June last year, I was part of a short story anthology called “The Cocky Cockers.” You can find the reasons behind the conception of this anthology in an earlier blogpost of mine. I won’t regurgitate the details here.
But now the fight has been mostly won, it was decided to take down the anthology from Amazon. We made our point and a little money for charity on the side—mission accomplished!
Since it no longer has a home, you can read my story from The Cocky Cockers below. It’s not as saucy as I usually right (I ran out of words) so maybe one day I’ll rewrite and extend it. Who knows?
Let me know what you think.
Ye Olde Cocke
The journey up to the Ye Olde Cocke was awful. The cold February rain was coming down in sheets so thick that I could barely see out of the windscreen despite the constant swooshing of the wipers. The country lanes leading to the pub were unlit and treacherous. I was a nervous driver at the best of times but trying to navigate these unmarked roads at almost nine at night with just the moon and the car headlights guiding me was an absolute nightmare.
Thankfully I was travelling alone. No-one was here to see me panic. My friend Husna was around an hour behind me, driving straight from work, and the boys—Jack and Grayson–wouldn’t arrive until tomorrow morning. Then we would party the weekend away.
Well, we’d get drunk and catch up.
Ye Olde Cocke was hardly the partying kind of place. I’d inherited the traditional sixteenth century pub from my granny and though it had been in my family for generations, I’d only ever been to visit twice. My Grandmother had never really visited the place either, preferring to manage the pub from afar. But Granny had died—leaving behind a pub, a few trinkets, and her beloved cocker spaniel Kingsley—and I was the new manager. I felt it was right to visit at least once.
Besides, free booze was free booze.
When I proposed the idea of a free weekend away, Husna had squealed and jumped immediately on board, suggesting drinking games and putting together a “countryside dare list.” She was the original party girl. I’d lost count of the amount of times I’d had to carry that girl home after a wild night.
The boys had overheard our planning and decided to gate-crash. I wasn’t entirely against the idea. Or at least, I was fine with Jack gate-crashing. He was easy company. It was his best friend Grayson Cockson that made me nervous…
Out of our group, Grayson was the one I liked the least. He had a strong belief in himself. I guess as the owner of a successful restaurant chain, he had the right to believe in his skills, but he was also proud, standoffish, and cocky—traits that I found completely undesirable in a man. Though even I had to admit that everything else about him was desirable. Yes, he was gorgeous, intelligent, rich, and had the muscular body of an athlete, but still… that wasn’t enough to overcome his personality downfalls for me. I tried to spend as little time with Grayson as I could. We were friends by proxy, through Jack, and—despite his constant flirting—I think we were both happy for it to stay that way.
Sighing, I turned back to navigating the dark roads. The possibility of developing my inheritance into the trendiest place in the country to be seen in was slowly slipping away—who would travel this far into the sticks for a drink, no matter how cool it was?
My dream sank even further when I pulled into the carpark. Whilst the pub in my hazy memories and the building in front of me were the same—welcoming, traditional, and a bit on the tatty side—I’d always thought that it could be spruced up and dragged into the modern world. It just needed the right manager, I told myself.
Not likely. The old place was a half-timber, half-brick Tudor structure with thick black support beams running through the white walls. The geometric windows were uneven, and the thatching had definitely seen better days. It wasn’t a look that screamed country cool let alone trendy.
When the rain finally slowed to a light drizzle, I got out of the car and stretched my back. I put my hands in the small of my back and leaned back, enjoying the stretch of my muscles. Behind me, Kingsley was whining to be let out of his harness and explore his new surroundings.
“Does Kingsley need to do business?” I cooed, unsnapping him. Kingsley happily licked my face until the moment I settled him on the floor, then he bounded off, investigating. He was sniffing a nearby weed tangle when I was bathed in a harsh white light. I stood blinking as a sleek black Audi with tinted windows slid into the space besides mine.
My heart sank. I knew who it was even before the driver got out. Who else had a license plate number that read “COCKSON 1.”
“Fuck sake,” I muttered beneath my breath. What the hell was he doing here? He wasn’t supposed to arrive until the morning. Had he been behind me—probably laughing at my nervous driving—the entire time? That would be just like him.
The door opened and Grayson climbed from his seat with the practised ease of someone who spent a lot of time driving luxury cars. He must have come straight from the office because he was still wearing his dark suit, though his jacket was laid across the back seat, and he’d rolled his sleeves up to his elbows. When he saw me, he smirked, “Fancy meeting you here, Abbey.”
I shot him a hard look. “Yeah, fancy that. Bumping into me at the pub I own. When I said I would be here. Crazy coincidence, right?” Kingsley pulled at the lead, tail wagging. He wanted to sniff out his new friend. “Behave,” I warned. I turned back to Grayson, who was getting his case from the boot of his car. “What are you doing here?”
“You invited me,” he answered, smoothly. He came towards me and bent down to pat Kingsley’s head. To his credit, Kingsley remained sat on his haunches, but he was so happy to be petted that his bottom was wiggling across the ground.
“Stupid dog,” I growled, my bad temper overriding the cute sight. “I invited you tomorrow, Grayson. It’s supposed to be just me and Hussie tonight.”
Grayson was still petting Kingsley. “The message must have got mixed up. Oh, Husna called me about an hour ago. She said she couldn’t get through to you.”
“I was driving.”
“You don’t have a built-in phone system?” He eyed my old, well-used Vauxhall. “Ah, you don’t have a built-in phone system.” This time it was a statement not a question.
“No, I don’t. We can’t all drive top of the line Audi’s. What did she want?” Though of course I already knew…
“She’s not coming,” Grayson said, echoing my thoughts. “She got handed a project with a twenty-four-hour turnaround. Something to do with the prices from Bangladesh. I don’t know what a buyer does.” He shrugged, dismissively. “Either way, she’ll be driving up tomorrow morning with Jack.”
“Just great,” I muttered, more than a little uncharitably. “Well, come on then.” I gently pulled on Kingsley’s lead to make him move, then I went to grab my case. Before I could lift it, Grayson had already taken the handle.
“I can get that,” I said, reaching for the case again.
He yanked it out of my reach. “It’s no bother.”
I felt a flare of anger at his dismissive dominance. He didn’t ask if he could help, he was telling me he would help. And that annoyed the shit out of me. I didn’t need his help. I briefly considered arguing over it, but since I’d already been rude, I decided to let it go. I gave a mental shrug and started walking towards the pub, letting him stroll behind me like a porter. It annoyed me that he did it with no complaint, just smirking that smirk, as if he was enjoying my irritation.
He cleared his throat. “So, this is your pub?”
“Yes. It’s won pub of the year three times and is a grade II listed building. Were you expecting Quaglino’s?” I asked defensively, naming his favourite London bar, a famous haunt of celebrities and socialites.
“Not at all,” he answered, pushing the heavy wooden doors open. The welcoming warmth of the pub hit us immediately and I felt the chill start to leave my bones. We walked into the main drinking area where it was mostly empty with the exception of one or two drinkers nursing their pints of beer. The fire wasn’t exactly roaring in the old stone hearth but the embers were glowing a dull, warming red. The smells of decades-old cigarette smoke, stale beer, and greasy food hung cloyingly in the air. Strangely, I liked the smell. There was something familiar about it. Something comfortable but unfancy, like eating a bowl of stew or wearing an old favourite jumper.
“I like it. It has potential,” Grayson said from behind me. I could smell the masculine scent of his cologne.
“Do you think?” I asked, honestly interested. He’d started his restaurant empire from scratch so he was a man who knew his trade. Despite his arrogance, in this I thought I could I trust him.
His gaze locked on mine. The corner of his mouth lifted. He opened his mouth to say something then shut it again. There was a long moment and then he said, “That depends; is the pub haunted?”
I laughed. To distract myself from the sudden tension between us, I picked up Kingsley and held him in my arms. “Yes, it is. I’ve heard all the tales about it.”
He cocked his head. “Seriously? I was joking, Abbey. You really expect me to believe it’s haunted.”
My cheeks started to heat from the intensity of his gaze. I couldn’t take it; I broke eye contact first. “Believe what you want, Grayson. I’m just telling you there’s an urban legend about a ghost. Granny told me.”
“She’s right, sir,” said a voice from behind the bar. Both of us turned to see a matronly lady of around sixty watching us, her watery eyes unflinching and hard. Her hair was pulled back into an untidy bun. Startled, Kingsley started to bark and growl at her.
“Hush!” I scolded, stroking his fur. He stopped barking but his eyes never left the woman.
“Are you Miss Lacey?”
“I am. Please, call me Abbey.”
“Nice to meet you. Granny’s talking about you before.”
“Has she?” She made it sound like an accusation.
“Yes. Always in a nice way though,” I lied. Granny had told me that Joanna was a bossy, rude, but very efficient manager. I always got the feeling there was no love between the two women. “I haven’t been here since I was a child. How did you know it was me?”
She gave me an open once over. “You don’t look like you belong around here. Neither does he.” She said, jabbing a meaty finger over to where Grayson was standing. Despite the rudeness, I had to admit that she had a point; Grayson looked far too handsome and polished in comparison to the other men in the room. They were wearing jeans covered in stains and walking boots that were thick with mud.
Grayson arched an eyebrow. “So, the old place is haunted, is it?”
“Yes,” she said, shortly. “It’s the Lacey legend. One of your ancestors killed a local, Abbey. Murdered Mr. Jack Wilson. The name is still remembered around these parts. It was a land dispute apparently, over the land that this very pub sits on. Jack now roams the pub, seeking his revenge on the Lacey family.”
Grayson laughed. “What, forever?”
“Until the last Lacey’s dead,” she said, the hardness in her eyes back. “How’s your gran?”
“She passed away a few weeks ago. I thought you’d been told.”
“No, I haven’t been told. I’m sorry to hear that,” she said, not sounding sorry at all. “So, you’re the last Lacey now?” She didn’t wait for me to answer. “I’ve given you the back room. One of the local girls has been in and cleaned it. She’s replaced the bedding and there’s towels in the bathroom. Shall I show you up?”
“Yes, please.” I answered. I wanted to freshen up before going for drinks in the bar with Grayson. I briefly contemplated making excuses and going straight to bed, but I thought that would be far too rude. He had made the long drive here, after all.
Uninvited, my mind whispered, but he was here now so I had no choice but to spend the evening entertaining him and his cocky attitude.
Joanna pulled out a bell from beneath the bar and gave it a short, sharp clang. An ancient man of around fifty immediately appeared. He gave both me and Grayson a once over, then without saying anything to either of us, spoke just to Joanna. “Yes.”
“Get their bags, Tom.” She gave him a look that I didn’t understand.
Tom nodded, took our bags, then disappeared up the stairs. I cleared my throat, “Which room will Grayson be in?”
“Yours,” she stated.
I turned to her, horrified. “Pardon?”
She came around the other side of the bar, holding a huge ring of keys. “Yours, Abbey. This is an old building. It has just three bedrooms. Mine, yours, and the one used for the office. We were going to put the camping beds in the office tomorrow for when your gentleman friends arrived, but the cleaning girl hasn’t managed to set the office to rights yet. Don’t worry, it’ll be ready for you tomorrow.” She ushered us towards the back room.
“Yes, but Grayson is here tonight,” I argued, resisting her hand. “We can’t share a bed. How bad is the office?” If the worst comes to the worst, I’d be happy to sleep on a camp bed in the office if it meant being away from Grayson. I didn’t trust him and I didn’t trust his cocky attitude to bedding women. He saw it as a challenge.
Joanna stopped. “Bad. It’ll take hours to clear.” She appraised us both, letting her eyes take in how far apart we were standing. “You two aren’t together?”
“No,” I said, my cheeks so hot now that Grayson would be able to see my embarrassment. I swallowed. “No, we’re not together.”
“Very well. I can set up a camp bed in your room. Would that be okay?”
I went to tell her that it absolutely would not be okay, but Grayson overrode me before I could even get the words out. “That will be fine, Joanna. Thank you.”
As we were walking up the narrow backstairs—single-filed and with Joanna in the lead—Grayson’s lips touched my ears. “Would sharing my bed really be that bad, Abbey?” he murmured. “I could protect you from the ghost of Jack Wilson…”
Though the gentle touch of his lips raised goose bumps across my skin, I pretended I hadn’t heard him. Turning, I said over my shoulder, “Did you say something?”
He met my eyes. “You know I did.”
“I didn’t hear.”
I didn’t answer him.
The room was actually quite nice. I was expecting some dank room that hadn’t been used in years but, though a little dated, the room was warm, cosy, and comfortable. It was a little… floral. The curtains and carpet were covered with roses, the bedding was printed with daisies and was ruffled around the edges, and the walls were painted a plain beige but had a border of more roses.
“How quaint,” Grayson said. I could hear the amusement in his voice. He dropped the bags to the floor and walked around the room, looking over the ancient furniture and kitsch ornaments. Kinsgley followed him, his dangling ears flopping happily as he sniffed at Grayson’s lower leg. Whether it was because the ceilings were lower at the older part of the building or because I was used to only seeing him in uber-modern surroundings, Grayson looked huge. He had a primal intensity about him that made my body clench.
“Well, I’ll leave you both to settle in. Come down to the bar when you’re ready,” Joanna said, then she left.
As soon as the door closed behind her, I let out a blustery breath. “Well, that was…”
“Hilarious,” he laughed. It was deep and warm and made my skin tingle. “I’ve never met anyone like her.”
I shook my head. “Gran always said that she wanted the pub for herself. Joanna asked Gran to sell it to her several times.”
“Why didn’t your Gran sell? She never really visited, did she? I get the feeling that neither of you really cared about the place.”
“Because it belongs in the family, Grayson, and has done for the last three hundred years,” I answered. “But it’s no wonder Gran never brought me here as a child.”
“I don’t think it’s just to do with Joanna.”
I looked up at him, surprised. “No?”
He smirked. “There’s a ghost out to get you, remember?”
I elbowed him, catching him in the stomach. I was momentarily surprised by how hard it was. “That’s just nonsense.”
“Is it?” He brought his hands up and placed them on my shoulder, then he dipped his head so he could look me directly in the eyes. “Until we leave this place, I’ll be sticking close to you, sweet. Just to be sure.”
Unable to tear my eyes away, I stood staring at him, my breathing becoming hoarse. Then I blinked and pulled myself out of his grip. I made myself smile, pretending I wasn’t affected by him at all. That I didn’t want him to touch me. “Seriously?” I asked, putting my hand on my hip. “Does that line work with the rest of the women?”
“None of my other women were haunted.”
“First; I’m not haunted— ”
“That’s not what Joanna says,” he shot back.
“—and secondly,” I continued, overriding him. “I’m not “your woman.” I never will be. So, don’t lump me into that category.”
He studied me for a moment and then his face broke into a wide smile. He reached out and cupped my cheek. “You liked me saying that you were my woman, didn’t you?”
“You really are full of yourself, aren’t you?” Before he could answer, I unzipped my case and flipped the lid over. Then I gasped with dismay. Not only had my shampoo bottle exploded but so had my conditioner and body wash. Everything was covered in a scented gloop. Not even my underwear had escaped the soapy bath. “Oh, for fuck’s sake!”
“What’s happened?” Grayson asked. He peered over my shoulder. He was standing so close that I could feel his warm breath down my neck. “Oh, shit. Look at that mess.” He grinned at me. “It’s the ghost, Abbey. He doesn’t want you to wear any clothes.”
To put some distance between us, I sat down on the edge of the bed. “Stop it. It isn’t funny. What do I do now?”
“Wear one of my t-shirts,” he said, making it sound like I was being dramatic. “It’s not a big deal. I’ve brought spares. We can go into the local village tomorrow morning to replace what’s ruined.”
I was still wearing my office clothes. I could get another day out of my black jeans but my blouse was wrinkled and dirty. I didn’t fancy wearing it for another day. “I couldn’t do that,” I said slowly.
“Yes, you can. And you will. Any woman of mine can wear my shirts.” He paused, turning to look at me. He cocked an eyebrow. “Did that get you hot? Me, naming you my woman?”
“Fuck off, Grayson,” I said, my heart pounding in my chest. He was right in front of me.
“I’d rather do this.” Before I could ask what he meant, he touch his lips lightly against mine. Without thinking, I sank against his body, even though everything about me was screaming “mistake!” Still, the lure of his soft lips was too much. The kiss grew urgent and I opened up to let his tongue slide against mine. He growled into my mouth, sending a burst of arousal through my body. I knew if I didn’t stop, I might regret what came next…
Ignoring my protesting body, I pulled away. Grayson let me, though he was watching me warily, as if waiting for my explosion. So, I grinned. “Not bad,” I said, my body aching. “But not enough to get me into bed.”
He ran his fingers through his hair, his body rigid and firm. But there was twinkle in his eye. “Come on, it’s just a bit of fun. I want you. I know you want me, Abbey. So tell me, what would get you into bed?”
I gave him a cheeky wink before turning my back on him—and my almost overwhelming arousal. “You couldn’t afford it, Cockson.”
The evening was actually good fun. We ate our meals in the main drinking area, Grayson grumbling good-naturedly about the greasiness of the food and the wobbling table, and I kept laughing at him. I knew he was putting on the charm to make a point—that he had the skills to bed even the least receptive person—but it was absolutely working. I hated to admit that he was a good conversationalist, witty, and was fun to be around… when he was trying. I just had to ignore his innate cockiness.
The part of the evening that wasn’t so nice was when the pictures fell off the wall. It was strange; they were old paintings of my family from a hundred years ago, and they’d clearly been there since they’d been painted. But it was like they’d just… jumped off the wall.
“It’s the ghost,” Grayson had teased, hanging them back up. “He wants you…” But when he’d looked, the picture hooks had been old and rusted, and they snapped cleanly through.
Still, it made me feel anxious. Particularly when Kingsley did nothing but stare at the spot where the pictures had hung, as if something was still in the walls. First the soap explosion, now the pictures both falling at the same time… I didn’t believe in ghosts, but it was enough to make me a little fearful.
Though I’d never admit it to Grayson, I was kind of glad he was here with me.
We ended up drinking far too much wine. He’d chosen the best available and had insisted on paying for it—even when I’d argued that it was my pub and my wine. I’d let the matter slide earlier in the evening because it wasn’t worth fighting him over, but when Joanna brought over a second bottle to our table, I raised the issue again.
“I never let a lady pay on a date,” he said, not listening to my complaints. He reached over to top up my glass. “Drop it, Abbey. You won’t win this one.”
“First of all, I’m not your date and—”
“—second of all, you’re not a lady?” He finished, taking a sip from his glass. He raised an eyebrow, clearly goading me.
“And I don’t need you to pay for anything. This is my pub.”
“And I’ll be putting five stars on my review for Ye Olde Cocke on TripAdvisor.” He lowered his voice conspiratorially. “Though I’ll be mentioning the floral décor.”
I ignored the jibe. I knew he was loving the cosy atmosphere. “It’s not pronounced “yee,”” I corrected. “The Y is actually an old typography style. It’s just a symbol meaning “the.” The pub is just The Old Cocke.”
His smile was back. One finger traced around the rim of his wine glass. “Is that so?”
I appraised him, my eyes narrowing. After a minute I said, “You knew that, didn’t you?”
He nodded. “It’s called a Thorn.”
“How did you know that?”
“I did my research.” His gaze darkened. “I always do my research.”
My stomach clenched at his words, as did something a little lower down my body. His eyes held mine for a long moment. “What does that mean?” I finally asked, hating how my voice trembled.
“I’ll show you, if you want?” He stood up and held his hand out to me.
For the wildest of moments, I was tempted to take it. Then I shook my head, trying to clear the sudden wave of desire I felt for him. “Keep your hands to yourself, Cockson. Not interested, remember. You’re not my type.”
A flash of something darted across his face but it was gone before I could tell what it was. “Rich and handsome isn’t your type?”
I rolled my eyes. “Cocky and arrogant isn’t my type.”
“I looked like your type when we kissed. You wanted me.”
I stood up. “I’m going to take Kingsley for his last walk of the evening. Then I’m going to bed. Alone.” I added, when his expression warmed with interest.
The evening was cold but I dashed outside with Kingsley, who looked as eager as I did to get back to the warmth of the fire. I was wearing just Grayson’s t-shirt and, as comfortable as it was—and so deliciously scented that I wanted to bury my nose into the fabric and breath it deep—it did nothing to ward off the bitter wind.
“Come on, Kingsley, do your business…” I pleaded as the dog sniffed for the perfect spot. I was bobbing up and down, arms crossed over my chest, teeth chattering. “Come on—”
A noise came from behind me. It was a light whispering sound, as if someone was muttering beneath their breath continually. I whirled around. “W-who’s there?”
A horrible hoarse sound answered me. “Lady Lacey”
My blood ran cold. Kingsley started to bark. He was looking into the darkness, his teeth bared, his ears pricked. “Who the fuck is there?” I yelled, sounding more afraid than firm.
When the muttering drew closer but I still couldn’t see through the darkness, I decided to get the fuck out of there. I scooped Kingsley up—who was still growling towards nothing—and darted back inside, my entire body trembling.
I was just through the door when I bumped into something hard and tall. I didn’t fall back on my arse, but I did stumble and hit the door frame hard. Immediately an arm snaked around my waist, steadying me.
I didn’t care. Those voices were still in my ears. I scrabbled away, wanting to put distance between myself and the outside. Kingsley was still growling and he snapped at the outstretched arm.
“For God’s sake, Abbey, what the hell happened?” Grayson yelled, following me into the pub.
“There was someone out there! They were calling my name!”
“What?” Without waiting for me to answer, he darted outside. I didn’t follow him. I was still too shaken up. My arms were aching from carrying Kingsley, so I lowered him to the floor. I sat down on a chair waiting for Grayson to come back in.
He was gone a long time.
As I waited, my fear grew. Was Grayson in danger? Would the person—ghost, my mind corrected automatically—behind the voice hurt him? My hands, cold from being outside, were now shaking. By my feet, Kingsley was upright and alert, his ears pricked, his attention focused solely on the door. The minutes passed and still Grayson didn’t return. I was starting to panic.
I was just about to force myself to my feet to go back outside when the door opened. Grayson burst through. Behind him came Joanna. She looked red-face and angry… but not nearly as angry as Grayson. His entire body was rigid with fury. He loomed over the barmaid, radiating a dominant power that made my heart race.
I got to my feet. “What happened? Joanna, are you okay?”
“It was her,” he said through gritted teeth. “It was all her. The soap. The pictures. The whispering. She was trying to drive you out of the pub. To sell it. She wanted it for herself.”
“You don’t deserve it!” Joanna cried with vehemence. Her ugly face twisted. “You and your family. You never deserved this land!”
I stood frozen. Then I turned to Grayson. “What’s going on?”
“There is no ghost, Abbey! It was all just a story to get your family to sell the pub. She was hiding in the bushes—in the fucking bushes—waiting to scare you. It was like something from Scooby-fucking-do.”
I flinched. I’d never seen him so angry before. His eyes were blazing and every time he looked over at Joanna, his lip curled. “You wanted me to sell?” I asked her.
“The Lacey’s have never deserved this land,” she muttered, clearly about to cry.
It all clicked then. The clear dislike of me, the interest in the legend…
“You’re a Wilson, aren’t you?”
She straightened her back. “Descended from John himself. This is my land. Your murdering family killed for it.”
“Do you want to call the police?” Grayson asked.
“For what? Attempted fright-icide?” I asked, shaking my head. “No. They won’t do anything.”
“Fine.” He turned to where Joanna was now leaning against a table, tears trickling down her cheeks. “Get your things and go. You leave tonight.”
“You can’t fire me. I’ve worked here all my life.”
“I can and am,” he said, the authority clear in his voice.
Joanna stumbled away from him. She shot me a dark look and then ran out the front door, Kingsley snarling at her as she passed. We stood frozen, listening as a car roared to life and then drove away.
“She’ll probably be back tomorrow,” he warned, locking the door behind her. When he saw me still seated in my chair, hands trembling, tear tracks on my cheeks, his body softened. “Come here, sweetheart.” He pulled me into his arms and I went willingly. Tired and upset, the feel of his huge body pressed against mine was exactly what I needed at that moment. I buried my head in his chest, loving how safe and protected he made me feel.
“It’s all right,” he soothed. “Kingsley had your back.”
I gave a watery chuckle. “He did have my back. And so did you,” I said, pulling my head away from his chest to look him directly in the eyes. “Thank you. I don’t know what I would have done if you weren’t here.”
“Well, I was here, sweet,” he said, kissing the top of my hair. I could feel the scruff of his beard catching in my loose hair. “What are you going to do about the pub? You don’t have a manager now.”
“I have no idea. I’ll figure something out.”
“I can help if you want?”
I looked up at him, smiling. “Yeah? Managerial help from successful entrepreneur Grayson Cockson? How much will that boon cost me?”
He took my hand in his, locking our fingers together. He rubbed little circles on the back of my hand in such a suggestive manner that I couldn’t help but blush. Then he took my head in his hands, cupping my cheeks, and lowered his face so close to mine that I could feel his warm breath on my skin. “It’ll cost you a kiss.”
I pulled myself up so I was face-to-face with him, my arousal kicking back into life with surprising speed. “I can afford that,” I said, recalling our earlier conversation. “But that sounds like an easy deal. The last one you got for free.”
He lightly kissed one corner of my mouth and then moved so our lips were almost touching. It was maddening. I wanted him so badly. “Nothing about you is easy,” he murmured.
“It won’t ever be.”
“I like a challenge.”
Book 1 — INKarnate: When Emily begins an apprenticeship at the renowned tattoo studio Inkomplete, she didn’t realise she was stepping into a world very different from her middle-class upbringing. But not everybody is happy about her dipping her toe into new waters. Famous tattoo artist, Matt Jones, knows she doesn’t belong…