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Shattered Pieces (Heathens Ink #4)
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“I was sure my heart had withered away years ago, but then you smiled at me, and I felt it beat again.” ~Gage
“We’re both broken, but our jagged edges fit together well” ~ Beck
**Shattered Pieces is the fourth book in the Heathens Ink series, each book in the series CAN be read as a standalone.
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They say time heals all wounds. What an absolute crock of shit.
Some wounds fester and ooze. Some wounds become more painful with each passing day until you can’t remember what it felt like not to live in constant agony.
Nine fucking years since the love of my life killed himself. Nine excruciating years and I still see his face every time I close my eyes. I still reach for him in my sleep.
Gage Vaus died the same day Johnny Truman did. I’ve been nothing more than a walking zombie ever since.
“Your jokes are seriously the worst,” I hear Nox complain from down the hall of Heathens Ink.
Eight years ago, my best friend, Adam, bought this building with the intent to turn it into his own tattoo shop. Adam also happened to be Johnny’s older brother, and before Johnny’s death, Adam and I had planned to open this place together, as joint owners. But when this opportunity arose only a year after we lost Johnny, I wasn’t in a position to be a joint owner. I could hardly manage to make it through each day, let alone take on the responsibility of owning a business. I was there for Adam as much as I was able, though, and over time, I found working here and helping him build the business became my solace and a reason to wake up each day. I put my heart into it with him, and even though he’s technically the sole owner, we both know our joint blood, sweat, and tears built Heathens.
“Shut up, you love my stupid jokes,” Adam argues back affectionately.
A knife twists in my gut. Last night my world turned upside down when I walked in on my best friend naked and kissing our roommate, Nox. Not that I don’t want Adam to be happy, and I’m the last one to be weird about a guy having a boyfriend. The thing is, in the almost thirty years I’ve known Adam, he never thought to mention to me that he’s into guys.
My heart aches with the betrayal of knowing the person I’ve been closest to my entire life has been lying to me.
And underneath the hurt and betrayal, a fresh wave of loneliness ebbs and flows just beneath the surface.
I would never begrudge him anyone who can make him smile the way Nox does. But it feels like lately I’m surrounded by nothing but happy couples here at the shop. First, Madden found his knight in shining armor in a gorgeous and protective fireman who saved his life. Then Royal hit the jackpot, not only making the transition from best friends to boyfriends with Nash, the man he’d been pining after for years, but they also managed to integrate a third man who is so perfect for both of them. Then Nox showed up and turned Adam’s world upside down.
Here I sit, alone as ever with no end in sight. At least Dani and Owen are both still single so I’m not the only sad sack left at Heathens.
The bell over the front door tinkles. I’m guessing it’s my noon appointment here a little early, so I set aside my sketch book and heave myself out of my chair.
There’s a man standing by the front desk. His back is to me, and I take note of his lithe frame and round, perky ass. But my heart isn’t in it.
He turns around and my breath catches. He’s absolutely stunning with every one of his eye-catching features highlighted by perfectly done makeup. His high cheekbones are slightly shimmery and bronzed, his pouty lips are an enticing shade of almost purple red, and his steel gray eyes with eyelashes a mile long are made up in what I’ve heard Dani refer to as ‘smoky cat eye’. If I still had a type, this man would be exactly it.
He smiles, and I shake myself out of my reverie. I don’t care how on point this dude’s makeup is or how long his eyelashes are. He’s not Johnny.
“Can I help you?”
He looks me up and down with interest, and then a slow smile spreads over his lips.
“I’m sure you can.”
His voice is a little deeper than I expected from his femme appearance. Sort of smooth and rich like expensive scotch.
“Are you my peacock tattoo appointment?” I prompt, part of me hoping he’s a piercing walk-in so I can pass him off to Dani and forget about him all together.
I nod and head behind the counter to grab the sketch I made based on the conversation we had via email. When he contacted me through the website asking about having a colorful peacock done, I was immediately interested. I’ve always enjoyed color work and looking at him now, I think with his deeper skin tone, the colors I chose will turn out stunning.