Home > Pricked(5)

Author: Winter Renshaw

Panic in the form of a cold sweat blankets me like a sheet of ice, but a moment later, the prickle of sweat dots the top of my forehead and I'm finding it absolutely stifling in here.

"Dad, can you get your window, please?" I ask, fanning myself.

"Brighton, what is it?" Mom's words are rushed, as if she expects the worst, and she reaches for the back of the seat in front of her, bracing herself as if she's going to ask Edward to pull over.

"Nothing," I lie. "Just got hot all of a sudden. But I'm fine."

"You sure?" Dad asks.

I give them both smiles and enthusiastic nods. My entire life I’ve been responsible, prepared. I never lose things. I always have what I need—especially important things like proper identification. But I can’t help feeling like a part of me is missing.

Because it is.

And I remember now that it must be on the other side of town—at Madd Inkk.

I must have left it there earlier today when I was filling out paperwork. The girl at the desk needed to compare it to the information on the forms, and she must have forgotten to give it back after Madden called for me.

Sucking in a deep breath, I decide to stop mentally chastising myself for being so forgetful, and I remind myself I can head over there first thing in the morning and get it back. I'm not sure when they open, but I remember the owner saying he lived in the apartment above the studio. I'll stop by on my way to barre and grab it.

No big deal.

I'm panicking for nothing.

But the unsettled swirls in my stomach linger, and when I picture the striking features of the brooding Adonis who tattooed me today, they only intensify.

My heart skips - literally skips - when I sense the ghost of his fingertips against my ribcage, as if they've imprinted there. The way he touched me as he worked, so gentle, so careful and tender, was unexpected.

I'm not normally a fan of being treated with proverbial kid gloves, but for some crazy reason, when Madden was so delicate with me, I didn't mind at all. And it's funny. My father has always preached to me about staying away from "boys with fast cars and wicked glints in their eyes" and all of that. He always said those were the heartbreakers. And maybe he's right. A man like Madden could smash my heart into a million tiny shards until it's impossible to piece back together again.

My stomach flips at the thought.

As crazy as it seems, I kind of think it'd be magical.

But my little musing is more impossible than it is crazy. The man clearly loathed me the entire time I was in his presence. I’m two-hundred percent sure I’m the furthest thing from his type and if I so much as suggested hanging out sometime, he’d probably laugh in my face and walk away.

But a girl can dream.

And isn’t that the whole point of dreaming? Fantasizing about what could be if only ...



Morning comes way too damn early the next day when the security notification on my phone chimes not once, not twice, but three times. The wireless doorbell on my shopfront is linked to my phone, set to let me know any time someone rings it after hours.

Or in this case, before hours.

According to the clock on my dresser, it’s not even eight AM.

Rubbing my eyes, I pull up the app on my phone and take a look at the security camera footage. Some woman is standing outside my shop, hands cupped beside her eyes as she peers in through a window.

Sitting up, I watch her for a bit, trying to figure out who the hell would think a tattoo shop in Olwine would be open before noon. With blonde hair piled into a perfect bun on top of her head and skintight leggings and a tank top covering the rest of her, she sure as hell doesn’t look like a local.

I drag my ass out of bed, tug on a shirt, and shuffle across the room to the window above the shopfront. Living above Madd Inkk has its perks.

“Hey,” I call out to the blonde below. She glances to her left, then to her right. “Up here.”

Sliding off oversized sunglasses, she lifts her palm to shield her eyes and glances up.

It’s that girl from yesterday—the one who let me choose her tattoo and did nothing but shake like a wet poodle the entire time she was in my chair.

“Need something?” I ask, hands hooked over the window sill as I lean out.

“I think I left my ID here yesterday,” she says.

“You think you did?” Please tell me she didn’t drive clear across town at this ungodly hour because she can’t find her damn debit card and she thinks she might have left it here.

“I know I did,” she clarifies, shifting on her unblemished ivory sneakers.

“Ever heard of calling first?” I ask.

Or Googling our hours …

“I’ll be down in a second.” I slam the window shut, brush my teeth, splash some water on my face, and change into jeans before heading downstairs.

“Thank you so much. I really appreciate this,” she says when I let her in.

Heading to the front desk, I check under stacks of receipts and paperwork, beneath pen cups and three-ring binders before I find an envelope with the name BRIGHTON on it.

That’d be her.

Can’t forget a name like that.

I rip the envelope and fish out her plastic license, scanning the name on the front.


God, even her name sounds rich.

My gaze falls on her birthdate next. A quick calculation tells me that yesterday was her twenty-second birthday. Funny—she looks every bit a young twenty-something but she carries herself like a woman with a few more years under her belt.

Checking that the photo matches, I hand it over. “There you are.”

“Thanks again.” Her voice is breathy as she slides the card into a French blue leather wallet with some designer monogram on the front. YSL it looks like. Whatever that is. “I’m so sorry for waking you.”

“How ‘bout you thank me by getting me a coffee.”

Her golden gaze flicks to mine and she hesitates at first. “Oh. Um. Okay, sure. Where do you want to go?”

“No.” I smirk. “You’re running out to get me a coffee while I jump in the shower.”

I just remembered I’ve got a client coming in around ten today. The guy flew all the way to Chicago from Seattle last night and I promised I’d get him in first thing in the morning—which is ten AM for me.

Honestly, I planned on rolling out of bed closer to nine, but whatever. This extra hour won’t kill me, I guess.

“Look.” She bats her thick lashes and offers a calm, slow smile. “I was offering to be polite, but I draw the line at being ordered around. Thanks again and please enjoy the rest of your day.”

I lift my palms as a sort of wordless apology as she turns to leave. I’m sure people like her are the ones used to ordering others around and vice versa.

Pressing her hand against the door handle, she walks straight into the glass when the thing doesn’t budge. I forgot that the lock sticks sometimes.

I can’t help but laugh, and she shoots me an immediate look that tells me I’m going straight to hell.

Coming out from behind the register, I ready my hex key and jimmy the lock until the door opens.

I’m still cracking up.

“You have to admit that was funny,” I say.

She tightens her little hand over the purse strap on her shoulder and pauses, like she’s about to say something to me, and then she exhales and continues on her way outside.

“Wait,” I say, leaning against the door jamb as she stomps toward her white Volvo. I just tattooed her yesterday—a design of my choosing—and I don’t want her to think of this moment every time she looks at it.

That thing is permanent.

And I respect the hell out of permanence.

Brighton stops, her shoulders falling before she glances back at me with raised brows. There’s a little red mark forming on her forehead where her head hit the glass. Her cheeks are flushed too, though I’m willing to chalk that up to embarrassment.

“Let’s go grab that coffee,” I say, nodding toward the east. “There’s a place on the corner.”

“No, thank you.”

“Come on.” I feel around my back pocket, ensuring I have my wallet and phone on me, and then I step out and lock the door behind me. I’m not taking no for an answer. “My treat.”

Her full lips press together and the loose, baby-fine strands of hair around her face rustle in the breeze. I’m not much of a morning person but this pretty little thing standing in front of me, bathed in the morning light, is almost enough to make me change my mind for a day.

“Look. I feel bad for laughing,” I say, choking back a smirk because that scene won’t stop playing like a six-second Vine video on repeat in my head. “On behalf of my pain-in-the-ass door, let me make it up to you.”

I expect her to say “no thanks” and curtsy her way out of here, but to my surprise she says, “Fine.”

I wait for her to catch up to me before strolling to the café on the corner. It isn’t much to look at. The plain brown sign on the front of the building hasn’t changed since the eighties and the avocado green tiles on the floor make me think of asbestos when I see them, but damn can this place make the hell out of a cup of coffee.

There are two people ahead of us when we arrive, and Brighton stands behind me, arms casually folded as she studies the menu with half-squinted eyes.

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