Shattered ink, p.1
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       Shattered Ink, p.1

         Part #2 of Wicked Ink Chronicles series by Laura Wright
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Shattered Ink
Chapter 1



  "You're kidding me with all this, right?" Lisa asks, her pointer finger tracing an imaginary Z down my body.

  "All what?" I ask with slight irritation.

  Lisa's crystal blue eyes, expertly rimmed in charcoal, narrow. "The toddler-napwear-meets-prison-inmate thing you're working. "

  The ocean breeze kicks my hair around my face. "Orange is the new black, Lis. "

  She looks insulted. "That's insane. Who said that?"

  "I don't know. I think I heard it on Colbert last week. "

  "Colbert is a comedy show, Addy. "

  Tired, and not up for the night out my best friend has dragged me to once again, I take a step back, lift my arms. "Look, I see nothing wrong here. Just, you know, trying to be comfortable on a Thursday night. "

  "You look like you're headed to bed. "

  "I wish I was," I return with a bit of a pout, then silently amend, to Rush's bed. His big bed, cool sheets, and that hot, hot body I miss so much it hurts. I groan.

  "You're losing it, Addy. You know that, right?"

  I frown at her, but inside my mind I'm screaming YEAH, I DO.

  Growing more exasperated with me by the minute, Lisa glances over her shoulder at the dozens of people coming in and out of the large Santa Barbara oceanfront house, spotlighted in moonglow and about thirty iPhone screens. I can practically feel her urgency to get in there, mix it up, flirt her sexy leather ass off with all the boys she's been crushing on at school. But I'm keeping her from it. With my orange sweatpants and tear-stained t-shirt.

  When she turns back, she looks mutinous. "I'm just going to say one thing to you: Vegas. "

  My insides go instantly hot and soft. It's a depressing feeling, but addicting and predictable. Kind of like my life has been over the past five weeks. When Rush and I chucked the past and decided to try this again, I was so happy. So excited. A second chance at a first love. But as Lisa put it, I'm losing it. In the past five weeks, I've only seen him three times, and for no more than a day or two. I have school and finals and graduation, and he has work and travel. It's like the most beautiful torture in the world, seeing him. I'm on a high when I'm around him. When he's gone, I crash. And I can't seem to bounce back. I'm utterly and completely addicted to him. I'm jealous of anything and anyone who gets to be near him, and there are actually times when I don't give a shit about graduating, about getting my marketing degree-about a job or a future. I just want to be in his atmosphere. I just want those eyes locked on mine, and those inked arms around me.

  Of course, I haven't told him any of this. I don't want him to think I'm a loser. I don't want him to know the truth. I don't want him to walk away from me-or shit, run-because this time, it's not just love that would be lost. It'd be my heart, my breath. . . my sanity.

  "Vegas, Addy," Lisa repeats, her perfectly arched brows lifting expectantly. "You owe me. "

  I sigh, at her, at myself and my crazy thoughts, and stuff my hands in the pockets of my orange sweatpants. "Come on, Lis. I paid you back for the convention a million times. Don't make me remind you-or myself-about that waxing party I helped you host. "

  Her mouth twitches. "No, sister friend. This isn't payback for the convention. This is for all the drives back and forth to the airport, the hours of listening to Rush's messages and trying to decode what he's really saying, the mornings I pull your ass out of bed and to class. "

  I actually recoil. "Seriously?"

  "Hells yeah, seriously. "

  Some random guy walks by and gives Lisa a very dazzling, very appreciative smile. I don't blame him. She looks hella sexy in her tight leather pencil pants, low-cut lacy top and messy side braid. As she returns the smile, her expression curling into one of heat and promises, she waves at him. For second, I remember what it's like to flirt casually and just have a good time-act my age-and I don't miss it. Any of it. I only miss him.

  I inhale deep and exhale heavy. God, this is bad. I shouldn't be this obsessed, this close to the edge, over a guy. I know Rush isn't feeling this way. Or at least he doesn't act like it. When we talk or see each other, he's chill, sexy, into me, for sure. But not like this-not like me.

  When Lisa turns back to face me, takes in my relaxed-wear once again, she sighs. "Look. I know you miss him, Addy. I know you're head over heels, as the kids say. I know you want to be with him every second of the day. But you're starting to fall apart. "

  "Starting?" I say on a slightly manic laugh.

  Lisa remains serious. "It's so not like you. "

  "I know. " I shake my head. "I've never felt like this, Lis. Sometimes it's actually hard to breathe. It's more than just loving him, it's the fear of losing him. Just the thought of it breaks me apart inside. I don't know what to do with that. "

  Her expression softens. "I get it. I do. But you're going to have to hold back and chill out. What you're working here isn't cute, if you know what I mean. I believe the boys call it Psycho Bitch. "

  "Nice. " But I know she's right.

  "Maybe you need to take a little break from each other?"

  "No. " The word is out of my mouth fast and impassioned.

  "Date other people?"

  "Impossible. "

  Lisa's lips press together in a worried frown. For a second, she just stares at me. Then she shrugs. "Okay. "

  I know that word, and that look. She's freaked out by me. Welcome to the club, sister friend. "I'm sorry. "

  She shakes her head.

  "No, seriously," I continue. "I'm sorry I'm such a mess. I'm sorry I'm being such a shit-tastic friend. "

  "Don't worry about it. I love my little train wreck in orange. " A smile tugs at her lips.

  I'm surprised when my mouth curves upward. "Okay. So, let's forget about my insanity and obsessive needs for a few hours. We're going to party. Hard. Loose. Wild. "

  She laughs. "Oh, Jesus. "

  "And. " I gesture to my offending ensemble. "Just to show you I'm trying, I'll go home and change. "

  Lisa shakes her head. "No, you're fine. Actually, maybe it's better this way. Dolled up, you bring competition to the field, and you know I'm good with getting all the attention. Come on, beeyotch. " She grabs my hand and leads me through and around several small pockets of students and up the path to the front door. "And for the record, fashion-wise, orange isn't the new anything. Except maybe a huge boner killer. " Chapter 2



  "There's a rule about this, bro. "

  "Yup," I say, staring at the top of Vincent's head, which is now sporting a green-tipped mohawk. The guy is worse than a chick when it comes to style and color up top.

  "And I think you're the knucklehead who came up with it," he continues.

  I mentally shrug. "Could be. "

  Vincent pulls back on the iron and flips his peepers up to meet mine. I notice he's added a second piercing to his eyebrow. "So, what gives, man? And don't tell me it's the loooovvvve that's brought your ass to my chair-because I've seen you turn away rock royalty when they wanted the name of some chick inked onto their skin. "

  Discussing my private shit with anyone makes my balls shrink, so I point at my hand, aka V's work in progress. "Can you finish?"

  "I just don't get it, bro," he continues like the deaf numbnuts he is. "Breaking the rules for a hot piece of ass has never been your-"

  My eyebrows jack up and I send him a look. "Hey. Watch yourself. "


  "You don't talk like that. You know, not if you want to keep your blood inside your body and all. "

  "Shit, bro. So hostile. "

  "Addison's my girl, dickhead," I growl. "Not a hot piece of ass. "

"I dunno, man. " Vincent starts back in on me, moving up my thumb with his signature shade of black. "Addison has a pretty hot ass. I mean, I've never seen it without denim or anything, but I can imagine-"

  "I swear to motherfucking god-" I start between teeth so tightly clenched my jaw protests.

  Vincent chuckles. "Don't move. Or this 'I' is going to be busted. Damn, she has a long name. Good thing you got the room. Big hands. " His mouth curls into a Hollywood grin. "Addison likes that, I bet. "

  The urge to send the heel of my boot into his junk is crazy strong. But you know, I don't want to bleed out from the needle he's using on me. Not when I'm going to see my baby tomorrow. "I think I need to fire your ass when we're done here. "

  "That what you think?" He laughs. "Shit, Merrick. You know you need me. Besides my obvious skills with an iron, I'm the only testosterone you got around here. "

  It's my turn to laugh. "Get serious, man. Janie's got more T than the both of us combined. "

  He grunts. "Heh, heh. True that. "

  Just sitting in the guy's dungeon-inspired room, watching him do his thing, that motherfucking perfect line work, I close up shop on the banter that just ends in me wanting to knock him into Sunday, and go silent for awhile. Which I guess opens me up to thoughts I've been trying to tamp down lately. Like maybe why it is I've broken my rule. The rule that states crystal fucking clear: No Names Inked Onto Skin. I mean, shit. . . it's like the kiss of death. Total jinx. An omen. A relationship killer. In my biz, I've seen it a hundred times. So what am I doing? Testing? Teasing? Seeing how strong we got it?

  Or maybe. . . fuck me. . . maybe I want her to know how deep it runs for her, you know? Like she's in my goddamn blood. She's mine. Maybe I want her to see it tomorrow and say to me, Baby, put your name on my body, too. Somewhere real visible. Because I want every guy who takes a look and thinks he's got a chance with me to think again.

  "All right, idiot," Vincent says, setting his iron down and mopping me up. "You're done. She's on you forever. So basically you got a week or two before this thing crashes and burns. "

  "Dick. " I look down at my thumb. Her name scripted in black. My eyes follow the lines, from A to N, and my dick goes hard. I close my eyes and breathe deep. The tent popping isn't something I want V to witness. Dude has zero filter, and I'm kinda itching to knock him in the back of the head.

  "Your girl coming this weekend?" Vincent asks me, spreading some goop over Addison's name.

  Coming? Fuck yeah she is. Over and over until she's hoarse, and my neighbors a mile away call to complain. But I know that ain't what V means, so I just nod.

  "You bringing her to the shop?" he asks as he wraps up my thumb.

  "Course. " I'm bringing her everywhere with me. Stuck to my side and my front and my mouth like super glue. It's been ten days since I've touched her. And guess what? I know how many hours and minutes it's been too-I'm just not that big of a douche to acknowledge it out loud.

  "When?" V asks, ripping off his gloves and pushing back toward the trash can in his roller chair.

  I shrug. "I don't know. "

  "Friday night?"

  "No, not tomorrow night. " My whole body gets kind of hot and bothered. Tomorrow night is my night to ask her the big question. Tomorrow night's the night I tell her she's gonna move in with me after grad. That she's gonna move to Vegas permanently, and let me take care of her because, fuck, I can't keep waking up without her. And I sure as hell can't keep imagining her back in Cali, looking all sweet and sexy, getting hit on by a bunch of beach ballers-especially those vanilla beach ballers.

  "What about Saturday?" Vincent continues. "She coming in Saturday?"

  "Okay, what the fuck is this about?" I stand up and give him a quick sneer. "You crushing on my girl or is this about that Lisa chick?"

  V goes kinda red, which makes me snicker a little in spite of my irritation with him.

  He turns away, shrugs. "Don't know anyone named Lisa, man. "

  I laugh. "You ever gonna tell me what happened there?"

  "Don't know what you're yammering about, brother, and don't want to. "

  Fine. I don't need to know. As long as it doesn't involve Addison, I don't give a shit what or who V does. "Then why do you keep pressing me about bringing my girl into the shop?"

  Vincent turns back, the red face thing gone. He's got one of those shit-eating grins the ladies seem to like, but I don't get it. "I just want to witness the meet and greet, that's all. "

  "Okay, Riddler, I'm so glad you didn't ink my fuck off finger. " I flip him off.

  "You forgot, didn't you?" When I stare blankly at him, he chuckles. "Oh, you stupid bastard. "

  I flip him off again and head for the door. "Thanks for the ink, asswipe. "

  "Our guest, Rush," he calls after me. "Or technically, your guest. "

  A foot from the door, I slow up. My brows slam together and I glance over my shoulder. Vincent is leaning back in his chair, hands behind his head, showing off his most prized possession, his Banksy t-shirt.

  "Wicked Ink welcomes Erica Day this weekend," he says. "That ring a bell?"

  My cock twitches and not because it's excited. How the hell hadn't I remembered this? "Fuck. "

  Vincent flashes me the pearlies, his black eyes going all wicked jackass-ness. "The old girlfriend gets to meet the new girlfriend. Chapter 3



  "I so totally failed my Econ final," I tell Lisa as we head into the Santa Barbara airport, which is pretty light on the customers for a Friday afternoon. "That's what I get for the hard partying last night. "

  She snorts while pulling her white blond hair into a messy bun. "Dudette, you didn't even drink. "

  "And yet I feel hung over. "

  She laughs. "At least you're not wearing your sad girl clothes any longer. "

  "Don't hate, beeyotch," I faux scold as we head for one of the available Check-In kiosks. "And you know what? I actually got hit on last night. Even in my orange sweats and tear-stained t-shirt. "

  Her mouth drops one. "Wait. Some horny frat boy smelled the desperation on you and went for it? I refuse to believe it. "

  I shake my head. "So mean. "

  She blows me an air kiss. "It's why you love me. "

  "No," I say, laughing. "That's not why. " I type in the confirmation code Rush emailed me yesterday. Since I'm always going to him, he insists on paying for my flights. I feel weird about it, even tried arguing with him about it, but it's no use. When Rush Merrick wants something, he gets it.

  A shiver moves through my body at the thought, and everything below my waist gets all tight and hot. Oh yeah, I miss him.

  "Hey," Lisa says, snapping her fingers near the touch screen. "Confirm your flight so I can get out of here, girlie. I gots some serious plans. "

  She draws out that last word which is usually code for 'I'm not thrilled about this, but I'm doing it anyway,' and after OKing my flight and setting the thing to print my boarding pass, I turn to look at her. "Guy from last night or somebody new?"

  She snorts. "I wish it was the guy from last night. " Her eyes lose a little of their mischievous blue glow. "It's someone my family set me up with. Real Santa Barbara blue blood, buttoned up, junior partner in my dad's law firm kind of thing. "

  "Sorry, Lis. I know how much you hate buttons. "

  "It's fine. " She shakes her head, trying to play off like it's no big deal when we both know the control her family has over her and her future makes her insane.

  "It's one date," I say, adding a casual shrug for good measure.

  "I know. " She takes a deep breath and gives me a forced smile. "Okay. Go see your beautiful tattooed man, fuck his brains out, tell him you love him a hundred times then come back and finish your last week with a clear head, okay?"

  "Yeah, okay. "

  Sensing my hesitation, her perfectly manicured brows draw together. "What?"

uation is next weekend. "

  "Right. "

  "So, I'm just thinking, what then, you know? Where do we go? Do we stay in California? Do I stay in California? Do I find a job here? Or. . . do I go to Vegas?"

  Lisa blinks, slightly confused. "Oh. Well, Vegas I guess. Right?"

  I shrug. "I don't know. "

  She chews her lip, maybe deciding what she should say. "What's Rush say?"

  Rush. . . he's said nothing. He hasn't even mentioned it. "We haven't talked about it. I don't even know if he's coming to graduation. "

  "So ask him. "

  I study the floor of the airport for a second. "Maybe. "

  "Come on, Addy, the guy loves you. "

  "I know. " I grab my boarding pass and try to kill the conversion by looking anywhere but at Lisa.

  She doesn't go for it. "Okay. What are you thinking?"

  My eyes can't help themselves. They connect with hers again. "What if he's having second thoughts? What if he's not that into me anymore? What if what happened between us five weeks ago was just leftover sparks that needed to be released?"

  Lisa stares at me like I'm nuts. "Jeez, no wonder you failed your final. "

  "Right?" I return with a pathetic laugh. "I need to back off a little, don't I? Stop putting so much pressure on us? Play it cool before I lose him to my madness. I don't want that to happen again. Besides you, he's the only family I got. "

  Before Lisa can answer, the customer service rep comes over to check my ticket. "Any bags?"

  I hold up my carry-on. "Just this. "

  "Enjoy your flight," the woman says coolly before walking away.

  "First Class again," Lisa says.

  I glance over at her. She's stolen my boarding pass and is looking over it with her x-ray vision. "Every time. The boy's got skills, that's for sure. " She hands it back to me. "Listen, girlie, I don't blame you for holding on tight and getting freaked out when you think he's not. After how you grew up, it's understandable. Probably to Rush, too. But may I suggest, instead of playing, maybe you should just be honest with him. "

  I release a heavy breath. "So show him my crazy? You said it yourself, psycho bitch isn't sexy. "

  "Come here. " Lisa gives me a hug. "I love you, mama. "

  "Love you, too. "

  "See you tomorrow night?"

  I nod against her shoulder. "You know, Lis, I can totally take a cab-"

  She pulls back and gives me her fiercest mock glare. "Don't make a beeyotch cut you. "

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