Serendipity Book 4: Paladin
By Brieanna Robertson
What could be weirder than a tattoo artist who spends his summers pretending to be a medieval knight? How about a tattoo artist who spends his summers pretending to be a medieval knight handing out ultimatums in a bathroom stall? That’s the situation Cadence finds herself in after fleeing from her overprotective brother in an attempt to make him see that she is an adult and capable of living her own life. Too bad he tracked her down like a stalker… And too bad she’d laughed at sexy Talis when he told her what he did for a living… And too bad she’d run into the men’s room to hide when she’d seen her brother coming after her.
Now, in order to stay hidden, she has to agree to travel with a roguish band of bizarre men as Talis’s squire for the summer. Not only does she think it’s absolutely ridiculous, but the way her blood burns around Talis sends off all of her warning signals. What is it about the calm, composed, devilish man that makes her want to tame her reckless existence and find out what stability is like? More importantly, can Cadence stop her pattern of self destruction, or will she miss out on the chance to win the heart of her very own paladin knight?
She turned to seek refuge in the women‘s room, but Lance would probably just send Rochelle in to look for her. She was pretty sure that the only reason Lance was searching for her in this area anyway was because Rochelle hadn’t been able to keep the secret from him. She didn’t blame her. Rochelle was Lance’s wife. Her first loyalty was to him.
As the Hummer neared and she ran out of options, she flung open the door to the men’s room and ran for the nearest stall, which happened to be the large, handicapped one. It wouldn’t be as easy to find her in there. She didn’t think Lance was bold enough to go peeking under stalls.
She yanked the stall door open and closed it quickly behind her, peering out of the crack to watch the door.
“May I help you?” a deep voice drawled.
Cadence screamed. She spun and found herself staring straight at the tattooed chest of that man she had been watching all day. She blinked in bewilderment. Not only was he tattooed, but he was…well, ripped was a good word. She forced her eyes away from his six pack and all of his ink and looked up at his face. “Silly medieval tattoo artist?” she questioned, recognizing him from the Bleeding Passion concert.
The man winced and rubbed at his ear as if her shrill scream had pierced his brain. “Well, well, well, if it isn’t the rude roadie,” he grumbled. “What a pleasant surprise.” His blue-eyed gaze raked over her body for a second before returning to her face.
Cadence crossed her arms over the green top of her two-piece swimsuit and scowled. “What are you doing here?”
“Well, I was going to the bathroom,” he replied. “That’s generally what one tends to do when they’re in a stall. Guess I’m just lucky to get the stall with the busted lock.” He folded his arms, mirroring her posture, and gave her a questioning look. “So, do you make it a practice to just chill in the men’s room, or—”
She rolled her eyes and turned back to peer out the crack in the door. “Don’t be stupid. I’m not chilling. I’m hiding.”
“Oh, so you make it a practice to hide in the men’s room?” He snickered. “At least I was fortunate enough to have zipped my pants up before you came barreling in.”
“Would you shut up?” she spat over her shoulder. “I’m trying to pay attention.”
“Who are we hiding from?” he whispered against her ear.
“My brother.” She tried to ignore the involuntary shiver that went through her as his breath tickled her neck.
“Ah…okay. And why are we hiding from your brother?”
“Because he’s looking for me and I don’t want him to know where I am. That good enough for you?” She shot him an irritated scowl. “And how dare you call me rude. I wasn’t rude to you.”
He snorted. “So, laughing in my face doesn’t count as being rude?”
“When did I laugh in your face?”
He turned away from her to lean nonchalantly back against the wall of the stall. “Well, you asked me about renaissance faires, and when I told you about what I did in them, you laughed at me. Not to mention you just called me the ‘silly medieval tattoo artist.’”
She waved it away. “Oh, come on. It’s not every day I meet someone who says they pretend to be a knight for a living. It was funny.”
“Yeah, well, I think it would be pretty funny if I hauled you out of this stall right now and threw you outside.” He stood up straight and grasped her arm.
She gasped. “No, don’t!” She looked up into his eyes. “Please! I’m sorry I laughed at you, okay?”
He studied her for a second with a frown. “Why are you so afraid of your brother?” he questioned.
“I’m not afraid of him. I just don’t want him to find me. He treats me like I’m a little kid and tries to run my life.”
She sighed in exasperation. “Because I was arrested last year.”
“I beat up a security guard.”
His eyes widened in surprise. “You what?”
“It was self defense! He was sexually harassing me. I was let off, but Lance freaked out. Of course it was him who I called to bail me out of jail. I don’t know why. He’s been attached like a barnacle to me ever since.”
He looked as if he was considering something for a moment. “Wait, what? Lance? Who’s Lance?”
“Lance Lawson. My brother.”
“Lance Lawson!” His eyes bulged. “Lance Lawson is your brother?”
“Yes, and the fact that he’s a mega star doesn’t change the fact that he’s an overprotective pain so just be quiet and let me hide, okay?”
* * * *
Talis looked down at her and contemplated his choices. She was rude, had mocked him, and didn’t seem necessarily sorry about it. It would be what she deserved to have him turn her over to her brother. On the other hand, it wasn’t his place to interfere. He didn’t know the situation and it would be wrong of him to just stick his nose in and act like he knew what was best. Or… He grinned devilishly and let his eyes study the beautiful tattoo across her shoulders while she continued to peer through the stall door like a spy.It was a dragon. An amazing green and yellow dragon breathing fire. So, she must have some appreciation for medieval mythology. “Why should I hide you?” he asked her. “You were rude to me. Give
me one good reason why I shouldn’t squeal on you.”
She turned and looked at him again, as if she couldn‘t believe he was actually thinking about giving her away. She rolled her eyes. “Man, I am never going to laugh at anyone ever again,” she grumbled. She heaved a defeated sigh. “Look, I’m sorry, okay? It wasn’t right for me to laugh at you. I’m an idiot sometimes. I don’t think before I speak.”
His lips quirked at the corners in amusement. She seemed sincere, but he was going to milk this for all it was worth. “Apology accepted, but not good enough.”
She gave him a genuinely pained expression. “What is your name?”
“Please, Talis, you don’t even understand. He’s driving me crazy. I can’t do anything without him asking me about it. He keeps tabs on me all the time like I’m his kid. I can’t keep living my life like this. I’ll go insane.”
An idea was whirling around inside of Talis’ mind. An absolutely absurd and reckless idea. He grinned. “I’ll make a deal with you. I’ll keep you hidden, but you have to be my squire for the rest of the summer.”
She frowned. “Your squire? Isn’t that like a servant?”
“Assistant. At the renaissance faires.”
She raised both of her eyebrows and laughed. “Oh, that’s funny.”
He shrugged. “You would travel with me, go to the faires as my squire. I’d pay your way, your food, your lodging. Think about it. Your brother would never think to look for you there.”
She met his eyes, which he knew twinkled with devilish mirth. “You’re out of your mind if you think I’m going to just go off with a stranger and play warrior like some kind of—” She paled as she heard the door open, and she whirled to look out the crack of the stall again.
“Cadence!” Lance’s voice shouted. “Are you in here?”