Skin Deep (Skin Deep #1) - Page 1

Chapter 1

“Oh my good…glory be to…Lord love a…sweet baby Jesus…” I breathed.

Allie quirked a brow at me and nudged me with her elbow. “Wanna close your mouth, sweetie? And how many old adages can you cram into one sentence, anyway?” she snorted.

Allie is my best friend, and has been since grade school, but she could be my worst enemy, too. Especially at times like this. She’s an olive skinned beauty, topping out at five foot two, with short, thick black hair, currently highlighted with purple and cut in a pixie-ish way. She has shockingly bright blue eyes that dance with mischief, and she is feisty as hell. To top off all that cuteness? She’s built like a brick shithouse, which for one, isn’t fair, and two, who came up with that saying, anyway?

I shook myself out of my stupor as Allie laughed quietly at my side. What? I mean, come on, when faced with a stack of deliciousness like the one standing not fifteen feet from me, wouldn’t you be a little…I don’t know, drooly?

Allie grabbed my arm and started dragging me further into the shop towards the counter. I started dragging my feet and fighting her, just then remembering why I wasn’t happy with her in the first place.

“Allie, I told you, I am not getting a tattoo! I promised you that I would come watch while you got your tongue, or toe, or whatever weird part of your body you decided on, pierced, but that’s it!” I tried to remove my arm from her grasp, which tightened as she dug her fingertips into me, but ended up just looking like a petulant child throwing a temper tantrum.

I drew up short when I realized that we had an audience. That stack of deliciousness I mentioned? Yeah. Staring at us. Smirking. Oh. My. God. I stopped struggling with Allie and she let go of my arm. I smoothed down my shirt, which had started riding up during my struggles, and cleared my throat. Allie rolled her eyes and continued walking to the counter, leaving me behind.

“ My friend here, er, well, there…,” Allie looked over her shoulder at me and jerked her head in my direction, “she wants to get a tattoo.” That stack of deliciousness glanced my way and gave me a small wink. (Whoa!) “But, she’s kind of scared.”

I bristled a bit at that. What? Scared? Me? Pshaw…ok, yeah. I was. What of it? I mean, who really wants to spend, like, hours with someone digging sharp pointy things that buzz rather loudly into their skin?

“Aw, sugar, don’t be scared,” the stack of deliciousness said. “Why don’t you come on up here with me and pick something out? I’ll do you myself, and I promise, I’ll be gentle.”

Whoa. Talk about a double entendre…

Stack of deliciousness had a voice that was smooth as silk and rich as sin. And Lord, those eyes of his! Intense smoky, blue-grey eyes stared at me from under a shock of unruly black hair that swept down over his right eye. He was wearing a black, long sleeved t-shirt with the sleeves pushed up to his elbows. I could see black swirls of ink on both of his arms, but couldn’t make out any specific designs without moving closer. He had a silver ring piercing his left lower lip, which made me unconsciously trace the tip of my tongue over my own lip. Which made him quirk his eyebrow at me. Ooh.

I noticed Allie looking pointedly in my direction before swinging her attention back to Stack. “So, yeah, Emma’s going to come up here and pick something out, but until she actually moves her ass, I’d like to see about getting my tongue pierced. Do you do those, too?

Stack glanced at Allie. “Yeah, we do that. Brandon is free right now, too, so I’ll get you set up with him and then see what we can do about green eyes over there.” He sent a look in my direction that dared me to come closer. Then he looked back at Allie and handed her some paperwork to fill out. “Just answer those questions honestly, please, and then sign and date at the bottom.” Looking back to me, he asked, “So, sugar, you just gonna stand there all day?”

I took a deep breath and decided that I couldn’t back down from the challenge in his eyes. I mentally coached myself that I wasn’t scared, that I could do this. (I was so lying to myself) I held my head high and started to make my way through the lobby/waiting area towards the counter. Which was a Bad. Idea. Apparently, I shouldn’t have held my head so high, and instead should have watched where I was going. Maybe then I would have noticed the small, low table sitting beside a comfy looking black, leather couch. But I didn’t, so in the next instant, my shin caught the edge of the table, which unbalanced me, and I face planted into the floor. Ouch.

Okay, so anyone who knows me knows that I am not graceful at all. That’s why they call me Grace. Well, not really…just when I fall. Which is, ironically, a lot, seeing as how I can barely stand steady on my own two feet, let alone walk straight! And that’s why I’m now laying face first in silent mortification in the middle of a tattoo parlor floor, listening to Allie shrieking my name, and what sounded like a herd of elephants running towards me.

Strong hands grabbed me and started to turn me over and help me sit up. Allie, standing behind Stack (ohmigod! he’s touching me!) gasps and covers her mouth with her hand in shock.

“Emma, you’re bleeding,” she whispers.

I put my hand up to my face and gingerly started to poke around, trying to determine the origin of said blood. Stack grabbed my hand, pulling it quickly from my face. I looked up (and I mean UP! He‘s gotta be at least six foot three!) at him in confusion.

“Sugar, you busted your lip when you fell. C’mon, lets go back here and get you cleaned up.” Stack led me past the counter to the back area and into a spacious room that surprisingly reminded me of a cross between a dentist’s office and a hospital. The walls were a deep burgundy with black and white accents, and one whole wall was taken up by photos of what I assumed to be tattoos that he had done.

As Stack moved about the room gathering things to doctor me with, Allie sat beside me on the dentist’s chair (what else would it be called?) and tried not to laugh. I shot her a glare, daring her to giggle, just once.

At that moment, both Allie and I gaped at the doorway where another stack of deliciousness now stood. He looked like Stack, was built like Stack, with the same color hair and those intense smoky, blue-grey eyes, but while Stack’s hair was longish, this new Stack’s hair was closely cropped to his head, and he had a scruffy kind of five o’clock shadow going on.

“Luke, there’s a client sheet up front on the counter for an Allison McCormick to get a tongue piercing done. But no Allison. Where’d she go?”

Stack (Luke apparently?) grinned at New Stack and waved his hand at Allie. “That’s Allison, Brandon, and this,” looking over to me, “is Emma. Right?” I nodded. “Emma decided she was falling for me and busted her lip.” He smiled slyly and winked at me.

Brandon looked over grinning and, noticing the blood on my lip said, “ Ouch! Damn, that sucks.” He then glanced over to Allie and asked her if she was ready. Allie nodded and started to get up off the chair.

As she leaned past me, I whispered, “Close your mouth and wipe your chin. Geez, McCormick.” She shot me a dirty look and walked out with Brandon.

It was then that it hit me. I was alone. With Stack. Er, Luke. I looked up as he moved close to me and lightly grasped my chin in his hand. God, his touch was electric…He put a cool moist cloth against my lip and dabbed at the blood still slowly welling from the shallow gash. I winced at the sting and sighed.