How To Tame A Wild FiremanBy: Jennifer Bernard
(The Bachelor Firemen Of San Gabriel #4)
Ten years ago
There are tattoo parlors and then there are tattoo studios. The Rusty Needle was definitely the former, thought Lara Nelson as she dismounted from the back of her friend Liam’s dirt bike. Liam’s brother Patrick had already parked his motorcycle and was staring at the grungy back-alley hole in the wall, which looked even dingier at this late hour. Sailors would love this place; hipsters not so much. Its curb appeal consisted of a broken neon sign and a skull and crossbones decal on the front door. She hadn’t even known the place existed in Loveless, Nevada.
“I’m not getting an infection just because you want to impress your Princeton friends,” she grumbled as she caught up with Patrick. Liam glanced her way, and she quickly signed the same sentiment to him.
Seamlessly, they all switched to signing.
“I don’t give a crap about Princeton,” said Patrick. “This is for my brother. So he doesn’t forget me when I turn into an Ivy League dickhead.”
“You’re only a dickhead sometimes,” signed Liam, who didn’t understand sarcasm. Lara laughed, giddy after a night spent driving aimlessly around Loveless. There weren’t many night spots to choose from in their town.
“This is for you too, Lara,” Patrick said out loud, which he did when he wanted to tease Lara without upsetting Liam. “A souvenir of Loveless to take to college with you.”
“There’s got to be a better souvenir than an infection,” she said dubiously. She stared at the daunting sign in which half the letters flickered sickly. “The Rusty Needle?”
“There’s a T in front of Rusty. It’s the Trusty Needle. Perfectly safe.”
Squinting, she peered more closely. “I don’t see any T.”
“It fell off, then. Seriously, who would name a tattoo parlor the Rusty Needle? Anyway, this is the only one that’s open. And we haven’t even gone inside yet. Grow some balls, Lulu.”
“What would I do with those?” she snapped back. She refused, absolutely refused, to protest the nickname. He knew she hated it, but she wouldn’t let him get to her.
Patrick, the older brother and most annoying guy in town, if you asked Lara, was the usual instigator of mayhem. Lara’s role was to make sure her best friend, Liam, didn’t get steamrolled into doing something he didn’t want.
She stood between the two brothers and quickly signed to Liam. “You don’t have to do this, Liam. We can hang out while Patrick gets his tattoo, then laugh when he cries like a baby.”
“I want one,” he signed back, seriously. “If we make sure it’s well-sterilized, I want to get ‘wild thing’ tattooed on my butt.”
She bit back a smile. Liam was not a wild thing. He was the dreamy one, the offbeat one, always lost in his own world.
Patrick Callahan, on the other hand . . .
“I want a freaking ball of flames streaking across my chest.” Patrick cackled gleefully, his bright blue eyes glinting in the neon light.
“Maybe you should get little bunny fou-fou hopping across your shoulder blade,” he mocked, touching the back of her shoulder.
Fiercely, she tamped down the quick shiver that went through her. This was new, this weird, totally unwelcome attraction that had sprung up since Patrick had come back from college for Christmas break. She didn’t even like Patrick. He was too crazy, too reckless, too . . . unnerving. She always felt on edge around him. But Liam idolized him. Since she and Liam had bonded as fellow misfits the first day she walked into Loveless Middle School, she was stuck with his older brother too.
“Screw that,” she retorted, adjusting her ripped black tunic top, which she’d layered over a black tube top. Black was her favorite color, the only color that made her feel safe. She’d even dyed her blond hair black. “If I’m doing it, I’m getting something weird and different.”
“Dragon?” he mocked. “Chicks love dragons.”
“No. Nothing girlie. Something like . . . I don’t know. A jellyfish.”
“Okay, maybe a squid. Squid. Ink. Get it?”