Beneath These Shadows (Beneath #6)(4) read online by Meghan March
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Beneath These Shadows (Beneath #6)(4)
Author: Meghan March

With my suitcase trailing me, I tried to see what was happening in the street, but at five foot six, I didn’t have a height advantage on many. All I could see was the back of people’s heads as I reached the crowd.

“I see a better spot across the street. Wanna go?” a girl dressed in a neon-green bikini top, tiny black shorts, and fishnet tights yelled to her friend who was similarly dressed. The other girl nodded, and I made a snap decision to follow them as they pushed through the mass of people. Nothing was going to stop me from seeing this parade.

Avoiding elbows and shouts, I plowed through, lifted my suitcase, and ran across the street.

My first clear view of the street showed the parade still a good hundred yards away. I dodged the people gathered on neutral ground and crossed the next lanes without incident. The crowd swallowed me up on the other side, and a shaft of claustrophobia speared through me when I realized I couldn’t see over them either.

“Show us your tits!” The raucous calls came from every direction, and beads were tossed through the air like confetti.

The Must Do list also mentioned catching beads on Bourbon Street (without showing my boobs), but before I could decide whether catching beads on Canal Street was a suitable substitute, a body crashed into me, catching me off guard. I lurched sideways, tripping over a woman wearing a pair of snakeskin boots that stretched up to her thighs.

“Whoa, watch it!”

I started to apologize, but her elbow flew out and caught me in the ribs, and sent me stumbling further.

Holding on to my suitcase with a death grip, I reached out to catch my fall with my other hand, but my palm connected with something fleshy. My gaze zeroed in on my fingers, and I yanked my hand away.

Oh my God, you cannot be serious.

A penis, painted gold. Connected to a man who was completely naked but for the gold, purple, and green glittery stripes covering his soft body.

“I gotcha, darlin’.” Slurred words accompanied the hands that gripped my arms and pulled me upright.

The naked painted man is touching me. E

Why couldn’t he at least be hot? Seriously, would that be so much to ask?

Abort mission. Abort.

Holding on to my suitcase, I barreled through the crowd and didn’t slow until I reached a break in the chaos at the mouth of an alley, once again behind the crowd blocking the oncoming parade. Crap. Focused on finding another place to stand that would give me a view, I didn’t see the man who reached out and grabbed the back of my pink-and-white polo shirt.

“Hey! You don’t have any beads.” He jerked me around before a huge guy wearing a leather vest with nothing under it yanked me toward his hairy chest.

“I can fix that for her,” the man in a similar vest said from beside him.

“I’m not interested in any beads. I’ll thank you to take your hands off me now.” I twisted, trying to get out of his hold, but the other man grabbed my arm as beer splashed between us, splattering my shirt.

“Hey, you need a place to stay, girl? I got room for you in my bed.” Hairy Chest released me to grab his crotch.

I reared back, latching onto my suitcase as the other guy lunged toward me. I opened my mouth to scream, but a deep voice ripped through the crowd behind me.

“You’re late for your appointment. I don’t like to wait.”

Both men’s attention broke away from me as they turned in the direction of the voice.

What the hell? Appointment?

The voice came closer. “I haven’t killed anyone in a long fucking time, but I’m happy to change that if you don’t get your hands off her.”

Immediately, both men released me, and apprehension crawled up my spine.

“Sorry, man. Thought she was someone else.”

“Fuck off. If I see you assholes around here again, they’ll find you floating facedown in the Mississippi.” Heat met my back, and the voice rumbled low in my ear. “Come on, cupcake, let’s go.”

My gaze landed on the two men who were now raising their hands and backing away, tripping over themselves, actually.

I didn’t want to turn around. If they were afraid of the voice behind me, how much scarier did the body it belonged to have to be?

Then again, he’d run off two guys on the pretense of some appointment. What was that about? The wall of heat dissipated behind me, and I found the courage to turn around.

The blue-and-red neon lights of the sign attached to the marble building on my right read VOODOO INK.

A tattoo shop?

Immediately, my attention caught on the back of the man striding toward the door.

A tattoo appointment?

People stepped out of my unlikely rescuer’s way as though he were a force of nature unto himself.

His brown-and-gold-streaked hair was twisted up in a knot at the back of his head, and broad shoulders stretched the back of a black T-shirt with the same logo on the back. Ink covered every inch of his visible skin.

He was a man-bunned, tattooed giant.

A man-bunned, tattooed giant who had saved me from being assaulted by drunk, grabby men.

The space he’d left on the sidewalk filled with people, threatening to swallow me up again, and I made my decision based on nothing more than a shred of instinct.

I followed him.

 

 

THIS IS A BAD IDEA. NO, not a bad idea, a terrible idea.

Misgivings of every shape, size, and volume buzzed to life inside me as my hand landed on the doorknob. I didn’t have a tattoo, and more than that, I’d never even thought about getting one. Girls like me, the kind who watched the world from the outside looking in, didn’t go to places like this.

Before I could decide whether to twist the knob or walk away, the door flew open and I jerked back. A brunette stormed out, wearing only ripped jean shorts and a push-up bra with enough padding to turn her boobs into cannons.

“What an ass. Who turns this down?” She wasn’t talking to me, at least not until she almost collided with me. “Good luck with that prick. Maybe he goes for the good-girl vibe you got going on. His loss.”

My gaze lifted over her shoulder to see the back of the man-bunned giant inside the shop, and no one else.

I didn’t bother to reply that I wasn’t trying to get him to touch me because she was already melding into the crowd that I was trying to escape.

But she did make my decision easier. The chime jangled as I slipped through the open front door and shut it behind me. The giant didn’t turn around for several long seconds.

One look at his face, his arms, his hands, his . . . everything, and I knew I should walk right back out that door.

If there could be a universal picture of dangerous as hell embodied in the male form, the man-bunned giant would be it. Muscles rippled beneath the black T-shirt as he lifted a hand to his beard-covered face.

The world had apparently decided to throw me a bone. He was gorgeous, and I hadn’t accidentally grabbed his penis. Go, me. I could definitely see why she was pissed he wouldn’t touch her.

Unfortunately, the world had bestowed all that . . . man . . . on me. Also known as someone who needed to start at the beginner level, not the more man than you could ever handle in three lives level.

I’d had two crushes in my life, and one of them didn’t count. Gianni was replaced as my security when he “accidentally” grabbed my ass as he helped me out of the car, and Angelo had seen him and reported the incident to my father. It was the closest any guy had gotten to third base, and I’d gotten a cheap thrill. Unfortunately, that thrill had been killed when it had come out he’d stolen some of my panties. Ick.

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