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The bearded guy with a beer belly in Patriot’s chair nodded and smiled at me. “Sure, I’m not going to complain about the hot-as-fuck scenery while you’re inking me.”

“You’ll keep your eyes to yourself,” Patriot growled. Then he glared as he led me over to a chair in the corner. When he returned to his client, he picked up the tattoo gun and pointed it at the guy. “Unless you want me to do a fuck of a lot worse than adding a giant dick to your design.”

I bit my bottom lip to keep myself from laughing while his customer shook his head and dropped his gaze to the floor. “Nah, man. Message received loud and clear.”

Patriot’s possessiveness was sexy, and so was his confidence as he worked on the tattoo. I watched the muscles in his forearms and biceps bunch, his tattoos flexing as he inked his art onto someone, squeezing my thighs together to ease the ache in my core. I’d never been turned on by a guy before, but Patriot had brought my dormant libido roaring to life. It seemed as though everything he did pushed my buttons, and without being exhausted like I’d been last night, I wasn’t sure how I was going to be able to fall asleep knowing his hot body was right next to me.

I pulled myself out of my fantasies when Patriot paused to ask, “You okay over there, Cherry?”

“Cher—” His customer didn’t finish echoing my nickname because he caught the death glare Patriot sent his way. “Right, shutting up now.”

I giggled and nodded. “Yeah, I’m good.”

He flashed me a grin. “I’ll be done in about thirty minutes. If you want to grab a drink, the fridge in the break room is stocked.”

His gaze dropped to my mouth when I licked my lips, his eyes darkening to a shade of navy. Needing a break from the chemistry between us—which crackled around the booth—I hopped off my seat to take him up on his offer. “You know what? I am thirsty. Can I bring anything back for you?”

“Nope, I’m good.” His grin widened as he bent over his customer’s arm to finish working on the colorful sleeve that stretched from shoulder to wrist.

Since there wasn’t anyone around when I walked into the break room, I stuck my head into the freezer to cool off. Just being around Patriot left me hot and bothered. By the time I finished my drink and pulled myself together, he was already at the front counter with his customer. My eyes widened at the wad of cash the guy handed Patriot, and I let out a low whistle after he left. “Whoa! I had no clue tattoos were that expensive.”

“He was in my chair for six hours this round. Two hundred bucks an hour plus tip”—he tapped the stack of bills on the counter in front of him—“adds up pretty damn fast when you’re doing a custom piece as big as his.”

“Then I guess I shouldn’t feel too guilty about how much I spent today.” I scrunched my nose. “Although I’m not sure how I’ll ever be able to pay you back. Do you guys own a bar? I know it might not seem like it with everything that happened at Hell’s Kitchen, but I’m a really good waitress.”

Patriot came around the counter to wrap his fingers around my wrist and pull me against his chest. Then he slid his arms around my back, his large hands spanning my waist. His blue eyes were serious—and full of desire—as he stared down at me. “I’m not expecting you to pay me back for the shit you bought today, Cherry.”


He brushed his mouth over mine to stop the flow of words. I pressed trembling fingers to my lips as he said, “If you’d feel better having something to do, you can help out here while I’m working. Answer the phones, book appointments, shit like that. Not because you owe me or the club anything, though. You need anything, I’ll make sure you get it.”

Butterflies took flight in my belly. “Wow.”

His lips curved into a sexy smirk. “You deserve all the wow I can give you, baby.”

“I don’t even know what to say to that.”

“There’s nothing to say.” After leaning over the counter to shove most of the cash into the register and pocketing the rest, he led me toward the door. “Unless you’re gonna try to deny something’s happening between us?”

“Nope,” I whispered, shaking my head.

“Good, because I’ve been looking forward to having you all to myself in my room again tonight.” Goose bumps spread across my skin as his gaze raked me from head to toe. He picked up his pace, and I hurried to keep up with him.

I tugged on his hand as we walked past the kitchen. “I had dinner with Bridget and Cat at the mall, but you said you were working on that guy’s tattoo for the past six hours. Aren’t you hungry?”

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