It's Mardi Gras in May!

Woo-hoo! It's Mardi Gras! Laissez le bon temps rouler!

Okay, so, yeah, I know it's not really Mardi Gras. I mean, c'mon, it's not even TUESDAY! But for one day we're going to pretend like it is. Because I'm in the mood to give away some beads and trinkets and books and a variety of New Orleans-themed goodies. Y'all with me?

All right then. Here we go. I've always loved New Orleans. I've been there on more than a few occasions and enjoyed myself each and every time. I also love tattoos, which is why I was thrilled when I was asked to be part of the Midnight Ink anthology. Although, of course, when I was asked, we didn't know it would be called Midnight Ink. All we knew was we wanted to write connected stories involving a tattoo shop in New Orleans. 

The collection turned out awesome, but it's no longer being sold. Which is sad--for me. Not so much for one of YOU, because it happens that I still have a copy of the collection which I will be giving away to one lucky person. 

I'll also be giving away several digital copies of Inked Memories, which is my story from the Midnight Ink collection. Inked Memories is also the start of a brand new series I'm currently writing and hope to start releasing within a few months. You can find more about the Inked in O-Town series on my website...because, hey, everyone needs inspiration, and I find nothing inspires me as much as pretty covers. 

But wait! I'm not finished yet! I'll be giving away a prize pack of New Orleans-themed goodies that I yet another series. Because I do love my series. 
picked up on my last visit there. AND a copy of Nine Nights in New Orleans, the short story anthology the Nine Naughty Novelists released after our trip to New Orleans...you're seeing a pattern here, aren't you? Go to NOLA, get inspired. My story in NNiNO, is titled Blame It On The Voodoo, and I'm working on a second story in what I hope will be

So enter below and please enjoy the following excerpt from Inked Memories. Oh! and don't forget all the other fun happening this weekend! 

And the Indie Box blog hop: https://www.facebook.com/tonyasindiebox

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Every memory leaves its mark.

All Sophie wants is a tattoo to commemorate her battle with cancer. What she gets is celebrity tattoo artist Declan Ross, the same sexy bad-boy who used to rock her world. This time, they’ve both got scars, and the ones you can’t see are still the hardest to cover.

Available in digital format at AmazonAll Romance eBooksBarnes & Noble, and Kobo

And in paperback at Amazon and Barnes & Noble

“If the last few years had taught Sophie anything,
it was that life was uncertain and one should always eat dessert first.”

Early December
The café’s owner must have seen her coming. Rousseau had Sophie’s usual order—iced coffee and a chocolate caramel roll—all ready and waiting when she walked through the door of Café Bwe. She smiled her thanks then quickly took her food back outside to her usual table on the banquette. She never ate inside if she could help it. That man was simply too gorgeous for anyone’s peace of mind—whether they were male or female. If she sat inside, she’d only end up drooling over him. Once again she found herself wondering how much truth there was to the rumors about him.

She’d heard it said his touch was magic, that his sexual healing could cure whatever ailed you, whether physical or emotional or anything in between. It had been awhile, however, since there’d been so much as a single whisper about him. These days, she suspected he was a reformed character, very much like herself.

Not that it mattered. Even if she’d believed the whispers, or believed in magic, even if Rousseau weren’t, by all accounts, happily married, the new Sophie would still have to think long and hard before she gambled what was left of her uncertain future on voodoo. Who knew what kind of price you’d have to pay for something like that?

The old Sophie wouldn’t have cared about any of that. Then again, the old Sophie would have been eating breakfast inside the café. She’d have done Rousseau in a heartbeat—probably right there on the counter—without thinking twice about the voodoo or the happily married.

The old Sophie had been kind of a bitch, now that she thought about it.

Not that one, cher, a soft voice seemed to whisper in her ear. He’s not for you.

Sophie heaved a sigh. Yeah, yeah. Tell me something I don’t already know. Not that one and not any other one either, as far as she could see. That was okay. She was used to it by now. She’d made her peace with the idea that she’d likely be spending the rest of her life alone at about the same time she opted against having her breasts reconstructed.

If she’d only lost one, things might have been different. She might have had a reason then to go through more surgery and another lengthy recovery in order to build a new breast that would kind-of-sort-of- no-not-really match her existing one. But to put herself through all that torture just to set herself up with an entirely fake rack? Two featureless mounds that would never look right or feel authentic and that would only serve as a constant reminder of what she’d lost? Yeah, that was so not happening.

How on earth was tacking two alien appendages onto her already ravaged body supposed to help her overcome her new aversion to viewing herself naked? There was only one thing they’d be good for—helping her to attract new lovers into her bed. Lovers who, in all likelihood, would be gone in a flash anyway, once they’d figured things out.

Seriously, who needed that?

She might as well spare everyone the disappointment in store for them by letting them know up front exactly what they were getting—or not getting—where her body was concerned. If they couldn’t accept her as she was, did she really want them anyway?

Brave words. Do you really mean them?

Yes, damn it, she did. Much as she mourned what she’d lost, if she’d had it to do over again, if she were to be presented once more with the exact same set of shitty-assed circumstances, she was pretty sure she’d make the very same choices.

Life was more than just her breasts. She was more than just her breasts. If she had to sacrifice a part to safeguard the whole, so be it. As long as she could open her eyes every morning and continue to put one foot in front of another all day, as long as she could stay healthy, stay cancer free, stay alive, she intended to at least try to enjoy the moments she was given and live each one to the fullest. She might not be raking in as many beads as before at Mardi Gras, and her steadiest beau might always be the one who lived in the drawer of her bedside table, but on the plus side, she was saving one helluva lot on sports bras.

Sophie started as a passerby stumbling along the banquette suddenly lost his footing and slammed into her table. She grabbed for her coffee to keep it from spilling when the wrought iron table tilted precariously under the man’s unsteady weight.

“Watch out!” Glancing up, she found herself staring into the bleary blue eyes of a drunken, storefront Santa. Well, that was life in the Quarter for you, she supposed as her heart continued its attempts to beat itself right out of her chest. The smell of whisky and peppermint schnapps wafting off the man was so strong it made her head spin. She pressed her free hand to her chest, willing her heart to slow the fuck down.

Santa blinked back at her, still resting his weight on the tabletop, a crumpled piece of paper clutched in one fist. A slow smile curved his lips. Eyes twinkling, he leaned in closer and leered.

“Well, hey there, boo.Where y’at? You bein’ naughty or nice?”

Before Sophie could even fashion a reply, Rousseau appeared in the doorway. He scowled menacingly at the man. “Get out of here. Quit harassing my customer.”
Santa straightened up, his expression one of affronted dignity as he glared at Rousseau. “Ain’t harassin’ no one. She tripped me.” 

 “I did no such thing,” Sophie spluttered. She flashed the man an indignant look, then watched in relief as he lurched stiffly away. A flicker of motion from her tabletop caught her eye. The badly creased paper Santa had left behind fluttered weakly in the slight breeze. “Hey, wait!” she said as she snatched it up, intending to return it. Then she took a closer look.

 Midnight Ink. New Beginnings Special. Discounted rates for survivor and memorial ink. Are you ready for a new beginning? Say it in ink. Call, or visit us online for more information…

It’s a sign, that same soft voice insisted.

Oh, it was a sign all right. Sophie bit back a sigh. Hearing voices was a definite sign that she was losing her mind. Still, she couldn’t help but appreciate the irony. It wasn’t as if New Orleans was hurting for tattoo shops, so what were the odds she’d be handed a flyer for the very shop where she’d gone for her own tattoos?  Come to think of it, maybe it was a sign after all.

 “What you got there?” Rousseau asked as he ambled closer. He tilted his head to read the flyer. “Are you thinking of getting another tattoo?”

Was she? She already had several, but she hadn’t added anything to her “collection” in several years.

“Oh, I don’t know.” But even as she said it, an image flashed through her mind of a picture she’d recently seen online. It had shown a woman’s heavily tattooed torso, flowers and elaborate scrollwork covering over the scars from her mastectomies.

That tattoo hadn’t really been Sophie’s style, but the idea of once again being able to celebrate her body, of enjoying it, flaws and all, of showing it off rather than always feeling the need to hide it away beneath layers of clothing, that had appealed to her. A lot. She wasn’t even sure if it was possible for her to feel that way about herself ever again, but if it was, if there was any chance at all…

Sophie felt a thrill of excitement as the idea took hold. A new beginning, huh? Well, why the fuck not? “You know what?” Smiling, she unzipped her jacket pocket to get to her phone. “I think maybe I am.”

Sophie dialed the number quickly before she could chicken out and change her mind. It was before noon, so she wasn’t even sure the shop would be open yet, but the phone was picked up on the second ring.

“Midnight Ink.” The lilting voice on the phone was female; she sounded young and perky, carefree—everything Sophie wasn’t. Sophie’s heart lurched. Shit was about to get real.

“Hi. I’m, uh…I’m calling about your new beginnings special.” Sophie fingered the flyer in her hand.
“I…I had surgery a couple of years ago for breast cancer, and I’m interested in getting a chest piece done. You know, to cover the scars? Would that qualify for your special rates?”

“Yes, of course,” the voice replied, no longer quite so perky. “Um…let me see where I can fit you in, okay? Did you have a particular artist in mind? Or a particular time frame that was better for you?”

“No. Not really. I mean, I just saw your flyer and…I haven’t actually had time to think about it all that much.” Sign or no sign, Sophie suddenly found herself wondering if getting a new tattoo was such a stellar idea after all. Memories of the last time she’d gotten inked flashed through her mind bringing heat and longing and even more uncertainty.

Declan’s voice teasing her through the worst of it; his hands, firm yet gentle on her flesh, reassuring; the expression on his face, focused, patient, intent

Sometimes a tattoo was not just a tattoo; it was personal, almost too personal to trust to a stranger.  At the moment, it seemed that her exhibitionist streak had gone the way of her breasts. Could she really go through with this? Did she really want to bare her chest to a stranger when she could hardly stand to look in the mirror at herself? Maybe she could ask about a female artist? Maybe that would help. Or maybe she should just forget the whole idea. “Maybe I should think about it some more.”

“Hmm. Okay, well, actually, it looks like all our regular artists are pretty booked up right now,” the voice on the phone told her.

Sophie exhaled. Her shoulders sagged—relief, mixed with just a trace of disappointment. “Oh. All right. Well, thanks anyway for checking. I guess it’s not meant to be. Maybe another time then.”

“Whoa, hold on there. Not so fast. I wasn’t done yet. I’m sure we can squeeze you in somewhere. You know, we’re also making appointments for our guest artist, Declan Ross. He’ll be tattooing here for a few weeks. Is there any chance you’d be interested in working with him?”

“Declan’s back?”  Talk about signs! This one was billboard-sized and covered in day-glo neon. “Isn’t he…I mean, I guess I thought he was still out on the West Coast.”

“Oh, yeah. Well, I mean, he’s not here yet. Like I said, he’s coming in primarily for the fundraiser at the end of the month. So…I take it you’re interested then?”

Having Declan here—that was a game changer. If he was the one tattooing her, it would be just like old times. And the chance to see him again… That alone could make it all worthwhile. Maybe she could do this after all. “Yes. Yes, I think I am.”

“Well, good! Why don’t you go ahead and give me your information, and we’ll get you signed up.”

“Yeah, okay. Sure,” Sophie answered, barely aware of what she was saying. Declan was coming back. It was the last thing she’d been expecting. And, now, in just a few weeks she’d be seeing him again.

Now, that one you can have, cher. This time, Sophie would swear the voice laughed out loud. That one’s all yours. He’s got your name written all over him.  


Galinda Barefoot said...

I have never been to New Orleans but it does look like fun. As for tattoos, I do not plan on getting a tattoo, I think it would hurt too much.

Crystal Benedict said...

Don't have one, I'm not that brave. If I did it would be something NASCAR related maybe a checkered flag or a race car :)

SiNn said...

I have a tattoo on my right breast of a butterfly breaking out of a vine i got it when i was 19 i cant wait to get more Ihve never been to NOLA but i really do want to go it is on my bucket list of things to do

Beverly Gordon

anne marie Carter said...

I don't have any tatoos but, if I would ever get one it would have to be a frog.

Mindy said...

I don't have any tattoos, but I often thought I'd like to get a tattoo of a cat with it's tail wrapped around my ankle:) I'm very much a cat purrson ;)