Marked For Love

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“What kind of irresponsible idiot gives a sixteen-year old a tattoo?” Regan Murphy hauled her sister Maura through the door of MARKED, Lantano Valley’s new tattoo parlor, and pointed to one of the kingly purple upholstered chairs in front of the window.  “Sit! Do. Not. Move.” Regan pinned the sullen teen with the same promise of death stare their mother might have used had she still been alive. 

The faint hint of lavender in the air did nothing to calm Regan’s anger as Maura slumped, arms crossed over her tank-top covered chest and frowned so hard Regan was sure she’d sprain her chin.

            Tattoo needles stopped buzzing as Regan turned her attention to the two men in front of her. The one with the needle in his hand looked as if he’s stepped off the screen of a Japanese Anime movie, his expression telling her he wasn’t easily fazed by raving red-headed females. The man he was in the process of inking, however, an older man who could well have challenged her father for his social security benefits, appeared more than a tad apprehensive as Regan’s indignation swirled around the room like an eagle with its talons out. The throbbing bass of down and dirty blues emanating from the stereo speakers hidden in walls painted in hues of gold and copper was just loud enough to set her teeth on edge.

            “Are you the owner?” Regan’s whiplash tone set the employee’s mouth to twitching. Thick strands of dark hair fell over his wide equally dark eyes as he shook his head.

            “No, ma’am.” He gestured toward the purple velvet curtain at the far end of the room and turned the needle on again. “Brodie’s in the back with—”

            “Thank you.”  Regan stormed past the counter and the four stations that included black stretchers that resembled those found at any one of the dozen spas in town. Or so she’d seen on TV as she couldn’t remember the last time she’d stepped foot in anything remotely connected to a relaxed atmosphere. As it was she barely had time to deal with Maura’s latest ode to rebellion. Fridays were her biggest delivery days at the pub and she didn’t trust anyone else to sign for the crates of liquor that would be arriving at their back door. “Ah!”  Regan spun around and caught Maura in mid-bolt.  “Your butt better be in that chair when I come back out or you can kiss any hopes of drivers’ ed this year goodbye.”

            Maura huffed, her blade straight red hair falling around her shoulders like a protective curtain as she glared at Regan. “I don’t see what the big deal is. It’s my bod—”

            “The fact you don’t see is precisely the point. Plant it.” She aimed her finger at the chair.

            Maura glared at her, mascara thick lashes fanning sparking glass green eyes.

“Now.”

            “Fine.” Maura flopped into the chair, crossed her long, jean encased legs, and looked anywhere but at her sister.

            Keeping hold of the anger that had descended this morning when she’d walked in to the bathroom and found Maura attempting to treat the infection that had settled around the mediocre Celtic Knot tattoo on the base of her spine, Regan ripped open the curtain to MARKED’s back room. “I’m looking for someone named Brodie.”

            “You found him.”

            Whatever else Regan planned to say died on its way out of her mouth as she stared at the man perched on a miniscule stool, a tiny tea cup clasped between his right thumb and index finger.  Amidst the shelves of supplies in the makeshift kitchen and break area, the industrial plastic child’s table in front of him was living up to its marketing promise of supporting the man’s significant build.

            Had Regan the time to think, she might have laughed as she took in the sight of him wedged into an explosion of pink and white lace, delicate plates filled with plastic pastries being poured a cup of invisible tea by a little girl who appeared as if she'd stepped out of the pages of a story book.

            As Brodie got to his feet, Regan stood her ground, tempted to tumble backwards as he turned dark hickory brown eyes on her.

            “Brodie Crawford.” He had a bad boy twinkle she was all too familiar with, but it was the humor shining on his face that turned her boiling temper to nothing more than steam. He held out his hand which she took automatically. “Welcome to MARKED. It’s, uh,” he chuckled. “It’s tea time.”

            “So I see.” Regan tugged free from his electric grasp and tucked an imaginary strand of hair behind her ear. Men weren’t new to her. At twenty-eight, she ran the most successful sports pub in Lantano Valley and had raised her four younger brothers. Testosterone was as familiar to her as estrogen was to a runway model.  An overabundance of testosterone, however, had never appealed to her. Then again, she hadn’t met Brodie Crawford before.  Every dormant female hormone she possessed awakened with a shot.

At an Amazonian five feet ten, Regan appreciated a man she could look up to and she found she enjoyed the added few seconds it took to meet the penetrating gaze of the man who came across as a hybrid biker/college professor. The contrast was both startling and intriguing as was his longish brown hair that brushed the tops of his shoulders and colorful inked images swirling over well-toned arms.

            Very well-toned arms. Regan took a steadying breath and willed the heat rushing to her cheeks to subside. She’d always had a weakness for strong, muscled arms. 

            And men who attended tea parties.