Six Months Later
My tattoo shop had been as quiet as a graveyard all day.
It was always slow on the run-up to Christmas, but this was ridiculous. First thing in the morning, I’d added some color into a sleeve I’d designed for one of the brothers in my motorcycle club, but since then I’d sat around twiddling my thumbs. I was so bored I wouldn’t have minded working on a generic cartoon character or even a damn dolphin.
No, scratch that.
I was never happy to ink those meaningless images onto someone’s skin.
I was of the opinion that a tattoo should mean something, otherwise, what was the point of getting it done? That wasn’t to say I didn’t ink those types of images at all—they were my bread and butter, but I was in my element when someone came in with an idea they had put a lot of thought into.
That never failed to get my creative juices flowing.
Across the room, Brick was scrolling through something on his phone, probably Facebook or Twitter, or whatever the hell that picture one was. He was obsessed with likes and followers—it was all he ever talked about.
Steph, my other employee, did all the piercing work at the shop. She was currently slumped over her desk in much the same pose as Brick. I rolled my eyes. Why were people so obsessed with their phones? Unlike Brick, it was candy squash or some shit with Steph. She was always telling us about what level she’d managed to get up to the previous night.
At times, it was as if she was speaking a different language—it’s as if they both were. I used my cell phone to make calls and send the odd text message. That was it.
I wouldn’t even know how to send an email.
I’d thought about learning to do more with the machine because it had been expensive and I liked to get my money’s worth out of the things I bought, but the truth was, I couldn’t be bothered because I just wasn’t interested in all that stuff.
Just give me my bike and a long road stretched out in front of me and everything was right with the world.
I checked my watch. Three thirty. We usually shut up shop at five, but it was pointless for all three of us to be there doing nothing. If something came in I could deal with it myself.
“Why don’t you two head on home?” I offered.
Two pairs of eyes swung my way me.
I nodded. “Yeah, go on. Get out of here before I change my mind.”
Brick grinned. “You don’t need to tell me twice.”
He grabbed his jacket then headed for the door.
Steph was hot on his heels.
“Thanks, boss,” she said over her shoulder. “See you tomorrow.”
“Yeah,” I acknowledged. “See you.”
A moment after the door closed behind them, it opened again. I figured one of them had forgotten something, but when no one said anything, I jerked my head up and my gaze locked on the young woman hovering inside the door.
She looked lost.
Had she walked in by accident?
As her wide-eyed gaze peered around the room, she seemed just about ready to bolt back out the door. I figured I could safely say she’d never been inside a tattoo shop in her life.
“Can I help you with something?” I asked.
She practically jumped out of her skin, but when her gaze found me, she didn’t appear to be scared, only embarrassed.
“Um, I’d like a tattoo for Christmas,” she said in a rush.
I grinned. “Well, what do you know? You’ve come to the right place. Come and take a seat.”
She glanced at the boards on the wall as she walked forward and when she sat down in the chair opposite me, her gaze kept going back to them.
“You see something you like?”
She shrugged. “I’m not sure.”
For the first time since she’d walked in, I studied her.
Her pixie-like dark hair suited her small face. Black-framed glasses were worn over eyes the color of velvety chocolate. She was incredibly pretty, with the fine delicate features of a china doll, but even under all the many layers of clothes she wore, I could tell that she was too thin—painfully so.
I’d never been into skinny girls. I’d always preferred my women to have tits and ass, but there was something so compelling about her, I couldn’t tear my eyes away. My dick certainly sat up and took an interest.
“Did you have something in mind?”
This was getting us nowhere.
I was just about to tell her to go and take a look at the boards to see if something struck a chord with her when she blurted out, “You choose.”
“Um, you can choose something for me.”
My brows snapped together. “Lady, I’m a tattoo artist, not a damn hairdresser. What I do is permanent.”
She frowned. “I know that. I want it to be permanent.”
And there went my boner.
I leaned back in my chair, losing my patience. “That ain’t gonna happen,” I told her.
She might be beautiful but she was obviously cray cray.
I mean, I’d been asked to ink some pretty random shit in the past, but that was the first time someone had asked me to ink the tattoo of my choice.
Jesus, why were all the good-looking women either taken or completely bat shit?
I folded my arms and narrowed my eyes.
I was seconds away from asking her to leave when she leaned forward in her seat and held my gaze.
My breath stuttered.
“I need this tattoo,” she said imploringly.
There was a stark honesty in her voice and in that instant, I believed her. She did need it though for the life of me I couldn’t imagine why.
I narrowed my eyes. “You’re not doing this for some sort of bet, are you?”
She shook her head. “No.”
“Is someone forcing you to get it done?” She wasn’t wearing a ring so I took a guess. “Your boyfriend?”
Another shake of the head. “I don’t have a boyfriend.”
I waited for her to elaborate on her reasoning, but she said nothing. It felt as if there was an invisible wall between us—one of her own construction. I wasn’t sure why I came to that conclusion, but she seemed so guarded and unwilling to let me into her thought processes.
Had she been hurt in the past?
“Then why do you want a tattoo?” I prompted.
She glared at me and for some weird ass reason, my hard-on returned with a vengeance.
“Do you ask all your customers why they want a tattoo?”
Her snippy tone made my dick even harder.
I grinned lazily. “Only the pretty ones.”
Her eyes widened. My answer had clearly caught her off guard. She sat up a little straighter in her chair.
“Look, you probably wouldn’t understand why I want a tattoo, but can I just say it’s something that’s important to me and leave it at that?”
I’d leave it alone—for now.
“If you want it that badly then I’ll do it for you, but only under one condition.”
The tattoo has got to be meaningful to you. I’m not going to ink something random and generic on your skin like a butterfly or a rose.
“I like butterflies,” she said quietly.
I leaned in. “I like apple pies, but that doesn’t mean I should get one inked on me.”
“Good point,” she said with a nod. “It’s a deal.”
She held out her hand for me to shake.
I barked out a laugh, but I reached for that damn hand anyway.
As my big meaty paw grabbed hold of her small, delicate fingers, I told myself I was only shaking her hand to seal the deal and not because I wanted to see how soft her skin was. The fact that it was as soft as silk made me grit my teeth because I knew I’d spend the rest of the day wondering if the rest of her body felt the same way—especially the parts that were buried underneath all those damn clothes.