Hot Ink

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Hot Ink Cover

Mina never meant to fall for her sexy tattoo artist, Eric, or to become a model. But when she’s asked to pose in a photo shoot for the Hot Ink tattoo studio, she can’t say no. She finally gets a look at Eric’s tattoos when they’re cajoled into posing together, and in a few breathtaking moments, an on-camera kiss turns the passion they’re asked to fake into something very real, leaving them both wanting more. The only problem is that Mina’s not the glamour girl she looks like on the Hot Ink posters, or even in a tattoo magazine. She’s only twenty-four, but being the sole guardian of her disabled younger sister has left her feeling much older. Will Eric still be interested when he gets to know the girl behind the ink and the make-up and finds out that she and her little sister are a package deal?

Book 1 in the Inked in the Steel City Series.

Novella. (Approx. 40,000 words)

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What reviewers say…

‘A delightful story of love, tattoos, responsibility, fate and taking chances.’Manic Readers

 ‘A lot of great sexual tension.’Ms. Romantic Reads

‘Engrossing.’You Gotta Read Reviews

 ‘Need an afternoon full of sexy ink and sensual romance? Then you need Hot Ink.’Joyfully Reviewed

 

Excerpt

The design on his bicep wasn’t his only tattoo. In fact, it looked small and simple in comparison to the masterpiece inked across his back. She sidled to the right a little, taking it all in. A huge dragon wound its way across his back, its open mouth gaping on one shoulder while its tail tapered of and then flared to an end just above his hips. It was beautifully done in black and grey, every scale painstakingly detailed. “You like it?”

Mina snapped her gaze from Eric’s skin, surprised by his question. He was peering at her over his shoulder, his eyes as warm and arresting as ever.

“Yeah. It’s amazing.”

He gave her a hint of a smile.

“Eric, face me then turn your chin an inch or so to the left.”

The spell of their locked gazes was broken by Karen’s instructions. Mina did her best to fade into the background, sinking down onto Karen’s computer chair. She would have preferred to stare at Eric as Karen directed him, carefully capturing every inch of his body art with her camera. She was too embarrassed to be so obvious though, so she turned her attention to Karen’s desktop instead.

A magazine caught her eye, its corner protruding from beneath an empty takeout container. Mina picked it up and stared down at the glossy cover in bemusement. A woman posed flamboyantly, her rear to the camera, clad only in a pair of mesh panties. Double dragons had been inked across her ass cheeks. They were nowhere near as well-done as Eric’s dragon, but they were eye-catching, if nothing else. Mina scanned the title. It was a tattoo art and culture magazine, like something one might find on a table in a tattoo studio waiting room. When had Karen picked it up?

Apparently she was really getting into the idea of photographing tattoos. Not that that was surprising – she threw herself one hundred and ten percent into every photography project that she did. If work ethic alone were enough to make it in the business, she’d be at the top already.

“That’s perfect.”

Mina glanced up, letting her eyes flicker toward Eric. He stood with his shoulder at an angle to the camera, showing off the artwork that scrolled down his arm and hinting at the masterpiece on his back at the same time. He had to be flexing a little bit – his bicep was sleek and defined beneath the ink. How did he manage to stay so fit when he spent his days in a chair, carefully focusing on work that required an expert, steady hand, but not so much in the way of biceps? Maybe he worked out. She let her gaze sweep over his toned body again. Yes, he definitely worked out.

“Okay, let’s give that dragon some face time.”

Eric turned his back to the camera.

Karen clicked away.

Mina died a little inside. Why had Eric had to ask her to the coffee shop on that day – the one where she’d had to run out on him after five minutes? Would there have been a second date if things had gone differently? She chewed the inside of her lip, casting a cursory glance at the tattoo magazine because she was afraid Eric would feel her hungry stare on his back. It had probably been for the best that she’d had to leave. How could she possibly keep a guy – especially a hot one like Eric – interested when she devoted ninety-five percent of her time to caring for Jess and working at the bank? She spent what little free time she had tending the dozens of potted plants she’d cultivated in her apartment. Not exactly man-catching material. She might as well face it – she was boring.

“That should do,” Karen finally said, lowering her camera and smiling down at the screen like it was her first-born child. “Unless…” A thoughtful expression played across her face.

Eric arched an eyebrow. “Unless?”

Karen surprised Mina by glancing back at her, and Eric followed her gaze. A flush heated Mina’s cheeks as his blue eyes locked with hers. He’d caught her looking. Karen was talking to her, but she couldn’t spare her a glance. Her world was rapidly dwindling to include only herself, Eric and the silent connection between them.

“I was thinking – I could probably get some really incredible shots if you two were willing to pose together.”

If she’d been eating or drinking, Mina would have choked. “Together? Eric and me?”

Karen nodded enthusiastically. “Yeah. You both have gorgeous tattoos. Don’t you think it’d be cool?”

Mina shrugged, intensely aware of Eric’s gaze on her. A part of her wanted to skip onto the set and sidle right up to him. Another part wanted to sink into the chair and never reappear again. “Did the owner of Hot Ink ask for shots like that?”

Karen shook her head slowly. “No, but if they turn out anything like what I’m picturing, I think he’ll be glad I took them. So if it’s all right with you two…” She looked directly at Eric.

“It’s fine with me,” he said.

Mina swallowed the knot of anxiety that had formed in her throat. “OK.” What else could she have said after he’d agreed?

Karen beamed. “Fantastic.” She picked up the length of red silk and tossed it to Mina.

She managed to catch it, if just barely, and promptly turned the same color as the fabric. The thought of posing with a shirtless Eric, barely covered by the thin silk…it was downright naughty. Decadent. And embarrassing.

Eric politely turned away, facing the background. The black and grey dragon leered at Mina from between his shoulder blades. Feeling as if she were moving in slow motion, she pulled her shirt over her head and quickly clutched the silk to her chest. It didn’t do nearly enough to hide her nipples, which hardened as the material glided over them. She let the fabric bunch and drape, hopefully obscuring her femininity at least a little.

A few moments later, she was standing in front of the paper background with barely two feet of space separating her and Eric.

“Scoot a little closer to him, Mina.” Karen gave directions without a hint of empathy for Mina’s shyness. “Put your shoulder against his chest.”

Mina’s entire being flooded with warmth as her skin met his and a shiver raced down her spine despite the heat. She prayed that he hadn’t felt it. His chest was as smooth, firm and hot as a rock left out beneath the sun. She willed the tension out of her muscles, forcing herself to relax against him at Karen’s insistence.

“Try to look natural,” she instructed.

Mina suppressed the urge to roll her eyes. Look natural while leaning against the shirtless guy who’d constantly been making his way into her daydreams over the past couple weeks? Not likely. She was no actress.

“Eric, rest your hand on her hip.”

Mina’s skin pebbled as he obeyed, settling a hand on the denim of her jeans, and her nipples shrunk to what had to be an all-time record of tininess beneath her flamboyant red excuse for modesty. She clung to it helplessly, feeling as if she’d been swept out to sea by a riptide of hopeless longing. They were so close, she could feel his breath on her neck. If he knew how much that fact affected her, he’d probably think she was an idiot. In reality, she was a twenty-four year old with the responsibilities of a forty year old and hardly any more romantic experience than a teenager. It was a devastating combination, especially when she considered that she might have had a chance at feeling him touch her this way outside of a photo shoot if things had been different.

But they weren’t. So she let Karen boss her around, obeying when she urged her to twist and turn against Eric, posing at various angles that showed off each of their tattoos, all of the poses keeping them entangled in new – and for Mina – exciting ways. It was clear that Karen’s vision for the photos was a sexy one – one that made Mina and Eric look like a couple. If Mina had known from the beginning that Karen had intended to direct Eric to move his hands all over her body, she probably never would have mustered up the courage to get up out of the computer desk chair.

“Eric, put your hand under her chin. And Mina, look up at him. Try for a soft expression.”

Eric gazed down at Mina with a questioning look in his eyes. Clearly, he understood much better than Karen did that the instructions were embarrassing her. Mina nodded her consent and melted inside, going way beyond soft as Eric pressed his fingers lightly beneath her chin. “I have no idea what a ‘soft expression’ is,” Mina said, glancing at Karen for a split second before returning her attention to Eric.

“You’re doing it perfectly.” Karen snapped away, as if afraid that the moment would pass and she’d be left without photographic evidence.

Mina was more grateful than ever for the heavy makeup. Continuing to meet Eric’s gaze for the sake of the pose was a blessing and a curse at the same time. On one hand it felt surprisingly natural, and on the other hand, that fact was worrying in and of itself. It shouldn’t have felt natural to stand there pressed against Eric with only a thin layer of silk between them. She could feel his heart beating and he could probably feel hers too. It should have been intensely awkward, and while it was somewhat uncomfortable, Mina suspected that it wouldn’t have felt nearly as much so if Karen hadn’t been there. If they weren’t being photographed, if it were just the two of them…

“Crazy idea…” Karen said, and Mina realized that she’d stopped taking pictures. “But do you two think you could look like you’re about to kiss?” As if she sensed Mina’s sudden spike of alarm, she hurried to elaborate. “I mean, your lips don’t have to touch or anything. If you could just part them a little and lean a bit closer…  It would be the best photo of the session. I just know it.” Her tone was half-pleading by the time she finished.

Eric didn’t give Mina a chance to respond. Instead, he leaned closer, his breath heating her lips as he exhaled slowly. She could smell the pleasant sharpness of mint on his breath, as if he’d foreseen Karen’s shameless demands and prepared. Her lips tingled, her mouth moistening in automatic response to his closeness. Karen made a victorious sound, and then Mina forgot all about her as Eric kissed her.

All the bones in her body seemed to melt as the embrace Karen had instructed Eric to wrap Mina in became firm and real, nothing like the imitation of passion that had preceded it. He tasted as fresh and sweet as he smelled, and Mina lost her breath in a rush as he pulled her tighter against him, slipping just a hint of his tongue past her lips. She yielded to him, her heart hammering against his chest. He lifted his hand from her shoulder, tracing the curve of her neck with his fingertips and burying it in her hair.

“Oh. My. God.” Click. Click. Click.

Mina became aware of the world again and regretted it as Eric pulled slowly away, gently breaking the seal of their kiss.

“You guys!” Click. “That was incredible!”

One last rush of Eric’s breath against her lips and the magic was over, the bond of intimacy between them dispelled by Karen’s presence. “Take a look at this, Mina!”

Karen extended her camera, flashing the screen in Mina’s direction – which was also Eric’s, seeing as how they were still entwined. It was a good thing too, because Mina had all but forgotten her silk and it had slipped, the ends hanging loosely at her sides. It was sandwiched between her and Eric’s bodies, their closeness the only thing holding it up. She silently implored some higher power to not let him move as she scrambled for a hold on the material, and as she shifted almost imperceptibly, she realized that there was a reason why he was holding so still – he was hard.

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