Home > Beneath These Shadows (Beneath #6)(5)

Beneath These Shadows (Beneath #6)(5)
Author: Meghan March

Before Gianni, there was my aunt’s yard guy, Marcello. For three years, he’d trimmed and mowed and edged while I drooled from the window. Compared to this guy, Marcello was a gangly child, and my lady parts were sending out an SOS from disuse.

My brain snapped back into the present as my rescuer’s green eyes, almost emerald, scanned me from the soles of my Sperrys to the top of my blond head.

“Where the hell were you headed? The country club?” His voice seemed even deeper and louder in the confines of the black-walled tattoo shop.

“I wouldn’t wear jeans to a country club.” My response was instinctive, yet ridiculous. It wasn’t like I’d spent much time at the club, but even I knew they wouldn’t let you in wearing jeans.

His lips quirked as if he might smile, but they smoothed back into a lush line.

Lush? Wow, Eden. Simmer down.

Why had I thought following him in here was even a fraction of a good idea? Scratch the fact that my body thought he was the most delicious thing it had seen since that piece of triple-chocolate Almond Joy cheesecake Angelo had brought me last week when he picked me up from work. Apparently my body was waiting for the notification from my brain that this guy was beyond out of my league.

“I can just go.” I made a lame gesture toward the door. Getting a tattoo in New Orleans wasn’t on my Must Do list, anyway.

His expressive mouth turned downward. “You go back out there and you’re gonna get more of the same. You look exactly like the fucking tourist you are carrying that bag around. Makes you a target, if you haven’t figured that out yet. Why the hell didn’t you leave it somewhere?”

“Because the hotel didn’t have a room for me, and told me no one else would either. I didn’t exactly plan this.”

“Which hotel?”

“The Roosevelt.”

He didn’t roll his eyes, but it was a close call. Maybe he was staring up to the ceiling for divine guidance?

“You just showed up there thinking you could get a room a few days before Mardi Gras without a reservation? You fucking serious?”

I bristled at his tone. I was so freaking sick and tired of being scolded like I was a child.

“Hey—” I started, having no clue what I was going to say, but I was going to say something, dammit, and it was going to be good. But the giant interrupted me.

“Did you have a plan? Walk all over town looking for a hotel? Probably get fucking mugged, if not raped, in some dark alley too?”

The brunette who had stormed out of the shop had been right. He was a prick, even if he was the most beautiful man I’d ever seen.

I propped a hand on my hip and injected confidence into my voice. “I’ll find something. Not every hotel can be booked.”

He shook his head. “Any hotel room within ten miles is booked. Even the ones that rent by the hour.”

My very first chance to venture outside the insulated world mandated by Dom Casso, and I manage to pick the one city with no vacancies. How is this fair? Maybe I am just a liability. The negativity welled up, but I shoved it down. I would not fail at this.

Straightening my spine, I gripped the handle of my suitcase tighter. “Then I guess I better start looking somewhere else.”

He pointed to one of the chairs lining the wall beside me. “Sit. Don’t go anywhere. I have an idea.”

I dropped into a seat at the authoritative command and froze as he turned his back to me.

How long had I been blindly following orders? And from some random stranger, at that? My judgment was clearly faulty.

I started to stand, but an inconvenient thread of curiosity kept my butt in the chair. If he had an idea, maybe I should stay. What other choice did I have right now? Run back outside and fight my way to a taxi to take me and have it take me to the airport Holiday Inn? That would be giving up my one shot at this adventure, and I wasn’t ready to admit defeat.

Besides, even if he was a jerk, his first instinct had been to protect me. That said something, right?

I stayed seated while he pulled out his phone and tapped something on the screen. When he was done, he leaned back on the counter and shook his head.

“You’ve got no business wandering around this city alone, and I don’t have time to be your keeper.”

Before I could retort that I didn’t need a keeper, the door chimed, and I jerked my head around to see a blue-and-black-haired woman in a retro neon-green leopard print dress, complete with black petticoat fluffing out the skirt, strut inside.

“Working during Mardi Gras season sucks.” She held up a brown paper bag in one hand and a drink carrier in the other. “But I got the food. And coffee. So hopefully we can get through tonight and worry about tomorrow, tomorrow.”

Her gaze landed on me as she lowered the bags and drink carrier onto the counter. “Well, well. Don’t you look like a little lost lamb? You here for some ink, sugar?”

The man-bunned giant let out some kind of half laugh, half scoff. “She look like she’s here for ink?”

“Guess that means she doesn’t fall into your hands-off rule then, Bish.”

What did that mean?

The dark glower that took over Bish’s face had me poised on the edge of my seat to run. Man-bun plus beard plus all those tattoos plus angry scowl finally tipped the scale from dangerously gorgeous to just flat-out dangerous.

“I think I should get out of your way.”

The woman cocked her head to the side, and her inspection sealed my decision to take my chances on the street. I’d be fine. Probably.

I shoved out of the chair but only made it a few steps toward the door with my bag in tow before long fingers wrapped around my wrist. Fight-or-flight instincts burst to life as I turned with my hand balled into a fist.

“If you actually knew how to throw a punch, you wouldn’t tuck your thumb under your fingers.” He dropped his hold on my wrist to pry my thumb out of my fist. “Otherwise, you’re liable to break it.”

I tucked the knowledge away in case hand-to-hand combat came up in the near future. His scowl had lessened, but I didn’t like the patronizing expression.

“You shouldn’t just grab people,” I said, tugging to release my hand from his grip, but Bish held fast.

“If you hadn’t jumped out of your chair so damn fast, I would’ve told you I’m trying to get you a place to stay.”

I looked from him to the woman who watched us like a zoo exhibit. Her black eyebrows rose so high, they disappeared behind her blunt-cut Bettie Page bangs.

“You’re . . . you’re trying to find me a room?”

“During Mardi Gras?” the woman interjected. “Damn, Bish. If I didn’t know you better, I’d think she already blew you in the back to get that kind of help.”

I stiffened at her insinuation. I wasn’t the kind of girl to . . . blow a guy in a tattoo parlor. Although now that she’d put the idea in my head, I couldn’t keep my gaze from dropping to the level of his belt buckle.

Whoa. There’s a bulge.

“Shut it down, Delilah.”

I jerked my head up to look at both of them, hoping no one had caught where I was staring.

The woman, Delilah, smirked rather than replying, and heat burned up my cheeks. She’d definitely caught me. The wink she threw me sealed it.

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