Wicked Design

By: Tina Donahue

To my awesome PA Pamela Leonhardt and to my street team Tina’s Romance Rebels. Ladies, you rock!

Chapter One

Clover Dasleigh slogged through Northwood Village toward Wicked Brand, her energy sapped by punishing heat, humidity, and the depressing possibility of Van Gogh ignoring her as usual.

No, screw that defeatist junk. She had to change things with him, today, refusing to wait any longer. He was the hottest guy she’d ever seen, and there were simply too many babes in West Palm Beach who surely wanted him as badly as she did and would make their move. Once that happened…

Uh-uh. She couldn’t accept anyone keeping him from her, including herself. As a rule, she wasn’t a glutton for punishment, lusting after guys who never gave her a passing glance. Wanting to get to know Van Gogh had increased her tolerance for rejection. Not that she was certain how to break the ice with him considering she was usually too direct and honest with people, including men. With him especially, she wanted their first conversation to go beyond silly flirting so she could simply be herself. She’d always figured guys would appreciate not having to play games, given that she didn’t like being coy or pretending she was someone she wasn’t, and would then enjoy her for who she was: a woman with a good mind, fun personality, creative talent, and a giving heart. Everything a man should need to make him desire her.

Yet here she was, still yearning and unable to get him to even look her way.

She slumped. Since her regular disposition hadn’t worked, she’d have to revert to what guys did want, whatever the hell that might be. However, if it killed her, she’d wow Van Gogh, as soon as she reached the parlor in this artsy-touristy area.

She tramped past ethnic restaurants in every variety and boutiques selling overpriced items. An elderly couple looked over and stared at the vintage parasol she carried, definitely not a typical umbrella. She’d recently designed and created the piece to shield her pale skin from the unrelenting sun. Marcasite beadwork graced the flounced edges, and watery rays glinted off the black stones.

The old guy lifted his bushy eyebrows at her “unique” look.

As an artist, she strove for the unusual as a way to express herself and get noticed. Sometimes her work sparked conversations with strangers, giving her a chance to hawk her wares.

Unfortunately, this man didn’t look interested or impressed, so she pushed aside disappointment and smiled as sweetly as she could.

He twisted around and eyed the young women jogging past, their sleek bodies deeply tanned, ample boobs and asses barely covered and bouncing merrily. He grinned.

Men never seemed to grow up.

His wife frowned at his attention to the younger women.

Understanding her response, Clover nodded in solidarity then edged past them to the tattoo parlor.

Van Gogh inked his client in the window chair, giving passersby a show.

Clover’s breath caught at seeing him, a knee-jerk reaction she couldn’t help. She tensed her legs to keep standing.

Spectators jockeyed closer. The late-afternoon audience included several bikers and pasty older folks holding regular cameras rather than smartphones.

As usual, Van Gogh pretended they didn’t exist.

Clover wanted them out of her way. “Excuse me.” She pushed past the sightseers and stopped close enough to slobber on the glass. At twenty-six or so, Van Gogh was all man. Today, his hair hung loose. The soft brown waves complemented his bronze complexion and grazed his broad shoulders. Last week he’d worn his locks tied back as a pirate would. Both looks made her drool, the same as his low-slung jeans and dark-blue tank top.

Her pussy got wet.

Make that wetter.

He fiddled with his tattoo machine. His powerful biceps bunched and his tats danced.

She would have given a year of her life to lick those 3-D bullet holes, smell him, drown in his heat, and surrender to his strength. His muscular build and rough features proved testosterone ruled.

His brow furrowed. He concentrated on his work.

That excited her, too, his talent un-freaking-believable.

He’d inked a three-dimensional cobra on his client’s back. The reptile appeared to snake into and out of the guy’s spine, its fully expanded hood matching the evil in its eyes. Saliva dripped from elongated fangs, its forked tongue prepared to flick. Surrounding the creature a slogan read DON’T TREAD ON ME. The words seemed carved into stone, the depth an amazing illusion.

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