A Co-Worker's Crush (The Rooftop Crew #6) by Piper Rayne





Chapter One





Jax





* * *




Psychologists have nothing on tattoo artists. We might not hold the fancy degree, but we hear people’s life stories all the time. The difference is that we brand them with ink to help them remember whatever lesson or experience they’re intent on carrying with them. It’s a lot of pressure. Take my most recent client—who’s a babbler to the nth degree.

“And then bam, headlights were shining right in my face.” The guy springs up as though I need a reenactment of his near-death experience.

“Sit down. Unless you want me to fuck up your tattoo,” I say, wiping the outline of the stencil off his skin since he moved.

He lies back down on my table. “So that’s why I’m here—to remember that feeling when I thought my life was over.” He flings his head to move his red hair that’s falling down over his eyes. “Have you ever had one of those experiences?”

I glance at Dylan and he smirks, wiping the skin of his client, who came in for a killer piece he had Dylan draw. Those are the best clients—the ones who let you ink their skin with your art.

“All the damn time.” I wipe the area I’m going to be working on.

Dylan chuckles, but I don’t look at him again. We grew up in a shitty neighborhood, and since we’re both foster kids, we never put much weight in the whole one life analogy.

“I’m sure. Look at you.” The kid stares at my full sleeve tatted arm. “You probably ride a motorcycle.”

I nod, and he groans.

“Without a helmet?”

I click my tongue on the roof of my mouth to say no. “Nope. There was a time I was stupid enough to do that, but I’ve seen too much shit. People who don’t get up off the concrete.” I place the stencil on his skin, and he flinches. This is going to be torture for us both. “You gotta sit still.”

“And you’ve probably skipped school? Smoked and not just cigarettes, right?”

I glance over my shoulder at Dylan. He’s biting his lip so hard it’s gonna bleed.

“And girls? You probably had two chicks willing to do you at the same time.” The kid groans. “That’s never gonna happen for me.”

Frankie, my co-worker, gags. “He’s not an idol to look up to, kid.”

I give her a big toothy smile and she flips me off. We have a love-hate relationship, but it’s heavy on the hate. She’d never admit it, but her life would be boring without me in it. God knows the woman needs a few laughs in her life. Not that she finds much humor in what I say.

“You gotta understand where I’m coming from,” my client says. “I was captain of the chess team, valedictorian of my class, got one date to the prom—but that was with my neighbor who went to an all-girls’ school because she felt sorry for me. Went to my dad’s alma mater, majored in business just like him, pledged his fraternity. It wasn’t the cool keg party fraternity—mine held study sessions and quiz nights.”

The kid has no idea the life he was granted. I’m pretty sure he had Christmas presents every year, birthdays that were celebrated—not to mention parents who took pictures of him before he went to prom, who gushed over his graduation, and who paid for all his shit. Long ago, I would have told this kid to be grateful for what he has, but I’m over it now.

“Sucks,” I agree with him because it’s just easier.

“I know, right? Tell me, how many chicks do you get?”

Dylan loses his fight and laughs. Frankie groans again. Lyle’s ears perk up. He’s an aspiring tattoo artist, and I’m one hundred percent sure he’s picked this profession to try to get girls.

I shrug. “Depends on the night.”

“Just so you know, kid, he isn’t getting any women in his bed at the moment.” Frankie lets out an evil laugh.

We’re still on that bet about how long I can go without getting laid. Was the bet stupid? Hell yes, but she started it. And I’m proud to say that though my balls are blue as a Smurf and my left palm is calloused beyond belief, I still haven’t had sex yet.

“Why?” The kid flings his head back again to get the red strands out of his vision.

I point at him in warning. “I’m gonna put it in a ponytail if you don’t stop.”

“I have a clip.” Frankie waves Lyle over from the front desk. He does as she says because he’s so desperate he’d even try to nail Frankie. Hate to break it to the kid, but he could never handle Frankie. “Top drawer, it’s Jolie’s.”