As part of some bonus content for the lovely Cori Vidae over at P&K, I re-wrote an INKarnate scene from an alternative perspective. For those who are familiar with INKarnate (totally free, find it here), Emily goes for an interview at the INKomplete tattoo studio. The interview doesn’t go well. In fact, Matt makes it clear he doesn’t like her and doesn’t want her as a work colleague.
Now we find out why…
Matt: The Other Side of the Interview
The girl walked from the room, her head held high, her gaze fixed forward, her sensible heels clicking softly on the tiled floor. Matt waited for her eyes to flick over to where he was sitting, but she didn’t even so much as glance his way. That annoyed Matt; he wasn’t used to being ignored, he was used to women wanting his attention. He was the famous Matt Jones, talented and award-winning tattoo artist and the unofficial face of the local kink scene. People came to this tattoo studio to be inked by him specifically, just for the kudos of having his work etched on their skin.
Which was why being ignored by this pretty girl was both frustrating and amusing.
He knew her reaction to him was partly because they’d had a silent battle of wills only a few moments ago, a battle that Matt wasn’t entirely sure who had won. He wanted to feel triumph but knew it wasn’t justified. The girl—Emily, Matt reminded himself by looking at the resumé in front of him—was interviewing for the trainee placement at the tattoo studio along with a dozen other candidates. He’d noticed her immediately because she’d stuck out like a sore thumb.
INKomplete was known for its artists and clientele; both firmly centred in the kink scene. Matt didn’t dress quite as overtly sexual as Josephina or Phoenix, but he’d certainly dabbled in the…er… nightly activities. They all had. This girl clearly didn’t have a clue what she was getting herself into, and it rubbed Matt the wrong way. She didn’t fit in here. At all. She was dressed like a fucking school teacher—all prim and proper and in a matching twinset! How could she be so clueless about the job she was applying for?
The silent battle of wills had come from the first part of the interview. Blakey—the owner of INKomplete—had asked the candidates to demonstrate their artistic skills by designing a tattoo with a specific brief in mind. Matt had watched Emily closely as she worked. In fact, he’d had eyes for nobody else. He wanted her to fail. He wanted her to realise that she was out of her depth. He wanted her to realise that she didn’t fit in in at INKomplete.
He wanted her.
That unnerved him. When was the last time he’d wanted a woman? And a woman who looked like Emily? She was nothing like the other women he’d dated… if the word “dated” applied to consensual fucking with no strings attached. Matt would hazard a guess that this was a woman who’d experienced nothing but vanilla in the bedroom. In fact, he wondered vaguely whether she might even be a virgin.
So, he’d watched her, hoping she’d fail. He didn’t like wanting someone to fail, but he also didn’t like the effect she’d had on him. If she failed, then there would be no reason to ever see her again, no reason to think of her again.
But the girl hadn’t failed. In fact, she had some serious skill. There was no doubt about that. Even beneath his constant gaze, her finished work had stood out from the rest of the candidates. Towards the end of the session, her drawings had grown cruder, more sensual, and Matt couldn’t help but wonder if it was in reaction to his watching. It was almost as if she’d understood his silent challenge and had risen to it.
It was really fucking hot.
The whole experience, of watching her draw sexy images whilst totally ignoring him had really turned him on. It was like she was goading him. Taunting him.
He couldn’t remember the last time he’d wanted someone the way he wanted her—so immediate and intense—and it made him angry. Not just because he rarely felt this way, but for more practical reasons; how could he continue to work if just watching her was a turn on? She’d be too distracting. Even now, the way she walked past him with her head held high… he couldn’t take his eyes from her.
Was she doing it on purpose? Was that it?
Matt bolted upright in his chair. She was playing him, wasn’t she? She was playing them all. Clearly she wasn’t as an innocent as she was letting on. He just had to look at her hot drawings to know that. So, the school teacher act was just for show, wasn’t it? How had he not seen it earlier? The disinterest. The indifference. The dressing so unlike anyone around her… it was all a game, wasn’t it? She was doing it to stand out. To get noticed.
And Matt had almost fallen for it.
The thought made him angry. He was an honest person by nature, and he didn’t like to be around liars or manipulative people.
“Well, there’s only one person for the job for me,” Blakey said, oblivious to Matt’s sudden epiphany. He was carrying the stack of the candidate’s artwork back to the table where Matt, Joe, and Phee were sitting. Matt couldn’t help but notice that Emily’s sophisticated work was at the top of the pile.
Matt reached over and slid the heavy paper towards him. The closer it got, the more detail he could see. She’d worked in pencil—his own preferred method. It was exquisite. The last piece—a detailed design for a tattoo sleeve—kept drawing his gaze. Emily had wound a three-tongued whip through a scattering of sensual images; an opened mouth, a rounded breast, splayed fingers. It made him think of sex—just like she knew it would. He pushed it away with disgust.
“Yeah, I agree,” Joe said, nodding. She came to stand behind Matt and pulled the work back towards them. “It really is wonderful stuff. So unexpected,” Joe continued. “I mean, she doesn’t look the part but… wow.”
Matt kept his voice calm though inside he wanted to shake his friend and tell her she was being played, just like he was. How could she not see that? “You mean this Emily girl? Seriously? There’s nothing special here,” Matt lied, snorting. “I mean, she’s a fucking pet portrait artist. They’re a dime a dozen.”
Joe shook her head. “That might be her day job but…”
“She’s got somethin’, hasn’t she?” Blakey agreed.
“Absolutely. I think she’s seriously talented,” Joe said, picking up the paper and walking back to her chair.
“And you?” Matt asked, looking at Phoenix. Had everybody been taken in by this girl’s cutesy act?
Phee didn’t reply immediately. She ran her hands through her flame red hair, studying Matt’s expression. She gave him a strange look, her head cocked to one side. “Why do you look so angry about it, Matt? Do you know her?”
“No, of course not,” Matt answered, his tone colder than he’d intended. “But I think we’re overlooking the other candidate’s work. She’s not the best here. Not by a long shot.”
“Yeah, she is,” Blakey argued. He was shuffling through the rest of the artwork. “Nobody has even come close. I haven’t seen talent like that since… well, since you came along, Matt. I mean, the bald-headed girl did some interesting work but none of it can translate into tattoos.”
“She’s not suitable,” Matt shot back, rubbing his temples. “She’s not the one.”
“What’s going on, Matt? Why are you so against her?” Phee asked, then her eyes widened. “Oh my god, have you slept with her? Is that what the problem is?”
Matt couldn’t stand to look at their questioning expressions anymore. This wasn’t about him. It was about her. How could he explain that they were being played? That she was just pretending. How could they trust such a manipulative person? Angry but not able to reign the feeling in, he pushed away from the table and got to his feet. “Are you kidding me? Does she look like she’d fit in at the studio? At the club?” He asked, talking about Indecency, a club where people with a preference for firmer, kinkier sexual interactions were able to hook-up and meet like-minded partners. He knew Emily had never stepped foot in there before… for starters, he would have noticed her.
Joe laughed. She looked like she was enjoying Matt’s discomfort. “I don’t know what she might get up to at weekends, Matt. For all I know, she’s kinkier than all of us put together.”
“Not her,” is all he said. “She doesn’t fit in with us or our image.”
“We don’t sell the lifestyle, Matt,” Blakey broke in. “We sell our work. You know that.”
“I know. And I do. But she just doesn’t fit, Blakes.” He sighed, knowing this conversation was going nowhere fast. “Can we at least discuss the other candidates?”
Matt didn’t usually weigh in on studio decisions but when he did, it normally went his way, so he was surprised when Blakey shook his head. “I think we’re all agreed on Emily but you. Let’s take a vote.”
“My vote is for Emily,” Joe said immediately. Her gaze met Matt’s and her lips twitched upwards. “I think she’d be a good addition to the team.”
“Mine too,” Phee said, leaning back in her chair as if the whole situation was settled.
Matt turned away from them with an angry sound. “I’m voting for the bald-headed girl,” he said, speaking solely to Blakey. When Blakey went to argue with him, Matt raised his voice. “That’s my vote, Blakes. You can’t argue with it. Her work is just as strong as Emily’s. Maybe even stronger. It might not translate into tattoos very well but it’s something she can learn on the job.”
“So, we’re at two to one on Emily, and Blakey has the deciding vote,” Phee said.
“I’m sorry Matt…” Blakey said slowly. “Emily is the strongest. I don’t know what’s going on between you two—”
“Nothing is going on!” Matt snapped, throwing his hands into the air. “She’s just not the best talent in the room. You’re making the wrong decision!”
“This is my studio,” Blakey said, a little heat in his voice. “And I say Emily is our girl. That’s my final decision.”
Matt wasn’t sure whether it was because the vote hadn’t gone his way, or the way Phee was smirking, but he lost his temper. In a rare show of anger, he kicked the chair leg. “You have got to be kidding me!” He roared. “No fucking way. She looks like a school teacher! Do you want to lose all credibility?”
“Lower your voice,” Blakey hissed, glancing at the door, concerned. “What the hell has gotten into you?”
Suddenly ashamed, Matt took a deep calming breath. He wasn’t sure where his outburst had come from. He rarely lost his temper. Besides, he knew that look on Blakey’s face; he was decided. They all were. Continuing to argue wasn’t going to get Matt anywhere.
All he could hope for was that Emily might fuck up face-to-face. She might be beautiful, she might be talented… but she might also be awkward and difficult in person.
“Look, let’s do a round of true interviews,” he suggested, in a softer more reasonable tone. “Face-to-face. Have a chat with each of the candidates. Get to know them. We can see who would be the right fit for the team. We don’t really know anything about her, do we? About any of them.”
Blakey rubbed a hand over his huge stomach, considering. There was a hole in the fabric of his t-shirt and Matt could see the older man’s skin peeking out. “Okay,” Blakey said, “If it’ll make you happy, let’s do it. But Matt, we might not change our minds.”
Matt gave a soft sigh of relief. He started to stack the chairs to the side of the room, leaving just one in front of the table for the candidate. “But you might,” he reasoned. Then, because he wanted to delay seeing Emily again for as long as possible, he added, “Let’s see the bald-headed girl first. Can you bring her in?”
Book 1 — INKarnate: When Emily begins an apprenticeship at the renowned tattoo studio Inkomplete, she didn’t realise she was stepping into a world very different from her middle-class upbringing. But not everybody is happy about her dipping her toe into new waters. Famous tattoo artist, Matt Jones, knows she doesn’t belong…