Forever With You (Misfit Tattoo Book 1), page 7
“I’m flattered. Thank you.” Toby winked, and she blushed. He grabbed a set of keys from the coffee table and placed his hand on her lower back to guide her out. “I figured you could leave your ride here and we’d take my Jeep.”
“S-sure.” As they descended the stairs, Harlow admired his tight ass encased in cargo shorts. He wore a light t-shirt that fit just snug enough to outline the muscles of his back and chest perfectly. She checked her mouth for drool and sighed. Toby was made for temptation—completely delectable—a man of sex, sin, and fun. But he was also fiercely loyal, hardworking, and he loved hard once he let down those walls. Anyone could tell if they looked close enough. It was the way he took pride in the shop, the hours he put into it, and the way he acted when he was around the people he was closest to, like Mel, Carson, Dee, and Rebel. She imagined it was the same with Ash, too.
“Here we are.” He turned to face her once he stopped in front of his own ride, but it wasn’t the Jeep that caught her attention or the man she’d been fantasizing about just a moment before. It was the badass Harley parked to his right.
“No way.” Harlow moved around him and lovingly caressed the satin chrome finishes. “My father had one of these when I was growing up, and I used to love riding with him.” She cherished those memories.
“I’ll have to take you out on it sometime.” Toby smirked as he watched her reaction.
“It’s yours?” she asked. “Don’t tease me, now.”
“Wouldn’t dream of it.”
“And here I had to go and wear a dress,” she pouted. “We could’ve gone for a ride tonight.”
“Gives us another excuse to get together again, now doesn’t it?”
“It’s a date!” she exclaimed. “I’m really going to look forward to it, too.”
“Good to know,” he said. “Ready to hit the road?”
“If we must.” She sighed, took one last longing look toward the black Fat Boy, and hopped into the waiting Jeep.
Her updo was less than perfect once they arrived at the restaurant, but it was worth it to have the top down and feel the wind course through her hair during the drive. There was something liberating about throwing her hands up, closing her eyes, and enjoying the feel of the elements that surrounded her without a care in the world. It was both relaxing and freeing at once.
Toby got out and quickly made his way to her side to help her out. He searched her face and smirked as he tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. “You’re remarkable. You know that?”
“That’s me,” Harlow replied with more confidence than she felt. Her stomach chose that moment to grumble loudly. “Apparently, I’m also hungry.”
“I see that,” Toby said. “Shall we?”
She took his arm and followed him across the parking lot.
Mecca’s was an oasis of rustic elegance. From the wooden ceiling, to the dimly lit crystal chandeliers above each table. There was light, plush carpeting, a coat room, which they didn’t need, and a long bar on the right side of the foyer. To the left stood a very refined-looking hostess.
“Reservation for James, party of two,” she overheard Toby say as she admired their surroundings.
“Yes, follow me.”
She was met with the warmth of Toby’s hand at her lower back again and couldn’t help but shiver at the contact as they followed behind the hostess until they reached their table. At that moment, he pulled her chair out for her, and she smiled widely. “Such a gentleman.”
“Not often.” Toby cleared his throat. “I’m a little rusty.” The tinge of pink in his cheeks was endearing.
“Do you come here often? It’s a great spot for a date.”
And there comes the verbal vomit.
Now it was her turn to blush as she continued to stammer. “Um, not that tonight is a date or anything. It’s just…” She gestured around them and left the sentence hanging.
“I get you.” Toby placed his hand on top of hers from across the table to stop her from fidgeting. “You’re different, and I wanted to take you some place nice. End of story.”
“Different how?” she asked. “I’m just a regular girl, taking life one day at a time. Like the rest of you.”
“See, that’s were your wrong.” He sighed and leaned back in his chair. “From the moment we met, I could tell you were different than what I was used to. You’re smart and beautiful and one of the strongest women I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet. I know loss, Harlow. It’s not the same as yours exactly, but it still fucks me up. You, on the other hand,” he shrugged, “I guess when I see you, I see what hope looks like. You’ve hit bottom and crawled back to the top. You help people and honor your daughter’s memory. I see it, and I admire you for it.”
It was her turn to reach out to him. She took his hand in hers and leaned forward. “That is the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me. I think I might cry.”
“Shit, please don’t.” He rubbed the hand she wasn’t holding across his face. “I didn’t mean to upset you.”
“They’d be happy tears, I promise.” She blinked a few times to gain composure. “But I won’t. If there is anything I can do for you, if ever you need to talk…”
Toby nodded, but he didn’t have a chance to answer. The waiter approached to get their drink orders, and when he left again, the amazingly complicated man across from her changed the subject.
“You know what you want?” He picked up the menu to study it, so she followed suit and did the same.
“The filet mignon looks good, with the rosemary-roasted potatoes and glazed carrots on the side.”
He nodded as he closed the menu. “I’m going with the porterhouse, medium, with a side of sweet potato fries.”
“Good choice.” Harlow took a sip of water. “Were you able to check your schedule? The outline healed well. At least the itching has stopped, but I’ve been applying lotion liberally.”
“Uh, yeah, but I left it at home. You mind coming up for a few when we’re done here? You still need to show me those mad drawing skills, remember?”
“Oh, no,” she grimaced. “You really want to see my stick figures that badly?”
“I do.” He chuckled, and it was nice to see him at ease again. When she asked how he thought she was different, she hadn’t expected such a sweet answer.
Their drinks arrived, their orders were soon placed, and in the meantime, they played a game of twenty questions to get to know one another. It was fun, they kept it light, and she soon learned his favorite color used to be blue, but now it was green, for some reason. Besides Love the Sinner, his favorite band was Shinedown. He was a Minnesota native. He’d known Carson and Mel since childhood. Out of all his family, he was closest to his cousin Ash, and he’d always aspired to be a tattooist.
They ate, they talked, they laughed, and they toasted to new beginnings, memories, and friendship together.
It was a great time.
Let me start by saying my boyfriend and I have been together for a year now, and we work together but in different departments. Things have been going well enough, but there’s this new girl at work who keeps flirting with him and it’s pissing me off. What should I do?
~Jealousy Sucks, Minnesota Girl~
Dear Minnesota Girl:
Jealousy does suck, but it’s a common emotion. My question is: how does your boyfriend react to this flirting? It’s hard to give you the right advice when I don’t know the whole story. Go with your gut. If he’s engaging in an inappropriate manner with this woman, then that’s being disrespectful. Kick him to the curb. But if he’s innocent in this and doesn’t appreciate her advances, then maybe you should both talk to her so she’ll knock it off. If that doesn’t work out, you may have to report it to human resources.
Harlow sat on Toby’s couch, waiting as he grabbed them a drink f
“Thank you,” she said as she took a sip before placing the bottle on the wooden coffee table in front of them. She smoothed out her dress where it touched her thighs, and he gulped before clearing his throat. Toby looked away for a minute and came back to his senses. It was too quiet for his liking.
Then talk, dumbass!
“Right, so, about that appointment…” He opened his schedule and flipped through the pages. “I’ve got an opening Friday, next week. Would you be available?”
“What time?” Harlow asked as she reached for her purse on the next cushion and rummaged through it to grab her phone. She scrolled through, and he didn’t answer her until she seemed ready for it.
“Evening work for you? I’ve got a six-thirty open. If not, we can do the following Tuesday at three.”
“Friday’s good.” She smiled, typed it into her phone as a reminder, and dumped the cell back into her bag again.
“Next Friday night’s all yours, then,” he confirmed as he pencilled her in.
“After this tattoo, are you free to take me for that ride, too?” She turned to face him and held her hands together, looking hopeful. It made him laugh. She was so darn cute.
“Got the hots for my Harley, do you?”
“I totally do,” she said. “Me and that Fat Boy need to be introduced properly. I should take a picture of me standing beside it and send it to my dad. It would absolutely make his day. Did you know he still has the one he used to take me out on in his garage? He doesn’t get to take it out as much as he used to, though.”
“Oh, and why is that?” Toby asked.
“Now that they’re retired, Mom likes to travel abroad. They’re gone half the year.”
“Happy wife, happy life,” he commented then took a drink.
“About that bike ride…can we?” She brought her hands up and pretended to beg.
“I could swing it. I ride all the time, and believe me, it is not a chore to take a beautiful woman along.” He winked, and she blushed. He loved her reactions to such a simple compliment, and it was kind of nice to know he affected her that way. The attraction was certainly mutual, no matter how much he tried to fight it. “As long as you don’t mind riding at night. You’ll be my last appointment for the day, and the tattoo will take some time to finish, but afterward, I’d be free to take you anywhere.”
“Sounds like a good plan.” Harlow nodded and stood up. She took her beer with her and walked to the opposite wall. He watched her closely as she admired the artwork, and he could tell she was suddenly nervous. He stood up to follow, and she stiffened when he spoke. “I did that in an art class I took in my early twenties, just for fun.” He motioned toward the canvas, which showed an attractive, shapely woman laying down on a chaise with nothing but a blanket covering her lower half. “I don’t normally paint. I prefer to draw, but I liked this one, so I put it up.”
“I-it’s beautiful.” she whispered, not looking at him. Then she chugged the rest of her beer.
“Hey, are you okay?” Toby reached out to her, gently took a hold of her arm, and turned her so she faced him again.
“You really want me to draw for you?” she asked. “Your work is so amazing, and I could never be as good.”
“Are you nervous because I wanted to see how well you drew a picture?” She had a way of catching him off-guard. “I’d never make you do something you’re uncomfortable with; no pressure. You know that, right?”
She nodded again and took a deep breath. “It’s not that, per se. Oh, to hell with it. Hand me a pad of paper and a pencil and tell me what you want me to draw. Don’t say I didn’t warn you, though.”
“You sure?” He had to make certain. Something was going on in that head of hers, and she wasn’t sharing whatever that seemed to be.
“I might need another one of those, but yeah, I’m good.” Harlow pointed to her empty drink and smiled. “Thanks, Toby.”
“I think I can manage that request, too. Just promise to drink this one slower for me, will you?”
It took no longer than a minute or two before they were back where they started, sitting side by side on the couch. He pulled the coffee table closer and placed a sketch pad in front of her with a pencil. He tore a sheet off and placed one in front of him, as well, and positioned their drinks out of the way.
“Let’s try a flower. Take your pick.”
“You pick. I insist.” She shook her head and looked at him like he was crazy for leaving it up to her to decide. Another point on the cuteness scale on her behalf. Toby shook his head and smiled.
“All right. Show me your best sunflower, then.” He sat back as she struggled through his request, and it was no joke. Drawing was not her forte. It looked like a sad version of a fuzzy circle with a stick jutting out the bottom.
“You see? It’s the suckiest, saddest flower on the planet.” She pouted.
Toby’s lips twitched, and he fought hard not to laugh because the last thing he wanted was to insult her, so instead, he just brushed it off and decided to help her.
“Okay, let’s try this.” He ripped her picture from the pad, revealing a fresh page. “Sometimes it helps to break it all down into steps. Follow me. First, draw a big circle and a smaller one in the center.” He looked over to make sure she was following his instructions. He was trying to make it as simple as he could, so he was drawing it on his paper as he explained. “Then comes the stem and two leaves on each side of it. Good, now let’s draw a thin, elongated, upside-down heart shape that connects to the smaller circle in the middle all the way around, like so.” It took her a few tries, but she got the hang of it after a few minutes. He continued. “Add more petals like this to cover up the empty spaces in between and draw slanted lines crisscrossed over each other inside the small circle. Now we erase the outer large circle around, define the stem and leaves by adding a few lines like so, and voila! You now have your sunflower complete.” He took his drawing, set it beside hers, and smiled. “Proud of you. That’s a great-looking flower.”
“I actually did it. It’s clear, too.” She laughed as if shocked. “Yay!” She pumped her hands in the air and her face lit up with excitement.
“Fuckin’ adorable.” He shook his head again and was pleasantly shocked when she threw her arms around him in a giant hug. This night was looking up, and the more time he spent with her, the more he seemed to enjoy himself. He had almost forgotten what it was like to have someone hug him just because, and it was nice.
Once she threw her arms around him, Harlow lost the fight. Earlier, she’d been struggling with her attraction for the man, not knowing whether the feelings were reciprocated. But now that she was so close, she thought, what the heck?
Would it be so terrible to just give in for once? To let go, have some fun, and enjoy the long overdue intimacy between a man and a woman?
She’d soon find out.
Toby’s arms felt so right round her. He was strong, warm, and felt good pressed against her, breast to chest. He was hard all over compared to her soft curves, and she wanted to explore this spark between them to see where they’d end up.
“I know I’ve said it before, but thank you.” Harlow leaned back slightly to look at him. Her arms moved from around his back and rested around his shoulders. She hadn’t wanted to move too far away just yet. She could feel her heart beating inside of her chest as she gauged his reaction to her closeness. Toby licked his lips, and she nearly groaned. “Dinner was sublime. You actually got me to draw a decent enough picture. I’m seriously still shocked that you accomplished that feat.” She smiled. “Just goes to show you how talented you really are, but most importantly, I like your company.” She leaned forward to press her lips against his. He stiffened momentarily as she kissed him soft
Toby pulled back, and she was breathless. Her chest heaved, her nipples pebbled, and she was completely enraptured by him. She was in such a Toby-filled fog, it took her a minute to figure out he’d spoken.
“Um, yeah?” She bit her lip, and it made him smile.
“What am I going to do with you?” he asked. She figured he was mostly talking to himself because he didn’t wait for her to answer. “As amazing as that kiss was, I’m not sure it was such a good idea.”
“Okay.” She nodded. “Um…” She licked her lips and wondered what the hell was wrong with her. “It felt good to me.”
“Christ, you don’t even realize how tempting you are.” Toby growled but made no move to push her off his lap. Instead, he placed both hands on her hips and slightly squeezed as if he was having his own internal battle.
Harlow wasn’t even sure how to answer him. Tempting? Her? He needed to look in the mirror. If anyone exuded temptation, it was him. She was so out of her element and clearly doing a shit job at trying to seduce him.
“You’re right,” she replied. “It’s probably a bad idea.” Her face heated with embarrassment, and Toby surprised her yet again.
“With you, it’d be the best kind of bad. Believe me, baby. Fuck being reasonable, one taste and I’m already hooked.” He pulled her forward, so their breath mingled, lips just an inch apart, and whispered, “Not sure I have forever in me anymore, so I can only promise you tonight. You good with that?”