Friday, February 7, 2014

Cover Reveal (Excerpt) & Giveaway: Ink Slapped by A.M. Jones

Ink Slapped by A.m. Jones

The heart wants what the heart wants—a concept that free-spirited author T.M. Dabney, never understood until she laid eyes on her new cover model, Eli. Eli Gregor, a struggling musician and mechanic, thinks he knows the true meaning of heartbreak—that is until he accepts a business venture with the alluring Taylor Dabney. With her help, he pieces his life back together when his dreams dangle within reach and once again everything falls apart. And his success comes with a price he doesn’t want to pay. Caught between better judgment and desire, they find themselves at a crossroads—should they make the best decision for their careers or give in to their undeniable connection? A torrid tale that weaves humor, drama, and sexual tension, Ink Slapped will leave you reeling and wanting more.


Chapter One

It’s only the first day of searching, and I find him. The shock of it makes me
pause in the door. My character has unique coloring and a large build with shoulderswept,
chestnut hair. It feels like my brain sent a hologram of him right in front of me in a
rundown, honky-tonk bar in downtown Nashville. Naturally, the rest of Jimmy’s Bar
grows distant as I take him in. He’s currently setting up to play live music with a band
and sing the blues or country or whatever Nashville is famous for.
Propping himself on a stool, he grabs his guitar and starts tuning it. The rough
fingers turning the keys grab my attention as I walk closer to get a better look at him.
This is an added bonus since my character plays a guitar. Hair falls forward like a curtain
around his face and he runs a hand through it. The gesture is unfamiliar. My character
doesn’t have this mannerism. I don’t realize how close I am until he glances at me from
the corner of his eye and turns his head my way.
A curious look passes his face, “Have a request?”
Straightening my glasses and squaring my shoulders, I shake my head and turn
away toward the bar. How the hell am I going to do this? Slowing my steps, I throw over
my shoulder, “Wish You Were Here. Acoustic style.” Take that you good-looking,
country-singing hunk of man. His band mates groan at my request. I shrug at him,
figuring it’s not their style, but he only gives me a tight smile. Unease worms its way up
my spine for a moment.
Flagging the bartender, I order a Black and Tan—something stout to calm my
nerves quicker. The patrons are nothing but tourists. Anyone paying attention can always
tell the difference between the locals and tourists. Most of the men wear cowboy hats.
This isn’t Texas. The women sport cowgirl boots with tight jeans. My phone buzzes in
my back pocket, and I answer without looking, “Yo.”
“Tay, Tay! Find one?” Savannah’s voice sounds excited and slurred.
“Actually, I have and I’m currently drowning myself in Guinness to work up the
“Will he look good posing next to me? Not too good, I don’t need him making me
look like a frump. What’s he like?”
Savannah’s the heroine to my hero. Although, she doesn’t know I just want him
on the cover. I do want to take some pictures of them together for promotional items. I
start with the basics. “He’s getting ready to play with the band. A microphone insures
there’s singing involved.”
A gasp and then, “A musician?” This is what I’d describe as a faraway or wistful
voice in my novels.
“An exact replica of Jaxon, but he’s not your type.” I glance at his boots and a
wrinkled T-shirt as if he just rolled out of bed. Not a style I’m used to seeing, so I say,
“Or mine.” I’m not sure why I voice this. There’s nothing wrong with how he looks.
Nothing at all. He might look as if he just stumbled from slumber, but it works for him.
She groans through the phone.
“Wedding ring?”
I can’t believe I’m scoping out my potential cover model for my friend a onenight
stand. “Not that I can see from here.” Just then he glances in the direction of my
perch on the stool. I look away. “Shit, he’s looking.”
She laughs. “No doubt you stick out like a sore thumb. Who else is staring at
Since she brought it to my attention, I peer around and half the patrons sneak
glances when my face turns toward them. I sigh, “We need to keep this professional,
Savannah. That means, no fucking my cover model.” I’m already flustered, so when the
mournful, goose bump-inducing chords for ‘Wish You Were Here’ start up, I jump in
surprise and drop my phone in my beer glass. “Shit!”
After fishing it out, I watch in dismay as beer leaks behind the touchscreen. A bag
of rice lands in front of me. The bartender smirks, “You’d be surprised by how often this
happens. Put it in there overnight, and it’ll be fine.”
I banish my phone to its tomb of rice in a snap. “Can you do me a favor? Take the
gentlemen whatever he’s drinking, on me.” I point to the beefcake currently holding
everyone’s attention with a voice that’s sure to remove a few pairs of panties tonight.
“Tell him I have a business proposition to discuss with him.”
Sliding over my business card, I tap on it twice but the bartender doesn’t take it.
He scratches his buzzed head. “I’m not a messenger. If you want to solicit him, you’ll
have to do it on your own.”
My mouth drops open. “I’m not⎯” But isn’t it exactly what I’m doing? Shame
overtakes my senses. I’m so fucking shallow. The desperation I had for a cover model is
left behind. The hours, days, and weeks of searching for the stock art image with the right
guy in the right pose don’t matter anymore. The will for my hero to have his spotlight is
gone. This book will just have to have the heroine on the cover. Again. I look at said
potential hero and know he probably wouldn’t want this anyway. He sings his heart out
through the microphone and flawlessly strums the chords to the song as if he plays this
song every day. Clearly in his element, a peaceful contentedness shows on his face along
with a smile, even though the smile doesn’t reach his tired eyes.
The stool squeaks as I turn back around and perch my cat-eye glasses on top of
my head. The bartender becomes a blur while I rub my temples. “You’re right. I can’t do
this anyway. I need another drink, then I’ll cash out.” Yes, another drink. This time I’ll
seep in my sorrows.
The female bartender from the other end snatches my card off the bar. “Good
lord, Joey. Prostitutes don’t carry business cards.”
Joey’s eyes travel along my tattooed-arm sleeves and then stop at the cleavage
popping out of my corset. No doubt looking for a tattoo there, but he’ll be disappointed.
A girl has to have a little class.
I shake my head, “No, he’s right. Well, not about being a hooker or whatever he
thought, but about soliciting. I needed that guy to pose for a cover of my novel.”
Her eyebrows rise and after throwing a bar rag over her shoulder, she braces
herself on the bar. “Wow. I got you. Eli’s sweet. He won’t mind if you ask.”
“Eli.” I try it out on my tongue, and decide it doesn’t fit my hero, Jaxon. When I
look up, the female bartender is gone and Joey watches something behind me. I’m almost
scared to look.
Glancing behind me, the band is paused as a few of the members fiddle and argue
over a drum. The bartender hands Eli a shot glass and my card while whispering in his
ear. They both look over at the same time. He holds up the shot in my direction. With
nothing else to do, I lift my glass in acknowledgement and watch him toss the shot back.
After a few minutes, the band starts back up with a song I don’t recognize. It
sounds a lot like whining about being lonely and drinking. I ignore it and wrestle with the
idea of staying to talk to him. On the end of a decision, I down my Guinness and Bass
concoction, grab the bag of rice, and leave like the true coward I am.

Chapter Two

A few days later, I have the cover designed and can only stare at it in
apprehension. Biting the inside of my bottom lip, I ask, “What do you think?”
It takes a few long minutes, but Adrian finally glances up from his own laptop,
tucking dark hair from his eyes behind his ear. “Looks like all your other covers, T. Want
me to try?” My face pinches in annoyance at his vain attempt at giving it a go himself. He
designs websites, not book covers. Even though he could, I’m a right-brained introvert
and need the constant switch of creative outlets to keep me busy without being bored.
Adrian does come in handy when I need some coding done, however. He must see
something on my face. “Come on. I’m only helping you. I know how upset you get when
you get attacked by cover snobs.” Taking a deep breath, he gives the cover an intense
look. “Lower the opacity of this layer.” He points to a textured image.
I do as instructed, the image fades more and brings out Savannah’s katana, but he
grunts, “Truthfully, I’m tired of seeing Savannah looking all badass evil slayer when
she’s anything but.”
“I think Savannah makes an awesome Zara.”
“What about objectifying this cover? With a grungy landscape or object?”
I scoff, “I thought you were worried about cover snarks?”
He stands up, wearing nothing but pajama pants⎯a perk in both of our lines of
work. Taking my laptop from me and placing it on the couch, he pulls me up and grasps
my hips, letting his hands travel over my thighs. “I love when you get all passionate and
throw my words back at me.” As if to punctuate this, he kisses and nibbles along my neck
and jaw, sending heat and desire through my body. Something I love about him. He
doesn’t care about my flamboyant voluptuousness. He makes me feel sexy in my own
skin. “Maybe I can get your creative juices flowing.”
“Only if you let me handcuff you,” I say with a smirk.
Adrian mulls this over without taking his gaze from mine. “Not the pink ones?”
“You won’t know since you’ll be blindfolded.”
His eyes darken in that way they do, which lets me know he’ll let me have my
way. “Will you do the ribbon thing?”
“Wouldn’t you like to know?”
He smiles, pulling me into my bedroom. Too bad he can’t be my cover model.
Two hours later, I sit on my balcony with my laptop, smoking a cigarette. I sent
Adrian home because all he’s managed to do is distract me, but I did get a new idea for
the cover and search my images of Savannah. I’m going to need a pose we don’t have.
Dialing on my phone, which thankfully survived the land of beer soaked phones, I
hold it to my ear.
“What?” she answers.
“Nice greeting. We need more pictures, today or tomorrow preferably.”
“Ugh, Taylor. I’m covered in geriatric puke and you want me to take pictures?
I’m not in the photo shoot mood.”
Sounds like a bad day at the old folks home. I sit up straight. “Really? Is it on
your scrubs or a T-shirt? Is it chunky? What color is it?”
Silence follows as she contemplates telling me to go fuck myself. “You are so
gross. It’s on my scrubs, and even if it weren’t, there’s no way I’d let you take a picture
of me covered in vomit.”
“But it would be so real.”
“Shut up. I’ll meet you at the usual spot at six since I have an addiction of living
vicariously through you.” She hangs up on me, and I stub my cigarette out with more
force than necessary. It’s not my fault. It’s not my fault. I chant this and chant it often
because I can’t help the direction Savannah decided to take for the course of her life. I
will not feel guilty she took the easy way out to make a living.

Chapter Three

What do men do when a woman runs away? They chase them, of course. In my
case, I’ll stick with stalking. For now. I can’t help it, really. The little vixen’s impromptu
offer has my curiosity spiked to an all time high. My initial impression of her still sticks
with me even after watching her squirm, fluster around, drink a virile beer and then
proceed to drop her phone in it⎯so out of place and unsure. She stuck out from all the
other women and unknowingly made tourist heads turn with her eccentric style and
ample curvature.
I turn on my ancient computer, and it whirs in protest of being powered on. The
sound of it echoes through my studio apartment. The business card flips through my
fingers for the hundredth time. T. M. Dabney⎯Author, Graphic Designer, Photographer,
it reads along with contact information and website.
When the computer decides it’s okay with being productive, I type her website in
the right place. A smile forms on my lips as it pops up. Her website is colorful but dark. I
imagine her to be just like this. Her personality splashes across the web in chaotic
disharmony, but somehow it all fits together like a puzzle.
I’m surprised to find out she has four books under her belt with another on the
way. There’s no cover for it. Maybe it’s the cover she needs. I’m also surprised they are
in a post-apocalyptic setting.
Clicking on the portfolio, I notice she has fan art and my eyes are drawn to a
character that looks a lot like me, only aggressive, judging from his menacing look.
Weapons and blood splatters adorn his appearance while dead bodies litter the ground.
Fuck. This is too weird. I don’t know what I expected. A romance novel maybe? A
vampire book? Isn’t that what women write about nowadays? I have to admit, I had a
flash of her posing me while biting someone’s neck and making it look orgasmic at the
same time. But this, I’ll be transformed into some kind of apocalyptic superhero.
What man hasn’t envisioned that for himself? Although, my vision includes a
blue jumpsuit and red cape, this is just as powerful. It’s rugged and unpolished, making it
seem realistic.
I pick up my phone, hoping hers didn’t go to the crapper after the beer incident.
“Yo,” she answers. I hear the sounds of tapping like she’s typing.
“T. M. Dabney?”
“Yes, this is she.” She still sounds a bit distracted and the typing gets a little
“Eli Gregor. I’m calling about your business discussion you ran out on.”
I know I have her attention when something drops and she hisses out a string of
curses I’m sure she doesn’t think I hear. I smile. “Shit. Sorry. I mean, sorry about my
fumbling and switching gears. Not sorry for walking out.”
“So the offer isn’t on the table anymore?”
A long pause on her end, “Um, you do know I needed you to pose for a book
cover, right?”
I don’t like her past tense reference. “That’s what Joey and Edie were telling me.
I’d like to know more about it, if you still need someone to pose.”
Another long pause, and I have to look at my phone to make sure the call hasn’t
dropped. “Hello? You there?”
“Yeah, I’m just surprised you’re interested. I don’t make a lot of money, so it’s
not like I can pay you much.”
I glance around my crappy apartment that’s scattered with several guitars on their
stands. It’s not that I don’t need money, I just don’t care to make any from this endeavor.
“I have a day job that gets me by. I’ll trade. I’ll pose if you take some band pictures for
”If you’re sure?” she whispers, making me think she’s unsure herself.
“I’m sure. We can meet up for coffee in the morning.”
She lets out a sound of disgust. “Morning? What’s that?”
I laugh, but I’m relieved since I’m not much of a morning person myself. “Drinks
then?” I rumble out a time and place.
“Sounds great.”
As soon as we click off, I search on my phone for an eReader application. I’ll
have to thank Crockett for this, since he always reads books on his phone. I do the
necessary setup and buy T.M. Dabney’s first book. What’s a model good for if they don’t
know the part?
I set up a meeting a few blocks away from where I normally hang out. I have an
ongoing gig at Jimmy’s and would rather keep it separate for now. After I order a beer,
she walks in. No one can miss her. She stops at the door, checks her posture and gives her
hair a little shake. A bag swings from her tattoo-covered arm. She’s the same, yet
different at the same time.
Everyone turns to stare at her, and like last weekend, she doesn’t notice. She spots
me and seems to have to mentally prepare herself to join me. Eventually, she heads my
way, and my eyes are drawn to her knee-high boots with a pink and blue flower print
pattern with neon blue laces that match her ripped fishnets. When she sits down across
from me, I flash her a smile because the tight top pushes her tits up. An awesome view
that makes me struggle to not look.
She blinks behind her 50s style glasses. Seeing her up close and personal, her face
is heart-shaped with milky peach skin and bright red lips. Her dark hair has pale pink and
blue highlights. I startle at it. “Your hair. I swear it was red before.” It was… she wore a
similar tight top with a black and red print.
I sit back, still grinning. “You coordinate your hair color with what you’re
wearing.” It’s a statement, but my amusement is obvious. “How do you do that?”
“What?” Again, she seems distracted and I feel the need to pull her into reality.
“Your hair. How do you change the colors in it?”
“Oh. The color is normally highlights and I use a technique called chalking to
color it.” She shakes out her hands. “Sorry, I’m nervous. I need a beer.” Her arm rises to
flag a waitress.
“No need to be nervous,” I say. Although, I do have her at an advantage, I know a
lot more about her than she does about me. After spending half the night reading her
book, I spent another couple of hours investigating her social media.
She sends me a brilliant smile, and her teeth are so white, it’s almost blinding.
“So, Eli. Tell me about your band.”
My eyes widen at her question. I thought she’d plow right into business, but she
wants to know about the band? I keep the subject on her. “What’s the T.M. stand for?” I
already know, but she doesn’t need to know that.
She runs a hand down her arm, licks her lips, and shifts in her chair. “Taylor.” She
holds out her hand for me to shake. She barely grips my hand before taking it away. I
raise my brows willing her to go on. She sighs, “Mae. Spelled with an E and not a Y.”
Her finger traces an E in the air.
The waitress shows up, warily eyeing the unconventional piece of art in front of
me. Taylor doesn’t wait for the waitress to speak. “I’ll have a Newcastle. Bottled.”
The waitress glances to my nursed beer and leaves. “You have a heavy taste for
Her hand waves in a small gesture, “I like beer. No more changing the subject.
Tell me about the band. I don’t even know the name.”
“The name leaves a lot to be desired, since our singer bailed on us a few months
back. We’re changing it and not in a big hurry to do so. We’re all happy just to be
playing. As for any back story, we’ve been together for a few years, wrote more than a
few songs…”
“You hit a rough patch,” she states and a beer bottle slams on the table in front of
her. She watches the waitress walk back toward the bar and picks up the bottle, downing
several gulps. Condensation runs down her fingers as she places the bottle back down. “I
know all about rough patches.”
She does, and she has a kind of pressure I know nothing about. She has fans, and
lots of them. Some of their comments can get pretty rude and nasty when something
happens in her writing they don’t like. But most are very uplifting. It must feel amazing
to have that kind of support behind you.
“When are you going to dress me like a Viking and take pictures of me fondling a
half naked woman?”
Her eyes widen for a split second before she bursts into laughter. The sound of it
draws eyes our way, but she’s oblivious. “Oh, that would be torturous for you, I’m sure.”
“It probably would be. I’m not a PDA kind of guy.”
She shakes her head. “It’s not like that. It’s apocalyptic. I can obscure your face if
you don’t want it shown.” She pulls some things out of her messenger bag and flips open
a sketchbook. “This is my vision for the cover.”
It’s a simple sketch of the pose and lighting. She knows exactly what she wants.
My eyes look over the weapons and blood, and of course, more dead bodies. “Where will
you get dead bodies?”
She laughs again, “I have stock on reserve.” She hands me a stack of books. Her
books. “Like this.” I make a show of looking at each one, like they haven’t been burned
into my brain in the past twenty-four hours. “They’re demons that look human.”
Excitement shines in her eyes. She picks up her beer bottle, but it’s empty. Mine is, too.
So we get some more.
An hour and a half and several beers later, more people start piling in the bar. “I
must be boring you.” Actually, she isn’t. Her passion for what she does is contagious. I
want to write my own demon story. The more she drinks, the more animated and
talkative she becomes. Her hand gestures can be comical at times. I’ve also studied her
tattoos because I feel like staring outright would be rude. Once I got past the fact she’s
covered in them, the artwork is stunning. Some kind of flower runs up and around her
arms in different shades of colors for each tier. Different hues of green weave in and out,
making leaves and curly vine things.
“What makes you say that?”
Biting her lip, she glances around. “I’m not the best at explaining things
verbally.” She pushes the stack of books to me. “Those are yours.”
“Don’t these cost you money?”
“Yes, but I’m giving them to you.” She pulls out a cigarette and lights it, blowing
smoke into the haziness of the bar.
I leave the books in place and announce, “Let’s get a shot of tequila.”
She laughs, but looks ill. “Last time I had tequila, I ended up dancing on the bar
with the chicks at Coyote Ugly. My bra still hangs on the clothes line that is across their
With the top she has on now, I don’t think she’s even wearing one to lose.
“Sounds like a great time to me.” I flag the waitress as Taylor takes another puff of her
cigarette. She holds it with her arm tilted away from her body as a man with shaggy dark
hair comes up behind her. He removes the cigarette, and she looks up in shock.
Stubbing it out in the ashtray, he says, “Smoking doesn’t become you, T.” He
kisses her cheek and glances at me. “You must be Eli.”
I hold out my hand and nod as he shakes it. “Eli, this is Adrian. Adrian, Eli.” She
does more gestures with her hands. She smiles at Adrian. “Won’t he make a great
“Yes, he certainly spends a lot of time at the gym.” His dryness isn’t lost on me. I
bristle over his comment and want to say something just as demeaning, but the obvious
intimacy they share holds my tongue. I glance to Taylor and she’s blushing furiously. Not
an endearing blush either, it’s quite blotchy.
“Cut it out, Adrian.” She mouths an apology at me and goes back to looking
uneasy. Damn, it took three beers to get her to really relax around me. “He can be
I shrug and get distracted by the brunette bouncing toward us. Now, I’d know her
anywhere⎯the cover model on the other books.
“Tay! You ready to par-TAY?” Taylor appears stricken. The brunette pauses,
looking at me. “He’s still here?” The surprise is evident in her voice. Since she mentions
it, I guess a business discussion usually doesn’t last hours and consist of beer and laughs.
Or tequila.
“Eli, this is Savannah. My other cover model.”
“You were right, Taylor. He’s a replica.” She comes over and pulls me out of my
chair. “Might as well see how we look together.” Her hand runs down my chest as I
glance at Taylor in confusion. I thought it was just going to be me on the cover. “We
could also check out our other chemistry.”
“Savannah,” Taylor doesn’t bother to hide her scorn.
“Oh, that’s right. No fraternizing with the potential,” she says off handedly.
My brows rise as I look into the blatant eyes of Savannah. She is very attractive,
which I knew from the book covers. There’s a nice view down her shirt, and I have the
sudden need to adjust myself. This is strange because I know my reaction stems from the
sexy vulnerability that makes up Taylor’s protagonist, Zara.
“Uh, I have a gig.” I tell Taylor, who is clearly uncomfortable.
She only nods, “I’ll call you in a few days. Give you time to back out.”
“I won’t,” I assure, holding her gaze. Half her lips turn up in a smile. I say my
goodbyes and on my way out, I pay for both our tabs. I should be careful about spending
too much time with a woman who owns a pair of shit-kickers for every outfit.

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