Hot Ink – Chapter Two, Part One

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Sitting poolside, Penny had twenty minutes before she turned radioactive tomato red even with SPF one bazillion—being a natural redhead in Miami was no joke. Still, actually getting one of the lounge chairs next to the pool was a miracle ever since a few of the Miami Thunder players moved into the building’s top floor penthouses so she wasn’t about to give up her spot until she had to.

Flipping open her sketch pad, she penciled in a few lines on the Indian inspired tattoo a client had commissioned. Full of intense fuchsia flowers and warm brown leaves it would follow the woman’s spine from the base of her neck to the small of her back with small symbols weaved into the tapestry. 

“Hey there, neighbor,” Sawyer said.

She snapped her head up right in time to see her hot cop neighbor plant his hands on the edge of the pool and push himself up. Water droplets clung to his tan skin, highlighting the sinewy muscle rippling up his arms, and darkened his honey brown hair to a dark malt color. In a move that would have looked like a drunk monkey doing the hula if she tried it, he did a quick push-twist thing that ended up with him sitting on the edge of the pool next to her chair with his legs dangling in the water. The position gave her the opportunity to take in the wide width of his back and the thunder bolt tattoo on his shoulder blade. The work wasn’t bad, but it was nowhere near as breathtaking as the canvas it was on.

“Now is normally when you talk to me instead of just eyeballing my bod,” he flicked water at her.

“Hey!” She scrambled back, her arm protectively covering her sketchpad too worried about her design being damaged to be embarrassed he’d caught her eye fucking him. “Watch it, I’m working.”

“It’s a gorgeous day, you’re out by the pool and yet, you’re working.” He got up and strolled over to her lounger and sat down. “Do you ever play?”

“Do you ever not?” Despite her best intentions, her gaze dipped down to the muscular thigh peeking out from the hem of his board shorts. 

She yanked her focus back up to his face. That wasn’t much better. The man was lethal with his Tom Hardy lips and Superman jaw. Looking at him set off a whole flustered, giggly feeling that she didn’t have time for—especially not with the gigaho next door and his ever changing harem of loud blonde hotties. Boyfriends or anything close to it were her kryptonite and she couldn’t doink and dash with a guy that lived next door.

“We got off on the wrong foot.” Sawyer toyed with the corner of her towel gave her a lopsided grin that brought out his dimples. “How about I take you out to lunch and make up for it?”

Danger! Danger! All the alarm bells went off in her head. “No.”

“Not even I’ll think about it?” 

All the girly, oh-my-God-yes butterflies swooped around inside her belly, but she had to stay firm. “Nope.”

“Tell me…” He turned, pinning her to her chair with the intensity in his blue-eyed stare. “Is it the cop thing or the Mr. Anaconda Cock thing because I promise he won’t come out to play unless you want him to.”

Her gaze dropped to his bright blue board shorts before she realized. She ripped her focus back up to his face, flames beating against her cheeks. “I’ll keep that in mind.”

He winked. “So what are you working on?” 

Brain reeling, trying to catch up with the one-eighty the conversation had just taken. “A custom tattoo for a client.”

“That explains the Daring Tattoo shirt from last night. You work there?”

“I own it.” She couldn’t keep the pride out of her voice. It was a giant pain in her ass three days out of seven, but it was hers.

“Really?” He sat up and his broad shoulders lost the laid back surfer dude ease. “What are you twenty-two?”

“Twenty-five, but I’ve had it since I was twenty-one.” She’d worked her ass off to save enough to show she was serious enough to get a business loan approved right out of college. She’d never looked back. 

“You are an overachiever,” he said.

“No, I just have priorities.” Like never having to depend on anyone or deal with their lies ever again.

“And those are?” he asked.

“Never having to sell myself on the corner for grocery money again.”

His eyes bugged out.

“I’m kidding.” Laughed boomed out of her loud enough to make the people around them stare. 

“Wasn’t sure you knew how to do that.” There was his lopsided smile and killer dimples again. 

The man could be dangerous if she didn’t watch herself. “I laughed a lot after hitting play last night.”

He crossed his arms, making his biceps bulge, and shot her a sorry excuse for a dirty look. “That was a mean trick.”

She shrugged. “It worked.” Not another sound filtered through their shared wall after she’d snuggled back into bed.

“Only because I couldn’t stop thinking of you.” He stood and tipped a finger in salute. “Good luck with your work.”

Finishing her design was the last thing she was thinking about as she watched him walk away. Her pulse rushed like a raging river in her ears drowning out the sounds of the pool as his last words played over and over in her head. Thinking of her. She dropped the sketchpad into her lap, her fingers losing their ability to grasp things just like a dippy heroine in a stupid chick flick. She didn’t do that. She wouldn’t do him. She needed to go upstairs and find her battery operated boyfriend before he came back upstairs from the pool and heart the tell-tale buzzing through their shared wall.

Sawyer stopped a few chairs over and settle in next to a guy the size of a tank. Must be one of the penthouse footballers judging by the dude’s massive muscles and flock of women in Miami Thunder string bikinis circling. More power to them. Any smidge of interest she’d had in the game died the moment she found out the dad she’d grown up never knowing owned the hometown team. 

The player leaned forward revealing a tattoo on his shoulder of a Phoenix spreading its wings, a chalice dangling from one talon and a football helmet in the other. All thoughts of getting off with her battery-operated boyfriend imploded as the realization hit, sending her blood pressure to low-orbit space flight levels.

Mother fucker. That was her design. 

Again. Another person she knew she didn’t tattoo was wearing her work. No doubt about it, she had a thief at Daring Ink and when she figured out who it was, she was going to make sure every tattoo artist in Florida knew. The thief would get blocked from working with every reputable tattoo artist in the state. 

The alarm on her phone went off. Time to go in, but not before she got Mr. Football to give up the name of his tattoo artist.

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