Charlie could do pain. Good pain. Bad pain. Something that was a little in between. He’d experienced a wide array of aches through the years as he submitted to different men. While there were good Doms in the world, there were just as many that sucked ass. In a bad way.
So standing outside of Irons, the local tattoo shop, shouldn’t have freaked him the fuck out. The. Fuck. Out.
He was gonna walk in there and lay down cash, paying someone to hurt him. He’d never paid for pain. Not at his worst after Kevin, his last Master, had released him. He’d been so scattered he could barely think straight.
With one last deep breath, Charlie pulled open the front door, wincing at the grating beep that announced a new customer.
A deep voice like liquid sin called from the back. “Be with ya in a sec.”
The part of Charlie that’d been buried for several months perked up at that sound, the deep tenor with a hint of roughness. That voice… Damn. It sounded so familiar, the ghost of a memory flitting across his mind, but he couldn’t quite grab it with both hands. His cock seemed to recall the owner, though. It was ready to play happy, squishy, dirty, yummy games.
He shoved the sensation back down with a thump to his hardening cock. He wasn’t falling into something this soon. For all he knew, the guy was totally het. He shuddered. A…breeder.
With time to himself, he strolled to one of the walls, gaze roaming the different drawings, stylized butterflies and twining tribal shapes occupying every visible inch. Flash. He’d learned enough online to know that he was looking at flash. He’d also found out that Irons was the best tattoo shop in the city and the only place he wanted to get inked.
He kept wandering, attention shifting from the walls to the glass cases. Irons didn’t just feature tats, but piercings as well. A plethora of metal was displayed before him.
He’d done plenty of research on piercings. Part of him, the whole “paying for pain” half of him, screamed “ouch.” The other half of him, the “fuck that’s hot” side, said “hell yeah.”
He wasn’t sure which bit he’d be listening to.
Continuing his journey, he spotted a slip of paper, a tiny bit of flash that reminded him of what he’d recently lost. A single-tail whip, curled, coiled and ready to be picked up by a skilled Dom. He traced the simple line drawing with a fingertip, imagining what the leather would feel like as it crossed his back.
Kevin had given him a final whipping in the middle of their regular club, Knots. It was a werewolf-owned club, nearly all the members shifting into four-legged creatures once a month, but it still had a decent human membership. It never scared him, never made him worry that he’d end up someone’s dinner. The wolves, for all their growls, were good men. Very good men. Well, except for Kevin. But he was human, so he supposed he couldn’t hold it against the wolf members.
Charlie’s ex had given him a sort of “farewell fuck.” The bastard. The man had stuck around long enough to take back his collar with a soft kiss and an “it’s been fun.” Nothing more, nothing less. Hell, he’d even sent in one of the house subs to tend to Charlie’s back.
Fuck. Six months down the toilet with a brush of lips and the undoing of a buckle.
Anger over his treatment still seethed beneath the surface. True, he hadn’t spent very long under Kevin’s protection. Six months was barely a blink to some, but a collar meant something to Charlie. It was more than just fucking and casual play dates. Apparently, Kevin didn’t have the same definition.
A thumping crash of a door opening and then slamming closed sounded from the back. A quick shuffle of feet immediately followed the noise, as if the owner of those legs were on the verge of running.
“Sorry, boss!” A woman’s soft voice floated toward him a moment before she appeared. She was a tiny slip of a girl sporting purple and pink hair with occasional stripes of blue. A silver ring decorated her nose, and a delicate curve of black ink peeked up above the collar of her shirt. Torn fishnet stockings graced her legs, and half untied combat boots were on her feet.
“Hey, I’m Ronnie. What can I do for ya?” She was open and friendly, popping her gum as she stood behind the counter.
A sense of calm wrapped around Charlie. Other than the hair, piercings and tattoo, she looked normal. Maybe a few years younger than him, but still normal. One of the things he’d been worried about was getting laughed at by some muscle-covered, heavily tattooed guy who thought that what he wanted was stupid. Or gay. He was gay, but it was the word said with a sneer that he had a problem with.
He’d spent enough time feeling stupid about Kevin. He didn’t need anything else piled on.
Charlie cleared his throat and stepped toward Ronnie, digging in his pocket as he went. “Uh, yeah. I want a tattoo? Kinda like this one?”
He unfolded the paper in his hand, spreading and smoothing the page on the counter. He’d been doodling and drawing for as long as he could remember, and still snuck in the occasional art class. He did best with ink but was also pretty good with several other mediums.
“Ooh…” Ronnie leaned over the counter, tracing the lines of his drawing.
“Yeah. I mean, I get the symbolism, right? I just want the whole watercolor kind of thing for the colors. I want the lines crisp, but the rest… Sort of a watercolor look?”
She pushed away from the counter, tugging the page along with her, looking closer. “Hells yeah. That’s awesome. Like, strong but gentle, fierce with a softer side.”