Raised as a prototype for the Georgian Bratva's obedience drug, 221 fails to think, act, or live for himself; he's his master's perfectly-crafted killing puppet. Standing at six-foot-six, weighing two-hundred-and-fifty pounds, and unrivaled in to-the-death combat, 221 successfully secures business for the Georgian Mafiya Boss of NYC, who rules the dark world of the criminal underground. Until his enemies capture him.
Talia Tolstaia dreams to break from the heavy clutches of Bratva life. She dreams of another life--away from the stifling leash of her Russian Bratva Boss father and from the brutality of her work at The Dungeon, her criminal family's underground death-match enterprise. But when she stumbles upon her family's captive who is more monster than man, she starts to see the man underneath. A powerful, beautiful, damaged man whose heart calls to hers. But sacrifices must be made--blood for blood...life for life...souls for scarred souls...
About the Author
Tillie Cole hails from a small town in the North-East of England. She grew up on a farm with her English mother, Scottish father and older sister and a multitude of rescue animals. As soon as she could, Tillie left her rural roots for the bright lights of the big city. After graduating from Newcastle University, Tillie followed her Professional Rugby player husband around the world for a decade, becoming a teacher in between and thoroughly enjoyed teaching High School students Social Studies for seven years. Tillie has now settled in Calgary, Canada, where she is finally able to sit down and write, throwing herself into fantasy worlds and the fabulous minds of her characters. Tillie writes Contemporary Romance, Dark Romance, Young Adult and New Adult novels and happily shares her love of alpha-male leading men and strong female characters with her readers. When she is not writing, Tillie enjoys dancing, singing, reading, horse riding, listening to music or spending time with friends and family. Her books include Raze, Reap, and Ravage.
Read an Excerpt
A Scarred Souls Novel
By Tillie Cole
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2015 Tillie Cole
All rights reserved.
Brooklyn, New York
I blinked ... I blinked again. It didn't fucking work. Didn't remove the images from my mind.
Reaching up, I clawed at the knot of the silk tie I'd been forced to wear and loosened it off. I couldn't fucking breathe.
Every muscle in my body was tense as I sat up in this suffocating private box, looking down on the Dungeon's cage, the wide window giving me the perfect fucking view of the two fighters ripping each other apart.
The crowd noise was deafening; screaming and clamoring for spilt blood, as the first match of the season kicked off.
No matter how hard I tried to look away, my eyes were securely locked on the two men in the cage. My heart raced, my hands curled into fists, and my jaw ached as my teeth gritted together way too hard.
With every blow the fighters delivered, my legs twitched. With every spray of blood on the concrete floor, every body smashed into the wire surrounding the cage, an envious pain sliced through my stomach.
I wanted in, I wanted to rip those fuckers apart. I wanted to feel the cold steel of my knuckle-dusters back on my fingers, feel my spiked blades slowly pierce my opponent's flesh, and I wanted to watch as the life leaked out of his eyes. I wanted to bring death; I wanted to rip out someone's fucking soul.
The monster within me wanted out and I was losing the battle to keep him at bay. Six months ... six months of being away from that cage, yet every instinct I had was telling me to go back. That it was where I belonged, that I deserved to keep fighting. My nightmares were getting worse ... more memories of my killings becoming clearer ... the guilt, and the fucking uphill battle of trying to adjust to this godforsaken world. A world that was becoming more and more difficult to be in.
Shit! I couldn't fucking breathe!
I sat forward, raking my hands through my hair, fighting my thoughts, the urges in my head. I wanted to embrace the demons inside, but at the same time, I wanted to fucking leave this shit hole of a fight ring and not feel the coming sense of death clogging up the air. I wanted to get the fuck away from the cage. It was in a cage where I'd slaughtered over six hundred men. It was in a cage where I'd killed my only friend.
I winced as 362's face flashed into my mind: his grin as he met me in the gulag as a kid, teaching me how to survive, and his face as I took his life, stealing his chance at revenge on those who had condemned him to the life of a fucking monster.
I saw nothing but red as I straddled his waist and speared a bladed fist into his neck. Felt nothing but rage as my second bladed fist skewered his temple. Felt nothing but single-minded determination to slaughter Durov as I lifted both fists and, pointing them straight down, plunged them into 362's chest, the wheeze of his dying breaths assaulting my ears, wrenching me from my anger.
I'd killed him. I'd watched as his dark eyes frosted over with the coldness of death. I'd watched as the color from the fight drained from his face, and I'd listened to that final beat of his heart until there was nothing but the deafening scream of silence.
"Revenge ...," 362 had uttered, choking on blood washing back down his throat.
I'd fucking promised him my revenge on the people who sentenced him to the gulag's cells; the people I still hadn't found; the people I still hadn't killed in cold blood.
I was failing 362, my only friend. And I couldn't fucking live with it.
Jerking on my chair as the crash of memories assaulted my mind, my heartbeat drummed too fast, and the screaming rush of my blood racked through my ears. In that second of panicked movement, my eyes went to the center of the cage as a fighter gripped his weapon of choice — a jagged hunting knife — and sent it straight through the eye of his opponent, the crowd noise soaring in volume.
My father and the Pakhan got to their feet and clapped, demonstrating their superiority to the bloodthirsty crowd below. The bloodthirsty crowd who were already exchanging money and placing bets on the next fight. All of the desperate and sadistic fuckers thanking the Russian kings for this damn dungeon of death.
My father looked down at me and aggressively flicked his chin. He was ordering me to stand, to clap, to stand like a fucking regal God at the window, to show the fuckers jamming up the Dungeon that I was the Bratva knayz, the Russian Mafia prince. The sole heir and the one destined to take charge. We constantly had to show our strength.
But I couldn't move. This suit I was forced to wear was fucking suffocating me. This silk tie, although loose, still feeling like a damn leash tying me to this Bratva role I couldn't bear to embrace.
I tried to move, but I couldn't force myself to lift from this chair. Memories of 362 bleeding out below me were stabbing harder at my brain, stealing my fucking breath.
My eyes squeezed shut, sweat pouring down my cheeks. I was losing it, I was fucking losing my shit.
Six months of this fucking torture. Six fucking months of slowly going insane, too many painful memories and flashbacks scourging the fuck out of my brain.
I abruptly lurched to my feet, and the Pakhan darted his gaze to me. "Luka?"
The room began to spin, the walls fucking closing in on me.
My father stepped forward. "Son? What's wrong?"
But I couldn't answer them. I had to get out, needed to get the fuck out of this tiny fucking box.
Staggering to the steel door barricading us in, I used all my strength to smash it open, snapping the top hinge clean off the frame.
"Luka! Come back!" I heard my father shout as I disappeared into the dark hallway. I ignored him as I turned to race down the steep staircase that led to the packed crowd.
"Mr. Tolstoi?" one of the byki called as I ran past him. Heads turned as I pushed through the mass of scumbags trying to get to the side of the cage to fucking see the carnage inside. But all the fuckers moved out of my way, sensing that I'd rip them in two if they got in my fucking path.
I headed for the hallway, the familiar hallway that I'd walked down when I was Raze, the death-match fighter I'd been conditioned to be since a child. The hallways where I'd lived as a Dungeon fighter, stayed each night, only one focus in my mind: revenge on Alik Durov, my childhood friend that, along with his father, had condemned me to a life of killing.
Ignoring the trainers and fighters filling the narrow space, I staggered to the locker room I used to occupy. Smashing my shoulder into the door, it burst open and I slammed it shut, blocking out the world.
It was quiet in this room, no noise fucking with my head. This locker room made me feel safe.
Walking into the center of the room, I kicked off the leather shoes from my feet, feeling the cold from the asphalt ground. Tipping my head back, I stood in the sliver of moonlight slipping through a crack in the wall and ripped off my tie. Hands shaking, I roared when I couldn't undo the buttons of my shirt. Gripping the expensive material, I pulled hard, the shirt slicing in two, shreds drifting to the floor.
Bare on top, my chest heaved at the severity of my breathing. I tried to calm down ... to think of my life now, away from all the gulag shit, but it wasn't any fucking use.
Walking to the wall, I slammed my palms against the cold hard stone and closed my eyes, just trying to fucking breathe. But this room made me feel like the old me. I felt like him, Raze. I felt like the death-match fighter 818. I felt like the Georgian gulag's bringer of death. Luka fucking Tolstoi was a stranger to me. The knyaz of the New York Russian Bratva was a total fucking stranger.
The same feelings of how to kill, how to position my bladed knuckle-dusters just right to cause the most pain, circled my mind ... and I fucking embraced it. It was familiar ... it felt like ... me.
Suddenly, a hand gripped my shoulder. Sensing the familiarity of a gulag guard attack, years of being a "fuck thing," a punching bag for those abusive pricks taking me back to that lost kid I used to be, I turned and gripped the fucker's neck under my hand, smashing him back against the wall. A red mist fogging my eyes, I gritted my teeth and lifted the asshole off the floor.
No one would hurt me again ... ever. I was stronger now, tougher. I was a built and conditioned fucking stone-cold killer.
Fingernails raked at my skin; wheezing breath filled my ears. But my hands squeezed tighter, the familiar feel of draining a life pumping me the fuck up.
The flailing cunt in my hands began to go weak and I tightened my grip, almost snapping his neck. This fucker would die. He wouldn't get to rape me no more. Wouldn't get to push me in that cage and kill another innocent kid. I was an innocent kid, too. This fucker would die. This fucker would die slowly, painfully, under my hands. They wouldn't touch me anymore. They wouldn't push me in that fucking ring anymore —
Too focused on the kill, on the rush that came with feeling a pulse slow to a stuttered stop in a neck, I didn't hear the door open behind me. My mind was a damn slide show of images, fucked-up images of my kills; kids begging for their lives, guards pointing their guns in my face if I didn't finish those kids off. Pain, torture, rape, blood, so much fucking blood —
"Luka, stop!" A distant yet familiar voice broke through into my stormy mind. I shook my head.
"Luka, put him down." The voice was soothing. I knew that voice. That voice made my heart slow down. It calmed me ... who ... what ...?
"Luka, lyubov moya. Come back to me. I'm here. Come back. Fight the memories. Fight them, just, come back."
Ki ... Kisa ... my Kisa ...? My eyes snapped shut at the soothing voice and new memories flashed through my mind ... a boy and girl on a beach ... kissing ... making love ... blue eyes ... brown eyes ... one soul ... love lost ... love found ... a wedding ... love ... so much love ...
Gasping, my eyes flew open, the free hand at my side shook and my skin was drenched with sweat. My other arm was elevated high, and when I followed the length of that arm, it was gripping a neck in an iron vise ... the neck of a man, a man my head told me I knew.
Confused at what had happened, I stepped back, my hand releasing its grip on the man and he fell to the ground, wheezing, gasping, fighting for breath.
I staggered back farther until my back slammed against the opposite wall. Feet moved beside me, but I couldn't look up. I was frozen on the floor, my knees tucking into my stomach and my head falling into my hands.
"Viktor? Viktor? Are you okay?" The female voice from before made me look up, and there she was, my Kisa, my solnyshko, bending down, running her hands over the man's —
My stomach fell.
Viktor. Viktor, my trainer, the man who helped me to defeat Alik Durov.
Feeling as though the gulag tattoo across my chest, the bold and broad 818, was on fire, I watched Viktor's eyes close and Kisa call to the byki for help.
Two of the Pakhan's men ran in, and I watched them as if they were moving in slow motion. Kisa stepped back as they helped Viktor to his feet. The byki dragged him out in seconds and I felt a pain as sharp as a dagger's strike slice through my stomach.
My fists clenched as I realized what I'd done. I'd almost killed Viktor.
The door softly clicked shut and I heard the locks turning, two iron bolts being slid in place to keep me inside.
Quiet footsteps came toward me and the soothing scent of sweet flowers washed over my body and filled my nose.
Gentle fingers suddenly ran over my hand. I flinched and dragged them away as I fought back my instinct to kill, to hurt, to maim, to slaughter.
"Luka, look at me," Kisa ordered, but I kept my head low.
"Luka," Kisa repeated in a sterner voice, "look up."
Gritting my teeth, I looked up and my gaze found a set of perfect blue eyes.
Kisa. My wife.
Head tilted to the side, Kisa's eyes filled with tears and she reached out her hand to touch my face. "Luka —"
"No!" I snarled. I sank back farther against the wall, swatting away her hand. "Don't touch me! I don't want to hurt you."
Kisa reared back. I knew she was staring at me. I could feel her gaze burning through my skin. We sat in silence for what seemed like an age, my fists still taut, my blood still boiling with rage. Then, suddenly, Kisa stood, my muscles bracing for her to leave, my heart beating fast again at the thought of her leaving me alone.
But she didn't walk away. She didn't head for the door. She didn't leave. She stayed silent, only a rustling of material to be heard.
I didn't look up. Instead I focused on trying to calm the rage erupting from inside. But then a hand took mine and my palm met hot flesh.
Whipping up my head, I found Kisa kneeling beside me, the top of her sleeveless long black dress pulled down to her waist, her perfect tits on show. Her hand held mine over her bare breast and I tore my gaze away from the sight — the sight that was fucking destroying me — to meet her eyes. They were filled with a mixture of steely determination and love, fucking filled with nothing but love.
She bulldozed through all the barriers I had.
Taking control, Kisa squeezed my hand tighter around her tit, my cock hardening at the feel of my woman under my palm. Shifting her legs, Kisa released her hold on my hand, her eyes telling me not to move it from her tit, and lifted up her dress from the bottom.
My breathing quickened as her lace panties came into view, and then I fucking lost all anger when she untied the lace bows at the side, the panties falling to the floor.
I was struck mute as my wife — my fucking beautiful wife — straddled my thighs, her bare pussy dragging down my stomach.
My hand on her warm breast tightened as my solid dick pushed against my pants. Kisa's breathing hitched as her clit ran down my torso and her mouth lowered to my ear. "I love you, baby. I have you. You're okay. I'm here...."
My eyelids shut at the relief her words brought, and just like that, I was calmed.
"Kisa ...," I whispered in response, my words clogging my throat.
Kisa pressed a finger over my lips. "Shh, lyubov moya, just ... just ... love me," she said almost silently. "Let me love you with everything I have. Let me make you feel safe, with me. Be my Luka, the boy whose soul matches mine."
And she did. I made love to her on the locker room floor, and she brought me back to myself. She chased away the demons and pain.
As we both fought for breath in the aftermath, I reached up, never moving my gaze from hers, and said, "I'm ... I'm sorry."
Kisa's face softened. "Never be sorry. You're my husband, my heart, my soul."
The reality of what had just happened began to hit home and I shut my eyes in embarrassment. Kisa must have felt me tense as she tensed, too. Inhaling a shaky breath, she whispered, "I love you so much, Luka. Do you know that?"
The hurt and sadness in her voice was sharper than any weapon I've taken into the cage.
"Luka?" Kisa probed my silence and slowly drew back her head to look at me. Her eyes were filled with tears again. "I love you."
Kisa placed her finger under my chin and forced my head up. "Talk to me. Let me in." Her eyelids fluttered, chasing away tears. She sniffed back her cries and wiped at her eyes. "What happened tonight? What happened with Viktor? Why did you run from Papa and Ivan? You neglected your duty to the Bratva."
Feeling drained, I exhaled a shuddering breath.
As more seconds passed by, I heard Kisa sigh in frustration and her hands cupped my cheeks. "Look at me, Luka."
Reluctantly, I forced my gaze up and fixed my attention on her face, she was so fucking beautiful. Taking her hand, she reached down to my wedding ring, and lifted it to my face. "You see this? We're married. We vowed under God and in front of our families to be there for each other, for better or for worse." She then took my hand and, holding my index finger, ran it over my left eye. "We were made for each other. That means sharing your pain, telling me when and why you're unhappy."
The sadness on Kisa's face was too much. Squeezing our joined hands, I brought them to my lips and kissed the back of her hand. "I'm happy with you. I ..." I took a deep breath and added, "I never knew I could be happy before you."
Kisa's tears splashed onto her bare chest. "Solnyshko, don't cry," I rasped out.
"But you're not happy. I hold you when you sleep. I see you when you pace, dark thoughts plaguing your mind." Kisa kissed my cheek and gazed into my eyes. "You're getting worse, lyubov moya. Something's on your mind." A quiet sob slipped from her throat and I instinctively pulled her into my chest.
"Don't cry," I begged in a cracked voice. "I can't see you cry."
"Then tell me what you see in your mind. Tell me what is haunting you from being happy in our new life?"
Excerpted from Reap by Tillie Cole. Copyright © 2015 Tillie Cole. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
As gritty and dark as this book was, it was also intensely emotional. Several parts had me in sudden tears. I don’t think I’ll ever get over reading, “You are...for me”. I loved Raze, but Zaal was so beautiful. His years of drugged torture was balanced with his emotional maturity of an adolescent. Which makes sense given the age he was taken. I loved this story and can’t imagine it getting any better!
I was preapproved and invited to read Tillie Cole’s Reap, the second book in novel in her Shattered Souls series. When I reviewed the synopsis it interested me but I don’t think that this is a book I would have read on my own, just for all the unfamiliar words and phrases. Although I did and do love the cover. I accepted the invite to read Reap and, let me tell you, I am so pleased that I did. This was my first Tillie Cole, book and I am now going to be a lifelong fan. Cole’s writing is excellent. This novel was such a great and powerful read. Reap grabs your attention from the very beginning. The idea of the book is clear and crisp, the writing is has strong and precise language. As for my concerns about the unfamiliar words and phrases, it was all a moot point. Cole has a way with her writing that explains the meaning of anything that is unfamiliar without taking away from the enjoyment of the tale. Cole does not repeat herself in the manner that some authors do. . There were little to no grammatical errors detract from the work. Cole’s writing and words are so impassioned that you feel the power of her words. You can envision and feel the anger, rage, hurt and love as the scenes throughout the book progress. The characters each are given their own voice and demeanor that also added to the enjoyment of the story. One of my favorite parts from the novel is: “He nodded firmly, his harsh face straightening in conviction. “You are … for me. No other male. Just me. And me … for you. This is my ‘I love you.’ These are my words from my scarred soul. They are not borrowed words, but words from my full heart, and my heart only.” -Zaal ♦♦♦♦♦Reap was a great read that takes you on a rollercoaster of feeling, right along with the characters.♦♦♦♦♦
Good read went nicely with book one
I liked this book!
Yes, I officially love Tillie Cole! Raal took my heart and ran away with it in Reap. He loves Talia so fiercely, but in his own unique way. "You are...for me." is up there with "Real or not real?" for me. It breaks your heart in such a loving way. Raal and Talia's story is different, it's damaged and doomed, but they love and fight for it. There is a lot of crying and screaming in this book and while it seems repetitive, it also makes it real because I cried reading it. Cole does an amazing job of wrapping up a story for the reader, while dangling a carrot for the next part of series in the last chapter. I love and hate her for this. While I'm happy the current story doesn't end on a cliffhanger, I immediately want the next book in the series! Cole is a good tease! Looking forward to Ravage!
Reap (Scarred Souls #2) by Tillie Cole (Goodreads Author) Prisoner 221 has been held captive since the age of eight when he was taken along with his identical twin brother. They were experimented on made to take an obedience drug that forces them to obey every command of their captors while erasing any memory of who they were before. 221 can no longer remember his life before—all he knows is torture, destruction and death. Talia Tolstaia is a Russian Bratva princess. All her life she has dreamed of finding a one true love, a lasting love, a bond stronger than all others. She is loyal to her family but feels smothered and overwhelmed needing a break from her family obligations she goes away to their family vacation home for some much needed peace. Her quiet is short lived when her brother brings a captive to their home and hides him out in the basement below the peaceful vacation house. When Talia first sets eyes on the bulky beast of a man who is her family’s enemy she can’t help but be intrigued by his story. He’s damaged and scarred physically and mentally, Talia knows she should hate him, fear him but she can’t help but love him. My Review: The story of Talia and Zaal’s love was emotionally draining and I loved it. His pain calls to her, she wants to help him. The only way she can is to cleanse him physically but in the process she is cleansing his soul. Washing away his dark memories with the touch of her soft hands. Their bond is instantaneous and grows stronger the more time they spend together. You are…for me? – I am…for you. Forever. Emotional, heart breaking story of lost and broken souls brought together in an unexpected way. My heart broke when I realized along with Talia that Zaal hasn’t seen the sun in years. How can someone live without seeing the sun or having real human contact in years. Unimaginable cruelty. By the end of the book Zaal begins to remember once the drugs leave his system. He gets his revenge but there are other threats lurking in the shadows. I loved how Luka and Zaal share a bond of common pain though not blood they are truly brothers by experience. I look forward to the next book in the series Ravage. All the books can be read as standalone. This was the first book for me from Tillie Cole I will definitely go back and read Luka’s story Raze.
A must read! looking forward to the next book
Can't wait to read more in this series!
I'm so happy to have read Zaal's story ... as difficult as it was to read. I can't wait for Zoya's story!!!
Rating: Beginning 1/5 Middle: 3/5 End 5/5!! Overall 3.5/5 This is the second book in the series and, whilst it works as a standalone, I suspect it would be much more enjoyable had I read the first novel before this. I actually found it initially difficult to relate to this story but I’m so glad I persevered as, in the end, it was definitely worth it. The Russian Bratva life seems to be the equivalent of the Italian mafia, with mobs aligned to one particular family, led by the father of that family. With kidnapped children and young teens being subjected to horrific treatment, physical and medical abuse they are being ‘trained’ to become unthinking, obedient killers in criminal underground cage fights. They are slaves, not allowed to have any existence apart from obeying their master. Escaping isn’t usually an option and love is something they have beaten out of them, obeying their master is their only desire. It isn’t an easy read. Much of it is horrific abuse. Love, however, plays an important role in breaking the conditioning, reversing family vendettas and ending the whole system. Don’t pick this if you’re looking for a cute romance. This is heartbreaking, the victims are so damaged, but love will find a way and that ending - wow! Thanks to the publishers for inviting me to read this in exchange for this, my honest review.
Loved, loved, loved this 2nd book. Great read.
This novel was wildly vivid and intensely real. The plot is in your face throughout. The implications behind the premise are shocking and just plain frightening in the possibilities they open up. Cole’s descriptions create snapshots into the main characters and their lives. The characters are engaging. Their lives and actions create a raw & real feeling throughout the novel that really conveyed the intensity of the tale as a whole to me throughout. I’ll admit that I haven’t read the first novel in the series yet and it didn’t detract from my enjoyment of this one. That said, I’ll definitely be going back to read it as I enjoyed this one so much. I can’t stop thinking about the world that Cole has created. Please note that I received a complimentary copy of this work in exchange for an honest review.
This second book in the Scarred Souls series is an exciting, gritty, sexy story that held me spellbound from the beginning. This story features Zaal, slave # 221, and Talia, a Russian Bratva Princess, in a Romeo and Juliet kind of story. Zaal, who has been a slave for 20 years is captured by Talia's brother Luka, and held in the basement of their country home where Talia is trying to vacation away from her family's business. She watches him for weeks and becomes enamored by this beautiful forbidden man. Talia tries to fight her growing feelings for Zaal but eventually finds herself risking everything to help him. This is also a continuation of Luka & Kisa's story and how they are fighting to live with the horrors of their past and find redemption. I had not read the first book in this series but this was so well written that I never felt lost. Ms Cole did a masterful job of weaving the excitement and turmoil of the underground Russian Mafia with a beautiful and sweet love story. I felt a genuine progression in each story-line thread. The pace was good and the action was exciting. I will definitely read more from this author! I received an Arc from the publisher that did not influence my honest review.
Powerful, gritty, intense writing that I was unable to put down - Reap caught my interest from page one and never let me go. Talia and Zaal are a bit like Romeo and Juliet crossed with Beauty and the Beast and so much better than either. This is an adult love story of bondage, strength, fortitude and loss that grows into one that encompasses release, freedom, self-discovery and a love that is soul deep and unbreakable. The male and female characters were complex, well defined and worth rooting for. I loved the way the relationship between Talia and Zaal developed and how Zaal’s backstory was presented. I would not change anything about this book. I have not read the first book in this series but look forward to doing so AND to reading whatever comes next. Thank you to NetGalley and Saint Martin’s Press for the copy of this book to read and review.