Friday Excerpt: Indelibly Inked
Excerpt: Indelibly Inked
"Let's see what you've got." His touch was gentle as he ran a finger over the tattoo she'd gotten so long ago. She couldn’t see it clearly from her position, but in her mind she saw the small stylized tree inked into her skin, a heart in the center bearing two sets of initials. A talisman from another time.
His hands were warm as he gently rotated her leg, his brows drawn together as he examined the image. "Nice tat. Who did the original work?" He glanced up, and she smiled.
"Bailey's on Fourth Street," she said. “Nathan Bailey did it for me. My best friend had a crush on him back then. She, uh…dared me to get the tattoo."
He nodded, and ran a finger over her skin once more. She fought a shiver from his touch. "It's nice work. Who’s the lucky guy? Or unlucky, I guess, considering why we’re here."
She laughed, feeling the blush was creep higher on her cheeks. "It was a guy I had a huge crush on in high school. It sounds silly now, but he sort of inspired me to do more - to want more out of life."
"So what went wrong?"
She shrugged, giving him a sheepish grin. "He...ah...he barely knew I was alive, to be honest. We weren't exactly in the same social set." Or on the same planet, for that matter, she mused silently. He'd been rich, the son of a senator. There was no doubt in her mind that his parents wouldn't have approved of him dating the daughter of a strung-out stripper.
"But you inked his initials on your ankle." It wasn't a question, and Claire just nodded, avoiding eye contact. She'd never told anyone the story before, and after tonight it wouldn't matter anyways. Still, she blinked back sudden tears that threatened to spill over. He laid his hand casually over her calf and she could feel him watching her. That feeling that she’d met him before tugged at the edges of her memory.
She looked at him again, focusing on the lines of his face. They’d definitely met before, and she frowned. He must not recognize her. “Have we-“
"So you want me to cover this up?" He spoke quickly, and she wondered if it was just bad timing, or something else.
She nodded again. "I'm announcing my candidacy for Mayor tomorrow. Stacy - my publicist - thinks that some curious person will notice the initials and start digging into my background. She's afraid of the impact it might have on my campaign if people start wondering who the mystery guy is."
"I see." He turned back to the counter, a chill moving over her skin when his hand left her ankle. "And you're willing to give this up for politics? Seems like you have a lot of history with this guy, whether he knows it or not."
She shrugged. “I don’t really see the problem, personally. I’m the only one who knows who he is for sure, and I’m not talking. I have far bigger skeletons in my closet to worry about.” She blinked back the sudden moisture building in her eyes. “But Stacy says that’s the point - get rid of the small problems so we can focus on the bigger ones.”
“Seems kind of backwards to me,” he said, handing her a plastic sleeve holding a sheet of design sketches. “You have a couple of choices here," he said, his matter-of-fact tone helping her regain control. "I can work the lettering into a vine or some flowers - you can pick something from this sheet." She glanced at it. The images were well drawn, but generic. Somehow it didn't seem right to cover up something so symbolic with leaves or flowers.
He tapped her tattoo firmly with his index finger, bringing her attention back to him. He looked straight into her eyes, a challenge reflected in his stare. "Or I can touch this up for you, make the lines crisp, add a little color, and you can keep your inspiration intact. Might not be such a good idea to mess with something like this." He raised his eyebrows, pinning her with his gaze. It was like he could see into her mind, knew all the questions and desires swirling like fireflies in her brain.
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