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Authors: M.A. Ellis

DeeperThanInk

Deeper Than Ink

M.A. Ellis

 

Everyone’s heard of Becca Wiley’s
kickass inking skills, including the Master at a local BDSM club. He wants her
to ink his subs with ultraviolet possession tattoos in exchange for enough
money to pay her mortgage for six months—
if
she can pass an audition.
All she needs is a human canvas.

For Chad Harrington, the last few
weeks haven’t been a barrel of fun where his friends-only relationship with
Becca is concerned. He’s ready for more, and what better way to say “I’m your
man” than by offering a fresh patch of flesh for her audition, while
safeguarding her from any other plans the Master may have in store?

Becca is shocked by her response to
the eroticism at the club, but not as much as her reaction to Chad’s unexpected
kiss and bold, scorching caresses. In less time than he can say “on your knees”,
she learns what she’s been missing. And knows she wants more.

 

Deeper Than Ink

M.A. Ellis

Dedication

 

For M.L. Joy—Because there really is no one better than you.

 

Chapter One

 

“Four UVs. Without accent color. On the back of the neck or
between the shoulder blades. As close to identical as you can make them. The
fifth one, all the way around.”

Becca Wiley stared at the drawings she’d been handed and
weighed her options, trying to ignore the imposing man on the other side of the
counter. His wide shoulders and thin waist were highlighted to their fullest in
a fitted charcoal-gray T-shirt that refreshingly did
not
sport a graphic
design. His physique reminded her of the plastic gladiator breastplates her
nephews were forever bringing to her condo to slay imaginary beasts or the
invading masses.

And while the delivery method of the proposition was a
little too cloak-and-dagger for her liking, Becca sure as hell wasn’t about to
shoot the messenger himself. He was a good-looking man. And lately, she’d been
dreaming about handsome men. Or rather, one good-looking man in particular. One
who was decidedly off-limits. One with dark-brown hair that barely brushed his
collar and haunting light-blue eyes.

Becca glanced from the drawings to the man’s round face. A
corner of his mouth curved upward, his expression turning smug. It made it easy
for her to admit Spartacus Junior wasn’t for her. That he wasn’t that hot.

She saw attractive men each and every day. Some flocked to
the Galleria to gamble, some accompanied their wives or significant others on
shopping expeditions of Kardashian proportions. A good number strolled through
the door of More Ink to partake of the services she or one of the other seven
artists provided. Being talented enough to work in one of the city’s premier
parlors, Becca had seen a lot of guys over the past two years. She brushed off
their attention as easily as she wiped away the overflow of ink from their
skin.

There had been times where she had to look some dude square
in the eye and remind them she had a sharp, pointy object in her hand and it
could penetrate their skin at a hundred-ninety drops per second, if she chose.
But the true assholes were generally few and far between.

Becca had rules, the most paramount being no fraternizing
with customers once they got up from her table and strode away. It was a good
decree, but there had been a few temptations. Leroy Verral, the bass player
from Tormented Angels. Jonathan Hendricks, her ex’s former boss and vice
president of accounting for one of the country’s largest investment firms. And
Chad Harrington sommelier from the Michelin Guide-praised eatery nestled on prime,
corner real estate five units down.

The musician had her taking notice because Becca was a huge
fan. His previous tats were sick and she felt honored that he’d done his
research and sought her out. He’d told Becca’s boss he wanted her or else the
patch of skin on his right inside forearm would remain un-inked forever. He had
flirted with her mercilessly but she had stayed strong. Little did anyone know,
if he had swaggered in a few months earlier she’d have tossed her tattoo gun
aside and hauled herself up the three steps it took to get onto his tour bus
and rocked his thrash-metal ass. Until he dumped her in the next town.

The VP had ferreted her out as well. He’d been looking to
get an old-school pinup, but Becca believed he was there to tell her in person
that Vinnie had just been fired for embezzlement…and asked if she was available
for dinner the following weekend. In Brussels. He had known the sordidness that
accompanied her divorce, had seen the women who had come out of the woodwork
one by one. She deserved better, Jonathan had said, and he was right. But at
the end of the day, she knew he’d want her to be a showpiece. Just like Vinnie
had.

Then there was Chad. Not a rock star. Not a corporate
darling. Just an “average guy who knows his wine” as he liked to say. He
offered Becca a daily dose of enticement on more than a few levels. Unlike the
others, he was alluring
and
attainable. In the past eight months he
hadn’t done one thing to land him on Becca’s personal Prick List. He wasn’t
going to ride away to the next venue or jet off into the sunset. He was a man
focused on stability. Their afternoon chats over café Americano and
white-chocolate apricot biscotti had revealed that and a whole lot more. Like
the fact that no matter what he proclaimed, he was far from average.

“You interested or not?” The man interrupted her daydreaming
in a commanding voice. That pissed her off. Becca had been enjoying her little
reverie. Hadn’t even gotten to the life-changing part where Chad had held a
prominent position in his family’s engineering firm until his father had
collapsed in the middle of a shareholder’s meeting. Massive coronary at
fifty-one. Within a month Chad had chosen a new career path, one he could enjoy
without the fear of leaving his own family, when he had one, alone and morose.

Becca was a fan of life changes, most of her customers got
tattoos because of them. Even though there were times when her personal defeats
still tried to rear their ugly head she knew the importance of keeping a
positive attitude. Better than most. And there wasn’t a damn thing wrong with
dreaming big.

But fantasies about friends who may or may not be fuckable
weren’t going to pay the mortgage. But the exorbitant sum the man’s boss was
offering would do just that. For the next six months. With enough left over to
help with the ongoing shoe addiction Becca was slowly trying to kick.

She took one last look at the drawings. They weren’t half
bad but she doubted the man standing before her had worked on them. Four of the
sketches showcased a delicate chain coming from each shoulder before dipping
downward and being joined with a Tiffany-style heart in the middle. The links
were tight. Fine lines that a rookie would find difficult, if not impossible.
But Becca had mastered that technique early on. She knew for a fact she could
hit all the criteria his boss desired, even with the fifth drawing.

She checked out that design once more. A thick studded
collar with the same distinct heart attached. Juxtaposition of punk meets Park
Avenue if ever there was. But a part of her knew they probably weren’t intended
as homage to Sid, Nancy or the Ramones.

Becca glanced at the pristine white business card she still
held between her fingers. The neat, handwritten number was an insane amount of
money for five ultraviolet tattoos, even from someone with her skill. She
rotated her wrist, the crimson text jumping out at her as she read the club
name again. She didn’t recognize it but she knew exactly what type of
businesses the four hundred block of Coronado Street held.

“Exotic dancers or a band of bathhouse regulars?” she asked
in a savvy tone.

He leaned over the counter, invading her personal space
before he rested his elbows on the counter and laughed. The sound echoed
through the reception area, the scent of sandalwood, thick and cloying,
accompanied his closeness. She hated sandalwood and took a step backward.

He offered her a seductive grin. “I’d love to play twenty
questions with you, just to see the look in your crazy-colored eyes when we get
to the end. But I don’t have time.”

With lightning speed he reached forward, grabbed her wrists
and trapped her hands against the countertop. The sides of her hands hit the
top so hard she thought the glass would shattered down on her boss’s collection
of vintage tattooing needles and old-school Rose of Jericho flashes. Becca
flexed her fingers and the card fluttered downward, falling on top of the
designs. Her heart thudded in her chest but it wasn’t from fear. One good head
butt and he’d let her go. It was the warmth emanating from his fingers as he
trapped her wrists, the power beneath his minimal exertion, which sent a
flutter through her abdomen.

“Doms and submissives, sweetheart. Most exclusive club in
the tri-state. Is it too much to hope that you’re into the scene? Or maybe
you’d just like to play? I’m trying to figure if you’d be a top or bottom. You
send mixed signals, you know?”

Becca tugged against his grip but he didn’t let go. She was
thinking an actual forehead-to-forehead encounter might be the only way to
break free when the door to the shop opened and the chime under the thick
rubber mat sounded. She looked up quickly. In four long strides Chad Harrington
was standing in front of her, his dark brows furrowed with concerned, his hands
fisted at his sides.

“Everything okay, Bec?” he asked, searching her face. She
pulled her arms back over the counter and stacked her hands on her hips. It was
her go-to position. The one that always made her feel relaxed. More in control.
Now, if the trembling inside her body would just stop, she could convince both
men she was totally unaffected.

“You’ll need a live canvas with the initial meeting,” the
man said before she could reply to Chad’s question. He shifted his feet,
putting a little more space between him and Chad before he continued. “If the
boss likes the results, you get half in advance. You ink them where you want,
but final approval has to be at the club, under our lights.”

The man eased upward off the counter and Chad moved closer.
Becca knew Chad’s
GQ
image was deceiving. Beneath the
blue-and-white-striped dress shirt and neatly pressed trousers there was a man
who was currently giving off a time-to-kick-ass vibe. The guy who just wouldn’t
quit talking was apparently too stupid to notice it. Or he was purposely
ignoring it.

Becca had witnessed Chad’s understated authority more than
once. It was a hell of a lot more attractive than the alpha pissing matches she
usually encountered but now probably wasn’t the best time to evaluate why she
found Chad’s laid-back control so undeniably sexy.

“The boss expects perfection for that payday and when he
gets that, you get the rest.”

Chad’s low voice interrupted him. “Becca. I asked if you
were okay.”

“Hey, man. I’m not done here.” He spun, finally giving Chad
his full attention.

Becca could have sworn the man had actually puffed out his
chest. Jesus, she hoped she wasn’t going to have to call one of the guys up
from the back. She really didn’t want to have to explain any random blood
splatter Chad might cause to her boss.

Lean, built like a swimmer, Chad had one of the most toned
bodies this side of a beefcake calendar or the unending line of firemen who
waited their turn for her to ink them. It took months of deflecting invites to
hang at his pool before Becca had sucked up her insecurities and saw those
rock-hard abs and well-defined arms up close and personal.

Chad slowly crossed his arms, his blue eyes flashing a
warning as he widened his stance and eased one foot backward. The ripple of
tension that bounced between them was palpable and she tried to think of
something to say, something that would defuse whatever was about to happen. If
her visitor thought all it was going to take was an icy stare and a few
strategically timed pec bounces to make Chad back down, Becca knew he was
sorely mistaken.

“You’re done,” Chad said, his voice barely above a whisper.

Becca couldn’t control the shiver that went through her. The
man quickly glanced her way, checked out her goose bumps then looked back at
Chad’s hardened expression.

“Shit. Now this makes more sense,” the man said.

Becca had no idea what he was talking about but if his
previous need to hear himself speak was any indication, he’d expound in a
second or two.

“I didn’t—”

Chad cut him off. “Leave.” The command was deep and rang
with a finality that didn’t allow further argument.

He turned from Chad to stare at her for a moment longer and
then looked back to Chad.

“Got it,” he said, tapping his index finger against the tip
of his nose. He glanced down at Becca’s wrists once more. “You’re stronger than
you look. Bet that makes things interesting, to say the least.” He began
carefully stepping backward toward the door.

“We carry equipment too. Highest quality you can find.
Custom like you’ve never seen. They make any sub thankful and every Master
proud.”

From a safe distance he offered Becca a wink and a grin. The
unwarranted, conspiratorial kind that made her skin crawl. Then he walked out
the door.

 

Chad Harrington had been perfectly fine standing outside the
window. It hadn’t been the first time he’d participated in a voyeuristic round
of the Rebecca Wiley edition of “I spy with my little eye”. He always liked the
part where it was time to spy a nice ass in vintage Red Tab Levi’s. They were
his favorite. He hated when she wore any of the other ones. The ones with
pocket flaps. Or even worse, the really dark pair with flaps
and
buttons. They made her perfectly formed booty look distorted and misshapen.
Which was criminal.

Her talking to some dude at the counter had never bothered him
before. She was a sought-after artist and her client base was predominately
male. Professionally, she was worlds beyond most of her peers, not in
experience, but definitely in expertise. She hadn’t bragged about that during
the hours they’d logged in meaningful conversation. But her boss promptly
displayed all his artists’ awards and recognitions on a rotating basis. Becca’s
spread in
Inked
had held the place of honor this past June.

Chad looked at her wrists then up her arms, checking to see
if the guy had grabbed her anywhere else. Her pale skin was unmarred and it
reminded him again how savvy she was. She knew she needed to stand out. And she
did, not by any full sleeves or wild designs, but by the fact she was virtually
tattoo-free from an exposed standpoint. The upper edge of one of the tattoos on
her chest was barely visible when she wore her uniform tank tops.

He, like more than a few of their acquaintances, had
wondered about the ink she was keeping hidden. In the time he’d known her, she
had never worn shorts. He’d nearly cried the day she finally agreed to hang out
at the pool with him. He’d wanted her companionship but a part of him was crazy
curious about seeing her ink. And he’d been blown away by her torso cascade and
how pristine the main images still were after ten years. The outer blending,
she’d explained, was recent. Since her divorce.

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