(Shadows in the dark, #2)
Author: Charisse Spiers
Illustrator: Clarise Tan @ CT Cover Creations
Cover Model: Andrew England as Kross Brannon
Cover Model: Isabella "Bella" Frayne as Delta Rohr
Photographer (Front Cover, Andrew): Golden Czermak @ Furious Fotog
Photographer (Back Cover, Bella): Darren Birks @ Darren Birks Photography
The fucking lights. They are all I can remember. Everywhere I turn I see them. They haunt my dreams, and now my reality. She liked the lights. I do remember that. It was part of her life, and in turn a part of mine, until the day I forgot it all.
Weapons. Big or small, they can be anything I need them to be. Unlike people in my life, they are predictable, dependable. Without any effort they can cause so much destruction. Touching them they are slick, smooth, and silent when I demand it. Who wouldn’t find them beautiful?
Ink. I’ve loved it since I can remember. It defines me. It’s my release. When I feel like I’m about to blow I turn to the needle. It is the only high I need. I brand people. It’s what I do. Kross Brannon is the best there is when it comes to tattoos. My company proves it.
I never teach. Those that work for me learn from someone else. I work solo. Always have and always will…but then I looked up and saw her, standing in my fucking shop, beautiful, tattooed, and her soul screaming for me to reach out.
That’s the moment everything started falling into place…
I’ve waited my whole life for this moment. Nothing and no one will stand in my way now. I want to be pissed at her, but she’s just given me everything I’ve fucking dreamed of since I was a kid. He’s giving me a chance. I will not let him down.
But then he touched me.
My entire life I’ve been cold, but now a spark has ignited and I’m starting to warm. What does this mean? He can’t know my secrets. It could ruin everything. I want him, but I’ll never give in. The tug of war inside will never defeat what I want. I don’t care how raw my hands become from the rope. Delta Rohr has never fallen for a man, and I don’t intend to start now.
Most like to think that love and war will never entwine, leaving the two paths separate, but sometimes to find the one worth fighting for you must enter into war. The infamous question will always remain: all is fair in love and war? Will it always be a myth or will they find out?
My eyes travel from his lips back to his eyes, locking into place. I hook my thumbs behind the front waistband of my shorts, giving them a prop to avoid an awkward stance, before going for the introduction I couldn't muster last night. "I'm Delta Rohr, the girl that's going to be one of the best in a man's world. Ink is my life. I wear my portfolio on my body. I'm an artist, only I want my canvas to be skin. I want my artwork to be worn. I've wanted an opportunity like this for a long time, and I'll give up anything to get it, but I need the tools to get there. I need the best fucking mentor there is. I need you, Kross."
He remains staring at me while my intestines start twisting into knots, saying nothing at all. Maybe my answer wasn't adequate enough. I'm not sure if I should say anything else or leave it at that. His stance finally breaks and his arms rise and fold over his head, his hands gripping the back collar of his shirt. He pulls it over his head, baring his torso a few inches at a time until it's completely off. Oh hell. His body looks better without clothes than with. He obviously works out, his chiseled form confirming it. Let's not forget the ink spread across his chest and running down both arms. The lower part of his sleeves and the ink that peeks out of his collar, running up part of his neck, is the only thing I've noticed until now. Now that he's standing here shirtless. He tosses the shirt over his shoulder, freeing up his hands.
"What are you doing?"
I immediately notice the silver, square, belt buckle in a dull metal finish, cut out to form a raised skull in the center; my favorite emblem, and the masculine opposite to mine...exactly what he tattooed on my body last night, complete with a pink hair bow. The black, elastic band of his briefs is peeking out of the waistband of his jeans. He works to unbuckle his belt, letting each end hang, before going back for the button. He pops it through the slit and then slides down the zipper, revealing the royal blue underwear hugging his hips. My eyes widen. Is he stripping up here? What the hell is he doing?
"Kross, what are you doing?" I ask again, needing an answer. My heart rate is beating faster with each movement he makes.
"Starting part two."
"Which is?" I'm becoming nervous. Is he just using me for sex? Dammit, I feel so stupid. I actually thought this was a real interview. I should have known this was just a setup.
"Letting you tattoo my body."
I regain focus. "Say what?"
"I don't repeat myself. Listen the first time." He pushes the band of his underwear down his body, along with the waist of his jeans, leaving them not far above his...
"It's kind of hard to listen with you stripping naked. You're a guy and I'm a girl. It's human nature to look. So sue me."
He grabs me by the arm and pulls me toward his station. "The second part of this interview is to see you give it a shot. To me, tattooing is a natural talent. It takes more than the ability to trace an object to be a good tattooer. An artist is well rounded in all areas: drawing, tracing, visualizing, shading, design and color, all while having a steady hand. You may be good at drawing with a pencil, but it's a little more difficult with a vibrating gun in your hand puncturing the skin hundreds of times per minute. I'm not wasting my time to make shit more pleasant. I'm making great, flawless."
He releases my arm and steps over the chair in a straddling stance, drawing my attention to his black, high-top Converse shoes matching my pink ones, before grabbing a thin sheet of paper off the counter space. My nerves are on overdrive now. "I've already drawn you out a design that matches the one I tattooed on your pelvis last night, minus the fucking bow. It's a pretty simple design but a good one. Basic skull and crossbones fit my personality so I'll deal with it on my body. Wouldn't be the first version anyway, but since this is your first it's going somewhere I can cover up if you fuck it up. My sleeves are sacred, my masterpieces. Only the best adds to it. You earn the right to leave your mark as an artist there."
He pushes his pants down some more, until the top half of his firm ass is bare. If he pushes them down any further I'll be able to see his dick. Without breaking he applies the transfer of ink from paper to skin below his waistline, and low enough he can cover it by simply buttoning his pants. He cannot possibly expect me to give him a tattoo that close to his dick. Come on....
He grabs a pair of black, latex gloves off the tray. It looks like everything is already setup. "If you want to be the best in a man's world, then you better be serious as fuck about learning and perfecting. There are some that have made it and done so well, but tattooing has always been a man's art. I'm not showing you how to setup or prep today, because that's not necessary before you get the job. I looked at your ability to draw when I looked at your body last night. I want to see technique. I'm a hands on learner so that's how I teach. You have about a two-hour window. All of my artists will be here at three today. That gives me time to clean up after you're done."
"So you let everyone interview this way? How do you have any blank skin left?"
A smirk begins to form. "Nope. You're the first. I don't normally teach."
My nerves were at a good five. They were just bumped to ten. "Uh, then why me?"
"I'm feeling giving I guess." He hands me the gloves and sits down on the chair, then laces his hands behind his head and leans back against the back of the chair. "Tattoo me."
I am totally and inevitably fucked...
I found books when I was going through a hard time in life. They became my means of escape when things got bad. I realized quickly how much I loved to take a backseat to someone else's life and watch the journey unfold. That began my journey with books in November of 2012. I constantly had a book open on my Kindle app. Never in a million years would I have imagined myself as a writer, because I never thought I was creative enough. I'm living proof that things will fall into place when they're meant to be. People will make their way into our lives when we don't expect it, setting the path for what we are meant to do. Never give up on people. Never stop taking a chance on others. Someone took a chance on trusting me with her work when she didn't know me from a stranger on the street and gave me the opportunity of a lifetime as our relationship progressed, which led me to editing and writing as well. This is my dream I never knew I had. As soon as I sat down and gave writing a shot, it was like the floodgates opened. Now, I am lost in a world of fiction in my head, new characters constantly screaming for their stories to be told. Continue to dream and to go for them. No one ever found happiness by sitting on the sidelines. Sometimes we have to take risks and put ourselves out there. Thank you for all of your support, and may there be many books to come. XOXO- C