Home > Pricked(6)

Author: Winter Renshaw

When it’s time to order, I go first—a small black coffee—and she orders an Earl Grey tea with almond milk and Splenda.

I hand the cashier a ten and put the change in the tip jar before we wait for our drinks at the end of the bar.

All five tables in the place are spoken for, not that I’d stick around and have a proper morning coffee with this girl. I don’t even know what we’d talk about. I’m not one for small talk and even if I was, something tells me the two of us have nothing in common.

Standing slightly behind her, my gaze is drawn to the bare parts of her back left exposed by her gray tank top and neon yellow sport bra combo. Her skin is silky smooth, creamy but sun-kissed. What I wouldn’t give to run my hands over every naked inch of her …

I bet we’d be dynamite in bed, us being opposites and all that. The proper types tend to let their hair down between the sheets.

Brighton clears her throat and when I glance up, I realize she’s tugging at her tank top.


She must have sensed my stare.

But I can’t help it. I’m naturally drawn to skin. And not in a creepy kind of way. It's just an art medium to me. I work with it every single day. I see all kinds of colors and textures and scars and marks, finding beauty and fascination in the kinds of things most people pay me to cover up.

But it's rare for me to come across a canvas so flawless, so untouched, it practically screams for my attention.

“Madden,” the barista calls out, placing my cup on the ledge. “Brighton.” He places hers beside mine.

She grabs them both, handing mine over. “Thank you for this.”

“Of course,” I say, and then I wink. “Happy belated birthday.”

Brighton begins to respond before squinting and silencing whatever it was she was going to say. A few seconds later she brushes a strand of hair from her forehead, blows through the vent in the plastic lid of her cup and says, “Thank you.”

I love when I defy people’s expectations of me.

“That tattoo,” I say, “a birthday gift to yourself?” I ask.

She smirks. “Something like that …”

I don’t pry. It’s none of my business.

“Off to yoga?” I ask when we get back to her car, teasing. Kind of. “Polo match? Tennis lessons?”

Brighton rolls her eyes.

“Just giving you shit,” I say. “You really should think about lightening up. You can’t be all prim and proper now that you have a tattoo. Kind of have permission to be a badass now that you’re rocking some ink.”

“Says the boy with no tattoos who swears like a sailor.” She fights a smart-mouthed smile as she climbs into the driver’s seat of her pristine, shiny, barely-driven car—fitting for a girl like her.

A moment later, she’s gone. Disappearing once she takes a left at the stoplight on the corner. I head inside, thinking about what I wouldn’t give for just one night with her.

All the things I could do to her.

All the things I could make her feel.

I’m willing to bet my entire career that she’s never experienced anything remotely like me.



I make it to my room unseen, which is a little ironic given the fact that after I left Madd Inkk, I stopped at the health club and sat in the steam room for a few minutes—a towel covering my bandaged tattoo to keep it dry—so I could come home with flushed cheeks and sweat-matted hair in case my mother asked where I ran off to so early in the morning.

My entire life—and especially since I turned seventeen and got my first car, I’ve never been able to just go anywhere I wanted.

I couldn’t so much as go to Target without coming home to the Spanish Inquisition.

That’s the one thing I miss the most about college: the freedom. Being able to come and go as I please.

It was the only time in my life I felt normal, felt like anybody else. And it was the only time in my life that people befriended me because they wanted to and not because of who my parents were and all the ways they thought they could benefit from being in my purported inner circle.

Peeling out of my sticky gym clothes, I toss them in the white wicker hamper next to my bathroom door and run some bathwater. When I go to retrieve a fresh towel from the linen closet next to my sink, I find none. Eloise must be catching up on laundry still.

Wrapping my silk robe around me, I traipse out to the hall to the main linen cabinet to find a spare towel, only on my way back, I run into my mother.

“Brighton,” she says with a smile, clasping her hand over the mouthpiece of the cell phone that’s clamped to the side of her ear. “Good morning, darling.”

“Good morning.” I press the folded towel against my torso so she can’t see the gauze square through the thin fabric of my dressing gown.

“A little late for a bath, isn’t it?” she asks. Last I checked, it was somewhere around nine thirty.

“I went to the gym.” I smooth my hand along my sticky, matted-and-drying hair.

“Yes, that’s right. Seven o’clock tonight,” she says into the phone before turning back to me. “Just checking on reservations for tonight.”


Her expression falls. “Don’t tell me you forgot.”

My mind spins as I try to remember.

“Eben and Laurel,” she says. “The proposal!”

That’s right. My brother, Eben, is proposing to his girlfriend tonight at the club.

“And you’ll have the pink rose centerpieces out before we arrive, correct?” she asks the person on the other end. “And the fiancée-to-be’s mother is vegan so there’ll be a vegan option tonight? Perfect. Thank you, Marta. See you shortly before seven.”

My mother ends the call and returns her attention to me.

There’s something effervescent about her today, almost as if she’s flitting about like a fairy. I suppose it makes sense—the woman adores Laurel. And she wants grandchildren as soon as humanly possible. Unfortunately, my oldest brother, Graeme, and his wife aren’t interested in fulfilling that wish for my mother anytime soon, so her hopes and dreams are riding on these two.

It’s funny—she’s never once made a comment about me having children someday. In fact, she refuses to acknowledge the fact that I might be interested in dating or finding a serious boyfriend at some point.

Of course, she doesn’t know a thing about any of the guys I dated at Rothschild. I never mentioned them, never brought them home. It was easier that way, for all involved.

My last boyfriend, Eric, was a fellow pre-med student. What began as a study session evolved into a whirlwind relationship that lasted most of the fall and spring semesters. But I dumped him the week before graduation, after he’d said that two married doctors would never last, that they couldn’t be married to their jobs and each other and give them both one hundred percent. I asked him what his ideal solution to that would be, and he all but implied that he saw himself in a traditional setting, as the breadwinner, with a wife and kids at home.

Thank you, next.

The last thing I need is another man trying to keep me under his thumb. I’d rather die a spinster than marry the spitting image of my father.

“Water’s running,” I say to my mother as I point to my bedroom door. “I should—”

“—right, right,” she says. “We’ll be leaving here around six tonight. I’ll lay out your dress while you clean up.”

“You don’t have to do that.”

“Nonsense.” She swats her hand. “I was at Saks just yesterday and found you the most beautiful Oscar de la Renta number. You’re going to look ravishing.”

I hide my annoyance with softened eyes. “Thank you. I appreciate that. But tonight is about Eben and Laurel, and I’d hate to steal the show in an Oscar piece.”

I haven’t seen the dress of course, but knowing my mother, it’s a dress meant to upstage. Sequins. Feathers. Lace. Tulle.

It doesn’t matter to her that I’m twenty-two and a college graduate, she’ll find any excuse she can to dress me up like the young, helpless daughter she still sees when she looks at me.

“Don’t be ridiculous.” Her brows meet as she saunters off to her room. “This piece is to die for, Brighton, and it’s absolutely perfect for tonight. Now run along. When you’re finished getting ready, you can come with me to pick up Laurel’s parents from the airport. They land around noon. I thought about sending a car service for them, but given the special occasion and the fact that our families are joining, I thought that might be a bit too impersonal.”

She disappears into her bedroom, still rambling, and I return to my room to finish my bath and figure out how I’m going to tell her that I can’t go with her to the airport.

Just the other day, I made an appointment with the local Boys and Girls Club. The last several summers, I’ve gone with my oldest brother to Third World countries under the Doctors Without Borders program. This summer, however, his wife begged him not to go since they’d just opened a new practice and were still getting it off the ground.

Rather than sit around the house all summer like a spoiled housecat, I figured I should find some local ways to give back.

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