Page 55 of Rule (Marked Men 1)

“For what it’s worth I think he’s just as sprung on you as you are on him. That glow you have well he has it too just in a darker, slightly more confused way.”

“Well that’s nice to hear. I don’t know that I believe it but still it’s a nice thought.”

We spent another hour and one more coffee each catching up. We talked about school and I told her a little about Margot’s breakdown when Rule went to get my car. We talked about work and how ridiculous Loren seemed to be every time she opened her mouth and we made plans to go shopping the following weekend after another trip to the salon. By the time we were done it was too early for dinner and she had to run to get ready for work. We left on a hug which I’m pretty sure caused the tabled of geeks to spontaneously break into juvenile erection territory and I headed up to Capitol Hill. Since I was off and Rome was back in the Springs for another checkup I had promised Rule I would meet him at the tattoo shop and wait until he was done with his last client.

I hadn’t been in the shop during business hours so when I pushed open the door I was slightly taken aback at how busy it was. There was a girl behind the counter with super short hair bleached out as white as mine and spiked up all over the place. She was answering the phone, handling the people milling about the waiting area and pointing perspective clients in the directions of the appropriate portfolios. There were three other artists set up in the stations not filled by Nash, Rowdy and Rule. I noticed one of them was a very pretty girl with black and green hair that looked like something out of a comic book. There were also six clients in varying positions getting various designs and making various noises and looks of discomfort that had their friend’s and the artist’s laughing and making light hearted comments. Against Me! Was blasting over the sound system and the entire vibe was energetic and exciting. I couldn’t fathom how anyone earned such a good living in such a crazy environment, but it seemed to suit Rule’s personality to a tee.

I stood unsure in the doorway for a full minute just taking it all in until I was jostled to the side by a girl in too tight pants and disgusting Uggs. Her hair was teased up and I could see she had swirling sleeves of ink under her super tiny t-shirt and I guess she was good looking in a trashy, desperate kind of way but the girl behind the counter apparently had no time for whatever she was asking for because her voice, loud and clear with a hint of an East Coast burr told her none to graciously to “Fuck off Liza. I already told you over the phone that he was booked up for the next two weeks and he has no interest in working late to touch your shit up.”

The girl mumbled something I couldn’t hear and leaned over the counter. The receptionist or whatever her title was rolled her eyes dramatically. “Look let me break this down for you; he is not interested in you. You are a client, you give him money to tattoo you not date you and not to flirt with you. He’s busy and I mean busy so if you want work done you will get put in the book like everyone else and come in for your scheduled appointment. Besides he’s got a girlfriend now and has no interest in the little ink bunnies anymore.”

I blinked rapidly in surprise when I realized she was more than likely talking about Rule and that I was more than likely the girlfriend she was referring to. How strange was that? The girl continued to have a little bit of a fit until it became clear she wasn’t going to get past the blond fireball to get to the artists. She shoved past me on the way out the door and immediately a clean cut college guy took her place at the desk. He made his appointment with no fuss and I continued to watch the ebb and flow business for a while until the girl’s attention finally landed on me.

“Can I help you with something?” She wasn’t exactly friendly, more like matter of fact so I started a little bit.

“I’m just waiting for someone.”

“Well you can have a seat over there if you’re waiting for a client.”

I tucked my hair behind my ears and cocked my head to the side and regarded her carefully. “I’m actually waiting for Rule.”

Now that she was looking at me I could see she had really unusual colored eyes, one was dark brown and the other was a swirl of green and blue. She gave a really heavy sigh and narrowed her eyes at me. “Like I told the other tattoo tramp, Rule is busy. If you want to see him you have to have an appointment just like every other client.”

I snickered against my will. “Tattoo Tramp? Is that what you call them?”

She seemed surprised by my question. “Yeah. You have no idea how many poor girls are walking around this town with stupid lower back tattoos just because they wanted to pull their pants down for one of the guys.”

“Oh I would totally believe it.”

She leaned her elbows on the counter and sized me up and down. “What did you say your name was?”

“I didn’t but then again you didn’t ask. I’m Shaw, I’m not a tramp of any persuasion and I don’t have any tattoos so neither of those things applies to me.”

As soon as I said my name her jaw dropped open and she shoved off the big leather chair she was sitting on. Her wicked colored eyes went wide and she smacked her hands down hard on the marble surface separating us.

“Holy shit you’re Shaw? You’re freaking real? Unbelievable! Guys Rule’s girl is here and she’s like an actual girl with an actual brain. Un-freaking-believable. The terrible trio have been talking about you for weeks and I just didn’t believe it but here you really are.”

Like something out of a movie all eyes in the shop suddenly swiveled up to where I was standing. I had spent plenty of time with Nash and Rowdy over the last few week so they both just offered up brief “heys” and went back to what they were working on. Rule’s look turned my insides out and he gave me a wink before saying something to the kid he was working on and sitting back to wipe the excess ink off. The other three artists stared at me openly which would have made me super uncomfortable but the blond had sprinted around the counter and was now standing right in front of me. She was almost the same height as me but weighed a good thirty pounds less, somehow though her wild hair made her look taller and it was hard to believe that loud voice came out of such a tiny package. She was like a punk rock pixie.

“Do you have any idea how long I’ve waited for one of those guys to land a serious girlfriend? Forever! Sending away the ink bunnies has never been as satisfying as it is now and I never ever would have pegged Rule as the one to go down first.” She waved a hand over her shoulder at the opposite side of the shop where the three artists I didn’t know were working and pointed to each one. “Bixie, she’s married to a firefighter so she’s never caused to much fuss with weirdo client stalkers, Mase has an on and off girlfriend so he can behave but when they’re off he can give Rule a run for his money in the man-whore department, Jasper, well we call him Jaz keeps his liaisons all quiet and secret because he’s got ties with the Kings of Sorrow the local biker club and apparently that’s supposed to be hush-hush so the bunnies don’t hover around for him too much, but the terrible trio, man oh man I show those bitches outta here all day every day and even with Rule being hooked up with you it still seems like that’s my full time job.”