Page 30 of Marked With Love

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“A painter,”Helena Hoffman says in a very unimpressed tone.

“Yup.” I push the chair in for Morgan and take a seat beside her. Dinner is at the Fourteen Hundred Club situated on the 114th floor of the city’s biggest high-rise. I took the chair with my back to the windows, and I think Helena is fantasizing about pushing me through the plate glass. “Started when I was in high school, studied it in college—”

“—But you did not get your degree,” Helena interrupts. “You dropped out after what? Six semesters?”

“It wasn’t for me.”

“I learned nothing in college,” Morgan chimes in for support. Her hand finds mine under the tablecloth. I don’t know if she’s squeezing me for reassurance or support. Maybe a bit of both.

“That’s because you got a ridiculous degree in fine arts,” her dad counters. “Now all you can do to support yourself is that tawdry tattooing.”

Morgan’s mom shudders. No wonder she lives with Violette. Even Alfred, who has never smiled a day in his life, exudes more warmth. I flip my hand over and cradle hers. No matter what her parents say to me tonight, it amounts to nothing compared to what she’s apparently had to endure for years. Commitment to another person would be scary if this is the kind of environment you grew up in.

“Morgan’s work is unique and beautiful, like her. People from all over the world pay to have something permanent etched into their skin by her hands. It has more meaning than anything I’ve done.”

“No one was suggesting that anything you’ve done has value,” Helena says.

Ouch. That was a pointed barb.

“Mom,” chides Morgan.

“Don’t worry about it,” I interject. No need for us to have a fight before even the breadbasket is laid on the tablecloth. “My art is not for everyone. It sells well, though, so some people find it appealing.”

This is met with silence from the Hoffmans. Morgan sighs and begins to change the subject when John pulls a sheaf of papers out of his pocket. “For the record, Helena and I strongly disapprove of any union between the two of you. You have known each other for little more than a week, which is hardly enough time for a person to get to know a dog let alone decide on a marriage. This is a contract stating that in exchange for two million dollars, you will leave our daughter alone forever.”


“Hush, Morgan, your father is doing this for your own good,” chastises her mom.

“I think your daughter’s worth more than that.”

“I’m going to cause a scene,” Morgan warns.

John glares at his daughter, but the threat works because the paperwork disappears inside his coat. “Fine, but this won’t be the last time we discuss this.”

“Oh, it will be because we’re done here.” Morgan throws down her napkin and gets to her feet. “Come on, Eros. We don’t have to waste our time here.”

I stand and tuck her arm into the crook of my elbow. Her parents remain at the table, fuming but not willing to say a word because that would cause a scene.

At the elevator, Morgan presses a hand to her stomach. “I’m going to be sick.”

I grab a passing waiter. “Where’s the bathroom?”

At their direction, I hustle Morgan down the hall.

“I just need a minute,” she says, giving me a wan smile. “This is why I hate meeting my parents. They always do something that makes me feel terrible.”

“Maybe you’re pregnant.”

Her eyes widen. She hadn’t thought of that possibility. “Already?”

“At the rate that we’re going, it would be more of a shocker that you weren’t.” I smooth the hair away from her face. “I’m happy either way. Why don’t you sit in the women’s lounge, have a glass of hot water, and wait for me to get the car? When I’m out front, I’ll text you. How’s that sound?”


I kiss her on the forehead. “Wait here. I’ll send someone in with some bread and water.”

Before heading downstairs, I take a quick look inside the restaurant and see Morgan’s parents still at their table. I signal for the maître d', who comes over. “Here. My girl is in the lounge. She’s not feeling great. Can you take her in a hot water and some bread? Also, this is to make sure that those two don’t bother her.” I hand him two Benjamins. “That enough?”

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