The morning after her younger sister’s funeral, Cassandra McKellan packed her bags and crossed the state line before noon. Six years and an ailing father later, she finds herself back in the small town she grew up in. Everyone calls it a homecoming, but the word home doesn’t hold much meaning for her anymore.
There aren’t many things she missed about the place—not the way no one knows how to mind their own business, not the lack of restaurants that provide delivery, or the empty, dark house that she’s now stuck with. It only takes a chance encounter with Ian Walker in the town’s podunk excuse for a grocery store for her to realize maybe there is a thing or two that she's been missing.
Over the course of one night, she discovers those things are home after all.
“Is that… Is that a cupcake?”
His head falls back for just a second before he tilts it forward again, all of his features scrunching into a look that's more adorable than I'm capable of handling. Prying the bottle from my hands, he swallows the last few gulps that it holds before dropping it to the carpet.
“It is.” He grins, clutching at the fingers I still have curled against his chest with his own. “Do you have something that you want to say about it?”
“Nope. It's cute, it suits you,” I declare, my mind already jumping to another subject because I'm warm and tingly, and he's beautiful, and damn it… “Alright, if you're so good at it—at making sure the tattoo suits the person, what would you give me?”
“Yes, me. What kind of tattoo would you give me?” I say, jumping off the couch to run toward the desk on the opposite side of the room. I turn back to look at him with a crooked grin on my face. “Don't tell me that I have you stumped, Walker.”
He sits up taller, places his feet on the floor, and faces me.
“I might have an idea.”
He lifts a brow, unsure of exactly where I'm going with this. I'm thankful my level of inebriation has been downgraded to a simple buzz, and I make my way back to the couch. Pulling a black, felt tip marker out from behind my back, I thrust the object into his hands.
He pushes himself off the couch, and the inches between us are exactly that—mere inches. I note his lack of shirt once again and think how if this was a cheesy romantic comedy (or more likely a skin-a-max flick), I would say something to the effect of feeling a bit overdressed right now. The thought makes the corners of my mouth tug upward.
I shiver a little as his hands come down on my shoulders, gently spinning my body and pressing me down to the couch. Within seconds, he's kneeling on the floor alongside where I sit.
“Well, lay back then.”
I don't question him.
“And lift your shirt.”
Again, I comply. I pull the hem up, letting my hip bones come into view.
My stomach is uncovered.
I roll the cotton tank top until it grazes the edge of my bra, and look at him questioningly. He nods and uncaps the marker, not even hesitating as he draws the first long, thick line up over my side.
“Oh, shit!” I flinch, letting out an unseemly noise.
He laughs and positions his left arm across my hips to hold me down. I've got to give it to him, the steady hand that he draws with barely twitches.
“Quit squirming.” He grins.
He continues to lay out his design, but I'm too focused on the intensity on his face to pay it much mind.
“Well, I can promise you that an actual tattoo is going to be a little more painful than ticklish.”
“Pain I'm used to. I can deal with the pain.”