at everything on his first try.

Okay, it’s somewhat true.

His forest-greens flit to me in the mirror. Yeah, I’m letting you help me. It’s turning him on.

I stretch my arm behind me and grab his ass, and then he steps nearer, his dick up against my ass. My breath cuts short, fuck—I can feel him hardening.

My muscles sear, veins pulsating. “Someone’s excited.”

“Barely,” he rebuts.

I roll my eyes. “I know what your ‘barely’ hard cock feels like, wolf scout, and that’s not it.”

He tries to glower, but he has serious kiss me, fuck me, cuddle me eyes right now.

I grit down, my dick rousing.

I watch him turn off the clippers, finished, and I brush pieces of hair off my shoulders and into the sink basin. I check out the back of my hair that he trimmed. Yeah, he can do that again.

Maximoff puts away the clippers. “Good?”

“Eh, barely.”

He shoots me two middle fingers and straightens up. Nearing me. I lean my shoulders on the wall and give him a slow once-over. He still needs to wash out his hair dye.

Fuck, I can’t stop looking at him.

My nickname for Maximoff fits him better than he realizes. He’s aggressive, short-tempered and insanely protective of his pack. Like a wolf. Then he’s resourceful, resilient, reliant and responsible. Able to survive any situation.

Those two words embody Maximoff Hale more than any other. And for as long as I’m alive, he’ll be wolf scout to me.

He places a hand on the wall. Beside my shoulder. I unbutton his jeans, and his other hand already dives down the front of my black pants, stroking me—fuck, a groan scratches my throat.

I watch his gaze drift for the slightest second, then focuses more clearly on me.

I rub his very-far-from-barely hard cock. “What were you just thinking?”

He licks his lips. “That I fucking love how you smell.”

This is the first I’ve heard this from him. “What’s the scent?”

His muscles flex, as I change grip. He curses beneath his breath before he says, “Mint…fresh water and man.”

I could push up against him, but the timer beeps and cuts us off. We retract our hands, trying to ignore the unresolved tension for right now. Within maybe a minute or two, he’s buck-naked in the shower, rinsing out the hair dye.

While I wait for him, I grab a Celebrity Crush magazine out of the drugstore bag. He bought the tabloid to see if they mentioned the Charity Camp-Away that begins in five days.

I rest against the sink and flip through the glossy pages.

Showering, Maximoff rakes his hands through his dark brown hair, watching me while water douses him.

I look up at him and flip another page. “Something you want to say?”

“It’s fucking weird seeing you with a tabloid.”

He doesn’t realize how often I have to search social media and tabloid comments for potential “chaos” and threats.

I turn one more page.

And I land on a Like Us article. I scan the giant photograph of Luna, Xander, and Kinney, the Hale siblings congregated at a booth inside Superheroes & Scones. A fan must’ve taken the photo.

The Like Us articles have been printed in this magazine for years, and they’re relatively harmless. The subtitle is always the same: the Hales, Meadows, and Cobalts—they’re like us! They read books. They love movies. They go shopping!

I remember years back seeing the headline Smart Like Us with a photograph of Jane competing in prep school mathletes.

The one I clutch zooms in on Luna, Xander, and Kinney’s new ear piercings. The title: Cool Like Us.

Maximoff asks, “Why are you smiling?”

“They called you uncool.”

Maximoff rubs water out of his face and then reaches his arm out of the shower to clearly shoot me a middle finger.

I almost laugh, but my phone rings on the tiled floor. I already see the caller ID: Alpha Asshole.

Shit.

There’s an 85% chance he’s going to chew me out for shutting off my radio. Coms aren’t even on me right now. So I bypass that headache and just text Price: I’m not on SFA.

He replies fast.

From cams, we can tell that Moffy is home. You need to come help vet Camp-Away entrants. – Price

I reply even faster: I already spent six hours vetting entrants today. I purposefully signed up for a shift while Maximoff was working at the H.M.C. office.

We need more eyes on this. You’re available, so get over here. – Price

I could easily shut off my phone and act like I didn’t just receive that fucking demand. But if the worst happens at the Camp-Away—just because I didn’t take an extra three hours to vet the raffle entrants—I’d be more than pissed at myself.

I’ll be there. I send that one text and slip my phone in my pocket. “Maximoff.”

He cracks the shower door. “Yeah?”

“I have to go. Security needs me.” I pull on my black V-neck.

Looks like he’s not the only one giving out rain checks.


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