“Tessa. Are you about ready to clock out?” Steve, her boss and the owner of Heavy Trinkets, called out.
Tessa picked up the empty boxes and walked toward the back of the store. She had just finished stocking the shelves, so it was probably a good time to call it a day.
“I’m just going to break down these boxes and throw them out. Then I’ll be ready to go,” she called out as she dropped them to the floor and started pulling one apart.
“I’ll finish that. Do me a favor and carry this box of Kelly’s creations down to Naked Ink for me on your way home. Zander has a customer waiting to see them before she makes a decision on what she wants.” Steve held out a box to her.
Not only was he her boss, but he’d taken a chance on her last year when he’d agreed to hire her without references. She owed him. Even if it did mean venturing into one of the places she had no desire to ever set foot in. Tessa knew enough about Zander Keys, the owner of Naked Ink, to steer clear of him. While he wasn’t dangerous in the normal sinister way, he was very dangerous to someone like Tessa.
Zander and his buddy, Tag Hodges, who owned the local bike shop, were known Doms who hung out at Golden Shackles most weekends. Golden Shackles was the local BDSM Club that had recently been updated and had new management. Tessa had never been inside the place, and she didn’t plan on changing that either. The problem was the fact that the two men had been watching her a lot lately, and despite her best attempts at ignoring them, her body seemed to have a mind of its own. When they were near, she turned into a hormonal teenager in full fan-girl mode.
The last five years of her life had been pure hell, and she wasn’t about to screw everything up now that she’d finally caught a break and was able to support herself. She might not have much, but she had a roof over her head and food on the table. So what if it was a TV table? It held a plate with real food.
Tessa pulled her backpack on and adjusted the box in her arms as she headed out the front doors of Heavy Trinkets. The tattoo shop was right next door, so she didn’t have far to walk. A set of tiny tinkling bells sounded her arrival when she walked inside the shop. The scent of ink, incense, and leather met her as she walked to the front counter, where a woman sat sketching.
“Hi. I brought the body jewelry from next door that Zander is waiting on.” She didn’t rest the box on the glass case for fear it would mess up whatever the lady was working on.
“Yeah, just a minute, and he’ll be right with you.”
When the woman looked up, Tessa decided she was more of an older teenager than a woman, maybe seventeen at the most. Her pitch-black hair that hung in her face along with the kohl that outlined her eyes gave her the appearance of being much older than she was until you got a closer look at her face. She had several hoops in each ear and a stud in one nostril, but from what Tessa could see of the teen, she didn’t have any ink.
Looking back toward where there were several doors, Tessa hoped Zander would hurry. She really wanted to head home soon. She didn’t like walking that side of town after five, even if it was a long time until it got dark. Her area of Perkins City wasn’t the safest place to be after about four in the afternoon, but it was the best she could afford. As long as she didn’t wander around after dark, Tessa didn’t have to worry too much.
As she looked over some of the displays of artwork, one of the doors in the back creaked open then closed with a soft snap. She turned around to find Zander walking toward her. The sight of him never grew old to her. His massive shoulders blocked out everything around him, and Tessa couldn’t help but wonder how he was able to move around to ink out some of the beautiful works of art she’d seen around town. Despite being well over six feet tall with sculpted muscles most body builders worked hard in a gym to achieve, the man wasn’t stiff or clumsy by any means. He all but glided when he walked.
When she finally allowed her eyes to reach his face, his knowing smirk pissed her off. He knew the effect he had on women, especially her, and didn’t hide that fact. He had the most beautiful light blue eyes she’d ever seen. They had just a hint of a lift at the corners, giving him an exotic appeal. He kept his head clean shaven with a silver stud piercing in one brow and studs in both ears. Unlike many tattoo artists, he didn’t have ink all the way up his neck or on his face, but she knew that he was a work of art beneath the T-shirt he wore that stretched tight across his muscular arms and chest.
“Hey, Tessa. Thanks for bringing these over. I’ve got a lady and her old man in back who are looking for something different. I know Kelly’s stuff will be perfect for them.” Zander took the box from her arms, his hand brushing against her breast in the process.
Tessa fought hard not to let him see her reaction to the obviously intentional slip. It would only add fuel to his libido. She wasn’t about to play with him or his friend Tag. They were more than she could handle.
“Hope they like it. Good night.” She turned to leave, but Zander snagged her backpack before she was able to get away.
“Hold up, Tessa. Let me give you a ride home. You don’t need to be walking home at this hour. I’ll be finished in about ten minutes. They aren’t going to get it today, they just want to pick out what they want and put it back for next time.”
“Thanks, Zander, but I’m fine. I’ll see you later.” She pulled out of his grasp and walked over to the door.
The moment she stepped through the entrance of the tattoo parlor, she could breathe again. What was it about the man that made her turn into an idiot when he was around? Her nipples grew hard, and her panties ended up soaked every time. He was off limits. She couldn’t handle a Dom, much less two, and everyone knew that Tag and Zander were a team.