Beneath These Chains (Page 48)

Understanding settled across Elle’s face—and then a cautious look I didn’t see too often. “Do I have to get a tattoo if I go?”

I picked up her hand and threaded my fingers through hers. “You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do.”

She bit her lower lip before straightening. “Then let’s check it out.”

“I want one,” Elle announced.

I tried to hide my smile but failed. We’d only been inside the expo for about five minutes, but as soon as Elle had seen the designs and pictures posted all over the convention center—and all of the people showing off their new ink before it was covered up—she’d been vibrating with excitement.

“Impulsive much?” I asked, studying her.

“Like you wouldn’t believe.”

“You sure, doll?” That came from Delilah, one of Con’s main artists at Voodoo Ink. “It’s not something you should really decide on the spur of the moment. It’s a pretty permanent decision.”

“The design isn’t the impulse … pulling the trigger and getting it is,” Elle admitted. “I’ve been wanting something for a while … I’ve just never taken the final step.”

Vanessa clapped her hands from where she sat on Con’s lap in the front corner of Voodoo’s booth. “Yay! Tattoo virgin!”

“Like that wasn’t you too long ago,” Con said, tightening his arm around her waist. “Now you’re addicted.”

“Addicted to you and the ink,” Vanessa said, turning to press a kiss to his cheek.

It was fucking cool to see them so happy—and not keeping their relationship a secret anymore. Even here, they attracted attention. Vanessa’s status as a well-known heiress—and the fact that she was sitting on the lap of a man covered from neck to wrists in ink—would probably always spawn waves of speculation. But neither cared a damn bit.

The big room in the convention center was filled with buzzing and laughter—and some yelling and a bit of crying. Voodoo’s spot was prime real estate—in the front corner by one of the main entrances. Con’s new artist, Bishop, Delilah’s brother, was inking a big, bearded man in a chair a few feet away. Delilah’s last appointment for the night had been a no-show, which gave her an unexpected open slot in her schedule.

“You sure you want to do this?” I asked Elle. She was practically bouncing next to me, so I could guess what her answer would be.

“Definitely sure.”

Delilah pulled out her sketchpad. “What are you thinking?”

Elle explained, and Delilah listened and began to sketch.

Vanessa wiggled off Con’s lap, and he reluctantly released his hold on her.

Peering over Delilah’s shoulder, Vanessa studied the drawing. “Oh, Elle. That’s so cool. For your dad. I love it.”

I had to agree with Van. It was a simple hourglass with a quote dripping through it instead of sand.

Delilah went to prepare the transfer, and I looked around the room. Given the location of the booth and the massive amounts of people walking by, Elle wouldn’t have much privacy if she wanted it inked on the side of her hip.

“You sure you want to do this here? You could hold off and do it at Voodoo later,” I said.

I had to ask—regardless of how determined she looked.

“No, I want to do it now.”

Vanessa frowned. “If you’re afraid you’re going to lose your nerve, maybe it’s not a good idea to do it until you’ve thought it over.”

“It’s not that,” Elle started. “I just … it feels like serendipity. Like this night has worked out exactly the way it was supposed to, and tonight is supposed to end with me getting an awesome new tat. My first.” The excitement was still rolling off her in waves.

Bishop looked over at us from the sugar skull he was inking. “Love the virgins.”

My glare, which would have any normal guy backing the fuck down immediately, didn’t faze him. “Think you should be minding your own work, man.”

Bishop lifted his chin at me and took my measure. A few moments passed, and he nodded, eyes cutting to Elle one last time.

“Lucky man.”

“And I know it,” I said, voice firm.

“Okay, if the alpha stare-down is complete, I think we can get started,” Delilah said, waving the transfer at us. “You want to go change into some scrubs and a T-shirt so this is easier?”

Elle looked down at her dress. “Can’t I just pull up my skirt?”

A choking noise that I think was supposed to be a laugh came from the guy Bishop was working on.

“Sure thing, babe. You can do whatever you want,” Delilah replied.

Elle’s eyes darted to me as Con and Vanessa watched us both. Were they waiting for me to tell her no way in hell?

“You don’t need my permission. Whatever you want to do is good with me.”

Elle stood and pulled up a section of the wide skirt of her cream-colored dress. With so much material, I really wasn’t worried about anyone seeing anything. If it had been a super tight mini-skirt or something she would’ve had to peel it up and show her ass to everyone, then I would’ve gone caveman and tossed her over my shoulder and carried her out. But she didn’t need to know that.

A curious customer came up to the booth, and Con stood to chat. Vanessa planted herself on the chair to watch as Delilah prepped Elle’s skin and laid the transfer on the side of her hip.

When it was done, Elle checked it out in the mirror and showed it to me.