Check out Chapter 1 below…
“This is not a good idea.”
I gazed up at the brick building. A frown tugged at my lips. The sign, CJ’s Tat’s, hung above the glass doors. The bright neon lights threatened to add to my already pounding head. It was a good thing I already had two tequila shots in to relax my already tense nerves.
My best friend since childhood, Monica Olson, rolled her eyes with an exasperated sigh. “You’re being paranoid. It’s a famous and well-known tattoo parlor. It was featured in the news. What could possibly happen?”
“A lot can happen,” I said. “You know how many tattooed thugs come through the courtroom?”
“It’s the person that is bad. Not that tattoo,” Monica said, flippantly. She tugged on my hand. “Come on. You agreed to come out with me. I want to get a tattoo to celebrate my new-found singleness.”
I allowed myself to be pulled towards the doors reluctantly. “I agreed to come out drinking with you,” I pointed out, sighing when Monica reached for the door. “I didn’t agree to watch you destroy your body with ink.”
“It’s art,” Monica retorted, and turned to flash a mischievous grin. “Maybe we could get matching best friend tattoos? What do you think about that?”
“Don’t you dare suggest it.”
Sultry jazz music washed over us when we stepped into the neat and clean waiting area. I took in the nice furniture as Monica waltzed up to the front counter to talk to a young woman with tattoos covering every inch of skin on her arms and chest. It wasn’t like some of the tattoo parlors that were downtown. The music was comforting. It was clean, and smelled refreshing. I could hear the buzz of tattoo guns in the side room through a set of glass doors that were closed.
I stepped forward to cast a skeptical glance through the doors. There were only two people getting tattoos, but the inside of that room appeared organized and clean.
Appearances aren’t everything. That much I took to heart from years of prosecuting criminals for their crimes. How many people had I put behind bars that seemed like down to earth normal people? Some of them had committed heinous crimes, but I couldn’t shake off the feeling that tattoos somehow attracted trouble. Especially the people that were covered with them from head to toe.
“What do you think?”
Monica appeared at my side suddenly. She held up a quick sketch of a mountain range with a few words sketched out elegantly on the bottom. God is higher than the lows. I arched a knowing eyebrow. That seemed appropriate given the person Monica was. There was never a Sunday morning at church that Monica missed. She always wore a simple gold cross on a delicate gold chain that rested between her breasts.
Divorce from her ex-husband of five years had renewed Monica’s faith even more. The second she had found out that Leon had been cheating on her for the past two years, she had let it go after praying with me over the phone. It was something that I admired. I did have a suspicion though that Monica had been praying for God to keep her from murdering him the moment he walked through the front door.
“Fitting, right?” Monica glanced down at it with a wide smile that revealed her pearly white teeth. “I’m getting it. You should look at getting one too.”
“Right,” I said, scoffing. “I’m the top prosecutor in this state. Do you honestly think that a tattoo would be a good thing right now?”
“It can by symbolic of something.”
“Symbolic of what? That I’m 29 years old, have a job that keeps me from having any sort of a life, let alone a love life, and eat take out by myself all weekend long?”
Monica blinked a few times, unsure of what to say to that. What was I saying? I loved my job more than anything in the world. I got to make a difference in the community by putting drug dealers, murderers, and whoever else was a threat, behind bars. Still, I couldn’t even remember the last time I had actually enjoyed a man’s company. Between the mountains of case files sitting on my desk, and finding myself in a courtroom all day long, I had little time for love. I barely had any time for myself.
“Sorry,” I said, shrugging. “I didn’t mean for it to come out like that.”
“I know. I meant that you need to do something uplifting and spontaneous.” Monica fixed me with a serious stare. “You’re wound up so tight. It’s not healthy being such a bitch all the time. I’m telling you.”
I grimaced. “I know. I just can’t shake that case off.” That headshot Defense Attorney Paul James had put a kink in my reputation. He was the only attorney in the state of Colorado that had beat me in a courtroom— easily. It still stung to think about it. Darren had been kind enough to give me the weekend away from work to refresh my brain a bit. So, when Monica had called to celebrate her new divorce, a few drinks at the bar downtown sounded like the perfect way to shake things off before Monday morning.
“Well, that’s what tonight is all about,” Monica said. “Come sit with me. The owner of this place is going to do the tattoo for me.”
We waited on a leather couch that smelt of cinnamon until Monica’s name was called out. I followed uneasily behind her. The walls were covered in various photographs of tattoos over the years. Some of them were impressive, but it was the sinfully sexy man standing next to one of the chairs that stopped me dead in my tracks. He was tall, something that I secretly appreciated in men since I was 5’7 in flat shoes. He was built deliciously from his strong arms and broad chest. Tattoos covered his strong forearms, and I followed the black marks up until the rolled cuff of his maroon shirt blocked the rest. His rich blonde hair was long, but pulled back into a tiny bun at the back of his head. He screamed of sex, tattoos, and a faint musky cologne that reminded me of the woods on a summer morning.
Sapphire colored eyes caught my gaze. I swallowed thickly as they raked up my body in unchecked interest. Fiery trails on my skin followed while a popping sensation filled me stomach. What the hell is wrong with me? I quickly gathered my resolve by tilting my chin back to stare at him neutrally. Had it honestly been that long since I had sex? I tried to think of when was the last time. Too long if I couldn’t remember.
“Good evening ladies,” he spoke, a husky timbre lining his voice. “Which one of you will be getting a tattoo today?”
“That’d be me,” Monica said. She handed the sketch over to him. “This is what I was thinking of.”
He took the sketch in his hands. “Meaningful tat,” he commented, and then looked back over at me. “What about you? You interested in getting one as well?”
“She doesn’t like tattoos,” Monica said, grinning. “She’s like my ex-husband. They think they are a waste of money and talent.”
His eyes sparkled at that. Damn you, Monica. “Well, I guess I will have to change her mind on that somehow.”
A shiver went up my spine at the sultry tone behind that. I crossed my arms defensively over my chest.
“Good luck,” I quipped.
His eyebrow arched up at that. A ghost of a grin tugged at his lips for moment to reveal a set of white teeth.
“I like challenges,” he said. “My name is Colin Jackson. I’m the owner of this tattoo parlor you’re insulting.”
Colin’s grin faded instantly. Fear crept up my spine as he looked at me with renewed recognition then. My hand wandered out of habit to where my car keys were along with a can of mace that was clipped on the strap of my purse for easy access. My job put me in front of some horrible people that wouldn’t think twice about pulling me into a side alley in the middle of the night.
The back door opened. Colin turned to address the young man dressed nicely as well with a button up shirt and nice pants. His dark hair, the exact same color as Monica’s, almost made them appear to be twins when he stepped up next to her.
“Xavier,” Colin said. “Would you mind giving this lady—”
“Monica Olson,” she said, shooting Xavier a flirty smile.
“Ms. Olson needs a tattoo.”
Colin handed over the sketch of the tattoo to Xavier who gestured an arm for Monica to sit down in one of the chairs. I started in the direction of taking a seat next to them, but Colin stepped in my path. I tensed inwardly.
“You don’t remember me do you,” Colin stated.
I flicked an assessing gaze over him. I couldn’t remember him at all, and probably didn’t for a good reason.
“I deal with a lot of people,” I said. “So, no. I don’t remember you.”
“It’s been a few years, so you wouldn’t. My case will joggle your memory though.”
“Maybe,” I replied, cautiously. “Obviously, I didn’t represent you at any point. I would’ve remembered you then.”
He didn’t seem too phased with blunt honesty. It was a curse and blessing from being a hard-talking attorney for so many years. Monica had to tell me to stop sometimes. “You hurt people’s feelings when you do that,” she’d admonish, shooting me a chiding look.
“No,” Colin said, visibly amused. “You sent me to prison, but it was for my own good. I hit another intoxicated driver with my car. I went to prison. He got off scotch free because I was the one who crashed into him.”
That dimly rang a bell. I dealt with so many alcoholics and drug addicts that they were beginning to blur together a bit. I didn’t know what to say, or what Colin was getting at exactly.
“You saved my life,” Colin continued on with a smile. “I got my shit figured out while I was in prison. Been sober for a long time now. If it wouldn’t have been for you throwing the book at me, I would’ve killed someone and myself eventually.”
“Congratulations,” I said.
The corner of Colin’s lips quirked up into an enticing smile that instantly set my blood on fire. I shifted uncomfortably on the balls of my feet when Colin flicked an appreciative gaze over me again. Tell him off. Tell him to stop eying me up like I’m a piece of meat to devour. Tell him—
“Sammy.” I broke eye contact to look over at Monica in the chair with her cardigan off to reveal the tight tank top she wore beneath. We both took great pride in being able to wear petite sized clothing for our age. Our morning walks, and workouts paid off, but on a night like this, I wanted to cover up. Not because I was uncomfortable. It was the other end of the spectrum that I didn’t even want to consider. “We are going to get drinks after this. What do you say?”
I cleared her throat. “Sure. You and I—”
“No,” Monica cut in, shaking her head with a tiny grin. “Xavier and Colin are coming with us. We decided it.”
A mischievous glint filled Monica’s eyes— and it spelt trouble. I opened my mouth to protest. “Maybe we should talk about this first, Monica.”
“One drink won’t hurt.” She pouted prettily.
I looked over to Colin who was frowning down at Xavier. “I don’t know if this is a good idea either,” he said, a bit tense. “We don’t take our clients out for drinks after, Xavier. No matter how attractive they are.”
Xavier refused to look up from Monica’s forearm. The buzz of the tattoo gun filled the room along with the sultry jazz music.
“Normally,” Xavier agreed, still refusing to look up. “I can’t resist this pretty lady here, CJ. She’s finalizing a divorce from a cheater. She deserves a good time. You do too.”
Monica smiled widely at that, visibly pleased with the compliment. It was clear that they were going to go out no matter what Colin said, or what I said too. I caught Colin’s gaze when it floated back to mine. One drink would hurt him. Still, Colin gave a nod in Monica’s direction.
“We all deserve a good time tonight,” Colin said.
I swallowed the ball of nerves in my throat at the sultry tones dripping off Colin’s words. We were going to end up with each other by the end of the night. I could already feel that delicious heat skittering through me at the thought of Colin’s hands on my skin. Maybe that was from the tequila shots from earlier that were working their liquor magic on me. Tattooed men were not my thing, but on Colin, it was sexy. It screamed sinful temptation that I wanted.
I was screwed.