Punctured, Bruised, and Barely Tattooed

By: Jade C. Jamison

Chapter One

KORY MCCALLISTER SAT on the brown vinyl couch in the air conditioned studio. She pulled her thumb away from her lip once again, because that nail had already been chewed into oblivion.

So stupid. Yeah, stupid that she was so nervous, but she couldn’t help it. She was going to see Stone Bowman soon. God, that man was her dream guy and he probably had no idea she even existed.

She took a deep breath, trying to calm her nerves. No, she wasn’t nervous about getting pierced. She’d done it plenty of times and, with her fear of needles, she was surprised that she’d been able to do it so many times, but it was because of Stone. She’d entered this place two years ago and there he’d been—tall, dark, shoulder-length hair, scruff on his face, coal-dark eyes, and holy hell, more tattoos than her eyes could take in. His neck, arms, chest (although his shirt covered most of it), and heaven knew what else. His body was a living canvas, and Kory had fallen in love with the guy the first time she’d seen him. He was a dream. He was also a calming influence, part of why she thought she’d never be able to be pierced by anyone else on the planet, and she supposed that was why he was so good at his job.

He was also a hell of a tattoo artist, but Kory’s fear of needles had prevented her so many times from getting a tattoo.

No one would have ever guessed she was afraid of having a needle poke her because the girl was pierced all over—multiple eyebrow piercings, nose, lips, and her ears were pincushions. She also had a belly ring. She still had plenty of places to pierce, but she didn’t want to have Stone doing the honors on her nipple…not now, anyway. She definitely didn’t want anyone else doing it, either.

She knew having Stone pierce her was a waste of his supreme talents as a tattoo artist, but he was co-owner of the shop. She always requested him and he’d never refused.

Kory knew her friends thought she was crazy. Earlier that day, they’d been shaking their heads at her, asking why another piercing? Didn’t she have enough holes in her body? And how would that work with her business major anyway? They never listened to her counterarguments—that she could remove the piercings whenever she needed to, very little harm done, and it wasn’t like she was getting tattoos.

Of course, that was what she was working up to…but there was that fear of needles stopping her.

Silly, yes, because she was pierced. A lot.

The needle was quick, though, and it wasn’t like getting a tattoo, where it would take hours of work with a vibrating gun. No, instead, it was with a—well, yeah, that fucker was a big ass needle, but it was fast…at least the way Stone did it.

That was why she’d gone to get pierced in the first place—to get over that fear. She had an irrational phobia about needles, and she was tired of saying she was a strong woman when she couldn’t even get her nose pierced.

She had thought about it for weeks and weeks and finally found the courage to march in to the shop called The Iron Maiden. It was early evening, close to the time the shop was going to close, and she’d told the guy she wanted her nose pierced and wanted it done fast. He had so many questions, though, and she couldn’t remember their conversation to this day. All she could remember was his absolute beauty, inside and out, and she credited him with making needles a little less scary.

Since that day two years ago—during the summer after she graduated high school—she’d been back almost every month. She doubted Stone even remembered who she was from one visit to the next, but his image in Kory’s head had kept her focused for years.

Truthfully, Kory knew she belonged more in that shop than she did in college, majoring in business. With her background, she was surprised she wanted it too, but she never wanted to have to beg from anyone for anything. When she left her foster parents’ house after graduation, she knew she had one of two paths—she could be the tough-as-nails, hard ass, bruised and destroyed burnout who worked shitty jobs or maybe became a stripper, but that would be following the path of her egg donor, and there was no way in hell she wanted to be like that woman. The other path was the one untraveled by people of her kind. She didn’t want to be beholden to the man, so she would become him. She was smart enough—street smart, anyway—and her foster parents had helped her see that she had value. She could learn whatever she needed to, so long as she applied herself.

She heard the door to the back part of the shop open. They played the same music back there that they did in the front area where they sold the body jewelry and clothing, but hearing the music coming from that area wasn’t what tipped her off to the door opening. No, it was Stone walking out with a satisfied customer. Kory tried not to feel jealous, but that customer was tall, thin, and blonde, and Kory was pretty sure the woman had fake boobs to boot.

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