Page 28

“Take off your shirt.”

I look down at my shirt.

I look back up at her. “Are we…are we about to make out? Because I didn’t picture it going down like this.”

She groans and reaches forward, pulling at the hem of my shirt. I help her pull it over my head when she says, “I want to see if you have any tattoos, dumbass.”

I deflate.

I feel like an eighteen-year-old who’s just been blue-balled. I guess I kind of am…

She turns me around and, when I face the mirror, she gasps. Her eyes are fixated on my back. My muscles tense beneath her touch as her fingertips meet my right shoulder blade. She traces a circle, spanning a radius of several inches. I squeeze my eyes shut and try to control my pulse. I suddenly feel drunker than everyone on Bourbon Street combined. I’m gripping the counter in front of me because her fingers…my skin.

“Jesus,” I groan, dropping my head between my shoulders. Focus, Silas.

“What’s wrong?” she asks, pausing her inspection of my tattoo. “It doesn’t hurt does it?”

I release a laugh, because her hands on me are the opposite of pain. “No, Charlie. It doesn’t hurt.”

My eyes meet hers in the mirror and she stares at me for several seconds. When what she’s doing to me finally registers, she glances away and pulls her hand from my back. Her cheeks flush.

“Put your shirt on and go wait for our food,” she demands. “I have to pee.”

I release my grip on the counter and inhale deeply as I pull my shirt back over my head. On my walk back to our table, I realize I never even asked her what the tattoo was.

“A strand of pearls,” she says as she slides into the booth. “Black pearls. It’s about six inches in diameter.”

“Pearls?”

She nods.

“Like a…necklace?”

She nods again and takes a sip of her drink. “You have a tattoo of a woman’s necklace on your back, Silas.” She’s smiling now. “Very lumberjack-esque.”

She’s enjoying this. “Yeah, well. You have trees on your back. Not much to brag about. You’ll probably get termites.”

She laughs out loud and it makes me laugh, too. She moves the straw around in her drink and looks down at her glass. “Knowing me…,” she pauses. “Knowing Charlie, she wouldn’t have gotten a tattoo unless it really meant something to her. It had to be something she knew she would never grow tired of. Never stop loving.”

Two familiar words stick out in her sentence. “Never never,” I whisper.

She looks up at me, recognizing the phrase we repeated to each other in the video. She tilts her head to the side. “You think it had something to do with you? With Silas?” She shakes her head, silently disagreeing with my suggestion, but I begin scrolling through my phone. “Charlie wouldn’t be that stupid,” she adds. “She wouldn’t ink something into her skin that was related to a guy. Besides, what would trees have to do with you?”

I find exactly what I’m looking for and, as much as I’m trying to keep a straight face, I can’t stop the smile. I know it’s a smug smile and I probably should not be looking at her like this, but I can’t help it. I hand her the phone and she looks down at the screen and reads out loud.

“From a Greek name meaning forests or woods.” She looks up at me. “So it’s the meaning of a name?”

I nod. Still smug. “Scroll up.”

She scrolls up the screen with a swipe of her finger and her lips part with a gasp. “Derived from the Greek term—Silas.” Her mouth clamps shut and her jaw hardens. She hands me back the phone and closes her eyes. Her head moves slowly back and forth. “She got a tattoo of the meaning of your name?”

As expected, she’s pretending to be disappointed in herself.

As expected, I feel triumphant.

“You got a tattoo,” I tell her, pointing my finger in her direction. “It’s on you. Your skin. My name.” I can’t stop with the stupid smile plastered across my face. She rolls her eyes again, just as our food is laid in front of us.

I push mine aside and search the meaning for the name Charlie. I don’t pull anything up that could mean pearls. After a few minutes, she finally sighs and says, “Try Margaret. My middle name.”

I search the name Margaret and read the results out loud.

“Margaret, from the Greek term meaning pearl.”

I set my phone down. I don’t know why it seems like I’ve just won a bet, but I feel victorious.

“It’s a good thing you’re giving me a new name,” she says, matter of fact.

A new name my ass.

I pull my plate in front of me and pick up a french fry. I point it at her and wink. “We’re branded. You and me. We are so in love, Charlie. You feeling it yet? Do I make your heart go pitter patter?”

“These aren’t our tattoos,” she says.

I shake my head. “Branded,” I repeat. I raise my index finger as if I’m gesturing over her shoulder. “Right there. Permanently. Forever.”

“God,” she groans. “Shut up and eat your damn burger.”

I eat it. I eat the entire thing with a shit-eating grin.

“What now?” I ask, leaning back in my seat. She’s barely touched her food and I’m pretty sure I just broke a record with how fast I ate mine.

She looks up at me and I can see by the trepidation in her expression that she already knows what she wants to do next, she just doesn’t want to bring it up.

“What is it?”

Her eyes narrow. “I don’t want you to make a smart-ass comment in response to what I’m about to suggest.”

“No, Charlie,” I say immediately. “We aren’t eloping tonight. The tattoos are enough commitment for now.”

She doesn’t roll her eyes at my joke this time. She sighs, defeated, and leans back in her seat.

I hate her reaction. I like it a whole lot more when she rolls her eyes at me.

I reach across the table and cover her hand with mine, rubbing my thumb over hers. “I’m sorry,” I say. “Sarcasm just makes this whole thing feel a little less frightening.” I remove my hand from hers. “What did you want to say? I’m listening. Promise. Lumberjack’s honor.”

She laughs with a small roll of her eyes and I’m relieved. She glances up at me and shifts in her seat, then begins playing with her straw again. “We passed a few…tarot shops. I think maybe we should get a reading.”

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