Beneath This Ink (Page 63)

I gritted my teeth, and fought to hold back the angry words bubbling up inside me. I’d had enough tonight. Somehow I managed to regain my composure and force a smile. Monday, I thought. Monday.

“I’ll take your suggestion under advisement, sir.” I turned my back on my father and strode to the bar.

So much for not needing another drink.

I thought I heard him say my name, but I didn’t slow. Fourth G&T in hand, I crossed the deck, smiling my fake smile and laughing the fakest laugh to ever leave my lips.

I made my way to the railing on the complete opposite side of the boat from where my father stood. I still didn’t see Lucas, which was a relief.

I did, however, see Simon and his Charlie. My father might have called her a tattooed trollop, but it seemed that every man’s eyes were on her tonight. She looked stunning. And what’s more—Simon looked happy.

When I got close, Simon reached out an arm to steady me. I hadn’t realized I was wobbling on my heels. So much for pretending I was sober.

Charlie held out a hand and said, “I’m Charlie. It’s nice to finally meet you.”

I loved the swirling colors of ink running up her arms, and I thought about the tattoo on my hip. My hidden secret.

“I’ve heard so much about you, Charlie.” And I had—from Simon himself and a little from Con. “I’m so glad to finally meet you too.” I shook her hand and added, “You’ve found yourself a good man. Don’t let him get away.”

Both Simon and Charlie eyed me carefully, and I wondered if I was slurring my words. I straightened, attempting to look decidedly not drunk, but caught my heel on a gap in the planks of the decking and stumbled. My drink sloshed onto the floor, narrowly avoiding Charlie’s shoes.

Neither Simon nor Charlie missed my stumble and resulting beverage foul.

Simon asked, “What’s going on? You seem a little…”

My face burned with mortification. I was officially that girl. Might as well own it.

“Drunk? Then mission accomplished.”

Simon and Charlie maneuvered me into a corner, presumably to keep me from making an even bigger fool of myself in public. Lovely.

“What the hell is going on, Vanessa?” Simon demanded.

I lifted my glass and sucked back the last of my drink. Fuck it. I tossed it over the railing and smiled as it hit the water of the Mississippi. And then I realized I’d just littered. Crap.

I looked up to see Simon waiting for an answer. He was a good man. She really did need to hold on to him.

“Nothing you need to worry about, Simon.” Movement over his shoulder snagged my attention. Lucas Titan. Heading toward my father.

I had to get out of here. And I surely didn’t need my father to see me with Simon either. God only knew what conclusions he’d draw.

“I think I’ve had enough festivities for the evening. It’s time for me to go. Especially if you don’t want my father to think you’re still potential husband material.”

My words caught them both off guard, but I was more worried about getting off the boat.

Simon came to the rescue once again—because he was a genuinely good guy. “Let’s get you a cab then. Unless you want us to see you home.”

I didn’t need to ruin their night because I couldn’t get control over my own.

“No, a cab is fine.” I turned to Charlie and whispered, “Treat him right; he’s one of the good ones.” I thought about threatening to harm her if she hurt him, but restrained myself.

Simon took my arm, and he and Charlie led me down the ramp, across the dock, and through the crowd to a cab. Simon gave the driver my address and paid him. I waved lamely as the cab pulled away and began to inch through the traffic.

One thing was for sure though: I wasn’t going home.

I gave the cabbie a different address.

I wasn’t sure what happened last night on that fucking steamboat, but the after effects on two of the most important women in my life made me wish I could have been there to throw some punches.

Vanessa had hammered on the door, and when I’d opened it, she’d practically fallen into my arms. The scent of gin coming off her had been intense. When I’d tried to get answers she’d just mumbled gibberish. The woman could not hold her liquor.

After she’d puked her ass off in my bathroom while I’d held her hair back, I’d forced her to down a glass of water. She’d already been passed out by the time I’d tucked her into my bed.

And then Lee had shown up. She’d let herself in, dead calm and determined. Her requests had been simple, and there was no way I could refuse her. I’d pulled my Tahoe out of the alley garage behind Voodoo, and we’d gone back to her place. She’d packed one bag, and we’d loaded up her mutt. I’d watched her drive off, and Huck, her giant of a dog, was left sleeping in his crate in the break room.

And then Simon had shown up. It was like a fucking revolving door. The only upside was that Vanessa had slept through it all. I wasn’t sure that she was ready to tell Duchesne about us, and I wasn’t going to do it for her. Besides, the man had already had a hell of a night.

One thing I knew for sure: Vanessa was going to be answering my questions this morning.

Which was why I was sitting on the edge of the bed, waiting like a schmuck for her to wake up.

It was almost eleven, and she was going to miss her standing Sunday brunch with Elle. Although I didn’t expect she’d be interested in eating when she woke. She was going to have a hangover to rival all hangovers.

She rolled, and a groan escaped her parted lips. Her eyes fluttered open, and I reached for the glass of water and ibuprofen on the nightstand. This wasn’t my first rodeo.