By: Jade Chandler

He leaned forward, his breath brushing my cheek. “Yeah?” With his hands planted on the glass top of the counter, his scent, a mix of outdoors, leather and citrus, surrounded me.


When he tugged at one of my auburn curls, I froze with my knees resembling Jell-O.

“Love this hair.”

I’d been too harsh on my hair all these years. His lips inches from me were a perfect bow of temptation. I prayed he’d step away, so when he gave me space, the prick of pain in my chest made absolutely no sense. Stupid brain.

“Jericho says you’ve done this before.” He moved down the hall.

Dazed by our encounter, I stood planted in place.

“You coming.” Command clear on his face and in his short tone.

I jerked like I’d been shocked to life before I hurried after him to the workroom.

“Yeah, this is my third tat shop. I was office manager at the last one in Texarkana. I told Jericho to call anyone about my work, but if you need my—”

“Enough, Red.” His lips curled up on one side.

“My name is Lila Braham, did Jericho forget to mention it...?” My words trailed off into this half squeak, half whisper. I think it sounded like the death rattle of one of those squeakers in dog toys.

He arched an eyebrow and stared at me a long time, like an hour, although I know in real time it could have only been seconds. He pointed to the two stations right next to each other. “Weasel and Angel work there. Angel does piercing only. If she ain’t here, most of us can pierce too, except dick or pussy hoods, those are tricky and all Angel.”

I desperately wanted to write this down, but like an addled idiot, I’d left the legal pad I’d found under the counter. I contemplated making a run for it, but he didn’t appear the patient type. My memory would have to do.

“This is Zayn’s space.” He pointed to the opposite side of where Angel and Ferret—no that wasn’t right—Angel and Weasel worked. “He’ll be here most of the time. Rock is up here across from my station. If you have questions and I’m not here, you ask either of them.” He moved over to stand in front of a work space, the one closest to the back door and my apartment.

“I work when I got appointments or when we’re real busy or when I get a wild hair.”

The word hair brought my attention back to his hair perfection. Shoulder-length and the color of sunshine, it appeared silky soft, and I wanted to confirm my suspicion.

“You book appointments, and unless it’s marked out up front, you schedule it, and the artist will call the customer back if it don’t work.”

I nodded. “Got it.”

“What do you have, Red?” He drew out the name I hoped he’d quit using.

“I book appointments, mostly toward Rock and Zayn unless someone asks for you or Weasel. Angel for piercings.” I bit my lip.

Dare’s energy changed in a flash and he devoured me in a way I knew too well. My pulse raced and moisture spread at the apex of my legs. Yeah, there was some serious energy between us.

Ignoring my own traitor of a body and his whole sex vibe, with monumental effort I focused on the job. “Do I order inks and supplies?”

He strode past me without a word, so I followed when he opened the door marked Staff Only and gestured for me to go inside. The room was small, with shelves all organized with supplies: art books, inks, needles and piercing supplies. They were well set up, and it was neater than most supply areas I’d seen, at least before I’d enforced my brand of neat-freak on them.

Turning, I bumped into his hard, muscled chest, which caused me to stumble back in surprise into the nearest shelf. The shelving unit shook and I worried paper towels were about to rain down on me. They wobbled but stayed in place. Good paper towels.

He gripped my upper arm. A nuclear-level heat washed through me and flamed persistently in my core. If more moisture accumulated in my panties, I might have to go change them. My nipples joined the act, not that I could see if they’d decided to flaunt their happiness unless I obviously stared down at my chest.

“When we need things,” his voice purred close in my ear, “you just ask me before you get what you need.”

I sucked in a breath but wasn’t about to let him get the best of me with this flirty, dirty innuendo. It was nothing new, except how much it affected me.

I glanced up through lowered lashes. “And you’ll always get me what I need?”

A full smile spread across his face. “Count on it, Red.”

His words sounded like a promise instead of the flirty game.

But I decided to play a bit more. “I will, Dare.” I drew out his name almost the same way he’d done with mine.

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