Home > Pricked(7)

Author: Winter Renshaw

Surely my mother will understand. Volunteerism and philanthropy are her biggest passions.

That and me.

I ensure the pad of gauze is still intact over my butterfly before stepping into the half-filled tub. The tattoo is not quite a day old, but already it’s healing nicely. Any pain is mild at best, hardly noticeable.

Letting the water enclose around my tense body, I reach for the soap and lather up, thinking of this morning—of Madden, specifically. And how I caught him checking me out earlier.

I’d always thought when people said they could feel someone staring at them, they were just exaggerating, but this morning I felt his eyes on me, everywhere. And when I stole a peek from my periphery, it only confirmed what I was feeling.

There’s a tightness, an electric burning in my chest that radiates up my neck and down between my thighs. My nipples harden. A molten sensation travels through me, liquid desire, wanton desperation, and I lean back, closing my eyes and imagining Madden’s steady, strong hands on my body.

And then his mouth, his tongue.

I squeeze my eyes tighter, letting my fingers slide between my thighs, rubbing where it aches as I imagine him having his way with me, doing all the things I’ve never done with anyone else.

The only sex I’ve ever known has consisted of missionary quickies on twin-sized dorm room mattresses while my roommate was at class.

And the occasional oral sex, which has never been anything to write home about in my experience as both giver and receiver.

But something tells me one romp in Madden’s bed and I’d never want to leave.

The sound of my bedroom door opening pulls me out of my moment in record time. I’m guessing it’s my mother, coming in to lay my new dress across my bed. If I know her, and I do, she’ll help herself to my closet next, selecting the perfect heels and clutch to accessorize the look.

I finish my bath unfulfilled, the moment ruined.

And maybe it’s pointless to torture myself with these little reveries anyway when there’s no chance on earth they’ll ever come true.



Friday nights at Madd Inkk are usually insane. There are almost always drunks who wander in from the bars down the street, some of which become combative when we have to turn them away. There’s always at least one person nursing a broken heart, pleading with tear-filled eyes for us to squeeze them in and cover up the initials on their back, wrist, chest, ass, whatever. And on the flip side, there are usually at least two couples who come in wanting his-and-hers tattoos, permanent wedding bands, or the like.

A group of eighteen-year-old girls giggle from the back room, where Pierce is currently doing their tongues. They all wanted matching piercings for graduation, and they all decided on tongues.

Two of my guys are working on clients now and Missy is snapping her gum at the front desk. I check the time. 9:07. My nine o’clock is late. Fifteen more minutes and I’m going to have to make them reschedule.

One of the girls in back screams. Her friends laugh.

“Missy, we need more ice,” Pierce yells.

The bells on the front door jingle as Missy scampers to the back with a fresh cup of pebble ice. And when she returns, she greets a long-legged woman with icy blonde hair who makes me do a double take.

From this angle, I’m almost certain it’s Brighton. And for some reason, the mere idea of her standing in my shop again sends my heart into overdrive.

But Missy points at me.

And the woman turns my way.

She is abso-fucking-lutely not Brighton.

Not even close.

The blonde smiles at me and even from across the room, I spot the black between her teeth.

Stay away from meth, my friends.

She gives me a wave, the bottom of her cropped, vintage Van Halen top rising to expose a doughy midriff. And when she walks toward me, her mini-skirt rides up, barely covering her ass.

I need to get a fucking grip.

The woman had blonde hair. That’s it. And instantly my mind chose to believe she was Brighton.

“Madd, your nine o’clock is here,” Missy says.

“I’ll be with you in a sec,” I say to the woman. Her smile fades and Missy hands her a clipboard with paperwork. I head back and prep my station, waiting a few minutes to give her time to fill out her forms. When I return, it’s a quarter past nine. Anything we don’t finish by ten-thirty is going to require a second appointment. Returning to the front, I rub my hands together. “You ready?”

The woman hands me her clipboard and I go over everything as I walk her back.

“I’ve heard good things about this place,” she says in a raspy voice that instantly ages her. “Been waiting a long time to get in with you.”

“You have your design picked out?” I ask.

She pulls out her phone and taps her fake nails against the screen a few times before turning it toward me.

“It’s the Sanskrit symbol for faith,” she says.

I try not to act as surprised as I am. Would’ve pegged her for more of a red-rose-on-the-ankle or Tasmanian-devil-on-the-shoulder type.

“All right.” I take her phone and place it on my tray before grabbing my stencil gear. “Just going to trace this, make a stencil, and we’ll try it out before we ink you. You have a location in mind?”

The woman bites her lower lip, fighting a smile as she tugs on the front of her t-shirt just enough to expose the top of her left breast.

“Here.” She presses a fingernail into her fleshy skin, making an indentation that leaves a white spot for a few seconds.

I nod. This isn’t the first time someone’s asked me to tattoo their tit, and it won’t be the last.

Another teenage girl in back lets out a shriek, followed by something inaudible. Kind of hard to talk when your tongue swells up to twice its size.

“How long you been in business?” the woman asks as I sketch the symbol.

I exhale. I fucking hate small talk. And when I work, I prefer to work in silence so I can concentrate. It’s not like I can exactly erase any mistakes, and fixing shit is a pain in the ass. “About eight years. Give or take.”

“You from here? From Olwine?”

“I am. Yourself?” I trash my current drawing and grab a fresh sheet of stencil paper.

“Nah. New to the area. Met a guy online.” She rolls her eyes. “Followed him here like an idiot.”

“It happens.” I’m vaguely listening.

“I should’ve listened to my daughter when she told me he was only after one thing.” She brushes her blonde hair out of her face. “They say love is blind, but I think love is wicked. It casts a spell on you. A moron spell. And it makes you do stupid shit you wouldn’t normally do. Like move to BFE, Illinois because some guy by the name of MidwestAdonis77 promises you the world.”

“Midwest Adonis, eh?” I chuckle. “Let me guess. Beer belly, porn addiction, and still lives with his mom?”

“Nailed it.” She huffs, watching me sketch. “You have a girlfriend?”

Pierce passes us, a gaggle of teenage girls sucking on ice cubes behind him.

“Girlfriend?” He chuffs. “Madd doesn’t even have a tattoo.”

“You’re kidding!” The woman sits up, bug-eyed. “Tell me he made that up.”

“’K, I’m going to need you to lay down so I can transfer this,” I say, readying the stencil as she lies flat on the client bed and tugs the front of her shirt down. "Actually.” I stop and pull the curtain around us for privacy. “I’m going to need you to remove your shirt completely. Got to make sure this thing is straight. If it’s crooked, it’s going to be crooked forever.”

“My pleasure.” She winks at me, maybe an attempt to make this less awkward, but I glance at my watch and check the time. It’s been twenty minutes now, but this tattoo is small and simple enough we should be done before ten-thirty.

A minute later, she’s sanitized and I’m gloved and we’re in business.

“So,” she says over the buzz of the machine as I make the first strokes. “You really don’t have any tattoos?”

I concentrate on my work. “Nope.”

“But … why?”

If I had a dollar for every time someone asked me that, I wouldn’t be living in that shit hole place above my shop, that’s for damn sure.

“Long story,” I say.

“I’m not going anywhere,” she says, laughing through her nose.

“Nah. It’s all right.” I turn to grab another needle cartridge because there’s something off about this one, which also gives me an excuse not to elaborate.

When I turn back, the woman studies me. “Seriously though. I’m curious.”

You’d think after this long and after being asked the same question a million times, I’d come up with some bullshit answer to appease people and get them to drop the issue, but lying is one of my biggest pet peeves.

Lying and liars.

“I bet you are.” I get to work again. “Going to need you to hold perfectly still.”

She releases a forced breath and stares at the ceiling, clearly annoyed at the fact that I won’t tell her my reason. But quite frankly, it’s none of her damn business.

It’s none of anyone’s business.


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