First ink, p.4
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       First Ink, p.4

         Part #1 of Wicked Ink Chronicles series by Laura Wright
 
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11
Chapter 4

 

  Rush

  I'm home. Outside of Vegas, near the Red Rocks where I belong, where I can breathe. Inside my shop, Wicked Ink, the buzz of three tattoo machines rends the air. Vincent, Jane and I are all working on our final clients. Well, V and Janie are anyway. I got one last piece coming in at eleven.

  "You're quiet tonight, man. "

  "Just focusing, brother," I say, adjusting my hand pressure. This cover-up on my old friend, Cory, is a monster-a bullshit tribal with heavy black ink and some scarring-and I want to make sure I get it right before he heads back to L. A. and whatever movie he's making.

  "You had that convention today, right?" he asks me.

  I pull my needle back and dilute the color in some water. "Never doing one of those again. Not my scene. "

  "Even with all the hot chicks?"

  I grin at him. "Even then. "

  He sighs, drops his head back against the chair. "Chicks with tattoos rock my world. And if they have a few piercings in some very private places, even better. "

  I shake my head. The guy pretends to be such a cupcake on the red carpet. "Sounds like you need to hit the convention next time. "

  As he laughs, Vincent sticks his head in the room. The guy's black hair has just been recently skull-shaved. Between that, his black eyes and the nearly full body art, he looks like one of the death rockers Jane loves to ink. Except for the face. Boy's got a fucking Hollywood face.

  "Hey, Rush, man," he says. "There's someone here for you, and she's not on the books. "

  I feel the announcement of her presence in my gut. It sits there and grinds away, pain and pleasure all at the same time. Sure, I'd given her Wicked's address, and her ink wasn't close to being done, but I'd seriously wondered if she'd show. Wondered if she'd run again.

  Like a pussy, I'd even thought about sending a car for her. Or picking her up on my bike. But my pride found its way back to my balls.

  I glance up at Vincent again. "Tell her to have a seat. "

  "Sure thing. " He grins real wide at me, his eyebrows going up and down.

  "What are you doing, idiot?"

  "Or I could take her. You know," he shrugs. "I have a softer touch than you do with the iron. "

  "Yeah, but women don't want a softer touch," I say. "Especially when you're using your iron. "

  Cory laughs, and I grin. We're all such fucking infants sometimes. Thank god we have Janie in the shop. That cool-as-ice pin-up balances us all out. And by 'balances' I mean she tells us we're complete knuckleheads, and that if we don't grow the hell up, she's outta there.

  And that ain't happening. We can't do without our Janie. Girl's the shit. Eight month waiting list tells the truth of it: every rocker, rapper and reggae artist on the West Coast wants a tattoo from her. Plus, she's cool. She'd really helped me out today, with the asshats at the convention, and with Addison. No judgment.

  "You suddenly have time on your hands?" I say to V. "I thought you were booked all day. "

  "I was. Am. " He drops his chin, gives me the innocent look. "I'm done for the night. I could help you out. "

  And I give him a fuck off grin. "I got it, V. Thanks for having my back though. "

  "Anytime, man. " He pushes away from the door. "And by anytime I mean when a girl's as smoking hot as this one. "

  My gut twists up again like a fucking piece of licorice. Something inside of me doesn't like hearing another guy talk about Addison that way. Granted, it's true. She is smoking hot. But the caveman inside me wants to drag Vincent out back behind the dumpsters and kick the crap out of his Hollywood ass just for noticing.

  "Shit," I hiss under my breath, rubbing some goo into Cory's finished piece before wrapping it up. I'm not going here again. Not letting myself go here again. Finish Addison's tat, let her say her piece, get her off my ass and back where she belongs.

  "Meet someone at the convention, brother?" Cory asks me as he unfolds from the chair.

  "Just an old friend," I tell him.

  "Doesn't sound old," he says as I walk him out the door.

  First thing we both see is Addison in the waiting area. She's sitting on the black leather couch, the brick wall at her back, flipping through my book. It's nuts how hard it makes me just watching her look at my artwork. She's changed her clothes. No more garden party downstairs, no more pillowcase up top. Instead she has on a white wifebeater tank and a pair of pretty tight-fitting faded jeans. She looks casual and sexy, and I can see why Vincent was ready to give up his Saturday night for a few hours of working on her skin.

  She looks up from the book then, and her eyes find mine and lock into place. They're worried, they're hungry, and they make me deliriously happy by not even flickering in Cory's direction. The dude is a movie star, for chrissakes.

  "Doesn't sound old," Cory says again, this time under his breath as he shakes my hand. "And definitely doesn't look like a friend. "

  "Nice to see you again, man. " I knock my chin at the glass door leading to the parking lot. "Good luck on the film. "

  Cory gets the hint loud and clear, and with a wry grin, and a quick look at Addison, he takes a hike.

  Once we're alone in the waiting room, aka the rec room, I give her a nod. "Hey there. "

  "Sorry I'm early. " She shrugs, her sexy, tanned shoulders lifting and lowering. "I'm happy to hang out for a while if you're not ready. "

  "I'm ready," I say too damn quickly. "Come on in. "

  She follows me into my den. When I built this place, I wanted to make sure there were private rooms as well as open ones, and it was a good thing too, because several of our more famous clients really appreciate it.

  As she takes in the space, I close the door and lock it without thinking. Or, fuck me, maybe I am thinking. Maybe I'm thinking that I don't want V or Janie interrupting us.

  "This is so you. "

  Her words, and the familiar warmth she coats them in, bring my head around. She's checking out my home away from home, her back to me, offering up one hella spectacular view of her long legs, tight ass, sexy shoulders and thick, straight hair.

  "Brick and leather," she muses. "Concrete floors. "

  She walks over to the one wall that isn't brick. The wall that used to be just plain white plaster but as time went by has been taken over by my busy hand. She reaches out and runs her fingers over my shit; the paintings, the sketches, even the tags. It's like she's running her hands over me when she does it, and I actually need to focus on breathing right.

  "You did these," she says, her fingers tracing a large portrait of a man and his kid, both with skull faces. It's not a question.

  I come up behind her. She smells way too good to be in a locked room with me. "Every tat I create's got to go up on the wall first. "

  She turns around, her back brushing up against the wall. I think about easing off her, telling her to get in my chair and let's get this show on the road. Fuck, let's get this show over and done.

  But do I move?

  Hell, no.

  "Every tat?" she asks. "Even mine?"

  A piece of her hair's escaped its pack, and I reach out to rescue it. My fingers brush her cheek and she breaths in, all quick and affected.

  "No," I say. "Not yours. "

  Her eyes, those nutty, amazing eyes that I always begged her to keep on mine when we kissed or fucked, or hell, just shared a gallon of flat-assed coke after school at my house, flashed with gloom.

  "Well, it's amazing, Rush," she says in a soft voice. "What you've done here. You should be really proud of yourself. "

  What I should be is naked, her in my arms, my mouth going to work on all those pretty parts I know make her wild. But that's off limits unless I want to suffer for all eternity.

  "Come on," I say instead, backing up, feeling the heat of her roll off my body and die away. "Let's get started. "

  Like a moron-like the guy who just wants that heat back again
-I reach for her hand and lead her over to my chair. "So, how's it feeling? Any irritation?"

  She shakes her head. "Not bad. Frankly, my curiosity is irritating me more. "

  I laugh softly. "Let's have a look. " I gesture to the chair.

  "Should I take off. . . " She touches the bottom of her tank.

  "Yeah. " I grind the words out. My jaw's getting as hard as my dick now.

  I watch her when I should be setting up. She pulls the tank over her head to reveal a cream-colored bra, and I fucking stare like a middle schooler getting his first look at a girl's naked skin. She hasn't changed much. Long, lean limbs, but serious, deadly curves. Her ass and tits have always turned my brain to cheese, and my dick to stone, and I swear to god, it's no different tonight. I honestly don't know how I'm going to get through this tat without touching her.

  She straddles my chair, her thighs flaring out. My mind starts ripping out images of all the ways I could use that chair to pleasure her. And it's not the first time I've gone there. More than a few nights over the years, staring at that empty chair, picturing her in it, picturing me on my knees. . .

  I frown. Thinking, fantasizing. . . they say it's healthy. I say it's bullshit.

  I come up behind her, my skin vibrating with the need to touch her. The bandage lies directly above her bra strap, but I like a clear workspace, so I unclasp her, then grin when she inhales sharply.

  "Should I take it off?" she asks me, and her voice is so breathy my cock knocks against my zipper.

  "Only if it makes you more comfortable," I say, peeling off the tape holding the bandage to her skin.

  "Just trying to make things easier for you, that's all. "

  "Real thoughtful," I say tightly. And maybe a little asshole-esque.

  She sighs. "Rush. . . "

  My fingers are moving too slow pulling up the tape. "Yeah, baby?"

  "You don't have be a total prick for me to get how much you hate me. "

  Christ, her skin's soft. And warm.

  I'm so pissed off at myself and at her, and how her body's calling for me to round first and keep going, like a goddamn third base coach, that I pull off the rest of the tape a little too hard. She sucks air through her teeth, and I turn away and drop the bandage in the trash.

  I wish hating on her was the reason why I'm being such a prick. And not because my hands are fucking aching to be on her again, to steal around her waist and grope the shit out of her.

  I'm silent as I set up, get the works in order. I'm kind of out of my mind with the tat I'm putting on her, but it's too late now. It's going to be sick, and permanent, and she'll have me on her for life. Maybe as payment for ruining mine once upon a time.

  She has her bra off when I turn back, gloves on, tat machine in hand. My iron-that's what we call it, even though it's all about the needle, not getting the wrinkles out of your shirts and shit-is a total extension of me, was from the first day we met. And I can't wait to get Addison under it again. Especially looking like that.

  Fuuuuck.

  The slip of cream silk is hanging over the chair along with her shirt, like an invitation. My fucking mouth waters like I haven't eaten in days. Her back is just endless inches of smooth, tanned playground.

  "How's it look?" she asks.

  My jaw goes tight and I can only laugh at her question. It's just so damn on the nose. "Looks pretty good. Your skin takes ink really well. Pain too, seems like. "

  She relaxes forward, dropping her chin. "I'm surprised by that actually. But maybe I've developed tougher skin these past five years. "

  I know she's speaking metaphorically, but I have this irresistible urge to lean in and run my tongue up her spine to check and see if it's true.

  I look over my colors again, make sure they're lined up the way I like them. "Your skin will be sore," I tell her. "I normally wouldn't do this the same day, but if you can handle the pain-"

  "I can," she insists.

  Damn, it's like having the old Addison back when she talks that way. As I drop my head and get to it, I wonder if that's a good thing or the worst thing ever.

  She hisses as the needle touches down, and I don't bother to ask her if she's all right. I want her to feel pain. Especially the kind that doesn't come from my needle. The kind that lasts years and refuses to let go of your soul no matter how hard you try, no matter how many women you fuck.

  I work in relative silence for awhile, the sound of the machine and her steady breathing my only company. I'm falling in love with the design I'm putting on her. Even with all the turn-ons followed by the hard-ons, it could end up being one of my best pieces.

  "I was surprised when I heard you were doing this," she says after a solid fifteen minutes. "With all the early scholarships to art schools, I thought maybe you'd go in that direction. "

  "I did," I say, shading my yellow. "After skipping town, I checked out one in New York. Stayed there about six months before I picked up an iron and fell in lust. "

  "In lust?" she says, a smile in her voice. "Not in love?"

  "No. Never in love. "

  She senses the bitterness in my tone and goes in for the kill. "Not with anything?"

  "No. "

  "Or anyone?"

  I drop back, pull the needle from her skin. "What are you doing? You trying to find out if I've fallen for anyone since you? If I've fucked anyone since you?"

  She stiffens. "Jesus, why are you so harsh? It's like trying to talk to sandpaper. "

  "I've always been that way, Addison. It's why we got together in the first place, and why you dumped my sorry ass. It's why you lied to me and went out with that buttoned up scoop of vanilla. And with what I saw you wearing today, you're still with him. "

  She's quiet for a minute or two, and even though I'm glad I said it, got it out after all these years, I still feel like a dick.

  "What's rolling around in there?" I ask her. "What are you thinking?"

  "I'm remembering when we first met. I think I was twelve. "

  I get back in the game. "Sounds about right. "

  "It wasn't the first time I'd seen someone smoking," she says, a grin in her voice. "But it was the first time I'd seen a kid doing it. "

  I sniff. "You walked right up to me and took it out of my hands. I thought you were going to stamp it out on the sidewalk. Color me stunned when you slipped it between your lips and took a drag. "

  She laughs softly. "I thought I was such a badass. "

  "You were, Ads. " Fucking hell. You were.

  She tightens up again. I do too. It's the first time I've used her nick in five years, and it's kind of like a knee to the balls. Oh, shit. Why are we doing this? Why am I? I could've heard what she had to say today at the convention center, finished the tat and been done with the whole thing.

  But it was like once I had her in front of me, in my chair, in my eyeline, I couldn't let her go. Not this time. Not when I could do something to stop her.

  "I don't think I was a badass, Rush," she says on a sigh. "A badass would've told the truth. A badass wouldn't have met up with someone behind her boyfriend's back. It's just that, being tossed around from house to house, eating one meal a day if that, no one wanting my ass. . . "

  I wanted your ass, I almost say. But that would be suicide.

  "I couldn't stay in that life. "

  My gut does that eating itself dance again. "And I was that life. "

  "I thought so. "

  "And vanilla ice cream was what? Happily ever after? China dishes and six bathrooms?"

  "He was nothing. "

  "Bullshit, Ads. Don't do that. Not now. "

  She breathes, in and out, for a few seconds. "Okay. When he called that day and asked me to the dance-me, the other-side-of-the-boulevard girl-I felt-"

  "Special," I interrupt.

  "No. Saved. "

  Just that word-that one goddamn word-kills me. My jaw tight, I start running color
over sections of black. I know this has got to hurt her, but I'm hoping the pain forces her to stop talking.

  It doesn't.

  "Rush, you came from the same thing," she says. "You were trying to keep your head above water just like me. "

  "Yeah, but I didn't think about swimming away from you to get it. "

  She releases a breath. "No, you didn't. That's why I'm here. That's why I went to your house the very next day, why I called and wrote and tried to make appointments for the next freaking five years. That's why I can't seem to find joy in anything. Why I'm just. . . lost. "

  My entire body goes rigid. My eyes narrow on the piece I'm inking into her skin.

  "I'm sorry," she says. "You have no idea how sorry I am for that night. " She's quiet for a moment, then drops a bomb. "I loved you so much. "

  My hand tightens around the iron. "I don't want to hear any more. "

  Then bomb number two. "I never stopped, Rush. "

  "Goddammit, Addison," I practically growl. "No more. I'm trying not to fucking scar you. "

  "Then don't try. "

  I'm concentrating so hard my head hurts.

  "Maybe the scar will do the trick," she says softly.

  "What trick?" I grind out. "Be a constant reminder of your betrayal? Shit. . . that's what the tat is for. "

  "No. " She laughs softly. "This tat is you. You on me always. "

  Inside my chest, my heart is slamming like a rock against my ribs, and down south, I've been hard for a solid thirty minutes. And as I near the finish line with her first ink, her virgin ink, I know this is just the beginning of me on her skin tonight.
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