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Authors: Kaylee Ryan

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BOOK: Tempting Tatum
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“All right, man, you’re all set. Stop and make an appointment for four weeks from now and we will finish the second half of your sleeve,” I tell Mark, a longtime client. Asher did his first piece the week we opened the shop, and here we are six years later, and I’m giving him his second sleeve. Ink is an addiction for many.

I’m busy cleaning up my station when Ember walks in. She helps us out here and there between classes and during the summer. We are going to have to hire someone now that she will be teaching full-time in the fall. “Hey, Blaise, got time for one more?” she asks.

I roll my neck from side to side. I just spent the last four hours working on Mark’s sleeve. “What is it?” I ask her.

Ember rolls her eyes, so I know it’s something I could probably do in my sleep. “I have a girl who wants a rose on her hip.” She hands me a picture that was printed out on the internet.

Yep, this will take me twenty minutes, tops. I hate to turn away customers so, of course, I agree. Asher is on call tonight, so it’s just me at the shop. “Yeah,” I sigh. “Just give me a few minutes to finish sterilizing the station and to get a quick drink.”

Ember nods in agreement and walks back to the reception desk. I hear a squeal and roll my eyes. My sister’s bad habits are rubbing off on me. Just what I need, another co-ed vying for my attention. At first, Asher and I got a thrill from it. We had more female clients than we did male. The ink was also the typical rose, a heart, or even a butterfly. The result was always the same, “What are you doing later?” Of course, we were all over that shit, especially me after the Beth incident. Neither one of us ever have to work for female companionship.

Eventually that gets old. I know, I know, every man’s fantasy. Well, not really. Men want the same thing women want; well, at least some of us do. Asher fell hard and fast for Grace, and he makes it known to every female who comes through the door that he is taken and is a one-woman man. That leaves me to fend off the piranhas.

Finished with the station, I head back to the break room/office and grab a bottle of water. I tilt my head back and finish it off all at once. Twisting the cap back on the bottle, I toss it in the recycle bin and head back to my station. I stop and yell down the hall to Ember that she can bring back my next client.

I settle myself into my chair and begin prepping my gun. From the picture of the rose, I have a good idea of the colors I will need, so I set that up as well. I hear the clank, clank, clank of high heels marching down the hallway. Rolling my neck from side to side, I take a deep breath. It’s been a long ass day.

“Well hello, handsome,” I hear a southern twang from the doorway.

I stand up and reach out my hand. “Blaise. It’s nice to meet you,” I say in my most professional voice.

“Courtney,” she says, her voice lowered like she’s trying to seduce me. Great, I so do not want to deal with this right now. However, a customer is a customer, so I grin and bear it.

“Have a seat.” I motion to the table with my free hand. “Ember showed me the picture.” I hold up the print out. “Is this exactly what you want, or did you want to make any changes?”

“No, I want that exact thing, right here.” She pulls her pants down to expose her hip.

Without meeting her eyes, I continue getting everything ready. “Okay, let me get this sketched out real quick and we’ll get stared.”

“No rush, handsome.” She winks at me.

UGH!

I make quick work of the sketch and prep the site. Courtney giggles as I place the transfer on her skin. “That tickles.”

I smile and nod. I hate being rude; but really, can she be any more obvious? “All right, here we go. I’ll have you out of here in no time,” I tell her. Hopefully, she doesn’t hear the hidden meaning behind my words;
I want you out of here
.

“Am I your last customer?” she asks me. I can tell she is trying to mask the discomfort of the needle against her skin.

“Yes,” is my reply. This chick is starting to get on my nerves. It’s nothing that she’s done. I’m just over it, over chicks like her. A vision of Asher and Grace pops in my head. I can admit to myself that I’m envious of what they have. I would never admit it out loud; well, not sober anyway.

Courtney wiggles her hips, and luckily, I lift my gun before her tat turns into a larger fucking rose. “Hold still,” I tell her.

“Sorry,” she giggles. “So, what are you doing after? Want to get a drink?”

I’m shaking my head no before she is even finished. “Sorry, can’t. I have to be up early in the morning, family thing,” I tell her. It’s not a complete lie; I promised Ember I would help move some new furniture into her condo. Apparently, Mom decided they needed a new dinette and gave Ember her old one. I smile thinking about my mom. She did the same thing to Asher and me, only it was a living room suite.

“Oh, well maybe some other time,” she says.

I continue to keep my eyes focused on her tattoo and don’t even bother to reply. A few more swipes of shading on the stem and I’m done. Finally. Seems like the longest twenty minutes of my life. I clean her up and cover the tat, all while going over the care instructions with her.

“Ember will take care of you out front. Have a good night,” I say as I tear off my gloves and walk out the room. I’m so sick of the stereotype. Just because I’m a decent looking guy covered in tats, who just happens to own a tattoo shop, doesn’t mean I’ll sleep with anyone who is willing to spread her legs for me. I’m just not wired that way.

I hear the bell above the door, and I know that she’s gone, so I head back to clean up my station. Ember follows me in. “What’s up, Blaise?”

I shrug my shoulders. “Nothing,” I snap.

“Liar,” she fires back.

“I’m just tired.”

“You’re not just a piece of meat,” she says, reading my mind.

“And I thought Asher and I were the ones with the freaky twin thing going,” I retort.

She smiles. “I know my big brother. You’ll find her. The one girl who will steal your heart. When you do, you will want to latch on and never let her go,” she says in a soft voice.

My sister, always the romantic. “You hungry?” I ask her, changing the subject.

“Yes, you buying?”

I smile and throw my arm around her shoulders. “For you, little sister, always. Give me a few to finish and lock up.”

Within ten minutes, Ember and I are in my truck and headed toward the local pizza joint. The same one our parents used to take us to when we were little. It’s been around for as long as I can remember and the food is the best. It’s always been Ember’s favorite place to eat.

Ember leads us to an empty booth in the back. There is no need to look at the menu, we always get the same thing. Large Pepperoni and banana pepper with breadsticks. The waitress arrives and we order our drinks and food at the same time.

“So, Mom is still working like crazy,” she says as the waitress returns with our drinks.

“I thought I heard her and Aunt Ruth talking about a candidate?”

Ember nods her head. “Yeah, I guess the new doctor that’s starting at Aunt Ruth’s office next week recommended her. It’s a friend of his fiancée or something like that.”

“I hope she’s a good fit. I hate that Mom is working so many hours, along with the time she also spends doing paperwork for the department,” I reply.

“Me too. I offered to help out, so I may be splitting my time between there and the shop for a while.”

“No problem. We need to work on finding a replacement for you anyway. You start your new job in a couple months. I’m really proud of you by the way,” I tell her.

I see tears pool in her eyes. “Thank you, Blaise.”

Our pizza arrives and disappears just as quick. I, for one, have not eaten since early this morning and Ember loves her pizza. I drive her back to the shop to get her car and wait to make sure she gets off okay, before I head home as well. It’s been a long ass day.

My cell rings as I pull into my driveway. Glancing at the screen, I see it’s Mom calling. “Hey,” I answer.

“Blaise, are you busy tomorrow?” she asks me.

“I don’t have anything at the shop until the afternoon, what’s up? Is everything okay?” I ask, concerned.

“Oh, yes, everything is fine. I just merged some files, which need to be carried downstairs to storage, and I was wondering if you could stop by the office and help me?”

“Sure, I don’t want you throwing your back out like you did last time. You should have asked then,” I remind her.

“Psh, well, I’m asking now. Your father is on call so I can’t ask him, and Asher said he has an appointment at the shop first thing,” she rambles on.

“Mom, it’s fine. I’ll be there; it’s no trouble at all. What time do you need me?”

“How about nine? I’ll bring breakfast for you. This way it won’t keep your entire day locked up.”

“Even better, I’ll be there at nine,” I tell her.

“Thank you. I love you. See you tomorrow,” she says, and the line goes dead.

 

 

 

“So, today’s the big day. Are you ready?” Leah says, walking into my room.

“Yep, ready as I’ll ever be.” I continue tucking my shirt into my skirt before grabbing my blazer from the bed. “I dread the question, what brings you to Tennessee? I know they can’t ask personal questions; I just hope I can keep my emotions in check to not look like a blubbering idiot during the interview,” I tell her.

Leah stands up and adjusts the collar on my shirt. “Relax, Tate. You’ll do great. As a matter of fact, I already have our night out to celebrate all planned,” she says, pointing to her head.

I laugh at her. “Don’t put the cart before the horse. Let me get through my interview first.”

“Nah, you got this. I wouldn’t be surprised if they hire you on the spot,” she retorts.

I don’t argue with her; I don’t really have the mentally capability at this point. I barely slept last night, worried about the interview. I need this job; it’s crucial to my plan of starting over. The plan to learn how to live without them.

“Well, how do I look?” I ask as I spin around, allowing her to take in my appearance.

“Professional and beautiful as ever. Good luck today,” she says, giving me a hug.

With that, I’m out the door and on my way to my first job interview that actually coincides with my education. I’m a college graduate. I take a deep breath to hold back the tears. I reach my car door and stop. I tilt my head back to the sky. “I know you’re up there watching over me. I miss you every day and I love you,” I whisper. Wiping the lone tear that escapes, I climb in behind the wheel and head toward what I hope will be the start to my future.

I arrive at the city offices fifteen minutes early. I actually drove here yesterday, just to make sure I knew where I was going. Leah rode along with me. I’m glad Brent talked me into having my car shipped. It was kind of expensive, but worth it. I would not have wanted to make that drive by myself. Grabbing my purse and my portfolio, I make my way to the front door. Just as I’m about to reach for the handle, a very muscular, very tattooed arm reaches in front of me.

“Allow me,” he says with a deep voice. He has a small southern drawl to him as well. I can feel how close he is to me, so I don’t risk turning around and getting myself into an awkward situation. Instead, I slightly step to the side, allowing him to open the door.

BOOK: Tempting Tatum
11.88Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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