Home > Beneath These Shadows (Beneath #6)(3)

Beneath These Shadows (Beneath #6)(3)
Author: Meghan March

I reached out again, grabbing the lists for both New Orleans and Nashville off the bulletin board.

Spinning on my heel, I ran for my bedroom and stuffed my carry-on with all the clothes I could possibly make fit before exchanging my ID, phone, and credit card for five thousand dollars in cash from the safe bolted into the back of my closet. I stripped out of my trench coat, skirt, blouse, and pantyhose, and tugged on jeans, a polo shirt, and a lighter jacket.

When I wheeled the bag into the living room, Angelo was staring at his watch.

“You ready?”

Ready to leave the tower and experience life without a bodyguard dogging my every step?

“Yes. I’m ready.”

When we pulled up to the curb at JFK, I gave Angelo a quick hug and a kiss on the cheek.

“Take care, big guy.”

“Be safe, Eden. If you need anything—”

He cut off his offer because he knew I couldn’t call him.

“Thank you for everything.”

When I got to the ticket counter, I pulled my new ID and credit card from my wallet. When I laid them on the counter, I got my first look at my new name. Elisha Madden.

“I need a ticket on the next flight to New Orleans. One way.”

 

 

WIPING BLOOD AND INK FROM the smooth, pale skin beneath my tattoo machine should have been calming, but today, the fine lines of the butterfly mocked me. I wanted this tat over and done with. I should have made Delilah take the girl, but we were taking turns on the flash work that got so much action during Mardi Gras season.

The girl, whose name I couldn’t remember, kept glancing up at me from beneath her fake lashes in a way that was probably supposed to be sexy, but didn’t stir my interest in the least. I’d had enough party-girl pussy thrown at me in the last week to put me off the species completely. If it wasn’t a challenge, then what the fuck was the point?

“How much longer do you think? I can’t wait to get back out and grab a drink.”

Even her voice annoyed me. Too breathy and high pitched.

“Ten minutes,” I said, trying not to breathe in the cloud of vanilla perfume wafting off her in clouds.

“Is it cool that I’m going to go back to party after it’s done? I’ve never had a tattoo before, so I don’t know the rules.”

I lifted the needle away from her skin as she shifted for the fiftieth time in half an hour. “You can do whatever you want. Care sheets are on the counter out front if you want to do it right.”

Her lips twisted into a pout at my answer, but it didn’t deter her for long.

“You wanna come?” Her glitter-slicked lashes batted again as she twisted around to face me. “My friends and I would show you a real good time.”

“You quit moving and we’ll be done a lot quicker.”

She returned to the position I’d asked her to take with a huff.

What in the hell would make this girl think I was remotely interested in joining them? I’d done nothing but shut her down over and over when she tried to start a conversation. Customer service at its finest, right? My boss would probably kick my ass, but then again . . . maybe not. He had as little patience for this shit as I did.

“Just think about it.” She didn’t move this time, but the plea came through loud and clear.

“Got plans.”

My short answer finally did the trick. She let me finish my work in silence, and the minute I taped the clear plastic over the tat and snapped my gloves off, I stood.

“You can settle up with Delilah.”

I had to get the fuck out of the room before her heavy perfume suffocated me, so I strode out into the main area of the shop. My sister’s laughter followed me as I headed straight for the front door and fresh air.

“Can’t get any peace, can you, Bish?” Delilah tapped a pencil against her sketch pad as she grinned at me.

It was her running joke that four out of five female clients would hit on me, and the fifth would hit on her. I wouldn’t have been surprised if she actually kept track of it. But she was the only family I had, and I loved the shit out of her.

“Don’t go too far, hot stuff. I’m heading out to pick up our food in a few.”

I flipped her off and ducked outside to suck in a lungful of fresh air. Well, as close as I was going to get in this town. Pockets of smokers congregated among the crowd, clouds wafting away from them, but the urge to light up didn’t hit. Damn, maybe I’ve actually outgrown that shit.

I leaned against the window and cracked my neck on both sides as I watched the crush of people waiting for the parade to turn down Canal Street. I didn’t know or care which parade this was; I only cared that I was out of the shop and the next piece of flash that someone wanted inked on their body was Delilah’s problem.

It made me wish my boss didn’t have a policy about blocking off time that appointments could otherwise have filled during these three weeks of the year. So instead of challenging artistic pieces, I had tourists wanting shamrocks on their asses and names on their arms.

I scanned the crowd, trying to pick out the next one who’d walk through the door. I didn’t actually care who it would be. I only wanted the distraction.

But I had no idea how big of a distraction I was about to find.

 

 

I’D PICKED THE ROOSEVELT BECAUSE I figured I couldn’t go wrong with a Waldorf hotel, even though I’d never actually stayed at one. When the cabbie dropped me off, excitement warred with anxiety as I climbed out of the cab. Sucking in a deep breath as the bellman opened the door, I walked into the lobby covered with gold gilt and intricate tile work.

I can do this, I told myself.

But apparently I couldn’t. At least, not here.

After I waited ten minutes in line, the front-desk clerk stared at me like I was an idiot when I asked for a room and informed him I didn’t have a reservation.

“We don’t have any vacancies. I’m sorry, ma’am, you’re unlikely to find anything close to the French Quarter with Mardi Gras coming up next week.” His words, in that condescending tone, seemed to carry an extra punch to crush the excitement I’d been feeling.

Mardi Gras. How could I have forgotten?

“Do you have any suggestions where else I could try?” I asked, trying to keep a positive attitude.

The front-desk clerk was already looking over my shoulder and waving the next person forward. “I’m sorry, I really have no idea. Maybe someplace out near the airport?”

Dismissed.

I forced a smile and thanked him as I dragged my suitcase across the lobby. When I’d pictured all the traveling I would do while tacking things to my bulletin board, it had never occurred to me that I wouldn’t be able to find something so simple as a hotel room.

Making my way through the brass-framed doors, I stepped out onto a sidewalk that swarmed with people. Screams and cheers came from half a block away, and it seemed like that was the direction everyone was heading. CANAL STREET, the sign in the distance read. I heard the music next, and my frustration at the hotel clerk’s lack of assistance faded away when I realized I was going to see my first Mardi Gras parade.

A wide smile tugged at the corners of my mouth. For the first time in my life, I’d be able to check something off one of my Must Do lists. This was living.

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