Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Teaser Tuesday: Opening scene from HOUSE OF PAYNE, out 8/25

It’s Teaser Tuesday!  In less than two weeks, the INKED Anthology is scheduled to be released, so I thought it was time to introduce to you… Becks and Payne.  Enjoy this opening scene from my full-length novel, HOUSE OF PAYNE!

            “Excuse me… Becks?”
Becks Delgado turned from her study of the slush-covered streets of Chicago’s bustling downtown area known as the Loop. Beyond the reception area’s floor-to-ceiling windows, traffic moved at a snail’s pace, the occasional impatient honking of a horn all but muted by the thick insulated glass. God, she hated this part of town.  Hated. And it wasn’t because the traffic in the financial district was usually enough to make even a saint wish for more middle fingers. This part of town represented death to her, in every sense of the word. Her little brother’s life had come to an abrupt end only a couple blocks from where she now stood, along with life as she’d known it.
But she’d had to come. And she wouldn’t leave until she had her pound of flesh.
The rockabilly brunette manning the reception desk smiled while flicking scarlet-tipped fingers expertly over the surface of a tablet. “You’re in luck. Payne will see you now. Right up the stairs and through the double doors.”
The tension inside Becks ratcheted up another notch, but she nodded her thanks and headed out of the elegant lobby of House Of Payne, Chicago’s premiere tattoo studio. Though calling it a studio was a little like calling Marilyn Monroe an attractive woman.
            House Of Payne was unique in the world of ink, and it wasn’t shy about letting everyone know it. The difference was noticeable right from the moment a client entered the building. Unlike other tattoo studios, there were no tattoo stencils tacked up on walls or kept in disorganized, well-used portfolios. Instead, state-of-the-art touchscreens embedded into the V-shaped reception counter provided instant access to the House’s countless exclusive designs.
            Clearly, only the best of the best was accepted here.
            The retro-hipster atmosphere most studios adopted was also nowhere to be found. Fashioned after upscale art galleries, House Of Payne prided itself on paying homage to the glory and beauty of art. The only difference was that this particular gallery worshipped living art, and the human body was perceived as an ever-changing canvas just begging to be decorated.
            No one could overlook the gallery-like bones of the showroom beyond the open reception area. Black marble flooring, modular white walls, brilliant spotlighting and mobile floor displays of stacked flatscreen TVs that matrixed together into a complete image—all of it was a backdrop for showcasing unique artwork.
In the center of the showroom was the true gem of the House, a 3D holographic image beamed onto a large transparent film suspended over a gilded circular plinth. As a 3D artist herself and an admirer of the “Pepper’s ghost” effect, Becks knew just how much it had cost to make that holographic image happen. But that wasn’t why she kept glancing back to that display. The 3D image, a puzzle piece falling from a human heart and turning black with death while exposing the demons within the organ… it was hers. The quiet agony it represented was known only to her, and those demons within her heart were still there. That missing piece of heart—that missing piece of her—had let the demons out when it had died.
            There was no way she’d allow that sacred part of her to be drawn onto every poser who came here just because they thought it looked cool.
            Following the brunette’s directions, Becks zipped up a glass brick staircase to the second floor where the tattoo artists did their work. Each work station was discreetly housed within its own private cubicle of frosted glass, with the subtle logo of the House Of Payne embedded into the glass itself. The trippy strains of Pink Floyd whispered overhead as she pushed through the closed double doors without knocking. So what if the man inside didn’t approve of her manners? She wasn’t there to be polite. She was there to kick the ass of arguably the most powerful man in the tattoo industry. Knocking his head against a wall was the only kind of knocking she had in mind.
            “Ah, the one and only Rebecca Delgado has finally graced House Of Payne with her presence. Gotta say, Becks, it took you long enough.”
            She slammed to a halt, irrationally pissed off now that the rug had pulled out from under her. Damn it, she’d been the one who had wanted to do the pulling. With a vexed frown, she regarded the man lounging back against a massive glass and steel executive desk, his arms and ankles crossed as if he’d been waiting for her his whole life. From the polished brown leather lace-up boots to the tailored trousers, button-down dress shirt and shocking red suspenders, he looked like he’d just strolled off a fashion shoot. He was her definition of eye-candy, and if he hadn’t just rattled her cage so thoroughly, she would no doubt be in danger of having to wipe the drool off her chin.
            Took you long enough…?
            Sebastian Payne, or Payne, was as well-known in Chicago as Oprah or Jordan. From Hollywood’s A-Listers to European royalty, from music moguls to the gladiators of the athletic world—they all came to Payne for ink. His fame began years earlier when he posted a session online with the client’s consent. The client in question had once been a super-sweet, cavity-inducing child star before vanishing when she’d grown out of her adorable lisping phase. She’d chosen to celebrate her twenty-first birthday at Payne’s then-tiny parlor by getting a tattoo across her ass that read “Fuck It Hard.”
            Clearly, the saccharine-sweet kid was all grown up and itching to prove it.
            Payne had been more than willing to help her scratch that itch. With the camera rolling, he’d taken the tat up on its suggestion and had given that young woman what appeared to be the wildest, screaming-for-God ride of her life. She was now making a name for herself in the adult entertainment industry with a website that pulled down an estimated seven figures annually.
Payne had become a living legend.
            It probably didn’t hurt that he was so gorgeous he didn’t seem real. With mussed tobacco brown hair, heavy-lidded hazel eyes that suggested he’d just rolled out of an overcrowded bed and a crooked smile full of sin, Becks had hatched her share of fantasies about him. So had every other woman in Chicagoland.
            But that was before he’d stooped to pirating artwork off the internet like a goddamn hack.
            “My, my. How remarkable you are.” She gave herself a mental pat on the back for her calm tone. No one would have guessed she’d spent the entire trip on the L envisioning ways of torturing him. Almost nothing could shake her out of the cocoon of numbness she’d been in for the past four years, but her art was an exception. If anyone dared to screw with it, she’d make them regret the day they were born. “You’re capable of looking me right in the eye as if you’re unaware that you’re nothing more than a common piece of shit. I’m impressed with your testicular fortitude.”
            His cocky smile dropped. She picked it up and returned it in spades.
            “Common, huh?” She’d thought those heavy-lidded eyes couldn’t get any sexier. Then he narrowed them and showed her how wrong she could be. “Even when I didn’t have a pot to piss in, I’ve never been common in my life.”
            “Pirating artwork off the internet and claiming it as your own is as common as they come.”
            “True… if that was the reality of the situation.” He reached back behind him for a tablet identical to the brunette’s downstairs and danced his fingers across its surface. “There. Look familiar?”
            The last thing Becks wanted to do was take the tablet. But a superior smirk was doing its damnedest to seep into his expression, so she had no choice. A second later she clenched her jaw so her teeth wouldn’t drop all over the carpet at the sight of a familiar invoice.



Life is supposedly what you make of it, but that’s crap as far as 3D artist Becks Delgado is concerned. She never wanted her brother to die in a car accident… or to be the one who was behind the wheel. Her external scars are nothing compared to the raw wounds inside, and death seems to be the only way to find peace.

Sebastian Payne took the concept of a tattoo parlor and transformed it into a sophisticated gallery of living art. The House Of Payne now caters to the rich and infamous, has garnered a worldwide following, and is run by Sebastian with an iron fist. He knows Becks is exactly what The House Of Payne needs, but there’s a problem. The accident that changed her life left its mark on him as well, and whether he likes it or not, it’s time to put his House in order.


Don’t forget to put INKED on your Goodreads TBR list today!

Obligatory tattooed eye candy. You're welcome. ;)

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