Chet Swearingen had a privileged childhood, but now that he's on his own in college, he's trying to break away from what's expected of him and live a little. He doesn't dare rebel against his parents too much -- they still pay his rent, and the Lexxus he drives is in their name. But their plans for his life after school don't mesh with what he wants to do, so he stays in college hoping to avoid a job like his father's.
Scott Harris was the kind of guy Chet had always wanted and never thought he’d actually have. He's rough around the edges, heavily inked, and works as a tattoo artist in one of the most heavily tattooed cities in the U.S. What Chet doesn't quite understand is the appeal he might offer to a guy like Scott.
Other than the obvious -- frequent booty calls for sex.
When Scott texts Chet and asks him to stop by the tattoo parlor after hours, Chet assumes it's just to hook up. But Scott's just as interested in filling in the tattoo on Chet's back as he is in filling Chet.
Across the street, Chet saw three shadows detach themselves from the darkness and head his way.
Shit. He huddled into his coat and skirted the front of his car, gaze trained on the building’s employee entrance a few yards away. Behind him, he heard shoes scuffle over gravel, and a reedy voice called out, “Yo, man. Hold up. You got any change?”
Chet ignored the plea and picked up his pace.
“Fucker!” another man spat. “Hey, I’m talking to you!”
A third voice chimed in. “Look at them wheels, man. He got to be loaded.”
“I’ma ask you again,” the first man hollered. “Then I’ma gonna take your money anyway.”
His friends laughed. They sounded closer now, but the door was only a few feet away, if that. Chet didn’t want to break into a run, but he stepped faster, clutching his cell phone deep in his pocket as if for protection. Bad idea, bad idea!
A short set of stairs led up to the entrance. Chet tried to take them two at a time but slipped on a sheath of ice and had to clutch at the icy steel railing to keep from falling. More laughter, right up on him now, so damn close. His heart hammered as he lunged for the door. The knob was like the railing, almost too cold to hold. He gave it a hard turn --
It was locked.
Now he looked back at the three rough guys following him. Dressed in a ragtag assortment of clothing, they wore woolen caps pulled down over their ears and temples, and unkempt beards obscured most of their features. One held a bottle of alcohol hidden in a paper bag; another had a hand-rolled cigarette sticking out of the corner of his mouth. When the wind shifted, Chet caught the bitter whiff of marijuana and grimaced. Where the hell was Scott?
“Hey, man,” the lead guy said, his voice low now, almost intimate. “How much you got on you, bro?”
Before Chet could gather up the courage to speak, the door behind him scraped open. Heated air rushed around him like an embrace. He turned and found himself face to face with Scott.
Thank you, Chet prayed, knees weakening at the sight of the strength curled in those wiry arms.
Tall and lean, Scott looked incredibly sexy in his wifebeater tank top despite the cold, arms covered with ropy muscles hidden beneath full sleeve tattoos. A pair of ink-stained jeans hung low on his hips, and buzzed blond hair gave him a military bearing. He had piercings up both ears, in both eyebrows, and in both nostrils.
Scott barely spared Chet a glance, instead glaring behind him at the trio of degenerates. “Chino!” he cried, recognition coloring his voice. “You fucking ass! What the hell are you guys up to, scaring my man like that?”
The leader of the group -- Chino -- raised both hands in surrender. His friends backed away, already losing interest. “Scotty, dude, sorry. I didn’t know you two were friends. I was just looking for some change.”
Scott laughed, a loud, booming sound that seemed odd coming from someone so damn skinny. “Roll him and it’s no more free ink for you, motherfucker. I got his back.”
Chino nodded quickly. “Sure, man, whatever you say. Hey, you got anything you can spare me for?”
Standing aside, Scott nodded behind him into the building as if to tell Chet to get inside. He didn’t need any further prompting -- Chet brushed past Scott gratefully and rubbed his hands together to warm himself up. Scott rummaged into the front pocket of his jeans, the motion tugging them dangerously low. Chet found himself staring at the twisting ivy vines tattooed into the small of Scott’s back, just above his tailbone. Hurry, please.
Pulling out a rumpled dollar bill, Scott stepped out onto the stoop to hand it over. “Don’t fuck with his car, either,” he warned. Chet saw him hold onto the dollar even as Chino grabbed it, unwilling to let go until his words elicited a nod from the other guy. “Now go on, get out of here. The ABC over on Pink is probably still open this late. You and the boys warm yourselves up with a little Jim Beam.”
Chet shivered as Scott lingered outside. Watching the guys walk away, probably, making sure they didn’t plan to circle back and vandalize Chet’s car. After a long moment, he came in and shut the door behind him, pushing against it to make sure it locked.
Suddenly alone with Scott, Chet let out a breath he hadn’t known he’d been holding in. “Jesus,” he said, rubbing his arms to bring the warmth back to them. “Who are they?”
“Just some bums who hang around here,” Scott said with a wave of his hand. “It’s a tough neighborhood --”
“No shit,” Chet muttered.
“I give them free tats to lay off my customers. They aren’t bad kids. Just bored.” If Scott was bothered by the cold, he didn’t show it. Closing the distance between them, he held out a hand for Chet’s coat. “Let me hang that up for you.”
Reluctantly Chet unzipped his coat. When he pulled one arm free, Scott took the empty sleeve, so Chet pirouetted to slip the other arm out, as well. He smoothed his sweater down over his flat stomach, frowning at the hint of an erection already bulging below his belt.
He felt a hand brush his cheek, then Scott’s fingers rubbed under his chin to grip it. Chet’s breath caught in his throat as he found himself forcibly turned to face Scott.
Pale hazel eyes glared at him, almost golden in the overhead lights. For a long moment they stared at each other, Chet’s gaze shifting from Scott’s left eye to his right eye and back, Scott unnerving in his intensity. “What?” Chet finally whispered.
Scott’s fingers pinched either side of Chet’s jaw as he pulled Chet close, closer, until their lips pressed together with a demanding kiss. An eager tongue barged its way into Chet’s mouth, claiming him. Scott released his grip on Chet’s chin and let his hand trail down the front of Chet’s sweater, over Chet’s belly, to rest on the belt cinching the jeans around Chet’s waist. Two fingers dipped under the sweater then behind the belt, tickling tender skin.
The kiss relaxed, deepened, as Scott’s initial lust mellowed. Chet gave into him, melting beneath Scott’s touch. Against Chet’s mouth, Scott whispered, “Ain’t nobody gonna fuck you but me.”
Chet went limp at the promise. Maybe this wasn’t such a bad idea after all.