Inked, страница 1
Bankers and bad boys don’t mix
So why is she getting under his skin?
Harper, a buttoned-up banker, is a tattoo virgin before Vik draws her first ink. And once the bad-boy biker lays his hands on the beautiful canvas of her body, he’s addicted! Harper says the two of them could never mix outside of the bedroom—but she’s finding that she wants the feeling of Vik’s touch to last forever.
“DARE is Harlequin’s hottest line yet. Every book should come with a free fan. I dare you to try them!”
—Tiffany Reisz, international bestselling author
Anne Marsh writes sexy contemporary and paranormal romances—because the world can always enjoy one more alpha male. She started writing romance after getting laid off from her job as a technical writer—and quickly decided happily-ever-afters trumped software manuals. She lives in Northern California with her family and six cats.
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If you liked Inked, why not try
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Discover more at Harlequin.com
For Jimmy the Cake Guy.
Clearly, the best guys bake, make cupcake deliveries, and look out for the women in their dorms and their lives.
Excerpt from The Marriage Clause by Alexx Andria
BEFORE I TOUCH even so much as an inch of sweet, creamy skin I know I want to spank her, mark her. Make her mine. Take her heart-shaped ass and all the softness she’s hiding from me. Doesn’t hurt that she’s wearing plain white cotton panties, the kind designed to cover up rather than to showcase but that instead makes a man like me think about turning good girls bad. She’s tucked the waistband down to give me more room to work. Thoughtful as fuck, right? I can’t stop looking at the tattoo chair where she’s spread out, waiting for me to ink her. I’ll be her first because nothing but virgin skin meets my greedy eye.
And here I’d thought tonight would be boring.
Located on a busy if seedy street in East Las Vegas, the tattoo parlor I run when I’m not taking care of Hard Rider business specializes in flash tattoos for the impulsive crowd. Ink Me fronts the sidewalk and passersby can look through our windows and watch whatever ink’s in progress. Maybe my new client doesn’t care if she gives lookie-loos a show. Maybe she loves the thrill. I won’t judge. Christ knows, my list of guilty pleasures reads like an encyclopedia of vice. Won’t make excuses or apologize, either. I know what I like and I make sure I get it. I’m a hedonist, not a fucking saint, and inking this pretty bitch is the much-needed cherry on today’s shit sundae.
People like company when they dive into the deep end of the pool of sin and debauchery and virgin ass’s blonde companion looks like an expert. The teeny black cocktail dress, mile-high heels and red leather choker scream fun. The hair flat-ironed into an immaculate curtain adds a note of sophistication that in no way matches the grit of East Las Vegas. Someone who pays attention to the wrapping paper will take even more care with the contents. Bet she waxes or goes full Brazilian with one of those clit piercings I love to roll around my tongue. Usually, Blondie would be my favorite kind of present and I’d be halfway to unwrapping her using that goddamned choker as a leash, but tonight the gorgeous ass in my chair trumps all.
“Ladies. What can I do for you?” I nod at the blonde, a wave of strawberry and tequila hitting me hard. Hope to fuck the woman in my chair is more sober. Not good to ink anyone with more alcohol than blood in her veins.
“Harper wants a tattoo,” Blondie announces.
What kind of name is Harper? It sounds uptight and tidy, way too organized for the lush pair of thighs hugging my chair even if it fits the clothes. The white cotton blouse folded up her back matches the no-nonsense panties...and is that a business skirt unbuttoned and unzipped to give me access? When you’ve banged as many women as I have, you learn a thing or two about clothes, and Dolce & Gabbana is expensive shit. Ups the odds of her not being underage, though. As long as she’s not a lawyer or a judge in the daylight hours, we’re good.
Or bad. Lady’s choice.
The shirt, panties and skirt might come from the Good Girl closet, but her shoes are pure sex. The black suede laces up the front, showcasing the cutest toes. I see her feet all tied up with a fucking bow and I start thinking about getting some rope on the rest of her body and showing her just how good a little kink can feel.
You got to admire a woman who can dress for success from the ankles up and then make a guy come on the spot when she flashes her feet at him. From the length of her legs, she’s tall—and the heels give her another four inches. I’m a big bastard, but she’ll come up past my shoulder no problem. Not too skinny, either, thank fuck. She’s generous in all the right places, not some fragile flower that can’t take a hard pounding.
“Start on her ass and work your way up,” Blondie orders.
Been doing that my whole life. Grew up rough, just me and my old man. He rode for a local club, giving me a dozen honorary uncles who had my back and kicked the shit out of me whenever I needed it. First beer at twelve, first woman at fifteen and first bike at sixteen. Since I’d been a stupid shit, I’d barely made it out of high school, too busy enjoying the open road and free pussy to think long-term. A few years in the US Navy fixed that. Wasn’t cut out to be a career soldier but I picked up some things from Uncle Sam’s crew—discipline, training, a love of ink and the ability to cut loose when onshore. The life of the fiesta, that’s me. I’d boozed and cruised my way around a dozen different ports of call and I’d left my mark on them all.
Party never ended.
My old man didn’t like my constant fiesta, but his right to give me shit ended the day I turned eighteen and signed my life over at the local recruiting station. When I’d come home at twenty-one, we’d shared a beer and awkward small talk. Wasn’t that my old man looked smaller and older, just...less big. Not sure where my genes came from but my club brothers call me the Viking for more than one reason. Not only do I fight like a berserker, but I look like one, too. My pretty face is just the party favor on a package of lethal. Ladies, you’ve been warned.
The beauty in my chair shifts impatiently. “Are we starting?”
I jerk my eyes up to Beauty’s head. Gotta stop staring at her ass. She has dark hair, a glossy brown so dark it’s almost black as it spills from the crown of her head in a long, sleek ponytail. Christ, it’s like she looked inside my head and picked out all my favorite fantasies. If we were alone, I’d be fisting that soft length as I pounded into her from behind.
“You better tell me what you want. Not sure the front desk got the memo.” Gia’s a sweetheart but she’s not the most organized person. Probably should get around to firing her but that would require finding a new receptionist. Plus, she’s got a great smile and never gives me shit. Wouldn’t be easy for her to find another job, either, since she’s got a two-year-old and never-ending day care issues.
“A tattoo.” She drums the pretty nails that match her toes, foot tapping like she’s Queen of Sheba. I’d like to say that imperiousness makes her not my type, but who am I kidding? I fuck anyone who smiles my way. I don’t like alone time, commitments or longevity.
“Put my ink right here.” She reaches around, pointing to the top of her ass.
I grab my sketchpad from my rolling table. “You got a design in mind? Special occasion to commemorate?”
I ask more to keep her talking. Women like her—ironed, pressed and slumming in East Las Vegas—usually request rainbows or flowers. They demand teeny, tiny piece-of-crap tattoos rather than living large. Sometimes, they ask for the name of a lover or a boyfriend. Dead people and dead relationships are also popular—because if you’re not celebrating the hell out of the living, you’re mourning their loss. Not that I have a problem tattooing Property Of on a woman’s ass. Fuck no. The problem comes when she busts back in a week or a month later, demanding I cover the words up with “something pretty.” There’s nothing pretty about sex when it’s mistaken for love, and love is as likely as a unicorn and a dodo bird getting it on.
“The douche,” Blondie slurs.
Awesome. Tonight we’re celebrating a death and the douchebag who’s blown his chance fatally.
I drop onto my rolling chair, scooting closer. While Blondie smells as if she’s rolled around in a gigantic strawberry margarita, my face almost brushes my girl’s shoulder before I catch a hint of scent from her. Something subtle and discreet, the kind of thing the club girls try on at Macy’s because no way can they afford it for real. Beauty’s skin smells like vanilla and coconut, a warm, sweet invitation to eat her for dessert.
Sitting behind her on my stool, I glimpse her face in the storefront window. I deliberately brush my shoulder against hers as I offer her my hand. “Vik. Pleased to meet you, Harper.”
My hands are large, battered and scarred, the knuckles inked with Cyrillic symbols until there’s not an inch of bare skin. I was born here, but my old man came over from Russia when he was twenty. He pulled plenty of shit before and after he patched into his club, and he made a few introductions on my behalf after my Navy stint. Those connections left a mark.
“So you wanna give me more words about what you want?”
“Not flowers and hearts,” she says decisively. “Fuck that shit. Today’s been a bad day.”
“Tell Doctor Vik all about it,” I purr.
“I came home from work,” she says. “Seems like no big deal, right? Kick off my heels, heat something up, fall into the tub and then bed.”
The barest hint of a liquid slur to her words warns me she’s not quite sober. I nod, filling in the blanks. Another woman in her bed, a we-need-to-talk moment, a fight. A, B, C, or D—all of the above. Beauty doesn’t seem like a screamer, but she also doesn’t seem like the kind of woman who gets ink. I grab the Sharpie from my back pocket and uncap it.
“He’d kicked me out.”
He being the dead-to-her douchebag.
“Fucker,” I say agreeably, tucking her ponytail over her shoulder.
“Absolutely,” she agrees. “He had a service pack up my stuff and leave it in the garage for me. I didn’t even get to pick and choose which parts of our life I kept. He pointed and strangers put my pieces in boxes. He kept my cat.”
“I could go over there and kick his ass. Pull a little repo action for you.”
A smile ghosts over her mouth. “You have no idea how tempting that is.”
“Offer stands.” When I smooth my hand over her skin, she jumps. “Touching you is part of my job, babe. Your job is to tell me what you want.”
In bed, out of bed, up against the wall—I’m at her command.
“Give me something to celebrate getting free of him even if it wasn’t on my terms,” she demands.
“How much have you had to drink tonight, sweetheart?”
Her brow puckers as she holds her hands out in front of her. She’s wearing a bracelet, a pretty little toy with a heart and key on it. Had that fucker given it to her or had she bought it for herself? “Four. No—five drinks.”
“You trust me?”
“Absolutely not,” she says, proving she’s as smart as she looks. “Tell me what you’re thinking.”
“Firebird.” I drag the Sharpie over her skin, bringing to life the image I see in my head. Maybe she won’t appreciate wearing a Russian fairy tale on her skin, but she’s not timid; and bold black, orange and red lines tracing the equally strong lines of her back feel right.
“You’re a man of few words, Vik.” Her lashes drift down as she exhales.
“Don’t fall asleep on me.”
She shakes her head. “Then don’t bore me.”
“Bitch,” I say tenderly. “Firebird’s a thief and hard to catch. She almost gets busted stealing the king’s apples when the king sets his sons to catch whoever’s been trespassing on his shit. Ivan gets a hand on her, but all he’s left with is a single feather. She leaves and he spends fucking forever chasing after her.”
“That’s the entire story?” She yawns, turning her face into the leather.
“Only part I’m inking here. Yeah?”
I embrace the familiar adrenaline rush as I draw on her lower back, sketching the outline of a bird, wings outstretched to take flight to freedom. Her tail curls down, teasing, flirting, broadcasting a fuck you to the man she’s leaving behind in the king’s orchard. This is my skin, my piece of her to ink, to own, to give back to her filled up with the story she’s shared with me. Right now, I own her and she’s mine. She relaxes into my touch, my calloused fingers scraping gently, carefully over her skin, preparing her. Fuck playing by the rules.
I grab my needle and brush my mouth over her ear. “This is gonna hurt so good.”
VIK DOESN’T REMEMBER ME.
The hottest man I’ve ever touched—and thank You, Jesus, I’ve touched this man—introduces himself as if I’m a stranger. As if he’s never kissed me, never put his dick inside me, never made me see stars because he felt so damn good. High school seniors, a keg of beer and a wild party were apparently a recipe for oblivion.
Even through the rubber gloves he wears, the heat and strength of him sears me. It’s weirdly seductive, his soft touch. Or maybe I’m lonelier than I thought to find comfort in the simple brush of fingers against skin. I’m paying him to give me this contact, and I’m far drunker than I should be if I’m in a tattoo parlor.
Today—tonight—is a day for firsts.
He hums, blond hair falling around his face as he sets the needle against my back. The first touch stings, the bright, rough bite blossoming into something rougher and darker. I push down into the seat to escape the burn but there’s no out for me. Why am I here?
Because the man you thought you’d marry locked you out.
Because you do the same things over and over and you want different.
Because your life plan just hit an unexpected brick wall.
The sound that escapes my mouth is embarrassingly weak. I don’t have to do this. I can go. He finds new skin with the needle and I whimper.
“Breathe.” He pins me in place with one big hand. I should get up. Should tell him I’ve changed my mind. I had no idea this would hurt so much but when he scratches that needle over my skin, thin
I twist my head to glare at Brooklyn. “I blame this on you.”
She cackles, fishing her phone out of her jacket. Instead of offering sympathy, she immortalizes me for Facebook posterity. “You said you wanted to move on. That you wanted to do something bold and brave to commemorate this particular life milestone.”
“I said that after two dirty martinis,” I protest.
Vik hums, leaning closer. He hurts me. Part of me wants to kick Brooklyn’s ass for talking me into this, but the rest of me just wants Vik closer and closer. To touch me more, to ease the sting his big hands create. Or maybe it’s the quiet strength in the way he holds me in place, soothing and hurting and making something beautiful out of the pain.
Thankfully, Brooklyn provides a distraction. “Still counts.”
“She’s an IRS auditor,” I mutter as Brooklyn flips me the bird. She’s minutes from passing out hard, her eyes already half-closed.
Behind me, Vik snorts. “That true?”
“Brooklyn doesn’t look like a CPA, but trust me. You should be really, really scared if she ever goes through your books. She’ll find every secret you tried to hide.”
“You could come join me on the dark side,” she crows. “But nope. You have to hang with the investment crowd, making all that lovely money. You didn’t need the douchebag for his bank account, so I hope the man had a magic dick.”
The needles buzz, the pain burning and melting into something fiercer as Vik works. I take a deep breath, counting through the waves of pain. I can do this.
I want to do this.
“Tell me more about this magic dick.” Harper tenses as I move the needle over her skin, but a grin lights her face.
“He was pretty,” she says. “Everywhere.”
Blondie—Brooklyn—raises a brow. “But did he know what to do with his joystick? Because otherwise it’s just a handle to lead him around by.”