I can’t believe I’ve let Jamie talk me into this. I’m an adult. A professional nurse. I’m a mother, for goodness’ sake. I shouldn’t be taking one of my rare nights off to traipse into downtown Whiskey Run to get a tattoo. It’s ridiculous. I should turn around.
I turn on my heel but freeze with my hand on the door of my old Honda accord and take a deep breath. Why am I hesitating? Get in the car, Katie. But even as I think it, I’m releasing my hold on the car door, and I turn to look up at the neon sign that is flashing Savage Ink. I got the whole speech from Jamie before I left her to watch my son for a few hours. “You need this, Katie. It will be closure for you. Or a step in a new direction, I don’t know. All I do know is that you’ve always wanted one. Just do it.”
I take a deep breath and take baby steps toward the door of the shop. I grip on to the handle and stare inside the front glass. There’s a man and woman embracing, and I recognize them from the hospital. They were the ones having the baby in the room next to Violet. I’ve already cancelled this appointment twice in the last six weeks. I tug on the door—it’s now or never.
As soon as it opens, a bell jingles over the door. The couple stops kissing, but the man doesn’t release his arms from around her waist.
The woman pats him on the chest. “Go ahead. I’ll help her. See you soon.”
He kisses her again before walking off with a wink.
She stares after him until he’s behind a door before turning back to me. “Hi. Can I help you?”
I pull back my shoulders when what I really want to do is turn around and run out of the shop, but my mom told me a long time ago that sometimes you just have to fake confidence. My voice is steady without even a tremble. “Yeah, hi. I’m Katie. I have an appointment with Treyton.”
The woman tilts her head. “You look familiar. Do I know you?”
I laugh. “Yeah, I brought you some ice at Jasper Mercy. I’m a nurse. I was actually Violet’s nurse. She’s the one that convinced me I needed to come to Treyton to get my tattoo.”
The woman starts to laugh. “Oh she did, did she?”
I nod, not understanding her smirk. The woman gives me a little wave. “I’m Gracie.”
I shake my head, stumbling over my words. “Sorry, I’m Katie.”
No sooner do the words leave my mouth than a husky voice sounds behind me. “You made it. I was afraid you would have to cancel again.”
I suck in a breath, not even close to being ready to understanding how that voice causes a tremble down my back or the fact that my nipples harden just by the timbre of a man’s voice. I turn slowly as if any sudden movement is going to spook him.
I clench my eyes together because I’m not ready. Oh my God, Katie. Open your eyes. You’re such a moron. I’m chiding myself just as I feel a large, warm hand wrap around my arm. “Are you okay?” Shit. Busted.
I nod and unclench my eyes. Once they’re open, there’s no way I could close them again. There’s just too much to look at. If this is Treyton Cree, there’s no way I’ll survive having his hands on me. I do a quick look up and down, but that’s enough to know that he’s way out of my league. He’s built. His arms are muscled, and there are tattoos peeking out of the sleeves of his too-tight black T-shirt. When I finally get up to his face, I take in his stubbled chin, soft, full lips, and eyes so blue I swear it’s like looking into the sky.
His mouth is moving, but it’s like he’s talking to me from a tunnel instead of only six inches from my face. I shake my head. “Sorry, I’m sorry – what did you say?”
His lips lift in the corners in a smirk. “I was asking if you’re all right. You spaced out there for a minute.”
I laugh, and it turns into a snort just as I bring my hands up to my face to cover it. Good night. I shouldn’t even be allowed in public. “Yes, I’m fine. But this is a bad idea. Sorry... I should go.”
I turn to leave, but his big hand comes out and grabs my arm again. “No, stay. Let’s just talk. We can talk about the tattoo and what part of getting one makes you nervous. If you still don’t want one, you can leave.”
My hand goes to my chest. “Shoot, right.” I open my purse and dig around for my wallet. “I should at least pay you for your time since I canceled so late.”