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     Zzzz. The buzz of the tattoo gun drowned out Papa Roach softly playing in the small shop while Blue swiped the Vaseline over her client’s skin. Client, victim, sacrificial lamb. They were all the same, right? Someone willingly letting an apprentice practice on them went by many names. Either way, she was grateful for the opportunity—and nervous as hell.

 

     After a deep inhale, she pulled her machine back to give her hand a break from the vibration by dipping the needles into the small cup of aqua ink to refill them, it allowed her to hide her need to rest. New school was her favorite style to draw and tattoo. She’d have to master slamming bold, bright colors into the skin to be a new school artist. She’d have to impress Mooky with her ability to pack the color into this little piece—even though it wasn’t a new school design.

While her mentor calmly chatted with her skin canvas, she caught his soft brown eyes. Involuntarily, her smile spread as warmth blossomed on her cheeks. Damn, he had no business being so stinking cute. 

She felt as though she were crushing on her high school math teacher when he returned the grin. To add insult to injury, he had the audacity to up the ante with a quick wink. The shameless flirt. She wasn’t any better, beaming like a buffoon and eating it all up. If they weren’t careful, someone would tell them to get a room—again.

     The zzzz of machine she used to pen the image on the back of the other biker’s calf reminded her to focus. She was there to do a job—an important one at that. There’d be time for flirting and goo-goo eyes later.

     Time and place. Time and place, she mentally reminded herself.

     One more swipe of Vaseline before she narrowed in on a spot that still needed ink. Dragging the rapidly vibrating needles back and forth, she filled in the axe’s corner.

     It may have been a small tattoo, and had Mooky done it himself, it would’ve taken him forty-five minutes as opposed to her hour and a half. Cajun, her biker sacrificial lamb, let her do it since she needed the practice. She couldn’t have thanked him enough for the opportunity. If that didn’t qualify him for sainthood, the fact he hadn’t complained one iota should. Even more so considering what he let her ink on him.

     It wasn’t actually a club tattoo. It was club adjacent. One of Odin’s war axes. There were funny rules about who could tattoo club colors and who could wear them. Blue wasn’t fully up to speed on all of those, so it was best to just stick to she wasn’t and be done with it. But this—this she could do. It was just an axe, after all.

     Yes, the axes were depicted on Odin’s Fury’s club colors in a pair crossed behind the god’s profile, but Cajun just wanted the lone axe. So, this was her opportunity to get practice on human skin. For that, she was grateful. After ninety-seven minutes, she suspected he may not have been. It shouldn’t take that long.

     “Looking good.” Mooky nodded, drawing her focus away from the tattoo.

 

     She used the opportunity to swipe at the biker’s leg one last time to get a look at her work free of stray ink and blood. Again, her involuntary schoolgirl smile lit up her face. “Thanks.” She beamed, soaking in his praise.

 

     Sitting back, she took a deep breath and her attention returned to the piece. Pursing her lips, she laid her machine down. “I think it’s done,” she said, reaching for the antiseptic ointment and a paper towel to clean it.

 

     Done.

 

     She’d inked an actual person—a real design. She put something that held meaning on to another human being. Her drawing would be on that man forever. Heavy shit.

     “Thank fuck, Cher.” The bulky Louisianan biker sighed. “No offense, but I taught’ I’d be here all night,” he drawled in his thick accent sounding like Gambit from X-Men.

 

     Her shoulders slumped, and her expression fell.

 

     Out of the corner of her eye, she caught Mooky’s snort. He mouthed “you did fine” behind Cajun’s back.

 

     Swallowing the nerves, she nodded. Couldn’t be perfect and fast while learning. Only one or the other was possible at this stage of the game. She’d opted for precise. She’d get speed one day. To expect perfection right out of the gate was absurd. On some level, she knew that. But how cool would it be to be awesome in the beginning?

She’d never know.

 

     Waving a hand toward the cubicle she’d set up in, she directed him toward a mirror. “You want to take a look?” She asked as the large man pushed himself off the table.

 

     The biker admired the ink in the full-length mirror beside her station. “Perfect.” He twisted one way and then the other, still nodding in approval. “Just what I wanted.”

 

     “You got it from here?” Mooky asked Blue. “I want to close shit out.”

 

     “Yeah.” She waved while shuffling cups around, getting ready to wrap up Cajun’s fresh ink. “Do what you have to.” This part she could do in her sleep. Not only was she heavily tattooed herself, but it’d been the one thing she’d done since the day she got here—going over fresh tattoo care with all the clients who got inked by the other artists.

 

     Doing it with the southern biker couldn’t be more redundant. He had a full sleeve and a few scattered pieces throughout his body. From what she could tell, he kept his skin in good shape, too. However, out of formality, and practice, she needed to review it with him. Rules were rules. Laws were laws. There were times to break them and times to abide by them. The shop was legit—as far as she knew. So, they followed all the laws and regulations. Doing so was good for her since she wanted to get a legit Ohio tattoo license.

     With a charming half-smile, the long-haired man obliged and let her ramble on about unscented soaps and lotions. He gave her his full attention when she warned him about scabbing and not to scratch. He didn’t interrupt once. That saintly title was within his reach. He’d look adorable with a little gold halo.

 

     At the end of her brief speech—after she’d given him the sample packets of ointment—he ruffled her two-tone hair as though she were a child. “You did alright,” he said with a laugh.

She growled and swatted at him. No halo for Cajun. “I may be six inches shorter than you, but you don’t have to—”

 

     He laughed harder. At five foot eight inches tall, Blue wasn’t exactly short. Unfortunately, Cajun was a fucking tree. Nothing brought him more joy than teasing her about her height—or lack thereof when compared to him.

 

     Which baffled her, considering she wasn’t even the shortest of the women who hung around the clubhouse. Sarah barely broke five feet, and he never once commented on it. This sort of ribbing was new for Blue.

 

     “Tu es la taille parfait.” The French Cajun words rolled off his tongue, sounding like a mixture of dirty intrigue.

 

     She narrowed her eyes. “I have no idea what that means, but based on history, I’m going to assume it’s perverted.”

 

     He roared with laughter as she strolled toward the front door. “If I wanted to be a pervert, cher, I’d do it in English,” he called over his shoulder with a wink. “No French required.”

 

     Smirking, she didn’t believe it—not for one second.

 

     Following behind him, she studied the patches on his back. All the men in the motorcycle club had the same ones. The top rocker read, Odin’s Fury. The middle was the profile of Odin over a shield and crossed axes. And lastly, stitched on the bottom, was their state, Ohio. This leather vest—which God forbid anyone call it a vest—it was a cut, goddamnit. The leather cut was their uniform. This was how the world recognized a member of Odin’s Fury. It was their badge of honor.

 

     Of course, there was the whole sex appeal factor too. Their cuts made their entire crew hot as hell. Wearing their cuts awarded them an extra twenty points on the unofficial official hawtness scale, which she’d completely made up.

 

     Beards—five points. Tattoos—five points. Accents—ten points. Rode a Harley—fifty points. Drove a crotch rocket—negative fifty points. Add a cut and swoon city.

 

     At the door, she came out of her fixation on the colors on Cajun’s back and generously rolled her eyes in farewell. Once he exited the shop, she turned the lock to the door and flipped the switch to shut off the outdoor lights. They were officially closed. No more tattooing for the night.

 

     The sound of the Harley-Davidson starting outside filled her with a sense of stability. Her life was on track. She was on her way to a career—not just a job—an actual career. She was a freakin’ adult. Look at her—adulting all over the place.

 

     She wouldn’t be just any sort of professional either. Nope. This was a creative endeavor. She could actually call herself an artist. She did a twirl, unable to contain the ridiculous amount of glee radiating within her. The way her skirt flared out added to her delight. She’d doodled her entire life, and she’d make a living from it—doodling on people for money. She giggled like a schoolgirl.

 

     Take that, Mr. Billingsley. Her high school math teacher had stolen her sketches and threw them in the trash during class because she wasn’t paying attention. Well, guess who was paying attention now?

 

     People would wear her drawings on their bodies forever. To top it off, she got to learn from Mooky Retz—one of the best new school tattooers in Ohio. Though, from watching him, he was way more than just new school. The natural high of her current reality felt like walking on air.

 

     If she could do anything half as well as he did everything, she’d consider herself a damn fine tattooer. He pulled solid straight lines. She dreamed about and envied them in the deepest depths of her soul.

 

     Okay, so her crush on him had started way before she ever strolled through the doors of the biker clubhouse. She’d lusted after his artwork ever since she saw him at the Hell City Tattoo Fest. She’d watched him work on a large back piece on one of his club brothers for a solid hour. She kept checking back, hoping to get an impromptu session, but he’d been deep into that one piece with no openings. She wanted him to put something on her. It never happened, though.

Maybe. One day. They needed to fix that.

 

     Either way, she fell—and hard. She was beyond a fangirl. She knew all his public work. From a mile away, she could spot a Mooky Retz.

 

     While cleaning up all the small cups of ink she’d not used, the balls of blood-and-ink-filled paper towels, and her black gloves, she bopped her head to the beat of I Prevail, recalling how she never thought she’d ever meet Mooky. Being friendly with him had seemed like a long shot, and apprenticing for him was impossible. Look at how far she’d come.

 

     Life was fucking crazy sometimes. Things had a way of working out in the most bizarre of ways.

 

     The music was dated but not entirely annoying. Blue had nothing against soft rock. Her preference was for heavier guitars and drumbeats. Neon signs, the smell of stale beer, and the haze of a business blatantly ignoring the indoor smoking ban—this was the holiest of hole-in-the-wall bars she had ever been to.

 

     Why had she agreed to come?

 

     It was something different. Her friend challenged her to get out of her comfort zone. Well, here she was.

     Though, the motorcycles lined up along the wall outside of the bar definitely piqued her interest as they pulled up. She’d noticed motorcycles more and more since attending the tattoo convention.

 

     Would one of those bikes be his? In the dimly lit lot, she did her best to look them over. If, on the off chance, one of them were his, which would it be? What was his style?

She’d snorted to herself, rolling her eyes at her crush on the biker tattoo artist. The odds were slim as fuck that he’d be there—and he wasn’t.

 

     But…

 

     She recognized the insignia on the back of the vest a few of the other men around the bar wore. Some were working there while others were milling around, drinking—talking to women or each other. The oil rig, the wrenches, and the skull—she’d seen it before. Mooky wore it.

Could they be connected?

     “You ladies interested in the after-party?” The doughy, crooked-nosed man slurred at them.

Sarah, her friend, glanced in her direction with the question echoed on her features. Did Blue want to go to the biker’s after-party? Sarah sure as fuck did. What were the odds this dude knew the tattoo artist?

     Throwing the last of her beer back, Blue shrugged. The guy had tattoos. She couldn’t tell if they were Mooky Retz’s work. Then again, she had quite a few drinks. There might be a chance he did them.

 

     “Why not?” she said.

 

     The offer was better than any she had before to actually meet up with the sexy biker tattooer she’d crushed on ever since she watched him pull lines at the convention. So, fuck yeah, they were going back to that clubhouse. Wild horses couldn’t have kept her away.

 

     Once she’d cleaned and sterilized her station, she headed to the office with a skip in her step. She was living the dream—her dream. Not all fairytales and love stories started with tattoos and motorcycles, but theirs did. And she wouldn’t change the last eight months for the world.  

 

     Blue approached the office. Leaning in the doorframe, she watched Mooky for a moment as he entered the tally sheet and flipped to the payroll screen. She’d seen him do these things hundreds of times before. There was something sexy about how focused he became at the end of the night—all serious and business-like. He sat, the complete opposite of the criminal biker stereotype.

 

     Prior to actually infiltrating the clubhouse and getting to know them, she’d thought bikers to be crude, probably dirty, and just assholes. To be fair, when she first got involved with the club, some were that way. However, the shift—uh—patch over, they called it, made things a thousand times better.

     They’d once been called The Roughneck Riders. Then they got bought out, or maybe rebranded—she really wasn’t too clear on the details. Either way—they’d gotten a new name. They became Odin’s Fury, and with the name change came an attitude adjustment and a membership transformation. They were still badasses no one should fuck with, but the chaos all but disappeared.

 

     Mooky seemed a hell of a lot less stressed, too. He’d taken over running the shop now that Jackal was gone. She had no idea where he’d gone, and she knew better than to ask. Being the boss suited Mooky, and, from what she could tell, he ran the shop a thousand percent better than Jackal had.

 

     Slowly, he lifted his gaze and met hers.

 

     Unlike his club brother who’d she just inked, Mooky kept his dark hair short and neatly parted with a sweep to the side. It reminded Blue of a rockabilly look—her personal favorite. His beard wasn’t long but had enough bush below his chin to matter. She could still run her fingers through it, and it would tickle in all the right places when it needed to.

 

     The thought had her sniggering internally.

 

     It smelled of patchouli and sandalwood “with a kick of peppermint.” The only reason she knew the mixture was because she’d read the tin of beard balm on his dresser one day. It’d become one of her favorite scent combinations.

     Since he’d spotted her ogling him from the doorway, she decided she might as well saunter her fabulous plus-sized ass into his office. Swiveling her hips in an exaggerated measure and wearing a sensual smile laced with intention, she stalked toward his desk.

 

     With an appreciative grin, he turned his office chair toward her. He lifted his brows before sweeping his gaze over her and ate her up with his eyes. She felt delicious. With his attention focused on her, her entire body heated in anticipation, knowing they shared the same intentions.

 

     Stopping at the edge of his desk, she ran her finger along the corner and pouted. Batting her false eyelashes, she did her best to pull off the innocent-yet-sultry look. The flare of his nostrils and the darkness in his eyes told her she’d succeeded. When he rose from his position, her stomach fluttered. Perfect.

 

     Mooky stood an even six feet. She had to look up to him, but not to the point it strained her neck. No, just enough to remind her of their height difference when she wore flats—like today. Something about that made her kitty purr.

 

     He rested his hands on her hips as his nose grazed hers. Reflexively, she closed her eyes, and her body heated from his proximity and touch. He intoxicated her by being near her. He filled her senses—overwhelming and addicting—and she never could get enough, never wanted him to stop.

 

     “You’re fucking beautiful,” he whispered before lifting her.

     Involuntarily, she squeaked as her core pulsed, responding to the gesture.

 

     He placed her so her ass rested on the desk, and she loved when he did that without a second thought. The confidence in the way he picked her up—never concerned she may be too heavy—was such a turn on. The little things like that made her heart skip a beat around him.

 

     Blue wasn’t one of those petite delicate flowers most pictured hanging around bikers. She wasn’t a size 2—more like a size 22. However, that had never stopped her from getting who she wanted.

 

     For the last eight months, she’d desired Mooky—and only him. She snaked her arms around his shoulders possessively.

     Tilting her chin upward, she offered her lips to him as he nestled himself between her now-parted legs. She’d worn a flared pleather skirt, fishnet stockings, thick socks, and Doc Marten boots. A long teal tank top peeked beneath her over-sized cropped sugar skull shirt. She looked hot.

 

     The man between her legs pressed his mouth against hers and confirmed it. He groped her ass, kicking her need for him into a higher gear. The flame of arousal roared within her as she slid her hands down over his chest, his stomach, and lower until she found his firm agreement with her outfit choice.

 

      With a quick yank, he tugged her hips closer to the edge of the desk. The action caused their kiss to break and a snicker to bubble up from within her and escape.

 

     “I never know if I should be self-conscious or not when you giggle in moments like this,” he whispered into her ear before taking her earlobe between his teeth.

 

     She groaned and arched her back. Tingles danced down her spine as his teeth grazed her lobe. The shudder of arousal rippled through her. Blue could lose herself in the way Mooky teased her. One of his hands slipped from her ass, over her hip, and under her skirt. Pushing her panties to the side, he explored her slick folds.

 

     “Hmm. I’ll go with not to worry since you’re wet already,” he said before gently biting her neck.

 

     Oh, this man was the snake in the Garden of Eden for sure. He could tempt the devil himself—she should know, since she was no saint.

 

     Another chortle came from her as she enjoyed his knowledge of her body. Again, his teeth elicited small shivers from her. When his thumb grazed her clit, she jolted with the ricochet of teasing pleasure ping-ponging through her, driving her mad with need.

 

     Her eyes rolled back into her head while her hands fumbled with his jeans. He effortlessly made her drunk off the desire for him. He could reduce her to a puddle of greedy craving with minimal effort, and she loved every minute.

 

     Fucking in his office wasn’t new for them. He’d been bending her over nightly since she started. Call it a perk of the job for both of them. She sure as fuck wasn’t complaining. This was their routine, and she was a creature of habit.

 

     Ding.

 

     They froze.

 

     What the fuck? She’d locked the door. Didn’t she?

 

     “Did you lock the door?” He verbalized her thought as he pulled his mouth from her neck but kept his unmoving fingers nestled in her pussy.

 

     “Yes.” She nodded vigorously. “I’m like ninety-eight percent sure.” Right? She had to have. She’d never forgotten before. There was a first time for everything. No. She definitely took care of it after Cajun left.

 

     Backing away, he slid his hand along her thigh and held a finger up with his other hand. “Don’t move. I’ll check.” At the office door, he paused. “When I get back, we’ll pick up where we left off,” he said after waggling his eyebrows.

 

     After he’d ducked out of the office, Blue closed her legs and shifted off the desk. She ran everything through her mind again and again. No. She definitely secured the lock behind Cajun. It had to be one of the other artists coming in—maybe they forgot something.

 

    Then again, this wasn’t exactly the safest of neighborhoods. She couldn’t forget he wasn’t a law-abiding kind of guy. That one percent diamond on his cut meant he didn’t do everything on the up-and-up.

 

     Sucking her lips into her mouth, she pressed her teeth down into them. The entrance was far too quiet to be cops raiding—she’d seen movies. When they crashed some place, they came in busting down doors and screaming.

 

     Blue pressed her ear to the door. Nope—too quiet for that.

 

     Stepping back, she nervously fussed with her skirt—anything to keep her hands busy. Bikers, outlaw bikers to boot, didn’t keep the best company. Sure, they’d stopped peddling the drugs and stuff, but they were still close to the Columbians.

     While she wasn’t privy to all of the club’s business, not that she wanted to be, she had eyes. She saw the men in the suits hanging around the clubhouse. She heard their accents. Hell, she recognized a few of them. They came to party or do business. This meant shit still went down—to what extent, she’d never know. She liked it that way.

     Ignorance was bliss. She enjoyed her plausible deniability. It made her less of a liability.

     Except now. Did shit go south somewhere? He was an enforcer for the club, that wasn’t a nicey nice position.

 

     Blue nibbled on her nails. She paced inside the office, unsure what the hell to do. Fuck. Could the Flores Family be here to start shit?