Inked Out (Ink Series Book 5)

“Good morning, sweet girlfriend of mine.”

“Well, someone’s in a good mood.”

“Well, we had a good night, didn’t we?”

My face flushed. “We did.”

“Has Melo woken up yet?”

“No, but she had an eventful night.” The question mark on his face led me to explain how I’d had to leave her alone in her crib while I called him. It might not be the reason why she hadn’t woken up yet, but my guess was that her excessive crying plus the feelings of anxiety in the house had exhausted her.

“Stay here, I’ll get her. I need some time with my girls this morning before I dive back into that pile of shit outside.” He planted a soft kiss on my hair-covered cheek and then I felt the mattress move next to me. Eyes closed, I listened to him put on his pajama pants and go to get our precious daughter.

His cheerful voice echoed from down the hall, “Good morning, sunshine. You up already?” followed by the cutest round of baby giggles. As I listened, I wished I was down there witnessing the brief father-daughter moment. I’d missed them. “We’re going to change your diaper, okay? I’ll do it quickly. Don’t you worry, sunshine.”

They’d shared a great connection from the moment she was born. The pair leave me in awe as I put on one of Ty’s shirt and wait in bed for them to return.

“Look, it’s Mama. Isn’t she beautiful?”

Melody saw me and got excited, which warmed my heart.

“I think she has a small diaper rash, so I put some ointment on her.”

I nodded and took our wriggling daughter from him. Tyler liked to care for Melo, but he seemed to see rashes every time he changed her diaper. It was kind of funny, in a cute way. I moved to the rocker, getting ready to nurse her. She could be quite impatient when it was time to eat.

“I’m sure Nix is having twins,” he continued making conversation. “Have you seen her lately? Her belly has doubled. Levi swears they aren’t, but damn, I can’t imagine how big she’s gonna be when she’s due,” Tyler said rubbing Melody’s back. It was clear he was trying to make things normal, even if only for a little while.

“I saw her not too many days ago and thought the same thing. They had an ultrasound already, so they would know if that were the case. Some women just get bigger, faster.”

“Are we going to try for a second one? You know I didn’t use protection last night, right?”

Hadn’t he? “I don’t think I could get pregnant now anyway. I’m still breastfeeding, and my periods are all over the damn place.”

“I would like to have another one.”

“I know.” Tyler had been dropping hints since Melody’s birth that he didn’t want her to be an only child. “Guess we’ll see what happens with time.” Although I’d had bad postpartum depression, I wasn’t afraid to go through it again if it came back. With Tyler at my side, I had no reason to be scared.

“I can’t wait.” He grinned, and I frowned at him.

“Tyler, there is no rush.”

“I meant, I can’t wait to start trying.” He laughed, and I had to laugh, too. Melody made a fussy noise and began rooting at my chest. “She must be getting hungry. I’ll go get us some breakfast while you feed her,” Ty offered before giving me another kiss and leaving. Was he the best boyfriend, or what?

From the hall I heard, “Come on, Lord, time to go outside.” Our puppy ran after him while I took Melody over to my rocking chair to nurse her.

I was exhausted, but so happy right now that it didn’t matter. While I played in her soft hair, she looked at me with her pretty green-hued eyes. A playful look appeared in her eyes like she knew Daddy was back with us full time.

“If you are going to try some cereal this morning, I think it’s best we go downstairs, okay?” I asked her like she would answer. She frowned and pouted before starting to cry as I broke her suction and covered up my nipple. Hefting her in my arms, I started down.

“No, no, sweetie. Be patient.” I tried to ease her crying on our way. Comforting her wasn’t working, though; she wanted none of it, she was hungry.

Tyler was fixing our eggs and toast when I came into the kitchen.

“What’s the matter, girls? I thought we were having a tearless morning?”

“I’m the mean mom who cut her breakfast short.”

He chuckled. “Sit on the couch, I need a few more minutes.”

The moment we sat, her head turned toward my breast and her cries stopped. Giving in, I let her resume nursing knowing she would still want more food soon. In the past week, her appetite had doubled. Possibly tripled. My body couldn’t produce enough milk for her anymore, so we’d started adding cereal. It helped a lot.

Tyler took over with Melody as soon as he was done preparing our breakfast. Playing and laughing, he spoon fed her in between bites of his own food.

Together we ate and played with Melody. I was convinced food and laughter were the secrets to having a happy baby. Our daughter had changed us from people who took part in late night parties at the club, to rolling on the living room carpet to make her giggle, the sound of which was priceless. One of the happiest I had ever heard.

“See? It wouldn’t be so bad with a second one.”

“Tyler, you are crazy.”

“About you.” He laughed. “That was cheesy, wasn’t it?” I nodded, and as I laughed, he added, “I hate to end our lovely morning, but I have a lot to do today.”

My smile faded. I knew today wouldn’t be all unicorns and rainbows, though. The Porsche, the closing of the club, and the rest of this mess with the Sullivans needed his attention. “It’s okay. Go.”

“I’ll try to be quick,” he said with a slight frown between his eyebrows.

“Take your time to do everything right, it’s important.” More than that, this was an emotional moment in his life.

“Guess I’m lucky we were running low on hard liquor at the club. That would be more trouble. It’s as if I knew deep down the end was coming sooner than planned.”

“Maybe you’d thought about this more than you think. You’ve never let stock get low at the club before. You always have enough to last a month.”

“And right now, we could last a week at the most.” He shook his head. “I think you’re right.”

I smiled, hoping to comfort him. “You were playing it safe, that’s all. You are a smart man, babe.”

He shrugged, kissed us both, and then got ready to leave.

“So, what are we going to do now?” I asked my beautiful grinning daughter. She had cereal in her nose and hair. “Maybe start with getting you cleaned up, hm?”

I had to do something to clear my head. In Tyler’s presence, I had to show my support and not my fear, but everything about the Sullivans scared me. Who wouldn’t be frightened knowing their family was marked by hooligans? The club and his car, plus whatever things I probably had no idea about. What was next? What else could happen?

Those were questions I really didn’t want the answers to.

* * *

Two nights ago, the doors had closed forever on The Black Shakers. On the first night, Tyler stayed quiet, but I could sense his turmoil.

Tonight, however, the gang was at the club cleaning and getting the place ready for auction. We all set aside a piece of memorabilia to take home with us, glasses with “The Black Shakers” or “Shakers” written on them. A souvenir to remember the good times we’d had here. The tables, chairs, refrigerators, et cetera would be sold at the auction. Tyler could have sold the business, but he had other plans for the building. His realty office for sure, but Kyle and Levi were considering relocating Ink Me and sharing the space with Tyler. It would be great for everyone to work in the same building. There would even be space for a third, possibly fourth, store or office of some sort. Since Tyler already owned the building outright, renovating it was viable, and the smart thing to do.

It surprised me how fast things were going. The way I saw it, Tyler wanted to end this chapter as soon as possible in hopes of not hearing back from any of the Sully family.

The Sullivans had been caught on tape stealing the Porsche. Thanks to the quality of Tyler’s security equipment, identifying them had been a piece of cake for the authorities. After stealing the car, it looked like they’d driven it out of the city to a quiet area, destroyed the crap out of it, and then had it towed to our driveway. It still freaked me out knowing they knew exactly where we lived. They’d made that clear. Fuckers.

“Are you guys hungry? I’ll pop across the way for some burgers and fries,” Tiff offered.

“Hell, yes, we are.”

“Why don’t you all go, girls? We’ll get the tables, chairs, and remaining boxes of liquor moved around while you’re gone,” Tyler suggested.

“Are you saying we can’t move a box or table?” Tiff hooked an eyebrow at Tyler, showing she was not happy with his comment.

“Tiff, really? You should know better than that. I know you can kick all our asses without breaking a nail.” He laughed, and she jumped on him, punching his shoulder. We all knew she was playing. “Okay, Princess of England, don’t knock me out now. I’ve still got work to do.”

“Ugh! You are so frustrating, I just might spit in your burger.” She flipped her long black hair away from her face.

“Not a chance.”

Watching them was like watching a brother and sister. Even if they weren’t siblings by blood, they were at heart.

“Come on, girls, let’s go before this ends badly,” Nix said laughing.

Tyler kissed me before grabbing my derriere and pushing us against the wall behind me. I loved when he acted this way. When he knew what he wanted.

“Ty... what are you doing?” I asked between kisses.

“Just felt like kissing you right here and now. I love this skirt, by the way.”

I blushed. Who wouldn’t? It was short and appeared tight, but was super stretchy and oh, so comfortable. “Are you still trying to seduce me into baby number two?”

“Maybe I am, who knows?” He pressed a series of rapid fire kisses to my lips, and I laughed.

“You’re impossible.”

“Everything is possible.”

I gave up. Tyler’s wishes had been made more than clear. He wanted us to have another baby sooner rather than later.

“Can we talk about this when we aren’t under the eyes of all our friends?”

He nodded, and without missing a beat, called out, “Hey, Kyle, will you help me put the boxes of liquor in my car?”

My car. The Porsche hadn’t been replaced yet. Two hours had been spent looking at prospects, but from what I knew, Tyler’s final decision hadn’t been made.

“Yeah.” Ky slapped Tiff’s bum as he walked by her then grinned like a kid who knew they’d just gotten in trouble.

“Kyle Layne, don’t start.” Unable to sound mad, her poor attempt at keeping Ky on his toes failed.

“Come on, girls. I’m starving.” Nix had her wallet in her hand, perched on her big belly, ready to get dinner.

The juicy burgers we were going after were a cholesterol trap and future heart attack. They were bad, so bad, but so damn delicious. Not even a vegan could resist them. I’d tried the vegan route, and had failed in less than a week because of these meat feasts. Who wanted to eat tofu and a garden salad when an orgasmic burger was available?

Not me.

We crossed the street, laughing and talking as women do.

“What’s up with the push for a second baby, Bekka? Didn’t you gave birth, like, two months ago?”

“A little over six months now.” I laughed. “And Tyler has been talking about it almost the whole time. I’m not opposed to it, but we need to have a serious conversation first. One baby is a lot of work, I can’t imagine how it’ll be with two.”

“I think you are crazy,” Val said. “I want one, yes, not sure about two. If I ever want a second child, the first baby will be at least two-years-old before adding to the family.” She closed her eyes as if she were trying to erase something in her mind then hooked her arm with mine. “Babe, I don’t want you to suffer again. That was difficult to witness.”

“Imagine how it was for me. Don’t worry, I’m not going down that road again.” Depression sucked, and I never wanted to get to that point again. I’d promised myself and Tyler that I wouldn’t.

“Enough with the deep talk, it’s time to eat.” First in line, Nix started her order as soon as the cashier said “Hi.” It was never smart to make a pregnant woman wait for food; I remembered those days. Tyler, too, I bet.

As we each placed our orders, I hoped the cook was ready—because he was about to be hit by a workload. Our guys always ate at least two, sometimes three, burgers at a time since they tasted as good as filet mignon. For real.