Authors: Anna J. Evans
An Ellora’s Cave Romantica
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Ink Me Copyright © 2009 Anna J. Evans
Edited by Briana St. James.
Cover art by Willo.
Electronic book Publication March 2009
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This book is a work of fiction and any resemblance to persons,
living or dead, or places, events or locales is purely coincidental. The
characters are productions of the authors’ imagination and used fictitiously.
“Sorry, we’re closed.” Summer Wakayama popped up from behind
the counter where she was emptying the safe and mentally cursed her apprentice
for neglecting to lock the door on his way out.
Robbie was a great artist and took to ink like he’d been
tattooing his whole life, but he was terminally scatter-brained. He never
locked up, forgot to write down appointments and let their supplies get
dangerously low before he reordered. She was going to have to make a
decision—hire someone else to take care of the details or find a new
apprentice. If she weren’t such a soft touch when it came to the struggling
artist bit it would be an easy choice. There were tons of tattoo artist
wannabes on the Vegas strip, and not a month went by when Summer wasn’t
approached by at least three or four potential apprentices.
Ink Me Studios
did killer business and was quickly
gaining a reputation as
place Young Hollywood went to get their
tats. Never a big star slut, Summer hadn’t been impressed when she first became
a certain pop prince’s favorite tattoo artist, but she couldn’t deny she liked
the extra money the celebrity backing brought in. It was nice to have the
luxury of closing down early a few nights a week too. She’d always been a night
owl, but she preferred other nocturnal activities to staying at her shop until
Speaking of closing down early, it seemed somebody hadn’t
gotten the message…
“Excuse me, we’re closed,” Summer repeated to the woman now
browsing through the tattoo font books near the door.
“The door was open.” The large, busty redhead shot her a
hard look before turning back to the book in front of her. The woman’s eyes
were shot through with red as bright and brassy as her curls, and her words
more than a little slurred.
Great, another belligerent drunk.
Dealing with drunks was part of the price of doing business
in Vegas, but it certainly caused its share of headaches. Summer refused to
work on anyone who was legally intoxicated. Not only was it against the law,
she also had moral issues with permanently marking the skin of someone who
might not be in their right mind. She’d turned down more work than she could
remember because of her principles, but usually the customers didn’t care. Most
knew they could go somewhere else and easily find another, less ethically
challenged artist to do the work.
But there were times when people made it clear they didn’t
like taking no for an answer. She’d had to call the police twice in the past
when customers had turned violent. Thankfully, however, no one had given her
trouble since she hired Robbie. Her apprentice might have the soul of a tender
artist, but he had the body of a sumo wrestler. Robbie Namaguchi was
three-hundred-and-fifty pounds of scary Asian motherfucker, a fact Summer
appreciated almost as much as his talent. At five-one and barely into the
triple digits, she’d never been particularly suited for physical
intimidation—at least not until you got to know her a whole lot better.
A wicked smile crept across her face as she thought of just
how physically intimidating she planned to be tonight. Aidan was on his way to
the studio right now and she had a night planned her man would never forget. It
was a special night and she was ready to release her inhibitions and fulfill
all of his fantasies, even the ones he didn’t know he had yet.
Her outfit was laid out in the bathroom in the back. She
just had to move the money from the front safe to the secret lockbox in her
office, shut off the shop’s front lights and go light of few candles.
“Do you do butts?”
And get rid of one very obnoxious woman, mustn’t forget that
“I’ve inked just about every part of the human body, but I’m
not going to be doing any more work tonight. We closed about fifteen minutes
ago. My assistant just forgot to lock the door. So if you wouldn’t mind coming
back tomorrow, then—”
“Actually I would mind. I’d really fucking mind. A lot,” the
women said, her words ending with a hysterical sob.
So the red eyes weren’t just from the booze. The woman was
upset. But who could tell which came first, the alcohol or the out of control
emotions? There was a reason Summer didn’t touch the stuff. Her dad had been on
and off the wagon for years. He’d never been violent with her mom or her
sisters, but she’d seen how alcohol could change a person, transforming a
usually happy man into a depressive who rarely woke before noon.
Not for her, thank you, she valued her happiness and control
over her life way too dearly.
“Hey, I can see you’re upset. Do you have someone you’d like
me to call to come pick you up? Maybe you could go get a bite to eat with a friend.”
Summer made her voice as friendly as she could, despite the fact that she could
think of about a dozen things she’d rather be doing than humoring a drunk, most
of which involved strapping herself into a very sexy set of fuck me boots that
buckled all the way up to the middle of her thigh.
Aidan was going to flip. Flip and then beg her to let him
unbuckle them with his teeth.
“No, I don’t want to ‘get a bite to eat’,” the red-head
sneered, making it clear with her high pitched affectation of an Asian accent
that she wasn’t the sort to appreciate a little human kindness.
“Well then, why don’t you go play in the street and see if
someone will run you over? We’re closed. Now get out of my shop or I’m calling
Summer played nice only as long as people would let her. She
was second generation American and the only accent she had was pure upstate New
York. Her father didn’t even speak Japanese and her mother only used her native
language when Summer’s grandmother came to visit. Unfortunately, this wasn’t
the first time she’d been treated like she was a reject from a bad Chinatown
film. It probably wouldn’t be the last, either, and she knew she should learn
to let some of it roll off her back.
But not tonight, not when she’d busted her ass to finish all
of her work before eight so she and Aidan could finally have an evening all to
“You’re a fucking bitch,” the woman said, taking two
unsteady steps toward the counter.
“The feeling’s mutual. Now get out. I’m not kidding around.”
Summer was already reaching for the phone. This wasn’t going to happen. She
would not throw down with this woman. She valued her neck and the rest of her
body way too much to risk a physical confrontation with someone three times her
size and four times as nasty.
“I’m not kidding around either. Put the phone down.”
“Listen, I don’t know—”
“Put it down! Now!” Summer let the cordless phone drop from
her hand and clatter to the tile. She followed the action by raising both hands
into the air in what she supposed was the universal sign for “please don’t
shoot”. Looked like it was her lucky night.
Fuck, that’s a gun. A big, serious gun. Think, Summer,
“Listen, I was just emptying the safe when you came in.”
Good. Just give her the money and get her out of here.
“I’ll give you the money and you can leave. There aren’t any
cameras in here—”
Liar! If she looks over her shoulder she’ll see them and—
“—and I have no interest in reporting this to the cops.”
That’s better. God, please, just let her take the money
“I don’t want your money! I don’t want your fucking
money,” the woman screamed, sobs racking her body and making her gun waver
wildly. Still, she managed to cock the thing, loading a bullet into the
A weird, detached part of Summer watched the gun wobble
up and down and wondered whether she’d be getting a bullet in the belly or the
skull. She was betting the belly would be more survivable, but what did she
really know about gunshot wounds?
“Then tell me what you
want. Maybe we can work
And maybe you can stall her until Aidan gets here.
Aidan had served ten years in the police force and
presently ran a business that provided personal bodyguards to visiting stars
and Vegas high rollers. If anyone would know how to take this woman down
without anyone getting hurt, it would be him. She just had to hold on until his
arrival, which by the clock on the wall could be any minute.
“My name is Summer and I—”
“I know your name. It’s on the fucking sign,” the woman
said, sniffing loudly though she seemed to regain some measure of composure.
“Right, well then, what’s your name? We obviously got off on
the wrong foot and I—”
“My name is Kelly, not that you fucking care or that it
fucking matters. The only name that matters is the one you’re going to tattoo
on my ass.”
She had to be kidding. This was still about a tattoo? The
woman was willing to hold a gun on another person just to get a tattoo? Summer
felt a small amount of tension ease from her muscles. If that’s what the woman
wanted, that gave her more options. She could just do the damn tattoo, or,
better yet, get the woman all comfy in one of the tattoo chairs and then bust
her over the head and make a run for it.
Option two sounded fairly appealing.
“Okay, so you want a tattoo. That’s fine. I’ll go wash up
and get my tools ready and we’ll talk about what you want.”
talk about what I want,” Kelly said,
looking confused by Summer’s abrupt change in tone. “A gun sure makes people
treat you nicer.”
“I would have treated you nicely.” Summer moved slowly
toward the sink at the wall. “If you’d come back tomorrow.”
And were sober and reasonable and refrained from being a
racist ass hat.
“It can’t wait until tomorrow. I need it tonight or
everything’s going to go to shit,” Kelly said, her face crumpling once more.
This time, however, there was more vulnerability in her features. She was
starting to relax her guard. Good, that meant Summer would have a better chance
at escaping. She just had to keep Kelly talking, make her feel like the other
woman could confide in her, trust her.
“So this must be a really important tattoo.” Summer turned
off the water and dried her hands. She kept one eye on Kelly in the mirror over
the basin as she reached for a pair of surgical gloves and slowly pulled them
She wouldn’t normally wash hands or don her gloves until she’d
spent some time sketching with the client, making sure they were in agreement
about the exact look of the tat, but she didn’t think Kelly was up to an
in-depth discussion. The quickest way to put her at ease was to get her in a
chair, thinking she was seconds away from getting her tattoo.
most important. I didn’t realize how
important until he left me tonight.” She ran the back of one hand across her
eyes, smearing green eye shadow and black eyeliner across the right side of her
“This is your boyfriend?” Summer asked. She took small even
steps over to the nearest chair and gestured for Kelly to sit down and make
“Yeah. He rides with a bunch of my old high school
friends. I’ve been riding with them for years, had a few boyfriends, but I
never got the tattoo. I never wanted to until Jake. I told him I wanted to, but
that I just wasn’t ready yet. But he said— he said—”
“It’s okay, just sit down and take a deep breath,” Summer
said, taking a deep breath herself to try to encourage Kelly to relax.
She was starting to put the pieces together. Everything
about Kelly screamed “biker chick”—from her studded black leather halter top to
her steel-toed boots—and Summer had been tattooing long enough to learn a bit
about the culture.
“I’m not going to sit down, I’m going to stand up. That way
I can keep an eye on you in the mirror, make sure you don’t try anything,”
Kelly said, sniffing loudly again before running her hand across her nose. Now
a trail of snot joined the trail of makeup. Lovely, just lovely. The woman was
a wreck, certainly in no shape to be making decisions about what she did or
didn’t want written on her ass in the most permanent of inks.
“I can’t guarantee what the tattoo will look like if you’re
standing up. I need you to be seated and still. That way I can get the angle I
“I don’t give a fuck about what it looks like, as long as
you can read what it says.
Property of Jake
. That’s what it has to say,
in big black letters.” She emphasized the words by unbuttoning her tight black
jeans and tugging down on one side, baring a large expanse of her right hip and
It was exactly what Summer had expected to hear. She’d had
numerous requests through the years for the ultimate biker chick tattoo, but to
this day she’d never done one. She had helped cover up or alter too many of the
damn things for her to have a clear conscious creating one herself. Besides,
her inner feminist had issues with marking a woman as anyone’s “property”.
“Kelly, I understand you’re upset and I’m going to do the
tattoo. But do you really mean that you don’t care what it looks like? This is
permanent, it’s going to be on your body forever and I—”
“I don’t care, just stop talking and start getting it done,”
she said, her voice calm and controlled as she lifted the gun and aimed it at
God, this nutcase would really shoot her if she didn’t do
the tattoo. In a heartbeat.
Summer could read that truth in the cold way the other woman’s
green eyes landed on her face. Hell, Kelly might decide to shoot her anyway.
Once she had what she wanted, Summer sensed her own life would become
“Okay, fine. You said you wanted black ink, right?” Summer
tried to ignore the slight trembling of her hands as she loaded her machine.
She was going to have to do the tat. The woman was giving her no other choice.