Authors: Elle Aycart
INKED EVER AFTER
Inked Ever After
Copyright © March 2013 by Elle Aycart
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Editor: Rory Olsen
Cover Artist: Anne Cain
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To Emilia, who passed
away one and a half months before the publication of this book.
I came back too late
and left again too early. Please forgive me.
“Girls, prepare your Franklins, we got more strippers!”
someone yelled as James and his crew entered Rosita’s.
Yup, that was exactly what he wanted to hear while crashing
his bride-to-be’s bachelorette party.
There were over twenty pink bunnies running rampant around
the restaurant, some dancing, others already waving bills at them, whistling
and catcalling—all of them totally shit-faced. James rolled his eyes and,
ignoring the mayhem, scanned the place in search of his woman. The second he
spotted her, his tongue got stuck to the roof of his mouth.
Oblivious to his presence, Tate was on the counter, dancing
barefoot. Her eyes were downcast, her arms holding her wild mop of hair up,
showing off the sexy curve of her neck while her hips sinuously swayed to the
music. A bit offbeat, though, as if she were drunk. The pink bunny ears over
her head stood skewed, and she had on a black skirt barely covering the
essentials and a tiny scrap of a pink shirt that all but had her boobs popping
out. The text on her front said
Number One Ready to Party.
Fuck, had she been strutting that sweet ass of hers all over
Boston dressed like that?
James reached her and left the two six-packs he was carrying
on the counter. As he caught a glimpse of her behind, he realized that a pink,
fluffy cottontail was bouncing on it. The other side of her shirt read
Buy This Thirsty Bunny a Drink and She May
Forget About Getting Married
. Well, didn’t that explain it all? It was a
miracle she was still standing and not crawling on the floor.
He was so going to kill Elle.
Even lost in the music, Tate must have sensed him, for her
glazed eyes lifted toward his. She looked confused for the second her brain
took to catch up, but then a wide smile broke across her face.
“My knight in shining tattoos,” she said, her words a bit on
the slurry side.
She was so cute when she was trying to be funny. “My
bigoted, drunk bunny.”
Tate laughed and threw herself at him—literally—not a
moment’s hesitation, completely trusting that he would catch her. Which he of
course did. He enveloped her in his arms and buried his face in her neck,
breathing her in, relishing the feeling of her sweet body against his. There
had been a time, not that long ago, when Tate had not only
thrown herself at him, but she’d run in the opposite direction
as far and as fast as her sexy legs could carry her. He’d caught up with
her—the proof was the motherfucking huge rock he’d put on her ring finger and
the wedding band that he’d slide beside it in a month—but he’d be lying if he
said her lack of faith in him hadn’t pissed him off a time or two.
He curled his hand around her neck and, with his thumb on
her jaw, tipped her head back, taking her mouth in a possessive, deep kiss, by
the end of which both he and Tate were breathing hard.
“So, strippers, huh?” he asked against her lips, his eyes
never leaving hers. They’d gone clubbing; he could tell. She smelled like
alcohol and cigarettes, but underneath it all, there was that sweet, fresh
smell with a hint of coconut characteristic of his woman, like she spent her
days bathing under the Caribbean sun instead of running an Italian restaurant
She smirked, the minx. “Police officers. Don’t worry; they
got nothing on you.”
“I surely hope not,” he said with a laugh. “Elle was in
charge of dress code, right?”
“Just making sure whose neck should I wring for this.”
She offered him an innocent smile. “What? You don’t like
“‘Like’ isn’t the right word here.” He wasn’t even sure what
the right word was. Seeing as his cock and his head were in total disagreement
but both about to explode, “mind-blowing” would be a good choice.
“Come on; let’s dance,” she said as an old Bon Jovi ballad
She was too short for him, especially without her shoes on,
so she placed her feet on his boots, went on her tiptoes, and encircled his
neck. He wrapped himself around her, his hands full of warm, soft skin, and
“You kick ass at dancing; that’s why all those grandmas love
you so much down at the Eternal Sun resort.”
He snorted. “You’re giving me shit about some old ladies in
Florida when you just got police officers stripping for you?”
Ignoring his question, Tate smiled against his throat. “You
realize you crashed my party, right?”
“Couldn’t stay away?”
“Nope,” he answered shamelessly.
Tate kissed him softly on his neck. “You know, the only
reason I didn’t go searching for you was that I knew you’d come to me.”
“Yeah, that and the fact that if you tried driving in this
condition, you’d end up spending the night in jail.” And maybe the next couple
of years too. For DUI
“True,” she conceded. “We may have overdone it.”
May have? He shook his head. “I knew there was a reason I
didn’t want to have this party the day before the wedding.”
“I thought it was because you wanted to allow for some
travel time in case Max shipped you to God knows where.”
Well, there was that too.
“And speaking of the devil,” she continued. “How did your
bachelor party go? Did Max behave?”
Yeah, right. “Max never behaves, princess. Giving my baby
brother carte blanche to organize a bachelor party is like giving an alcoholic
the keys to a bar.”
She narrowed her eyes. “So you got strippers too?”
“I got mermaids.” At her surprised look, he chuckled. “Don’t
ask. I didn’t touch them, but Max may be in serious need of an intervention.”
Then again, he doubted there was an intervention out there
capable of saving his brother. Max was too good-looking for his own good—and
too damn charming. All he had to do was smile, and females dropped left and
right. Surreal. His job—well, the arguably less disreputable of the two he had,
the one Mike and Cole got him when he came back from his stint in the military
and they feared he was losing it—didn’t help much either. There was something
about working for Hollywood, even if it was only jumping from moving vehicles
and burning buildings, that drove women wild.
Tate looked toward Max, who was already surrounded by
giggling girls, all fawning over him. “Mermaids? Well, that explains his wet
Yeah. Sort of.
The party kicked in all around them as they danced. Every
once in a while, someone came over to talk, but they were for the most part
left alone until Paige, Tate’s gothic waitress, prepared another round of
mojitos, and Elle, who was too brazen to even consider giving James a wide
berth, brought the drinks over.
“You and I will talk later,” he said to her, doing his
damnedest to sound stern. It was a useless attempt, though, as nothing ever
She winked at him. “Sure, bro.”
James moved to the nearest table, placed the glasses down,
and tugged Tate to sit on his lap.
She went compliantly and snuggled against him, one arm
wrapped around his lower back, the other resting over his chest. The mojito,
thank God, was long forgotten.
“I love you, James,” she whispered as she tucked her face
into the crook of his neck.
He squeezed her and nuzzled the top of her head. “I love you
It had taken for-fucking-ever for her to say these words to
him, and even though he’d heard them countless times by now, they never failed
to leave him breathless, socking him in the gut and tightening his chest.
Especially since James still broke out in sweats at the memory of how close
he’d come to losing her eight months before—to losing everything. If Elle
hadn’t been in town and alerted him, and if Jack hadn’t had his back, he
probably would have.
“Something wrong, babe?” she asked as she sensed his
He shook his head. No, nothing wrong. She was alive, happy,
and in his arms—he was good.
It had been in this very same restaurant, just a couple of
yards from where they were now sitting, where that sick motherfucker had
pointed a gun at Tate’s head. And James hadn’t been close enough to stop him
from pulling the trigger.
He’d never had any trouble sleeping at night before. He
couldn’t say the same now.
As he kissed Tate’s temple, something caught his attention.
In the far corner, his older brother Cole was facing off with Zack, looking
quite feral and yanking Christy behind him. He barked something, and Zack
backed off, his hands lifted, a smirk on his lips. Christy was rolling her eyes
as Cole unceremoniously dragged her away.
“Fuck, babe, your girls are wreaking havoc among my people.”
She followed his gaze. “What exactly is going on there?”
“My guess? Poor Zack committed the ultimate sin and tried
talking to Christy.”
“But I thought Cole didn’t—”
“Cole is fighting it. Fighting and losing. Ex-marines aren’t
too keen on that.”
“He’s stubborn,” she said with a sigh.
Stubborn? Stubborn didn’t even begin to describe his
brother. He was in a category all of his own. “Falling in love is fucking hard
on the knees, especially on the untried and unwilling ones.”
They both watched as Cole hauled Christy to the stairwell
leading to Tate’s old apartment.
“Should we be worried?” Tate whispered.
A snort escaped his throat. “For her? Nope. For him?
Absolutely.” The guy was in total meltdown. “That there, I can’t even explain,”
he finished, motioning with his chin at Elle, who was talking to Jack. Well,
not talking; by her stance, she was egging him on—as usual. One hand was
hitched on her hip, attitude galore. In typical Jack fashion, he had his arms
crossed over his chest and was regarding her with a closed expression. Whatever
she’d said, Jack’s jaw tensed. Leaving her in midsentence, he turned his back
and headed for the door, an unlit smoke in his hand. Elle threw him an
aggravated look and went in the opposite direction, not sparing more than a
distracted smile to the bunch of star-stricken, drooling guys who had gathered