Bringing Home the Bad Boy

By: Jessica Lemmon



Before striking out on his own, he’d been under the tutelage of tattoo master Chris Platt; a hippie to rival all hippies, with a heart of gold and a head full of titanium. By the time Evan had packed up his things and gave notice, Chris let him know under no uncertain terms that he believed in him and his abilities. And that he’d succeed.

He had.

“Bye, Woody,” Lyon piped up.

Evan turned his head as they drove by his shop where Woody had worked for years, and as of three months ago, had purchased outright. Woody had stepped in the year Rae died, when Evan’s concentration revolved around breathing in and out, and keeping a three-year-old boy alive. It was no small feat and, at the time, had taken everything he had.

“Will you miss it, Dad?”

He threw a glance into the rearview, but there was no need. He knew the shop’s façade as well as his own face. The crack on the sidewalk out front that sprouted dandelions every spring, the brick crumbling on the southeast corner. The black marquee done up to look like an old-fashioned apothecary that read LION’S DEN. Rae’s idea, and in honor of their one and only offspring. Save for the fact their lion was a Lyon, which she insisted suited Evan’s rebellious, go-against-the-grain demeanor.

She was right.

An image of her shining brown eyes, huge smile, and that horribly ugly sea foam green bathrobe she insisted wearing on her days off popped into his brain, and he felt his smile turn sickly.

“Dad.”

“Yeah, buddy,” he finally answered, his throat dry as he watched Lion’s Den grow tiny in the rearview. “I’m gonna miss it.”

What he wouldn’t miss were the memories of his late wife assaulting him everywhere he turned in this city.

“What about Leah?” his son asked as they pulled onto the highway. Evan ground his back teeth together.

Leah had been one of his, for lack of a better term, “friends with benefits” for the majority of the year. And though he arranged to keep his dates secret from his son, she’d “stopped by” unannounced last month when she saw the SOLD sign go up in the yard.

Angry tears had shimmered in her eyes while her hands gripped her purse like she might brain him with it. He hadn’t understood why. A long time ago, they discussed that what they had was about the physical and nothing more. She’d insisted on arguing with him, in front of Lyon no less, and Evan had to do the unfortunate business of dumping her—when they were never really dating—on his front lawn. It was a dick move, but then, so was sleeping with a woman on a tit-for-tat basis.

No puns intended.

Speaking of tat, his eyes zeroed in on the sparrow on his right forearm, the string of hearts snapped free, the broken heart drifting. That one was for Rae. The roses on his arm were for his mom and his aunt. A lotta death. Too much, too soon. They said bad things happened in threes. For his and his son’s sakes, he hoped the adage continued staying true.

“Daaaad.” Irritation lined his kid’s voice when he didn’t respond right away.

“Sorry, buddy, I was thinking. No, I won’t miss Leah,” he answered honestly.

Another dick thing to admit, but she hadn’t meant all that much to him. Them in bed, cordial would be the best way to describe how he’d treated her. As awful and uninspiring as it sounded. That’s what they’d both settled for, which was equally awful and uninspiring.

He bit back the grimace attempting to push forward on his features. Rae wouldn’t like who he’d become if she could see him now.

But she couldn’t see him now. She hadn’t been able to see him since the moment she’d collapsed four years ago and he hadn’t known he’d been five minutes away from losing her forever.

He wished he could remember their last conversation, but he’d been distracted. Not listening.

“Me either,” Lyon said, snapping him out of his reverie. “Leah was mean.”

Evan blew a breath out of his nose, as close to a laugh as he was gonna get, and considered that Lyon was the only reason he hadn’t spiraled into a whirlpool of depression.

Settling in for the drive north to the lake town they would now call home instead of Columbus, Evan once again reminded himself that this venture was a second chance. For him and his son. A place to create new memories, be closer to Rae’s parents and Rae’s best friend on the planet, Charlotte Harris.

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