home   |   -   |   A-Z   |  

Chapter 45

Bitsy stepped aside and let Colin pass her and come into the staff room. He was wearing a long-sleeved white shirt and a pair of dark jeans that did, indeed, show off that nice butt Bitsy had mentioned. I stood, one hand shutting the laptop, the other in the air to stop him.

Lets go out there, I said, indicating the hall. I moved past him, trying not to notice his musky scent. He must have poured a whole bottle of cologne on himself. But instead of it being a turnoff, I liked it.

I was getting too desperate if I was caving in to a guy who dressed like a girl. I needed a date.

Bixby followed me into my room, where I indicated he should sit in the client chair. I grabbed a sketchbook off the shelf and picked up a pencil before settling onto my chair. I settled a little too fast, though, and it started to roll. I stuck a foot down to stop it, but my knee connected with Bixbys, and he flashed his sexy smile at me.

I cleared my throat and pushed away, my pencil poised.

So what is it you want? I asked, realizing too late that it was a loaded question and could mean just about anything. I mean, well, what sort of ink do you want? Something small? Since its your first one. I couldnt keep the sarcasm out of my tone.

He frowned. Did I do something wrong? he asked.

I sighed. Might as well get this over with. I pointed to his long sleeve on his right arm. Can you just pull that up? I want to see it.

More frowning. See what?

I shook my head. Just do it, okay?

He actually looked puzzled, then unbuttoned the cuff and shoved the sleeve up.

I did a double take. Really.

There was nothing there.

I peered more closely, wondering whether hed had it removed. But I didnt see any signs of laser surgery.

Whats this all about, Brett? he asked, his tone frosty.

I bit my lip and shrugged. I thought you already had a tattoo, I said.

I told you I didnt. And I must really like you, because this isnt something Id do on the spur of the moment.

He didnt sound like he really liked me at the moment, but I was too busy trying to register what he was saying.

But Jeff Coleman- I thought about the folder at Murder Ink, how Id seen the name Colin Bixby. I wasnt going crazy; it was there in black and white.

Whos that? he asked. Is he your boyfriend?

I snorted. Absolutely not, I said with more force than I intended. He owns Murder Ink. He said you got a tattoo.

Bixbys eyebrows moved so close together, they looked like theyd become one. I never had a tattoo. I told you that. He looked at my tattoo machine on the counter and sighed. Im not thrilled about needles.

Yeah, yeah, you said that, I said, mulling this new information. If Colin Bixby hadnt been the one at Murder Ink with Wesley Lambert and Rusty Abbott, then who was it? Who was using his name? You said, too, that you know Kyle Albrecht. Do you know Wesley Lambert, too? Shanda Leer, I added, trying to hide my smirk.

I do, he said.

Lambert and a guy named Rusty Abbott-

Lesters assistant?

He knew all the players. How was he involved in all this? Because even though he didnt have a tattoo, it was all a little too close for comfort.

Thats right. Rusty Abbott, Lester Fines assistant. How do you know him?

What about him? He was evading my question. Id have to get back to it.

Well, Abbott and Lambert and another guy went to Murder Ink after that Queen of Hearts Ball last year and got queen-of-hearts playing cards inked on their inner right forearms. Jeff Coleman told me that the third guys name was Colin Bixby. I leaned back a little, studying his face to see his reaction.

Well, it wasnt me, he said loudly. I have no idea who it was. And Ive never gone to a tattoo parlor with anyone, anytime. He paused. Except right now.

I had to ask. It was eating me up inside.

How do you know Kyle and Wesley? Are you a drag queen, too?

His eyes grew wide, shock crossing his face. You think His voice trailed off into a sort of cough.

I dont know what to think, I said.

Bixby took a deep breath and forced a smile. Brett, Im not a drag queen. Im not gay. I know Kyle because hes my cousin.

His cousin?

But why would someone use your name when getting a tattoo?

He shrugged. Who knows? But his jaw had tensed, be-lying his nonchalant tone.

Wouldnt it be easier to say your name is John Smith or something? I was talking off the top of my head now and didnt exactly expect an answer.

Rusty Abbott and I dont get along very well. Maybe it was his idea of a joke.

The mention of Abbott veered my thoughts onto another track. So how do you know him? Is it through Lester Fine?

Thats right.

I had another thought. You called him Lester. Thats pretty familiar for someone it seemed like you met just yesterday at the hospital.

Bixby bobbed his head a little in a sort of nod. I know Lester. I dont advertise it because hes a celebrity and all, and I dont want to come across as name-dropping or anything. But I met him several months back when he came into the hospital for a well a procedure.

I grinned. A face-lift?

He shook his head.

Eye work?

He shook his head again. I cant tell you. HIPAA, you know.

Yeah, I knew. But youre an ER doctor. Emergencies only. Do you do procedures?

Bixby chuckled. You cant cut a guy a break, can you?

I just like to find out as much as I can about someone before I ink him. I almost said when I like him, but managed not to slip up.

Did you Google me yet?

Hmmm. That was an idea. I was so wrapped up with Trevor and Lester Fine and Wesley Lambert that I didnt think to Google Colin Bixby.

Is that a no? he asked.

I shook my head, happy I could be honest, although later Id take a quick look. He seemed to know what I was thinking, and he leaned over and put his hand on my knee.

I came here today because I like you, he said softly.

I let myself get lost in his eyes for a second, and it was an extremely pleasant place to be. But then he sat back again, his eyes leaving mine and skipping all around my room. Can we get this over with? he asked.

With that sort of attitude, Im not sure its a good idea, I said.

He flashed me a smile. A Celtic knot. Small. He unbuttoned the top three buttons of his shirt, and I tried not to catch my breath. He pointed just above his left nipple. Here.

I smiled back, despite myself. Youve been thinking about it.

I didnt want to go someplace where Id get hepatitis, or worse, he said, waving his hand around to indicate my room. This looks pretty good. I feel safe here.

Im glad you feel safe, I said, sketching out a Celtic knot on my pad. I could do one of these with my eyes closed. But I wasnt going to tell him that. He might think I would actually close my eyes, and then hed get spooked. What about this? I asked, showing him my sketch.

He nodded slowly. Thats exactly right.

You can make an appointment with Bitsy and leave a deposit, I said, standing.

Bixby reached out and caught my hand with his. Now. It has to be now, or I might never come back. He paused. I took a Xanax.

I laughed out loud. Let me check with Bitsy, make sure Im free for an hour. That should be all itll take. I need to make a stencil. Ill be right back.

I could still feel the pressure of his hand on mine as I scurried out to the front desk.

Someone looks happy, Bitsy teased.

He wants me to do it now.

I like a man whos decisive, she said, looking at the book. Go ahead. You dont have anyone coming in for another couple hours.

I had started back toward the staff room to make the stencil when I heard her say, Oh, by the way, Jeff Coleman just called. He wants you to call him right away.

What did he want?

I dont know. He wouldnt say. She rolled her eyes at me. Maybe he wants to make an appointment, too.

I made a face at her, and when I went into the staff room, I grabbed my cell phone out of my bag. I could multitask with the best of them, but Id have to call Jeff before I started Bixbys ink.

Murder Ink.

Jeff? Its Brett. What do you want?

No foreplay, Kavanaugh? You disappoint me.

What do you want? I repeated. I havent got all day.

You might want to make time for this. I made a few calls. About Charlotte. Asked what Homeland Security was investigating her for.

My heart started to beat a little faster, and I put my sketch down. What was it?

Shes not being investigated.

I thought about what Tim had said. Was he wrong? What do you mean?

Shes working for them. Undercover. Has been for almost a year now.

Chapter 44 | Pretty In Ink | Chapter 46