The bell above the door rang loud and proud as I entered the shop. The shop that has become so familiar it's almost like my second home. The familiar buzz of a tattoo gun can be heard coming from one of the back rooms and in the waiting room sits a man. His head is shaved bald and his tats seemingly cover every available inch of skin – including his skull.
His dull grey eyes snap up to meet mine as I step into the store. He takes in my appearance, smirking as he appraises my lily white skin and pale yellow sundress. He's thinking what every customer of this shop thinks – 'she's here for her first tattoo' or 'she does not belong here'.
But what they don't know is there's one very important reason why I belong here.
"He's in the back. Room 3, as you know" Em popped his head out from the store cupboard. Em, or Emmett, was one of the longest serving artists in the shop and still has dreams of running his own shop one day. It took a lot of guts for him to accept and work for a younger man, but he's been graceful and courteous about it. He knew it wasn't anything personal and with two kids to support, it's harder for him to save money.
"Thanks" I throw over my shoulder as I make my way to room 3. The others thought it weird how Edward refused to work in any other room but they didn't know…and hopefully they'd never know that the first time we had sex was in room 3's large, black tattoo chair.
I knock softly on the pinewood door in case he's with a client. "Come in" a rough, clipped voice answers. As I enter, I spot him hunched over his desk, scribbling furiously and frantically. His black tee covers all his glorious artwork on his chest but leaves his arms bare. They're pretty much covered completely in tattoos, spare a few space here and there. He says they tell a story – his story. A story that started dark and hopeless; that eventually became full of light and love. He's not always been proud of his past but now he's out of those shadows he can see it's made him a better man.
"hey" his head snaps up almost violently at the sound of my voice and a smooth, sexy grin spread over his plump lips.
"Baby" he drawled "aren't you a sight for sore eyes" when he stood from his chair I noticed how low his jeans were slung and just how tight his tee was.
Is it just me or is it hot in here?
He makes his way over to me, smirk still fully intact and his beautiful green bedroom eyes working overtime.
Hands on my hips, he whispers "hello" before his lips meet mine. It's a slow and tender kiss full of longing and 'I've missed you' s. How we feel like this after only being separated for 5 hours I don't know, but I hope it doesn't ever fade.
Leaving his bed this morning had been torturous but sadly necessary.
"mmm, I love you somethin' crazy" he mutters against my lips, and the butterflies erupt in my stomach.
"I love you, too" I admit, which makes him smile so big it must be painful.
My hands had absentmindedly wondered into his beautiful bronze locks and I wince hoping I've not ruined his loosely sculpted Mohawk. His naturally floppy hair takes time and effort to get his small Mohawk to stay in place, but fuck is it worth it.
I leave his embrace rather quickly, leaving him confused until he spots me sitting in the chair. Smirking, he sits down on the edge of the desk, arms folded over his broad chest and his long, lean legs kicked out.
"I want a tattoo" I declare, inspecting my pasty, white skin on my right arm.
"hmm…nah, don't think so sweetheart"
"eugh!" I'm not sure why I feel let down because I knew he'd say no, but I do "you always say no, but you never say why. Tell me!"
His smirk drops and he actually looks remorseful. Standing from his position, he pulls his chair over towards me, sits and takes my hand.
"You're so beautiful….just the way you are. I love your skin."
"oh please" I throw my hands up "you're a tattoo artist, you see bare skin as an untouched canvass waiting for inspiration to strike"
"Bella…you know I love your skin. It's one of the first things that attracted me to you"
8 months earlier
Looking up from my book I see my father striding into the room. His suit looks especially suave today which means he's on his way to court.
"New dress? Looks lovely"
"Are you doing much this afternoon?"
"Alice and I are going to visit Angela at work so…"
"ohh right" he snaps his fingers in thought "where is it she works again? That café?"
"yeah" I lie. "she's a waitress" I lie. Again.
"ohh well you girls have fun today. I've gotta shoot. Love you" he kisses the crown of my head as he passes me by.
"Bye Daddy. Good luck in court, I hope you win."
He chuckles as he leaves the room. He wouldn't be so carefree if he knew where I was really going. Angela's family have fallen on hard times meaning she needed to get a job and help out. Had she really gotten a job at a café I'd have been visiting daily but she hadn't…she's working at a biker bar. I shudder at the thought. Angela, who grew up with a silver spoon in her mouth, attending Christmas balls, and receiving a new car yearly, was now working at a biker bar.
And no, this little white sundress isn't new…it's old, which is why Daddy didn't recognise it. I dread to think the germs I'll pick up just being there. But I'm going to support my friend so I'll have to suck it up and deal…and hope I'm not murdered or something.
I don't bother saying goodbye to my mother, she's out back accosting the poolboy whilst wearing a barely there bikini. We all know they're screwing…well, I'm not sure if Daddy knows but I'll not say a word…even if I do hate her for it.
Alice's canary yellow Porsche is sitting in the driveway, and I jog towards the passenger seat.
"What the hell are you wearing?!" she screeches in greeting.
"An old dress. I'm not risking any of my nice clothes."
"Isabella, you're wearing a sundress. You're not even attempting to fit in. look at me, I'll fit it" I gaze at her outfit. She's in skinny jeans and a black top that looks like it's been ripped around the neck…Alice may think she'll fit in but I know she won't…not wearing Gucci Jeans.
"Let's just go" I sigh, already irritated.
The top was down, so as we drove the wind whipped my hair away from my overheated neck. Living in LA I should be used to this level of heat, but I still find it overbearing.
It's only a twenty minute journey, and we're pulling up outside a bar elegantly named 'Roosters'. It's 3pm in the afternoon so the bar is pretty much dead.
"I don't see Angela. Do you?" Alice hisses, as we both stand huddle in the doorway, necks stretched searching for our friend.
"no" I sigh, cringing away from the looks we're receiving. The place was just as I'd imagined; rough, dirty, dark and disgusting. Alice turns her nose up, scoffing at them all whilst I'm admittedly fascinated. I've never bore witness to this type of culture, and it's amazing.
"Let's just go sit somewhere, when Ang appears we'll get cosmos"
I bite my tongue.
"Fine" we end up sitting at a small table right in the corner. It's even darker here and I'm praying we're invisible.
We're sat there approximately five minutes, making small talk whilst I tear a beer mat up, when I spot a man looking my way. His lusty green eyes meet mine and a cocky smirk spreads over his lips. He's without a doubt the most beautiful man I've even seen…and his tattoo's scream danger and forbidden and…my mouth goes dry just looking at him. My heart is thudding in my chest and my palms are sweeting.
"Isabella…hello, Isabella? What are you staring at?" I hadn't realised I'd been openly staring at him and I felt my face flush. I'm such an idiot.
Alice lets out a large gasp as she turns to look at my tattooed mystery man – who, may I add, is still staring at me.
"What's wrong with you?" she hisses, her little face getting redder and redder.
"I have no idea what you mean"
"Isabella! You don't give flirty eyes to guys like him. He looks like a thug. I mean, look at his hair and those tats…eugh!"
I felt slightly offended for him…he didn't look bad, he looked spectacular. Beautiful. A far cry from the stiffs in suits my parents keep trying to set me up with.
"Oh my gosh, Isabella. He's coming over!" I look up, and true to her word tattoo man is most definitely walking over to us.
Panic rises up in me, I've never spoken to a man that gorgeous "I'll go get us a drink!" I blurt out, jumping out of my seat and practically sprinting to the bar. When I reach it, my face finds purchase in my hands as I contemplate why I'm the world's biggest loser. Seriously, I just ran away from the hottest guy I've ever seen that was coming to talk to me…or at least I think he was. Maybe he wasn't. Maybe I'm being stupid. Maybe he was just-
"Can I get you a drink?" a hand on my arm makes me jump a mile high.
Looking up I come face to face with him. And he's even more beautiful close up. His deep green eyes surrounded by bronze lashes, so long they touch his face. His cheeks have a light dusting of freckles and his hair…my god, his hair! A shaggy, bronze mess lazily styled into a Mohawk. He is beyond words.
"erm…I-I" smooth. Really smooth.
He chuckles and I swear it sounds like honey. "I'm Edward" he offers
"I-Isabella" I cringe as it comes out as a croaky whisper.
"Bella…well, it's lovely to meet you"
I've never been called 'Bella' before…and I find myself swooning at his name for me.
"No offence but you don't look like you belong in here" his eyes sweep over my body and I feel as though I'm being set alight.
"None taken" I let out a breathless laugh "I don't belong here. My friend just got a job here so we decided to come see her…but I don't know where she's at" I'm surprised I'm actually able to make conversation with him…even if my words are coming out in a rushed jumble and my heart is threatening to beat out of my chest.
"Well, I suppose it's my lucky day then. So, that drink?"
"ohh, yeah, thanks. Erm…Alice wants a cosmo, do they do that here?"
He's visibly fighting a smirk "I'll ask…is that what you want?"
Usually I'd say yes. When I go out for drinks with my girlfriends cocktails are all we drink, but I want to surprise him…impress him. I'm not sure, but I don't want him to see me as the silver spooned princess that I'm often viewed as.
"No, I'll have a beer, please" his eyebrows shoot up in obvious surprise before the now familiar smirk took over.
"Sure thing" his eyes glace towards the bar tender only to spot him currently serving an older gentleman
"So, are you usually here at 3.30 on a Thursday afternoon?" I'm not sure where the boldness comes from, but if his grin is anything to go by, he likes it.
"No, not usually. I do come here with a few buddies from work a couple nights but today's been rough so I shut up shop early"
"Shop? You own a shop?"
"Tattoo parlour actually."
"Can I come get one?" I cringe after asking, my parents would kill me, but I find myself actually interested in this man making my body a piece of art. My parents would deal; I am after all a twenty two year old woman. I can make my own choices.
"Hmm" he grabs my arm, running his long fingers up and down the skin. "No, sorry"
"What? Is there something wrong with my skin?"
"Yeah, I'm afraid"
"What?!" I start twisting my arm around at an awkward angle, desperate to see what's wrong with me.
"It's too beautiful"
His words make me still; my eyes shoot up from my arm to his green orbs. "huh?"
"Your skin, it's beautiful. I'm not willing to change that. You're perfect"
My face flames as I stutter an awkward 'thank you'.
"So what about you? You work?"
"ohh, well I volunteer at the local children's hospital on Tuesdays and Thursdays and I work at the animal shelter on Mondays and Fridays"
"wow! So you do a lot of charity work, that's amazing"
"Thank you, I love doing it"
"What can I get you guys?" the barman finally appears.
"hey dude, can I get two beers and a erm…'cosmo'" when the barman give Edward a blank look Edward gives him a 'I dunno, man'.
"It's vodka, triple sec, cranberry juice and lime juice" I help out.
"what the lady said" Edward chuckled.
"One of these drinks for you, miss? Yeah, I'mma need to see ID" I fish my ID out of my purse and hand it over.
"Okay, oh and happy birthday" he says before setting about getting our drinks.
"It's your birthday?" Edward asks. He's leaning against the bar, his legs crossed at the ankles, fully facing me now.
"Well, I turned twenty two last week, so…"
"Good to know" he mutters quietly, his eyes turning lusty green again. "Well, happy belated birthday, gorgeous"
We make little small talk as the bartender makes Alice's drink.
"Listen, I'd love to sit and talk with you, but I get the feeling your friend wouldn't be comfortable with that" I glance over at Alice, to see her clutching her purse to her chest, glaring at anyone who dares look her way. "so, here's my number…you can call me to tell me how the beer is" he winks "or, ya know, I'm here almost every day at 5ish so…maybe if you're visiting your friend again…"
"Yeah, yeah, sure…um, okay"
He chuckles once more "I'll talk to ya later, beautiful, and remember – no tattoos on that beautiful skin"
I watch him walk away, beer in hand, towards a group of people I'd not noticed before. I sigh dreamily before grabbing the two remaining drinks and carrying them over to Alice.
"What the hell Isabella!?" she growls "how could you stand there…and talk to him! He was so ugh!" she shudders. "and is that…is that his PHONE NUMBER?! No, no, nope, no way! You're not calling him!"
"What? Why not, he's actually a really great guy"
"I don't care! I don't give a crap about that. Just look at him! I'm telling you right now Isabella; if you start dating him…then we can't be friends!"
"WHAT?! Now you're just being-"
-"no! no I'm not! Do you think I want someone like him at my wedding? At my babies christenings? At my annual Christmas soiree? Well, if he's with you he'll be there. No, no you can't"
"What? So you won't love me if I have tattoos?"
"You know I'll always love you! I just really love your skin, baby" he begins peppering kisses over my exposed arms. "Besides, tattoos should tell a story, and you don't have one to tell yet"
"pffft! I so do!"
"erm yeah…how about you?! The love of my life. And don't roll your eyes at me, mister. Because you have a least six tattoos that represent me so don't be a hypocrite" in fact, he probably has more. The most extravagant is the portrait he got of me on his right bicep. It's a copy of a photo he'd taken when we'd first started dating. I'd dressed up for him and he'd arrived, seemingly overwhelmed by my appearance. He told me multiple times throughout the night how beautiful I was, so I happily allowed him to snap my picture whenever he wished. Then, three months later I was present on his arm. It's beautiful and if it wasn't enough of an amazing gesture, it proved just how serious he is about me. It's a commitment.
"Yeah, yeah, yeah. But I already had a lot of tats, I was able to add you around them. Your first one needs to be special."
"What's more special than you? My family disowned me when I chose you and half my friends did too…and I don't regret a single thing because I love you too damn much. You know I'd really love you to do it…but I could go elsewhere…?"
He huffs "okay, you think and tell me what you want…and I'll think about it"
Score! That's not a no.
"Thank you, thank you, thank you!"
"I didn't say yes" he grumbles. "Now, you sticking around? I got one client left."
"Want me to wait outside?"
"Nah, here" he pulls me another chair next to the one he's sitting on. "Now, just wait here"
He leaves the room and comes back with the man from the waiting room following. "You don't mind if my apprentice sits in, right? She's observing, don't worry"
"Nah, that's fine man" he makes his way towards the chair. When his back is turned Edward gives me a conspiratorial wink and a goofy grin that he'd gotten away with it.
I'd like to say this was the first time he'd done this, but I'd be a liar.
I'll find out eventually why he's so weird about me getting tattoos…he won't be able to keep it in for much longer. But if I'm guessing, I'd say he's worried that after eight months of being with him I'm still not sure about this life. And if I get tattooed…well, that's permanent. He just worries about me too much.
"Now" Edward snaps on some gloves "let's get to work"