Inked Out (Ink Series Book 5)

“Fucking Tyler,” I groaned into my pillow.

When I first started working at The Black Shakers, I promised myself I would never get involved with a customer—or any of the staff. Nightclub life had the potential for being all kinds of crazy, as my parents liked to say, and I loved it. My parents were old school, but also understood my generation, and the crazy thing I’d done with my two best friends Phoenix and Valerie. A few shifts in at Black Shakers, however, everything changed.

Ever since I started finding men attractive, I’d always gone for the quiet, mysterious ones. My boss, Tyler Wright, was a prime example of everything I wanted from the opposite sex. Unable to shake thoughts of him from my mind, I was waking in the middle of the night with my heart thumping and a primal need for Tyler surging through me. Of course, I didn’t tell anyone, but I continued to be plagued by visions of his grey eyes seducing me or remembering his voice when he spoke to me, “Looking good tonight, Bekka.” The way he said my name… gah!

God, this feels so wrong.

Why? It was quite simple. First, breaking my promise so fast was not an option. And second, I was telling myself, the attraction was a mere distraction from my mundane college life. I had no interest in any of the guys at the University of Washington. They all bored me. Tyler didn’t have too many years on me, but there was something about him that said no way was I ready to engage in a relationship with him. Intensity was his thing, his type of living. Sure, club life was fun for now, but I wanted more than that for my future. After college was done, I would find a real job and settle down a few notches. If Tyler were meant to calm down, I had to assume he would have done so by now. He lived life in the party zone.

Trying to ignore his charisma and avoid his flirty one-liners had become too hard, though. They’d left me like this, waking up in the middle of the night after yet another one of those dreams. So frustrating. How was a girl supposed to sleep now?

“Seriously?” I asked myself, irritated, before turning onto my side and trying to fall back asleep. To chase another dream without my dark and mysterious boss.

My heart was losing the battle against Tyler, but my head was still in the game, trying to stay distant until I knew him better. Who knew which would be the winner at the end?

* * *

Tonight would be bittersweet at the club since it was Val’s last shift. One of my two best friends was moving east to be with her boyfriend. We all knew Val wanted to be with John, and that she’d done everything in her power to be transferred to the University of Boston. We hadn’t known if it were possible, and if it was, when she would get the final okay. Then, it happened a lot faster than we were ready for. After all, we’d moved in together, out on our own, with plans to spend our college years living it up—and we were. We were having the best time of our lives, until Val got the news. That was tough.

I was happy for her, but hated the idea of her going so far away. Plus, Nix and I were going to need a new roommate now. Someone we knew would be preferred, of course, but not guaranteed. There was so much happening in so little time.

It turned out to be a busy night at The Black Shakers. Tyler had decorated with light sticks and balloons, and even had the karaoke machine set up on the stage. The crowd was thirsty and the DJ on pointe with his beats and drops.

“Everything okay, girls?” Tyler asked, his warm palm landing on my upper back as he came behind the bar.

He checked up on all of us a few times a night, but he only ever touched me. Always me. It might be my shoulder, my hand, the small of my back… but it almost seemed like he needed to touch me somewhere, anywhere. Tyler never held Nix or Val’s hip or shoulder when he talked to them. Just me. It made me blush most times and uncomfortable at others. He was my boss, after all. That line wasn’t supposed to be crossed.

“Remember, I hired extra staff for the night, so you guys can relax a bit more,” Ty explained. One of the extras would be offered a permanent job, to replace Val, based on their performance tonight.

“Thanks. We’re staying busy, but it’s all good,” Nix answered for the three of us, and then Tyler disappeared back into the crowd.

“Val, I’ll be right back, I’m running low on vodka. I need to get a bottle from the back room.”

“Sure,” she dismissed me as she turned her smile on the next customer.

The back room was always cold, and dark as hell until I could find the light switch on the wall opposite the door. I grabbed a bottle of vodka from a carton and turned around to get out of there quick. The room crept me out for some reason, and gave me chills every time I had to enter. The lights off again, I started for the doorway but tripped over my own heel and fell against God knows what… or who. I yelped.

“I’m sorry.” His cologne hit me. “Are you okay?”

Of course, it’s Tyler, and he’s holding me like my life depends on him and his strong arms.

“You scared the hell out of me.” Pulling away from his chest, I was happy the bottle was still in my hands and not smashed on the floor.

“I’m sorry,” he said with a cocky tone to his voice.

“I have to get back.” The girls were fine, I was sure, but I hated leaving them alone longer than necessary on a busy night.

“Wait a minute,” he ordered as I pushed past him.

Stopping mid-step near the door, I waited for him to continue, but he stayed quiet. “Tyler?” I said turning around to face him.

He sighed, and a soft frown appeared on his forehead in the dim light from the hall. “I... okay... I’ll see you in a bit.”

“Alright.”

It was pretty clear he wanted to say something, but he hadn’t. Why? I had no clue; in the past, he’d always seemed straightforward. This was weird. Now worried that maybe Tyler wanted to fire me, my mind started running wild with ideas. Most of them terrible. Again, I let anxiety ruin my mood.

Back at my workstation, I spotted Nix and Val out on the dance floor while the extra staff covered their stations. Since I was back, their customer lines split in half and came to me.

“Hey, guys.”

“Hey, Bekka, do you have any plans later?” one of our regulars asked me, yet again.

At least thirty other guys had asked me the same question tonight, too, but this guy never missed a chance to ask me out. He was tall, which I did like, and could’ve been a model, which wasn’t my taste so much. A man of mystery, like my boss, was. This obsession with Tyler was getting out of control. I kept a smile on my face, and replied, “I do. What can I get you?”

His face falling, he mumbled, “A Bud.”

Nodding, I turned toward the beer refrigerator—and noticed Tyler standing not too far away, watching me. Shit. Keep it together, Bek, you did nothing wrong. Giving the beer to the guy, I kept my cool and then served the next customer while dancing to the insane music blasting in the club. All I was doing tonight was my job.

When the rush on the bar calmed down, I checked over my shoulder. Tyler hadn’t moved. At all. He was still watching me like a hawk. A knot of nerves formed in my stomach and I started feeling dizzy when I tried to breathe. After a couple of minutes, and two more patrons, I gave him a small smile then started cleaning the mess created during the previous rush.

Is he staring because my station is too messy?

“No, Bek, you aren’t doing anything wrong,” I chastised myself again under my breath and continued wiping down the bar top. My hips were swaying to the bass when two familiar hands wrapped around my waist and started moving with me, following my rhythm.

“Bekky, can you follow me, please?” Tyler leaned in and asked.

Shit. Checking on the girls, a worried smile etched my face. Somehow, I had messed up and he was going to fire me. They probably had no idea what was going to happen because they were both smiling. Or maybe I’d missed something; I can be blind sometimes.

Following behind him, my heart racing, I tried to think of what I could say to him. We weren’t too far from the action behind the bar when Tyler stopped and turned around to face me. Nix and Val could still see us, which somehow made me feel a whole lot better.

“Tyler, I’m sorry,” I started. Come on, you can do better than that. “I—”

“Bekky, I like you a lot.” His arms were around my waist now and I wasn’t sure I’d heard him right.

“What?”

He leaned closer. “I said, I like you a lot.”

“Oh. Oh! You aren’t going to fire me, then?” Still trying to process his declaration, my brain was running slow. I lifted up on my tiptoes, unable to hear him with all the noise.

He likes me? For real?

He laughed. “No, Bekky, I’m not firing you. Actually, I was hoping you would let me kiss you.”

This is a surprise. A nice one.

A sudden need to touch him sparked in my brain, so, I brushed his chest with my fingertip. It was impulsive and I had no idea why I’d done it. Maybe the shots from earlier were giving me enough courage to face him like this wasn’t a big deal, like I flirted all the time, but to be honest, I’d never felt like this in my entire life.

Tyler’s grey eyes diverted down to my lips and back to my eyes, back and forth, making me forget my worry about getting fired. With that worry far from my mind, my head filled with images from my recurrent dream of late.

Oh, my god, this is it. Like in my dreams, Tyler was going to kiss me, and devour me with his hunger.

To answer him, I nodded—my mind and mouth couldn’t form words. This wasn’t what I’d expected when he led me back here, at all, but as I looked at him in the following seconds, I wanted that kiss. Bad. My dream was becoming reality, no way was I stopping him.

Fuck my rules, this is way better. A lot more intense, too. I was given one life to live, and tonight, my heart would BASE jump like never before—and then hope like hell the landing was safe.

As my eyes closed, his lips found mine. They were warm, soft, and perfect. This was unbelievable. I was kissing my boss, yes, but Tyler kissed me in such an unexpected way. It didn’t feel like any first kiss I’d ever had, we’d jumped over that step. So raw, and oh, so intense, this felt like a bedroom kiss. The type reserved for intimacy. I couldn’t feel my legs, had no idea where I was or even if I were still standing on my own. Cloud Nine floated under my feet and it was fucking unbelievable. Retreating wasn’t an option, because I couldn’t move right now if I wanted to. He had me mesmerized, locked lips, tongue, and all. My body was responding to him, and I would kiss him for as long as he kissed me. No chance in hell was I pulling away. Never. The reality was so much better than the dream.

“Amazing,” he whispered against my lips before giving me one last peck, and I was surprised I caught it over the music playing in the background.

“What is?” I asked, even though I knew he was talking about our kiss. Amazing, unbelievable, unforgettable… I could’ve gone on and on describing that kiss.

“You.”

Embarrassed, my eyes drifted to the floor for a brief second and then back up at him. This man had turned me into a shy, nervous girl. I could feel my heartbeat throughout my whole body while my legs felt like blocks of cement. How could Tyler make me feel this way with a lone kiss? My eyes stayed glued on him, his lips, grey eyes, and fuck-me hair.

Holy shit, Tyler kissed me. And Tyler knew how to kiss. One thing was certain—I’d have no problem trying again.

“I’ve been thinking about doing that since the night you started working here.”

“Why haven’t you approached me before?” I asked, stepping into a conversation which made my heartbeat take off like a rocket.

“I was waiting for a sign. Something from you saying it’s not just me having these feelings,” he whispered so close to my lips I craved another kiss.

“You’re my boss. That wouldn’t be professional.” That single fact had stopped me from the beginning; I never would have tried anything first. Regardless that this was an interim job while I was at school, I wanted to be professional.

“Sorry,” he said and gave me a cocky smirk which said he wasn’t sorry at all. “I thought there was something between us. If it’s one-sided, that’s my bad.”

No, no. He’d misunderstood me; I didn’t want him to think I wasn’t into him. It couldn’t be clearer that I was. Why else would I be having fantasies about him every night?

“It wasn’t– I mean, it’s not. I’m right here with you and, um, wishing you would kiss me again,” I said, allowing myself to enjoy flirting with him.

Tyler flashed another one of his heartbreaking smiles. “I’ll see you later,” he said on one breath and in the next, he’d walked away.

How rude, I thought. Then, He left. What does that mean? He’d kissed me like he meant it, and it had been the best kiss of my existence, but he then ended by leaving me here like an old tissue. Who does that?

“Wow, be careful. That was one hell of a hot kiss. You might have gotten pregnant,” a waitress teased as she went by, clearing the fog around me.

“Oh, come on, it was just a kiss,” I lied to her, and to myself. “What’s one kiss?” Right? It meant way more than I was letting on.

She laughed. “Sure, a kiss that has you trembling like a damn leaf.”

“Yeah, well, he caught me off guard.”

And he had. I hadn’t expected the intensity, and it was taking me a bit to recover. A kiss from Tyler Wright needed to come with a heart failure warning. It was a good thing he’d vanished or I might have had passed out.

“Okay, back to work, I got this.” Am I trying to convince myself or them? I had no idea, but I would have to process the kiss in my head while serving beers and shots as if nothing had happened.

Maybe all Tyler wanted was one simple kiss. Now, he had it out of his system. It wasn’t like I knew him all that well. My job here was new, and we never talked outside of work.

Unlike Tyler, his friend Levi—who stood for everything Nix had been raised against—had made it quite clear he was interested in my bestie. Poor girl, she was torn between her crush from her second job at the music store, Tristan, and fighting an attraction to Levi, the ultimate bad boy with tattoos and a player rep. Time would tell if she’d be tempted by the forbidden or keep playing it safe with the frat boy. I didn’t trust Tristan, but she knew him better than I did.

“What are you thinking about? You look sad,” Val asked tossing her blonde hair away from her face.

“Nix, Levi, you… Tyler.” I shrugged.

“What’s the matter?”

“I don’t know. Our lives are more unexpected now, changing so fast. Next thing I know, you’ll be engaged to John, Nix will have fallen in love, and I’ll be here wondering what the hell is going on.” Our group had stepped out into the adult world, and now men were making their way into our friendship. It was exciting and bittersweet at the same time.

“No, you won’t be wondering. You’ll be with Tyler.” Val seemed rather sure of herself, and I laughed.

“Not so fast. I barely know him.” There were so many things I would need to learn before thinking about a serious relationship. We’d have to go on dates, share some conversation or spend a night or two talking on the phone. Isn’t that how it should be?

“So, get to know him, then. Don’t put on the brakes before even giving him a chance.” She knew me well.

I smiled at her perfect answer, but as for what would happen tonight, it was too soon to predict anything with him. The way he’d left me right after that hot-as-hell kiss… it’d been cold. Hadn’t it? I sighed.

“Come on, cheer up.” Val gave me a quick hug. “It’s my last night and Tyler got enough extras to cover for us. It’s time to party now.”

“I will. I think I need a couple more shots.”

“Tequila?”

“Bring them to me.” I laughed.

We took the shots one after the other, laughed, and then rushed back to the dance floor to find Nix.

Although I tried hard to stop looking at Ty or thinking about the kiss, I couldn’t. More than once I caught him looking at me too. Each time made me blush and crave him more. Once, he even blew me a kiss. Who would’ve thought my boss, AKA the man in black, could have a soft spot for a girl like me? Not me.

“I think this is it, girls! I’m pretty sure that Tyler and I are... something. I mean, there’s something going on.” I squealed, and Nix hugged me so hard it was obvious she was happy for me.

Val was questioning Nix about that Tristan guy, but I was too busy watching Tyler talk to the DJ. This had to stop, or I’d be suffocated by obsession. I left the girls talking about boys and went to get more drinks.

“What’s up with Nick Carter?” Levi bumped into me. The man had eyes for Nix, and we all knew it except her. His tattooed arms, which looked great, were quite impressive—not a square inch of virgin skin remained. Nix had her reasons to be scared, I knew; however, he wasn’t dangerous. He was a nice guy.

“Don’t ask me. I’m not Tristan’s biggest fan, but she seems to be having a good time. You know, she is stepping out of her comfort zone.” Nix’s mom lived by the old-school mentality that tattoos equaled jailbirds and other “low life” people.

“I’ll show her a good time.” He was a man on a mission, and Nix was the target.

“Now, we’re talking. I think she likes you, but she’s scared. Be nice and she’ll forget about the ink and all things forbidden, which you represent to her.”

“Oh, yeah?” he asked glancing over at Nix again, and I nodded. “Let’s go, then. I’ll help with the drinks.”

Levi followed me back to my girls, who were resting around a table at the edge of the dancefloor. As we set the shots on the table, Nix became all too aware of Levi. The tension was palpable. They were talking to each other when hands took hold of my waist and kisses tickled the back of my neck.

“I’ll be right back,” Tyler whispered in my ear, and I think my heart stopped.

Again, the power to move or think evaporated. Nix and Levi were arguing about Karaoke; I’d missed a few seconds of it, but it ended with Nix going on stage to sing. Something she never did. Levi was about to get the surprise of his life. Nix had such a nice voice; it was so beautiful it gave me chills every time she sang. We all knew she could have a career in music if she wanted it. Her blue eyes, long brown hair, and that angelic face would have made her the perfect star. But she was afraid.

As soon as she started singing, Val and I started screaming her name like we were her own band of groupies. The club vibe switched from party mode to concert. I watched her with tears building up in my eyes. Her voice could take her around the world—if only she wanted it.

The hands returned around my waist, and pulled me against his front with determined force. I turned my head to look at him which earned me more kisses from him. And they were just as intense as before, if not more. His grip on me burned while his lips devoured me. No, I wasn’t ready for this relationship, but I was diving into the dark water regardless. Not without being scared, of course, but the temptation had become too strong.

While my body and mind were getting used to being held by Tyler, Nix stepped it up on stage, sending the crowd into an awe-filled tizzy. The cheers and applause were insane.

Levi looked at her like she was a goddess. And, she was, in her own way. It was clear she was singing for Levi, her eyes always diverting back to him. Daring him to come on stage and sing like her, she could no longer deny the sweet attraction between the two of them.

“She’s amazing. Look around, they’re all watching her,” Tyler said, pleased with how well his Karaoke night was going.

“She never sings in public, you can thank Levi for that—and multiple shots of liquid courage.”

His fingers moved up from my waist to caress the bare skin of my stomach, and I took a deep breath. The tank top I’d worn tonight didn’t cover much skin, which gave Ty more room to explore.

“What are you doing later?” he murmured into my ear then left a kiss on my lobe.

“I’m going home, and so are you.” I chuckled.

“Bekky...” Did he just whine?

“Not tonight, Ty.” I knew what he had in mind, at least I was pretty sure I did, and while I couldn’t say I didn’t want the same, it was Val’s last night here. My place was at the apartment with her and Nix, not in a bed with Tyler.

After the wild night of partying, we were in no shape to drive back to the apartment, so Levi gave us a ride home. Nix crashed as soon as we got home, but Val and I warmed up a leftover lasagna and then ate it all. It was beyond good… until my stomach revolted. The remainder of the night was an unplanned date with the toilet while I vowed never to drink again; well, not that much anyway.

When the sun began to rise, I went to Val’s room and curled up next to her. She couldn’t go away, I would miss her too much. I cried until I fell asleep.

* * *

Sometime later, Val’s alarm went off. She silenced it and got up right away, saying, “Come on, Bekka.”

“I’m not sure I can,” I groaned.

“Go shower first. I’ll get the coffee going.”

I rolled out of bed, arms and legs weak and tired. The shower helped me feel a bit better. There would be no makeup or fixing my hair today. I’d be rocking a ponytail and that “natural hangover” look.

Val jumped in the shower before I cleared out of the bathroom. The smell of coffee made my fragile stomach growl, which I thought was a good sign. I’d had my first cup of coffee before Val was back in the kitchen. Nix followed not too far behind.

“Hey, girls,” she murmured.

“You’ve got time for a quick shower, if you hurry. We have to leave in an hour to drop Val at the airport,” I said, my sadness growing by the minute and wishing this wasn’t real.

Noises echoed on the other side of our door followed by knocks.

“I’ll get it,” I offered then unlocked and opened the door.

“Hey, girls!” Levi yawned. “We thought that you might need our support today.”

Tyler walked in looking around before his arms found me and pressed me against his chest. “We come offering car rides and great entertainment.”

“With the headache I have now, I’ll take the ride, but will have to keep the entertainment on the easy side.”

“Deal.” He kissed my forehead. “How about a massage later to help with the headache?”

“I would love it.”

“Almost ready, I just need to put—” Nix came rushing into the living room in her tiny underwear and froze as I shrieked, “No, no, Nix! The guys are here.”

I’d tried to stop her but it was too little too late. Nix’s cheeks turned red; she didn’t know what to do or where to hide. Val couldn’t stop laughing once Nix ran back to her room to put on clothes.

The following hour felt more like a blur more than anything else. Tyler gave Val and me a ride to the airport while Nix rode with Levi. At the airport, we cried and said our goodbyes, and then Tyler brought me back to the apartment. I cried all the way back, but once we were at my place, he distracted me with a hot make-out session on the couch. His touches were curious and adventurous, and his lips more demanding than last night. Before I knew it, I was undoing his belt when he took hold of my hands and placed them over my head.

“Why don’t you get a change of clothes for tomorrow?” he said in between kisses.

“Why’s that?”

“I want you to come to my place after work. The apartment over the club.” Everybody knew he lived up there, it was no surprise.

“I know where you live.”

A subtle smile appeared on his face. “You might as well pack for a couple of days.”

“I can’t leave Nix alone.” We were both a mess about Val not being in the apartment. Leaving Nix alone to deal with it wouldn’t be nice. I wouldn’t be happy if she did it to me.

“Levi’s looking for a place. Let him have the extra room and he can move in tonight. Problem solved.”

No, no, no. That couldn’t be the solution to this issue. Or could it? This relationship was moving way too fast, I wasn’t sure I was ready for this. From what I’d seen, Tyler didn’t have much life outside of work so I wasn’t sure how this would work.

“Tyler.” I sighed. “I want to get to know you better, so it would help if we hung out more outside of work before, you know...”

“I’m not twenty or looking for a one-night hook-up, Bek. What I want with you is something serious.”

“Something serious? You don’t know me yet either.” I laughed. “And I don’t want to rush into things too fast.

“We won’t,” he said, but if he kept sucking on my bottom lip, we would lose this fight to the sexual tension surrounding us. “I promise.”

Should I trust him?

I knew I would let Levi move in, and then Nix would forget all about the blond boy. Only because we need a roommate, right? I tried to convince myself, but knew it because I was rooting for Levi.

“Bekky?”

I hesitated. “Tyler, I’m not sure—”

He kissed me.

Well, then. That’s one way to influence my decision fast. “Okay, but only for one night.”

Tyler hooked an eyebrow at me as if I were defying him. “Fine, I’ll take it, but I bet we’re back tomorrow picking up more clothes.” He chuckled, and I rolled my eyes.

“Don’t be so sure of yourself, mister. I haven’t promised you anything yet.”

Another kiss was planted on me before he said, “I know, but I doubt I’ll be changing my mind about you.”

Oh, geez.

It was in that moment I realized I stood no chance against Tyler Wright. I liked him, a lot, and the step between like and love was a huge one. However, this man had the power to make me fall in love with him because he understood me better than I understood myself. No one would be surprised if I became Mrs. Wright one day.