“We’re closed,” I hollered, as the door jangled behind me and I realized I’d forgotten to lock it and flip off the florescent sign. Everyone else was already gone. Tonight was my night to clean up and put everything away; not that I minded, I liked being alone in the shop, Inked Edges, and imagining the day when I’d finally be able to buy it from Edgin’ Eddy, like we’d agreed.
“Oh, I’m sorry,” a soft feminine voice replied. “I saw the light. I . . . I can try to come back tomorrow.”
Abruptly, I stilled. I knew that voice. Brooklyn Hall. Quickly, I spun to face her. “Wait!” I called, just as she was pushing the door to exit. She glanced back before slowly turning to face me.
She looked so sweet, so out of place here. Long, honey colored hair draped in soft, perfect waves almost to her stomach; and her shirt had slipped to the side, falling off one of her shoulders, revealing a creamy expanse of skin that made my fingers itch to run over it. I assumed her hair placement was to hide the fact she wasn’t wearing a bra, but if that was her intent then she’d failed. I’d noticed immediately.
Not that I was some perv who just noticed things like that; well, that wasn’t true either—I kinda was—but I especially noticed with her because of who she was. For some reason, this girl had been haunting my dreams at night, crawling under my skin and I couldn’t shake her. I didn’t know why, either. She was much younger than me—at least enough to be called “jailbait” in probably every state except for Nevada, but that didn’t seem to stop the response of my body, or my mind, every time I saw her.
Suddenly realizing I was standing there gawking at her like an idiot, I managed to find my voice. “Is there something I can help you with?” I asked.
Biting at her plump bottom lip, she glanced around the room, fumbling with the hem of the too large shirt that hung over her tight skinny jeans as she rocked onto the sides of her flat tennis shoes. “Well, yeah. I wanted to get a tattoo.”
A thrill shot through me. I’d love to ink her pretty skin. “How old are you?” I asked, even though I knew the answer. I just wanted to see what she’d say.
“Seventeen.” At least she was honest. Points to her for that.
I sighed heavily. “The store policy is you have to be eighteen years old or have a parent present to sign consent to get a tattoo.”
She hung her head and nodded. “I know all that. Sorry, I don’t mean to put you in an awkward position. My brother, Tommy, told me if I ever wanted one, to come see you.”
That changed things. Tommy Hall, her older brother by several years, had been struck by a vehicle while crossing a street last week, dying in the crosswalk. The bastard who’d hit him had fled the scene, getting away with the crime. My hands clenched involuntarily when I thought about what I’d like to do to that driver. Tommy had been a good friend of mine.
“I’m sorry about what happened to him,” I said staring at her, my words seeming hollow and empty in the face of her loss.
“Thanks,” she replied with a sigh, her eyes watering slightly. “That’s what I wanted the tattoo for—in memory of him.”
My heart clenched in a vise. How was I supposed to turn down a request like that? “Do your parents know about this?” I asked, even though I was positive I knew the answer to that, too. She was a society kid. No way they’d let her come into a place like Inked Edges.
She shook her head. “No. And they’ll be very upset if they find out.” Again, the truth. I liked that she didn’t dance around using lies to try and get her way.
“If they find out?”
Her face heated slightly. “I plan on putting it somewhere special . . . more .. . . private, where it will be harder for them to see it.”
Grabbing some of the ink supplies off the counter I’d been restocking, I stepped from behind the register counter. “I could lose my job.”
She nodded. “Okay. I understand. I’ll try to find someone else, then.”
Like hell. Possessiveness that had no business being there welled inside me. There was no way I was letting her get a hack job from someone else who might screw it up. “I’ll do it,” I said, uttering the words before I could even consider them. “But you can’t tell people it was me.”
“Really?” Her eyes lit up for the first time since she’d entered, and all of a sudden I felt like some damn hero. A hero I was not. I wasn’t fooling anyone, either. There were plenty of people who knew my work by sight. Of course, if she was keeping it hidden, then it wouldn’t be that big of a deal.
“Do you know what you want?” I asked, moving toward the small space where Edgin’ Eddie worked and she nodded. Tilting my head, I gestured toward the hall. “Why don’t you head on to the room at the very end, then? I’ll lock things up and turn out the lights so we won’t be disturbed.”
“Okay.” She stepped forward and I watched her approach until she was about to pass me.
“It’s the last door on the left. I’ll be right in.” Hurrying, I quickly stocked the items in Edgin Eddie’s cubicle, before going to the front. I spun the locks and flipped the switch for the neon sign, plunging the room into darkness, and turned toward the glow coming from the hallway in the back.
This was certainly not the turn of events I’d been expecting today—not that I was complaining. I could think of a whole lot of things I’d love to be doing alone in a room with Brooklyn Hall. It was a damn shame none of them had anything to do with tattooing her, either.
She was already seated in the tattoo chair when I entered, busy glancing at the different designs that hung about my workspace. My eyes traveled up her long slender legs crossed casually in front of her, causing me to imagine things I shouldn’t be thinking about. Damn, she was fine.
“Are these all ones you’ve designed?” she asked without looking at me, effectively snapping my attention back to the project at hand.
“Some are,” I replied as I began digging fresh equipment from the drawers and setting it on the metal tray beside the chair. “Others are designs I’ve done for people that they brought in to me.”
“Looks like you’ve done a lot.” There was a hint of awe in her voice, and for some reason, I liked hearing it.
“More than I could even try to count.” As soon as the tray was ready with my basic items, I glanced at her. “Do you know what you want and where you want it?”
“I do.” She slipped her dainty hand into the pocket of her pants, producing a piece of paper and carefully unfolded it. She glanced at it briefly, before extending it to me.
Taking it from her, I noted a small black sparrow in flight with a circle of words around it that read, “Someone loved is never forgotten.” Feeling the heat of her stare on me, I looked up, locking eyes with her.
“Do you think it’s okay?”
I wasn’t sure why she felt she needed my approval, but suddenly I wanted her to have it. “I think it’s perfect, Brooklyn.”
“You . . . you know my name?” She seemed shocked.
“Of course I do. I was a friend of Tommy’s. That’s why he sent you here, remember?” Carrying the paper to the scanner, I placed it inside so I could upload it and print out the design onto a sticker. I pretended I couldn’t feel her stare burning into my back.
“I know. But he was a lot older than me. I figured he didn’t talk about me much—especially since I was just his kid half-sister. It’s not like we ever hung out with the same crowd, especially since we didn’t live together.”
“He spoke about you a few times,” I replied. In truth, he hadn’t mentioned her much, but I’d discreetly done some asking around about her, putting on the brakes hard when I found out she was sixteen at the time and I was twenty-one. Now I was twenty-two and she was seventeen, leaving me in the same predicament as the first time I’d noticed her. She was still too young for me.
Plus, even as gorgeous as she was, I tended to prefer my women fast and loose, something I was nearly one hundred percent certain Brooklyn was not. She’d been raised to be a model youth—to showcase her family and her father’s growing political career. One sign of some guy like me sniffing around and the hounds of hell would probably be turned out on me.
Tommy had bucked against the family image, though. He was the product of the mayor’s first marriage and had been allowed to live with his birth mom, so he’d gotten away with much more than Brooklyn could probably even think about. Still, despite their differences, it was obvious Tommy had tender feelings for his little sister.
I did, too, for that matter, and felt pretty sure that my feelings for her most likely would have had Tommy busting my face in, if he’d had a clue. He’d warned lots of guys away from her. I wondered if she realized how much Tommy had looked out for her in the past. Who would step into that role for her now that he was gone?
“Where are you wanting to put this?” I asked, facing her, while the image uploaded. “And how big do you want it?”
“I was thinking about this big,” she said, holding both of her hands up and using her thumbs and forefingers to make about a three-inch wide circle.
I nodded, causing a strand of my dark hair to flop over my forehead. Quickly, I ran my hand through it, pushing it backward. I adjusted the image on the computer and sent it to print on the transfer paper. “Got it. Now, where do you want it?”
She stared at me, hesitantly, before biting her bottom lip and then quickly looked down, reaching for the button on her jeans, followed by her zipper. Despite the hundreds of times I’d seen women remove their clothing in front of me, my pulse rate shot up about a thousand percent. Suddenly, I was fearful about whether or not my hand would be steady enough to follow through with the design.
“Hang on, sweetheart,” I blurted out, my voice sounding more gravelly than usual. “We have paper gowns and cloths to help with privacy.”
She paused for a moment, locking gazes with me. “I don’t mind, if you don’t.”
I couldn’t manage to find the words to speak, so I gestured for her to continue. Quickly, she made work of sliding her jeans down her hips, hooking one of her thumbs on the pink lace strap to her panties and pulling it down, as well—until the hollow, next to where her hip bone jutted out, was completely exposed.
“I’d like it right here,” she said, pointing to that tender spot on her body. “Do you think this is a good place?”
I had to remind myself to breathe, forcing my eyes back to her face. I swallowed hard. “I think that’s perfect.” My vocabulary count was quickly dwindling as lustful thoughts ran rampant in my head. Her skin was beautiful, and she was giving me permission to touch her there. Granted, it was for purely non-sexual reasons, but my lower half didn’t seem to be getting that message, at all.
Turning away, I discreetly attempted to adjust the raging hard on in my pants before gathering the transfer paper and cutting close around the design. Moving back toward her, I lifted the cotton ball I had soaking in antiseptic.
“I’m just going to disinfect the area, and then I’ll position the transfer on your skin. If it looks like how you want it, then we’ll get started, okay?”
“Okay. I trust you.” She smiled sweetly.
I smiled back, clenching my jaw. You shouldn’t, I thought. She’d run screaming from this place right now if she knew she was currently starring in an episode of Tattoos Gone Wild playing in my head. It didn’t have a whole lot to do with tattoos, either, and everything to do with sex on just about every surface in this place. Dude, I growled internally, she just lost her brother—your friend. Have a little respect.
That put a mild damper on my raging hormonal thoughts—at least enough to let me get back to the task at hand. But placing my fingers on her soft skin threatened to be my undoing, once more. I couldn’t help the slight stroke over the design, just to feel her beneath my fingertips.
“How’s that look?” I asked, and she leaned forward a bit. I didn’t miss the soft flush of her skin as her gaze moved from the design to me. “I like it.”
“I do, too,” I replied honestly. She made the tattoo look sexy, even though the tattoo itself wasn’t. “Try to relax,” I coached, as I moved my rolling stool over beside her hip. Snapping my latex gloves into place, I stared at her. “This is going to hurt; but if you can relax, it may even become pleasurable pain.”
“How many tattoos do you have?” she asked, glancing to where part of a tribal peeked from beneath my short sleeve.
“Six,” I answered, dipping the tattoo gun into the ink and testing the flow.
“Six,” she echoed. “Is that how you got your nickname?”“No,” I responded, not offering any more. “Are you ready?” She released a deep breath and nodded as she lay back into the chair, and I began.
© Lacey Weatherford Books/Moonstruck Media, LLC.
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