In Whisper Kiss, the heroine Rox owns a tattoo parlor with two partners, Chynna and Neo. Chynna originally opened the shop and later let Rox and Neo buy into the partnership. The only scene in which both Chynna and Neo appear was cut from the final book manuscript, but Chynna was always a vivid character for me.
I’ve decided to make Chynna a continuing character in the Flatiron Five series, and she’ll make her first appearance in Damon’s book, In the Midnight Hour. Before writing more about her, I went back to my files to find out what I’d written about her before.
Here’s that scene which was cut from the final version of Whisper Kiss.
Excerpt from Whisper Kiss Copyright ©2009 Deborah A. Cooke
Niall had only just retreated to his corner and leaned against the wall, arms folded across his chest, by the time company appeared.
“Who the hell are you?” a woman demanded from the doorway. She was slim, her long blonde hair pulled up into a ponytail, her fishnet stockings not hiding the tattoos on her legs. She wore a halter top that left her arms bare, the roses that spilled down her arm telling Niall exactly who she was.
This was Chynna and it was clear that she was also a fashion influence for Rox. Chynna’s eyes were outlined more vehemently than Rox’s and her lipstick was black. She had many piercings, including a stud in her bottom lip and a trio of bars in her eyebrow. She glared at Niall with her arms folded across her chest and looked unwelcoming.
Rox’s attitude was only a small fraction of what Chynna could conjure up.
“Chynna, Niall. Niall, Chynna,” Rox said gesturing without looking up from her drawing. Her pencil was flying over the paper and Niall couldn’t wait to see the final sketch.
“That tells me exactly nothing,” Chynna said, her mood unchanged.
Before Niall could defend himself – and he had no idea what he could say to diminish Chynna’s obvious hostility – Rox spun on her chair.
“He’s okay,” she said lightly, then gestured at her sketchpad. “Check out the idea he had for your other sleeve.”
Chynna stepped into the room, watching Niall warily. He stayed put, knowing that nothing he had done could have given her such an attitude toward him.
This must be the way she faced the world.
It couldn’t be the way she greeted clients, not if Imagination Ink was doing as well as it looked.
“Rox and I are sisters,” she said tightly, her eyes narrowing even more. “Mess with Rox and you’ve messed with me, understand?”
“I understand,” Niall said, keeping his tone even. He sensed that Chynna was trying to provoke him and refused to respond as expected. “You’re related then?”
Chynna smiled slightly. “Not blood sisters: soul sisters,” she said, tossing her ponytail as she leaned against Rox. Rox kept drawing. “The best kind.”
“What’s wrong with blood sisters?”
“Just what’s wrong with blood families,” Chynna said. “You’re stuck with them on the basis of nothing other than blood. Families made by choice are better.”
“Because you have the freedom to choose differently,” Rox said and Chynna nodded.
Niall saw that this perspective had a power for Rox. He wondered what had happened to both of these women in their childhood to make them so vehemently independent.
He knew they’d never tell him.
The point was that he had to override Rox’s resistance to the firestorm. “But aren’t all blood families the result of a union made by choice?” he asked.
“Very clever.” Chynna’s eyes gleamed and she leaned closer to Rox. “There’s more to this one than meets the eye.”
Rox smiled at Niall, and he knew just what was in her thoughts. “You can say that again,” she agreed, then pushed the sketch toward Chynna. “Look at this.”
They talked for a few minutes about how the trellis could work, and it seemed that Chynna was excited about the idea. Rox became quite animated in describing how she would do it, and Niall was again snared by her passion for her work.
Chynna paused beside him on her way out of the room, looking him up and down. “I’m watching you,” she said, her voice a low growl.
“Aren’t we all?” Rox mused, then laughed. Niall turned to find her eyes sparkling as her partner left, then footsteps sounded in the hall again.
“Got one for you, Rox,” the arrival said, sticking his head around the door frame. He was a slim guy in his thirties with dyed black hair and lavish eyeliner to rival that of Rox and Chynna. His earlobes held large earplugs that could have been made of ebony.
“My other partner, Neo,” Rox said. “This is Niall, Neo.”
Neo gave Niall an appreciative once-over. “Sister Rox sticks in her thumb and pulls out a plum,” he said, then grinned. Before Niall could reply, he continued speaking to Rox. “This lady wants a memorial tattoo, and she’s asking for you specifically.”
Rox nodded. “Okay.”
Neo considered Niall again. “I gotta say, Rox, that this one looks like he has it together more than your usual projects.”
“Maybe I’m not a project,” Niall said quietly.
“Oh, like a date?” Neo grinned. “Then you’re the one with the odds stacked against you. Sister Rox is the last bastion of chastity in the old East Side…”
“Don’t you have something to do, Neo?” Rox demanded. Her face was red. “Like maybe in L.A..? Or Hawaii?”
Neo laughed, as untroubled by her manner as Niall was. “Just sayin’.” Neo winked at Niall. “Rox is the most disciplined person I know.”
“Nothing wrong with discipline,” Niall said. He was enjoying this conversation and what it told him about Rox.
Rox didn’t share his view. She looked annoyed. “Neo!”
“Nothing at all,” Neo agreed, ignoring Rox. “As long as everyone understands the deal from the outset.”
“I thought customers came first,” Rox said to Neo.
He swore as he remembered the waiting customer and darted down the corridor.
“Gotta keep your secrets,” Niall murmured.
“You know more about secrets than I do,” Rox replied.
“I already told you mine – you could tell me yours,” Niall said.
Rox rolled her eyes. “I don’t have any secrets.”
“What made you cry in the dark when you were fifteen years old?”
“What?” Rox’s alarm was clear.
Rox paled. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she said, but her hands were shaking. She turned her back just as Niall heard Neo returning.
He decided to stick to safer topics.
For the moment.