“Once I started, I couldn’t put it down.” -Alpha Book Club
“Release is a nice smooth read that is so sweet.” –Night Owl Reviews
“This is a sweet romance with a kinky side.” -Joelle Books
I was getting my first tattoo. I wanted to be happy, ecstatic even, yet my stomach churned with trepidation and anticipation. I was woozy like when I’d eaten too much junk food and rode the tilt-a-whirl.
Once he’d seen my design, Rock left in a rush. I shut and locked my door after him. He’d flipped all my girly parts on, and I wondered if I’d be able to hold on to my fading resolve. My nipples puckered tight and my body practically hummed, that was from five minutes with him. I paced my living room, scrubbed my bathroom, mopped the kitchen floor, and cleaned up my pile of shoes, but nervous energy still ate at my stomach lining.
Rock was a positive—his hands on me, a hell yeah positive, but pain, that was hell-to-the-no. I’d always been weak when it came to pain. Shots freaked me out, and I know it was the anticipation more the actual pain. Some people feared spiders, snakes, heights—I feared pain. This tattoo was a big F-you to that fear, but my apprehension was a real thing.
If I wanted Rock, I needed to become fearless because choosing him would turn my world upside down. The town. My family. My friends. The club. I feared all the reactions of all those groups because down deep I didn’t think any of them would accept my decision to be with Rock. And thinking about this was making everything worse. Now I wanted to jump in my truck and drive far away, so far no one would ever find me.
I straightened and stared in my bedroom mirror. A sticker read Shine Bright at the top—that’s what I’d do. I stared at my reflection. “You are a kick ass bitch who takes what she wants. What do you want?” I yelled to the mirror. “What do you want?” That was simple. “I want Rock.” Certainty filled my voice.
With my mind set, I needed to keep busy so no doubts could creep into my mind. With nothing left to do at home, I always had work at Black Label, even if it was one of the three days the shop was closed.
I headed to work in the shop I owned in town. There were always internet orders to fill, tweaks to make to my website, and potential inventory to review. My baby always needed care. It was another sign of my strength. Despite my father’s predictions of failure, I’d made a success of the business, even beyond my proforma. I was damn proud of her.
I entered my back door into the small office slash work room, hung my purse on the hook before booting up my computer. I grabbed a Diet Coke from my office fridge, and hit the timer on my phone. I didn’t want to get lost in work and miss the appointment. Well I kind of wanted to miss it, but I was sure Rock would track me down. Besides I was the new brave Avery. I spread the curtain to enter my lingere room. Well, it was a room if a room could be made of burgundy velvet curtains, not walls. I’d started stocking sexy lingere a year ago, now it was my best local seller. I ran my fingers over the satin teddies. Rock would like the purple one on me. He’d always appreciated my lingerie. Shit, not helpful. I did a quick survey, all the merchandise was displayed as I wanted, My red collection was low, so I added it to my mental order list.
With Martha, my computer, humming and ready for work, I checked my inbox for new web orders. I had ten new ones, hot damn. That made 15 to fill now. I searched out the inventory, printed the orders before I began boxing and shipping. Work soothed my anxiety. My phone alarm beeped at me. The hour of doom had arrived—well it would in five minutes anyway. Ridiculous. My fear was beyond unreasonable, but it was past time to cross off this from my bucket list. Rock waited for me across the street, and I wanted him even if I shouldn’t. If I couldn’t face my fear of pain, then there was no way I’d find the courage to be his girl. I was done fooling myself. We may not have what it took to make it last, but I had to try—today I was crossing two items off my bucket list.
With three minutes to spare, I walked across the deserted Main Street, feeling like one of those overmatched underdogs who faced the bad guys in Westerns. With most of the shops on this end of the street closed on Sundays, our section of Main resembled a ghost town.
This is just one step, go in and see, you can always leave. Fuck that, you are getting this damn tattoo and you are taking the man giving it to you. Time for us to take what we want Move. I ordered my feet. They didn’t move.
. “We are getting the tattoo. Let’s do this. Go, go, go.” I mumbled, staring down at my feet.
The bell rang when I walked in Marked Man signifying that I’d crossed a line. No going back. I was in club territory now. I was in Rock’s world. The club—Jericho Brotherhood—was the biggest thing standing between Rock and me. I distrusted the club, as much as I loved its members, not because I was a snob like my friends. No, it wasn’t principle, but practicality. I’d seen the way the bikers, especially Jericho, had hurt Lila and not one of them ever considered her in their pissing match. I would never forget the way she’d wept when they’d cornered her at a club, or how she’d been so defeated by Dare’s rejection. Even if she’d do it again, I didn’t think she should’ve ever had to go through it once. A family didn’t treat members like that…
Despite what Lila said now, her experience was a major con on my list of why I didn’t want to be part of the club. First, women were property, while I didn’t know what it meant exactly, I didn’t like it because I knew it meant we weren’t equal. In fact a woman couldn’t even be a member. Second, I didn’t trust Jericho, because he scared me, a lot, and he’d been the main reason Lila had spent four months in hell when she broke up with Dare. It only made me think the Brotherhood was like my own family—women sacrificed and men reaped the rewards.
Rock appeared from the hallway, hands tucked into his back pockets. Scrumptious.
“Glad I didn’t have to haul you in here.” He arched his heavy black brow. “I’d planned to tickle you all the way from your house to my shop if I had to.” His slow sexy smile lit me up inside.
I was crazy ticklish. Something he’d used to his advantage before. My insides warmed that he remembered. I wasn’t the only one lost in our past. “Like I’d back out.”
“Again.” His smile softened the sting.
“So, we’re doing this.” I tried to step forward, but my feet were glued to the floor.
He smoothed a white piece of paper on the old wooden counter.
“Come see your personal brand, if you dare.” He crooked his finger.
My heart pumped and suddenly my feet were happy to do Rock’s bidding. Unstuck, I hurried to see what he’d created.
“Hey, almita.” He brushed my lips with a light kiss and then settled in for a longer one.
Exactly what I needed, but he stepped back just as I started sinking down into the pleasure, the mind clearing arousal that consumed me. I needed him, always. Each day we were apart shredded my insides a bit more, but I feared how much worse it’d be if I got in deeper and he hurt me like Lila had been hurt. I wasn’t strong like she was.
His thumb stroked my lip. “You’re not distracting me.” He held up the white paper. “What do you think of this?”
In the narrow rectangle Black Label was drawn exactly like my store sign and underneath in perfect cursive was 100% Original. I loved it, exactly what I’d asked for.
“Yeah, you are so freaking talented.”
“Thank you. But I wanted to show you option two, something I imagined.” He pulled out another square of paper from his back pocket.
And suddenly I wished I could fit there, snug to his perfect round ass.
“What do you think?”
Excitement fizzed inside me. I loved it. The same label outlined in black, but inside was fluorescent pink with the most beautiful purple used for 100% Original.
“My God, it is perfect. I love it.” I bounced up and down. “No, I more than love it. I whatever comes after absolutely fucking love it.” I hugged him tight as tears welled in my eyes. Finally someone got me, totally, absolutely got me.
“I love the excitement, but, I like breathing too.”
Those colors wouldn’t be free. I loosened my grip on and planted a big, smacking kiss on his mouth. “I wish I could afford it. It is absolutely perfect.”
Rock glared at me. “You ain’t paying for this. This is my cherry to pop.”
He cut off my protest with a kiss, I lost myself in him. When I resurfaced I decided to accept his generousity. “Thanks. I totally need that brand on me.”
“Let’s go. Time to mark you.” He clasped my hand as we walked to the work room.
“Strip.” He commanded.
“What. You have all your customers naked on your table.” I rolled my eyes and removed my shirt. “I don’t even need to take off my bra. It goes here.” I tapped the place on my left breast.
A truly wicked grin spread across his handsome face. “I never said anything about needing you naked for your ink.” He closed the distance between us. “I said strip for me.”
I sucked in a breath as heat spread through my core. That was hot.
He hooked a finger under the front clasp of my red lacy bra with a flick, it popped open. “Now the rest of it. Lay your bare ass on my table.” His eyes sparked with a challenge. “Unless you’re scared.”
I stood so aroused I couldn’t think, so I didn’t think. I followed his command to strip and I lay on the leather massage table staring up at the mirror above me. The girl I saw annoyed me–small tits, too narrow hips with thin legs, overall too bony. I shut my eyes, this mirror was not my friend.
But the sexy, shirtless guy moving toward me was totally mine. Despite the damn mirror above me, I felt sexy under his steady gaze. Magic. The magic of his desire for me made me feel better, for now anyway.
He set a container on the stand next to me. “I have no idea how I’ll keep my hands off you.” He winked. “Maybe I won’t.” His hand caressed my shoulder. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing.” If I didn’t acknowledge it, then it didn’t exist.
“You’re all tight and tense.” He stroked my green hair off my forehead. “Relax for me.” His fingers caressed my cheek then worked down my neck, stroked my breasts. That was right. I’d missed his hands on me. My body stretched up trying to get closer to what he gave, but he moved lower, skimming my stomach, making me gasp as the slight tickle set my nerve endings on edge.