Skin on SkineBook ISBN: 9781419924590

Tease

Print ISBN: 9781419924590

Skin on Skin Ellora’s Cave
Book six of the Cougar Challenge series.

An Excerpt From: SKIN ON SKIN
Copyright © MARI FREEMAN, 2009
All Rights Reserved, Ellora’s Cave Publishing, Inc.

Before she changed her mind, Stevie was pulling into Sin on Skin’s tiny parking lot. The air was cool as she stepped out of the car. A guy was sitting on a bench at the far side of the building, reading something from his cell phone. He nodded, barely looking up as she walked past him and through the door.The tattoo would make Monica happy and fulfill the requirement of “getting out of the box” or whatever HR nonsense she was always pushing around the office.

“Hi. What can I do for you?”

Stevie headed over to a Goth-looking young girl with blond, pink and black hair, standing behind a glass case filled with jewelry for various piercings.

“Hey.” Stevie glanced over the case. Some of the jewelry was so unusual she couldn’t even imagine what had to be pierced to accommodate it. She shook her head. “I’d like to get a tattoo.”

The girl had too many lip piercings for Stevie to count. “Do you have an appointment?”

Stevie looked around the reception area. Two empty couches sat in front of a huge TV playing some sort of skateboarding competition. The far wall had shelves and a table with large, open albums of the artists’ work to help those undecided on designs. Not a soul besides her in the room.

“Do I need one right now?”

“Nah. Just wanted to know if you had someone already working on a design or something.”

“Ah. Nope. Walk-ins welcome?”

The girl didn’t even smile at the reference. “Um. Usually on a Friday night that would be a no, but you’re way early. Let me see if Errol can do you.”

Stevie glanced at her watch. Seven. Seven on a Friday night was way early to this crowd. She was getting old. Stevie paced over and flipped open the closest album on the table. The girl walked to the front and stuck her head out the door.

“Errol. I got a walk-in and no one’s here yet. You want to take it or should I have her come back?”

There was more to the conversation that Stevie couldn’t make out. She paged through the album. The work was fantastic. This artist used an incredible amount of detail and shadow to make the tattoos amazingly realistic.

“He’ll be right with you.” The girl still didn’t smile. “If you need a soda or something, let me know. I’m Angel.”

This girl was as far from an angel as one could get. Dressed in a short schoolgirl skirt and half-unbuttoned shirt, she sauntered away on extraordinarily high heels. Stevie would have considered it a Halloween costume, but this was a regular Friday night. “Thanks. I’m okay right now.”

“That’s Errol’s book. Your lucky day. He’s gonna do you.”

Stevie barked out a small laugh. “I wish somebody would,” she murmured. The girl gave her an unamused look over a clipboard.

“His stuff is beautiful.” Stevie changed the subject, tapping her finger on a pencil drawing in one of the plastic sheet protectors. It was a wolf. Nothing much in particular stood out in the design. The artistry was what made it so incredible. The pencil lines looked more like brush strokes. The shading and the detail made the wolf appear alive on the page.

“Did that for a dude who never showed up to have it inked.” The deep voice startled her. She hadn’t heard him walk in. Stevie looked up. “Happens sometimes. I liked it.”

“Errol, this is…what’s your name, sweetie?” Angel asked as she snapped a clip over some papers on the tattered-looking clipboard. She pushed the board into Stevie’s hands.

The guy who had been sitting out front stood before her. Stevie boldly eyed him from head to toe before realizing what she was doing. If he was doing her, she was a happy, happy lady. He gave her a knowing grin. They stood looking eye to eye for a moment.

Angel tapped the pen on the clipboard to bring Stevie’s attention away from the artist and back to the task at hand. “I need you to fill this out. All of it. Sign the bottom of the second page. Have you had any alcohol today?”

“Um. No. I haven’t.” Stevie blushed. She’d been caught looking at him by the freaky girl.

Errol turned back to the album. “It’s my policy not to ink anyone who’s been drinking. I don’t like clients with regrets in the morning.”

Oh. Good. After that comment about somebody “doing her”, Stevie assumed the overdone schoolgirl thought she was drunk. And then she’d given Errol such a bold once-over…

This guy was hot. Stevie knew she couldn’t have been the first client to ogle him, but she hated that she’d been so obvious. Angel had to distract her—again—to get them all back on track. Embarrassed, she scribbled her name on the release forms.

Errol took the clipboard. “What do you want…” He looked down at the paper. “Stevie?”

Stevie inwardly laughed. His clean-shaven head, his slightly muscled arms and those dark, brooding eyes were what she wanted. After this week and all the talk on the blog, she wanted to be able to be like the other cougar women. She wanted to feel confident enough to convince this younger guy to let her have her way with him. She wanted to see just how much of his body was inked.

“An Ankh symbol,” was the answer she managed to give aloud.

“This way.” He started walking down a hallway covered in pictures of happy clients showing off their new tats. “The Egyptian symbol for eternal life. Nice.” He turned down another hallway and pushed open the door to the last room. “My lair.” He held the door for her.

As she walked past, she could smell his cologne, spicy and somewhat strong. It was as appealing as his full lips. Oh God. She was in trouble.

“What style are you thinking for the Ankh? Gothic? Celtic? Do you want ornamentation around it of any kind? Is there something in particular you’re trying to express?”

The room held a chair that looked like it belonged in a dentist’s office and a couple of stools. Like in the hallway, the walls were covered with more pictures of clients, a few random cartoons and other memorabilia. There were photos of Errol with friends or maybe family, she assumed, and an autographed photo with a couple of the Carolina Panther football players. He gathered up some papers, sat on a wheeled chair then pulled himself up to the drafting table in the corner.

“I think I want it fairly stark. Black and grays, like that wolf, and I’d like the cross to look like carved stone. Maybe have an aged, chipped look to it.” He was drawing as she spoke. “In the loop at the top of the cross, I want a jewel.”

“That black ink too? Some color would totally make that pop. It wouldn’t need much.”

Stevie titled her head. “I didn’t think of that. I’m a little afraid of the color being too much on my skin.” She felt a little embarrassed by her complete lack of a tan.

“Some emerald on that gorgeous, creamy skin would be hot.” He didn’t look up from the paper. Stevie felt herself blush.

“Where’s it going and what size were you thinking?”

Wow. She was feeling like a schoolgirl herself. “Um. My hip.” She put her hand on the top of her right butt cheek. “About an inch and a half tall.”

“Hmm.” He scribbled a little more. “I think you’ll be happier if we go a little larger. Is there some purpose for the artwork, or statement you’re trying to make? Anything that I can add in the details that will personalize it for you?”

She presumed most people were happy to tell him why they wanted a particular tat. She, on the other hand, was not ready to tell this hunky guy that she wanted to mark her membership in an exclusive club of sex-starved older women on a quest to find younger men. Well, that, and she’d always wanted one, and the Ankh was the best thing she’d thought of in a long time. She loved the symbol the publisher used, and it really would make a cool-looking design.

“Not really.”

“Uh huh. It’s okay to have personal reasons for your ink, baby. We all have them. But if you open up to me, I can make your experience so much better.”

She’d bet he could. She’d have to spend the weekend looking up pictures of hot guys with tattoos so she could post one on the blog.

Errol continued to scribble as she sat on a stool. He reached over and started a boom box that housed his iPod. Not surprisingly, Stevie didn’t recognize the band, but she did like the music. It reminded her of The Who in their early days.

“How’s something like this?”

He handed her the translucent tracing paper. Stevie couldn’t believe the detail for the short amount of time he had spent on the drawing.

He stood close to her so he could look over her shoulder as he spoke. “Of course, on you, it’ll be much more intricate. But is the design what you’re thinking?” Stevie inhaled his scent again. She could feel the heat of his body.

She thought of Monica and could hear her friend now. “You mean you were that close to a sexy younger man and you didn’t even try? Come on, Stevie.” She forced her concentration back to the design to take her mind off the man.

The Ankh was perfect. It had a three-dimensional feel that made it look like an ancient stone relic. He had included some wear around the bottom of the cross and a chip in one of the arms. In the loop that made the top of the cross was a gemstone with beams of light emitting both in front of the cross design and behind. Some vines wove from behind the base of the cross and reached out to the sides, giving the design more weight and depth than the Ankh would have held on its own.

“It’s perfect.” Stevie held it to her hip and looked in the full-length mirror by the door. Even though it was almost twice the size she had intended, it fit.

“All right. You ready?”

Stevie hesitated. She hadn’t bothered to change after leaving work and still wore her black skirt, white shirt and scarf. What had she been thinking?

“Drop the skirt and let’s put it in the right spot.”

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