Wicked Ink Chronicles - 2
“You’re kidding me with all this, right?” Lisa asks, her pointer finger tracing an imaginary Z down my body.
“All what?” I ask with slight irritation.
Lisa’s crystal blue eyes, expertly rimmed in charcoal, narrow. “The toddler-napwear-meets-prison-inmate thing you’re working.”
The ocean breeze kicks my hair around my face. “Orange is the new black, Lis.”
She looks insulted. “That’s insane. Who said that?”
“I don’t know. I think I heard it on Colbert last week.”
“Colbert is a comedy show, Addy.”
Tired, and not up for the night out my best friend has dragged me to once again, I take a step back, lift my arms. “Look, I see nothing wrong here. Just, you know, trying to be comfortable on a Thursday night.”
“You look like you’re headed to bed.”
“I wish I was,” I return with a bit of a pout, then silently amend, to Rush’s bed. His big bed, cool sheets, and that hot, hot body I miss so much it hurts. I groan.
“You’re losing it, Addy. You know that, right?”
I frown at her, but inside my mind I’m screaming YEAH, I DO.
Growing more exasperated with me by the minute, Lisa glances over her shoulder at the dozens of people coming in and out of the large Santa Barbara oceanfront house, spotlighted in moonglow and about thirty iPhone screens. I can practically feel her urgency to get in there, mix it up, flirt her sexy leather ass off with all the boys she’s been crushing on at school. But I’m keeping her from it. With my orange sweatpants and tear-stained t-shirt.
When she turns back, she looks mutinous. “I’m just going to say one thing to you: Vegas.”
My insides go instantly hot and soft. It’s a depressing feeling, but addicting and predictable. Kind of like my life has been over the past five weeks. When Rush and I chucked the past and decided to try this again, I was so happy. So excited. A second chance at a first love. But as Lisa put it, I’m losing it. In the past five weeks, I’ve only seen him three times, and for no more than a day or two. I have school and finals and graduation, and he has work and travel. It’s like the most beautiful torture in the world, seeing him. I’m on a high when I’m around him. When he’s gone, I crash. And I can’t seem to bounce back. I’m utterly and completely addicted to him. I’m jealous of anything and anyone who gets to be near him, and there are actually times when I don’t give a shit about graduating, about getting my marketing degree—about a job or a future. I just want to be in his atmosphere. I just want those eyes locked on mine, and those inked arms around me.
Of course, I haven’t told him any of this. I don’t want him to think I’m a loser. I don’t want him to know the truth. I don’t want him to walk away from me—or shit, run—because this time, it’s not just love that would be lost. It’d be my heart, my breath…my sanity.
“Vegas, Addy,” Lisa repeats, her perfectly arched brows lifting expectantly. “You owe me.”
I sigh, at her, at myself and my crazy thoughts, and stuff my hands in the pockets of my orange sweatpants. “Come on, Lis. I paid you back for the convention a million times. Don’t make me remind you—or myself—about that waxing party I helped you host.”
Her mouth twitches. “No, sister friend. This isn’t payback for the convention. This is for all the drives back and forth to the airport, the hours of listening to Rush’s messages and trying to decode what he’s really saying, the mornings I pull your ass out of bed and to class.”
I actually recoil. “Seriously?”
“Hells yeah, seriously.”
Some random guy walks by and gives Lisa a very dazzling, very appreciative smile. I don’t blame him. She looks hella sexy in her tight leather pencil pants, low-cut lacy top and messy side braid. As she returns the smile, her expression curling into one of heat and promises, she waves at him. For second, I remember what it’s like to flirt casually and just have a good time—act my age—and I don’t miss it. Any of it. I only miss him.
I inhale deep and exhale heavy. God, this is bad. I shouldn’t be this obsessed, this close to the edge, over a guy. I know Rush isn’t feeling this way. Or at least he doesn’t act like it. When we talk or see each other, he’s chill, sexy, into me, for sure. But not like this—not like me.
When Lisa turns back to face me, takes in my relaxed-wear once again, she sighs. “Look. I know you miss him, Addy. I know you’re head over heels, as the kids say. I know you want to be with him every second of the day. But you’re starting to fall apart.”
“Starting?” I say on a slightly manic laugh.
Lisa remains serious. “It’s so not like you.”
“I know.” I shake my head. “I’ve never felt like this, Lis. Sometimes it’s actually hard to breathe. It’s more than just loving him, it’s the fear of losing him. Just the thought of it breaks me apart inside. I don’t know what to do with that.”
Her expression softens. “I get it. I do. But you’re going to have to hold back and chill out. What you’re working here isn’t cute, if you know what I mean. I believe the boys call it Psycho Bitch.”
“Nice.” But I know she’s right.
“Maybe you need to take a little break from each other?”
“No.” The word is out of my mouth fast and impassioned.
“Date other people?”
Lisa’s lips press together in a worried frown. For a second, she just stares at me. Then she shrugs. “Okay.”
I know that word, and that look. She’s freaked out by me. Welcome to the club, sister friend. “I’m sorry.”
She shakes her head.
“No, seriously,” I continue. “I’m sorry I’m such a mess. I’m sorry I’m being such a shit-tastic friend.”
“Don’t worry about it. I love my little train wreck in orange.” A smile tugs at her lips.
I’m surprised when my mouth curves upward. “Okay. So, let’s forget about my insanity and obsessive needs for a few hours. We’re going to party. Hard. Loose. Wild.”
She laughs. “Oh, Jesus.”
“And.” I gesture to my offending ensemble. “Just to show you I’m trying, I’ll go home and change.”
Lisa shakes her head. “No, you’re fine. Actually, maybe it’s better this way. Dolled up, you bring competition to the field, and you know I’m good with getting all the attention. Come on, beeyotch.” She grabs my hand and leads me through and around several small pockets of students and up the path to the front door. “And for the record, fashion-wise, orange isn’t the new anything. Except maybe a huge boner killer.”
“There’s a rule about this, bro.”
“Yup,” I say, staring at the top of Vincent’s head, which is now sporting a green-tipped mohawk. The guy is worse than a chick when it comes to style and color up top.
“And I think you’re the knucklehead who came up with it,” he continues.
I mentally shrug. “Could be.”
Vincent pulls back on the iron and flips his peepers up to meet mine. I notice he’s added a second piercing to his eyebrow. “So, what gives, man? And don’t tell me it’s the loooovvvve that’s brought your ass to my chair—because I’ve seen you turn away rock royalty when they wanted the name of some chick inked onto their skin.”
Discussing my private shit with anyone makes my balls shrink, so I point at my hand, aka V’s work in progress. “Can you finish?”
“I just don’t get it, bro,” he continues like the deaf numbnuts he is. “Breaking the rules for a hot piece of ass has never been your—”
My eyebrows jack up and I send him a look. “Hey. Watch yourself.”
“You don’t talk like that. You know, not if you want to keep your blood inside your body and all.”
“Shit, bro. So hostile.”
“Addison’s my girl, dickhead,” I growl. “Not a hot piece of ass.”
“I dunno, man.” Vincent starts back in on me, moving up my thumb with his signature shade of black. “Addison has a pretty hot ass. I mean, I’ve never seen it without denim or anything, but I can imagine—”
“I swear to motherfucking god—” I start between teeth so tightly clenched my jaw protests.
Vincent chuckles. “Don’t move. Or this ‘I’ is going to be busted. Damn, she has a long name. Good thing you got the room. Big hands.” His mouth curls into a Hollywood grin. “Addison likes that, I bet.”
The urge to send the heel of my boot into his junk is crazy strong. But you know, I don’t want to bleed out from the needle he’s using on me. Not when I’m going to see my baby tomorrow. “I think I need to fire your ass when we’re done here.”
“That what you think?” He laughs. “Shit, Merrick. You know you need me. Besides my obvious skills with an iron, I’m the only testosterone you got around here.”
It’s my turn to laugh. “Get serious, man. Janie’s got more T than the both of us combined.”
He grunts. “Heh, heh. True that.”
Just sitting in the guy’s dungeon-inspired room, watching him do his thing, that motherfucking perfect line work, I close up shop on the banter that just ends in me wanting to knock him into Sunday, and go silent for awhile. Which I guess opens me up to thoughts I’ve been trying to tamp down lately. Like maybe why it is I’ve broken my rule. The rule that states crystal fucking clear: No Names Inked Onto Skin. I mean, shit…it’s like the kiss of death. Total jinx. An omen. A relationship killer. In my biz, I’ve seen it a hundred times. So what am I doing? Testing? Teasing? Seeing how strong we got it?