Amanda requested Ava/Mercy and the gator tattoo. :)
10/7/16 – Tiny Gators
Ava knew that Mercy was teasing when he said she was turning into her mother – and she knew he was completely serious. It was true. She was. The slow-boiling anger that filled her every time someone outside her marriage made an assumption about her relationship with Mercy was one of the major symptoms. Her favorite theory was the one in which she was Mercy’s subservient little house and sex slave. Anyone who thought that would have died to see the man now.
“Now, you tell me if this is too hard,” he cautioned, accent thick the way it got sometimes.
“When is it ever too hard?” she said with a laugh and wiggled her toes. “You always get the pressure just right. You know that.”
“Just checking.” He ran both thumbs along the underside of her foot, digging into the arch, and it was perfect.
Ava figured most people would never guess that Felix Lécuyer gave the best foot rubs. It was a habit he’d started while she was pregnant, and one that persisted. It had been a frustrating day of querying short stories and wrangling a paper into some kind of sense. She’d spent too long sitting in one of their hard kitchen chairs, and had shooting pains down her legs and into her feet as thanks. Mercy had taken one look at her pinched face and said, “Go lie down, baby, I’ll do the dishes.”
And now he was massaging some of the feeling back into her soles. Because he was amazing like that.
He had calluses, they all did – a life of manual labor. Old, smooth, shiny calluses, hard and slick. She felt the pad of his thumb settle over her tattoo, smoothing across the tiny gator again and again as he stared at it. He took a breath that sounded almost hesitant.
“I was wondering.”
“What?” Ava prompted.
His eyes lifted to meet hers, uncertain, nervous maybe, wide and dark and unguarded. “I want to get one of these,” he said, and it was a question.
Ava pulled her feet out of his lap and sat up, moved onto her knees so she was kneeling in front of him on the bed. Somehow, her hulking, shirtless, mountain of a man, all muscle and strength, seemed small to her now, his shoulders curled in. She didn’t think he’d ever properly processed her miscarriage, that first baby they’d lost. She’d cried it out, let the grief crowd out the rest of her mind and rake its claws across her. But Mercy had bottled it up so tight, right before he’d left. It snuck up on him sometimes, cut him off at the knees.
“Baby, I think that’s a great idea.” She slipped her arms around his neck and climbed into his lap. His arms went around her and held tight.
“Absolutely.” She tucked his hair back behind his ear, traced the high, aristocratic line of his cheekbone with her thumb. The resemblance to his French grandfather was strongest in quiet, troubled moments like these. “Where do you want to put it?”
“I thought about my arm.” It flexed behind her back, the one with the tribal ink. “But I dunno.” He rested his head against her shoulder. “Any ideas?”
She let her right hand wander: down the hard swell of his pectoral, tracing the tattoo imprint of her teeth over his heart, teasing at his nipple until it hardened and he snorted a laugh, and then farther, across the bundled muscles of his abs. He was such a big man, such a large canvas; there was plenty of room.
“Do you want it to show?” she asked, fingertips ghosting back to the bite mark again. She knew his brothers had seen that one at this point, but she’d never heard anyone ask about it. Doubtless Ghost had made a face about it, but wasn’t brave enough to hear any of the details and therefore hadn’t mentioned it.
“Yes,” he said, decisively. “It can be big, too. I want it obvious.”
“Okay, well…” Her hand moved higher again, across the sharpness of his clavicle, up the strong line of his throat. She felt the steady thump of his pulse as she cupped his neck with her palm. Here, she decided. He could put it on either of his arms, sure, but…there was something intimate about the vulnerable skin right up against his heartbeat like this.
“There, you think?” he asked, a low, satisfied sound rumbling deep in his chest.
Ava ducked her head and pressed her lips to the spot. “Right here.”
One of his hands slid up to cradle the back of her skull, and she felt his body tense, muscles bunching and stretching, the movement like the roll of ocean waves as he laid her back against the pillows and settled his weight over her. “Come with me?” he asked, smile curving his mouth: half-flirtation, half-gratitude.
“I wouldn’t miss it,” she promised, and he kissed her.