A full five minutes early for his appointment, Jigsaw shouldered through the door into Inked, the one and only tattoo shop in Townsend, Tennessee. But even if it wasn’t the lone ink provider, even if there was a tattoo shop on every corner, it’d be the only one to receive his business. Inked was the best, by far. Rip was a master with a tattoo machine and could bring anyone’s vision to life.
Maverick and Rocket filed in after him, immediately taking seats on the ratty couch butted up against the display window. His brothers had tagged along despite knowing how much Jig hated an audience for this.
Every year on his wife and child’s birthdays, which just happened to be only three days apart, Jig added to a tattoo on his thigh. Without fail, it put him in a shitty mood, and his brothers damn well knew it. But they couldn’t just leave him the fuck alone. They had to stick their fucking noses in his shit and follow him, so he didn’t “do something stupid.”
“Hey, Jig,” Rip called out. “Lemme talk to you for a second.” He stepped from behind the privacy curtain pulled around his customer. To say the shop was simple would be a ridiculous understatement. Inked was about as no-frills as it came, with two tattoo stations, a reception desk, a second-hand couch, and a few sketches on the wall. Rip didn’t give a shit about the décor or ambiance. He gave damn good ink and had the reputation to prove it.
“What’s up, Rip?” Jig asked after Rip waddled his large frame cross the shop.
“Hey, I’m running about forty-five minutes behind, man. I’m sorry.” Rip gave Jig a sheepish half smile.
From the couch, Maverick laughed and rubbed his hands together. “Woohoo, does this mean Jig gets to have his face inked on you?”
Not one to find much shit funny, Jig snorted. Rip was a bit of a psycho when it came to lateness. Threatened to tattoo his face on a client if they were late to their appointment. He’d done it before, too, the bastard. That was the reason Jig never let himself be later than five minutes early. Last thing he needed was Rip’s ugly mug on his ass cheek.
“I really am sorry, man,” Rip said. He ran a hand through his receding gray hair and shifted uncomfortably, seemingly flustered, which wasn’t him.
“Everything good?” Jig asked.
Rip lowered his voice. “Yeah, just had this broad come in crying a few minutes ago. Breast cancer survivor who recently had some reconstructive surgery. Wanted me to ink nipples on her. Someone recommended me specifically, and she’s unwilling to go to anyone else.”
“Well, fuck me, Rip,” Mav said. “Why didn’t you start with that? Now I feel like an ass for ragging on you.”
With a shrug, Rip swiped the back of his hand across his forehead. “Shit, I’m sweating, guys. This is a lot of pressure.”
This time, Jig let out a small laugh. “You did all our Hell’s Handlers back pieces without blinking an eye, and you’re afraid of some nipples?”
“It’s a big deal,” Rip grumbled.
Jig slapped him on the back. “Hey, man, no worries. I can reschedule.” In reality, the change to his schedule pissed him off, but what the fuck could he do? He wasn’t about to be the asshole who pulled Rip away from a cancer survivor. Jig might be an unfeeling bastard, but he wasn’t a robot.
“Nah, not necessary,” Rip said as he walked toward the desk. “I got someone else who can do it.”
Jig froze and scanned the shop. It was then he realized there was a curtain pulled around the second chair as well. Muffled voices could be heard from behind the fabric wall but not well enough to make out what was being said. “You telling me you actually hired some help?”
For the past two years, Rip had been saying he needed to hire a second artist. Ever the control freak, no one actually thought he’d let another professional into his shop. He found fault with every other artist out there.
“Yeah, I did. They’re just finishing up the aftercare convo. Then you can meet ’em.”
“I don’t know.” Jig frowned. No one but Rip had gone near his skin with ink and needle.
“They’re good, Jig. Wouldn’ta hired ’em otherwise. Trained ’em myself actually. About ten years ago, right before I moved to the area and opened up shop. Take a look at some of their work.” He dug around behind his desk and pulled out a beat-up binder, laying it out on the counter.
Like a bunch of teenage chicks who didn’t want to miss out on the gossip, Mav and Rocket hopped up to join him at the reception desk.
Mav, who had more inked skin than not, whistled. “Shit, Rip. These are fucking amazing. This guy might do better work than you.”
It was meant as a joke, but Rip snorted and nodded. There was definite truth to Maverick’s words. The lines were so precise, the images so vivid and perfect, it was hard to believe they were done by a human hand. One of the photos was a butterfly that looked like it was literally lifting off some chick’s shoulder. Amazing.
“Give ’em a shot,” Rip said. “Promise they’ll do you right.”
Jig sighed and rubbed a hand across his jaw. Time to trim his beard. He’d gotten lazy the past few weeks and had let the growth get a little out of control. He always kept some amount of facial hair because it covered the bottom third of his scar, but he tried to keep it neat. Most of the time. “All right, man. Let’s do it.”
Seemed like Rip was really trying to push the new guy. Probably wanted to build up his clientele. If the work in his portfolio was an accurate reflection of the guy’s skill, he’d be a fool to turn down this artist. He could help a friend out and get some quality ink in the process.
“Great.” Rip’s yellow-toothed smile beamed. “Oh, here she comes now.”
Maverick coughed in a weak attempt to cover his laughter, but it quickly turned to a gasp.
Oh, yeah,” he said under his breath. “That one’ll do you right, Jig.”
“Holy fuck,” Rocket whispered.
Rip wore a shit-eating grin, the fuckstick. He’d purposefully misled them into thinking it was a dude. Jig didn’t want some bitch getting anywhere near him with a needle. He flipped his brothers off and spun to check out this lady tattoo artist for himself.
About five-feet-eight inches—and that was without the four-inch stilettos—of pure sex and sin strutted her way straight toward him. Somehow, this woman had poured herself into the tightest black leather pants he’d ever seen. They molded around her long, shapely legs and, damn, if he didn’t wish for her to turn around. He just bet she had a stellar ass that would only be enhanced by the grip of soft leather.
With each step, the side to side sway of her hips drew his eye like he was watching the pendulum of a clock swing back and forth. Forcing his gaze from her hips, he trailed it upward, not oblivious to the tight black tank top that cupped her breasts as snugly as the leather cupped her thighs.
“Hey, boys,” she said, her voice on the lower side. Husky, he’d call it.
Mav whistled. “Damn, woman. And I say this in a totally non-creepy, non-flirting way because I have a woman that would shoot off my junk if I so much as hit on another chick, but you are some kinda fucking gorgeous.”
Jig ground his teeth together as the new lady tattoo artist threw her head back and let out a throaty laugh. Fucking Maverick. Flirting and charming women was just part of his DNA. He truly meant it when he said he wasn’t hitting on her. The man just couldn’t let a beautiful woman walk away without her knowing she was gorgeous.
“Aren’t you the charmer,” she said, placing her hands on those fantastic hips.
Damn, her body was out of this world. Not skinny, not even too curvy, it was more…athletic. Sleek lines with swells of muscle in her arms and a flat stomach. The girl must spend some serious hours in the gym.
“Guys, this here is Isabella. I taught her everything she knew about ten years ago. She finally agreed to move here and work with me.” Rip beamed with pride as he introduced his protégé.
“Please,” she said, “call me Izzy. One of you boys looking for some ink?”
Rocket cleared his throat like he had a whole steak lodged in there. If the asshole wasn’t careful, he’d have Jig’s fist lodged down there instead.
A hand slapped down on his shoulder. “My man Jig here needs some ink.”
“Don’t want to mess up your schedule,” Jig said. “I’ll come back when Rip can fit me in.”
Rip’s face fell, making Jig feel like scum. Wasn’t the shop owner’s fault that Jig wanted nothing to do with most women. Unless he was fucking them. That was pretty much the only time he associated with them. Of course, his brothers’ ol’ ladies couldn’t seem to leave his ass alone. Always trying to bring him food, fix him up, and acting like freaking mother hens around him.
Especially Mav’s woman, Stephanie. He’d helped rescue her from a fucking psycho not long ago, so now he’d become her special project.
“Oh, I’ll, uh, check my book.” Rip waddled behind his desk and flipped through his old-school appointment book.
Izzy’s dark, almost black eyes just stared at him, hands on her hips, earning her Jig’s scowl. Who the hell did this bitch think she was?
Instead of caving under his murderous glare, one of her perfect black eyebrows arched high into her forehead. “You afraid your dick will invert if a woman puts some ink on you?”
She had a set of balls, he’d give her that much. “Nah, I—”
“I’ve inked hundreds, actually thousands of dudes.” She gasped and covered her mouth with her unpolished fingertips. “Shit, I’ve even tatted some bikers.”
Behind him, Mav and Rocket chuckled. Fuckers were enjoying this way too much.
Izzy leaned closer and dropped her volume. “Promise you, bubba, not one of those guys grew a pussy because I was the one holding the needle.”
A strangled sound came from Rocket, and Maverick flat-out laughed. Rip joined in, and soon the three of them were cackling like a bunch of fucking hyenas.
Goddamnit. Not only had she interrupted him, sassed him, and tossed attitude at him, she’d thrown down a challenge. His damned male pride left him no choice.
“Show me to your chair,” he grumbled.
A massive grin of victory broke out across her gorgeous face. “Follow me, bubba,” she said as she spun on one of those pencil-thin heels then sashayed to her station.
And fuck if he didn’t feel a twitch of his dick and a twitch of his lips. Where his cock’s interest came from, he had no idea. Miss Izzy couldn’t be further from his usual type.
He liked ’em blonde, blue-eyed, small, sweet, and docile. Not tall, dark-haired, and mouthy. She’d even shaved the sides of her head, adding to her badass-bitch look.
But as he watched the very long tail of a tight braid swinging back and forth across the top of what was, without a doubt, a stellar ass, he couldn’t deny his animal attraction to her.
Fuck. This was gonna be a shitty few hours.