Authors: Jenni Wilder
by Jenni Wilder
Published by Jenni Wilder, Kindle Edition
Copyright 2014 Jenni Wilder
Cover Art Copyright L.J. Anderson, Mayhem Cover Creations
Kindle Edition, License Notes
This e-book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This e-book may not be resold or given away to other people. If you're reading this book and did not purchase it or receive it through Kindle's lending program, then please return to Amazon and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
No portion of this book may be reproduced or distributed in any print or electronic form without permission of the author. This book is a work of fiction and any resemblance to persons living or dead or any events or occurrences is purely coincidental. The characters and story lines are fictional. This book is intended for mature audiences and the subject matter is not appropriate for minors. This novel contains profanity and sexual situations and may not be suitable for everyone.
Table of Contents
“…but that’s real gold.”
I surveyed the man on the other side of the counter. He was clearly a tourist. They were always easy to spot. They had this gleam to them. Even under the worst circumstances they still looked mesmerized by the glamour of Las Vegas. At least the tourists that patronized my shop at this time of night did. The majority of them were not here because they wanted to buy. They needed money and were here to sell. Judging from the overweight, homely woman cowering behind this man, I’m guessing he needed money to recoup his wife’s gambling losses.
I felt bad for the guy I honestly did. Gambling addiction is a disease, and it can infect the best of us, but he wasn’t the first guy in my shop to try to pawn something for some quick cash, and we’re not running a charity.
“It’s eighteen karat,” the man said as he held his wife’s ring out to me. I sighed loudly. I had already inspected the piece once. I didn’t need a second glance. I’d been doing this for a long time. Time to break the bad news.
“Sir, I’m sorry, but whoever told you this was eighteen karat was lying.” I took the ring from the man and held it under the magnifying projector. The enlarged image of the ring in my fingertips appeared on the screen. “See here where it’s stamped 18kpg? That means it’s gold plated. Not solid gold. The diamond, however, looks to be in good shape. One-third carat stone.” For a second the man looked hopeful as if that was going to save his ass. I hated the look on his face when I told him my offer.
The man’s gaze drifted over me. I knew he was eyeing my clothes, tattoos, and piercings and had come to the conclusion I must be a brainless twit. People judged me on my appearance, but I loved the way I looked, which is hardly something your average twenty-year-old could say.
“You have got to be insane. This ring is worth way more than that.”
“Sir, as I explained to you, the ring is not worth more than that, and this is a pawnshop. We have to make a living too. That’s my offer.”
“I don’t think you know what you are talking about. Where’s the owner?” the man said, clearly frustrated.
I sighed again, getting frustrated myself.
“The owner, my uncle, trusts my judgment. If you don’t like my offer, you’re welcome to leave. Good luck finding a pawnshop that will offer you more.” I handed the ring back to him.
“I bought this ring from a man who was selling his mother’s estate. I paid three times what you just offered!” the man said, raising his voice.
My eyes shifted to his wife, and she looked down with embarrassment. “Well, then you got ripped off.”
“You bitch! How dare you?” The man leaned across the counter into my face and banged his hand on the glass countertop. “I want to speak to your manager!”
The wife grabbed the man's arm and attempted to pull him back, but I simply rolled my eyes and stepped away. Not the first time a customer has gone off the deep end.
This is why we have security
, I thought as I motioned to one of the bouncers at the front door. The giant muscular man in the “Security” shirt was already moving toward us. He’d toss this guy out on his ass, and I could go back to work.
I took another step back to ensure my safety and bumped into a round belly behind me. My uncle.
“This man giving you a hard time, Ivy?” Uncle Paul asked me.
My uncle was at least a foot taller than me and built like an ox. He was probably a stud back in the day, but middle age was catching up to him, and he had developed quite the beer gut. Not that it detracted any from his looks. He could still intimidate the hell out of most people simply by crossing his tattooed arms over his thick chest and showing off his muscles.
Before I could respond, the man straightened up on the other side of the counter and directed his ire toward my uncle. “Are you her manager?”
“I’m the owner,” my uncle said, placing his arm over my shoulders. I smirked at the man.
“This bitch is trying to rip me off!”
“All right, I’ll tell you what we’re going to do,” my uncle said calmly. “First, you’re going to calm down and apologize to my niece. Then, you can either accept her offer or you can get the hell out of my store.”
My uncle didn’t need to look at the ring to know I wasn’t lying to the man. I had been working in his store since I was thirteen. I knew my shit, and my uncle supported me. He also knew I would never put his business in jeopardy or intentionally cause him problems.
I crossed my arms and leaned into my uncle’s side, my smirk widening. I knew what was coming.
The man's face turned bright red, and his chest inflated as he took a giant breath. “You can both go to hell if you think I’m going to apologize! You think I’m stupid? I know what that ring is worth!”
“Mister, I can guarantee whatever Ivy offered you is a fair price. You had your chance; now you’re leaving.”
A hand came down on the unruly customer’s shoulder as security jerked him away from my counter and frog-marched him out the front door. The wife snatched the ring off the counter, mumbled an apology, and followed after her husband.
I shook my head as I watched her leave. “Tourists,” I said in disbelief.
“They make our world go ’round,” Uncle Paul added. It was his little joke. For as much trouble as they could cause in this town, we wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for them.
“All right, Ivy?” the bouncer who escorted the man out asked me as he returned to my counter.
I nodded and shrugged. “Not the first time. Won't be the last time. But thanks… again.” I stretched up to give him a hug that he returned tightly.
“You got it, sweet cheeks,” he said and slapped my ass.
I pulled back and smacked him lightly on the head. The security guys were all amazing, and not a one of them was bad to look at. They all tried to flirt with me, but most of them feared my uncle too much to make a move. That was fine by me. They were all great guys, but I didn’t mess around with my coworkers. It wasn’t worth it. I preferred the anonymity this city could easily supply.
I sighed and looked at my watch. Almost time to go. My uncle’s pawnshop was open twenty-four seven, but I usually worked the early-evening shift. I came in after my classes and stayed until the overnight crew reported for duty. It worked out well.
I was currently majoring in accounting and business management at the University of Las Vegas. Someday, when my uncle retired, I hoped to take over the shop. I know—big glamorous dream, right? But it was all I’d ever wanted to do, really. I had too many roots here to move away. Too many friends and family to leave. And if I was staying in Vegas, there wasn’t anything else I’d rather be doing than working here.
Strange sentiments from a girl who had been abandoned by her transient mother and didn’t even know her father, but it was the truth. I loved my Aunt Suzy and my Uncle Paul. They had taken me in when my mother, the drug-addicted whore, had left me at their house when I was five and never come back. Best thing she ever did for me. She had fallen victim to the darker side of Vegas, and drugs had become more important to her than I was. Honestly, I don’t even really remember her anymore.
My aunt, uncle, and their son—my cousin Jaxson—easily took me in, and I was suddenly a member of a fully functioning family. Imagine that! I was loved and supported, and I never wanted for anything.
I think secretly my aunt and uncle had always wanted another child, especially a girl, so they were more than happy to save me from my mother and spoil me rotten. Jaxson quickly fell into the big-brother role. He was eight years old when I became a permanent fixture in his life, and for all the times I annoyed the shit out of him, I knew he loved me like I was a little sister.
“I’m outta here, Uncle Paul!” I called after my uncle as he retreated back to his office.
“Going over to Bo’s?” my uncle asked.
Bo was the other amazing thing that had come out of my new life. When my aunt and uncle took me in, they immediately enrolled me in kindergarten, something I had never experienced living with my mother. I was extremely behind on everything a kid should know at that age, but on my first day of school, I met Bo. Boden James Masterson. He sat next to me during circle time and helped me learn the rules to some clapping game the class was playing, and we have been inseparable since.
“Yeah. I don’t have class till ten tomorrow, so—”
“So you’re gonna stay at Bo’s. I know the drill.”
“All right, old man. I’ll see you tomorrow.” I stretched up, and he offered me his cheek. I kissed it lightly before picking up my messenger bag and purse and hustling out of the shop before a customer needed me.
Aunt Suzy and Uncle Paul never gave me grief about my late-night escapades. I was an adult, and I suppose they figured, as long as I didn’t follow in my mother’s footsteps, they wouldn’t worry.
But they wouldn’t have anything to worry about with Bo anyway. We had been friends for so long, and that’s all there had ever been between us. Honestly, he was most women’s dream man. Gorgeous. Muscles. Tattoos. All things that would make a girl burst into flames with just one look. He was my best friend. We fit well together. Being friends with him was inevitable and something I never questioned. He simply had to be in my life. And I knew he felt the same way.
We had been there for every important milestone in each other’s lives. All of the moments you never forget. Bo was there for all of them. When I won all-state track in high school, he was there cheering me on. When he purchased his dream car with money he saved, I was sitting shotgun. We were each other’s prom dates and oh-so-stereotypically lost our virginity to each other that night. It was an odd thing for us to do and yet made sense at the same time, and I wouldn’t have wanted my first time to have been any other way.
That was the only time we had ever blurred that line though. While we did spend the majority of our time together, we were truly just friends. I watched as he dated several girls, most of whom I thought were flighty, dumb bitches. They were all usually incredibly jealous of me. I’m sure they saw me as a contender for Bo’s affections, and that was why things never worked out for them. Instead of focusing on Bo and what he wanted, they were worried about fighting me for him and didn't understand why he never sided with them. Like I said—flighty dumb bitches.
And the same was true for Bo with me. I never—never—got serious about a guy, but Bo knew I had my share of men. I don’t want to sound arrogant, but I got more than an average amount of attention from guys.
I had been a lanky teenager. Tall and gangly. But I began focusing on being healthy once I got over the awkward early teen years. I started running and toning my bod. Not overly muscular but just enough so I could be confident with myself, and I’ve been told confidence in itself is sexy.
So what it boiled down to was I worked hard for this body, and I knew how to rock it. I was young and having fun, and the guys were easy enough to come by. Usually some tourist would return home with the memory of me rocking his world, and we’d never meet again. I didn’t want a boyfriend. I didn’t need a boyfriend. Just give me the random horny tourist and a hotel room, and I stayed satisfied.
I don’t think Bo necessarily liked when I ended up in some stranger’s hotel room, and to be honest it probably wasn’t the safest thing. But he always checked on me throughout the evening when I went out, and I knew how to keep myself safe.
However, I want to stress this point—although I may dress like one, I was not a slut. I never degraded myself, and I never put out based on unreal promises from a guy. I didn’t expect anything in return from the lucky fellow, and I was always careful. I used two forms of protection, and it’s not like I was doing this every single night. Hate me if you want, but I don’t see a problem hooking up with a guy if you know that all you are both looking for is a release. Would I be a slut if I stayed in and got my jollies manually? I don’t see a difference between the two. Or at least that’s what I tell myself.
So anyway, on nights I didn’t go out or if I didn’t find a quality guy to fool around with, I usually ended up at Bo’s, either hanging out at his place or at his tattoo parlor. Oh yeah. He owns a tattoo parlor right next to my uncle’s shop. Told ya we fit well together.
“Bo! Your girlfriend’s here!” Bo’s counter girl shouted toward the back of the store as I walked in. She was covered in tattoos, of course, and had short pink hair and a round face. She was reading a magazine with the most bored look on her face.
“Fuck off, Destiny,” I said and scowled at her as I walked past. She hadn’t been working for Bo very long, but she knew I wasn’t his girlfriend. She was just being a bitch.
The buzzing from Bo’s machine stopped as I approached. “Hey, Ivy,” he greeted me as I walked into the back room. He was putting the finishing touches on a blue butterfly tramp stamp for the chick sitting backward in his specialized chair. I bent over close to his face to get a closer look at the woman’s back. Black swirls surrounded the butterfly, perfectly matching her womanly curves, giving the butterfly the illusion of movement. The blue exploded out of the butterfly’s body with an eye-catching edge. It was truly a work of art.
“Bo, that’s beautiful. Like, seriously gorgeous.”
Bo chuckled and wiped it with his cloth.
“Really?” the girl in the chair said, turning her head back toward us, stretching to get a look at her new ink.