Don’t discount the mystic powers in the world…
Casey has spent most of his adult life building a successful business. His mother has been on him to settle down with a good man. Casey would, but he hasn’t had time to look for one. On his fortieth birthday, he goes out with friends and gets drunk—and has one too many.
When he wakes up in the morning, there’s a sexy, strange man in his home and a new, kind of painful tattoo on Casey’s chest. He doesn’t remember what happened the night before, but it doesn’t take him long to realize that the stranger, Ed, is someone he wants to get to know much better.
Now, if the fates and stars and all that mystical stuff will align, Casey and Ed might have their Happily Ever After, with the help of a mysterious tattoo artist and a vanishing tattoo shop.
About the Author
A native Texan, Bailey spends her days spinning stories around in her head, which has contributed to more than one incident of tripping over her own feet. Evenings are reserved for pounding away at the keyboard, as are early morning hours. Sleep? Doesn't happen much. Writing is too much fun, and there are too many characters bouncing about, tapping on Bailey's brain demanding to be let out.
Caffeine and chocolate are permanent fixtures in Bailey's office and are never far from hand at any given time. Removing either of those necessities from Bailey's presence can result in what is known as A Very, Very Scary Bailey and is not advised under any circumstances.
Read an Excerpt
Copyright © Bailey Bradford 2016. All Rights Reserved, Totally Entwined Group Limited, T/A Pride Publishing.
“Oh, Jesus, my chest hurts.” Casey Allen winced. His head throbbed right along with his chest. Specifically, the upper left side of it, where it felt like he had a sunburn at the very least.
He was a mess from drinking entirely too much booze the night before.
Well, he only turned forty once, unless everyone saying and wearing ‘YOLO’ on their clothing was wrong and reincarnation actually occurred. He couldn’t figure out a witty acronym for that scenario.
If he got drunk again like he’d done last night, he’d probably never live to see forty-one. His head felt like it was going to explode, his stomach was well past queasy, then there was the pain in his chest.
Casey pushed himself up to a sitting position. He was in his own bed. That was a good thing. Back in his twenties, on occasion, he’d woken up in a stranger’s bed and had done the walk of shame with a mild hangover.
Fortunately, he’d never had sex when he’d been utterly shit-faced. His conscience would have kept him from doing that. Last night he’d been out with six of his employees—who had insisted on giving him a birthday party—and they’d had a blast.
At least, he thought they had. His memories of the events were actually quite blurry. There’d been a lot of laughing and jibes about him growing old. One thing was certain, as horrible as he felt, it might be time for him to admit he couldn’t spend a night getting pass-out drunk anymore.
He had to mature all the way around at some point. That’s what his mother kept telling him. Casey would have laughed had he not been afraid it’d cause him more pain. He had his own eco-consulting business, Good to Go Green, and his home was paid for. He had great employees and he was even opening a second branch of GtGG in Austin because the demand for organic and environmentally friendly everything was getting bigger every day.
But by ‘maturing all the way around’, his mom meant that he needed to find a good man and settle down. She had just called him and lectured him the day before—again, which was probably why he was thinking about her. His mom wanted grandkids, and she wanted them a decade ago. As much as he’d hoped she would be happy with his younger brother and sister having kids with their respective spouses—and she did love all her grandkids—there’d be no peace for him until he managed to give her a couple more.
It wasn’t like Casey had been avoiding commitment. He’d been incredibly involved in making his business a success over the past fifteen years. It’d been rough going for the first four or five of those years. He’d had to take a part-time job delivering pizzas to help pay his rent.
Then everyone in the world had wanted to ‘go green’, and his services had suddenly been in high demand. He’d been busy, damn it, not fleeing from more responsibility.
Casey groaned, closed his eyes and rubbed his forehead. He was doing entirely too much thinking for a man so fucking hungover. The clanging in his head was going to do him in. He moved his other hand up to his temple and something made a crinkling noise as pain flared in his chest.
Sounds like plastic wrap. What the fuck? He opened his eyes and glanced down. “Oh, mother fucking hell!” Thinking about Mom…oh, man. Dad, too. They aren’t going to be happy. Granted, he was an adult, but he still didn’t want to get chewed out by his parents. His mom was going to shit bricks. His dad would shake his head sadly like Casey had done the stupidest thing on Earth. They were fine with him being gay, but tattoos?
He was going to hear about how he’d burn in hell.
That might have been a slight exaggeration, but he figured he was entitled since he felt like cold shit and had apparently gotten a tattoo. While drunk. His friends had somehow dropped the ball on not letting him do anything stupid.
No, that wasn’t right. He’d made the decision to get a tattoo, and even though he had been drunk, it was still his fault.
Then a thought occurred to him. Maybe it’s not even a real tattoo, like in those videos, where the hungover guy wakes up and thinks he has a face tattoo! Casey plucked at the plastic and yelped. The skin under it was definitely sore. There might even have been blood under the plastic, which made sense if he’d had a needle jabbing into him repeatedly.
“Shit, what have I done?” He was so dead. There was the family dinner tonight to celebrate his birthday with them, and between the hugs and pats, he’d probably get smacked on the tattoo numerous times. Even if he hid it, which was possible—he’d only have to wear a T-shirt to do so—there’d still be the matter of him being sore.
“And seepage. Oh, that’s just a nasty word.” He glared at the tattoo. Casey couldn’t even tell what it was. Frustrated, he grabbed one edge of the tape that held the plastic on at the top, then yanked it off. The plastic wrap remained on his chest, stuck there with some kind of goop—possibly from the tattoo’s damage, or it could have been a salve, or both—and the second strip of tape on the bottom.
Rather than pull the rest of it off, Casey tried to figure out why the first yank hadn’t been as painful as he’d expected. It didn’t take long for him to realize that had been the case because his chest hair was mostly gone.
It’d probably been thirty or so years since Casey had whined, but he did so then. “I liked my chest hair!”
“Me, too, man, but you insisted on getting that tattoo, so…”
Casey shrieked in the least masculine way he could have managed, which totally sucked since the man standing in his bedroom doorway was a total stud. Tall, muscular, with white-blond hair and piercing green eyes, he was almost model-handsome, except for the bump at the bridge of his nose and a small scar at the left corner of his mouth. The crescent shape caused his lips to pull up just a little more on that side.
His wide, sexy lips.
Whatever had happened last night, Casey had no idea how he’d forgotten there was a gorgeous man in his home. He really had to make sure he never got so drunk again.
Ed stood in the doorway and tried not to laugh at Casey’s changing expressions. Just wait until he realizes he’s bare-ass naked.
“Who are you?” Casey’s voice cracked. The deep timbre it’d held last night was gone under a haze of what Ed would guess was shock, fear and the hangover from hell.
He was adorable as fuck, with lines on his cheek and forehead from his pillow, his brown hair standing on end, blue eyes wide with whatever he was feeling. Though Ed battered back the wave of arousal that threatened to give him a hard-on, he was definitely interested in Casey—if he was a decent guy once he was sober.
“I’m Edward Kirby, the driver who picked you up from the club last night and took you to Mystic Tattoos,” Ed replied, noticing the way Casey’s eyes narrowed. He had a feeling he knew what was coming. “Everyone calls me Ed, though.”
“Why didn’t you stop me? I was drunk!” Casey glared down at his chest. “What the hell did I get tattooed on me, even?”
Before Ed could answer, Casey swore and flopped back, thumping his head against the headboard. “Sorry, sorry. That’s an asshole thing for me to do, blaming you. I just don’t understand why I got a tattoo. I’ve never wanted one, well, not much.” He looked at Ed. “Did you go in with me? I have absolutely no memory of this.”
Ed nodded. “You’re hungover and freaking out because you have a stranger in your house, no memory of how I ended up here, or of how you got that.” He gestured to the tattoo. “I picked you up outside of the Bonham at two this morning. Your friends were out there with you, or at least I assume they were your friends. All of them were pretty drunk, too, and waiting on rides.”
“Friends, employees. Mix of both, I guess, though we don’t all hang out frequently. Just for special occasions, like when they want to see me gut-wrenchingly drunk and use my birthday for an excuse to do so,” he joked. “I need to make sure they all got home safe and sound.” Casey sat up once again then plucked his phone off the nightstand. “None of us drove to the clubs, but you never know—er.” Casey blushed red from his hairline to his chest. “I didn’t mean—”
“There are bad people in this world, Casey. I get it.” Ed wasn’t offended. “Just because I’m a good person doesn’t mean the other drivers are. The app doesn’t give you a background check on whoever is picking you up.”
“Exactly,” Casey said. He sighed and began fiddling with his phone. “Oh. Apparently we all exchanged check-in texts when we got home. No one mentioned the tattoo. What the hell?” He tossed the phone on the bed.
“I think it was a whim,” Ed offered, wishing he could move closer to Casey and sit on the bed. He’d slept on the couch and his neck and back were not happy about it. “You got in, I verified the address with you—which was this address—then when we were halfway here, you started in about how you needed to settle down and make your mom happy. We had a short discussion on whether or not you should do that in order to make someone else happy.”
Casey’s blush deepened and he squeaked much like a mouse. He yanked the sheets over his lower half, covering his cock, which Ed had been decent enough not to ogle. “I’m naked!”
“Don’t blame me. I tried to stop you from stripping in the living room, but you were, er…persistent.” Ed was pretty sure he was the one blushing now.
Casey groaned. “Oh, my God, did I come on to you?”
That was putting it mildly. Casey had tried to seduce him by stripping and dancing to a pop tune he’d sung—badly. He’d been cute, but Ed had morals, and having sex with someone inebriated violated them. There was no need to embarrass Casey, though. “A little bit.”
“A little bit?” Casey’s eyebrows shot up, causing the appearance of two wrinkles on his brow. “I’m naked. My clothes are in the living room. How was that coming on to you a little bit?”
“You were drunk,” Ed explained. “You didn’t know what you were doing. My mom and dad raised me better than to take advantage of people whether they were drunk or sober, period. I can assure you, nothing happened between us.”
Casey muttered something which sounded a lot like “That sucks,” but Ed couldn’t be sure.
After an awkward silence, Ed took a step back. “Well—”
“You didn’t finish telling me about how I ended up with a tattoo,” Casey interrupted before Ed could make an excuse to leave. He didn’t want to infringe on Casey’s time.
But if Casey wanted to talk, Ed was all for that. “Like I said, you were telling me that it was your birthday, which, happy belated birthday now, in case you don’t remember me telling you that, either.”
Casey shook his head. “Last I remember is dancing at the Bonham.”
That was several hours lost. Ed had had a few black-out drunk nights himself in his younger days. He knew how that went. “Okay, well, after we discussed you settling down, you were quiet for a minute, then you said you wanted to get a tattoo at this special shop you’d just read about online on your phone. You gave me the name and address, I told you that you needed to go home, and you proceeded to argue with me.”
“Oh, God,” Casey said again. He slid down farther and pulled the sheet over his head. “Was I a complete obnoxious jerkhole?”
Ed laughed. “Not a complete one, no. Bossy, argumentative, but not mean. You didn’t pull that line I hate so much. The ‘you’re working for me so do what I say’ crap. That one always pisses me off, and you just argued that you knew what you wanted and after a minute or two, I just decided to let you make your own choice. Actually, I figured you’d change your mind once you got to Mystic Tattoos.”
Casey pulled the sheet down enough to peer at him with one eye. “Did you tell me that? I have a problem with dares and shit like that when I’m drunk.”
“Nope. You saw the sign for the place, and I have to admit, it was an amazing sign, not like any neon sign I’ve seen before. In fact—” Ed scratched his chin as he thought it over. “You know, with all the driving I’ve done in San Antonio, I’ve never seen that tattoo shop before. It’s like it popped up overnight. I think I was just on that street a few days ago…” He trailed off, wondering if he was misremembering.
“Was it a big sign, or what?” Casey asked, uncovering his head completely.
“Not particularly big, but beautiful, the colors were so vivid and blended together, and the images on the sign, the unicorns and wolves and genies and such, were so realistic. Except the genie wasn’t blue, but what do I know about genies, anyway?” Ed chuckled. “Guess that’s why it’s called Mystic Tattoo. The owner looked like a genie out of that kids’ cartoon years ago. Except, again, he wasn’t blue.”
“I’d hope I’d remember if he had been blue,” Casey said. He sat up again and the sheet pooled in his lap. His chest wasn’t super-muscular, but he looked good for a man of forty.
“Yeah, that’d have been hard to forget, but then again, you don’t remember getting the tattoo,” Ed reminded him. “And you know what? The owner’s name was Gene.”
“Was he wearing a silky vest and harem pants, and shoes that curled up over his toes?” Casey sounded like he was joking, though his expression conveyed doubt.
“Nope. Black jeans, black T-shirt, lots of face piercings and even a tattoo on the side of his face.” Not Ed’s type, but Gene had still been attractive. “He had a thick Brooklyn accent.”
“Damn it, why can’t I remember any of this?” Casey stood and wobbled in place as he tried to wrap the sheet around his waist. “And isn’t it illegal to tattoo someone who’s drunk?”
“That’s the weird thing. Once you walked into the shop, you were as sober as I am now. Either you’re an excellent actor, or that shop really is magical. Mystical. Both. Whatever.” It had been weird to see Casey go from so drunk to very coherent in a matter of seconds. “I told Gene you were drunk. He talked to you alone for a few minutes while I looked at his portfolio—awesome work. I might go back there for my second tattoo.”
“You have a tattoo?” Casey looked him up and down. “Where?”
Ed pulled his shirt up, watching Casey’s mouth open on a soft gasp. Ed liked to work out. He found it a great way to relieve stress and anxiety…and boredom. He was ripped and knew it, though he hated it when guys only wanted him because of that fact.
When he had the shirt raised up to his collarbone, Ed held his breath while Casey came closer, his gaze on Ed’s tattoo. It was large chest piece, covering half of his upper torso, and the intricate designs, swirling lines and circular shapes—a free-hand tattoo by a man he’d met years ago—still held the color well.
“It’s beautiful,” Casey said, stopping right in front of Ed. “Can I touch it?”
“Go ahead.” Ed’s voice was husky. He couldn’t help it. He wanted Casey’s hands on him.
Casey didn’t disappoint. He traced the outline of the tattoo with his fingertips then smoothed his hand over the whole thing twice. “It’s intriguing. Not a tattoo of one specific thing, but shapes and lines and colors that make me think I see different images in it. This is gorgeous. Where’d you get it?”
Ed reluctantly put his shirt down as Casey moved back a few steps. “Well, here’s the thing. I tried to talk you out of getting a tattoo while you were drunk because that’s how I got this one. All I really remember is some guy in a bar approaching me and telling me I had pretty skin. He said something about soul mates and I freaked out until he told me he wasn’t coming on to me. Then he talked me into letting him tattoo me. Crazy, because he had a van with his equipment in it. I’m lucky I didn’t get a disease or anything. It worked out well, though, because I love this piece.” He touched his chest. “I’ve never seen another one like it.”
“Wow, that sounds like my tattoo story, except I still don’t remember anything.” Casey grimaced and turned. “Can you hang around? I’ve got more questions, but I need to shower and brush my teeth. Take pain meds. Try not to die.”
Ed chuckled, happy that Casey didn’t want him to get out. “I tell you what. I’ll get you some ibuprofen and some caldo de pollo—you know, chicken soup, but much better than the canned stuff. That’s what I was making. Both of them with some water, then coffee, will help with your hangover.”
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
One Too Many is the first book in the Mystic Tattoos series, and is a quick, fun read. We meet Casey, a 40-year-old who has concentrated on getting his business up and running, to the detriment of his love life. However, his mother has made it plain that she won't stand around for much longer waiting for grandkids! Ed is someone who always had a plan, but doesn't always have the practical to go with the theory. When Casey and Ed get together, they form a solid partnership, with plenty of lovin', but there are still doubts and concerns (plus the practicalities of life) to deal with. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, Gene and all! This was a delightful read, with no editing or grammatical errors to disrupt the reading flow. This is the first in the series, and I am definitely looking forward to reading more. Recommended by me. Merissa Archaeolibrarian - I Dig Good Books!