When Lo is dragged into the tattoo shop by his bossy cousin, he steals everyone’s attention. The big man is afraid of needles but wants a tattoo to celebrate an important moment in his life. And he wants Amos to do it.
Tattoo artist Amos is mesmerized by Lo from the moment he lays eyes on him. He’s huge but kind, strong but gentle, and his freckles ... God, his freckles.
They hit it off immediately, but Lo grows nervous as the big moment approaches. Will Lo flee from the tattoo machine before they have time to get to know each other? Before they have the time to see if the sparks will turn into something more?
Lo looks around and leans close until his mouth is next to my ear. “I’m scared shitless of needles.” When he pulls back, his face is flaming red as though he’s ashamed of his confession.
“Hey. Come with me.” I lead him to the tattoo chair and nudge him until he sits. Perched on the edge as though he fears it’ll grow teeth and eat him.
I sit and roll my chair close. “Lots of people are afraid of needles. You’re not the first person to sit in this chair and be nervous. And you’re not gonna be the last.”
“I know. Intellectually.” His smile is gone now, and I’d do anything to get it back.
“But your heart is still racing?”
He nods. “It seems stupid to expose yourself needlessly to something you’re afraid of.”
“Maybe. Unless the fear is crippling and hinders your everyday life. Then it might be a good thing to desensitize yourself to it?”
“Yeah. You’re right.”
“And everyone is scared of something.”
“What are you scared about?” he asks.
“A lot of things. I’m scared I’ll go blind so I can’t keep doing my art anymore. I’m scared to hurt my hand in a way that would make it impossible for me to hold a tattoo machine or a paintbrush ever again. I’m scared of being alone for the rest of my life.”
That makes him scowl at me. “Why would you be alone for the rest of your life?”
“Because I’m a grumpy bastard?”
“We’ve already established that you’re not.”
“You haven’t met me before I’ve had my first cup of coffee in the morning.”
“True. I’ll let you know the verdict when I have.” As I hoped, the back-and-forth smooths the tense lines on his face, and by now the corners of his mouth are curled upward. I take his hand, gently, so he knows he can break free whenever he wants and guide it to the armrest.
“Oh-ho? So you’re going to make sure I’m telling the truth? When is this fact-checking mission going to happen?” I keep up the flirty banter as I prep his wrist.
“At your earliest convenience.”
I glance at him, happy to see his focus on my face and not what I’m doing, so I proceed by applying the stencil. “I bet you’re one of those disgustingly chipper morning people,” I say.
“I am. What gave me away?”
“Your sunny disposition.”
He snorts. “Sunny disposition? That’s new.”
“If the shoe fits ...”
“Well,” he lowers his voice until it’s a mere rumble. “Maybe that’s a good thing. This means I can be in charge of making your coffee in the mornings and you can take care of me when I fall asleep on our couch in the evenings. We’ll both benefit from our differences.”
I chuckle. “Have we moved in together before we’ve even been on a first date?”
“I don’t know. Are you planning to take me out on a date?”
Looking up, I meet his gaze. Two spots of bright red are painted on his cheeks -- as though I’ve dipped my brush in crimson and swiped it on his face -- deepening and enhancing his freckles, making him more irresistible than ever. The tension still lingers in his shoulder, but other than that, his body is open and honest.
“Would you let me paint you?” I blurt.
“Not if you’re a Picasso kind of painter. I don’t want to end up with a nose on my forehead.”
I throw my head back and laugh and soon his laughter mixes with mine. It’s as deep and melodious as his speaking voice and it makes me grateful that I’m sitting or my knees would buckle underneath me.