Tattooed Hearts

By: Mika Jolie

Chapter One



“One of the hardest things in life is having words in your heart that you can’t utter.”

James Earl Jones





Vineyard Haven, Martha’s Vineyard, thirteen years ago…



Claire ran her tongue over her lips, checking their current state. A soft, smooth, and slightly-moist mouth was ideal for kissing. Hers didn’t feel chapped or dry, but to be on the safe side, she swiped the shea butter pomegranate chapstick over her lips, pressed them together then blew into her hands for a breath check.

Minty fresh.

Perfect.

The girls she knew were experts in the art of kissing. It embarrassed her to admit at fifteen, she hadn’t kissed anyone. But they didn't pass judgment. Rather, her friends had given her pointers and informed her fresh breath was essential for a French kiss. For that reason, she managed to avoid garlic, onions, milk, and her favorite, corn. The tasty grain was on the Cosmopolitan list of “What Not to Eat” before a kiss. Last thing she wanted was Forrest pushing her away because of corn residue in her mouth.

Her gaze swept over Herring Creek Farm. The August sun shone on green everywhere. The edge of woodland sloped down gently to a bramble-filled ditch, overgrown with cow parsley. Beech trees lined the fence to the north, their overhanging boughs provided dapple shade for the horses that stood idle, flicking away flies with their tails. Chirping birds and humming bees filled the air with the sounds of their daily duties.

Male laughter rose as Jason, Adam, and Blake tossed a football between them in the yard. They rarely let her wander away from their view, not that she had a wild streak or anything, but they were Alphas and they hovered. Always uncertain of what the band of brothers might throw at her, she didn’t dare get too close to the boys. They loved to throw questions at her or worse, ask her to participate in their football tossing game, just so they could play the big brother role.

Big brothers tended to be overbearing.

Phooey! She wasn’t even related to any of them.

Her gaze swiveled to Forrest. He stood not too far away in cargo Khakis and a fading Transformers T-shirt, throwing tennis balls to his father’s two black Labs.

Warmth spread inside her chest, a sensation that was now synonymous with Forrest. The sight of him held an intriguing allure. Tall, athletic, with tousled dark brown hair that flopped over his eyes. Woven leather bracelets encircled his left wrist, drawing attention to the lean, hard muscles of his arms. All that football and skiing had done wonders for his amazing frame. His face wasn’t too shabby either–sharp, angled jaw, full, firm lips that curved into a proud yet pleasant smile, and a nose that was just a little too big. The slight imperfection only made him more appealing.

Women often stopped in their tracks and stared at him. Claire noticed the admirers every time, but Forrest seemed oblivious to the sudden pauses and clandestine stares. When he did bestow them with a glance, his fans overcompensated with a weak smile or a blush, a dead giveaway of their admiration. He always took it in stride, never flaunted, and without a trace of arrogance. He was modest and unaware of the chaos he caused, this made the girls fall for him all the more.

According to the few conversations she overheard between Jason and the others, teenage boys were horny all the time. They thought about sex every second of the day. If the wind hit them just right, they would get excited.

Not Forrest.

He thought with the head on his shoulders, not the one south of his waist. He was different that way and stood apart from the others. Despite the opportunities that came his way, he dated very little. She once overheard him telling the other guys he was a one-woman man who prized genuineness and thoughtful conversation above lipstick and high heels.

He was handsome, breathtaking. Her racing pulse and breathlessness proved it. However, what she really loved about him was his inner beauty. From the way he cared for the animals on the farm, to his warmth with everyone on the island, and his commitment to his family and friends. He was eighteen–if a day older–and he stole her heart without even knowing it was in his pocket.

For the last two years, these new and strange feelings often left her befuddled. They were too strong, too intense. Physically and mentally, she reacted to him in a way she never had with any boy. The slightest touch, whether it was tugging on her hair or fixing her backpack, sent her heart spiraling out of control. On days they weren’t around each other, she missed him. When she saw him, heard his name, happiness filled her. At night, his face was always the last thing she’d see; her stomach would backflip and she’d tingle all over before drifting into a dream where they held hands and kissed.

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