All In (Full Tilt Book 2)(5)By: Emma Scott
“Thank you, dear. You take such good care of me.”
“I gotta go, Ma. I’ll see you in a few.”
“Wonderful, dear. And Theo?”
“If Kacey calls, tell her I’m not angry with her. Tell her… Tell her I’d just like to know she’s okay.”
I hung up and stared at the screen a long time, willing it to ring again, to light up with Kacey’s number so I could hear her voice. I only wanted what my mother wanted: to know Kacey was okay.
Vegas Ink was busy that day. Our small waiting area had two chicks poring over a three-ringed binder of art, and another guy leaning against the wall. It was Edgar’s day to pick music, so the buzz of tattoo machines was barely audible under pounding death metal music.
Vivian, our receptionist, gave me an arch look as I rushed in.
“Sorry, Viv,” I said, checking over her book for the day’s appointments. “Don’t tell Gus.”
“I never do, but he’s heard the complaints, honey.”
I shrugged. Nothing I could do about it. My mother, although perfectly capable of doing things on her own, had retreated into herself. Like a kid who’d been burned, she hardly stuck her hand out anymore. And Dad had thrown himself back into work as if he were a first-time city councilman instead of a thirty-year incumbent on the verge of retirement.
Someone had to take care of my mom. But sometimes, like today, I knew I had too many balls in the air. My arms were getting tired and sooner or later I was going to start dropping them. Gus, the owner of Vegas Ink, firing me for being late all the time would be the first to smash to the floor.
“These two are waiting for you.” Vivian nodded her completely shaved head in the direction of the two young women. The expression on her heavily-pierced face was knowing. “New clients. Both asked for you, personal.”
I shrugged. “Referral.”
“Mmhm.” Viv raked her eyes up and down my black t-shirt and jeans. “Word must’ve gotten out about your impressive body…of work.”
I rolled my eyes as I closed the appointment ledger. I was booked straight through to six o’clock.
“Oh come on, it was a little funny,” Viv said, leaning over the desk, toying with a pen in her ringed fingers. Tattoos covered every inch of skin up to her neck and creeped up the back of her skull. She gave one of my biceps a squeeze. “And true. Someone’s been hitting the gym harder than usual. I’m not the only one who’s noticed.”
Viv rubbed her chin on her shoulder, putting her gaze in line with one of the shop’s other artists, Zelda Rossi. The small woman was bent over a client, tattoo gun in hand. Long black hair fell like a curtain to shield her face. She raised her head as she wiped the blood welling up from her client’s shoulder blade. Her large, green eyes—rimmed in black—met mine. A smile started to break over her face. She caught it under her teeth, stuck her tongue out, and went back to work.
Viv smirked. “Must be so tough to have so many women throwing themselves at you.”
“Can’t complain,” I said with a smug grin. “Give me a minute then send my first appointment in.”
“Sure thing, babydoll.”
Vegas Ink was a small, cramped hole-in-the-wall. The bright red paint and black-and-white checkered floor only made it feel smaller. My place would be different. Darker colors, older furniture and art on the walls from funky, fringe artists like Edward Gorey and Ann Harper. A living room in a haunted house.
Jonah gave me the money to open a shop, and I was taking business classes to make sure I didn’t fuck it up. Even so, the thought of actually pulling the trigger and buying a place made me sick to my stomach. If I failed, I’d have nothing left of Jonah. He sold his glass so I could have my dream, but what if it went under? What if no one showed up? I’d already lost Kacey. One broken promise. I couldn’t take another fucking failure.
Edgar, a huge, hulking guy with a Tool concert shirt stretched over his bulk, looked up from his client and gave me a nod. “Hey, T. What’s shakin’, man?”