Bare Skin: A Billionaire Romance (2 page)

The clubs back home (on a good night) only had at most fifty to sixty people. This was insane. There had to be well over two hundred people outside, not to mention however many were already crammed inside the damn place.

Staying close to Beth, I followed her to the red velvet rope cording off the massive hoard of clubbers waiting anxiously to get in. A few hard stares fell on us as we walked by, the whispered grumbles of angry tones hit my ears.

She's going to get us jumped. Cutting the line doesn't seem to be going over well.

Flashing a smile, she leaned in and whispered something into the bouncer's ear, dragging a single finger down his chest.

That was all it took. Unclipping the rope, the giant bulky man pulled it to the side, and guided us in. His eyes ate up her body, teeth biting down hard on his bottom lip.

Beth had made more than a few friends here, and with her modeling career highlighting her name on a few billboards...

She could basically go anywhere, any time, no questions asked.

My chest started to tighten, lungs working to pull in air. I hated large crowds of people, and this was a giant ball of strangers all welded side by side.

I knew that living here wasn't going to be easy. A place where people outnumbered bugs, and personal space was a privilege, wasn't an easy choice for me.

But Beth was here, and when it came to art, this was a garden growing easels. My career was more important to me than my own health.

This is what anxiety meds are for. Exactly why they were made.

The air was thick, sweat and liquor was the only scent floating through the room. I tried to breathe through my mouth, hoping it would dull the aroma making my stomach curdle.

It didn't work.

Instead I tasted the air, and that was a hell of a lot worse than smelling it.

Trying to maneuver through the wall of patrons was nearly impossible. Twisting, squeezing, turning, I moved in so many different directions just to get ten feet inside the damn place.

“Here we are, Lo!” Beth yelled into my ear. Her voice was masked by the loud thumping beat of music. “It's drink time!” Spinning her arms over her head, she twirled on her heels towards the bar.

“Yes, please.” I nodded, ready for a drink right then. I honestly would've taken anything just to ease the tension hitting my ribs.

I had a slight phobia of being around people for as long as I could remember, and I wasn't completely sure why.

But that secret fear I held of large crowds and unknown faces plagued me with a nervous twitch I couldn't stop. I was so much more comfortable just being home by myself, and with my paints as company.

Being social to this degree was not my cup of tea. But for Beth it was her domain.

Everything about the club made me uncomfortable, turning my entire body into a burning inferno. Sweat was pouring over my neck, trickling down my spine. My head was spinning and warping with nervous sparks.

If I could have turned to run out the front door, I would've. But Beth was leaving and this was her way of signing off for a time. I couldn't ditch my best friend, no matter how miserable I felt right then.

She had put this night together for me, for us, for the new path of our future. I'd be an asshole if I let my fear run my life all the time.

“What will it be, Ladies?” A smooth voice echoed over the music. The bartender swiped away the remnants of a spilled drink, tucking the bar rag deep into his belt.

Instantly my eyes shot to his waist, taking in the large bulge hidden beneath. His muscles looked like they were strangling his shirt. The edges of the fabric dug into his skin, a thick sheen of sweat glistened under the low lights.

“Two gin and tonics.” Beth googly eyed the bartender and his rugged arms. “Or better yet, she'll take one, and I'll take you. That will work better for me.”

I could feel my cheeks flush, body warming with embarrassment. Beth was never subtle.

Ever.

She spoke whatever flew into her head in the moment. She didn't give a shit.

And there it was, her untamed tongue had started, coming to life with the first piece of man she laid her eyes on.

Now it was up to me to make sure she didn't get herself into any trouble. I became the mother figure of the evening, just like I had so many times before. “Alright, Beth, calm down. Just the drinks please, you'll have to excuse her.”

“No harm done, you Ladies enjoy yourself tonight.” Sliding the glasses over the smooth surface, the burly bartender shot a wink at Beth and moved onto the next person.

Grabbing her arm, I yanked her towards the dance floor. “Come on, we just got here. Don't let your vagina take over just yet.”

“But, Lo...” She groaned, looking over her shoulder at the man-meat behind the bar. “He's so fucking hot.”

“But the night is young, leave your options open.” Throwing the drink back, I let the icy liquid sooth my throat.

Relax, have fun. Relax, relax...

I hate this feeling!

I wanted so badly to just be as free as Beth. It would be nice to have no filter for once, to let myself just go with it and do whatever the hell I wanted.

No worries about the 'what if's,' or the repercussions of tomorrow.

Free, I want to be free.

But I haven't been able to figure out how.

The next two hours went by and I had to admit, I had fun. Despite the shoulders of sweaty people I didn't know running across my skin, and the creepy winks and head nods of walking penises; we danced, we drank, and we flirted with random men.

Well Beth flirted, while I dealt with the repercussions of a creepy wing-man, whose eyes couldn't be bothered to lift higher than my chest.

But there was no way in hell I was taking anyone home with me.

Men in a bar were just like the rats that ran the streets. Some were fine, and cute, and sweet. But others came with filth, diseases, and lord knows what else.

One bite and you're done.

That was a risk I wasn't going to take. I didn't want to get up one morning with some STD from a random man-whore I brought home.

And I wasn't letting Beth wake up to the same horror. She'd thank me later for that one, even if she cried about it now.

“Alright, Beth, I'm tired. Let's head home.”

“Home? No, no, no. I'm sad we don't have any dick for the evening, I'll figure that out later.” Her head fell back to down the last drops of her drink. “But we have one more stop before we head home.” Smirking, she gripped my wrist and led me out the door.

“What do you mean? We came, we partied, now it's time to go.” I tried to stop on the sidewalk, halting our late night stroll into the dark unknown.

“Nope, not yet, Lo. There's one more thing we're doing tonight.” Her back faced me, as she started forward.

Fuck. What the hell does she have up her sleeve?

It was hard to tell with her. Whenever she didn't come right out and say what it was she had in mind, I knew that usually meant it was something I'd disagree with.

She learned over the years that if she kept her mouth shut, I'd be more likely to go along with it. There was one time when we were seventeen, Beth had this glorious idea for us to sneak out and go to a house party that a few seniors were throwing.

Sounds innocent enough, right?

Wrong. No one mentioned that the pizza they put out had magic mushrooms laced between the real mushrooms.

I knew it tasted funny.

Beth claimed she didn't know, but her slight smirk and giggling eyes, said otherwise.

That was the one and only time I'd ever experienced the Alice in Wonderland effects of the shroom. Don't ask me how, but we ended up on our backs in the middle of a golf course, staring at the flames of jets flying above.

And yes, I swear I could actually see the flames shooting out the back end of the plane.

After that I started really asking questions, and she started realizing she had to be more obscure about the plans.

Beth glided over the sidewalk, her long legs taking four steps to my one. I had to practically jog to keep up with her pace.

How the hell she was even able to walk that fast in heels was beyond me. It was like she was born in them, and the six inch spike at the base of her foot only propelled her further.

While my feet rocked side to side, ankle using every muscle it had to stay steady. I hated heels, and I knew they certainly didn't like me. The stabbing pain in my calves and balls of my feet, made that more than clear as I hobbled behind her.

Finally giving up, I kicked them off my feet and scooped them in my arms.

“Where are we going? I don't want to run around this city barefoot and blind. What the hell are we doing?”

“It's just around the corner, and it'll be fun. Something you've never done, and always wan—” Twisting her neck, she looked down at the top of my head. “Well, actually you've never said anything about wanting this before. But you'll love it, I promise.”

Yeah, I've heard that before.

“Love what?” Throwing my arms up, I trotted beside her.
“What is it?”

“Have I ever steered you wrong?” My neck snapped up, lips pulling taut. “Forget I said that, here we are.” A huge smile hit her cheeks, hands falling to her hips.

It took me a moment to realize what I was reading. “Ink... A tattoo? No, no way. We're not getting tattooed, Beth.”

“Yes, yes we are.” Standing firm with her hands tightly on her sides, she cocked her hip out. “Come on, Lo, we can do this together. Just a small one, nothing big. And it would mean a lot if you got one with me.” Pressing her palms together, Beth curled her fingers around each other.
“Please?”

“You're leaving in a couple days for Paris and you want a tattoo? Won't your agent get pissed?”

“No. There's plenty of girls that have them. I'm not getting an entire back piece or anything, just something little. Come on, please?” Batting her lashes, her eyes widened like a needy puppy.

I never understood how the hell she talked me into some of the shit we'd done, but Beth was good at it.

Even if I fought her tooth and nail, I'd find myself blinking and being right where she said we were going. All while still declaring that it was a bad idea, or that nothing good could come from what she wanted to do.

There was the rare occasion she would listen. And if she didn't listen, when shit started to go south or seem sketchy, my foot would slam down and Beth would toss in the white flag.

In the end, she convinced me to do a lot more than I would have done on my own.

I'm not saying I regret all of it, but there are some things I could have done without.

“I'll come in with you, but I'm not getting anything.”

“Just a little one, Lo. I want us to do it together, we won't be able to do anything for such a long time. Come on, be adventurous.” Nudging me with her elbow, she flashed a large smile.

“I'll look around, but I'm not making any promises.”

A fucking tattoo?

Seriously?

Chapter Two

Kash

T
he loud screams of heavy metal crackled through the speakers in the ceiling. Letting myself fall into the intense strumming of guitar rifts and the crashing of cymbals, I flicked the light on for my tracing table, ready to let the images flow.

Tattoos were my calling, my one and only lust. It was freedom in the form of flesh, pleasure in the form of pain.

There was nothing better than getting tagged by a needle or watching a permanent picture get stenciled across skin.

And when I would wipe away the final smear of ink, it was an orgasm for my eyes. My body would become electrified, every hair standing on end with a galvanic torch.

Seeing my work, watching the expression glow on the face of my client; there was nothing in my life that ever matched it.

Ever.

Passion and need were two different things, I didn't need to tattoo, but I loved it.

Pussy was gratifying, the feel of hot wet lips riding the ridges of my cock; it was incredible, the heat was explosive.

But it never compared to the rush I felt after seeing my work set in skin forever.

Rolling the graphite tip of my pencil smoothly over the transfer paper, the first lines of my imagination came to life.

I worked the paper, treating it like the blank flesh it would eventually capture. Every line was an emotion, every contour and curve was a piece of my inner mind.

Getting lost in what I loved was easy, it was living outside the page that had been a challenge. For years I walked the planet as a lost soul, an empty shell without a purpose.

That all changed when I found tattoos. After getting my first one, I was hooked.

Tattoos and pussy are one in the same, created from the same mold. A taste was all it took, and the rest of your life was spent chasing that high.

But women... They'd never last a lifetime. That was a ride for the weak, a high that only ended in heartbreak and loneliness.

Screw that, I'm all set.

I liked being solo. No one to answer to, no one to question what I'm doing, where I'm going, who I'm going with. I'd be just fine without that leash.

My face was locked onto the page, eyes glued to the creation in my hands, when the jingle of the front door hit my ears.

Really? Of course someone had to show up now.

How could I forget that the earliest hours of the next morning was the waking hour of the sleepless around here.

Glancing up at the security monitor fastened to the wall, two young girls were standing in the front like frozen statues.

Shit, I was hoping the night was over. I really need to start this piece.

I had a huge back piece scheduled for the next day, and my client had changed their mind so many fucking times I finally gave up, eventually telling them to just let me do what I did best; envision, and tattoo.

All I needed was to know the basics. Tell me what you like, tell me what or who the tattoo is supposed to represent. And from that my fingers could manifest an image that would capture it all.

Leaning back in my chair, I tapped the pencil against my chin, watching them for a moment. It was amazing what you could learn from just observing.

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