#WIPWednesday — Skin Deep by J.T. Marie

Today’s snippet comes from a tattoo story I started but haven’t gotten very far into yet. It’s a lesbian/transgender story, or rather, it will be. Right now it’s just 4k of setup and introducing the characters.

And yes, like all my tattoo stories, it’s inspired by real-life events. It seems I can’t go get a new tattoo without getting a story idea at the same time.

And yes again, it has no title. Not even an inkling of one. Sorry about that!

Just an FYI, Mack is short for Mackenzie. She’s the coach of a college women’s basketball team and, when the story opens, two of her players (Steph and Kiki) have convinced her to go with them to the Richmond Tattoo Arts Festival. There she meets Heather, an artist at the RVA Tattoo booth. Big Man (mentioned in the excerpt) is another artist at the booth.

Steph and Kiki both want to get tattoos at the booth, but Mack is more interested in Heather.

Skin Deep, excerpt

Copyright © 2016 J.M. Snyder

By the time Steph returned the signed consent form, Heather’s current client had left and the drapes had been pulled back, exposing a pair of adjustable, padded massage tables. Nearby stood a metal tool cabinet, its drawers overflowing with bottles of ink, individually wrapped needles, and other supplies Mack couldn’t name. She stepped around behind the display table as Kiki and Steph finished up the paperwork, hoping she looked casual as she made her way over to where Heather was straightening up the top of the cabinet. In reality, she felt anything but casual — her heart hammered in her throat and her palms were sweaty, almost as if she were the one going to get the tattoo.

She wasn’t always bold enough to approach someone who interested her, but then again, she didn’t usually hang out at tattoo festivals, either. What the hell, right? Carpe diem and all that shit.

“Hey,” she said, leaning against one of the massage tables. “Can I watch?”

Heather glanced over at her and smiled. “Sure.”

Her smile was like Big Man’s; it lit up her whole face. But she was already cute to begin with, not scary or mean-looking like he was, so she had that going for her. And when she grinned, a dimple appeared in the corner of one cheek, which only enhanced her appearance. There was a spray of freckles across her nose, and she wore a ring in one eyebrow that made her look impossibly young.

This close, though, Mack could see signs that said Heather wasn’t all that young. Definitely out of college, at least, and if Mack had to guess, she’d hazard to say they were probably around the same age. There were telltale fine lines crinkling the corners of Heather’s blue eyes — Mack looked for them because she’d begun to see the same ones in the mirror on her own face recently. And a streak of gray here and there among the roots of her hair, though Mack had to admit, maybe that dark shade wasn’t dye after all.

Whether it came from a bottle or not, it was attractive on her. Mack leaned one hip on the table, jutting the other out suggestively. It’d been awhile since she had last gone out with anyone — on a date, that was. Hanging out with the players after practice didn’t count. Seeing someone for dinner or a movie, someone who might be interested in her, spending time with a woman that might end with a kiss or, if she were lucky, something more … she hadn’t realized how much she had missed that until her stomach fluttered when she first saw Heather.

She didn’t know where things might lead between them, if anywhere at all, but whatever happened, Mack definitely looked forward to the ride.

Heather was slim, almost fey, and there was something androgynous about her, too, which Mack found attractive. While she had never gone in for the whole femme/butch thing, she didn’t really like girly girls. She played sports and didn’t like women who were too interested in makeup and clothes to get a little dirty sometimes during a pickup game. As Mack watched Heather set up for her next client, she could probably even pass for a young man, dressed as she was in low-riding jeans, a wide belt, and a tucked-in henley shirt. It wasn’t until she spoke that her higher voice gave away her gender.

“So, no tattoo for you today, huh?” Heather asked.

“Me? No.” Mack laughed. “I’m not a big fan of needles.”

Heather gave her another smile. “Oh, me either.”

She says, as she tears open a package of needles for her tattoo machine, Mack thought, shaking her head. “Funny you do this then.”

“I like to draw,” Heather admitted. “This is one of the few professions a good artist can go into and earn a living at. Bills got to be paid, as I’m sure you know.”

With another laugh, Mack agreed. “Tell me about it. I thought I’d play basketball my whole life but players in the WNBA don’t earn anywhere near what male players do, so I coach instead.”

“You’re the coach?” Heather gave her a sly grin. “And here I thought you three were half the team.”

Mack shook her head. “Yeah, right. My college days are in the past, but I’ll tell you something, Kiki and Steph are pretty much my best players. I hope these tattoos don’t put them out of commission for any length of time.”

“Shouldn’t be a problem.” Heather sat down on a stool near the massage table and finally turned her full attention to Mack. “Are you sure I can’t talk you into getting one, too?”

Mack shook her head a little too quickly. “Nope, sorry.” Searching for something else to say to keep the conversation moving, she added, “I’ve never met a tattoo artist who didn’t have any tattoos of her own.” She didn’t add that, before coming to the festival, she hadn’t actually ever met a tattoo artist before.

“Who said I didn’t have any?” Heather asked.

Frowning, Mack pointed out, “But you don’t like needles.”

Heather shrugged. “Yeah, well, sometimes you have to sit through something you don’t like to end up with something you do.”

“How many do you have?” Mack wanted to know.

“A few.”

Leaning on the table, Mack purred, “Can I see?”

With a laugh, Heather said, “They’re all in sort of intimate places. Wouldn’t your girlfriend get mad if she walked back here and saw me flashing you?”

“Those are students with me,” Mack said. “I don’t date my players.”

She waited. Heather stared openly at her, quiet. Come on, Mack thought. Ask me out already. I told you I’m not seeing either of them. That’s practically a golden ticket right there. I’m obviously interested, can’t you tell? What are you waiting for?

She didn’t know, and the silence between them stretched out, growing awkward. In another few minutes, Big Man would send Kiki or Steph back and Heather would get to work on her next tattoo. Then the moment would be lost, and Mack would spend the rest of the day wondering why neither of them had seized the chance while they could.

Well, damn it, if she won’t ask, then maybe I should.

“So are you going to show me,” Mack teased, “or is that something you save for the first date?”

Heather narrowed her eyes. “Are you asking me out?”

“Are you saying yes?”