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Authors: Tabatha Vargo

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BOOK: Black Sheep
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I nodded. “Yeah, I saw him.”

My mom wasn’t clueless. She’d never come right out and asked, but I think she knew about my feelings for Tyson.

How could she not?

We’d lived in the same house with her, and once or twice, I’d caught her watching me while I watched him.

It was embarrassing, but as long as she didn’t mention it, I never would.

“He works so hard. If he’s not at the garage, he’s at the tattoo shop.” She chopped at an onion and used the back of her hand to wipe at her eye. “He showed me a picture of a tattoo he did the other day, and it was amazing. Such talent.” She beamed.

She was just as proud of Tyson as she was of Brian and me.

“He’s definitely talented,” I agreed.

It was one of the most awkward conversations I’d ever had with my mom, which meant once I finished prepping the potatoes for her, I practically ran from the kitchen to get away.

I fell asleep that night thinking about Tyson. I felt like I was in high school again, dwelling over our last meeting and thinking of what dinner would be like with him sitting across from me.

I could hardly wait to see him again, but more than anything, I was hoping to get him alone and maybe talk. The last thing I wanted was for things to be weird between us, and with the way he acted in the kitchen earlier, I knew throwing myself at him and having him walk away had done just that.







There I was, minding my business and getting ready to leave her parents’ house, when she appeared from out of nowhere, rocking me so hard I couldn’t think straight. I’d spent every night since she left thinking about our last moment together—thinking about that fucking kiss and how it had transformed me somehow.

I’d let her touch me. And while her touch had felt like tiny knives to my conscience, they’d also felt like the best cure for my insanity. It was all I could think about.
was all I could think about.

For three months, I’d been so fucking lost. When I was seventeen, I moved out from her parents’ house as soon as I could because being near her was killing me. The move had been before I’d even graduated high school and only after weeks of talking the Palmers into it. They’d only agreed because the apartment I’d found was still close to home.

But moving a few miles away from her was one thing. When she moved hundreds of miles away for school, I felt like I couldn’t breathe. She was no longer right down the road in the safety of her home. She was far away in a place where I couldn’t reach her.

I didn’t like it.

I became burly and angry, and even the guys at the shop started commenting on my new attitude.

“Bro, you’re so uptight lately. You need to climb into a hot pussy and get some relief before you end up killing someone,” Gibbs, one of the tattoo artists at the shop, joked.

The guys laughed, and I flipped him off from across the room.

Maybe he was right, but the problem was no woman could satisfy me anymore.

I tried.

Fuck, I tried so hard, but I was left feeling dirty and even more broken every time I came with one of them.

I couldn’t shake it. I missed her. I was sexually and mentally frustrated, and nothing I did made it better. So I did something I swore I’d never do—something that made me feel even less worthy of the girl I longed for.

I drank.

You’d think I’d know better. Watching my father lose himself to heroin had a major effect on me, and I never wanted to become dependent on anything, but a few beers seemed to work. So not unlike my father, I lost myself in alcohol—drinking beers until I could no longer think past the fog that filled my brain.

Most nights after work, I’d go home and drink until I passed out. Alcohol even managed to keep the nightmares away, which was a big deal.

I’d suffered from nightmares even before I killed my father. The things I experienced left my mind reeling, and it seemed the more I blocked those things out, the more they attacked me in my sleep.

The one thing I couldn’t seem to forget was the needles. I couldn’t remember who he was to my father, but his fingers were long and skinny. He had a needle tattooed on each digit in green ink. I called him
because of it, and he was the worst. His hands—the things he did to me with his body—were something I couldn’t forget. No matter how hard I tried, his touch and those needles were lodged in my memories for good.

My nightmares had gotten considerably worse since Nicole left. They went from feeling their grimy hands all over my young body—their fingernails piercing my skin and their cigarettes burning my flesh—to hearing her screams and not being able to get to her. Her cries for help would pierce my soul, and I’d wake still feeling like I was running to her with my adrenaline on full blast and my heart pumping so hard it hurt.

It was slowly driving me mad.

So when I turned around after washing my hands and saw her standing there, I almost dropped to my knees. It had taken all that I was not to go to her and pull her into my arms. I wanted to feel her against me—breathe her in—know she was there and safe, but I didn’t. Instead, I blocked it out and fled from the kitchen to the safety of the garage.

The ride back to my apartment was a blur. All I could think about was turning around and losing myself in her, but I’d grown even blacker since she left. My soul was darker and more sinister. If I wasn’t good enough before, I definitely wasn’t good enough now.

It seemed that every day, a blocked memory from my past would unlock, and I’d feel as though I was suffocating for an hour or two. The thought of even letting her touch my body—a body that had been used and abused so much—sickened me. And knowing that I’d touched her with my hands—the hands of a killer—made me angry and irrational.

What was worse was thinking of all the men who were indulging in the parts of Nicole I’d denied myself. I didn’t need to see it to know it was happening, and it pushed my insanity to the brink knowing I wasn’t there to prevent them from contaminating her with their sick lust.

I wasn’t a fool. Nicole was the most beautiful girl I’d ever known—inside and out. Her purity and innocence were like catnip to men like me. I refused to believe she wasn’t dating someone in New York by now. The men up north weren’t blind. They had to see her beauty—her light—her everything. And unlike me, I was sure they were taking advantage.

Those thoughts turned me inside out. I hated to think about another man’s hands anywhere near her, but when I did, I found myself popping open another bottle and downing it … which was exactly what I did the second I stepped through the door of my apartment.

The cold acrid liquid rolled over my tongue, and I swallowed, praying the alcohol would numb me—hoping it would take her out of my thoughts. My body shook with insanity—my mind reeled with thoughts that only enhanced my crazy. I was on the brink of losing my mind. I could feel it coming.



in town, I stayed away from the Palmer household. Being near her was too much. We weren’t two kids innocently flirting anymore. Nicole had started something before she left for New York—something that had laid quietly between us for years—and I knew it was up to me to squash it. It was up to me to make sure nothing came from the love in her eyes and the promises in her touch.

As I promised, I showed up for Thanksgiving dinner and sat with my adopted family. The dinner Mrs. Palmer cooked was delicious, but I spent most of the time at the table keeping my eyes pinned on my food. If I looked anywhere else, my eyes would wander over to Nicole, and I couldn’t have that.

She looked different, even if it had only been a few months. She looked older—wiser—and her body had grown as well. Nicole had always had an amazing body; her dancing gave her a beautiful shape. But her shape was changing. Her core was stronger, and her legs seemed even longer. New, harder curves had cut into her thighs and the tops of her arms. They were working her hard at Juilliard, and the benefits of that work were beyond sexy.

“How are things at the garage?” Mr. Palmer asked as he grabbed another roll from the platter.

I sipped my sweet tea to push the food down my throat before I spoke. “Good. They’re keeping me busy.”

“Yeah, but you’re a hard worker so that works. Keep up the good work, son. It’ll pay off.”

Biting into my turkey, I nodded in agreement. It was the most uncomfortable conversation I’d had in a while, since Nicole’s eyes were searing my flesh the entire time.

I tried to control my thoughts as I sat with her family at the dinner table, grabbing tiny peeks of her perfect form whenever I knew she wasn’t looking. But no matter how hard I tried, I felt myself stiffen behind the zipper of my jeans every time she looked up at me through her mascaraed lashes.

She was flawless—everything I’d ever wanted—and I often wondered if she knew how amazing she was. It bothered me that I couldn’t open my mouth and let her know my thoughts, but I knew it was for the best. I wasn’t for Nicole, even if everything inside me screamed that she was it for me.

The family talked around me. Nicole’s voice broke through my thoughts on occasion, and I’d listen as she talked about New York and how she hadn’t seen much of it. I was relieved to know she was staying at the school and not out parading the mean streets of the city.

“You’re quiet tonight, Tyson,” Mr. Palmer said. “Everything okay?”

My eyes connected with Nicole’s when I looked up from my plate of food, and a tiny smile tugged at the side of her mouth. I wanted to kiss her lips—taste her—and wipe that taunting grin from her sweet mouth.

“Yeah, I’m just tired. Like I said, they’re working us hard over at the garage, and I now have a ton of regulars at the tattoo shop.”

Mr. Palmer nodded. “They see how talented you are. You’re an amazing artist. If they’re going to mark their skin for the rest of their lives, they might as well have it marked by the best.”

He leaned over and gripped my shoulder, giving it a shake as he smiled proudly at me. It was nice not to flinch at his touch. Over the years, Mr. and Mrs. Palmer had grown accustomed to my irrational fear of touch, but they took their time, showing me comfort and making me relax enough to be able to handle a hug from Mrs. Palmer and an occasional handshake or shoulder squeeze from Mr. Palmer.

I wasn’t sure how much they knew about my past. I hated to think they knew the details of the gruesome things I’d endured, but if they did, they never mentioned it. They just stood there proud of me, when I hadn’t really done much to make them proud, and they understood. Their understanding ways were amazing.

I hadn’t gone off to some fancy school like Nicole—even though they’d offered to pay for one of the best art schools in America. Hell, I wasn’t really doing anything massive with my life, but everything I did was wonderful as far as they were concerned. They were the most supportive people I’d ever met in my life.

“I think Tyson should tattoo the Xbox logo on my arm,” Brian said with a chuckle. “Right here.” He grabbed at his small bicep and laughed.

Mrs. Palmer’s eyes went wide, and Mr. Palmer laughed.

“I don’t think so.” Mrs. Palmer chuckled around her glass.

“Son, once you turn eighteen, your body is yours to do with what you like, but until then, you belong to me. No tattoos until you’re old enough to at least buy smokes.” Mr. Palmer winked.

“Don!” Mrs. Palmer yelled jokingly. “Don’t tell him that. No smoking allowed ever. Got that, Brian?” She pointed at him with a fork.

The entire table laughed, and once again, I was taken aback by how lucky I was to be a part of such an amazing family. I tried not to think about what I had to do to receive that luck, but my recurring nightmares were sure to remind me.

After dinner, Nicole and I washed the dinner dishes while Brian and Mr. Palmer left for some early Black Friday sales at GameStop. Brian hadn’t stopped talking about the new war game he wanted to get before they sold out.

I didn’t mind doing dishes. It was the least we could do, considering how much Mrs. Palmer had cooked. The woman spent the two days before Thanksgiving preparing and then spent all of Thanksgiving Day in the kitchen cooking. She was such an amazing mother, and I thanked God every day that he brought the Palmer family into my life.

Even if I had to kill to have such wonder in my world.

I rinsed the dishes as Nicole handed them over to me. My eyes stayed glued to her bubble covered hands. She had beautiful hands—long, slender fingers I’d often imagined on my skin. She didn’t wear a lot of jewelry, only the ring her parents had given her on her sixteenth birthday and her high school ring.

Around her neck, she wore a thin gold chain with a ballerina charm. Growing up, I’d watching the tiny, golden ballerina dance against her growing cleavage. My eyes took in her flushed skin, and my mouth would go dry wanting to taste her salty flesh when she’d come home after being at dance for an hour or two.

I finished the dishes, rinsing a final glass and tucking it into the dish drainer as Nicole wiped at the dish foam that had escaped the deep sink and slid over the granite countertops. Turning off the water, I took the dishtowel when she offered it and dried my hands. Our eyes connected, and even though I tried to look away from her, I couldn’t.

“I’m glad you came to dinner,” she said, tucking a stray blond hair behind her ear.

“Me too.”

As if I’d miss it. I’d longed for family dinners for most of my life. Up until the moment the Palmers took me in. I wasn’t about to take advantage of my good fortune by missing such a special holiday. Especially since I knew Mrs. Palmer had gone out of her way to make a special batch of stuffing just the way I liked it for me … no onions.

BOOK: Black Sheep
13.8Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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