Melt For Him(3)

By: Lauren Blakely

“An owl? Let me guess. Does it have to do with being wise?” But before she could answer, he shook his head and spoke again. “No. I don’t think it does. I bet there’s some deeper meaning.”

She tapped her finger to her nose. “Bingo.”

“I could ask what it is, but I have a feeling you don’t ink and tell.”

“You’re right. I don’t always,” she said. She hadn’t even told her brother Travis, and they’d nearly raised each other at times. He didn’t like that she’d gotten a tattoo. He was overprotective in every way, down to warning her not to ink her own body because he didn’t trust tattoo shops. That was par for the course with Travis; he was skeptical and suspicious by nature, but then, those traits had served them both well when they were growing up.

But she could toss Becker a bone. He’d earned that much with his directness, not to mention his fast reflexes. “I’ll tell you something else about my tattoo, though. I designed it myself,” Megan added.

“So are you a tattoo artist?”

She shook her head wistfully. “Not yet, but I will be soon. I’ve been learning the trade, working with some artists, and I have a gig lined up that I’m super excited about. I’ve always loved to draw, though, and have been lucky enough to work as a freelance artist,” she said. She’d been a freelance makeup artist in Los Angeles, and a freelance photographer, and a freelance illustrator. She was back in town on a freelance basis, too, since her brother had convinced her to hang out for a few weeks in Hidden Oaks to shoot the firemen’s calendar. The regular photographer had left town to tend to some family matters, and the firehouse was in a pinch to produce the calendar quickly. It was a best seller, and all the proceeds benefited the local hospital’s burn center, so Megan had agreed to donate her time and work for the cause.

The timing proved fortuitous. She wasn’t going to stay long—she had Portland on her travel itinerary next, since she’d found out earlier that week that she’d landed an apprenticeship at one of the city’s premier tattoo shops, where she’d be turning her designs into body art starting in June.

Hidden Oaks was a way station, then she’d head north. But she didn’t want to go into all the details of her job history or job future with Becker. The night she met her ex, she’d been patently open with him, sharing details of her life, and look where that had gotten her—straight into a damaging relationship she’d only recently been able to untangle herself from. She would try a different tactic with this man. She would hold herself back. Protect her secrets and herself. She was no longer an open book.

“Well, Ms. Soon-to-Be Tattoo Artist, I don’t believe we’ve had a proper handshake,” he said, giving her a small smile. His large hand wrapped around Megan’s, and she liked the way his skin felt against hers. She started wondering whether she’d like more skin-on-skin contact, and as she grew warmer between her thighs, she had her answer. Yes. She wanted to be closer to him. She leaned in, enjoying the heat that radiated from his body, too.

Maybe it was all physical. Or maybe it was more. Maybe it was because she didn’t know him, and he didn’t know her, and they could be anybody. They could be people without pasts, without stories, without baggage. A man, a woman, meeting by chance. A quick stumble, a brief catch, as if someone or something had wanted them to meet. The night was a blank slate full of possibility. She started picturing those warm, strong hands on her, on her hips, on her waist, touching her shoulders, and she shivered at the images flashing by.

“You’re new to town, aren’t you?” she asked.

“Moved here a year ago from Chicago. And you? You new, too?”

“I’m just passing through. Making my way up the coast,” she said, and she liked the feel of that answer, how it suited the mood she’d been in lately—a mood for change, for new beginnings.

“Ah, you’ve got wanderlust.”

“A traveling heart,” she said.

“I’m glad you traveled into this alley tonight.”

“Why are you hanging out in the dark by yourself?”