Hi guys! We have Lorelie Brown stopping by today with her new release Her Hometown Girl, we have a great excerpt and a fabulous giveaway (OMG a bottle of Whiskey!), so check out the post and leave a comment to enter the giveaway! <3 ~Pixie~
Her Hometown Girl
I had doubts before the Big Day—doesn’t everyone?—but I didn’t expect to find my fiancée banging the caterer’s assistant right before the ceremony. Especially because he’s a guy. And we’re lesbians. The proper sort of Southern Californian lesbians who invest in hedge funds and wear bedazzled wedding dresses and wouldn’t be caught dead in a Subaru.
But then I became a runaway bride, headed straight for Belladonna Ink to get the kind of tattoo I always wanted and my ex always called trashy. She didn’t approve of a lot of things I did. I think maybe she didn’t approve of who I am.
So I’m determined to be as much of myself as I can manage. Dating my tattoo artist? I’m in. Cai is smart, sexy, and mysterious. Exactly what I need for a rebound. She keeps herself guarded, but I understand—I’m holding on to secrets too. The kind of secrets that make a girl want to run home to Mom, even if home is Idaho. Maybe especially then. I just didn’t expect Cai to come with me.
I wonder what it would take to get her to stay forever.
It turns out that getting a tattoo hurts. I expected a sting, sure. But getting a flu shot isn’t a big deal—it’s the soreness the next day that actually hurts.
Yeah, getting inked isn’t like that. It’s a thousand wasps attacking my skin as a Hitachi Magic Wand vibrates my toes off my foot.
“You okay?” my tattoo artist asks, but she doesn’t stop what she’s doing. Cai. Her name is Cai. I met her almost two hours ago, when I walked into Belladonna Ink based on Yelp reviews.
“Do you want me to stop?” I hear the amusement in her voice. She scrubs another lick of fire down the center of my calf. “Just warning you, if you take a break and then get going again, pretty much everyone agrees it hurts worse.”
“Aren’t you a pile of sunshine?”
“Can sunshine pile? Isn’t the expression ‘a ray of sunshine’?”
I smash my cheek against the chair’s support ring thingy. Paper crinkles. “Is this like food service where I shouldn’t tell you how much I hate you because you’ll spit in my soup? If I tell you how I really feel, will you draw a poop emoji on me?”
“No, because you’ll walk around for the rest of your life telling everyone who’ll listen that I drew that shit.”
“This is true.” I blow out a long, shaky breath and am mortified to realize my nose is snotty and I’m holding back tears. Not surprised, but still embarrassed.
It’s been a long day.
It’s been a long, horrible, no-good, very bad day.
I slept in until eight, and that has probably been the best part of my day. Only twelve hours ago, and an entire lifetime. Two hours after that was mostly okay: brunch with my future mother-in-law and my maid of honor and a couple of others. Jody wasn’t with us because she’d wanted to get in a long run before the rich food of the reception. All as expected. Then the makeup artists and hairdressers showed up, and there was still no sign of Jody.
I didn’t start getting anxious until I was staring out the window as the hairdresser swept up my long curls and piled them on my head. Jody wasn’t answering my texts. I wish I could have said it wasn’t like her. I couldn’t. A few stories below, I could see hotel staff was setting up for our event. All the chairs were out already, and a florist swagged satin and arranged white roses. The red carpet had been unrolled across the sand, leading toward the waves.
I was already in my wedding dress.
As soon as my hair was done, I slipped out the back door of the suite, down the hallway, and up two floors to Jody’s room. The door wasn’t closed. Jody’s neon-orange leggings were jammed in the way. I picked them up and push the door open slowly.
I saw every inch of penis plunging into her.
After that, it was all over but the shouting. Well, telling Jody’s family too. At least I didn’t have to tell mine. And naturally Jody bailed, leaving me alone to tell everyone what had happened.
She’s lucky I didn’t tell them all about why it was canceled. So freaking lucky.
I sent the bar staff home, told the florists to deliver everything to a nearby synagogue, and stiffed the caterer. Maybe I’ll feel bad about that tomorrow. Maybe I won’t.
The ginger-pubed baby-faced catering assistant had stiffed Jody plenty, after all.
My tears leak into the paper lining of the face rest, making it translucent.
“Why so much lace?” Cai asks.
I wonder if she senses the changes in my body, even through her machine and latex gloves.
The design we agreed on circles the top of my calf with an intricately lined lace pattern gathered around a cluster of pink and purple tulips.
“I was in a wedding dress a few hours ago.”
Cai’s surprise is in her hesitation. The needle lifts. “Oh yeah?”
It’s that asking-but-not-asking thing that people do when they want to hear gossip but aren’t sure if you want to share. “Beautiful dress. Heavy satin with swags and just the right amount of Swarovski crystals.”
“Do you count those in individual crystals or in square inches covered?”
I crane my neck so I can look over my shoulder at her. I don’t see snark in her expression.
Her eyes are dark enough to make them a little unreadable. She has gunmetal gray shadow swiped over crease-free lids, but it doesn’t look like she spends a lot of time on makeup. Her mouth is held in a soft smile. If she’s mocking me, she’s hiding it well.
“I don’t know. It had them here.” I wave a hand over my torso. “Like a belt. But the thing is, I didn’t like it. Not one bit. I wanted boho lace. Gobs of lace and something that only went to my calves. Something that’s actually appropriate for a beach wedding.”
“Is that where it’s going to be? The wedding?” She asks so casually.
This is going to be my future for a while, and I can’t help but imagine everyone tiptoeing around me. Not much is going to be point-blank like this, though. I don’t have that many close friends.
“That’s where it was supposed to be. Two hours ago.” I lift my wrist and check my watch, ignoring all the flashing alerts from social media. “No, wait, three hours ago.”
“Holy shit.” She raises the tattoo machine again and stares at me. Our gazes catch. Her mouth is open a little. The line of her bottom teeth is a perfect curve except for one crooked canine on the left. It tips inward as if it’s trying to hide in her mouth. “I thought . . . I thought you had the dress on today for, like, a fitting.”
“Yeah.” I blink back sudden tears. They go away almost as easily as they appeared.
I wait for her to keep going. Ask what happened. Why I’m not on my way to the Big Sur honeymoon that’s bought and paid for. Where my bride is—unless she’s reading me wrong and is wondering if I lost a groom. Air gathers in my lungs, and I can’t tell if I want to talk or if I want to scream. Maybe I want to wail like a baby.
“Why were you wearing a dress you hated?”
Well, there’s an option I wasn’t expecting. It’s enough to shake me sideways. I use my held breath to hiss through my teeth when she drops her gaze to my leg and goes back to work. “Jody’s mom—Jody is, was my fiancée—Marta, paid for my dress and Jody’s tux. She wanted us to match styles. Fabrics. Plus she likes bling.”
“But you’re not a fan.”
I shake my head, then realize she might not be looking at any part of me other than my calf. At least, I kind of hope she’s not. Concentration is a good thing. Since this is going on me permanently and all. “I’m about as anti-bling as possible. But I did it. Wore it. I figured it was a little thing so everyone would be happy.”
“Everyone but you.”
“That’s the problem.” One of the problems. My crushing neuroses, my fear of abandonment, my poor communication skills, and everything else that made me ripe for Jody’s particular style of manipulation. That’s a pretty big part of the problem too. Plus the aforementioned caterer banging. Problem. Yeah.
“Did you leave her at the altar? Please tell me you did. That would be badass.”
I have a sudden, explicit memory of the gray-haired woman who passed us in the hallway at the exact moment Jody screamed she “wouldn’t have to act out” if I were “more understanding.” I cried and told her I understood perfectly how penises work. Not exactly what I’d call badass. That woman held her fluffy golden puppy closer to her chest and hustled three rooms down.
“Not quite the altar. We weren’t going to have one anyway. The beach-wedding thing. An archway covered in flowers.”
“The flowers had crystals on them.”
“You’re shitting me.”
“We are poop free.” I laugh because my only other option is to start sobbing. “Jody and her mom wrapped the stems in crystals and glued drops to petals. I mean, they didn’t do it themselves. They got the florist to do it and paid plenty.”
“Aren’t flowers pretty enough?”
“It was all I could do to convince them not to spray-paint them gold.”
“It’s a thing. A Pinterest thing.” I run my hands up under my hair. It’s still stiff with product. My scalp burns when I catch and tug strands. “Don’t get me wrong, I had two different Pinterest boards for the wedding, but Jody had ten. Weirdest butch I ever met. Whatever. She had to control everything. It’s probably my fault for letting her.”
“It doesn’t work that way.” Cai looks up and flashes a tight smile at me. “Abusers take what they need, whether you give it or not.”
My skin flashes first ice-cold and then prickles hot. “She’s not an abuser.” Because that would mean I was abused. “She never once hit me or pushed me or really anything like that.”
Cai’s touch is soothing as she uses a paper towel to wipe away blood and ink. “Okay,” she says so gently that I feel like she’s patronizing me. “Sorry. I didn’t mean to make assumptions.”
I think of a hundred small memories and moments at once, and then they’re gone and I breathe again. “Yeah.”
“Here we go,” she says, pouring foaming liquid all over my leg and then wiping it again. “You’re all done.”
“I am?” I’m both stunned and relieved in a blink of time. “Can I see?”
“Sure. Come here.”
She leads me to a full-length mirror at the end of the short hallway of stalls. Some of them have curtains pulled, but in the next-to-last one is a girl with short-short hair getting an old-fashioned anchor on her shoulder. She winks at me.
I scurry away. I’m standing in front of the mirror, staring blankly at my reflection before I realize my shoulders are tight and my chest is locked against air because I’m expecting Cai to snark at me, every word covered in passive-aggressive poison. Like them butch? she’ll ask me.
Except it’s not really Cai I expect to start in on me. It’s Jody who’d say things like that. Who has said things like that when a waitress was a little too friendly. Then she’d told me the waitress was only looking for a good tip and I shouldn’t be so naïve.
I rub my temple. It doesn’t do anything to get at the swirling thoughts in my head.
“Do you like it?” Cai has her arms folded over her chest, leaning back against a half wall papered in textured red. Her button-down is crisp. The suspenders outline the subtle curves of her body. Her long black ponytail lies over the front of her shoulder and brushes her wrist.
She is everything too cool for school. Everyone I wanted to be but never managed. I’m too much of a mess, too hungry for approval and love. The thing is, I can’t remember if I’ve always been like this. Why did I put up with Jody for so long? Something has to be wrong with me.
But the cocked angle of Cai’s head trips my feelings-on-alert trigger. The degree she’s holding her shoulders. She’s anxious. She wants me to like the tattoo she’s inked into my skin.
“It’s gorgeous,” I assure her.
And it is. My badge, my symbol of never giving up on myself again. No matter what it takes. The black lace curls around my skin as if it’s real. The tulips are vibrant and bursting with color. I point my toes and flex my calf, watching it move. From every angle, it’s amazing.
Cai gives me a rundown on caring for it, everything I need to do and not do. I listen carefully, but at the same time there’s a creeping dread slipping in around the edges of my brain.
“Are you okay?” she asks. She touches my forearm.
It’s the first skin-to-skin contact we’ve had. Everything else has had safety barriers between us.
More than that, I think maybe it’s the first time I’ve had skin-to-skin contact that wasn’t Jody in a long time. A very long time. If I didn’t keep myself carefully to myself, life always got so hard. Jody made sure of it. And then all my friends are actually Jody’s friends, and they would never hug me or lean on me. I didn’t think I wanted them to, but the way my body cries out for more must mean I need it. I need someone.
I’m so alone.
“I don’t know if I want to go home,” I blurt out. A different kind of truth but still pretty terrifying to hear coming out of my mouth.
Read more at: https://riptidepublishing.com/titles/her-hometown-girl (just click the excerpt tab)
Belladonna Ink Universe!
Belladonna Ink is the hottest female-centric tattoo parlor in Southern California. It doesn’t matter if you’re cis, trans, het, gay, or spectrum, our host of female tattoo artists will give you beautiful ink, personally designed. We don’t believe in paint-by-number drawings—you’re worth more than that. Give us a chance and we’ll help you find the meaning in your personal scribbles, and turn your skin into our professional canvas.
Just one thing: it’s really weird, but all our friends and some of our artists keep falling in love. Maybe it’s something in the ink.
Check out Belladonna Ink!
After a seminomadic childhood throughout California, Lorelie Brown spent high school in Orange County before joining the US Army. After traveling the world from South Korea to Italy, she now lives north of Chicago. She writes her Pacific Blue series of hot surfers in order to channel some warmth.
Lorelie has three active sons, two yappy dogs, and a cat who cusses her out on a regular basis for not petting him enough.
In her immense free time (hah!) Lorelie cowrites award-winning contemporary erotic romance under the name Katie Porter. You can find out more about the Vegas Top Guns and Command Force Alpha series at www.KatiePorterBooks.com or at @MsKatiePorter. You can also contact Lorelie on Twitter @LorelieBrown.
Connect with Lorelie: