Home > Pricked(13)

Author: Winter Renshaw

“Yep!” She gives me a hug and I leave, making damn sure I don’t knock my head against the door on my way out this time.

By the time I get to my car, I’m running on sheer adrenaline while simultaneously floating on a breeze. I resist the urge to glance back at Madd Inkk as I drive past, on the off chance that he’s watching from the window—not that he would. I highly doubt I’m remotely close to his type.

I tried my hardest to keep my cool in there, but you never can tell what other people are going to pick up on.

For all I know, the fact that just standing in front of him was getting me all hot and bothered might as well have been broadcasting across my forehead in big, bold letters.

Taking a deep breath, I grip the steering wheel and continue home … with a giant smile on my face … because I’m sure I’ll be seeing a lot more of him after this.



“You know child labor is illegal in this country.” Devanie spins in a swivel stool in my back room. Since she insisted on having her mentor drop her off at the shop and not at the club, I’ve decided to put her to work restocking bandages, grommets, and grips, and organizing the new shipment of ink bottles by color. “That’s so crazy that you know Brighton.”

“I don’t know her, Dev,” I say. “She came in here once.”

Twice actually. If I count her banging on my shop door at the crack of dawn because she left her ID here.

“Really? Because the way she was looking at you ...” Devanie doesn’t finish her thought. “I’m getting dizzy.”

“Then stop spinning and get back to work.”

“Not unless you agree to pay me.”

“Your cell phone is payment enough, don’t you think?” I unbox a package of needle cartridges. We can never have enough black on hand. This is actually Missy’s job, but she called in sick today. Sounded like ass. Hardly recognized her over the phone. She offered to come in, but I told her not to bring that shit into my shop.

Dev stops spinning and places her hands out to brace herself between a nearby table and a storage shelf.

“What’d you two do today?” I ask.

“We got frozen yogurt,” she says. “Talked about stuff.”

“Oh, yeah? What kind of stuff?”

“Friends. Schools. Boys,” she says. “She told me about her boyfriend.”

A flash of heat rushes through me, though I don’t know why. Of course she has a boyfriend. I’m sure he’s some pencil-dicked Ivy Leaguer with connections up the ass. I’ve got no business being jealous. Can’t compete with that, nor would I want to.

“Ex-boyfriend,” Devanie says. “She dumped him last month.”

The heat beneath my flesh settles to a tepid warmth. “Oh, yeah? How come?”

“She said they wanted different things in life.” She spins to face me. “I knew you were going to ask me that.”

“No, you didn’t.”

“Psh.” She bats her hand. “Don’t act like you weren’t checking her out. You were both staring at each other like … whoa.”

“What does that even mean?” I slice through packing tape with a box cutter.

“You think she’s hot,” Dev says.

“She’s a very attractive woman, yes,” I say.

“I’m going to ask her what she thinks of you on Thursday.”

My stare flicks to her. “No, you’re not.”

She fights a smile. “Why not? What if she feels the same?”

“It wouldn’t matter. I don’t date,” I say. “And if I did, I sure as hell wouldn’t date someone like her.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

My mouth opens before I speak. I need to word this in a way that my twelve-year-old sister can comprehend, a way that doesn’t completely crush her spirit and her naive view of reality.

“She’s not my type,” I say, opting to leave it at that. “And I'm not her type.”

“You don't know you’re not her type.”

“Yeah, no. I’m pretty sure on that one, Dev.” I slice another box open and stack it next to the others. “Here you go. Sooner you get these done, sooner I can take you home.” I glance at my watch, realizing the time got away from me. “Actually, I’ve got someone coming in in fifteen minutes. Take your time. You’re going to be here at least another couple of hours.”

Devanie shoots me a look and grabs a box of cartridges, but she doesn’t say a word. I think secretly she likes being here with me. And she likes having responsibilities.

I read an article in some doctor's office magazine once about how teenagers secretly like discipline and responsibility because it represents the fact that someone cares about them.

Pierce pops his head behind the curtain. “Uh, boss. Your appointment’s here.”

“’K. I’ll be up a sec,” I say.

“Um. The, uh, name on the books doesn’t match up though,” he adds.

“What do you mean?”

“It says Ron.” His eyes shift and he pulls the curtain a little wider. “But it’s, uh, Veronica.”

Devanie rises from her chair, attempting to steal a look, but I place a hand on her shoulder and stop her. I don’t need my kid sister getting involved in any of this.

“You tell her to leave?” I ask.

“I can,” he says, forehead lined. “I wasn’t sure what you wanted me to do. Thought maybe you two were patching things up?”

Pinching the bridge of my nose, I gather every ounce of calmness I can muster and push past Pierce. Marching to the front of the shop, I find Veronica paging aimlessly through one of the design books.

“The hell are you doing here?” I ask, thankful the place isn’t too packed. She’s lucky it’s the middle of the afternoon, though I don’t think she’d have the balls to show up here on a busy Friday night.

“I … I wanted to talk,” she says, rising. Her dark hair is cut shorter than it was last time, stopping at her jawline, but she’s still wearing that tired cat eye and bold red lip—her “signature” look as she always said. I always thought it was too much for her. Too much makeup. Too much drama. In the end though, it suited her perfectly.

“I’ve got nothing to say to you.”

“I know.” Her mouth quavers and her hand is outstretched. “I just … I was hoping we could sit down and—”

“It’s been three years, and now you want to sit down and talk?” I laugh at her audacity. “Little late for that. Not that I’d ever entertain the idea of talking to you about anything.”

Her green eyes glass over and she looks away, arms hugging her sides.

Poor thing.

The last time I saw her, she was on her knees, blowing one of my piercers (whom I wasted no time firing). The image of smeared red lipstick around her mouth and his short, chubby cock thrusting between her lips is one I’d pay good money to forget if I could.

But alas. It’s there forever. Ingrained. Etched. Burned for all eternity.

Veronica’s the only woman I’ve ever dated in the traditional sense. And at one point in time, I was almost certain I was beginning to fall in love with her. I say almost certain because honestly, I wouldn’t know what love was if it smacked me over the head with a two by four. I only have ideas, notions.

“Get the hell out of here,” I tell her as I walk to the door and hold it open for her. “And don’t you ever darken my doorstep again.”

She leaves in tears.

I do that to people. Make them cry. Tell them things they don’t want to hear. Hurt their feelings. Break their hearts. But this one’s all on her.



Friday night at the Iron Castle is so quiet my footsteps echo in the hall.

All the staff left hours ago, shortly after dinner cleanup. I pass the living room, where my mother is drinking a glass of chardonnay, lost in a book, her mother of pearl reading glasses perched on her aquiline nose. She’s so engrossed she doesn’t so much as look up, so I keep going until I pass my father’s study, where the light from his laptop glows blue against the strong lines of his face.

I make my way to the kitchen for a glass of water and then head back to my room, passing the stairs to the basement on the way. Eben and Laurel are staying the night tonight and last I knew, they were downstairs in the theater watching Bird Box and “canoodling” as my mother would say.

The smallest hint of their laughter trails up the stairs—I’m guessing they’re not paying that much attention to the movie.

When I get upstairs to my room, I find a text message notification on my phone. All of my friends from college are scattered across the country with their respective families for the summer, but I know some of my friends from high school are now home from college, and a few of them have already contacted me about meeting up again.

Only this text isn’t from any of my old friends.

It’s from Devanie.

DEVANIE: so sorry 2 bother u but am at a party and need some1 2 come get me asap! madden will kill me if i ask him. :(

ME: What’s the address? I’ll be there as soon as I can.

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