I hopped down from the counter, opened a drawer, and pulled out the drawing Trenton had created the week before. I held it up to his face. “They’re pretty, and they’re significant.”

“You’ve said that. But you haven’t told me why they’re significant.”

“The Wizard of Oz. They make you forget.”

“What? Is that dumb?” I said, immediately defensive.

“No. It’s just that your Oz reference reminded me of Travis’s girlfriend’s new name for Crook.”

“Toto. Travis said she’s from Kansas . . . that’s why he got that breed in the first place, blah, blah, blah.”

Trenton narrowed his eyes. “You really want the poppies?”

I held up his artwork again. “Just like this.”

He shrugged. “Okay, baby doll. Poppies it is.” He took my hand, leading me back to his room.

I undressed while Trenton finished his prep, but he paused just long enough to watch me pull my shirt over my head, and then slip my left arm out of my black, lacy bra strap. He shook his head and smiled wryly, amused by the G-rated striptease I’d just given him.

By the time the tattoo machine had begun to buzz, I was completely relaxed against the chair. Trenton tattooing my skin was so extraordinarily intimate. There was something about being so close to him, the way he manipulated and stretched my skin while he worked, and the look of concentration on his face while he permanently marked my skin with one of his remarkable pieces of art. The pain was secondary to all of that.

Trenton was just finishing up the line work when Hazel and Calvin returned. Hazel had a sack in her hand when she walked into Trenton’s room.

“I brought you both a slice of cheesecake,” she said, noticing my shoulder. “Oh, that’s going to be f**king amazing.”

“It’s been that slow, huh?” Calvin said. “I don’t suppose you coulda picked up a broom?”

“She ain’t got anything I haven’t seen before,” Calvin said.

“You haven’t seen Cami before. Get the f**k out.”

Calvin simply turned his back to us, crossing his arms. “She can’t find something to organize when we’re not busy? I’m paying her by the hour.”

“Everything is organized, Cal,” I said. “I did sweep. I even dusted.”

Trenton frowned. “You bitch because she doesn’t have tats, and now you’re bitching because I’m tatting her. Make up your damn mind.”

Calvin craned his neck at Trenton, snarled his lip, and then disappeared around the corner.

Hazel giggled, clearly not worried about the boys’ confrontation.

After Trenton doctored my tattoo site, I slipped my arm through my bra strap—carefully—and then pulled my shirt back over my head. “You’re going to get fired if you keep pissing him off.”

“Nah,” Trenton said, cleaning up his workspace. “He’s secretly in love with me.”

“Calvin doesn’t love anyone,” Hazel said. “He’s married to this shop.”

Trenton narrowed his eyes. “What about Bishop? I’m pretty sure he loves Bishop.”

Hazel rolled her eyes. “You’ll need to let that go.”

I left them both and walked to the counter, noticing a buzzing noise coming from the drawer where I kept my cell phone. I pulled it open slowly, and looked at the display. It was Clark.

“What’s wrong?” Trenton asked, coming up behind me to kiss a small section of my shoulder that wasn’t angry and red from the needle.

“It’s Clark. I love him, I’m just not in the mood to be in a bad mood, ya know?”

Trenton’s lips touched the outside edge of my ear. “You don’t have to answer,” he said softly.

Holding the phone in the palm of my hand, I declined the call, and then tapped out a text.

Bad idea. Dad’s already pissed about you missing last week.

Ok. I’ll let them know closer to time.

Trenton’s one appointment was the only customer we had all day. The sky was full of low-lying gray clouds; winter threatened to throw up on us at any moment. With at least an inch of sleet and ice already on the roads, not many people were braving the weather. The shop wasn’t far from campus, so we usually saw a steady stream of vehicles passing in each direction, but with the crap weather, the traffic was nonexistent.

Trenton was drawing doodles on a piece of paper, and Hazel was lying in a straight line on the floor in front of the brown leather sofa that sat next to the entrance doors. I was typing out a paper for class. Calvin still hadn’t come out of his office.

Hazel let out a dramatic sigh. “I’m leaving. I can’t take this.”

A muffled scream emanated from Hazel’s throat. When she finished, she was quiet for a moment, and then sat up quickly, her eyes bright. “Let me pierce your nose, Cami.”

“Oh, c’mon! We’ll do a really tiny diamond. It’ll be ladylike, but fierce.”

“The thought of my nose being impaled makes my eyes water,” I said.

I looked over at Trenton, who was shading in his drawing of what looked like a troll. “Don’t look at me. It’s your nose.”

“I’m not asking for your permission. I want your opinion,” I said.

“I think it’s hot,” he said.

I cocked my head a bit, impatient. “Great, but does it hurt?”

“Yeah,” Trenton said. “I’ve heard it hurts like a son of a bitch.”

I thought for a moment, and then looked at Hazel. “I’m bored, too.”

Her beaming smile spanned from one side of her face to the other. Her cheeks pushed up, making her eyes just two slits. “Really?”

“C’mon,” I said, already walking back to her room. She scrambled to her feet and followed.

By the time I left Skin Deep for the day, I had extensive line work on my left shoulder, and a new nose piercing. Hazel was right. It was tiny; dainty, even. I would have never thought to get a nose ring, but I loved it.

“See you tomorrow, Hazel,” I said, walking toward the door.

“Thank you for preserving my sanity, Cami!” Hazel said, waving. “Next time we’re slow, we’ll put gauges in your ears.”

I started the Smurf, and then Trenton jogged up to my door, signaling for me to roll down my window. When I did, he leaned in and kissed my lips.

“You weren’t even going to say good-bye?” he asked.

“Sorry,” I said. “I’m a little out of practice with this whole thing.”

Trenton winked. “Me, too. But it won’t take long.”

I narrowed my eyes. “When was the last time you were in a relationship?”