Never Loved (Dark Obsession #1)
by Charlotte Stein
Perfect for fans of Abbi Glines, the first novel in the Dark Obsession series tells the story of a beautiful wallflower who falls for a chiseled street fighter—and learns just how dangerous love can be.
Beatrix Becker spent most of her life under the thumb of her controlling, abusive father. And now that she’s free and attending her dream college, she has no idea how to act like the normal crowd: partying, going on dates, even having a conversation. Then she meets Serge Sorensen. Big and surly with a whole host of riotous tattoos, Serge is supposed to scare the hell out of her. But beneath his harsh exterior, Beatrix discovers a kindred spirit who knows what it’s like to be a misfit. Most exhilarating—and terrifying—is what he does for a living: illegal street fighting.
There’s nothing like the rush Serge gets from the intense athleticism and brutal glory of combat—though his chemistry with Beatrix comes close. Slowly at first, he introduces her to his world, where he lives by instinct, passion, and desire. He even helps her out with her equally traumatized brother. But when Serge gets in too deep with the wrong people, he ends up paying in blood. And suddenly, just as Beatrix has been drawn into Serge’s perfectly sculpted arms, she’s thrown once and for all into the fight of his life.
I know they are the ones I have to speak to. I recognize the guy with the tattoo of a hammer on his biceps, and some of the others look familiar from that bar on Maple Street. I’m pretty sure that’s the guy who pointed Tommy out to me, yet still I hesitate. Of course I hesitate.
They look like such an insane rabble. As I watch through the windscreen of my car, three of them start fighting. One of them pushes another one; the third guy grabs the first by his dirty tank top. Harsh words are exchanged, so fierce and forceful I can almost make out the spittle flying.
Then suddenly there’s a knife. I see its edge gleam in the bright sunlight, about a second before something red appears across the chest of the guy who started it. Blood, I think dizzily. That’s blood. He’s bleeding all over his own T-shirt, and though it isn’t anywhere close to a mortal wound, it doesn’t encourage me to get out of the car.
Nor does the way the fight ends. The one with the knife goes to slash at the other guy again, and I’m just about to cover my eyes with my hand when this enormous man comes out of nowhere. He lashes out with a hand like a shovel, and somehow the knife is on the ground. The brawling men are scattering, as though they were never there at all.
And I understand why.
The big one is pretty terrifying. And obviously everyone else thinks so, too, because they part like butter under a knife before him. He goes back to his bike without anyone so much as brushing his arms, and once there he sits down in a way that gets my attention in a fucking chokehold. I mean, he had it before, but watching the machine balk beneath his weight is something else. It actually seems to sag. I can almost hear its sound of protest.
God knows how he rides the thing. God knows about anything going on here. I try to make a list in my head of all the shenanigans that might be ensuing, but all I can come up with is drug ring. And I’ve got to be honest—I don’t think drug ring is a real thing. It sounds like something my father would have ranted about whenever I asked if I could go anywhere, or do anything, or be out past five in the afternoon.
The drug ring will get you, I think, which would probably be funny if I couldn’t feel his ghost pressing down on my shoulders at the same time. Or if I understood any of this on any level whatsoever. I mean, even if they’re not dealing meth to kids, or about to snatch me and put me in a van, a ton of this stuff is disturbing.
For a start:
Why are they all congregating outside an abandoned convenience store? It’s not even a nice one, with those signs people like to collect and stick up on their walls, or some remnant of civilization still hanging around. It’s an ugly rotten tooth of a place, striped all over with rust streaks and half sagging in the middle.
Yet here they are, milling around in this big odd jumble. Some of them have bikes; some of them have battered cars. Some are dressed in leather and denim; others wander around in mismatched tracksuits. In a couple of cases I spy business-wear, as though the wearers came straight here from an early-morning meeting. This is secretly the abandoned-convenience-store branch of GE, and in a second they’re all going to start funneling funds through accounts in the Caymans.
Or maybe I just hope that’s the case, because now I have to get out of the car.
I have to if I want to find my brother, yet somehow I’m still not doing it. Instead I take out my phone and call the only person who might be able to help me, even if I suspect she won’t be able to help me at all. When I left our dorm room, she was trying to decide if scarves are in or out now, which seems pretty far from this.
I’m not even sure if I should say. But I do anyway.
“Do you know anything about gangs that hang around outside convenience stores?” I ask, bracing myself for all kinds of answers. One time I tried to tell her about my brother and his problems, and she suggested I change my name so I won’t be bothered anymore.
Of course, I couldn’t explain to her why that was ridiculous. Whenever I try, I start doing something silly, like crying uncontrollably. I get this urge to start spilling all my secrets, and most of them barely make any sense. Sometimes I look back on them, and it almost seems as if they happened to another person—one who never had to hide a magazine with a man’s naked chest on it under her mattress, or push every clock in the house back by two minutes so Tommy would be home on time, or fear enclosed spaces in case the next time we never get let out at all.
Those things were just a dream.
This is the reality, where I am a cool and very normal—if slightly older than most freshman—college girl.
Or at least, I will be one soon. All I have to do is get through this latest disaster, and onward to the other side. On the other side is the possibility of being a proper person, a person who is successful at doing the things that everyone else does. I could be more interested in parties and hairstyles and dating, to the point where Sam might actually approve and maybe even remember me.
At the moment, that isn’t happening.
Every once in a while you meet a character that just pulls you into their story and doesn't let you go... And that's exactly what happened with me as soon as I met Beatrix. Being in her head was definitely an interesting place to be and after learning her story I couldn't help but understand why she was the way she was.
Beatrix lived a sheltered, strict, and abusive life until her father passed away. Now she's going to college and trying her best to be normal. Because of her upbringing she's extremely naive to the ways of the world and that's apparent from the get-go. What endeared her to me was watching her struggle with her want of normalcy while starting to understand that maybe normal isn't all it's cracked up to be.
Which starts to become apparent to her as soon as she meets Serge. Serge is a tatted up, badass fighter on the outside but has a heart of gold on the inside. The first time Beatrix and Serge meet you can feel the connection and later on in their story you come to understand why that connection is so strong.
Of course being in Bea's head you realize right away that she's attracted to Serge, not to mention the fact that cardigan wearing Bea has a dirty, dirty mind. But because we don't get the opportunity to know what Serge is thinking we don't find out until a little later that he's attracted to her too, only he fights it at first because he knows he's not good enough for her.
Serge was definitely my favorite part of this book. He's such a swoonworthy hero and the fact that he wasn't a manwhore makes it that much better. Sure he had a little more experience than Bea but watching him fumble around when it came to the sexy times definitely endeared him to me. And quite honestly, it made the sexy times that much sweeter.
There's so much that I loved about this book and it would have easily been a five start read for me if Charlotte Stein would have given us a little more dialogue between Serge and Bea and less monologue. That issue aside, this was a great start to this series and I'll definitely be checking out the next book.
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Disclosure: I was provided with an ARC of Never Loved through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.