Authors: K. Larsen
Tug of War
By K. Larsen
Edited, Produced, and Published by Writer’s Edge Publishing
All rights reserved.
© 2013 by K. Larsen.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced,
stored in a retrieval system in any form or by any means without the prior
written permission of the publisher.
All characters in this book are fictitious, and any
resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental.
Table of Contents
Tug of War
He screams, shaking me more. I snap my eyes closed and
pretend I’m anywhere else. His hands release my shoulders abruptly and as my
eyes snap open I feel myself lose my balance. Stumbling to find my footing, I
miss the next step and tumble. His hate-filled eyes watch every hit to the
stairs that my body takes before I crumple at the bottom in a pile of skin and
I’m Clara Lord. I own Bloodline’s Tattoo Parlor, have a
filthy mouth, no filter, and a really strong objection to bossy idiots, pet
names, and wealthy men. You will hate me, love me, or love to hate me, but
either way, it doesn’t matter. Everything I touch turns to crap and it’s all my
Eventually I’ll get to the bar--hopefully before last call,
but at this rate my chances are looking slim. I should have done what Marg did
and ordered two drinks, knowing how busy the club would be on a Friday night,
but I didn't. I’m sweaty from dancing with my girls in the throng of people
crowding the dance floor. Without warning my hair is swept off my back and over
my left shoulder. Hanging to my shoulder blades, it’s hot and heavy, so the movement
creates a breeze on my neck that feels good, but who the hell just touched me
so intimately? I stiffen as warm breath blows over my shoulder.
“Could I interest you in a drink?” comes a deep, rough voice
in my ear. I swing around shooting steel daggers and find myself eye level with
a broad chest. Tilting my head back, I look up to an extremely handsome, tan, chiseled
“Excuse me?” I snap. He smirks. My snarky inner bitch
already hates him.
“I’d like to buy you a drink.” His deep vibrato sends chills
down my spine which surprises me.
“Oh?” I ask and quirk a well-groomed eyebrow at him.
“Yes, what would you like?” he asks. I want to smack the
smug look off his face. I hate arrogance and entitlement, and this dude oozes
“I’d like to not be manhandled by a stranger,” I say snarkily.
“My apologies, but I’ve been watching you and I couldn't
resist.” He steps closer to me.
“Creepy,” I quip, taking a step back. Mystery man reaches
out, grabbing me at the elbow.
“Let me get you a drink,” he pleads a little more sternly.
“Why not?” he questions, looking amused.
“Persistent, aren’t we?” My voice is laced with disdain.
“Yes. I’ve been called that.” He grins. His eyes lighten
slightly with his smile. He really is attractive.
“Give me one good reason,” I offer sarcastically. The
corners of his mouth drop and his brows furrow.
“You intrigue me,” he says finally.
“That’s hardly a good reason, Mr...” I snort and wait. His
“Mr. Napoli. And I’d like to get to know you, Ms...” he
“Lord. Ms. Lord. You don’t know me but I can assure you I’m
stunningly average in all areas of life,” I inform him.
“I beg to differ,” he argues. Man, this guy is relentless
and totally hot for himself. Anyone who thinks so much of themselves must be a
catch, I snicker to myself sarcastically. Stepping in close to him I place my
hand on his hard chest and smooth his tie with my hand. Who wears a suit to a
club anyways? He grins at the contact and his eyes go dark as if I’m his prey.
I fist the tie and tug gently until his tall firm frame bends to my five-foot-four
level and I bring my mouth to his ear. “You can differ all you like but only I
know the truth,” I purr. Releasing his tie, I turn on my boot heel and stalk
back to my girls, fuming about that stupidly hot, “I’m so full of myself I
could get any girl and I will” jerk. I plop down in my chair irritated and
“Remind me why they don’t offer clubs that only let women
in?” I ask sarcastically. Two dolled up ladies stare at me wide-eyed.
“Uh...what?” I ask, noticing their faces.
“Do you have any idea who you were talking to?! What did he
want?!” Marg screeches.
“He wanted to buy me a drink and who the hell is he?” I bark
“Clara...do you live under a rock? That’s Dominic Napoli,
real estate mogul, one of Boston’s ten most successful businessmen under forty.
Didn’t you read the article I emailed you?” Amanda asks and looks at me like
I’ve lost my mind. I did read it, but I read it because she wrote it, I didn’t
really absorb or pay attention to the photos or why those guys were worth
reading about. She knows I could give a crap about rich men.
“I guess I skipped his bio?” I say and shrug, still not sure
why it’s that awesome that I met him. Sure he’s successful, but I don’t care
about money and prestige. I’m not that into appearances and mingling with the
right people. Been there, done that.
“Ladies, Mr. Napoli sends his regards. Please enjoy the wine,”
the bartender interrupts us, placing a very expensive bottle of white wine on
the table with three glasses.
“Man, what a jerk!” I cry in frustration.
“Shut up, Clara,” Amanda hisses, horrified. Marg ignores me
and dives into the wine.
“I told him I didn't want a drink from him and what does he
do? He does it anyway. This,” I gesture to the wine, “is sneaky and backhanded.
Now it doesn't matter if I said no, he’s made it look all good-natured. Pompass
“Shut up and drink,” Marg laughs.
“Fine, but it’s consumption under protest,” I state and
relax a little. What I really want to do is strut over to that cocky jerk and
hand him his bottle of wine back while giving him a piece of my mind. What part
of “no means no” is so hard to understand?
Icona Pop’s “I Love It” starts. This is my jam. I flat out
love this song and I immediately jump up, snag the bottle of wine, leaving both
girls screeching, and hit the dance floor. Shrugging at each other, Amanda and
Marg follow and the three of us jump around shouting the words to the song and
shaking our hips.
Taking a pull directly from the wine bottle, I notice Mr.
Napoli watching from the VIP section. He’s really quite handsome; it’s a shame,
really. If he’d been that handsome and an average Joe maybe he would have
gotten lucky tonight, but my pure hatred of wealth and all that comes with it
makes him off-limits. I toss my head back and take another pull before passing
the bottle to Marg as “Wild Ones” starts and I lose myself in the music. Three
songs later Amanda tugs on my arm, wanting my attention.
“What’s up?” I shout above the music.
“Marg and I want to hit up The Harp.”
“‘Kay, let’s go!” I shout back and follow them to our table
to collect our things. The wine bottle passes between the three of us again,
polishing it off. I have a serious buzz at this point which was my entire goal
for tonight and tomorrow night. I’m only in town for the weekend and wanted a
wild girls’ weekend with my two favorite ladies. I haven’t seen them in forever
but work brought me back to Beantown finally, so I’d emailed them both, seeing
if they were up for a couple nights on the town with me.
“How’s Alliecat and Sawyer?” Marg asks.
“Allie’s amazing, per usual, and Sawyer,” I sigh. “Sawyer is
the only reason I was able to come. I don't know what I’d do without him.”
Amanda and Marg shoot loving looks at me before we head into The Harp.
“God! I missed this place,” I squeal. “Is The Zoo playing tonight?”
I ask. Marg and Amanda both double over laughing at me. “What?” I ask.
“Do you really think eight years later they’re still playing
here?” Amanda chuckles.
“Oh. Right. Guess it’s been a while.”
“Yeah, ‘a while’ is an understatement, Clara,” Marg quips at
“I know, I know, but you guys know why I had to leave,” I
say and throw my hands up in defense.
“Yes, we do and we understand. We’re just happy to have you
for the weekend, babe!” I get double-teamed by my girls in a giant hug and
can't help but giggle with them. It really has been too long. I’ve missed out
on a lot in their lives. We e-mail, text, and call, but it’s not the same
really and Lord knows they’ve missed out on my life. It is what it is though,
and I did what I had to do and never looked back and I’m happy with my life
Cramming into a table for two, we order three beers and wait
for the band to come on. “So how was the exhibition today?” Marg asks.
“It went really well. I mingled with some other people in
the Virginia area, too. Hopefully it will drum up some new business.”
“Is the shop turning a profit that you can live on now?”
“Yeah, it has been for a while. We’re really starting to get
busy. Sawyer and I might need to bring in a third artist. That was the other
part of coming to the show today, I wanted to scope out some talent.”
“Well it sounds like things have really come together for
you. I’m happy,” Marg says and smiles approvingly. It’s nice to know they
support me. Eight years ago, hell, five years ago, if you’d asked me if I would
be running my own shop and making money doing it I would have laughed in your
“Thanks.” I smile.
“Any of you ladies care to dance?” a stocky guy with a bad
teenage mustache asks. I snort and shake my head “no” while Marg looks like she
wants to hide under the table and never look at his face again, and Amanda, oh
boy, she looks like she’s ready to give the guy hell.
“You have balls, I’ll give you that. What are you? Eighteen?
Twenty? How’d you get in here? The street lights are on it’s past your
bedtime.” She flicks her wrist, shooing him away as I burst into laughter.
“What?” she asks. “We’re cougars but we still have standards.” She giggles.
“Cougars? Seriously, since when does thirty-two put you in
cougar territory?” I chortle.
“When the boys hitting on you are a decade or more younger
than you. That’s when,” she replies.
Marg finally lifts her eyes. “Is creepy mustache gone?” We
all double over with laughter as we sip our beers.
As the band steps onto the stage and starts to play their
nineties cover songs, I think back to when this was the norm in my life.
College had been a blast and these two girls had been my partners in crime for
four years and some change. I really did miss them and having time to just be
crazy and wild and free. Marg tugs me to my feet and stumbles a little. I’m
really glad I wore my cowboy boots instead of heels. Sure, I probably stick out
like a sore thumb, but I’m comfortable, can dance, and will still be able to
walk home without my feet feeling like they are bleeding. “Hey Jealousy” ends
and “Laid” starts and I can’t help but be swept away in the moment. I feel
carefree and eighteen again.
Mid-song I’m singing my heart out, jumping around wildly,
having the best time ever, when two large hands grip my waist. His fingers
splay wide, holding me firmly. I feel a tingle course through my body at the
contact. My hormones go into overdrive at the long-forgotten feeling of being
held by a man like this. I stiffen and stand stock-still, enjoying the
sensation before realizing that I have no male counterpart with me. “Don’t Stop
Believing” starts just as I whip around to face my grabby fan. “We meet again,
Ms. Lord,” Dominic says coyly. His hands are scorching my sides as I stare up into
his dark eyes. He’s so attractive. His black hair is perfectly coiffed and his
suit looks like it was tailor made just for him. I’m sure I’m staring like an
idiot but the beer has officially sent me one-sheet-past-three to the wind and
I can’t form a witty retort. Instead I stare dreamily, like a reject, at the
chiseled face before me. I can’t be sure but I think I even sigh. He smiles
widely at me and I blink.
Gathering myself, I pull out of his grip and in my drunken
stupor stumble backwards, landing on the stage. The lead singer takes this as
an invitation and hauls me to my feet. Figuring “what the hell?” I rip the microphone
from his hands and start belting out the song. “Working hard to get my fill,
everybody wants a thrill. Payin' anything to roll the dice, just one more time.
Some will win, some will lose....” The mic is stolen away as the chorus begins
and he holds the mic out to the crowd. Amanda and Marg yank me down from the
stage, barely containing their laughter at my show.
“What the hell, Clara?!” Amanda shouts. She can barely
contain her laughter.
“Yeah, Clara, I had no idea you were a rock star,” a booming
deep voice calls out. Marg and Amanda spin around and eye Mr. Dominic Napoli as
he reaches out, snags my hand, and pulls me to him. I’m stupefied. He’s warm
and hard and he smells so flippin’ good. Instead of moving away I stand molded
“Mr. Napppppoli,” I slur and silently will myself to shut
up. “What a pleasuuure.” Amanda kicks my shin, hearing my tone, but I ignore
her. I know she’s trying to save me from the verbal diarrhea attack that's
about to happen. “Although you are apparently the perfect male specimen,” I
drag my eyes from his face down to his crotch and back up lewdly, “I really
would appreciate it if you could keep your hands to yourself. Perv.” I can’t
help it. I know it’s not the right time but I am really freaking hilarious and
I bust out laughing at myself.
He cocks his head to the side and openly stares at me with
curiosity. There’s something about him that makes my skin crawl and tingle
simultaneously. A war starts between my brain and my hormones. The rational
side of me says to run away, you hate his kind, but my libido screams: it’s
been months, he wants you, have a wild night--take him.
“Ladies, could I convince you to let me give you all a ride
home?” He looks back and forth between Marg and Amanda who stand there stunned
stupid, looking like enamored school girls. I grunt and give this Dominic
character a little shove out of my personal space. “We’re not leaving now,” I
growl. I hate being told what to do. It’s a problem.
“I think you’ve had enough,” he clips.
“Excuse me? What are you, my father?” I bite out.
“I think you’ll have a terrible hangover if you don’t quit
now.” His arrogance is really, really irritating me.
“Marg, Manda. We’re leaving. I hate him,” I spout, poke him
in the chest, and yank my bag from Amanda’s hand while making a beeline for the
door. The cool night air hits me like a brick in the face and suddenly, instead
of feeling refreshed, I feel tired and sick. I lean against the building and
hang my head, trying to get the spinning to stop.
“Hey, you all right?” Marg asks, rubbing my arm softly.
“I don’t feel well,” I moan pathetically.
“NO puking in the taxi,” Amanda laughs. She’s teasing, I
never puke. Well, not never, but it’s a rare occurrence and I usually can hold
it together until there’s a clean bathroom in sight.