Home > All the Pretty Lies (Pretty #1)

All the Pretty Lies (Pretty #1)
Author: M. Leighton


“Ohmigod, I can’t believe you’re going through with this,” my best friend Sarah says as I pull open the glass door to the tattoo parlor.

Although I would never admit it to her, I actually get a little chill when I step over the threshold. I’ve never been into a tattoo shop before, so I don’t know what the others are like, but this one is pretty intimidating. The music is loud, the counter is black and every fixture in sight is chrome. I swallow my sudden burst of nerves and push myself forward.

It’s reassuring that this place, The Ink Stain, comes very highly recommended. And it’s easy to see why when I let my eyes run over the amazing art work that covers the walls.

Somebody’s got some talent!

“Are you sure you want to do this, Sloane? I mean, your dad will kick your ass if he finds out,” Sarah continues. When I stop suddenly to look back at her, she nearly runs into me. “Shit!” she exclaims, pulling up before we bump chests. She was busy examining the walls, too.

“Number one, Dad can’t kick my ass. As of …” I glance around the neon-lighted interior of the shop, looking for a clock. When I find one that’s in the shape of a skull with cross bones for hands, I squint to read what it says. “Seven minutes ago, I’m officially beyond the control of the thick-headed Locke men. And this is my first act of independence.”

“More like rebellion,” Sarah snorts.

“Semantics,” I say with a dismissive wave of my hand. “Either way, I’m getting this damn tattoo and nobody’s gonna stop me.”

“Are you sure it’s…safe? I mean…”

I see the concern in her eyes and I love her for it.

I give her my softest smile. “It’s fine, Sarah. Seriously.”

With one final, reassuring nod to her, I move forward to approach the shiny black counter. I ring the bell for assistance.

While we wait for someone to come to the front, I walk along the borders of the room, admiring the sketches on display. As someone with the heart of an artist, I can even better appreciate the skillful hand and eye behind the charcoal renderings.

A deep voice interrupts my study. “Can I help you?”

I turn toward it, ready to explain what it is that I want, but the words die on my tongue. Of all the works of art on the walls, none compares to the one I’m staring at now.

I see his features in separate bursts, like strobes of light striking the backs of my eyes. Angular, masculine features seem to be carved in stone—slashing brows; luminous eyes; high cheekbones; chiseled mouth. And it’s that mouth that I’m looking at when his lips curl up at the corners. I’m staring. I know it and he knows it. “See anything you like?”

My eyes fly to his. They’re dark and teasing, and I blush accordingly. “No,” I say automatically. When I see one pierced brow shoot up, I realize how my answer must’ve sounded. “I mean, I already know what I want.”

His other eyebrow rises to meet the first and I feel my cheeks burn. I have no doubt they’re the color of ripe apples by now.

“I love a woman who knows what she wants.”

My mouth drops open. No one has ever flirted with me. All the guys I’ve ever known have been terrified of my family, so I have no clue how to react to banter like this. Other than to blush, much to my dismay.


Obviously amused by my discombobulation, he chuckles. The sound is like black silk, sliding over my skin in one cool, smooth swipe.

More heat rushes to my face. I’m honestly afraid of what I must look like at the moment. I don’t know what to do other than look away, so that’s what I do. I glance down, breaking contact with his disconcerting eyes as I reach into my purse for my sketch. I take a deep breath, using the search as an excuse to regain some modicum of composure. When I locate the piece of paper I’m after, I walk wordlessly toward him and hand him the folded square.

He takes it from me, his eyes touching mine for a fraction of a second before he turns his attention to the paper. I watch as he unfolds it then studies it for a heartbeat before he notices that it’s upside down. After he rights it, he pulls it in for closer examination.

The overhead light shines down on his face, hiding much of his expression. His long, thick lashes cast a shadow over his eyes and his brow is puckered in concentration. I wait patiently for him to finish.

With a single nod of his head, he glances back up, his eyes clicking to a stop on mine. From across the room, I couldn’t see what color they were, only that they were dark and compelling. But now I can see them clearly. They are the deepest blue I’ve ever seen. They pierce me like steel and leave me as breathless as midnight.

“This is good. Who drew it?”

My heart swells and flutters around inside my rib cage. “I did.”

For an instant, I see appreciation flit over his face, but it disappears quickly as he fires off more questions. “Is this to scale? And are these the colors you’d like used?” he asks as he turns to walk back toward the shiny countertop. “I’m Hemi by the way.”


What an odd name. “Hemi? Isn’t that something on an engine?” I blurt.

When he glances back at me, I get the impression that he’s amused again. “Something like that.”

Hemi. Like a big engine. I can see that. He seems fast. And powerful.

“I’m Sloane. And yes, the sketch is to scale and in the colors I’d like used.”

Hemi nods again as he steps behind the counter, reaching beneath it for some papers. “And where did you want it?”

I don’t know why I feel like blushing again, but I do. “Ummm, I’d like to have the half-open oyster shell on my right hip, toward the back and have the butterflies coming out of it and flying up my side. Sort of around toward the front.”

He’s still nodding, but now frowning as well. “Hmmm,” he murmurs. “Let’s get these forms filled out and then I’ll take you back and have a look. I’m not working on anybody else right now.”


Hemi explains to me what I’m signing—waiver, release and consent to tattoo. It’s their way of saying, Hey, if we screw up, you’re screwed! You’re eighteen or over and have given us permission to permanently mark your body. If you don’t like it, tough shit. Thanks and have a nice day. But still, I don’t hesitate to sign them. I know what I’m doing. I experienced a little chill when I first walked in, but now, after meeting Hemi, I feel like I’m in good hands. Warm, capable hands.

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