Dorsey wasn’t much for wounded birds, but something about Rad touched him. He wanted to help and didn’t have the slightest clue how or why.
“I did assume you were younger,” he said. “Sorry. Twenty-three isn’t exactly old, though. I have ten years on you, and I’m still figuring things out. It sucks that your family dumped that shit on you. I wouldn’t believe them if I was you, but I don’t know them. Maybe they’re more convincing than I think.”
“You probably know some of them if you’ve been in town long enough.” Rad’s tone was bitter. “Or at least you’ve heard of them. My last name is Morris. My mother’s maiden name was Ames.”
He chanted the information like someone who’d given it far too often and hated it. Recognizing the names, Dorsey wasn’t sure he blamed Rad. The Morris and Ames families were almost legendary in Ludington, and Dorsey had run afoul of one of the Morris men shortly after moving to town.
At a Chamber of Commerce meeting, the guy had ranted about how having a tattoo parlor in town would bring in the “wrong kind of people.” Dorsey had been at the meeting with Craig Paulsen, the owner of the tat shop, who’d already been in business in Ludington for over a year. Why the Morris hadn’t complained when Craig first got his business license was anyone’s guess.
But when the Morris had mentioned the “wrong kind of people,” he’d looked straight at Dorsey. And Dorsey hadn’t appreciated it one bit. Sure, he had long hair, which he kept in a ponytail at work and at business meetings. Both arms bore tat sleeves, which were visible most of the time since Dorsey hated wearing long-sleeved shirts unless the temperature was so bitter his coat didn’t provide enough protection. He had multiple ear piercings, along with a gauge in each ear, and a pierced eyebrow.
He was a tall, broad guy, and he intimidated people who judged him by his looks. He did his best to counter the first impression, but some closed-minded jackasses never bothered to look past his appearance. Dorsey accepted that as their problem, not his.
The Morris’s reaction to him had led to a vote among the other business owners about whether Craig would be allowed to continue operating his shop. Craig had won easily, and the Morris hadn’t been a bit impressed.
“Did I say something wrong?” Rad asked in a small voice.
“No.” Dorsey shook his head. Dwelling on unpleasant events from the past didn’t serve any purpose. At least this trip down memory lane wasn’t as unpleasant as most.
Rad sighed. “You recognized the names.”
“Yeah. Your name doesn’t matter though.” Dorsey grinned. “You know what?”
“You should get a tattoo.” Dorsey had no clue why the idea had come to him, but he knew instantly that it would be perfect. The kid could choose something meaningful, something that might help him feel stronger.
Rad blinked. “Seriously?”
“Sure. Why not?” Dorsey tilted his head toward the wall of art. “Something from there or something custom. An image that’s important to you.”
“Maybe.” Rad studied the artwork for a moment. “Yeah. I mean, I’ll think about it. Tats are expensive, aren’t they?”
“Sometimes, but we could figure something out.” Dorsey paused. The last thing he wanted to do was push the kid. “Let me see your arm.”
Rad hesitated. “Why?”
“So I can see if you have a good spot for the tat.” Because I want to see if you have muscles. Dorsey barely managed to keep the sarcastic reply to himself.
Slowly, Rad rolled up his sleeve. His upper arms were paler than his face, and he did have some muscles. Whatever else the kid had been doing while living out of town, he must have either been working hard or working out.
“Yeah, you’ll be fine with a tattoo there,” Dorsey said.
Rad pulled his sleeve back down, looking confused. “Okay? You needed to see my arm for that?”
Dorsey shrugged and let out the reply he’d held back before. “I wanted to see how many muscles you had.”
Rad laughed. “Only a few. I’m pretty weak.”
“Nah. Not at all.” Even though the kid had said it as a joke, Dorsey heard some seriousness in Rad’s tone. Dorsey didn’t like it a bit. The kid had lived on his own for years, judging from what he’d said. Without help from the family. That wasn’t weak.
“If you say so,” Rad said. “Anyway, I need to go.”
Dorsey didn’t want the kid to leave yet, but there was no further reason to ask him to stay. “Come back sometime soon, and we’ll talk more about the tat.”
“Yeah. Okay.” Rad gave him a tentative grin. “It could be fun.”
“Definitely,” Dorsey said.
And it would piss the fuck right out of the kid’s closed-minded family. Bonus.