There’s something beautiful about tattoos. The way the ink sits beneath the surface of the skin, permanent and branding. The buzzing of the machine is enough to get me high, but the feeling of the needle pushes me over the edge. Since the very first one I got, I’ve been hooked.
“Are you asleep?” my best friend Knox asks as he rubs a paper towel over my sensitive skin.
“You’re unusually still.”
I roll my eyes, even though he can’t see me. “No. You’re just used to all the pussies in Rhode Island who squirm every time you bring a needle within six inches of them.”
He chuckles. “All right, you have a point. Touché.”
One of the benefits of having a tattoo artist in training as my closest friend is all the free art. I offered to pay for the ink and needles, but he refused.
The piece he's working on is a decaying skull on my right shoulder blade. Not going to lie, it hurts like a bitch, but it's a good kind of pain. The kind that rocks me to sleep at night, because I'm a sick fuck like that.
Delaney, Knox’s girlfriend, and her twin sister Tessa walk in, laughing and gesturing at something on Delaney’s phone. I carefully turn my head to the side and smile warmly at them. Knox stops what he's doing for a second to kiss Laney hello, while Tess comes to stand next to where I'm lying. She stares for a second at my shoulder.
“Dude, you're really letting him tattoo a dick on your back?” she asks.
My eyes widen and panic sets in. “He's what?”
I jump up off the bed and go to look in the mirror as the three of them laugh. When I see the piece is as perfect as I expected it to be, I sigh in relief. Tessa watches with a sickeningly sweet smile that's five times more innocent than she is.
“You're a menace,” I tell her.
She shrugs. “Yeah, but you love me.”
“Whatever you say, CBP.”
The mention of the nickname wipes the smile clear off her face, and she punches Knox in the arm as he snickers. It's a name he gave her when she first started coming around, being as she scared the shit out of the both of us. It stands for Cute But Psycho. We went a year and a half before she found out what it means.
I lie back down, and Knox goes back to work while Tess and Delaney busy themselves with some gossip.
AN HOUR LATER, I can barely feel my shoulder as he finishes up and uses his phone to take a picture. When he shows it to me, my jaw drops. I always knew he was talented, but this shit is unreal.
“How are you still considered a trainee?”
He grins, but Delaney answers for him. “Because all the work he does outside the shop doesn't count, including the shit he does to himself like some self-mutilating crazy-ass.”
Looking over at his girlfriend, he smiles. “Don't even try that. You think it's hot when I tattoo myself.”
She smirks and looks back down at her phone, not justifying that with an answer because he's obviously right.
Delaney is the last person I expected for Knox. They couldn't possibly be any more different. When they met, she was the kind of girl that thought wine coolers were too strong, while Knox could out drink any of the sad souls who dared to challenge him. And yet, somehow they work. She took him from someone I thought I'd need to bury before we turned thirty to someone with dreams, and goals, and ambitions. For that reason alone, that girl can do no wrong in my book.
The door opens and in walks the rest of the gang—Gage, Stone, and my roommate, Easton. Getting together isn't something we get to do often, since Gage and Stone chose to go away to college and Knox followed Delaney across the country, but we all make time when we're together.
They take a few steps inside, rowdy and loud, until their eyes land on Tessa. The history between Tess and Easton is a complicated one, and if I had realized they'd both be here at the same time, I would've warned him.
For the whole duration of our senior year, they had this casual dating thing going on. However, when it finally ended, it didn't feel so casual anymore. At least not to Easton. He was enrolled at UCLA for a couple months before moving home in hopes of getting his girl back. Little did he know, she had already moved on.
We went through a lot during those few months. Easton transferred to NHU, and the two of us got a place together. During a rough patch between Tess and her boyfriend, Easton tried as hard as he could to get her back, but maybe not in the best of ways. Ultimately, she went back to Asher, and Easton fell into an even deeper hole than he was already in.
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