Jace Anderson & Adam Gierasch
Publication date: November 17th, 2020
Genres: New Adult, Urban Fantasy
Tattoo artist Luna Graves’ life turns upside down when her estranged father dies and she learns it’s her destiny to be a doctor…to monsters.
Destiny? Fairy tale endings? Things that go bump in the night? Luna Graves doesn’t believe in any of them. Her father took off when she was three, and she’s worked hard to become one of the best young tattoo artists in Los Angeles. Of course, there was that mysterious exchange she had when she was 12 with Heath Guillaumet, who might not have been human…naw, that was just her imagination.
When her estranged father dies, Luna discovers that he led a secret life as an uphir, a doctor to the shadowkind — what we would call monsters. Now that he’s gone, she has to take his place — or be killed by the powerful Council. Thrust into a world she doesn’t know, the stubborn Luna refuses to give up on her original dreams. Soon Heath Guillaumet will return to unleash a disease last battled by the Knights Templar…the Black Death.
The ornate padlock dangled from Luna Graves’ neck, suspended by a silver ball chain. It was a beautiful piece, really, so she usually didn’t have to explain why she wore it. The truth was, Luna didn’t know why she had held on to it for the past dozen years, and she’d started wearing it to justify keeping it for so long. If anything it reminded her to listen when a little tingle rose up in her stomach, to pay attention to that little flinch of fear.
Most people wouldn’t think of Luna as scared. Here she was in her element, the tattoo parlor, leaning over hulking Tony Ramirez with his three-quarter sleeves of horror movie creatures. But Luna knew it didn’t take courage to deal with Tony. Talk to him for two minutes and you’d realize that, behind the all-black clothing and hardcore punk T-shirts, he was just a sweet guy who liked make-believe monsters.
Monsters. Luna didn’t believe in them – of course she didn’t. Over the years she’d pushed the memory of that strange man Heath down into the recesses of her mind and scrubbed it clean of those elements that didn’t make sense. If the needle-sharp teeth entered her consciousness – a fleeting thought as she sketched one of Tony’s new designs, maybe, or a half-formed nightmare – she dismissed them. Her scared twelve-year-old mind had seen things that weren’t there. End of story.
Luna’s arms told a different tale: like Tony’s, they were covered with deliberately macabre designs. A Lovecraftian being, all tentacles and scales in bright colors of emerald green, purple and burnt orange, was splashed across Luna’s right shoulder. One long tentacle snaked all the way down her arm to encircle her wrist, where a needle-toothed, looming vampire peered out from a rocky precipice. Bats circled a harvest moon on her elbow, and a rugged scaly creature emerged from a lake on her forearm. The theme continued on her left arm, where two bristling hellhounds bounded down her triceps, nearly colliding with the ghoulish hag with backwards feet on her lower arm.
The designs were beautiful, haunting, each one a Luna original…and each one taken from her nightmares. Creatures had started peppering Luna’s dreams after her encounter with the strange man in the alley. She’d wake up panting with fear, her eyes probing the darkness, seeing flashes of monstrous faces at her window. Her parents would tell her they were just dreams, but they didn’t feel like Luna’s other ones. She felt that she could reach out and touch these creatures. Drawing them was the only thing that allowed her to go back to sleep; it was as if getting them on paper got them out of her head, if only temporarily. Getting them on paper also transformed them from terrifying to beautiful – under the influence of her pens, paints and pastels, the monsters that tormented her during the night became as spectacular as strutting peacocks.
“Ow!” Tony whimpered. Luna flipped her hair – naturally blond but currently dyed with streaks of aqua-blue that set off her pale green eyes – over her shoulder. She was dressed for work in old overalls and a tank top that showcased her ink-splashed tawny arms; just a bit of lipstick and mascara adorned her face.
“Deep breaths in and out,” she instructed, adjusting the position of the tattoo gun. “Focus on your breathing, not the pain.”
Tony was her last appointment of the day. It had been a busy Saturday at Tattoo du Monde, and Luna had spent most of the day inking standard flash on bewildered tourists. (Tattoo du Monde was located on Hollywood Boulevard just west of Highland, flanked by not one but two smoke shops, and as such was frequented by tourists confused as to why Jennifer Lawrence and Ryan Gosling weren’t getting pizza across the street.) Working on Tony was a treat – it was the first original design she’d done all day – even if he loathed needles just a little less than he loved tattoos.
Tattoos had been Luna’s calling since she got her first ink at sixteen, much to her mother Ramona’s chagrin. She and her best friend Jess had ventured east into trendy Silverlake, exploring dusty record shops and secondhand clothing stores, when Luna had spotted Mizayaki Tattoo, its windows filled with colorful custom flash. Even though the art was beautiful, Luna already knew that she wanted to use one of her own drawings as the basis for her tattoo. She had flipped her notebook open to a detailed drawing of an orange demon. “I want this.”
For the next hour she had gritted her teeth, listening to the steady buzz of the tattoo gun and regretting every extra stroke she’d put in her drawing. The demon had been a frequent visitor to Luna’s dreamscapes, but it took her three weeks to realize that once the devilish imp resided on her body it no longer visited her at night. After the hellhounds took up residence on her right arm, they disappeared from her dreams as well. The logical part of Luna’s brain knew there couldn’t be a correlation between the two and that there had to be another explanation for her newly uninterrupted nights of sleep…but deep down she believed that by permanently fixing the horrific creatures on her body she’d pulled them out of her dreams. In the space of eighteen months, her body had become host to her most frequent tormentors and Luna slept better that she had since she was a little girl.