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Copyright © 2019 by J.M. Walker

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Broken Scars Excerpt


Broken Scars I ©JM Walker (unedited and subject to change)

Prologue

Lucas

Searing agony ripped through me. My muscles shredded from my bones. Flesh ripped free, tearing and separating as the abuse only worsened.

It felt like I was being torn up by an animal.

My limbs trembled. My skin became damp with sweat.

I tried forcing the evil away, but it only made them hurt me more.

Blue eyes stared back at me. They were filled with pain, pity, fear. So much damn fear.

I looked away as the screams shattered through me. As much as I did everything I could to fight off my attacker, my begging only heightened the violence laid upon my body.

“Please.” My voice, so young, so innocent. One word was all it took. One syllable was all that was needed to make the pain worsen. I wasn’t sure how that was even possible, but it was, and it happened.

“Next.”

A sob left me as the new attack was bestowed on my body. What felt like a lifetime later, the heavy weight on top of me lifted, taking all of my breath with it.

“You did well, Lucas.”

I turned my head away from the voice. Tears no longer fell down my cheeks. My body no longer hurt. I was numb. Completely and utterly numb.

My mind was broken. I was gone. Far past the point of shattered. My soul, if I even had one anymore, hid and shied away in the corners. The Devil himself would look away at this depravity.

Gentle hands roamed over my body, soothing the ache that had been permanently etched into my soul. Salve was rubbed into my skin. My cuts were bandaged. I was cleaned, fed and put back in my cage like the rest of them.

Animals. Pets. That’s what we were. All because our foster parents had an addiction. For hunger. Power. Money. Control. It was all about control. Over people smaller than them. One slap was all it took to force most to their knees. But me? No, I was bigger. It took a lot more than a slap to force me to submit. And I paid for it. I always paid for it.

I vowed from that point on that I would do whatever I could to rid the world of monsters like them.

Even if I died trying.

Chapter 1

Lily

Wind whipped around me. I shivered. It was the middle of Summer, but Mother Nature decided to play a trick on us and bring Fall early. I hated this weather. Give me a beach and a Corona any day over this shit. God, what I wouldn’t give for a vacation.

Closing my coat tighter around me, I picked up my pace. I only lived a few blocks from the restaurant and thought it would have been a good idea to walk. But clearly Mother Nature had other plans for me. I stopped, glancing around me and realized rather quickly that I was lost. Great. This just made a shitty night even worse. My grandmother was going to kick my ass if I was late and didn’t tell her. I couldn’t believe this was happening.

So dumb, Lily. So dumb.

No, I wasn’t dumb. He was the one who was dumb.

“I can’t see you anymore, Lily.”

My eyes widened. “What do you mean?”

“I should have told you this from the beginning.” Andrew rubbed the back of his neck. “I’m married. I never—”

I shoved to my feet, knocking the chair over behind me. “You’re kidding. Tell me you’re kidding.”

“I’m not.” He stood, placing a wad of cash on the table between us. “It was fun, but I can’t do this anymore.” He pushed the cash toward me. “For your services.”

“I am not a fucking whore.”

But I took the cash anyway and stormed out of the restaurant. Fucking, asshole. Andrew Ness hadn’t been that good in bed anyway. I was more embarrassed than anything. Especially when he had broken it off in public and paid me like I was some high-classed hooker.

My grandma had warned me too. She only met him a handful of times but didn’t like him. Not that she ever liked any of the guys I dated but this one was different. She warned me, but I didn’t listen.

Letting out a frustrated sigh, I pulled my coat tighter around me. I had dressed nice for Andrew. Something had been off with him, so I thought wearing something sexy would spark that moment we shared weeks ago when we bumped into each other at the library. I thought for sure he would have been a good guy. He did go to the library and all. I was wrong. So very fucking wrong.

And now I was lost. I wasn’t even sure where I was anymore. Not recognizing this part of the city, I breathed a sigh of relief when I saw a sign about a block away.

Crane’s Ink.

Alright, I could live with that. Anything was better than being outside. Especially in this area. Hightailing it across the street, I was thankful I reached the door just as the rain started coming down even harder.

The door chimed, indicating my arrival. I pushed it closed, fighting against the wind that had picked up speed.

‘Snap’ by Slipknot played in the background. It was loud enough that I could feel the base down to my bones but not loud enough where a normal conversation couldn’t be carried.

“That’s some weather out there,” a woman’s voice said. “I haven’t seen it this bad in quite a while.”

A man grunted.

“It’s supposed to be summer out.” She sighed.

“Alright, you’re all done, sweetheart.”

My stomach tumbled at the smooth deep voice. I turned around, finding a large man sitting on a stool beside a bed. A woman sat up, holding her shirt against her chest.

“How does it look?” she asked, meeting my gaze.

“Um…” I took a step toward them. “Wow.” The tattoo was on her back. It was of a tree and was partially covered with leaves.

“The leaves falling off the tree mark each month I’ve been sober,” the woman explained.

I counted eight. “That’s amazing. It really is beautiful,” I murmured in awe.

“I’ll clean you up,” the man said.

I took a chance and looked at him then.

Even sitting, he was huge. With a buzzed head and an eye patch covering his right eye, he was dangerously beautiful. Tattoos covered his thick forearms, inching down to the back of his hands. Even the side of his head that I could see, was tattooed up.

His good eye met mine. He frowned, licking along his full bottom lip. He gave me a curt nod before going back to the woman sitting on the bed. He cleaned up the tattoo and placed a bandage on it before tapping her hip. “You’re good to go, Lena.”

“Thank you.” She tapped her cheek.

He shook his head, giving her a kiss.

My stomach twisted. I looked away, not sure about these feelings rushing through me.

“Same time next month?” the man asked.

“Yes. If I make it that long.” The woman, Lena, put on her shirt and headed to the counter.

“You say the same thing every month.” The man went to the computer sitting on top of the counter. “You’ll be fine.”

“I’m glad you have faith in me.”

“I always have faith in other people,” he said. “Fifty.”

She pulled out a wallet from her purse and handed him cash.

“Pleasure doing business as always.” He winked.

She laughed. “See you later, Lucas.” She walked up to me, smiled, and left the tattoo shop.

Lucas. God, even his name was sexy. I bit back an eyeroll. I really needed to get it together.

“I guess I shouldn’t loiter and probably buy something,” I finally said, needing to break the unnerving silence.

Lucas grunted, stuffing the cash Lena had given him into an envelope and placed it in what I could only assume was a locked safe or drawer. Because that’s what I would have done.

“Do you sell jewelry?” This conversation was beginning to turn…odd. A man had never affected me the way this one was currently doing.

Lucas’s good eye met mine. “You don’t have to buy anything.” He shut the cash register and came toward me. Crossing his arms under his broad chest, he stood beside me and stared out the window.

The scent of spice wafted into my nose. My core clenched, my palms becoming sweaty at the close contact. He smelled amazing. God, did he ever smell amazing.

“The weather might be like this for the next couple of hours,” he said, pulling me from my dirty thoughts. “Is there anyone you want to call to let them know you’re safe?”

Was I really safe? This man didn’t scare me, but he was huge. He was a beast and I knew with one flick of his wrist, he could break me. A shiver tremored through me at the thought.

My gaze flicked to the clock hanging on the wall. “I’m good.” I still had an hour before my grandma expected me home. If I was still at this place, I would call her then.

“Well…”

I looked up at him. “Lily.” I stuck my hand out. “Lily Noel.”

“It’s nice to meet you, Lily Noel.” He returned the handshake, slipping his fingers in mine. “Lucas Crane.”

My breath caught in my throat. The longer time passed between us, the heavier the air became.

“Hmm…” His lips twitched and that was when I saw them. Scars. They were faint, but I noticed them. His brows narrowed, and he pulled away.

It was on the tip of my tongue to ask what had happened to him, but my grandmother taught me better than that. It would have been rude. Especially when I only just met the guy.

“Did you want a coffee?” Lucas asked, disappearing into another room off to the side and came back a moment later with two water bottles in hand.

“I would love one.” I took the water from him. “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome, Lily Pad.”

I laughed. “Lily Pad?”

“It works.” He smirked. “Doesn’t it?”

“I guess so.” My cheeks heated at the nickname. Oh, it worked alright. It worked really well.

***

(Lucas)

While I made coffee for both Lily and I, I couldn’t help but watch her take in my home. Even though this part of the place was my job, my apartment was on the second floor. I had lived here for years, so all of it was home to me.

Lily walked through every inch of the shop, taking in the pictures on the blood red walls.

“All of those images were drawn by me,” I told her.

She paused, passing me a quick glance before looking back up at them. “They’re beautiful.”

I grunted. “Not many people think they’re beautiful.”

“They don’t?” Lily came around the counter and jumped up onto it, swinging her legs back and forth. “Well I think they are.”

My heart swelled at her compliment. “What do you take in your coffee?”

“Just black please.” She fussed with her light brown curly hair and pulled it on top of her head into a bun. She had a smattering of freckles on her nose and cheeks. Her full red lips were plump. When she was done putting her hair up, she tightened her coat around her. The jacket fell past her knees, but I had a feeling most jackets would. She was a tiny little thing. But curvy. So damn curvy it made my mouth water.

My gaze popped back to her face.

Her bright green eyes met mine. “What?”

“Nothing.” I cleared my throat and went back to making the coffee. I lived for the stuff, so I had made sure to have a little coffee area on the back counter. It was accessible whenever I needed a fix.

Once it finished brewing, I poured Lily a mug and handed it to her.

“Thank you, Lucas.” She grabbed it from me and brought it up to her mouth. She took a sip, letting out a low moan that shot right to the tip of my dick.

Fuck me. I hadn’t had this reaction over a woman in a long time. And when I did, it hadn’t been often. I wasn’t celibate, but it had been awhile just the same. Sex for an addict could be dangerous and lethal. Especially with the women I had come across.

“I feel like I’ve heard of this place before,” Lily said, interrupting the thoughts going through my head.

“Oh?” I leaned against the wall, taking a sip of my own coffee. Black, just like hers. A woman after my own cold, lifeless heart.

“Has this place been in the paper before?”

“Possibly.” I shrugged. “I don’t read the paper.” There was enough shit going on in my head, I didn’t need the terrors of the world adding to it.

“I think I’ve seen it. Not sure.” Lily glanced out the window. “It looks like the storm’s letting up.”

I followed her gaze, noticing the skies clearing. Too bad. “I guess it is.”

Lily placed her mug on the counter and jumped to the ground. “I should head home.”

“You should.” I reached out to push a strand of hair behind her ear that had fallen from the pile on top of her head but thought better of it.

She wrapped her coat tighter around her and headed to the door. “Thank you for the coffee, Lucas.”

I nodded once, watching her leave my shop.

Drinking the rest of my coffee, I wondered what the hell had just happened. There was no way I could get caught up with a woman like her. She was innocent. Pure. And something that I did not need at the moment. If ever at all.

Cleaning up our mugs and the coffee station, I put everything away when my phone vibrated in my pocket. Fishing it out, I glanced at the small screen. There was someone at the back door. Checking the time, I was thankful that I had no other appointments for the rest of the night and turned off the Open sign and locked the door.

Turning off the music pumping through the speakers mounted on the walls, I shut down the shop and headed to the back. Making sure the security system was set in place and turned on, I went to greet my guest.

Opening the door, I leaned against the frame. “You do know it’s rude to show up to someone’s house without calling first, right?”

Lena pushed past me. “Whatever.”

“What’s going on? Is there something wrong with your tattoo?” I asked her, closing the door and clicking the lock into place.

“What?” She scowled. “No. Not at all.” She pulled off her jacket and placed it on the back of a chair sitting at my dining room table.

I walked back down the hall and waited.

Lena fidgeted. She pulled at her shirt, tucked it into her ripped jeans, pulled it free and repeated the movement.

“Hey.” I closed the distance between us and grabbed her hands. “What’s wrong? You were fine half an hour ago.” I had known Lena for years after she came into my shop strung out on whatever her drug of choice was at the time. I got her clean and then she fell into the bottle.

“It’s my parents.” She blew out a slow breath and then another. “I need a drink.”

“No. You don’t.” I kept her hand in mine and lead her to the kitchen. “Have a bottle of water.”

“I don’t want water, Lucas. I want a drink. Alcohol. Drugs. Sex. Fuck.” She pulled her hand free from mine and pushed me back.

“Don’t.” I gripped her shoulders. “Whatever is going through your head right now, stop it.”

Her pupils dilated. “Please.”

“No, Lena. We’re friends. That’s it.” She had never made a pass at me before so that was how I knew she was desperate. But I meant what I said. We were just friends.

She pulled away from me, a lonely tear falling down her cheek. “I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be.” I handed her the water before heading to my living room. “Lets watch a movie and talk.”

“I hate fucking talking,” she grumbled, joining me.

“Would you rather go to a meeting?” I countered. I had been her sponsor for the last two years, but she had been going to AA for the past five. She didn’t have a lot of leaves on her tattoo because she kept having relapses. But this year had been different. She had eight tattoos and she was finally determined to get more. She would get there. But not by having sex with me.

“No.” Lena sighed, slumping on the couch. She pulled her long black hair free from its elastic. “I’d rather talk to you.”

“Tell me what happened.” I lifted my knee onto the seat of the couch and gave her my full attention.

“Are we going to watch a movie?” she asked instead of answering me.

I turned on the TV. “There, a movie’s on. Now talk to me.”

“You know, sponsors aren’t supposed to be so damn crabby.”

“I’m the only sponsor who doesn’t put up with your shit,” I threw back at her. “Now talk.”

“Fine.” She huffed. “My parents are refusing to let me see my daughter.”

“They do have full custody, don’t they?”

“Yes.” Lena picked at the paper wrapper on the water bottle. “I’ve been good, Lucas. I haven’t had a drop since you started my tattoo eight months ago.”

“What happened to make them not let you see her?” I knew her parents were controlling but Lena didn’t talk about them much, so I didn’t know any more than that.

“I showed up with a black eye,” she mumbled.

“What?” My hackles rose. “Who the fuck hit you?”

“Who do you think, Lucas? The only man who always hits me.” She jumped from the couch. “This was a week ago. I went over to my parents place tonight, thinking they had gotten over it but they refuse to let me see her because they don’t want my daughter to see how much of a fuck up I am.” Tears started rolling down her cheeks faster. “I’m trying and I’m failing.”

“No.” I pushed from the couch and wrapped her in my arms. “You’re not failing.”

“I just want to see my baby,” she sobbed, her voice muffled by my shirt.

“I know, Lena.” I held her against me. “I know.”

***

(Lily)

Lucas. Lucas. L-U-C-A-S. Luuuuucas.

I rolled over in bed, covering my head with a pillow, trying to drown out the noise my brain was making.

Tattoos. Eye patch. Tattoos. Muscles. Tattoos. So many tattoos. I kept fantasizing and wondering how many he had. Or how much of him was covered.

I sat up, throwing my pillow on the floor. “Seriously, Lily.” It wasn’t like I had never seen a good-looking man before. No, I had just never seen one that looked quite like…Lucas.

It was pushing midnight but clearly, I couldn’t sleep. Only just meeting Lucas a few hours ago, I couldn’t get him out of my head. Literally.

Slipping out of bed, I headed out of my room and down the hall. A light in the living room was on. Was my grandma still up at this hour?

When I rounded the corner, I found her in her rocking chair, fast asleep. I smiled to myself and pulled the crocheted blanket off the back of the couch and laid it on her lap.

Shutting off the lamp, I turned down the TV and went in search of a snack. Maybe reading the newspaper would help dull my brain enough that I could finally sleep.

Pulling the paper gently out of my grandmother’s hand, I went into the kitchen and grabbed a box of chocolate chip cookies off the counter before heading back to my room.

Flicking on the light, I kicked the door closed and jumped onto my bed. “Alright, brain, lets shut you down for the night.”

Flipping through page after page of the newspaper, I read every word and stuffed my face with half the box of cookies before I realized that I was done. But I was still no closer to being tired than I was an hour ago.

I sighed, rolling over onto my stomach and pulled my lap top from beneath the bed and placed it in front of me.

I checked my social media accounts, email, read all the news sites I could think of and I was still wide awake. What the hell was wrong with me that I couldn’t sleep?

Getting an idea, I decided to Google Lucas and his shop. When I couldn’t find anything other than a basic website mentioning the services he offered, I dug a little deeper. Something was off and curiosity got the better of me. I knew there was something else and that it wasn’t just a simple tattoo parlor.

Cracking my knuckles, I entered the dark web and searched for him. I eventually came across his tattoo shop. Crane’s Ink.

But there was no more information than what he had told me. Which was hardly anything at all.

“Alright, Lucas. Who are you?” After a few minutes, I had hacked into government records that were supposed to be sealed tight. Until I came along of course. But again, nothing was really out of the ordinary. Maybe it was just a simple tattoo parlor.

As soon as I was about to start reading more on him, a message popped up on my computer.

What the hell?

Who is this?

No username or anything? Interesting. I also wasn’t stupid though. I logged out of everything, cleaned up my steps and shut down my computer. How could someone know I had hacked in? I had never been caught before.

My heart started racing. God, that was a rush.

Putting my computer away before I got in trouble, I rolled onto my back and stared up at the ceiling. Who the hell was Lucas Crane?

Chapter 2

Lily

The scent of coffee woke me a few hours later. I must have finally fallen asleep. Rubbing the grit out of my eyes, I sat up. Remembering the unknown person who messaged me last night, I still wondered how they even contacted me. It wasn’t like I left a trail. I was smart that way. I wasn’t an expert and my hacking skills were hardly something to make a big deal over. But after teaching myself a thing or two about hacking, I knew how not to get caught. Until now.

“Lily, breakfast is ready, girl. Get your lazy ass out here.”

I laughed, shaking my head and did as I was told. Making my way to the kitchen, I was greeted by the scent of eggs, bacon and toast. And coffee. Much needed coffee.

“Hi, grandma.” I kissed her weathered cheek.

“Morning.” She handed me a plate. “What time did you get home last night?”

“Just after eight because of the storm.” I sat at the table, shoveling a forkful of food into my mouth.

“How was your date?” Grandma asked, placing a mug of coffee in front of me before sitting beside me.

I groaned. “Andrew’s married.”

Grandma’s eyes widened. “I was right!” she exclaimed. “I really enjoy being right.”

I laughed. “Yeah, you were right.”

“So, tell me more.”

I took a breath and explained what had happened during my date.

“Did you take the money?” she asked, raising a gray eyebrow. “Tell me you took it.”

“I did but it didn’t make me feel any better,” I grumbled. Although, if the date had gone well, I wondered if I still would have ended up at Lucas’s tattoo shop. Either way, I was twenty-six and single. Hell, I never even had a boyfriend before. I dated, had one-night stands but that was it. Nothing more.

“Well I’m glad he’s out of your life, dear. You deserve better than that.”

“I know, Grandma.” We finished our breakfast in silence. When we were done, I put the plates in the dishwasher and poured myself another coffee.

“Plans for today?” she asked, taking a sip from her mug.

“Nothing really.” It was Monday and a day off for me. But I found that I wanted to see Lucas again. Maybe I could get a tattoo or a piercing. Did he do piercings? The thought of him touching me, sent a flutter of heat racing over me. I also wanted to know how the hell he found out I was doing research on him. If it was him who messaged me last night anyway. But I wasn’t stupid. Everything inside of me told me to be leery. To be careful because if he had his information on the dark web, clearly, he had something to hide. Or he was into illegal shit.

“You met someone.” Grandma placed her mug on the table in front of her and sat back.

“I have no idea what you’re talking about.” My cheeks burned.

She laughed. “Is he nice?”

“I think so.” There was no point in denying it. My grandma was good and knew me well. Too well if you asked me.

“Well bring him by for supper,” she said, picking up the newspaper off the table. “If he likes my cooking, then he’s a keeper.”

“I just met him, Grandma,” I giggled. “But I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who doesn’t like your cooking.” Although, if I did bring him by and my grandmother liked him, maybe that would help curb my thoughts on if I should trust him or not.

Lily, you just met the guy. Trust isn’t even an option at the moment.

I bit back an eyeroll at myself.

Grandma looked at me over the top of the paper and gave me a wink. “Your grandfather didn’t like it too much in the beginning. Said it was spicy. Well I showed him.”

“You made it spicier, didn’t you?” I asked, raising an eyebrow.

She gasped. “I would never do such a thing. I’m a good Christian girl.”

I snorted, shaking my head.

“Anyway, once you get to know this boy better, bring him by. I’ll tell you if he’s a keeper or not.”

“Alright, Grandma.” I leaned down and kissed her cheek. “I will.”

***

(Lucas)

Giggles sounded around me, grating on my every last nerve. I was half tempted to turn up the music to drown out the noise, but I didn’t think the little girls would appreciate my choice of music. When ‘ADIDAS’ by Korn hit the system, the girls stopped in their giggles. I could feel their judging stares burning into the side of my head, but I didn’t listen to my music for them.

Go back to your tattoo choices, girls. I had shit to do.

I respected anyone who wanted to get a tattoo. I got it. I had hundreds of them. But when tweens showed up at my shop because they wanted to rebel by getting a tattoo of a butterfly on their tailbone, it annoyed the shit out of me.

Although I shouldn’t judge, everyone started somewhere, these girls just irritated me. But I had a feeling it wasn’t them. Even though I liked to convince myself otherwise. No, it was a certain woman that I couldn’t get out of my head. Add to the fact that I found her snooping around in my shit. She must have been a hacker, if she could break through my firewalls as easy as that. Or maybe it had been an accident? Nah. No one played around in the dark web because they were bored. I had to up my game. Or I could learn a thing or two from her. I had so many questions, but I also had no idea how to get in contact with her either.

Hacker, Lucas. You are a damn hacker.

Lily had me messed up, I forgot what my skills were. Fucking women.

“I think I want a flower,” the one girl told her friend. “Maybe a lily.”

My head shot up at that.

“No.” The other girl who couldn’t have been no older than sixteen, tapped her chin. “How about a rose? Or a skull? A rose coming out of the skull’s eye?”

Now that I could do and proudly. The first girl grimaced. Of course she did.

“Um…ew. No. I want something pretty.” She looked my way then. “Can you do pretty?” she asked, her eyes raking over me.

“If that’s what you want, I can do it.” As soon as those words left my mouth, the door chimed, revealing an older woman dressed in a red skirt and a jacket suit type thing. Her blonde hair was perfectly wavy around her tanned and overly made up face.

“Girls, have you decided on something yet?” she asked, her gaze meeting mine. Something flashed in her deep blue eyes. She looked me over, her lips sliding along her fake pout.

I grunted, shaking my head and went back to my crossword puzzle. Sorry, lady, you definitely don’t do it for me.

While I had been with a lot of women and I usually didn’t care what they were wearing, I didn’t normally go for the fancy prissy women. The ones who were married but had assholes for husbands who would only fuck them to get off. I was all about pleasing my partners. It wasn’t just for me. It was for both of us. But this woman? Standing at the door and looking at me like she wanted to break her pussy on my dick? No, thank you.

I went back to my crossword puzzle.

“Girls, either decide what you want to get, or we’ll go somewhere else.”

A red manicured finger nail came into view. It pushed a wad of cash in front of me. I looked up and was met with lust filled eyes. Her mouth was plump, a red gloss coating the full lips.

Although women like her didn’t do it for me, I was still a guy. A couple pumps of my dick and I could get hard enough to fuck her. There had been a time where I would have taken this woman to the back and make her beg for God to come save her. But that was another life and that would not be happening. Not today. Not tomorrow. No matter how much this woman hinted for it, she wasn’t getting my dick.

“Make sure my daughter and her friend get the proper service they deserve.” The woman pushed the cash closer, brushing her thumb over my tattooed hand. “Is there a Mrs—?”

“This is too much money.” I nodded toward the girls, ignoring her advance. “If they get the tattoos they’re wanting, it would be two-hundred for both since they’re small.” I pulled away from the counter and prepped the nearest tattooing station, the scent of the woman’s over-priced perfume following me.

“Fine.” She scowled. “Girls, I’ll be in the car.” The door chimed shortly after that.

I held back a laugh. “Alright, ladies. What’ll it be?”

***

(Lily)

I stood outside Crane’s Ink, not really sure why I was there in the first place. Something about meeting Lucas the night before, drew me to him. I was curious, and I wanted to know how the hell he could figure out that I had hacked into his shit. Not that I knew if it was him or not of course, but I needed to be sure. I was off today so I might as well put it to good use.

Deciding to get this over with, I entered the shop, the stupid chime on the door announcing my arrival.

Lucas was hunched over a young girl who was lying on her stomach on the bed. She had a pained look on her face while Lucas tattooed whatever it was she wanted on her body.

He lifted his head, looking over his shoulder at me. “Lily.”

I swallowed hard as my name dripped off his tongue like honey. “Lucas.”

His scarred lips twitched before he went back to work. A few minutes later, he leaned back. “Alright, you’re done. I’ll clean you up and you can go.”

The girl sat up, blowing out a slow breath. “That didn’t hurt at all,” she said, although her face was pale.

Lucas rolled his eyes.

I snickered.

Once he cleaned her up, she left the shop with her friend, going on and on about their new tattoos and how badass they were.

“What did you tattoo on them? Flowers or butterflies?” I laughed.

“The one wanted a lily.” He pulled the gloves off and threw them in a nearby trashcan. “And the other wanted a skull with a rose which I would have gladly done but her friend talked her out of it. So she got a Chinese symbol instead.” He shook his head. “I tried telling her the symbol didn’t mean what she thought it meant but she wouldn’t listen to me. She said Google told her it was right. Yeah, because the internet is always right.” He rolled his eyes.

“You knew what it meant?” I asked, shocked that he would even know such a thing.

“Yeah.” Lucas stood from the stool and nodded. “What she wanted done didn’t actually translate into anything. So she technically just has a bunch of lines on her body.” He shrugged. “But who am I to judge?”

“You would think people would educate themselves first,” I said, watching him.

“She Googled it. That’s enough apparently.” He grunted. “I tried telling her. Even her friend told her to listen to me, but she wanted it ‘cause it was pretty.”

“So, a lily, huh?”

He met my gaze, his mouth pulling up into a smirk. “Yeah.”

“I like lilies,” I told him.

“So do I.” He winked.

I grinned. “Do you now?”

He chuckled coming toward me. “I do.”

“They smell good too.” I had to tilt my head back to meet his gaze. God, he was tall. So damn tall.

He smirked. “I bet they do.”

“I don’t think they would taste too good though.” My brows narrowed.

A sly grin spread on his face. “I bet I know a lily that would taste good.”

My stomach tumbled at the innuendo. “Interesting.”

He glanced over my head, a deep frown settling between his dark brows.

I followed his gaze, looking out the window and found a woman sitting in a car, staring our way. “Is she a friend of yours?”

“No.” Lucas headed behind the counter. “She’s the mom of one of the girls I just tattooed.”

“She wanted a little piece of the Lucas action?”

He laughed. “Something like that.”

I walked to the counter, finding him working on the same crossword puzzle my grandmother was doing earlier. “You like crosswords?”

“I do.” He picked up the pencil laying on the paper. “It’s the only reason I get the paper anymore.”

“Now that everything’s online,” I added.

“Exactly.”

I leaned over the counter opposite him. “I can give you the answers,” I offered, looking up at him then.

“Did you do this one already, Lily Pad?”

My body heated. God, that nickname. “No. My grandma was working on it this morning, but this is the first time I’m seeing it.” I tapped the paper. “Eight across is voluptuous.”

“What? Oh.” He looked down at where my finger was pointing. “I guess it is.” He wrote it in. “How did you find me?”

“What do you mean?” I knew what he meant but there was no way I was giving in that easily. I didn’t know him. I may have been attracted to him, but I also wasn’t stupid.

“Online. You cracked my firewalls. How?”

“Ten down is—”

“Lily,” he barked.

I looked up, licking my lips. “What?”

His nostrils flared, his gaze following the swipe of my tongue as it slid across my bottom lip. “Answer the damn question,” he demanded, his voice husky.

I leaned back, crossing my arms under my chest. “Ask me nicely.”

His jaw clenched. “Lily.”

I raised an eyebrow. “Ask me nicely, Lucas.”

“Fuck.” He inhaled a sharp breath. “How did you crack my firewalls?”

“That’s not asking me nicely, but I really have no idea what you’re talking about. I don’t even know what firewalls are.” Although the words leaving my mouth were all a lie, I didn’t move my gaze from his.

He chuckled, rubbing the back of his neck. “You’re good, Lily Pad. You’re really good.”

“What?” I batted my eyelashes innocently. “I really have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“Right.” He went back to work on the crossword puzzle. “What are you doing here?” he asked a moment later.

“I came to say hi.” I headed back to the door. “It was nice seeing you, Lucas.” I didn’t wait for him to respond and left the shop. I really had no idea what in the hell I was doing but either way, maybe I was dumb for it, it was exciting. I enjoyed flirting with him and keeping him on his toes. I had been with countless men only to get hurt in the process. I refused to throw myself at them anymore so instead, I would make Lucas come crawling to me.

I had a feeling that I would eventually tell Lucas that I did in fact use my hacking skills to find out information on him but I needed to know if I could trust him first.

A black SUV drove past me, slowed, turned around and came toward me.

My stomach twisted. Leaning against the wall, I crossed my arms under my chest and pretended to check out my nails.

The vehicle stopped in front of me, the door opening and closing a moment later. “Lily.”

I dropped my hand, staring up at Killian Hayes who was FBI and shady as fuck. “Killian.”

“How’s it going?” he asked, pushing a strand of my hair behind my ear.

I pushed away from him but not before he grabbed my upper arm. “Let me go.”

“I asked you a question, Lily.”

I rolled my eyes. “I’m fine, Killian. How are you?” I asked sweetly.

“Don’t sass me, girl,” he growled, his dark blue eyes burning into me. Although he was tanned, with black shaggy hair, his sapphire eyes were what drew me into him in the first place.

“Please.” I snorted. “Go back to your hole, Hayes.”

“Careful, Lily. I do know where you live, remember? And I also know that you don’t live alone.”

My brows narrowed as I watched him head back to his SUV.

He gave me a wave over his shoulder, his dark eyes twinkling when they met mine once again.

My chest tightened. “Bastard.”

“You good, Lily?”

I jumped.

Lucas was standing outside his shop, holding the door open.

“Yeah. Fine and fucking dandy,” I mumbled, walking away from him. Killian Hayes was a thorn in my side and had been ever since I spent one night with him. One stupid night. I had made a lot of dumb choices but that one was by far the dumbest. Ever since then, he wouldn’t leave me alone. The sex wasn’t even that good, so it was something else that he wanted but he never told me what. And it drove me fucking crazy.

“Lily.”

I spun around finding Lucas jogging toward me.

“I don’t have any appointments until this evening,” he said, stopping in front of me. “Did you want to have a coffee? With me?”

“At your shop?” I asked, wondering what I was getting myself into but liking it just the same.

“Yeah.” He rubbed the back of his neck, his cheeks reddening a tinge.

“Okay.” I smiled up at him. “I would love to.” Right then, I had a feeling that it would be me who would do the crawling and not the other way around.

Add to your TBR: https://tinyurl.com/y8huaenr I Coming 2019

#LucasCrane #BrokenScars #Standalone #JMWalker

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