Roth’s thumb moved idly along the base of my scalp. “It’s moments like these that I need, too.”
STANDING IN FRONT of the chair, I felt like I’d drunk a case of highly caffeinated drinks. Nervous energy consumed me, and I shifted from one foot to the other, not unlike I’d seen Thumper do at Stacey’s house.
“Can this wait?” I asked, wiping my damp palms along my hips. “I mean, I really think this can wait.”
Grinning like a cat that just cornered a herd of mice, Roth knew better than to get too close to me at the moment, because there was a good chance I might punch him. “Now is as good a time as any, Shortie.”
I wrinkled my nose as I folded my arms across my chest and glanced over to where Cayman was fiddling with a massive contraption that looked like a power tool, but I knew it wasn’t. “Can he really do this?”
Lifting his gaze to me, Cayman smiled. “I can do just about everything, teacup.”
“Not everything,” Roth reminded him.
Cayman shrugged, and then he hit something on the tool he held and a droning hum filled the office in the back of the club. My eyes widened as my muscles stiffened. “Is it...supposed to be that loud?”
“Shortie, you’ve faced down Nightcrawlers and Raver demons, you cannot be that scared of getting a tattoo.”
I whipped around toward Roth. “You’re not the one getting the tattoo, so maybe you should just shut up.”
Behind me, Cayman snorted, and I whirled toward him, shooting him my best death glare. “You, too. Shut it.”
He shut it.
“I have five tats, Shortie, I know what it feels like,” Roth cajoled, his hands raised at his sides. “It’ll sting, but you’re strong. You’ll deal.”
I didn’t want to deal.
I also didn’t want to be acting like such a baby, but I couldn’t look forward to sitting down and allowing someone to dig ink into my body. Why had I thought this was a good idea?
Cayman rose. “Are we going to do this or not? Because I’m sure all of us have stuff to do. Like you all have a Lilin to find and I have deals to broker.”
“It’s up to you, Layla,” Roth said. “If you don’t want to do this, we don’t have to.”
A huge part of me wanted to jump on the out he offered, but getting a familiar tattooed on my skin was the smart thing to do. It would make me stronger and I’d have my own built-in backup system if things got out of hand. So I needed to woman up. “I want to do this.”
Roth smiled at me while Cayman came around the desk. “Then hop up on the chair,” the demon ordered. “And we’ll get this show on the road.”
I sat as instructed and nearly squealed when Cayman hit something on the side and unexpectedly set the chair to a reclining position. I gripped the arms of the chair, glaring at him. “A warning would’ve been nice.”
“And what fun would that have been?” he replied. “You know what you’re getting?”
Glancing at Roth, I nodded slowly. We’d talked about it last night, and it had been harder than I imagined when it came to picking a familiar. Most of my ideas were lame. At one point, I’d suggested a llama, which was about when Roth had announced that it was time for bed since my brain clearly needed to recharge.
“A fox,” I told Cayman. “Because they are fast and clever.”
“Like me,” added Roth.
I rolled my eyes. “Not because it’s like Roth.”
“A fox? Interesting,” murmured Cayman as he waved his left hand. A low stool appeared out of thin air, and I thought that was rather nifty. “I’m going to need some space to do that. Pull up your shirt.”
Roth’s head swung in his direction. “You might want to rethink that request.”
Cayman snorted as he looked up through a lock of hair. “Please. As pretty as our little strudel cake is, she doesn’t do it for me. You taking off your shirt, however, floats my boat and anchor.”
I pursed my lips as Roth muttered, “Whatever.”
Taking a deep breath, I pulled my shirt up so my stomach was exposed. “I have a feeling this is going to hurt.”
“You’ll be fine.” Roth moved behind the chair, placing his hands on my shoulders. “You got this.”
Cayman handled the instrument like he knew what he was doing as he started to lean over me. I tensed and he shook his head. “You’re lucky, butter butts. This is going to go a lot faster and easier than it does for the humans.”
He glanced up at me. “Because of magic.” He said it like I didn’t have two brain cells to rub together. “And because you will heal a hell of a lot faster than a human will. You won’t even need to cover the tat.”
“Okay.” I was going to have to believe him.
“What are you going to call your fox?” Cayman asked.
I was so tense there was a good chance parts of my body would start breaking. “Robin.”
His brows rose. “Why Robin?”
“My favorite Disney movie is the one where a fox is Robin Hood,” I explained. “So Robin.”
“That’s my girl,” Roth said from behind me. “Through and through.”
Cayman glanced up at Roth, and then he placed his hand along my ribs. I jumped a little at the contact, and then, because I couldn’t look away even though I should, I watched him bring the tattoo gun to my skin.
“Holy shit!” I shrieked, increasing my death grip on the arms of the chair. Sharp stinging pain, like I’d rolled around in a hornet’s nest, lit up my entire stomach. “Just a little bit of pain? Are you kidding me?”
“It’ll get better,” Roth said, rubbing my shoulders.
Without even looking at him, I could hear the smile in his voice, and I wanted to punch him in the face. My stomach burned as Cayman did the tattoo, and only after about an eternity did the pain lessen, and I think that was because my stomach just went numb. But I sat there and I took it like a good little half demon, half Warden, and I fought the urge to shift in order to protect myself.
Roth did his best to distract me by preparing me for what it would be like to have my own familiar and not just one we sort of shared joint custody of.
Robin, my foxy-fox familiar, would probably sleep for the first day or so and not move around a lot, and he wouldn’t come off my skin during that time. Roth explained that Robin would bond with me not just physically, but emotionally and mentally. As Robin rested, the familiar would tap into my memories. It would learn me, and yeah, that was kind of freaky, but like with Bambi and Roth, Robin would be able to proactively sense whenever I was in trouble or needed him to take form.
I just hoped he didn’t appear as a giant, mutant fox, because that would also be extremely creepy.
I had no idea how much time passed, but finally Cayman rocked back, turning off the tattoo gun. “Done,” he said, stretching his arms above his back.
Glancing down at my sore stomach, all I could do was stare. There was a huge-ass tattoo there, stretching from under my right rib cage to my navel. Maybe that wasn’t big to some, but to me, it was ginormous.