All In (Full Tilt Book 2)(9)

By: Emma Scott


“Kacey.” I shook his hand, then tried to take it back but he held it fast.

“Love your ink,” he said, inspecting the creeping, thorny vines that crept up the loose sleeve of my off-the-shoulder blouse.

“Don’t remember,” I said, giving over a lie and withdrawing my hand.

Big E watched us as he cleaned a glass with a white rag. Guys hit on me on a semi-regular basis. They didn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of going home with me, or even taking me out on a date, but I let them try. Listening to their bad pick-up lines, or even their genuine attempts to get to know me reminded me of another time. Another girl. The one who would’ve laughed and flirted and jumped into bed with a guy like Jesse.

The girl I’d been before Jonah.

Now, the hollowed-out wreck I’d become was repulsed by the idea of being touched by a man. But sometimes they bought me drinks. And since Big E had been acting especially ridiculous about my cocktail quota lately, I sat up a little straighter and gave Jesse my version of a smile—a weak quirk of the lips. I pretended to be interested in the ink that covered his nicely muscled forearms, and within minutes, I had a fresh drink in front of me and we were comparing tattoos. I was drunk as shit, and being very, very careless.

I showed Jesse the tiny black stars smattered over my middle and ring finger. “This was my first. I got it in San Diego. Pacific Beach.” I flipped him the bird. “I chose that finger in particular. A big fuck you to my dad.”

“Nice.”

I traced the vines up my arm. “This one came from a place in San Diego too.”

“So you do remember,” Jesse laughed.

“Honey, you buy another round, and I’ll remember anything you want me to.”

I would’ve cringed to be on the receiving end of such sloppy, fake flirtation, but such is the beauty of being drunk—it’s so much easier not to give a shit. The only beauty, actually. The one and only shining truth.

Jesse bought another round. I got drunker and we compared ink like soldiers comparing battle scars. He lifted his dark blue T-shirt to reveal a nicely sculpted chest and abs, though he could’ve been covered in moles and boils for all I cared. He turned in his seat to show me the coppery Saints football helmet inked on his right shoulder blade.

“This was my first,” he said. “From Jake’s up on Canal Street.” His eyes drifted blearily to my bare right collarbone bare. “Show me another, Kacey,” he said, in what he probably thought was a seductive voice. Hell, in another life, it would have sounded that way, and I’d have climbed onto his lap until Big E kicked us out for inappropriate PDA.

I played along and rubbed my chin on the bare skin of my shoulder. “I can’t,” I said. “Not without taking something off.”

Jesse’s blue eyes glazed over. “I can deal with that.”

“Mmm,” I said, closing my eyes against the spinning room. It wasn’t cool to lead him on like this. I should stop. I have nothing to give him.

“I have nothing,” I muttered, the words falling off the train of thought chugging sluggishly through my whiskey-soaked brain. “I was supposed to have one here.” I nudged my bare shoulder with my chin again. “But I never picked one out. I left before I got my tattoo from Teddy.”

His name made me flinch, and I kept talking to drown it in a sea of meaningless words. “I didn’t know what I wanted so I left it blank. I left with nothing. I have nothing. Because I left. I was supposed to stay but I left.”

The tears were welling in my eyes. Drowned Girl fame or not, crying in the middle of being hit-on is a big turn-off. Jesse rubbed his hand over his lips, none too sober himself and unsure how to proceed.

“Hey, it’s okay. So…” His smile was obscenely bright. “You like football?”

Big E leaned his bulk over the bar, looking more like a bouncer at a motorcycle club than a bartender at a jazzy dive. “She’s done, man,” he told Jesse. “You get me?”

Jesse nodded and slipped off the barstool with a sour expression. He’d blown $20 plying me with top shelf whiskey, but he didn’t argue with Big E. Not many people did.