Inked on Paper - Nicole Edwards



One year ago—January

Austin, Texas

“See you later, Presley!”

“Later!” I hollered back, seconds before I stepped outside, the cold wind slamming into me. “Fuck.” January was definitely not my favorite time of year. Not only was it freezing-ass cold, but it was … well, January.

It’d been a hectic Friday night at Different by Design, the tattoo shop I owned and worked at, but I had no more appointments, and I didn’t feel like hanging around for any more walk-ins, so I figured it was time to head home, maybe curl up on the couch and watch an action flick or something equally mind-numbing.

And popcorn.

Mmm. Popcorn.

My coat started ringing as I was crossing the street, drawing my attention away from the sleet that pelted my face. I slipped my hand into my pocket and yanked out my phone, staring at the screen. A smile formed when I saw that it was my best friend, Gavin. Hoping maybe he’d be up for watching a movie tonight, I hit the talk button and held the phone to my ear.

“Hey, Gav,” I greeted as I pulled my sleeves down over my hands to keep them warm. “What’s up?”

“Where are you?”

“On my way home. Was just thinking about you.” I cast a quick glance down the small side street before darting across. “Feel like chilling for a while? Maybe watch a movie?”

“You seen Adrian today?” he asked, ignoring my questions altogether.

Was it me or did he sound strange? “Not today, no. He said he had some stuff to do this weekend. Why?”

“I … uh … think you should check on him. I’ve tried calling him and he won’t answer.”

“It’s not unusual for him not to answer,” I told Gavin. Adrian was Gavin’s older brother and the man I was currently dating, so his concern wasn’t completely out of character, but there was an urgency in his tone that threw me. “You know how he gets when the band’s gearing up to head out of town.”

“I know, but … I think something’s off. Would you mind going by there?”

“Sure. Okay.” Adrian’s apartment was on my way home, so it wasn’t an inconvenience to make a quick pit stop on the way. Considering Adrian and I had been on the outs for a few weeks, it probably wouldn’t hurt for me to make an effort to calm the waters, per se. And if it would ease Gavin’s mind, I’d gladly do it.

“Cool,” Gavin added. “I’m workin’ tonight, but I’ll see you back at the apartment.”

“Yeah.” Apparently he wouldn’t be joining me for popcorn and a movie. “Don’t get in too much trouble,” I teased.

“You know me. Trouble’s my middle name.”

“Your middle name’s Roger, but you’re right, trouble suits you better.”

I hung up the phone and shoved it into my pocket as I continued down the sidewalk, sidestepping all of the people out on Sixth Street tonight. A few of them bumped into me, jostling me around as I tried to squeeze through the masses spilling out of the bars and onto the streets.

“Hey, baby,” someone crooned from nearby. “Lookin’ good.”

I rolled my eyes and kept going.

Ten minutes later, I had made it up the four flights of stairs to Adrian’s apartment. It took a minute to catch my breath, but once I did, I pounded on the door, then stepped back to wait for him to answer. Music sounded from inside and I figured he couldn’t hear me over the noise. Trying the knob, I found it unlocked, so I let myself inside.

“Adrian?” I called out to him, peering into the tiny kitchen and the living room at the same time. The place looked just as empty and threadbare as the last time I’d been there. “You here?”

The music was louder in the back of the apartment, coming from his bedroom. Another noise sounded as I made my way down the narrow hall, past the bathroom, but it definitely wasn’t music I heard.

“Ahh, yeah…”

I knew what I would find before I stepped into the doorway, and I should’ve turned around and run the other way, but something propelled me forward. I felt my chest tighten and my stomach roll, but still, I closed the gap to the door, put my hand on the jamb, and peered inside.

And there he was…

The lying, cheating son of a bitch.

Adrian Dennis, the man I’d been dating for the past eight months, was buried balls deep in some bitch’s…

“Such a tight ass, baby,” Adrian growled, his hips pounding against the woman currently bent in half