By: Jade Chandler

“I never argue with my stomach.”

The three of us headed out the back door and walked the short distance to Blue’s. The summer sun hung low in the sky, but hadn’t yet given up to the night. This was the reason summer was my favorite season. I could never get enough sun, enough outside, enough of the clean smell summer brought.

Blue’s actually had swinging doors like you see in old Western saloons, and I wondered how that worked come wintertime. For a Thursday night, the bar was busier than I’d expected. Dare held up a hand from a table, a long table bigger than the four of us needed.

“Who else is coming?” I asked Zayn.

“You never know who will drop in, we all like Blue’s.”

He meant other bikers, and the anticipation of a pop and burger turned to unease. I hadn’t planned to really interact with the club, in fact, I’d made it a rule. On autopilot, I kept moving toward the table while my mind whirred for excuses, exit strategies, anything. But the smells of delicious greasy goodness topped even my imaginative scenarios of doom.

Dare motioned me to sit next to him, and I gave in to this tiny treat. I mean I couldn’t get into too much trouble with the guys around in a bar full of people. Rock sat on my other side, and now I was a bit like the last slice of pizza between the two who wanted it. Hopefully, no one would make a grab for me, because I didn’t want to find the energy to resist.

A waitress about my age headed straight for us. Her cut-offs and half shirt left little to the imagination, which probably netted her awesome tips. I’d always wished I had the nerve to flaunt my assets with clothes like that. Not that I wore baggy sweats, but I didn’t own a single thing that fit my body like her shorts hugged her hips. And all three guys noticed her effort with visible approval in their expressions.

“Hey, Rachel.” Rock gave her the nod. “Looking fine tonight.” He smiled big and wide but managed not to make it a leer. He had skills.

“Hey, I’m Lila, the new office manager at the shop.”

She chomped gum and grinned down at me, a real grin I think, instead of the false claw-your-eyes-out kind. “Nice to meet ya, and that place needs someone keeping these boys in line.” She pulled down the neck of her shirt and showed off her considerable cleavage, which was decorated with an assortment of tattoos. “All the guys have inked one, some more than one.” She winked at Zayn.

“Good work. I like the tropical flower—beautiful. All my work is on my back, working my way up and out.” My back was almost full, then I’d start on my shoulders and work down my arms, or start on my chest, but I didn’t have as large a canvas there as Rachel did.

“Let me see!” She handed Rock her tray. “Stand up.”

I followed her commands, used to showing off my work. It was a common request since I worked in a shop. I stood and leaned forward while she lifted my shirt.

“Damn, you weren’t kidding when you said you were working your way up. You have a full back of art, but the yin and yang, that’s beautiful. I think it’s almost as good as Dare’s work.”

With those words, all three guys scraped back their chairs, congregating behind me to see my ink.

“Which is newest?” Rachel traced on my back.

I assumed she followed the different designs. “The compass on my right shoulder blade.” Tony had done it two weeks before I’d left him He hadn’t known he was giving me the tombstone to remind me about his cheating ass.

“Like the browns in it.” Rachel pulled my shirt up higher and I held the front of my green T in place so I wouldn’t be giving a show in front as well as back.

“Damn, you have solid work, almost ready to cover those shoulders.” Rock whistled.

“Yeah. Nothing makes me happier than new art. I have almost endless ideas, it’s just the cash to make it happen.” I tugged my shirt back in place and sat down.

“Lucky for you our employee discount is wicked low.” Rock and the others laughed.

I opened my mouth to ask more but Rachel interrupted.

“You all want burgers or you going all exotic and changing things up?”

Dare sat down but kept looking at me with this strange expression—not the sex god vibe, even more intense. I wish I knew what the look meant, but there was zero chance I’d ask him.

“So I’m starved. Rachel, the burger and fries sound super.” I needed to change the topic.

“Sure thing, sweetie. And to drink, what’s your poison?”

Now I had to say it.

This might be more awkward than the tat show. “Just a sweet tea, I’m likely to fall face-first in my burger with anything stronger. These guys are slave drivers.” I winked at her.

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