All In (Full Tilt Book 2)(6)By: Emma Scott
“Same old, same old,” I said, preparing my gun and rags from the second drawer in the armoire. When my first client told me what she wanted, I’d set up the ink and choose the needles.
“You want to hang tonight? Me and some friends are going to see Killroy at the Pony Club.”
I flinched, covered it up with a cough. “Nah, I’m busy.”
“Hot date?” Edgar wagged his brow at me as his client used a hand mirror to inspect the new dragon curling around his calf.
“Yep,” I said. Out the corner of my eye, I saw Zelda glance my way, then bend over her work again.
Edgar chuckled. “Don’t tell me. It’s the redhead you had in here last week. Rose and dagger, right ankle?”
Edgar let out a whoop. “You’re a whore, Fletcher. Don’t ever change.”
The two women from the waiting area approached my station. The blonde took a seat in the chair, her friend beside her to hold her hand. They were both hot, both flirted with me as if their lives depended on it. I did my best to reciprocate because Edgar was watching.
Twenty minutes later, the blonde got up from my chair with Stay true to yourself delicately scrawled across the inside of her wrist. She and her friend invited me to a party.
“Yeah, maybe I’ll stop by,” I said, and waited with mounting irritation as they giggled and insisted I get out my phone to take down their number and address. I pretended to punch the girl’s number into a new contact with my thumb, then slipped my phone back into the back pocket of my jeans.
“Hope you can make it,” the blonde tossed over her shoulder as the two left.
When they were gone, Edgar laughed and shook his head. “I thought you had a date tonight?”
I shrugged. “I’ll take her with me to the party.”
He laughed a great bellowing laugh. “You’re my hero, T.”
No, I’m a lying asshole.
Ages ago, I would’ve dialed that phone number the minute I got out of work, and probably gotten little sleep that night. Now, a smoking hot blonde and her friend were no more interesting than a weather report. But letting everyone think I went out with a different woman every night was better than the truth. That since I heard Kacey sing around a campfire all those months ago, I was a lost cause.
I finished out the day, and as we cleaned up our workspaces, Edgar jerked his chin at me.
“Enjoy your date with the redhead,” he said. “Or the blonde. Or the redhead and the blonde. I want a full report tomorrow.”
“You’ll get it,” I said, shrugging into my leather jacket. “If they don’t wear me out.”
Edgar laughed and Zelda flinched. I smiled at her with a small shake of my head, trying to signal this was all bullshit. I’d heard she had a crush on me since she started working here a year ago. It didn’t suck to look at her, but I didn’t date coworkers. Too messy if things go sour, and with me and women, they always did.
“Have a good night, Z,” I said.
“You too, T,” she replied. She looked up then, flashed me dry smile. “Slut.”
Edgar and I laughed, and the second my back was turned, the smile started teetering on the edge of my face. When I stepped outside the tattoo shop, it dropped like a mask and shattered on the sidewalk.
At the Lee Business School at UNLV, I listened to the professor go on about payroll tax and employer ID numbers. I wasn’t lost. I got it. The data made sense to me and I almost felt sort of proud. Like I was getting something done.
“I’ll remind you again,” Professor Hadden said from behind her lectern. “This midterm exam is worth forty-five percent of your final grade. You cannot—and will not—pass this class if you miss it or fail it. Arrange to consult with me if you feel either of those scenarios is a possibility.”
My pace to the parking lot was a small victory lap. I wasn’t going to miss or fail. No chance.
My phone chimed with a text from Oscar.
Want to meet up tonight? I don’t miss you but Dena does.
I chuckled at the backhanded offer. It had been a long time since I’d hung out with my friends. They were Jonah’s friends first and foremost—his best friends—and hanging out with them had the same quality as having dinner at my parents’ place. Ghosts of other times hovered everywhere like shadows in the periphery.