Read Love & Curses (Cursed Ink) Online
Authors: Debbie Gould,L.J. Garland
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This is a
work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual
events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
Love & Curses, Cursed Ink Book 1
Copyright © 2012 by L.J. Garland and Debbie Gould
Copyright © 2012 Cover art by TygraPro Designs
Published by Garland & Gould
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Tattoo artist, Ben Walker doesn’t believe in curses…
But curses believe in Ben Walker…
And this cursed ink marks his very soul.
To my co-author and friend,
who took a chance…
“I’d hoped you understood.” Annoyance settled heavily in Ben’s belly, creating a familiar lead weight that threatened not only to ruin his good mood but also attempted to tether him to New Orleans. Hell, since he’d turned sixteen, he hadn’t been tied to any one spot, and today certainly wasn’t the day he would change. Rolling to his side, the sheet slipping from his hip, he reached over to smooth a dark lock of hair from his lover’s forehead. “I thought we were on the same page here, Calista.”
Bright gold eyes turned toward him. “I thought we were, too.”
“Good.” He trailed his fingers over her collarbone and down to her chest where he drew lazy circles over her damp, bronze skin. Damn if she hadn’t ridden him like a female jockey. Got them both across the finish line, too. If only she’d had a whip—
“I just don’t understand why we can’t go out to a restaurant and have an actual meal together.” She sighed, her breasts
rising and falling enticingly
. “It’s not like it’s a big deal.”
Not a big deal? One meal turns into two, and next thing, she’s picking out fucking china. Hell no.
Ben gave her his special smile—the one that more than one girl had admitted made her panties wet—and ground his pelvis against her thigh. “C’mon, baby. We’ve had two weeks of fun, why ruin what we have by getting dressed? Le’me order us a pizza.”
“It’s been ten days.” She shoved him away and sat up.
He nodded. “Yes, we’ve been eating way too much pizza. Chinese. How about Moo Shu Pork?”
Scooting her long legs over the side of the bed, she perched on the edge of the mattress
with her back to him, shoulders hunched. “So, what is it? Do I embarrass you or something?”
Ben scrubbed his hands over his face. This was exactly why he didn’t care for relationships. Games, wordplay, the struggle for control, insecurities—all of it a waste of time. Amid that were about three hours of hot, sweaty sex—sometimes more if the girl he was with understood the score.
Calista did not.
“Don’t be ridiculous. You’re gorgeous.” He moved closer to her, the thin sheet sliding away and the cool air wafting over his heated skin. As he reached to brush her long black hair to the side, a shudder coursed down his back. “And the tat on your shoulder makes you sexier than ever.” He trailed his fingers over his work, the tribal-style bird he’d inked two weeks—no,
ago. “My little sparrow.”
She twisted toward him. “So, you think of me as something you can keep caged?”
He bowed his head and squeezed his eyes closed.
Damn it. Here we go.
“No. Nobody’s caged. No one’s controlling anyone else.” He lifted his gaze to meet hers. “That’s the point.”
Her jaw tightened, and she swallowed. “So, all I am is a good time, right?”
“You sure sounded as though you were having a good time when you were riding me like there was no tomorrow.”
Her expression darkened, and tears welled in her eyes.
. Didn’t anyone have a sense of humor anymore? Ben flopped back on the bed and stared at the ceiling. “Sorry. I didn’t mean—”
“Yes, you did.” She shoved to her feet. Snatching her shorts from the chair, she stepped into them and jerked them up. “You meant exactly what you said. And I might be a little slow on the uptake, but I’m not stupid.” She yanked her T-shirt over her head sans bra. “For some reason, I thought we had something good going here. Something that might last. But I get it now.” She threw her arms out to the sides. “It was just sex.”
“Calista….” He left the bed and crossed to her.
She held her hand up,
warding him off. “No. Don’t say anything else
.” She grabbed her panties and bra from the floor, wadded them into a ball, and stuffed them into her purse.
He tried not to stare at her heaving chest while she yelled at him, but her tight nipples pushing against the thin shirt fabric were too distracting. Damn, he wished he could’ve played things out a little longer, had another tumble or two before it all had gone to shit.
She stepped into her sandals and marched to the door, and he followed after her.
“Okay, sooo….” He faced her, naked from head-to-toe, giving her one last chance to check out what she was giving up. “I’ll call you tomorrow, then.”
Her hand on doorknob, she stopped, a strained laugh erupting from her throat. “Sure, Ben. You call.”
Jerking the door open, she stormed out, slamming the cheap panel of wood behind her.
“Well, all right,” he muttered. With a sigh, he checked his watch. Five o’clock. He had another client scheduled at the parlor for six thirty. Just enough time to get a shower, grab some grub, and get there.
Calista made it home in record time, dodging most of the stares from people on the trolley and sidewalk. She didn’t need their pity-filled glances to know she looked a mess. She’d thrown her clothes on in a haphazard manner, and her damn tears had caused her mascara to streak down her face.
God, what an idiot she was.
She turned the corner of her street and slammed into another pedestrian. Ducking her head, she mumbled, “Sorry,” and stepped to the side to scurry away.
“Calista, dear, I’ve been waiting for you.”
She lifted her chin and grimaced.
Crap, Aunt Nadya
“I was just giving up.”
Her aunt gave her a good look. “Oh my! What’s wrong
, my dear?”
She cringed. She so did
want to get into this with her wacky aunt. “It’s nothing. I got something in my eye, and it hasn’t stopped watering since.”
“Hooey. It’s that boy you’ve been seeing, isn’t it?”
Unable to hold the tears back any longer, she broke down, right there in the middle of the sidewalk. “Oh, Auntie, I thought he might be the one this time. I really did. I know we were together just a couple weeks, but there was something about him. He was funny and smart and mysterious, and my foolish heart bought every bit. Hook, line, and sinker.” She wiped at her nose with the back of her hand and shook her head. “To top it all off, it will be impossible to ever forget him because of the stupid bird I let him tattoo on me.”
Her aunt hugged her tight then wiped away her tears. “Don’t you worry, my dear, your soul mate is out there. All you have to do is open your eyes and see him. As for your tattoo? You can always have it removed.” She patted her shoulder. “Now, go home and have a nice warm soak. Everything will work out. You’ll see.”
Calista embraced her aunt once more and continued down the street to her house. A soul mate? If only she could believe her aunt’s words.
Ben glanced at his watch and then rolled his shoulders. Midnight. It’d taken him six hours to ink an intricate Celtic knot snake on some dude’s thigh—and he was damned thankful it’d been his leg and not the guy’s junk. Finished cleaning all his equipment, he headed toward the door.
“Damn fine work, Walker,” the owner, Big Ed said.
“Thanks. Night.” Ben patted the doorjamb twice on his way out. From behind him came a “bye” and “see ya” from fellow artists, who were finishing cleanup.
Outside, the humid New Orleans night
air engulfed him. Sounds of partiers floated to him from four blocks away. He walked down the sidewalk to the parking lot next to the building.
He dug in his pocket for his phone, his fingers grasping the familiar rectangular object. He hesitated. Hmm. Since Calista had freaked out and needed some time to chill, it would probably be best to wait till tomorrow to call her like he’d told her he would.