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A Beautiful Wedding: Chapter 10

Inked

Abby

“What do you mean?” Travis said, blanching. “We’re not here for me?”

The tattoo artist stared at us both, a little surprised at Travis’s surprise.

The entire taxi ride over, Travis assumed I was buying him a new tattoo as a wedding present. When I told the driver our destination, it never occurred to Travis that I would be the one getting inked. He talked about tattooing ABBY somewhere on him, but since he already had PIGEON on his wrist, I thought it would be redundant.

“It’s my turn,” I said, turning to the tattoo artist. “What’s your name?”

“Griffin,” he said in a monotone.

“Of course,” I said. “I want MRS. MADDOX here.” I touched my finger to my jeans on the right side of my lower abdomen, just low enough not to be seen, even in a bikini. I wanted Travis to be the only one privy to my ink, a nice surprise every time he undressed me.

Travis beamed. “Mrs. Maddox?”

“Yes, in this font,” I said, pointing to a laminated poster on the wall featuring sample tattoos.

Travis smiled. “That fits you. It’s elegant, but not fussy.”

“Exactly. Can you do that?”

“I can. It’ll be about an hour. We have a couple people ahead of you. It’ll be two fifty.”

“Two fifty? For a few scribbles?” Travis said, his mouth falling open. “What the fuck, chuck?”

“It’s Griffin,” he said, unaffected.

“I know, but—”

“It’s okay, baby,” I said. “Everything is more in Vegas.”

“Let’s just wait until we get home, Pidge.”

“Pidge?” Griffin said.

Travis sent him a death glare. “Shut up,” he warned, looking back at me. “This’ll be two hundred bucks cheaper back home.”

“If I wait, I won’t do it.”

Griffin shrugged. “Then maybe you should wait.”

I glared at Travis and Griffin. “I’m not waiting. I’m doing this.” I pulled out my wallet and shoved three bills at Griffin. “So you take my money”—I frowned at Travis—“and you hush. It’s my money, my body, and this is what I want to do.”

Travis seemed to weigh what he was about to say. “But . . . it’s going to hurt.”

I smiled. “Me? Or you?”

“Both.”

Griffin took my money and then disappeared. Travis paced the floor like a nervous expectant father. He peeked down the hall, and then paced some more. It was as cute as it was annoying. At one point he begged me not to do it, and then became impressed and touched that I was so hell-bent on going through with it.

“Pull down your jeans,” Griffin said, getting his equipment ready.

Travis shot a piercing look at the short, muscular man from under his brow, but Griffin was too busy to notice Travis’s most frightening expression.

I sat on the chair, and Griffin pushed buttons. As the chair reclined, Travis sat on a stool on the other side of me. He was fidgeting.

“Trav,” I said in a soft voice. “Sit down.” I held out my hand and he took it, also taking a seat. He kissed my fingers, and offered a sweet but nervous smile.

Just when I thought he couldn’t take the waiting anymore, my cell phone buzzed in my purse.

Oh, God. What if it was a text message from Trent? Travis was already digging for it, grateful for the distraction.

“Leave it, Trav.”

He looked at the display and frowned. My breath caught. He held out the phone for me to take. “It’s Mare.”

I grabbed it from him and would’ve felt relief if it weren’t for the cold cotton swab running over my hip bone. “Hello?”

“Abby?” America said. “Where are you? Shepley and I just got home. The car is gone.”

“Oh,” I said, my voice an octave higher. I hadn’t planned on telling her yet. I wasn’t sure how to break the news, but I was sure she was going to hate me. At least for a little while.

“We’re . . . in Vegas.”

America laughed. “Shut up.”

“I’m totally serious.”

America grew quiet, and then her voice was so loud, I flinched. “WHY are you in Vegas? It’s not like you had a good time when you were there last!”

“Travis and I decided to . . . we kind of got married, Mare.”

“What! This isn’t funny, Abby! You better be fucking joking!”

Griffin placed the transfer onto my skin and pressed. Travis looked like he wanted to kill him for touching me.

“You’re silly,” I said, but when the tattoo machine began to hum my entire body tensed.

“What’s that noise?” America said, steaming.

“We’re at the tattoo parlor.”

“Is Travis getting branded with your real name this time?”

“Not exactly . . .”

Travis was sweating. “Baby . . .” he said, frowning.

“I can do this,” I said, focusing on spots on the ceiling. I jumped when Griffin’s fingertip’s touched my skin, but I tried not to tense.

“Pigeon,” Travis said, his voice tinged with desperation.

“All right,” I said, shaking my head dismissively. “I’m ready.” I held the phone away from my ear, wincing from both the pain, and the inevitable lecture.

“I’m going to kill you, Abby Abernathy!” America cried. “Kill you!”

“Technically, it’s Abby Maddox, now,” I said, smiling at Travis.

“It’s not fair!” she whined. “I was supposed to be your maid of honor! I was supposed to go dress shopping with you and throw a bachelorette party and hold your bouquet!”

“I know,” I said, watching Travis’s smile fade as I winced again.

“You don’t have to do this, you know,” he said, his eyebrow pulling together.

I squeezed his fingers. “I know.”

“You said that already!” America snapped.

“I wasn’t talking to you.”

“Oh, you’re talking to me,” she fumed. “You are soooo talking to me. You are never going to hear the end of this, do you hear me? I will never, ever forgive you!”

“Yes you will.”

“You! You’re a . . . ! You’re just plain mean, Abby! You’re a horrible best friend!”

I laughed, causing Griffin to pull back. He breathed through his nose.

“I’m sorry,” I said.

“Who was that?” America snapped.

“That was Griffin,” I answered matter-of-factly.

“Is she done?” he asked Travis, annoyed.

Travis nodded once. “Keep it up.”

Griffin just smiled, and continued. My whole body tensed again.

“Who the hell is Griffin? Let me guess: you invited a total stranger to your wedding and not your best friend?”

I cringed, from both her shrill voice and the needle stabbing into my skin. “No. He didn’t go to the wedding,” I said, sucking in a breath of air.

Travis sighed and shifted nervously in his chair, squeezing my hand. He looked miserable. I couldn’t help but smile.

“I’m supposed to be squeezing your hand, remember?”

“Sorry,” he said, his voice thick with distress. “I don’t think I can take this.” He opened his hand a bit and looked to Griffin.

“Hurry up, would ya?”

Griffin shook his head. “Covered in tats and can’t take your girlfriend getting a simple script. I’ll be finished in a minute, mate.”

Travis’s expression turned severe. “Wife. She’s my wife.”

America gasped, the sound as high-pitched as her tone. “You’re getting a tattoo? What is going on with you, Abby? Did you breathe toxic fumes in that fire?”

“Travis has my name on his wrist,” I said, looking down at the smeared, black mess on my stomach. Griffin pressed the tip of the needle against my skin, and I clenched my teeth together. “We’re married,” I said through my teeth. “I wanted something, too.”

Travis shook his head. “You didn’t have to.”

I narrowed my eyes. “Don’t start with me.”

The corners of his mouth turned up, and he gazed at me with the sweetest adoration I’d ever seen.

America laughed, sounding a bit insane. “You’ve gone crazy.” She should talk. “I’m committing you to the asylum when I get home.”

“It’s not that crazy. We love each other. We have been practically living together on and off all year.” Okay, not quite all year . . . not that it matters now. Not enough to mention it and give America more ammunition.

“Because you’re nineteen, you idiot! Because you ran off and didn’t tell anyone, and because I’m not there!” she cried.

For one second, guilt and second thoughts crept in. For one second, I let the tiniest bit of panic that I’d just made a huge mistake simmer to the surface, but the moment I looked up at Travis and saw the incredible amount of love in his eyes, it all went away.

“I’m sorry, Mare, I have to go. I’ll see you tomorrow, okay?”

“I don’t know if I want to see you tomorrow! I don’t think I want to see Travis ever again!”

“I’ll see you tomorrow, Mare. I know you want to see my ring.”

“And your tat,” she said, a smile in her voice.

I handed the phone to Travis. Griffin ran his thousand tiny knives of pain and anguish across my angry skin again. Travis shoved my phone in his pocket, gripping my hand with both of his, leaning down to touch his forehead to mine.

Not knowing what to expect helped, but the pain was a slow burn. As Griffin filled in the thicker parts of the letters I winced, and every time he pulled away to wipe the excess ink away with a cloth, I relaxed.

After a few more complaints from Travis, Griffin made us jump with a loud proclamation. “DONE!”

“Thank God!” I said, letting my head fall back against the chair.

“Thank God!” Travis cried, and then sighed in relief. He patted my hand, smiling.

I looked down, admiring the beautiful black lines hiding under the smeared black mess.

Mrs. Maddox

“Wow,” I said, rising up on my elbows.

Travis’s frown instantly turned into a triumphant smile. “It’s beautiful.”

Griffin shook his head. “If I had a dollar for every inked-up new husband who brought his wife in here and took it worse than she did—well, I wouldn’t have to tat anyone ever again.”

Travis’s smile disappeared. “Just give her the postcare instructions, smart-ass.”

“I’ll have a printout of instructions and some A and D ointment at the counter,” Griffin said, amused by Travis.

My stare kept returning to the elegant script on my skin. We were married. I was a Maddox, just like all of those wonderful men I had grown to love. I had a family, albeit full of angry, crazy, lovable men, but they were mine. I belonged to them, as they belonged to me.

Travis held out his hand, peering down at his ring finger. “We did it, baby. I still can’t believe you’re my wife.”

“Believe it.” I beamed.

I reached out to Travis, pointed to his pocket, and then turned my hand over, opening my palm. He handed me my phone, and I pulled up the camera to snap a picture of my fresh ink. Travis helped me from the chair, careful to avoid my right side. I was sensitive to every movement that caused my jeans to rub against my raw skin.

After a short stop at the front counter, Travis let go of me long enough to push the door open for me, and then we walked outside to a waiting cab. My cell phone rang again. America.

“She’s going to lay on the guilt trip thick, isn’t she?” Travis said, watching me silence my phone. I wasn’t in the mood to endure another tongue-lashing.

“She’ll pout for twenty-four hours after she sees the pictures—then she’ll get over it.”

“Are you sure about that, Mrs. Maddox?”

I chuckled. “Are you ever going to stop calling me that? You’ve said it a hundred times since we left the chapel.”

He shook his head as he held the cab door open for me. “I’ll quit calling you that when it sinks in that this is real.”

“Oh, it’s real all right. I have wedding night memories to prove it.” I slid to the middle and then watched as he slid in next to me.

He leaned against me, running his nose up the sensitive skin of my neck until he reached my ear. “We sure do.”


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