Saturday Excerpt: New Ink on Life by Jennie Davids
Are you ready for another free look at a great read? This week’s Saturday Excerpt if from New Ink on Life by Jennie Davids, a story of opposites attracting while working in a tattoo shop. Keep reading to discover more!
About New Ink on Life:
Quiet does not equal weak…
Leaving a dependable job to apprentice as a tattoo artist was a drastic step after surviving breast cancer, but Cassie Whiteaker is nearly five years cancer-free. Nearly. She’s not ready to go out on her own until she clears that all-important hurdle. Also off-limits are relationships and sex—something Cassie is sure she’ll never want again.
Struggling tattoo shop owner MJ Flores doesn’t give a damn what people think, but losing Thorn & Thistle would mean losing everything. When her former mentor’s protégé arrives at her door, MJ hires her out of obligation…at first. Cross-stitching goody-goodies are not her type, but Cassie’s business background might just get the shop back on solid footing. They strike a bargain: Cassie will enact new marketing plans and MJ will teach her to find her inner bitch.
Only when clients request to see Cassie—having learned of the beautiful, compassionate tattoos she creates for survivors and their families—does MJ realize all Cassie has endured. And as Cassie’s fears fade, she finds it harder to keep her admiration for her bad-girl boss from reawakening all she’d feared was lost.
“You’re proud of this?”
I dropped my gaze from MJ’s brown eyes drilling into me to my drawing. I’d thought it was good, one of my best. But if she had to ask, it must mean it wasn’t.
And now she was impatient with me. The churning in my gut intensified. In the three days I’d been at Thorn & Thistle she’d had two moods with me— impatient and angry. The worst, by far, were the times I’d caught her looking at me with her lip curled.
“This is the best you can do?” She shook my sketch in front of my face.
What could I have done to make her like it? Was it the colors? The line work? If I admitted that yes, that was my best, how much angrier would she get?
“I… I… I don’t think you should do newspaper ads anymore.”
Her expression questioned my sanity. “What?”
Yes—what? Had I thought blurting out my opinion would impress her? Not working. Definitely not working. A drop of sweat trailed down my back to gather with the others. Nothing I did impressed her. Not cleaning the bathrooms. Not reorganizing the front desk.
I needed something. Anything. With each hour I could practically see her regret growing for taking me on.
I licked my lips and tried to find my voice, which now, when I wanted it, had gone hiding. “I overheard you talk about revenue and I don’t think you should do another newspaper ad. It isn’t helping.”
Slowly, so very slowly, she lowered my sketch. Her eyes never left me, not even a split-second reprieve from her severe stare. “Are you listening in to my conversations now?”
Oh god. What had I done? I was not going to admit that yes, I listened every opportunity I got. It was all part of my quest to win her over. Something she said might give me insight on how to do that.
There were few benefits to being quiet, but one was how often people forgot I even existed and talked around me.
“I want to help,” I said, hoping we could gloss over the fact that I’d been eavesdropping, since it was to her benefit. Beneficial eavesdropping, I’d make it a thing. “I’ve asked each new client what’s brought them in and only one person told me the ad. Three days, one person. The ad was three hundred dollars, but the person’s tattoo was only one hundred and twenty. You lost money.”
MJ folded her arms over her chest. “Are you a tattooer or a secretary?”
“I don’t believe in labels. I’m a lot of things.”
Her eyes widened and then her lips started to curve upward.
I’d done it. I’d gotten her to smile. What a smile it was. She didn’t go all out. But the curving of what I now realized where surprisingly full lips was enough to soften the edges, to draw my eye to the lines at the side of her mouth instead of the deep grooves in her forehead when she frowned at me.
“Is that right?” She shook her head, her smile disappearing as fast as it’d come. “Three dollars.”
Relief pushed out the tension. If she liked that one, I had plenty more. I reached for the little notebook I always kept with me. Before it could even clear my pocket, MJ was lifting my sketch and waving it in my face.
“Hey, I need to talk to you,” Jamie, the most senior artist, said, coming to stand by me.
She was already my favorite because she showed me the least hostility. With her perfect timing now, she cemented she’d be getting the best berries from the fruit tray I brought tomorrow.
“What?” MJ snapped.
“We got four more reviews this week.”
I took a step back even though MJ’s murderous expression wasn’t directed at me. If it had I was pretty sure I’d need a defibrillator.
MJ snatched Jamie’s phone. “Don’t break it.”
“It’s not your phone I want to break.” MJ glared at the screen. “‘Got a tattoo there that looks like my kindergartner’s drawing. No wait, he’s better.’”
As MJ continued to scroll down and read, I got out my phone and tried to find the site MJ was reading from.
Shop has really gone downhill.
Heard under new management. They suck. Think all the good artists are gone.
I was so uncomfortable in there I left.
Wow. The one stars had exploded since the last time I’d checked. Once Zan told me that she thought MJ should be my mentor, I’d researched the shop. The truth was that I’d been keeping tabs on MJ’s career before that. I’d always been in awe of her talent, while at the same time, it was women like her who had kept me from tattooing. I saw how tough and commanding they were and knew I didn’t belong in that club. Until Zan showed me different. From Zan I’d learned that tattoo artists could be anyone. There was room for everyone.