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Savior:A Tattered Club Story

By:Pauline Allan



CHAPTER ONE



Ethan cringed at the sound of the leather seat groaning as Charles shifted to lean closer. When the man’s dry lips pressed against Ethan’s cheek, he turned, trying to avoid anything more.

Charles sighed, the same sound he made when Ethan disappointed him, which was often these days. “I’ll be back in an hour. I’m going to stop by the development before running a few errands. I can’t trust those idiots to run a circus, let alone a project this size.”

With nothing to say, Ethan gripped the door handle and fought back the stinging wetness brimming at the corners of his eyes. The car reminded him of his father. The shiny black exterior and the rich aroma of expensive cologne a looming presence with a statement of wealth. A false sense of superiority destined to keep the masses in their places. He hated this car.

He hated Charles.

The knot in his throat seemed to swell as he tried to swallow. With a trembling hand, he fumbled at first to unlatch the seat belt then stilled his fingers. Remembering why he’d contacted the tattoo shop in the first place coordinated his grip. This time when he pressed, the buckle clicked.

Charles grabbed his biceps, not as hard as he had last night, but making Ethan flinch when his thick fingers dug into the tender bruise. “Nothing trashy. I don’t want that beautiful skin marred for Saturday night.”

Marred? Ethan thought about his thighs, knowing Charles didn’t mind what had been left there. He never cared if the wounds were fresh or faded, whether Ethan had put them there himself or if they were Charles’s handiwork. Saturday nights were reserved for the gentlemen’s club and those assholes never cared either. All the A-listers with fat wallets and wives to escape spent hours fucking and whipping their play partners.

Ethan hated Saturdays, too.

“I won’t get anything offensive,” he half-heartedly promised before slipping out the door.

“Good boy.” God Ethan hated those degrading words, even if they were what he deserved to hear. He shut the door, harder than needed, and stepped back onto the sidewalk. The gentle hum of the engine faded as the car rolled away from the curb. Maybe going back to being broke was going to be tough, but freedom always carried a price.

He pulled the wallet from his back pocket. Standing outside the shop, he counted the twenties he’d taken from the envelope he kept hidden in his room at Charles’s place. Taking the money out of his modest savings probably wasn’t the smartest move, but putting ink on his skin felt right. Getting to this point in his life had been hell, and finding the courage to make it on his own made him want to leave a positive mark as a reminder.

He had too many sad reminders marring several areas already.

With two credible references, he’d made the call to the Tattered Social Club and scheduled a consultation with the hottest artist in the city. Now, standing in front of the large plate glass window his heart pounded against his sternum.

Niko Melikov wasn’t cheap, and he never took on a client without meeting first. Ethan had to respect the man for having such passion for his work. The photos in Professional Ink proved the fact.

Ethan looked down the sidewalk. The buildings stood side by side like a mismatched puzzle, a few in various stages of reconstruction, while several remained stuck in the era they’d been designed. A little nervous to be standing on this side of the city, he decided it was probably best to get inside. The area didn’t seem like it would welcome the techno they played downtown at the gay clubs.

The lobby held the heady rustic scent of cloves mixed with the lemon oil soap Maria used to clean the woodwork back home. Framed tattoo samples hung in neatly spaced rows on the crimson colored walls. Ethan wiped the palms of his hands down the front of his jeans. Was he really going to do this?

The leather couches were laden with worn creases as if they’d organically sprouted in the masculine space. Men and women dressed in everything from heavy combat boots to strappy high heels sat on the couches and comfy chairs as they waited for their turn in the back.

A guy emerged from a door behind the glass counter across the room, the brim of his purple-and-gold baseball cap was drawn low, the bill squeezed, molded to the man’s liking. When he looked up at the clients, the fading sunlight from the window caught the side of his face. Ethan’s stomach flipped. The scarred flesh looked raw with pink and white threads riding close to his cobalt-blue eyes. What in the hell had happened?

From the way he suddenly looked away, Ethan figured he’d seen the surprised stare too many times to count. Ethan shot his gaze back to the waiting clients.

“Can I help you?” The woman standing behind the counter tilted her bright-red lips into a warm smile. The deep curls neatly sculpted to frame her apple cheeks seemed to make the question cheerful.

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