Are you a book reviewer?
The Red Barron wasn’t the kind of place Roman Bishop ever would have expected to see an angel. This place was a dive in the truest sense of the word, with hard music, cheap beer, and dark corners. Damn—he wanted to see her light up one of those corners.
Swathed in a soft pink dress and white fuck-me heels, she had him entranced. She moved the curtain of her dark hair, exposing the graceful curve of her shoulder, a creamy canvas that made his hand tingle with the phantom buzz of his tattoo gun. It would be a fucking honor to mark her. The glow of that lovely skin had drawn him away from his friends like a moth to her flame. Hell—he had never seen a woman like her and he was no virgin schoolboy fumbling in the dark.
“You’re too classy for a dive like this, beautiful.” He slid into the vacant seat beside her even as he cringed inwardly at his own cheesy pickup line. “Are you lost?”
She turned clear absinthe green eyes his direction and his breath caught.
Her full lips teased a soft smile. “Just waiting for my date. He’s late.”
Roman’s heart sank. Of course, a girl that gorgeous wouldn’t be alone. “Can I at least keep you company? I’ll buy you a drink and keep the riffraff in this joint at bay.”
Great, now he sounded like a desperate ass. If she minded, she didn’t show it. If anything, her smile grew and she turned more fully his direction.
They chatted for ten minutes. Every word confirmed her as both witty and intelligent, proving she was more than just perfumed eye candy. He almost wished that’s all she would have been. If her mind had been inferior to the package on the outside, he could have enjoyed the view and forgotten her, but now… He cut the thought off as the shadow of her date loomed over them—literally.
“Am I interrupting something?” Her date looked like a yuppie, complete with chinos and a striped polo. Why the hell would a guy like that have her wait here?
She glanced at the dainty gold watch on her wrist. “Waiting for you. You’re thirty minutes late.”
Yuppie-boy held out his hand for her with a cocky smirk that Roman’s fingers itched to bitch-slap off his face. “Don’t worry, doll. I’ll make it up to you.”
“We’ll see about that.” Her smile turned sugar sweet as she slid out of the barstool. She did not take his hand, instead brushing past him towards the exit. “Are you coming?”
Leaning towards Roman, while eyeing her admittedly fine ass, her date whispered as if they’d been frat brothers or some shit. “She’s sassy and demanding but totally worth the ride.”
The sleazebag—he’d been downgraded—hurried to catch up to her and hold the door. She looked back at Roman and her smile warmed. It hadn’t met her eyes when she smiled at her date. She’d given that gift to Roman, and he didn’t even know her name.
Roman’s pencil tip dug into the front desk. His mind forced back from the memory he’d been drifting in as Declan Stone, his best friend and fellow artist, yanked the sketchpad away. Roman made an ineffectual grab for the spiral bound paper.
“What the hell, man?”
Declan leaned back in his chair, holding the artwork just out of reach. “Just checking out what you’re doin’.” He tossed the book down in front of Roman and pointed at the pinup girl meticulously drawn from memory on the page. “You’ve been spaced out since that chick last night.”
“Yeah, so what?”
“So forget about it. She left with somebody else.”
His friend was right. She did leave, but something about that look on her face as she had—as if she resigned herself to it but really wasn’t interested. A woman like her could have anyone, which left him wondering why she’d gone, instead of telling the douche canoe to fuck off. Ultimately, it wasn’t his place to get involved. In the rare down time he had between clients, he had better things to do than moon over the one who got away—like keeping the doors to their shop open.
Ink Spinners Tattoo & Gallery had been a dream and a labor of love for both Roman and Declan—one whose timetable moved up thanks to Roman’s ex. The old brick building was one of the last the NewBo District had saved. They closed on the purchase just one week before the wrecking ball and saved it from becoming a new urban development made to look vintage. Thanks to the local historical society, they got it for a song and spent the better part of the year renovating it. Now the shop looked as if a steampunk barbershop and a Victorian apothecary had a baby. For a couple of black sheep local boys, they were doing all right.
Roman dragged his hand over the rough stubble of his jaw. “You’re right. Not like I could find her if I wanted to.”
“Funny you should say that.” A cocky grin split Declan’s face just as the bell over the door rang.
Roman turned, smile at the ready as the girl in question sauntered through the door. “Damn.”
Her steps faltered at his whispered oath, but he couldn’t help himself. Ten seconds ago, he had no hope of ever seeing her again, let alone in his shop. Good girls like her don’t have ink. Everything about her whispered that he was right, especially the way she dressed today; a blush pink blazer, layered over a white t-shirt that she tucked into a pink and black rose patterned pencil skirt. She had tamed the dark curls he remembered from last night into a bun, and oversized pearl earrings hung from earlobes that he already visualized sucking on.
“You’re Ann’s step-brother?” Her voice held the same breathless wonder that he uttered his own curse in seconds before. When she continued, her tone was brighter, with crisp efficiency. “I’m here about the job. Ann Kennedy referred me.”
The attitude switch about gave him whiplash.
She held out her hand and as he stood to take it, her soft, slender fingers seemed swallowed up by his darker, tattooed mitt. “Roman Bishop and this is my business partner, Declan Stone, you are…”
“Oh yeah, I’m Gigi Duval.” She stared up into his eyes, leaving her hand in his for longer than necessary before she seemed to notice and pull back.