So I’ve never been a good artist. I always envied people who could say, “Hey, I’m going to draw a horse,” and then suddenly their notebook page was covered with an Arabian Thoroughbred. When I decide to draw a horse, it looks like a four-legged creature that had the misfortune of being too close to a nuclear reactor explosion.
I think that’s partially why I’m so in love with body art. I’m fascinated by it. It’s like a mysterious form of magic to me. And to wear it, like a fabulous accessory every day? Too freaking cool.
When non-inked people ask in their nervous voices what tattoos feel like, I usually tell them it’s somewhere between non-anesthitized limb removal and a gunshot wound. Just kidding!!! Or am I??
It’s really a lot like rubbing a really rough towel over a bad sunburn. Tender, too sensitive, and burn-y. Depending on the place, the healing can be worse than the ink session!
I was SUPER excited when I saw that Ellora’s Cave, my phenomenal publisher, was doing a sub call for a tattoo themed line of stories, called “Pricked.” (Love the entendre!) So I jumped right into a story about a bad tattoo, an unlucky-in-love waitress, and a good-bad boy tattoo artist.
Here’s an excerpt for ya. It releases July 13th!
An Excerpt From: INDELIBLY INTIMATE
Copyright © REGINA COLE, 2012
All Rights Reserved, Ellora’s Cave Publishing, Inc.
He rolled a stool up beside her chair and straddled it, sitting much closer than a perfect stranger should.
Despite the way her body reacted, or maybe because of it, she leaned forward, crowding him a bit. He didn’t take the bait.
“I’m Quinn. Quinn LaBrea.” She stuck her hand out, nearly hitting his chest. He’d have to move back now.
“Hamilton Dean. You can call me Hammer.” Smooth as a milkshake, he shook her hand without budging his torso a bit. The awkward angle didn’t prohibit his touch from causing a flutter in her chest.
“What kind of a name is Hammer?” She didn’t pull away and he didn’t let her go.
“The kind of name people respect in this business. Try telling some of these customers that their tattoo artist is named Hamilton.”
Quinn laughed and pulled from his warm grip. “I guess you’re right.”
He smiled in the silence. She’d have to be an idiot not to notice the way his gaze lingered on her mouth. Despite her conscious brain saying no, her tongue darted out to dampen her lips.
“So,” he said, moving away abruptly. Quinn had to fight to keep from clutching her temples. He’d spun so quickly it made her dizzy. “What did you want to cover that bad boy with?”
Decision time. Why hadn’t she thought about this before? She blurted the first thing she could think of. “A dragon.”
She couldn’t blame him for the dubious expression he quickly hid. “A dragon.”
“No,” she sighed. “A rose?”
He didn’t say a word, only stared at her with raised brows.
“All right, fine.” She smacked the leather arms of her seat. “I have no freaking clue. I don’t want to see his damn initials every day.”
Hammer nodded sagely. “I thought it was something like that. What kind of crap artist did you get who would put a boyfriend’s initials on you?” He grabbed his sketchbook and a pencil from the cupboard.
Quinn was glad he looked away. The annoyance and frustration boiled away at her insides and she needed a second to control the venom. After all, she needed this shit covered tonight. Even if she had to survive on Ramen noodles for the next three months, she wasn’t going another night with the reminder of her loneliness emblazoned like a neon sign reading “pathetic loser” on her thigh.
“The so-called ‘artist’ was my boyfriend. I’m not an idiot and I won’t be doing anything like that again. So if you could save the lecture, Mom, I’d appreciate it.”
Hammer was not a stupid man. He kept his gaze glued to his sketchbook. He hadn’t meant to pluck a nerve with Quinn but that was obviously what had happened. He’d have to choose his words more carefully if he wanted to get to know her. And if the slow, deep throb in his groin was any indication, he really, really wanted to get to know her.
“I’d love to help you figure out what would be best to cover that spot with. Do you mind if I ask you some questions?” He glanced up in time to see her nod. “Great. Just relax and we’ll come up with something special. So your name is Quinn. And you’re a waitress.”
Her knuckles went white and Hammer began to be nervous for the leather chair arms. Surely she wasn’t digging her fingernails into them.
“So help me god, if you suggest a waitress-themed tattoo, I will kick your ass so hard…”
His laugh interrupted her. “No worries, Sparky, I wouldn’t do you like that.”
Her glare was murderous and it made him laugh harder. She was definitely a firecracker. The nickname was perfect.
“So nothing waitress-like.” He nodded down at the sketchpad’s blank page. An idea gripped him, something that would be the perfect combination of Quinn’s fire and his ability. He began sketching as he talked. “So what do you like? What’s your favorite hobby, color, animal? Talk to me, let me get to know you. I’m thinking we can get some good ideas for your cover-up that way.”
“I like to read, I guess. Um, I write poetry now and then. Red and orange are my favorite colors. Like a fiery sunset.” Her voice was a little husky when she wasn’t busting his balls. He liked it. “I have goldfish at my apartment. I love dogs and cats but I’m not home enough to take care of them, so I stick with fish.” It wasn’t hard to hear the little thread of regret in her words.
Hammer stopped sketching and looked at her. She stared across the room at nothing at all, the corners of her full lips downturned. Her bangs nearly covered her left eye, almost making her appear as if she was hiding from the world.
“Hey,” he said, reaching out to brush her cheek with a finger. “You okay?”
She nodded but drew back a little. His fingers went cold without the soft heat of her skin. Dipping his head, he went back to his sketch.
“Goldfish, huh? I’d have figured you were more into the aggressive aquarium life, Sparky.”
Her angry snort lightened the mood by a ton. “Why do you enjoy irritating me so much?”
“Because you’re cute when you’re pissed.” He didn’t pause, even though her outraged gasp covered most of his next sentence. “So where are you from? Where’d you grow up?”
Quinn scooted up to the edge of the chair, readying herself to jump down. She was apparently in such a mood she didn’t notice how her white skirt rode up indecently high on her thighs.
Hammer sucked in a breath and put down his sketchpad. Standing up, he straddled her legs. “Hey. Relax. This is business, okay Sparky?”
He’d stepped much closer than he intended to. But once he was there, he couldn’t stop. Leaning forward, he braced himself on the armrests of the tattoo chair. Her sweet mouth was only inches away now.
“Hammer?” Quinn’s eyes were wide and soft as she looked up at him.
“Yeah,” he whispered, halfway to her mouth already.
She nearly spat the words. “Back the fuck off.”
She didn’t hit him but her knee jerked upright enough to show him that she could have if she’d wanted. He backed up slowly.
“Business. That’s it. Nothing like that will happen again.” He turned back to his sketchpad. The “tonight” came out so softly he was sure she didn’t hear. He might not have won this battle but he was patient. And Quinn had something he desperately wanted.
“The only reason I’m not leaving is that deal you were going to cut me. I can’t afford another artist and I refuse to go one more day with Guy’s shit on my leg.” Quinn sat back in the chair. “It doesn’t matter a damn bit what you cover it with as long as it’s not his name.”
Hammer smiled down at the sketch he’d finished roughing in. “Are you sure?”
She crossed her arms tightly beneath her breasts. “Positive.”
“Well,” he said, holding the sketchbook toward her, “what about something like this?”
She was completely silent, not even breathing for a long while. Hammer’s gaze never left her, searching for some response to what he’d drawn. Did she like it? Hate it? Would it matter either way? He was afraid he knew the answer to that question, but he sure as hell didn’t know why.