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About the author:
Virginia was born in St. Louis, and has traveled much of the United States during the course of her life. Her journeys have allowed her to experience many wonderful things, and make many lifelong friends. Married for 19 years, Virginia met her husband in college and knew upon first laying eyes on him that she would bewitch him and become the mother of their two children.
Virginia has always enjoyed her supernatural stories to be flavored with a bit of steamy romance. The many stories she has read over the years inspired her to write about the things she loves most—titillating tales about sexy witches and the men lucky enough to be chosen by them. Her hope is that her readers will enjoy her stories as much as she has enjoyed reading the stories of countless others.
Here is a short sample from the book:
Alix hadn’t always been gifted. In fact, she hadn’t been or done much of anything until after she’d turned sixteen—that’s when things had really gone to shit. Nine years had passed since that fateful day but her situation only seemed to worsen year after year. Until a couple years ago that is.
She set the outline for one of the shop’s standard tats on her desk and then poured cherry-red ink into the well of her tattoo machine. Two clients, twitterpated fools that they were, had come into the shop wanting to commemorate their never-ending love by having matching hearts forever embedded into their skin. At least she had convinced them to not use their names.
“You want it here?” Alix pointed to the back of the girl’s left shoulder.
The smooth-skinned, spunky blond managed to pull her eyes away from her Prince Charming long enough to smile and nod.
“Okay, here we go,” Alix said as she set the bottle of ink next to her ceramic Buddha. She’d picked him up somewhere along her travels on the east coast. He was a cute, little fat guy she hadn’t been able to part with. The chubby god had been the first thing she’d stolen after her mother died. Her dad had been gone for years, but her mother… well, she had stayed to fight the good fight, raising a child on her own in a sea of single mothers trying to do the same. Alix knew she had done the best she could. The two of them never had much in the way of money or nice things, but they’d had each other. For a time, at least.
“Ouch!” The blonde squealed as Alix pressed the iron to her shoulder.
Charming shot a glare at Alix.
“Sorry”—she pointed to the tip of the machine—“The needles, ya know.”
Her answer seemed to calm loverboy’s spiked testosterone. He leaned back against the wall and returned to gazing into Beauty’s eyes without a word.
Most of those nine years since that fateful day of her sweet sixteen Alix had spent alone—a desperate vagabond. Her mother had died a few days before her birthday, leaving Alix a cardboard box full of heirlooms as a present. After that, it was skid city. Alix learned a lot about herself and survival during the first few years of her scavenging. The most crucial lesson being: Take care of yourself, because no one else will. She had lived by that mantra wholeheartedly until Hank, the parlor’s owner, had pulled her off the streets just over two years back. He was a loveable, old biker with a potbelly, no hair on his head, and a handlebar moustache. He’d seen her talent on the walls in the back alleys of Brooklyn’s business district and decided that if she could wield a paint can so artistically, she could learn to handle the iron.
He hadn’t been wrong.
Alix took to the art like a veteran of twenty years. She became the “Go-to-girl” within six months of laying tats on anyone willing to pay. Now, all the standard designs that littered the yellowed walls of the parlor could be executed with nothing more than a flick of her wrist. She had actually done one blindfolded on a dare recently. A mistake in hindsight. Hank had walked in while she was midway through the process, he hadn’t made a sound but she had known he was there. Regardless, she continued her work, and the tat came out perfectly. Not a single flaw. To a bunch of drunken fools looking to make their friend commit to a potentially horrible mistake, her feat meant next to nothing. To Hank however… well, he hadn’t looked at her the same way since.
The blonde squealed in pain again, and bucked as if she were a branded calf.
Alix jerked the iron away before it made a godawful mess. “You sure you wanna do this?”
Beauty’s tear-streaked face turned from Alix to Charming. “I… I’m not sure.”
Charming frowned. “Baby you promised,” he whined, and then his frustrated gaze darted to Alix. “Can you make it so it’s not so painful?”
Alix blinked. She could have afforded her own shop by now if she had gotten a dollar every time somebody asked that ridiculous question. “Uh, not really.”
In actuality though, she could make it less painful, painless in fact. It was part of her “gift.” Ever since she turned sixteen, Alix had been able to transfer images from her mind onto objects. Paper, concrete, cars, and even people became a canvas with a mere thought. No drawing with a pencil, or painting with a brush. The image would just appear where she wanted it. How she wanted it. There were other facets to her gift, but she rarely performed those on people other than herself.
“But you’re supposed to be the best,” he scoffed. “What the hell?”
Alix sighed, set her machine down, and stood so that she was facing Charming. “This isn’t for everyone, Bud. And she obviously isn’t up for the ride.”
His frown deepened.
“Here.” Alix dug the cash he had paid out of the tray on her work table and offered it to him. “Take it and buy her some jewelry. That’ll go over a lot better, I promise.”
“That sounds good to me,” Beauty piped in, rubbing her shoulder.
Charming’s jaw worked as if he were gnawing on a piece of rawhide. After looking from Alix to Beauty a few times he finally snatched the money from Alix’s hand and grumbled, “Whatever.” He stomped his way out the door, dragging Beauty behind him.
Alix shook her head. When the feeling’s real, you shouldn’t need a tattoo to prove it, she thought bitterly. It’s not that she hated the idea of lovers coming into the shop looking to create permanent mementoes of their relationships. She just hated when both parties weren’t kosher with the deal, and the fact that she herself hadn’t found the guy to do it with.
It’d been over a year since her last relationship, and that had been rocky at best—she always seemed to attract the broken ones.
Alix plopped down on her stool and began clearing the ink out of the machine. I need a vacation. That trip down south she’d been rolling over in her mind the past few months was overdue. Hank wouldn’t be happy, but he’d been kind of a dick recently so he would just have to deal. She wished his reaction to her “blindfolded feat” had been different. She’d hoped he would’ve been proud, but instead he’d been freaked out. To be fair, his response hadn’t been all that surprising or unjustified. What she had done was pretty much impossible, unless you were gifted of course. It just stung that he’d reacted that way.
Alix slumped in her seat. Despite the fact that Hank was acting squirrely toward her, he and the people of this tattoo parlor were like family, and she couldn’t leave them in a lurch. She resolved to ask about taking some time off, but not to cram it down his throat.
The bell to the front door chimed as someone came in. It was getting pretty late, and only the real wackjobs came in when it was late. Alix decided to let Sam get this one.
After a minute a deep voice asked, “Anybody here?”
Dammit Sam, where the hell are you girl? Alix thought as she finished cleaning the machine. Usually Mike was here too, but he had made arrangements last week to be at a rock concert this evening. That left the two girls by themselves for a few hours, until Hank made it in. “Yeah, just a minute,” she called, and got up to go to the front.
Alix hesitated, changing her mind about stepping to the counter, and moved instead to the royal purple curtains Hank used as a partition for each of the artist’s work space. There was no sense in waltzing up front without checking to see if the guy was holding a shotgun or something. Armed robbery wasn’t a common thing in this area, but it’s not like it hadn’t happened before. She peeked through the velvety fabric, and when her gaze fell on the guy, she froze in place.
His deep-blue eyes accented the shadow of the light ginger beard that covered his heavy chin. A thick neck swiveled as he looked at the wall from one design to the next. The thin black shirt he wore hugged his broad shoulders and stretched tightly over a thick chest, then continued down his trim waist to tuck into a pair of worn blue jeans. Well-rounded muscle encased his legs and butt, and his left ass-cheek twitched a bit as one of his black boots tapped softly on the floor.
Oh shit, Alix thought, stepping away from the curtain. She darted to the mirror attached to her workstation. She wasn’t one to primp, but she’d be damned if she was going out there looking like she’d pulled a twelve hour shift.
Her hair was still decent. The purple fringe shone brightly against the jet of her long, straight hair, and complimented her pale green eyes. She reapplied some pink lipstick to her full lips and shifted her bra around to give the girls a little perk. She stepped back to look herself over, arching her back a little. The tiny, black half-shirt and form-fitting jeans she wore showed off her flat belly and curved hips pretty well. Maybe a little too well, Alex thought, trying to pull her shirt down to no avail. Her belly-piercing drew the eye along with the purple flower tattoo she had placed around her bellybutton. The sleeveless half-shirt also exposed another set of floral tats that weaved down her arms to end on the tops of her hands. Giving up on the shirt, she turned slightly to look at her butt. Good god, rhinos have smaller asses.
The side door opened suddenly, and Sam stepped in from the alley, her hands overflowing with soft drinks and fast food. Alix had completely forgotten that her friend had gone to pick up dinner.
Sam was a petite thing with sandy-blond hair. Piercings adorned her ears, nose, lower lip, and a few other choice areas, or so she had said. Her dark brown eyes caught Alix’s. Sam’s brows came together curiously, picking up on the fact that something was up. She looked toward the front through one of the parted curtains.
Alix didn’t wait for Sam’s reaction, and sprinted for the counter.
“Oh, you bitch!” Sam managed with a laugh before Alix burst through the heavy curtains.
Slowing to a fast walk, Alix smiled as she approached the man who seemed to become more attractive as she got closer. Sam’s loss, my gain, she thought before asking, “Lookin’ for something in particular?”
His well-muscled body moved smooth as a jaguar when he turned toward her. Disheveled ginger locks were pulled away from his eyes as he ran a hand through his hair. He smiled at her. “Yeah. I’m looking for protection.”
“You?”—Alix eyed him up and down—“Need protection?”
He chuckled. The sound was warm and inviting. “A symbol of protection, I mean.”
“Oh, I get ya,” Alix replied. She walked up to the counter and caught his scent. It was fresh and filled with virility. She paused, pushing the thought of tearing his shirt off right there on the spot back into the recesses of her mind. I know it’s been awhile, but get a grip woman. She placed her hands on the counter to settle her nerves as he came closer. “I think we can find something for you,” she managed.
“Sounds good,” he said, coming to a stop at the front desk.
Alix wasn’t an especially tall girl, coming in at about five-foot-five, so she always had to look up at the guys. Mr. Handsome was no exception, but he wasn’t overly tall, just under six foot, which was a perfect fit for her.
His gaze moved over her body, and lingered on her nether region. She started to feel a bit awkward as he continued to stare and narrowed his eyes at her crotch. “Nice belt buckle,” he said, finally.
A wave of relief washed over her. The creepy suspicion that Mr. Handsome was a closet weirdy evaporated. Alix looked down at the belt buckle she had pulled out of the cardboard box her mother had left to her nine years earlier. The golden skull that glared back at her was the gaudiest piece of costume jewelry she’d ever seen. She loved it. Crystal rhinestones covered the top part of its head almost completely. Red, blue and more clear stones decorated the golden crossed bones that sat behind the skull. She had added her own bit of embellishment to put a splash of purple, her favorite color, into the garish affair; An eye patch with similar accent stones and a strip of deep fuchsia ribbon. “It was my grandmother’s. She was kinda strange.”
He shrugged. “Looks cool to me.”
Heat came to Alix’s cheeks. God, I’m acting like a twelve-year-old, she thought. “Thanks.” She gestured to the curtains that concealed her workstation as she walked. “Let’s get you settled.”
Alix pulled back the fabric barrier to her work area only to find Sam sitting on her stool.
“Hey,” Sam purred. “Need any help?”
Alix gave her a flat look. “I’ll be fine. Thanks.”
Mr. Handsome stepped in behind Alix, and looked around her workstation that was now too cramped thanks to Sam. “Where do you want me?”
A devilish grin made its way across Sam’s face.
“Just over there,” Alix said before Sam could respond. She pointed to the padded table that could convert into a really uncomfortable chair. Alix moved so she was facing her oh-so-aggravating co-worker, and stood to where Mr. Handsome couldn’t see their exchange. She mimed the words “GET OUT” and jabbed her thumb toward the exit.
Sam continued to smile wickedly, but got up and moseyed to the partition. Her narrow hips swayed with an intentional allure as she walked—no doubt for Mr. Handsome’s benefit.
Alix was tempted to kick her right in the backside, but instead she followed Sam to the curtains so that “her” client couldn’t witness the display.
Sam came to a halt just on the other side of Alix’s partition. “Be sure to let me know if you need anything,” she said loudly, tip-toeing to look over Alix’s shoulder. “I’ll be right out here.”
Alix gave the girl a sardonic smile, and then promptly pulled the curtains closed. “Sorry about that,” she said as she turned back to Mr. Handsome.
He leaned against the table with his arms crossed in front of his chest. Cords of muscle rippled along his forearms as he chuckled. “That’s okay. I’m Troy by the way.”
“Alix,” she replied a little too quickly. Dammit, dammit, dammit. He’s just another client, she scolded herself. Just an average, deliciously hot client. Not trusting herself to say anything other than her name, she went to her stool and sat. Focus. On. The job. She fumbled through the drawers of her desk, and found some paper and her favorite pen. “So, have you done this before?”
Alix rotated her stool around slowly. “Really?”
He nodded. “First time.”
She snickered. “Okay. Not what I expected.”
Amusement touched his voice as he asked, “You’re not gonna hold that against me are you?”
“Nah, I’ll go easy on ya.” Alix smiled. The tension she had been harboring moments before eased. “Do you have a place in mind?” She looked him over, and blood rushed to her cheeks as she eyed his hips.
“Yeah.”—Troy pointed to the center of his chest—“Right here.”
That works too, she thought. She’d have to practically climb on top of him to work; Well, not completely true, but that’s how she’d go about doing it. “Sounds great. How big?”
Troy put his hands together to form a circle roughly the size of a small cheeseburger. “About like that.”
Good, Alix thought. That size would take her awhile to finish.
Now that she knew how much space she had to work with, she began sketching out a design. She started with a celtic triskele embedded in a circle, and then added some ornamentation of her own. She found it hard to concentrate as she sketched with her pen. The small confines of her work area combined with the close proximity of Troy caused his powerfully sexy scent to permeate her little world. Her fingers twitched every few seconds, but finally she finished enough of the graphic and held up the piece of paper so Troy could see it. “I can add more detail while I’m working on you, if you want.”
Troy leaned forward to look at her work. “Wow. Yeah, I like that.”
“Cool.” She beamed.
He playfully arched a brow. “Is it ‘protective’?”
Alix laughed. “Yeah, it’s a celtic symbol of protection. Should cover your needs.”
Troy nodded, satisfied. “What now?”
A little smirk touched Alix’s lips. “Now you take off your shirt.”
He flashed his pearly white’s in an ear to ear grin. “Ah, time for the fun to begin.”
“Yes indeed,” Alix replied as she rolled her stool over to the sink.
Troy stepped away from the table, untucking his shirt. He took hold of the bottom hem and peeled the tight fitting garment off in one fluid motion. The pendant lights above cast deep shadows across his chiseled body. Delectably sculpted abs were revealed and contracted as he moved. The sensual lines of definition found on his hips delved into his low cut jeans, teasing the eye with the promise of more wonders to be found below. Knots of muscle balled up on his back and shoulders as he twisted to climb up onto the table.
A faint gasp echoed through the curtained room.
For a split second Alix thought that it had come from her, but then realized she had been biting down on her lower lip while watching Troy undress, as if she’d never seen a man take his shirt off before. Such a sound couldn’t possibly have come from her. She looked around the room.
A spot in the curtains closest to the front swayed with strength far beyond what mere heating from the vent might have caused. A familiar, drawn-out whistle followed, leaving no doubts as to whom was responsible.
Alix narrowed her eyes. “Sam, could you take the cat outside? She’s makin’ a lot of noise. She might be in heat or something.”
A faint, dejected “fine” came through the curtain, and the sound of Sam’s hard-bottomed shoes sliding across the linoleum faded as she shuffled away.
Troy laughed. “Have I become a problem?”
Alix shook her head. “Nah, you’re fine. We just get a little punchy this late at night.” She quickly washed her hands in the sink, pulled on some rubber gloves, and grabbed a new disposable razor out of its packaging. “Alright, I need you to lay back. Time to shave.”
Troy stretched out on the table, his athletic body beckoning to every wanting part of Alix. Again, she was reminded of how long it had been since she’d felt the touch of a man; a man that she wanted to be touched by.
Alix cleared her throat as she rolled up to him. “Ready?”
She looked down at the two slabs of pectoral muscle that sloped downward in the center, creating a tight ravine filled with hair. Swallowing, Alix began to lather a dot of shaving gel into the light ginger field on his chest.
He flexed involuntarily from the initial coolness of the gel. The once smooth plains of his chest became mountains of taut muscle. He chuckled. “No easing into that part.”
“Sorry,” Alix replied dryly, continuing to rub his chest. Tiny beads of sweat started to form on the small of her back as the constant contact and sensual motion of her hand drove her thoughts into places that weren’t appropriate for the workplace. This is going to be the end of me, she thought. “So what brought you into the shop?” she asked, desperate to find something to corral her mind back into focus.
“Heard this place was the best.” He paused, and thought for a moment, then said, “I’m going out of town for a few days. For some reason I just felt… I don’t know. I just felt I needed a little extra something. To cover my bases ya know.”
Given Alix’s past, she knew exactly what he meant. “Yeah, I get it.” Finished with the gel she continued to shave the area, being careful not to damage the smooth skin. “So, where you’re going. Is it dangerous?”
“A little. But I suppose there’s an element of danger every time I suit up for the job.”
“You a cop?” Alix didn’t peg him for a crimefighter, but who could tell these days.
“No, an EMT.” He shifted a bit when Alix lifted the razor, causing those beautiful muscles to roll all along his body. “Most of the time we get called to deal with a heart attack, or somebody chokin’ on a spoon or something. But every so often, there’s a domestic violence call—that’s when it gets a little hairy.”
“I bet,” Alix replied. She dropped the razor in the sink. She got a damp wash rag and wiped the excess shaving cream off of his chest. A bit of alcohol to place the stencil, and she was ready for the iron. “You expecting to see a lot of that where you’re going?”
“Yeah. You heard about the riots further south, right?”
Suddenly, it all came together for Alix. She had seen on the news about a boy getting killed in some kind of gunfight, and the neighborhood rising up in retaliation. “Oh yeah, you goin’ down there, huh?”
He nodded. “I figure there’s gonna be some bad stuff happening, but work asked for volunteers to give those guys a hand. I couldn’t say no.”
Great. A decent, hot guy. Alix shook her head. Not the kind of guy she usually went for, which begged the question: Why was he effecting her so much? Whatever, it doesn’t matter. He was probably going to his death, and she’d never see him again. All on account of being a caring human being. Well, I can do something about the danger part at least, she thought ruefully. Her “gift” could infuse power into the images she imprinted. She need only think on a purpose the imprint was to perform as she released it into the world. She rarely used it on people other than herself, but Troy was an exception in her book, and deserved the extra protection she could provide.
“Okay, time for the real deal.” Alix clicked on the machine and rolled her stool up beside Troy. She’d have to use the iron for a little while or it’d be kind of suspicious. The imprints she created appeared pretty much instantaneously.
“How long have you been doing this?” Troy asked as Alix began the outline of a circle on his chest.
“A couple of years now,” she said, enjoying the fact that she could stare at his body without looking like some sort of deranged perv.
“You any good?”
Alix barked a laugh. “A little late for that question, cowboy.”
He chuckled. “Yeah, I suppose so.”
A smile made its way across her face. “Don’t sweat it. I haven’t had any complaints…so far.”
“Wonderful,” Troy replied, mirth still in his voice. “You like it, or is it just a job?”
“I love it,” Alix answered honestly. “The hours could be different though.”
“I hear that.”
Alix etched on him for some time, savoring the continued banter. Eventually it came time to do the finishing touches. She’d have to touch him for her gift to work, and it had to be an actual touch; not just pressure through a rubber glove.
She slid back and set the iron down. “I need to check a few details and then we’re done.”
Troy frowned. “Too bad, I was enjoying our conversation.”
Alix had been enjoying it too, and the fact that he felt the same made her feel all warm and fuzzy inside. She pulled off her gloves, got up off the stool and stepped back over to him. “You’re such a charmer,” she teased while looking over her work.
He grinned. “I aim to please.”
Alix smirked back at him. “Yeah, I’m sure you do.”
“No, really”—some of the sarcasm faded from his voice—“I’m havin’ a good time.” The light reflected off of his crystal blue eyes and uncovered the sincerity hidden just behind their protective facade. “Maybe we could go to dinner sometime.”
Holy shit, he just asked me out. Her spirits soared. She couldn’t believe he’d just asked her out. Alix raised her brows, stalling for some witty reply to manifest and break through her raging emotions.
Afraid that the moment would pass before she could respond, Alix blurted, “Okay.” She closed her eyes in humiliation. Okay?! Good god, no wonder you’re single, she thought, feeling the fool.
Troy released a deep breath. “I thought you were going to tell me to get lost there for a second.”
Alix looked at him with hooded eyes. “I considered it, but I’m not ready to see you cry just yet,” she said in an attempt to regain some of her dignity. She stepped over to her desk and grabbed a business card. Taking her favorite pen, Alix jotted her number down on the back. She took the card over to the table and slid it into one of Troy’s front pockets. “Now shut up so I can finish this.”
He closed his mouth and smiled with a smug expression on his face.
Alix pursed her lips, but made no further jibes. She focused instead on the unfinished tattoo, and what it was meant to be; a shield that would protect its bearer from harm. She placed her hands firmly on Troy’s chest.
Bolts of warmth suddenly shot through her palms up into her body. Her skin tingled with pleasure, and she almost lost her footing as the sensual, prickling sensation reached her core.
Her eyes widened. What the hell?! she thought. That’s never happened before.
Sweat beaded along her exposed skin as she fought off the urge to climb on top of Troy and yield to the pent-up desires within her. She clenched her jaw and forced the maddening titillation of her center to the back of her consciousness. It was time to use her gift, while she still had a moment of clarity.
Alix focused on the image she was about to imprint. The swirling designs of the tattoo became crisp in her mind’s eye. She filled her thoughts with heavy shields, bulwarks, flame resistant suits, anything that would provide protection against bodily harm. Once her mind strained from the effort of containing so many ideas, she released her thoughts and the corresponding image of protection. The celtic triskele floated through Alix’s moistening eyes down onto Troy’s heaving chest.
A sound akin to an exploding transformer shook the room as the imprint erupted.
Alix was blown back into her desk, and tumbled to the ground. The table Troy laid on flipped through the air, taking out one of the curtain partitions, and crashed against the far wall. Sam’s trailing scream of surprise tapered off into a breathy gasp. The lights above Alix’s workstation sparked from their broken bulbs, creating the only sound in an otherwise eerie silence.
Alix struggled to her feet, ears still ringing. Jesus Christ, she thought. “Troy. Sam. Are you guys okay?!”
“What in the hell are you two doing back here!” Sam yelled in exasperation. Her blonde head peaked around one of the partitions that still remained in place. Her eyes widened at the destruction. “Hank’s gonna be pissed.”
Alix ignored her shaken friend. She was glad to see Sam uninjured, but Troy had yet to respond. “Troy, say something!” Alix stumbled across the room.
A deep groan issued from behind the wrecked table. Troy’s hand came into view as he reached up and grabbed the debris nearby. With a grunt, he hauled himself to his feet. The tangled, ginger locks on his head were standing every-which-way while the hairs on his body stood on end. He teetered for a second before straightening to his full height.
Alix gasped as she approached.
The symbol of protection she had imprinted onto his chest was smoking. The crisp scent of pine and jasper flooded the air around them. Through the small tendrils of smoke, the tattoo glowed like the coals of a freshly billowed fire. Alix looked on, stunned, as the bright embers slowly dulled to a cool black.
“What the hell?” Troy mumbled as he staggered.
Alix reached out to steady him, but he pulled away. Moisture came to her eyes as she saw the shock and fear in his. “I’m so sorry, I don’t know what happened.”
Troy said nothing. He shuffled around her and backed toward the door.
She let him go. There were no words to explain what had happened. No amount of soothing to ease the terror she had seen in him. No way to get him back.
And then, with the jingle of the front bell, he was gone.