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Authors: Garrett Leigh

Marked

BOOK: Marked
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For Jacque.

 

Marked

 

 

Pete

One month after the first snow….

 

 

I
WATCHED
Ash as he walked along beside me. It was easy enough to do without him noticing, because the kid always walked with his head down. How he didn’t bang into every obstacle in his path, I’d never know. Another cigarette found its way from his pocket to his lips. I had to look away as he lit it.

Shit
.

I didn’t even like smoking, but there was something about the way Ash did it that captivated me. Hell,
everything
he did captivated me. If I wasn’t lucky enough to share my bed with him, he’d probably think I was a total creep.

We crossed the street, and I stepped in front of him to open the door to our building. He offered me an absent smile as he watched me, like he wasn’t entirely present. I grinned fondly, because it wasn’t unusual for him to be distracted. When he first came to live with me, I figured he was kind of aloof—maybe even a little strange—but I’d come to realize in recent months that he was just a thinker. I often caught him in a world of his own.

Behind me, he lingered to finish his smoke, so I was alone when I opened our front door. I kicked my shoes into the corner and shrugged out of my coat, but as I walked into the living room, I realized I didn’t really know what to do next.

Ash had surprised me tonight—I’d come out of the firehouse to find him waiting for me. He sat on the back of a bench on the other side of the street with his head down and his hands in his pockets. A casual observer probably wouldn’t have seen him slide off and fall into step beside me, but as we walked away, I felt my partner Mick’s eyes burn a hole in my back. Like the old woman he was, he’d been angling for a glimpse of Ash for weeks… said he wanted to put a face to the source of my constant distraction.

Asshole.

It didn’t help that the moment I’d seen Ash, I’d walked away from him without a backward glance. He was going to give me hell for that in the morning.

The front door creaked. Ash appeared a few moments later. “What are you doing?”

I spun around, startled. He’d caught me staring into space. “Um, waiting for you. Where do you want to do this?”

Ash looked around the room, considering his answer. “Just sit on the couch. We’ll figure it out.”

He disappeared, presumably to get his gear. I wandered over to the couch, as instructed, and sat down. I thought about taking my shirt off, but I didn’t. Instead, I just sat like a chump and twiddled my thumbs.

It felt weird to be so nervous. It wasn’t an emotion I was familiar with. When I was working, I didn’t have time to worry about things until they’d already happened, and in my personal life—until recently, at least—I hadn't had much to feel
anything
about. But when Ash had finally agreed to tattoo me, I’d felt a strange flutter in my belly, and the closer he got to putting a needle to my skin, the worse it got. Maybe it was because we were doing it at home. I’d always assumed he’d do it in the shop, like any other client, but he’d surprised me tonight when he’d met me at work and told me today was the day. Now, for reasons I didn’t quite understand, I found myself sitting on the couch feeling like I was about to lose my damn virginity.

“Pete?”

I looked up, and just like that, the strange nerves faded. Ash had that effect on me. Half the time, the kid was a bundle of nervous energy, but when he was cool, he was like a fucking Prozac or something. I reckoned it was his eyes.


Pete
?”

“What?”

Ash grinned and shook his head. “Take off your shirt. I need to get your skin ready.”

I grasped the hem of my T-shirt, smirking. I hesitated for a moment, hoping he’d take it off for me, but he didn’t. In fact, he stepped away from me and started rummaging through a box I hadn’t noticed on the coffee table.

Sighing slightly, I pulled the shirt over my head. Though Ash had dispelled the antsy feeling I’d come home with, I was still keyed up.

Ash leaned forward to run a razor over my shoulder, and I couldn’t resist pulling him into my lap. He scowled, but I ignored his face and watched him stretch to retrieve a bottle of rubbing alcohol. He was pretty flexible when he put his mind to it, something I’d only recently discovered, and the exposed sliver of his tight stomach was totally hot.

He came upright again with a gentle grace. He cleaned my skin, and with a rueful smirk slid out of my grasp and returned to his damn box. Impatiently, I drummed my fingers on my knee. It had been a few years since I’d had any new ink, but it was something Ash did every day. He was surprisingly anal about his work, so I knew he probably had a routine to get through.

“Why today?” I asked suddenly. “I saw you this morning and you never mentioned it.”

“It just seemed like a good day,” Ash said vaguely. “You’re off tomorrow, right?”

I nodded slowly; his reasoning made sense. “Is that why you came to meet me?”

He finally glanced up from the box. “What? Oh, no… well, not really. I had to go the… shit, what’s it called, the post office?” I nodded and he returned his attention to his equipment. “Yeah, I had to go to the post office to pick a package up. I don’t like the white ink Ted uses, so I got a different one for you.”

To cover my surprise at him actually shopping, I said the first asinine thing that came into my head. “White ink?”

Ash sighed patiently. “I told you I was going to use white ink on the smaller stars.”

“Why did you get it sent to the post office?”

“I couldn’t remember your zip code.”

Fair enough. Everyday tasks seemed to confuse him sometimes; little things I took for granted were completely alien to him. I put it down to spending his teenage years on the streets, but it still made my heart clench when his life seemed more difficult than it needed to be. I mean, who taught you that shit when you were all alone in the world?

Ash stood and pulled the coffee table closer to the couch. “I came to get you because I figured I’d give you a chance to change your mind.”

Fascinated, I watched as he began to apply the stencils he’d drawn to my skin. Apart from observing some obsessive sketching and some fleeting glances through the tattoo shop window, I’d never really seen him work. “Why would I change my mind?”

“You’ve never seen any of my stuff on skin. How do you know I’m any good?”

“That’s not true,” I countered. “I see your wrist every damn day.”

“That’s not the same,” he said. “That’s a shitty example of my work. I did that in Philly before I’d learned how to do it properly.”

I rolled my eyes. The wizard he’d tattooed on himself was one of the most amazing pieces of ink I’d ever seen. Pretty much everywhere we went together, someone would comment on it—a waitress, a barman… even my mom. I wasn’t blind—I’d seen the scars beneath it—but that didn’t take away from its beauty. “Shut up,” I said shortly. “You need your fucking eyes examined.”

Ash snorted, but said no more on the subject. When he finished applying his stencils, he pulled a mirror from his box of tricks to give me a preview. Seeing the design on paper had nothing on the thrill of seeing it on my skin. He’d taken the blurred, faded old stars and turned them into something incredible.

“Wow,” I said. “I like that.”

“You do?” he said nervously. “It’s not too big?”

“No way,” I said. “It’s just right. Will it take you long to do it?”

“No, there’s not much shading work, so probably only an hour or so.”

I grinned at him and swooped in to give him a quick kiss. “Better get started, then, huh?”

 

 

T
WENTY
minutes later, I was in serious trouble… or at least I would have been if Ash had been tattooing me any place other than the couch in my own home. It had been a long time since I’d last gotten ink, but I didn’t remember it feeling
anything
like this.

At first, it was fine. The buzz of the gun was all I could hear, and with the soothing pressure of Ash’s steadying hand, I relaxed back into the couch and closed my eyes. For a while, it was bliss. I felt weightless, so chill I could have fallen asleep. My focus was on the singular point of pain, warm and addictive, and I felt it erase every worry in my mind and completely envelop me.

Then I made the mistake of looking up.

Damn
.

Ash was an intense character, often so broody the world around him passed him by, but the distant, tortured looks I sometimes saw on his face had nothing on the fire in his gaze as he worked. He wasn’t looking at me, or at least not at my face. Instead, he was completely focused on his work, staring down with a tiny frown line between his eyes. His jaw was set and he’d caught his bottom lip between his teeth. Combined with his hands on my skin and the burn of the needle… shit, I was fucking sweating, and that was the
least
of my problems.

I felt my breathing pick up as my dick began to throb in time with the gun. I dug my fingers into the couch, biting my lip to ground myself. What the fuck was going on? It was like every drive of the needle sent a charge through me. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. Ash could be sensitive about sexual things. I wasn’t sure how he’d react to me sporting wood when he was trying to work. But it didn’t do me any good. Nothing did until the buzzing of the needle suddenly stopped.

My eyes shot open to find Ash’s face just inches from mine. “Are you okay?”

Startled, I nodded slowly. “Um, yeah.”

“Is it stinging too much?”

“Hmm? What? No, I can hardly feel it.”

Ash sat back and smirked slightly. “So why are you jabbering like me?”

“Um.” I thought quickly. “I think you should take your shirt off too.”

It probably wouldn’t help. In fact, there was every chance it would make things worse, but having him bare-chested too at least evened up the playing field.

Ash narrowed his eyes suspiciously. “Are you drunk?”

Yeah, drunk on you….
“Yeah, of course I am. I’ve been banging shots all day in the ambulance bay.”

My sarcasm earned me another glare, but he put his gun down and pulled his shirt off all the same. “Happy?”

Obviously—Ash shirtless was one of my favorite things—but as I’d feared, it didn’t help my predicament. He brought the needle back to my skin, and before long I was right back where I started.

My eyes fell closed as I tried to rein myself in, but it was no good. Ash finished the outline and moved on to the shading, and as the grind of the needle increased, so did the electrifying effect it was having on my body.

I opened my eyes in the hope of finding a distraction, but the moment my vision cleared, all I could see was Ash. His gaze flickered to me, maybe feeling the weight of my stare, and he licked his lips. He glanced down my body and his soft exhale stuttered. “Thank fuck for that.”

I swallowed thickly. “What?”

“I thought I was turning into a pervert.”

It took a moment for his words and their meaning to filter through the lust-induced haze in my brain. Then I saw the obvious bulge in his jeans and grinned like an idiot.

Ash paused in his work to change his needle. When he brought the gun back to my skin, he shifted in his seat and bit down hard on his lip. The sight of him made me want to stretch up and replace his teeth with my own.

A shudder passed through me. Ash pulled the needle away from my body just in time. “I’m nearly done,” he said. “Think you can contain yourself a little while longer?”

With his neck mere inches from my mouth and the heat of him scorching my skin, the urge to hurl his gun aside so he could fuck my brains out was strong. But my desire to keep him happy was even stronger, and I knew he wouldn’t be until he’d finished what he’d set out to do.

“I can try,” I said. “Quit biting your lip, though. You’re driving me all kinds of crazy down here.”

He rolled his eyes, but for a few minutes he tried his best to comply with my request. Inevitably, though, as his concentration increased again, the damn lip found its way back. In an effort to control myself, I closed my eyes and focused on all the things I wanted to do once he finally finished.

I ran through many scenarios, but ultimately, I kept coming back to one thing—I wanted him to fuck me. Over the past few months, he’d fucked me a lot, and it was something I knew I’d never get tired of. Without doubt, he was the best I’d ever had, and in the beginning, it had kinda surprised me. Not because Ash wasn’t hot—hell, no. he was gorgeous—but more because I hadn’t expected him to be such a good top.

It was strange. With previous partners, I’d always figured out my role within a few minutes of meeting them, but I’d gotten it wrong with Ash—really wrong. Whenever I’d pictured us together—and I’d done that more than I cared to admit—I’d always figured him as a bottom. He’d shocked me when he’d told me that was
never
going to happen.

I wasn’t that disappointed. I was content in either role, I was just perturbed that I’d misread him so badly. It didn’t take a genius to see that a misjudgment like that could have ended us before we’d even gotten started.

BOOK: Marked
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