Spark (Men of Inked Heatwave #6) by Chelle Bliss



Five Years Ago

I stood behind my cousin Gigi outside Lily’s house, trying to hide behind her and facing the street just as she told me to. “Bitch, open the door!” she yells into the security camera hanging above the front door. “I have a surprise for you.” Gigi pushes against my back, making sure I don’t turn around.

“It’s late, Gigi. I’m not really in the mood for company.”

“Trust me, you want to see this person.” Gigi’s hands are away from me again, and she moves closer to the front door, the sound of her boots on the cement unmistakable. “I can pick the lock.”

“Don’t you dare,” Lily hisses. “I’m coming down.”

“Good. She’s coming down,” Gigi repeats like somehow having my back to the camera makes me deaf.

A few seconds later, the front door opens, and I smile, knowing Lily’s about to shit herself. Not literally, but she’s always been known for being over the top when it comes to happiness.

“Wipe that sourpuss look off your face, princess, because I’m about to blow your mind.” Gigi taps my back, giving me the green light to turn around.

Lily gasps. “Nick?” She covers her mouth as her eyes widen.

“Lily,” I reply back, gawking at her.

Shit is off, big-time. It’s October, and Lily should be finishing her final year of school, but she is here, back in our hometown and in her own house. Lily is also the most reserved of my cousins, but the girl standing in front of me has a wilder and more carefree side than I ever knew Lily could have.

“What happened to you?” I ask, thrown the hell off because Lily isn’t at school.

“What happened to me?” she repeats, pressing her hand to her chest, staring at me in disbelief. “What the hell happened to you?”

“Grew up. Filled out. Became a man,” I mutter. I know she isn’t talking about my size, but I also know Lily is going to be as pissed as my parents about the stupid shit I did and the fact that the school kicked me out.

Lily takes education very seriously. More seriously than most people her age. Hell, more than most people at any age.

“He’s clearly still the same asshole, though,” Gigi teases.

“It’s part of his DNA,” Lily tells her. “But what the hell are you doing here?”

I swipe my palm over my face and lift a shoulder. “School and I didn’t agree anymore.”

Gigi slaps me with the back of her hand, shaking her head. “He got kicked out.”

Lily’s eyes grow as wide as saucers. “You got kicked out?” she says softly.

I nod. “Shit happens.”

“How are you still alive?” Lily asks, blinking.

After what went down, I wasn’t ready to go to my parents’ house. I like living, and I like breathing even more. I know if I went home, both of those could be in jeopardy.

Although my dad rarely gets pissed at me about shit, I know what went down at my swanky boarding school is going to make him blow a gasket and possibly make breathing a whole lot harder if he clocks me right in the face.

He isn’t violent. Never laid a hand on me. It isn’t his style. But every man has a breaking point, and I fear that getting kicked out for breaking the law isn’t going to be something my father celebrates.

I follow my cousin into Lily’s house, complimenting her on her place and waiting for them to lay into me.

Gigi already started on the way over here. Question after question, she hurled in my direction, grilling me like she’s been trained by my father or Uncle James.

“Do your parents know you’re here?” Lily asks, walking next to me toward the living room.

“Not yet, but they will tomorrow.”

“Well, shit,” Lily mutters, making my body jolt with her easy and carefree use of profanity.

“Sit, Nicholas.” Gigi pats the spot next to her where she’s collapsed onto the couch. “You have a lot of explaining to do.”

As soon as I sit, Lily sits too, but on the other side of me, caging me in. “Spill the beans,” she tells me, folding her leg underneath herself. “What the hell happened?”

I sit back, letting out a long, exasperated exhale. “I was running a side hustle and got caught. Simple as that.”

Lily’s lips flatten as she crosses her arms, tilting her head, waiting for more.

“I guess making and selling fake IDs is not only against school policy, but also against the law. I begged for mercy and leniency, but they told me to fuck off.” I shrug one shoulder, my lips snarling. “Especially after Malcolm Harrison was found drunk and passed out, my well-crafted ID in his pocket. The asshole was told to either give up his supplier or get kicked out. The rat sang like a canary, I got the boot, and he’s recovering in his room back in North Carolina.”

Lily’s mouth drops open. “You sold fake IDs?”

I grin, loving shocking my little cousin. She was always so innocent. While the rest of us were doing dumb shit all the time, she had a perfectly placed angel halo hanging above her head.

“Made them too,” I tell her.

She rolls her eyes, annoyed with me as always. “Your dad is going to straight up murder you.”

“He’ll be pissed for a minute, but he’ll get over it,” I lie, waving off her comment.