Home > All the Pretty Lies (Pretty #1)(4)

All the Pretty Lies (Pretty #1)(4)
Author: M. Leighton

“I am careful, Sig. I’m always careful. I’ve always been careful. This wasn’t not careful. It was just something I wanted to do. I want to enjoy the next few years as much as I can—”

“Stop right there,” he says, holding up his hand. “Don’t even finish that sentence. I don’t want to hear it.” I snap my mouth shut. I should’ve known better than to say something like that, dredging up painful thoughts and memories. Even though it’s true. “Let me see it.”

“It’s still got plastic on it.”

“So? You think I can’t see through plastic wrap?”

Reluctantly, I ease my pajama bottoms over the film taped to my hip. Sig looks at it, a disapproving expression clouding his face.

“An oyster shell and two butterflies? What the hell is that supposed to mean?”

“That’s not all there is to it. That’s the base of it. There will be more butterflies.”


“Going up my side.”

“Sloane,” he begins warningly.

“Sig,” I respond eyeing him right back. “It’s my body, my life, my choice.”

“But you’re—”

“But nothing. Y’all have got to let me live.”

He rolls his eyes. “You still haven’t answered my question. What’s it mean?”

“I feel like I’ve lived inside a tight shell my whole life. And now, finally, after all these years, I’m gonna get to crack it open and spread my wings a little.”

“But you know why they—”

“I know why, Sig. And I love y’all for it. But it’s time for me to live a little. To make my own choices and do my own thing. Mom was Mom. But I’m me. Y’all can’t keep me locked away, safe from the world, in a shell for the rest of my days. Besides, there are some things you can’t protect me from, no matter how hard you try.”

Sig doesn’t say anything for a long time. “When are you getting the rest?”

“I go back tonight.”

“Well,” he says, stirring a heaping spoon full of creamer into his coffee. “Just don’t let Dad catch you coming in. Or Steven.”

“Yeah,” I say with a heavy sigh. “I’d forgotten what a pisser it is having him around.”

“He probably won’t be here for long. I feel sure coming back here is cramping his style. I mean, it’s not like he really chose it. Things just didn’t work out with him and Duncan. Mark my words, he’ll be moved back out before Christmas.”

“You think?”

“Hell yeah! He’s already looking for places cheap enough for him to make rent on his own.”

“Why don’t you go live with him? That would help him out a lot.”

Sig’s eyes get wide and his mouth drops open. “Bite your damn tongue, devil woman! I’d rather eat a plate full of cat shit than live with Steven for the rest of my life.”

“It wouldn’t be for the rest of your life. One of you is bound to get married eventually.”

“Living with Steven, without anyone else as a buffer? Trust me, it might as well be the rest of my life. It sure would feel like it.”

I can’t help but giggle. Poor Steven. He’s a great guy, but he takes life very seriously and tends to be the resident wet blanket in most cases. He takes after Dad. So does Scout. Well, a little bit. He’s more of a split between both parents, I guess, whereas Sig and I are both fun-loving. More like Mom. But in fairness, Steven was older when Mom got sick, so he was affected more profoundly. Not that we all weren’t devastated, but he and Dad seemed to get the worst of it. Her sickness and consequent death seemed to drain the life right out of them, at least the part that makes people enjoy living.

“He’s had a tough life, Sig. Cut him some slack.”

“You have, too.”

“We all have.”

“Yet no one uses it as an excuse to be an ass**le except Steven.”

“It’s just the way he deals, Sig.”

“Well, whatever the reason, I’ll be damned if I’d subject myself to that shit on a daily basis for an extended period of time. Growing up with him was bad enough.”

“Yeah, but he made a great target for pranks, didn’t he?”

Sig looks down at me from his imposing six-six height and grins. “Hell yeah, he did! You remember that time we put laxatives in his birthday brownies?”

I can’t help but laugh as I think of it. “He couldn’t leave the house for two days. Thought he’d never come out of the bathroom.”

“Good times,” Sig says, carefully sipping his coffee as he looks wistfully out the kitchen window. “Good times.”

And they were. There were always good times, even among the bad. There usually are. I’ve just learned that you have to look for them.


I leave the dark of the night behind me as I enter the shop. The first thing I notice when I open the door to The Ink Stain is the music. It’s an old song I’ve heard before, one by Stone Temple Pilots called Still Remains. There’s something intimate and…sexy about it. I don’t know if I’ve ever thought of it that way before. But I do now. Tonight, I feel like it vibrates, resonates somewhere deep within me.

The reception area is empty, just like it was last night. So I walk over to ring the bell, just like I did last night. Only this time, I don’t get that far. Hemi appears in the doorway to the tattooing room. He’s wearing a snug black t-shirt, snug black jeans and dull black boots. He looks dangerous. And delicious.

When he smiles at me, my heart trips over itself for a beat or two before righting its rhythm. “Welcome back,” Hemi says with a smile before he peeks around my shoulder. “You by yourself?”

“I am,” I reply.

“Your timing is perfect. I was getting really bored.”

“Slow night?”

“Uncharacteristically,” he explains, tipping his head for me to follow him, which I do.

In the back room, all the overhead lights are turned off except for one set—the ones over the chair that Hemi uses. The room seems more intimate this way, and the fact that we are alone only accentuates that.

“Are you by yourself?” I ask, turning his question back on him.

“Yep. Everyone else is gone.”

“I could’ve come earlier. You didn’t have to stay late just for me.” I assumed when he made the appointment it was either more convenient for him or the only opening he had.

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