Can't Drag Me Down 2: Last Chance Tattoo

Karenna Colcroft

After "failing" to make a life and a drag career in Boston, Rad Morris has returned home to Ludington, Michigan, where his primary goal is to avoid his disapproving family. Only his grandmother accepts him, and Rad feels guilty fo...
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After "failing" to make a life and a drag career in Boston, Rad Morris has returned home to Ludington, Michigan, where his primary goal is to avoid his disapproving family. Only his grandmother accepts him, and Rad feels guilty for taking her support and money. Tattoo artist Dorsey Bellamy moved to Ludington three years ago after the death of his lover in a gay-bashing gone too far. Until Dorsey meets Rad, he keeps to himself, but something about Rad catches Dorsey's attention. They form a friendship, which soon turns sexual, and then emotions enter the picture. But after confrontations with family members, Rad wants to leave town again, and Dorsey can only try to persuade him to stay.

Excerpt
Dorsey glanced out the front window of the tattoo shop and saw no one. It was a bit of a disappointment. In another month or two, the streets of Ludington would be filled with locals and tourists enjoying the warm weather and the lake at the end of Ludington Avenue. But in late April, and especially after the insanely cold winter Michigan had experienced, the weather was still a bit too unpredictable for many pedestrians.

Besides, it was Wednesday. Most people were at work, not out roaming around town and seeking tattoos.

Dorsey mostly worked on locals who made appointments. Even before Dorsey had relocated from Detroit, his name had been familiar to some in the western part of the state, and when he’d shown up in Ludington to work at Last Chance Tattoo, people had already been lining up to have him mark their bodies. Now, three years later, he had a decent clientele and definitely wasn’t hurting for income.

Even so, the cold weather and massive amounts of snow and ice had kept most people in their homes over the winter, which had cut into Dorsey’s business. Some days, he hadn’t even been able to navigate the half mile between his apartment and the shop.

At least winter was over. The sun shone, and the only snow and ice left in the city were melting—dirty banks where snow had been piled by plows. For the past few days, it had been warm enough for Dorsey to leave his jacket at home.

Today was chilly and rainy though, so he didn’t expect to see anyone in the shop. He had no appointments scheduled until the weekend. People would be busy, and those who didn’t have work, classes, or somewhere else to go would be in their homes avoiding another day of bad weather.

Which was why Dorsey was surprised when a skinny young man wearing a too-large jacket and baggy jeans walked through the front door.

The kid—he might have been over eighteen, but Dorsey judged it as barely—had wide brown eyes and windblown brown hair, and he looked scared. By Dorsey’s guess, it was his first time in a tattoo parlor.

Dorsey stepped out from behind the counter with a smile he hoped would be calming. “Hi. I’m Dorsey Bellamy. May I help you?”

“Hi.” The kid looked around a bit frantically. “Um, I’m Rad. I mean, that’s my nickname. Radford.” He cleared his throat. “Sorry. I’m trying to avoid someone. I didn’t mean to bother you.”

“No problem.” Should have guessed. A kid this skittish would never get a tat, even assuming he’s old enough to have one. “Have a seat if you want. It isn’t like we’re busy.”

“I see that.” Rad looked around again. “This place wasn’t here last time I was in town. It’s nice. Do you own it?”

“No, I’m just the one who’s here most often.” Dorsey paused. “Are you okay? No one’s chasing you or anything, are they?” If his instincts were functioning, the kid was gay. That wasn’t necessarily a problem, but it wouldn’t have been the first time Dorsey had seen someone targeted because of his sexuality.

The worst time was the one he tried hard not to think about. It had happened long ago in Detroit. Ludington was safer. He had no reason to dwell on the past.

But the kid’s scared, round eyes reminded Dorsey too much of Chester, and he couldn’t keep his mind from drifting backward.

“I’m sorry,” the kid said. “No, no one’s chasing me. I didn’t mean to barge in here. You— I didn’t mean to freak you out or anything.”

“It’s all good.” With effort, Dorsey yanked his thoughts back to the present. “Remembering someone I knew before I moved here, that’s all. He got hassled a few times because he was gay.”

He held his breath waiting to see the kid’s reaction. If he was wrong, Rad would be offended. That was fine. Dorsey could deal with offended.

He kind of hoped he was right though. Only three years had passed since Chester’s murder, and Dorsey doubted he was in any way ready for a relationship. Plus, if he’d guessed the kid’s age correctly, Rad was too young for him. But it would be nice to have an acquaintance in town who was similar to him.

Maybe even a friend. Dorsey hadn’t had anyone he would have called a friend since before he’d moved to Ludington. He tried to pretend he didn’t need one, but sometimes the loneliness got to him more than he would ever have admitted. He could use a friend.

Rad’s face paled for a moment, then turned red. He turned to look out the front door. “No one’s giving me a hard time about being gay yet, but if the person I’m avoiding saw me, he would. Not beat me up or anything. Just, you know, hassle me. Like you said. Unless you meant beating up.” He cupped his hand over his mouth. “Sorry. I think I’m nervous.”

Dorsey chuckled. “You’re fine. I’m sure you don’t run into a tattoo shop every day.”

“Yeah. I mean— No, I don’t.” Rad shook his head. “I need to chill the hell out. So you’re a tattoo artist?”

“Yes.” Dorsey glanced out the window again. He didn’t see anyone on the sidewalk, which he assumed meant that whoever Rad was hiding from was gone. “Are you interested in getting a tattoo?”

“Maybe.” Rad straightened his shoulders and walked over to the display of tattoo art on the wall opposite the window. “These are really good. Did you do all of them?”

“No. The six frames on the left are mine.” Dorsey couldn’t help feeling proud as he spoke. Those designs were some of his best work. “I do customs too. You tell me anything you want as a tattoo or bring me a picture, and I can do it.”

“That’s awesome.” Rad turned around, smiling. “I wish I had that much talent. I’m not good at anything.”

His voice dropped on the last word, and he looked down at the floor. Dorsey’s heart went out to him. Someone had convinced the kid he wasn’t worth much, and Dorsey hated seeing anyone feel that way.

Especially Rad. He was a good-looking guy, and even though some of what he’d said was stream-of-consciousness babbling, he seemed intelligent. His lithe body implied he was some type of dancer or maybe a gymnast. There had to be something the kid could be proud of.

“I doubt that’s true,” Dorsey said. “Not to be rude, but maybe you aren’t old enough yet to have found your talent.”

“I’m twenty-three.” Rad glared at Dorsey. “I don’t know how old you think I am, but I’ve been out of high school—and out of this damn town—for five years. And I don’t have anything to show for it. So yeah. According to my family, I’m never going to amount to much, and so far I haven’t done a fucking thing to prove them wrong.”

His eyes widened, and he whirled around. “Forget I said all that. Fucking hell, I sound like a whine ass. I’m sorry.”

Dorsey half wanted to put his arms around the kid and tell him things would be all right. The urge was so unexpected and unfamiliar, he almost gave in before he caught himself. Obviously Rad was used to feeling lesser, and he apologized for speaking the way someone else might apologize for swearing or being especially offensive.

Dorsey wasn’t much for wounded birds, but something about Rad touched him. He wanted to help and didn’t have the slightest clue how or why.

“I did assume you were younger,” he said. “Sorry. Twenty-three isn’t exactly old, though. I have ten years on you, and I’m still figuring things out. It sucks that your family dumped that shit on you. I wouldn’t believe them if I was you, but I don’t know them. Maybe they’re more convincing than I think.”

“You probably know some of them if you’ve been in town long enough.” Rad’s tone was bitter. “Or at least you’ve heard of them. My last name is Morris. My mother’s maiden name was Ames.”

He chanted the information like someone who’d given it far too often and hated it. Recognizing the names, Dorsey wasn’t sure he blamed Rad. The Morris and Ames families were almost legendary in Ludington, and Dorsey had run afoul of one of the Morris men shortly after moving to town.

At a Chamber of Commerce meeting, the guy had ranted about how having a tattoo parlor in town would bring in the “wrong kind of people.” Dorsey had been at the meeting with Craig Paulsen, the owner of the tat shop, who’d already been in business in Ludington for over a year. Why the Morris hadn’t complained when Craig first got his business license was anyone’s guess.

But when the Morris had mentioned the “wrong kind of people,” he’d looked straight at Dorsey. And Dorsey hadn’t appreciated it one bit. Sure, he had long hair, which he kept in a ponytail at work and at business meetings. Both arms bore tat sleeves, which were visible most of the time since Dorsey hated wearing long-sleeved shirts unless the temperature was so bitter his coat didn’t provide enough protection. He had multiple ear piercings, along with a gauge in each ear, and a pierced eyebrow.

He was a tall, broad guy, and he intimidated people who judged him by his looks. He did his best to counter the first impression, but some closed-minded jackasses never bothered to look past his appearance. Dorsey accepted that as their problem, not his.

The Morris’s reaction to him had led to a vote among the other business owners about whether Craig would be allowed to continue operating his shop. Craig had won easily, and the Morris hadn’t been a bit impressed.

“Did I say something wrong?” Rad asked in a small voice.

“No.” Dorsey shook his head. Dwelling on unpleasant events from the past didn’t serve any purpose. At least this trip down memory lane wasn’t as unpleasant as most.

Rad sighed. “You recognized the names.”

“Yeah. Your name doesn’t matter though.” Dorsey grinned. “You know what?”

“What?”

“You should get a tattoo.” Dorsey had no clue why the idea had come to him, but he knew instantly that it would be perfect. The kid could choose something meaningful, something that might help him feel stronger.

Rad blinked. “Seriously?”

“Sure. Why not?” Dorsey tilted his head toward the wall of art. “Something from there or something custom. An image that’s important to you.”

“Maybe.” Rad studied the artwork for a moment. “Yeah. I mean, I’ll think about it. Tats are expensive, aren’t they?”

“Sometimes, but we could figure something out.” Dorsey paused. The last thing he wanted to do was push the kid. “Let me see your arm.”

Rad hesitated. “Why?”

“So I can see if you have a good spot for the tat.” Because I want to see if you have muscles. Dorsey barely managed to keep the sarcastic reply to himself.

Slowly, Rad rolled up his sleeve. His upper arms were paler than his face, and he did have some muscles. Whatever else the kid had been doing while living out of town, he must have either been working hard or working out.

“Yeah, you’ll be fine with a tattoo there,” Dorsey said.

Rad pulled his sleeve back down, looking confused. “Okay? You needed to see my arm for that?”

Dorsey shrugged and let out the reply he’d held back before. “I wanted to see how many muscles you had.”

Rad laughed. “Only a few. I’m pretty weak.”

“Nah. Not at all.” Even though the kid had said it as a joke, Dorsey heard some seriousness in Rad’s tone. Dorsey didn’t like it a bit. The kid had lived on his own for years, judging from what he’d said. Without help from the family. That wasn’t weak.

“If you say so,” Rad said. “Anyway, I need to go.”

Dorsey didn’t want the kid to leave yet, but there was no further reason to ask him to stay. “Come back sometime soon, and we’ll talk more about the tat.”

“Yeah. Okay.” Rad gave him a tentative grin. “It could be fun.”

“Definitely,” Dorsey said.

And it would piss the fuck right out of the kid’s closed-minded family. Bonus.

Copyright © Karenna Colcroft

Reviews

Customer Reviews

drag queens and tattos warms the heart Review by Christy
Quality
Ms. Colcroft is an author who takes risks, with characters who are not only gay, but damaged and often in the drag world. Her 1st book the briefest mention is made of the Queen Rainbow, now here is her story. So broken you can’t help but want to take this character into your heart, I found myself rooting for him the whole time. With a cleverly written storyline to tie to the title you find yourself more invested in the emotions of the characters than the sex scenes. While given the subject matter this is not a book for everyone, I enjoyed it and have to give kudos to the author for being willing to take on the subject matter. (Posted on 3/10/2015)

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