Melt For Him(70)

By: Lauren Blakely

Fortunately, they lived together now, so she was able to have him as much as she wanted. She’d bounced around town for a bit, crashing at her mom’s some nights, at other times staying at Jamie’s when Jamie was with Smith. But that had only lasted so long. Becker had wanted her in his home, and that’s where she wanted to be, too.

“All right. That’s a wrap,” she said, setting down her tools and spinning him a few inches so he could see his first tattoo in the mirror.

He angled his shoulder slightly to get a better look, and she watched as he took it in. She loved this moment—when clients first saw their tattoos. It was a priceless reaction, and his meant so much to her. Because it was him, and because of what he’d chosen—the initials of his two fallen friends from Chicago.

He’d moved past the pain that had hobbled him, and now he’d found strength in the memories of those friendships. This was another way to remember them, he’d said when he told her he wanted her to ink him. It had been his idea completely and she was thrilled that he’d come to it on his own, and delighted that she’d get to do it.

“It’s perfect,” he said softly, with reverence in his voice. She bent over and kissed his hair. “Thank you,” he added.

“No, thank you for choosing my shop for your first tattoo,” she said, then gestured to the tiny little place she owned and operated in Hidden Oaks. Her mom had been about to expand the café at her bookstore, but since their town was bereft of a tattoo shop, she’d given the additional space to Megan.

“Mom, I can’t take it. This is your store. Your space,” Megan had said when her mom made the offer.

“Please. It’s my gift to you. It’s the least I can do.”

Megan relented, understanding deeply why her mom wanted to do it. “Then I accept this amazing gift.”

Smith had quickly shifted gears with the construction, turning the unfinished space into a tattoo shop, while Megan moonlighted at her friend’s tattoo parlor in San Francisco. She finished her apprenticeship there, until both she and the shop in her hometown were ready. She created the sign that hung on the window that looked out on the town square. Paint My Body. Every town needed a tattoo shop; this was the first one in Hidden Oaks.

“As if I’d choose anyplace else but the shop you named for me,” Becker said, leaning back in the chair and reaching for her, roping his arms around her.

She pointed to the calendar that hung on the wall, open to his month—November—and the shot of him by the river after they’d painted each other. “My inspiration for the name looks at me every day as I work.”

“Speaking of work, I need to get going. My shift starts soon,” he said as he stood and pulled on his shirt.

“I’ll see you tomorrow when it’s over.”

“Yes. You will.”

He gave her a soft and sweet kiss, the kind that said he’d be coming home to her. As she kissed him back, she was telling him without words that she had all the faith in the world that he’d be walking through the door tomorrow.

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Thank you to all my amazing readers, who blow my mind every day with their passion for reading. Thank you to my editors, Stacy and Alycia, who helped me find the true love between Megan and Becker. Thank you to my agent Michelle for her guiding insight.

The fantastically talented Samanthe Beck read an early draft and provided invaluable insight. I am indebted to my eagle-eye readers Tanya Farrell and Kim Bias for making sure the story was all it could be. My author buddies are my writing family and I adore Jessie Evans, Monica Murphy, Sawyer Bennett, Melody Grace, Violet Duke, Lexi Ryan, and Kendall Ryan.

To all the brave men and women who put their lives on the line every day in the fire service—I am ever grateful for your courage.

Most of all, thank you to my family for making every day worthwhile.

And of course, thanks to my pets for being awesome. Dogs rule.

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