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Authors: Kaylee Ryan

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BOOK: Tempting Tatum
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I’m not sure how much time passes before Mom appears at the door of the break room. I busied myself with my phone, updating the shop’s facebook and twitter status, checking e-mails, and going over my schedule for the next week.

“Thanks for your help,” she says as she leans against the door jam.

I stand up and stretch. “No problem. Is that all you needed help with? I didn’t want to leave in case there was anything else you needed done.”

She shakes her head no. “I’m good. Thank you for helping; you’re a life saver.”

I tower over her at my six foot three height. Leaning down, I kiss her cheek. “Anything for your cinnamon rolls,” I say, barely able to hold in my laughter as she pokes me in the side.

“Shush, you. Get out of here and enjoy the rest of your day,” she laughs. “I have work to do. Harry hired that girl and I have to set up all of her pre-employment testing as well as the rest of my work and what will soon be hers. Finally, there is light at the end of the tunnel.”

“So, she’s the new PR rep?” I ask. Trying to be casual. If Mom suspects I’m the least bit interested, she will start her matchmaking.

She nods her head yes. “And, she has a double major in marketing. We get two for the price of one. She just moved here from Ohio.”

I want to ask her more. I want to know everything she knows about the dark haired beauty named Tatum with the captivating green eyes. Instead of asking and letting my attraction to her over take my common sense, I say goodbye to my mother and head to the shop.

Every damn time I walk through the door of Self Expressions, our tattoo shop, I can’t help but smile. Asher and I always dreamed of this, and here we are living the dream. Life doesn’t get much better than this.

Ember is at the counter, eyes glued to her laptop, no doubt shopping online for her new apartment. I hear the hum of a tattoo gun so I can only assume Asher is hard at work. I don’t have a client until three, but this place is home to me. Ember looks up from her laptop. “How was mom?” she questions.

“Good. I carried all the boxes down to the basement for her. Harry hired a new PR rep while I was there, so hopefully her work load will decrease,” I tell her.

“That’s awesome. She has been carrying the load for so long, she won’t know what to do with herself,” she replies excitedly.

Asher appears with his client and hands Ember his cash out slip. “What’s awesome?”

“Harry finally hired a PR rep, so now maybe Mom can cut back and relax a little.”

“About damn time,” he says, turning to his client. “Let me know when you want to get started on that other piece,” he tells him. They fist bump and the guy in on his way.

“Another satisfied customer.” Asher grins.

Before I have a chance to reply, my cell rings. I pull it out of my pocket and see Heather’s name flash across the screen. I turn my phone so my siblings can see who it is. I’m already walking down the hall and out the back door before answering.

“Hey, stranger,” I say into the phone. I lean my back against the building with one foot propped up against the wall.

“Hey, yourself. How have you been?” she asks.

Heather and I dated after Beth and I broke up. It was a short-lived courtship. We have nothing in common well, except the sex. We dated for about three months and mutually decided it wasn’t working out and parted as friends. Heather is a model and flies all over the world. About six months later she called and said she was in Nashville for a video shoot and would love to get together. I didn’t have anything else going on, so I drove to Nashville to have dinner with her. One thing led to another and we ended up back at her hotel room. We spent the night together. The next morning, we went to breakfast, and then she went her way and I went mine. Neither of us has been in a serious relationship since. So, when she’s in town, she calls and we hook up. Heather is a beautiful girl. She and I both just want to be able to relieve some tension without a bunch of random hook-ups. It works for us. Hell, we have given each other dating advice. We talk about everything. She’s one of my closest friends, with benefits. We both have vowed when that special someone comes along, we will remain close friends and no hard feelings. It works for us.

“I’m good. Shop is busy as ever,” I reply. “How about you?”

“Doing well. I’m in Nashville shooting another music video. You busy tonight?”

“Yeah, I have a full schedule here at the shop. How long are you in town for?” I ask her.

“I fly back to London tomorrow afternoon. This is just a short trip to do a few stills for the video.”

“I wish I would have known you were coming to town. I could have made arrangements in my schedule,” I tell her. I miss my friend.

“Yeah, actually I…um…I met someone,” she whispers.

“Wow, who’s the lucky guy?” I’m happy for her.

“His name is Antonio. We met at a shoot about four months ago. He was the photographer. We’ve been texting and calling. We don’t see much of each other, but I really like him, Blaise.”

“I’m happy for you. So when do I get to meet him?” I ask her.

Heather laughs into the phone. I feel absolutely no jealousy or heartache over her revelation. As one of my closest friends, I want her to be happy.

“Not sure. I’m actually flying to London to spend two weeks with him. I’m nervous as hell. I’ve only seen him one other time in the last four months and we were at a shoot. It’s weird though. I feel like I already know him. Talking and texting all the time, it helped,” she tells me.

Heather is beautiful, and once you get to know her, she is one of the nicest people that you will ever meet. However, she is very standoffish to those who don’t know her. Her upbringing was rough and she’s lived some hard times. She’s worked her ass off to be where she is, and I couldn’t be more proud of her. I consider what she’s telling me. The way she’s forced, due to their distance, to communicate and get to know Antonio, may be what she needs. This might just be it for her, the one. 

“Just relax and be yourself. You’re amazing, but I’m sure Antonio already knows this.”

“So what about you? Anyone new in your life?” she asks.

My mind immediately travels to the dark haired beauty from Mom’s office this morning. “Nope. Asher and Grace are pretty serious. I think he’s going to propose,” I tell her.

“Wow. Good for him.” I hear voices in the background. “Listen, Blaise, I have to go; they’re calling for me. I’ll call you in a few weeks and let you know how London goes,” she says.

“Sounds good. Be safe and have fun. Just be yourself,” I tell her.

Hitting end on my phone, I slide it back into my pocket. I push off the wall to go back into the shop. As I pull on the door, Asher comes tumbling out.

“Shit!” we say at the same time.

“Hey, how’s Heather,” he asks.

“Good, she met someone,” I tell him.

Asher studies me. “You don’t seem bothered by that,” he says matter of factly.

I shrug my shoulders. “Why would I be? We tried the dating thing; it didn’t work for us. She’s a great girl and I want her to be happy,” I tell him.

Asher seems to accept my answer and drops it. “Hey, Ember left to grab a pizza. You got a minute?” he asks.

“Sure.” I don’t hesitate.

Asher tilts his head and motions toward the door. I follow him back into the shop and down the hall, back to our office. He walks over to the safe we have hidden in the wall for the deposits. I watch as he enters the combination and opens the door. He reaches inside and pulls out a small, black, velvet box. My mouth drops open.

Holy shit!

Asher hands me the box. “Open it,” he says. I don’t need to look at him to know he’s smiling. I can hear it in his voice.

I open the velvet box and inside is an engagement ring. I don’t know much about engagement rings, nothing really. But this one is big and there are a lot of diamonds that encase a larger one in the center.

“Congratulations, man,” I say as I reach out and hug him. Handing the ring back to him I ask. “So when are you gonna ask her?”

“I have to talk to her dad first. After that, as soon as possible.”




“Shit!” I do not need this today. I steer my car to the shoulder of the road, barely making it before I lose all power. “Shit, shit, shit!” I say, beating my hands against the steering wheel. Why me? This is only my second week on the job and it looks like I’m going to be late. I have no power at all. My car didn’t want to start this morning; l should have known something was wrong. Releasing a sigh, I reach for my phone in the cup holder and call Nancy.

“Good morning, Mayor Hamilton’s office,” she says in greeting.

“Hey, Nancy, it’s Tatum. I’m going to be late,” I say, my voice defeated.

“Oh my, what’s wrong? Are you all right?” she asks. I can hear the concern in her voice. This woman is just too sweet.

“Yeah, my car died. I was able to steer it off the road, thankfully. Do you know of a tow agency I can call?” I ask her. “This happened a few years ago and it was the alternator.”

“Oh, dear. That does sounds like your alternator. That happened to me a few years back. Where are you?”

I tell her where I am as best I can. I am still new to the area.

“All right, let me take care of it. You just hang tight and lock your doors.”

“Nancy, you don’t have to do that, really. Brent is already at the hospital and he’s on call so I can’t call him, and Leah is taking her boards for her Tennessee license today, but I can call a tow truck. ”

“Nonsense. Just hang tight and I’ll take care of it,” she says, hanging up.

I throw my phone back in my cup holder. I swear I couldn’t draw good luck with a pencil these days.

The car has no power, so listening to the radio is not an option. I don’t want to use my cell battery just in case. You really never know. I reach for my purse and pull out my Kindle. I’m reading
Let Me Love
by Michelle Lynn and a little bit of Trey is exactly what I need.

I reach over and lock my doors, just like Nancy asked and settle in with Trey. I don’t know how long it’ll take the tow truck to arrive. I’m thankful it’s early morning, otherwise I would be roasting by now.

Completely engrossed in my reading, I scream when there is a knock on my window.
. I look in my rearview mirror and see a big truck. Who is that? I can feel my heart racing, kick started from the adrenaline of window knock. I reach for the door and hit the lock button to reassure myself that I did indeed lock my doors. I take a deep breath before turning to look out my window at my visitor.

My mouth drops open in shock…Blaise.

He leans down, smiles and waves before standing back up. I take the opportunity to look my fill. He’s wearing faded blue jeans that hang on his hips just right. How do I know this? His black fitted t-shirt conforms to his muscles, all of them including the V at his hips. Yeah, the jeans are looking good.

I’m startled when Blaise bends down and peers into the window. I’m caught; he knows it and I know it. His cocky smile is confirmation.

Deciding to act like I didn’t just get busted, I open the door and stand with him on the side of the road. The next thing I know, there is a huge gust of wind and I’m up against the side of my car with Blaise’s masterful body molded against mine. I feel his arms around me. He gently lifts my chin with his free hand. “You okay?” he asks, concerned. “That guy was driving way too fast,” he says as he studies my reaction.

Ah, that explains the blast of wind. Thoughts of my parents’ accident flash in my mind. I feel my body become rigid and my hands are starting to shake. Will I ever be able to get past this? Will I ever be able to hear about a car accident or potential accident in this case, and not turn into a basket case? I miss them so much, and the visions of how I lost them float through my mind. I still have nightmares; I’m just better at hiding them from Leah and Brent.

Blaise assumes it’s our current predicament that has me shaking. In a way, it is, but it was really just a trigger of the painful memory of the loss of my family. He pulls me tight against him. One hand placed on the small of my back, the other holding the back of my head against his chest. “I got you,” he whispers softly.

BOOK: Tempting Tatum
3.51Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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