First ink, p.9
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       First Ink, p.9

         Part #1 of Wicked Ink Chronicles series by Laura Wright
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Chapter 9



  Lisa: WTF, Addy! Where are u?

  Me: W/rush. What's wrong?

  Lisa: I've been trying 2 reach you!

  Me: Sry! Phone off.

  Lisa: It's OK. Just worried abt u.

  Me: I'm fine. Sore & fine:)

  Lisa: Gross.

  Me: Heh heh.

  Lisa: When I didn't hear from u I got freaked, went 2 that tattoo parlor.

  Me: ?!?!?

  Lisa: I tried 2 find out where rush lives, but that asshole vincent wouldn't give it up.

  Me: Oh, hon, I'm sorry. I told u I'd prob B out all night.

  Lisa: He was a real dick 2 me. Said some things. . .

  Me: What did he say?

  Lisa: When r u coming bk 2 the hotel? I really need 2 talk 2 u.

  Me: WTF did he say, Lis???

  Lisa: Just come, ok?

  Me: K. I'll b there in 1 hr.

  I look up. Rush is staring at me, all gorgeous and heavy-lidded and tousled hair, and wearing only his ink and a pair of black sweats that hang appetizingly on his hips. We're sitting on top of his sleek wood table outside on his massive deck. The sun is shining and a killer breeze is rolling off the desert. There's a bunch of food laid out between us: bagels and cream cheese and fruit. And right before I got Lisa's text, Rush was mentioning something about spreading that cream cheese on my stomach instead of his bagel.

  I inhale deeply. I wish-really, really wish-I could pretend I didn't pick up my phone to check messages, stay in Rush & Addy Land all day. But my friend needs me, and we're supposed be driving back to L. A. in a few hours.

  Rush lifts one eyebrow at me and my skin heats up instantly. The guy's just walking, talking, breathing sex.

  "Your friend okay?" he asks.

  I pick a grape from the bunch and roll it between my fingers. "I don't know. Something's wrong. She went to Wicked Ink last night. "

  "Why?" His brows draw together.

  Jesus, even a confused frown on him is hot. Everything he does, every look, every word, I just melt. How the hell am I going to leave here, leave him, and go back to my life?

  My vanilla life.

  "She's worried about me," I say.

  "She think I abducted you?"

  His green eyes flash with equal parts heat and amusement. I die. Or sigh. Or both.

  "Something like that. " I pop the grape in my mouth, and when the juice bursts inside me, all I can think about is us, Rush and me and what we have together. What's happened between us in the past twenty-four hours. How we've fallen back into it, into each other. And it's like no time has passed. We joke and touch and tease so damn easy.

  But does he see it? Or was this a kickass twenty-four hour reunion/sex marathon, and it's over now, and we both go back to our lives? Because he hasn't said anything. Not one word about me leaving or not wanting me to leave.

  "She had a run-in with Vincent," I say. "Trying to get your address out of him. "

  He teases a couple of grapes from their stem. The thing relents way easily. I know the feeling, my purple friend.

  "I'm guessing that didn't go over well. Everyone at Wicked knows not to give out my personal information. "

  "Is he a bad guy, Vincent?" I ask.

  Rush shakes his head. "No. Just a horny guy. "

  "Like you?" I smile.

  He snorts. "Oh, baby, that dude is way worse than me. I'm into one woman beneath me, on top of me, on her hands and knees in front of me. "

  Every cell in my body reacts to the words, and the suggestive look he gives me while saying it. Cream freaking cheese, I want to cry out. What were you going to do with the cream cheese, dammit?!?

  But Lisa's my friend, my bestie, my beeyotch, and I will always have her back. Especially when she needs me.

  "He wouldn't act stupid, would he?" I ask. "Force something?"

  "Hell, no. " Rush gives me a serious look. "The guy's a total slut, for sure, but he's not a pusher. " He pops the grapes in his mouth one by one, and I've never felt so jealous of fruit in my life. "I don't know what went down, but if she went nuts wanting my address, he might've told her to take a hike in bright colors, if you know what I'm saying. "

  I do. And Lisa, though fun and outgoing, a real free-spirit, has a hard time with conflict. She's never told me everything about her home life, but from what I gathered her parents were going at each other 24/7.

  My eyes travel over the tattoos on Rush's arms and chest. Just the thought of not being able to touch him again makes me sick to my stomach.

  My eyes lift to meet his. "She needs me," I tell him. "And I've got school in the morning. And a paper due. " I laugh, but it comes out as more of a choke. "Haven't even started it. "

  His eyes instantly lose their light, and my heart starts bleeding. "Okay. "

  "Give me a ride?"

  "Course. But first. . . " He drops down from the table, then helps me.

  Before I can say a word, he takes my hands and leads me inside the house. I wonder what he's up to, hope stupidly that it involves his arms around me and his lips crushing against mine, but then he leads me into the bathroom and in front of the mirror.

  He looks at me, brows raised. "Ready?"

  His art. On me.

  I can't believe I've gone all morning without thinking about it. Remembering it. I'm suddenly nervous, clammy. Damn, I've been wanting to see the design Rush inked into me so badly, but now. . . I don't know. I'm scared of what it is and what it means. Or worse, doesn't mean. Maybe it's some thickly-lined tribal marking or a Hawaiian pin-up girl.

  I'm wearing one of Rush's shirts, black and button down, and hits mid-thigh. And as I stand there in the middle of his gorgeous white and gray bathroom, I work buttons off with trembling hands for the second time in twenty-four hours.

  After I'm done, I let him draw it off me. Wearing only a pair of his boxers, my nerves battering me, I look away from his hot, hungry eyes and glance over my shoulder. The moment my eyes connect with the stunning blast of color and form between my shoulder blades, I gasp, then cover my mouth with my hand. Eyes wide, I move around, seeing the piece from all different angles.

  I turn to face him, slightly stunned by his choice. "It's a compass. "

  He nods, his leaf-green eyes a little wary.

  I chew my lower lip. My heart is so close to the edge I'm almost afraid to ask. But I have to. Especially now, with all that's happened between us. "To find my way back home?"

  His eyes close and he inhales deep. When he opens them again, he looks calmer, more in control-more like Rush. He shrugs. "You said you were lost, Ads. This'll help you find your way. "

  Not to me. Not find your way back to me.

  Pain sears my insides, grief too, but I'm not going to let him know it. Nothing was promised here. It was only forgiven, and isn't that why I came? Isn't that what I really want?

  The lie in that forced belief protects me, keeps me from bursting into tears, flinging myself into his arms and begging to stay. Or shit, begging him to ask me to stay. Because in truth, what I really want is him.

  My eyes lift to his, but they don't stay long. "I should get dressed. Get back to the hotel. To my friend. "

  To reality.
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