Chris and Lee have been best friends since the fourth grade. Now in their thirties, Chris rents a booth at Tattoo 804 where he makes a living as a tattooist. His own art is hidden in a portfolio behind his desk-his clients always want him to copy a design or character someone else has drawn, and none ever ask for any custom ink. To satisfy his artistic cravings, Chris coerces his friend Lee to stop by after hours for free tattoos in exchange for letting Chris design whatever he wants.
Lee's body is a shrine to Chris's artwork. Every tattoo he has is a custom creation from his friend, whom Lee has loved for years. Though both are gay, Lee has never had the courage to let Chris know how he feels, and it pains him to watch Chris flit from boyfriend to boyfriend in search of Mr. Right when Lee would gladly claim that title.
Chris's latest boyfriend, Barry, is in a local band and sounds absolutely wonderful ... Lee hates him already. But when all Chris can talk about is Lee's latest tattoo, Barry feels like a third wheel and their budding relationship sours. What will it take for Chris to realize the lover he's looking for has been sitting in his tattoo chair all along?
Rainbow Reviews: 4 out of 5.
"With a hint of sex and tons of emotion, The Tattooed Heart has a happy ending that will leave you wanting more."
Review by Elisa Rolle:
"This is the classical example of short story that makes me love so much J.M. Snyder: it's a sweet and tender story, a bit naughty but not too much, and there is no sex at all. It's erotic without being pornographic, and it's all about the feelings, feelings that are simple and warm, like a homemade pie with a spicy taste."
After Chris applies the transfer, which sets the tattoo's image onto Lee's skin, he asks, "Do you want to take a look before we get started?"
"Nah, man. I'm cool." Lee grins and gives Chris a wink. "I trust you."
"Ready, then?" Chris wheels his stool up close and runs a hand along the sensitive underside of Lee's arm. Despite the latex gloves he wears, Lee's skin warms at the touch.
Lee nods as Chris settles in. "Go to it."
As the needle buzzes, Lee's mind goes blank. He stares at the mirror, at his own eyes staring back, until he can't stand to look at himself any more and shifts his gaze to watch Chris. His back grows hot where the tattoo takes shape -- it always feels like rug burn to him, not painful but not really all that great, either. Still, seeing Chris hovering above him, concentrating so readily on his body, creating something personal and new where before there was nothing but blank skin ... a familiar ache settles into Lee's balls and when Chris sits back to shift into a better position, Lee takes a moment to bend one knee, just slightly. Just enough to let up on the pressure at his crotch, where he's already sporting wood. Chris doesn't miss the gesture. "You getting hard?" he teases.
Lee shifts a little on the table to take his weight off his throbbing cock. He can't meet Chris's dancing gaze in the mirror. "You know how I am."
"Man," Chris drawls, turning back to the tattoo. "I wish getting inked turned me on."
Hoping to change the subject, Lee asks, "Who does you?"
Too late, he realizes his question might be misinterpreted -- he means which artist tattoos Chris, not who gets his friend hard. He doesn't want to hear about this new guy of Chris's, Barry whatever the hell his name is. Each week Chris seems to find someone new, and the way he goes on and on about his latest piece of ass always makes Lee sad. How long has he been waiting here for his chance? When will Chris finally tire of everyone else and notice him?
Fortunately, Chris knows what he's asking. They've been friends so damn long. "April did my last one," he says, pulling Lee's skin taut so he can continue his design. "Don't move. This is tricky."
"There's your problem," Lee jokes. "A chick isn't going to get your blood pumping, even if she does have an ink gun in one hand and piercings up the wazoo."
Chris snickers; Lee feels his friend's breath cool his heated flesh. "I don't know if she has any piercings there."
"God, I don't want to know." Lee smiles when Chris laughs, careful not to laugh himself and ruin the tattoo. "All I'm saying is get a hot guy to ink you, then let me know if you get hard."
"Don't let Barry hear you say that," Chris warns. He's only teasing, but his words sting and the smile fades from Lee's face. "He probably wouldn't like knowing my best friend thinks I'm hot."
Lee doubts this Barry ass is smart enough to put two and two together. Hell, Lee's known Chris for going on twenty years now and he's never clued in.