Hello, and thanks so much to the Romance Reviews Today team for hosting me today! My name is Sidney Bristol, and I’m on a one-woman parade through the blogesphere!
You see, I’m celebrating the release of my second So Inked book, The Harder He Falls. The So Inked series follows a shop of female tattoo artists as they ink customers, engage in daring sexual encounters and generally get into mischief, trouble and end up in love. Since the heroine of The Harder He Falls specializes in Asian tattoos, specifically the Japanese style and tradition, I’ve been chatting up all sorts of traditional tattoo elements and the history that has created a very unique tattoo culture surrounding the style.
One of the most fascinating things about the Japanese tattoos is the variety of meanings an image or element can have based on small alterations. Placement, a limb lifted or lowered, the colors. Each part increases the layer of meaning.
There’s probably no other tattoo element that embodies all of those possibilities quite like the koi fish. Chances are you’ve seen a few of these tattoos. They’re usually brightly colored fish with a lot of detail on the scales and fins. Almost everything about these fish can vary in meaning, from the color to the direction its facing.
But why does this fish have so much meaning?
There’s a legend that speaks of thousands of koi fish trying to swim up the Yellow River, jumping over rapids and climbing waterfalls. Not all of the fish are able to make the journey and turn around to swim with the current. Still there are others who push on. The legend goes that there was one koi fish who tried and tried and tried to scale the last waterfall, and finally it made it to the top and crossed through the Dragon Gate. The gods turned the koi into a golden dragon.
As a result, the koi is a popular tattoo for those who are looking to make a transformation in life or who have overcome something. This is accomplished by posing the koi swimming up a limb or body of the person wearing it. On the other hand, a person with a koi headed down a limb or the body symbolize someone who has accomplished or overcome something. This has made the koi heading downstream a popular tattoo for people who have survived a severe illness or addiction.
The placement of the koi isn’t the only factor that can alter the meaning! The color plays a part in it as well. While a person can pick any color they want, the basic color meanings are black, red and blue.
The black goes hand in hand with the koi who has overcome obstacles. Red hues are associated with love of a masculine nature, as well as bravery and power. Blue is also a masculine element commonly associated with the son of the family. Blue is universally a representative of peace, tranquility and calmness.
It’s said that a koi fish once caught will lay on the chopping block, waiting the knife. This is one reason why the koi was so popular with samurai, who were encouraged to face their enemies with that same serenity and acceptance of the passing of life. Which makes the cherry blossom a common element included in koi tattoos, because the cherry blossom embodies the fragility and transitioning of seasons.
This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to researching Japanese tattoos. You can get as complicated or simple with them as you like, but they’re still beautiful artistic displays.
If you were to get a koi tattoo, would your fish be swimming up or down stream?
It can never be said that Sidney Bristol has had a ‘normal’ life. She is a recovering roller derby queen, former missionary, and tattoo addict. She grew up in a motor-home on the US highways (with an occasional jaunt into Canada and Mexico), traveling the rodeo circuit with her parents. Sidney has lived abroad in both Russia and Thailand, working with children and teenagers. She now lives in Texas where she splits her time between a job she loves, writing, reading and belly dancing.
A woman who doesn’t have time for love…
A hot night full of hotel-destroying sex was all Kellie wanted from her client-turned-sex god. Between family and work, there isn’t room for love, just hot, sweaty lust. An arrangement for mutual gratification is exactly what Kellie wants, but every kiss, each mind-blowing orgasm twines her heart around a man she cannot have.
A man building a new life…
Quinton’s assumptions about the So Inked shop owner are turned on their head after one session under her tattoo machine. Kellie’s not the vandal he’s looking for, but she’s the woman he wants. In his bed, on the desk or under the stars, he’ll take her any way he can get her. But Quin has secrets and someone is out to destroy him. Someone who has their sights set on Kellie now.
Kellie shifted on the wooden bench, still restless. The evening breeze was cooler than normal thanks to a cold front blowing in. It was ridiculous that dropping into the nineties was considered a cool spell, but in the height of Texas summer, you took what you got. She swept her hair up into a knot and tipped her head back. The slight dampness of her skin, courtesy of the ever-present humidity, was a small price to pay for being able to sit outside. She’d shed the formfitting dress for jeans and a tank top and felt more like herself for it.
“How hot does it get here?” Quin plunked down their dinner and sat on his side of the picnic table. Behind him the food truck was starting to pack up.
“Can’t handle the heat?” It was too much to ask that the man be able to cope with everything. He’d sat through the tattoo yesterday without complaint, being a heat weenie wasn’t terrible.
His brilliant blue eyes stood out in the dim illumination of the parking lot light. “When you have A/C, why should you?”
“You do realize that it’s going to get at least ten degrees hotter and stay there, don’t you?” She unwrapped the tacos and inhaled the spicy aroma of peppers and onions mixed with tender beef.
Quin made a show of wiping his forehead with a napkin. “I’m going to melt.”
“Why the hell are you still here then?”
He hefted his burrito and wrapped the tortilla tighter. “Family.”
She nodded, understanding that reason above all others.
They descended into companionable silence while they ate. The garbled sounds of a Tejano station melded with the distant sounds of Highway 75 and the light street traffic up and down Greenville Avenue.
“What are you so wound up about, doll?”
Her head snapped around. Quin watched her with one brow arched.
“What?” she asked.
“Your knees are bouncing and you keep looking around. Are you expecting someone I don’t know about?” He glanced over each shoulder.
The bubble of anger swelling in her breast burst. It wasn’t Quin’s fault she was suffering from a case of bitchitis.
Instead of snapping at him, she put her taco down and massaged her temples. “No, I’m just sitting on too much energy and not enough time to expend it.”
“Ah.” He nodded as if he understood. “We used to call that the fight or fuck stage.”
It was her turn to quirk a brow at him. She shivered despite the heat. He had a point; one or the other would help. “Fight or fuck stage? What did you used to do?”
“First I was in the Marines, then I used to fight MMA, semipro.”
Her eyebrows crept upward. Mixed martial arts? She saw Quin in a whole new light, and when she looked at him in this proverbial light, he looked damn good. Fighters came with their own set of issues, but as an MMA hobbyist herself, Kellie had to admit that her bad boy draw was sitting across from her. Growing up around the gym meant she’d become more than competent in a few martial art forms. As an adult, branching out into the grappling, wrestling and more violent aspects had given her a much needed outlet.
Kellie grabbed her drink, the cup covered in condensation, and gulped it down to get moisture back in her dry mouth.
“Why’d you stop?”
“I got hurt. Fractured a few vertebrae. Everyone was amazed I could walk after that. Realized there was little to no chance of me coming back from the injury, so I switched over to training. I like it.”
“Do you train around here?” An invisible fist clenched her heart. There had been a time when she would have known the different gyms, who trained where, which ones were worth going to and so forth.
Quin didn’t answer immediately. He chewed his food without haste and took a drink before replying. “I’m transitioning locations. Parting with someone. It’s a little messy.”
Her nose wrinkled. “Yeah, I’ve been there. I’m lucky to have Mary as my co-owner. The guy I worked with before her was a man-child.”
He snorted. “Man-child?”
“Yeah, you know. Frat boy types.”
He tilted his head back and laughed. “That’s a good one, doll. Man-child. I’ll have to remember that.”
The pet name slid over her nerves as if it were sandpaper. “Do you have to call me that?”
“What?” He blinked as if he had no clue what she was talking about.
“Lay off the doll crap already.”
He shrugged. “You look like a doll.”
Her scalp itched and her hand balled into a fist. “You think I look like a whore?” she growled. Moments like these she felt as if she were a passenger in her own body. The urge to do something, or even the man across from her, had her muscles too tense and her nerves strung too tight.
Quin jerked his face away from his cup. “What? No. That’s not what I meant. You’re attractive and exotic-looking. You look more like a doll than a real person.”
Heat crawled up her neck and she was thankful the parking light was their only illumination. It was the most convoluted compliment anyone had ever paid her, and it turned her on even more. She folded her taco wrapper into a neat square.
“You realize the term china doll is what men called Asian prostitutes and war brides?”
“The fuck—no. No, that’s definitely not what I meant. Hey, guys probably hit on you all the time. I figured I had to be a little creative.”
She rolled her eyes. “At least you don’t talk to my boobs.”
His gaze dipped to her chest and her nipples perked up at his inspection. She squeezed her thighs together. This was ridiculous. She was not an animal in heat ready to throw herself at some random guy.
“Well, in their defense, most guys probably only come up to your chest, so it’s not entirely their fault.” One side of his mouth kicked up in a roguish smile.
She chuckled and rolled her eyes. “Yeah, blame it on me because I’m tall.”
“It’s not your fault you’re tall. It’s their fault they’re short.”
Her phone buzzed against her hip. Conversation forgotten, Kellie dug it out of her pocket and unlocked the screen. The home-care provider always texted her when Grandma finally went to bed. She breathed a sigh of relief when nothing else was mentioned, which meant the day had passed without incident. She had all night before she would need to go home and face those troubles. For now she was her own woman.
She glanced up from the phone. “Yeah.”
“So you moved here for family. Wife? Girlfriend?”
“None of the above.”
He was unattached and available. She went very still, the possibilities running through her head.
Quin cleared his throat. “My schedule right now doesn’t lend itself to dating.”
Even better. She laid her palms on the rough wooden surface of the table. “Neither does mine.”
His stillness echoed hers. A predatory awareness came over him, but she wasn’t prey. “That’s a shame.”
She looked him over, even as he did the same. He wouldn’t be the first client she slept with, she wasn’t a saint. But neither did she know him.
“Excuse me.” The food truck cook had walked up on them without either noticing. “I need to load the table, sorry.” He smiled and wiped his hands on the dirty apron.
Kellie swiped the napkin across her face. Had she really inhaled the burrito? Judging by the sad remnants left, yes she had.
“That’s fine. Thanks for the food.”
She rose, gathered up her trash and tossed it in a recycling bin, then leaned against the front of Quin’s truck, out of the way while Quin lent a hand to their cook and helped load the table. Too many thoughts spun around in her head, she needed a minute to get her head screwed on straight, but she wasted those watching Quin’s arms and the way his t-shirt stretched across his back. She pretended she hadn’t been staring when he headed for her, perching her elbows on the hood and leaning back. The truck’s grille pressed into her back but with her elbows perched on the edge, it thrust her breasts out. As if she needed to draw any more attention to them.
Quin’s gaze roved freely over her body and she could already anticipate his strong touch. He would be an energetic lover, but would he be gentle? Or rough? Did he always have to stay in control? Because sometimes she liked to put a man through his paces.
“I can’t tell what you’re thinking and I’m dying to know.” He stopped less than a foot away.
She smiled slowly, already having a pretty good idea what his answer to her question would be. “I was wondering if you would like to get a room?”