RT Review Source has turned us on to many incredible authors over the past couple of years, Lindsay Detwiler being one of them! Her sweet contemporary romance Inked Hearts earned an RT Top Pick! and our reviewer called it “the perfect comfort read.” While we’ll have to wait until October to download the book to our ereader, we do have an exclusive excerpt to tide us over. But first, a bit of background:
After learning her husband was cheating on her, Avery moves to a new city to start a new life. Love is the furthest thing from her mind, until, of course, she meets a friendly tattoo artist named Jesse. Both carry heavy emotional baggage from past relationships — can they come together to find peace in love?
“How’s it feel to be a famous artist?” Jesse says, sneaking up behind me and planting a kiss on my cheek.
“I wouldn’t know.”
“Well, you’re going to soon. This is awesome. Really. You’re amazing.”
I turn in his arms, the paintbrush still in one hand. “Oh yeah?”
“Yeah.” He takes my lips in his, and all the thoughts, doubts, and even successes melt away. I’m just the woman in Jesse Pearce’s arms—and I’m okay with that.
Because I know in his arms, I’m really not just a woman. I’m Avery Johannas, the woman who eats fried pickles and goes parasailing. I’m the woman who is finding her way through waitressing and painting. I’m the woman who draws tattoos and is damn proud of it. I’m the woman who goes out on Fridays to the club and who no longer gets her nails done regularly, because the ocean water just erodes them anyway.
In Jesse’s arms, I’m the woman I never knew I wanted to be. Even though it took me a while to see it, loving Jesse was exactly what I needed to truly be free.
“So, let’s celebrate tonight. Go home. There’s a surprise for you there. Meet me back here in about two hours.”
“You know I don’t like surprises.”
He raises an eyebrow.
“Okay, they’re growing on me a bit.”
“That’s my girl. Now get moving. I have work to do.”
I steal one more kiss before putting the paintbrush down on the drop cloth, taking one last look at my masterpiece, and scurrying home to find whatever Jesse has waiting for me.
I can’t help but wonder if the pink dress is supposed to be a reminder of the pink underwear incident. Nonetheless, the strapless dress Jesse’s left for me fits like a glove. I feel damn good in it, which isn’t something I would usually say.
I toss on some ballet flats with it and put on the pink Sabika necklace Jesse has also left for me. No man, not even Chris, has ever given me this romantic movie moment.
Jodie’s at work, so I don’t get to hear her wolf whistle or innuendos on my way out the door. I’ll admit, her lewd comments are growing on me. I actually feel a little lost without them.
Still, this is just a thank-you for the mural. This isn’t going to lead to sex—necessarily.
But on the way to Jesse’s place, my palms are a little sweaty and I feel a little fluttery in my chest. I feel like a sixteen-year-old going over to her boyfriend’s house because his parents are out of town. I feel like a woman whose life is about to change.
There’s some soft rock music playing when I open the door to Jesse’s apartment. The distinct smell of teriyaki sauce permeates the room, dancing in my nose as soon as I walk through the door.
“Hey. That looks amazing on you,” he says. He’s wearing black jeans and a button-up shirt. He’s gelled his hair, and hints of his cologne permeate the room.
“Thanks. I love this. You didn’t have to do it.”
“I like to treat my artists well.”
“So you do this for all of them?” I ask, setting down my bag on the counter.
“Only the good ones.”
He leans in to kiss me, and I realize how natural this has become. It hasn’t taken long for us to settle into couple status. In retrospect, it seems now like it was always coming. It seems unnatural for us not to be like this—comfortable, kissing, and together.
I’m so glad that for once in my life, I broke my own rules.
Jesse leads me to his kitchen table, which is adorned with a dozen pink roses. I smile, gently touching the petals of one.
“This is beautiful. Thank you.”
“Have a seat. Dinner is ready.” Jesse brings out a few casserole dishes with rice, teriyaki chicken and vegetables, and even some egg rolls.
“Did you make all this?” I ask coyly, pretending to be impressed.
“Yeah, it was sort of rough because I’m not that great at cooking.”
He stares for a moment as he sets the dishes down. I can tell he’s trying to see if I believe him.
I look directly from him to the top of the refrigerator, at a large take-out bag with a familiar Chinese restaurant’s name. I raise an eyebrow.
“That’s an old bag,” Jesse says, waving a hand but smirking.
“Yeah, okay. I just have a feeling this is going to taste just like it.”
“Only because I worked so hard to get the secret recipe.”
I dig into the dishes, serving myself, laughing at the trouble he went through. “You know, you didn’t have to dirty dishes on my account. I would’ve been fine with takeout. I’m not a food snob.”
“That’s a good thing, because I’m not much of a cook.”
“Oh, and I am,” I say, referring to the pasta debacle.
“What a pair, huh?”
I shrug. “Could be worse.”
“I’ll drink to that,” he says, holding up his bottle of beer. We clink bottles as we finish eating. To an outsider, I’m sure it looks ridiculous. My fancy dress and necklace, sitting at a table eating take-out Chinese food.
To me, though, it’s perfect. The man I’ve fallen for sitting beside me, Chinese food, and a comfort I haven’t had with anyone else.
As much of a mystery as Jesse Pearce was a few months ago, he’s become as familiar as my new self.
I like this new Avery. I like Jesse’s Avery. I like the Jesse and Avery we are together.
So when we finish eating and he gives me the look I’ve come to recognize, I lean forward, kissing him with a fervor I’ve reserved for this moment, telling him wordlessly that I’m all his.
As he leads me back to the bedroom and hastily unzips the dress he painstakingly picked out for me, I smile.
For a long time, I didn’t think I wanted to belong to any man. For a long time, I thought this part of myself was shut down.
But as Jesse’s hands travel down to the familiar hot-pink underwear I’m wearing, I feel myself let go of all of those ideas I had before.
I’ve come to realize it’s okay to be his, because Jesse doesn’t hold me back. He makes me who I want to be. He makes me the best version of myself.
Loving him might be a risk, and losing myself completely to him tonight might be my undoing. Letting him go, though, is not an option, not when he tosses me back on the bed, and I feel every part of my being succumb to the tattooed hunk moving perfectly on top of me.
And so, after a night of learning what adult sleepovers are actually all about and mastering the sex-hair look, I let go of my rule.
I’m all in. I’m all his.
When my eyes open in the morning, I stretch gloriously as I stare at the bare, white walls of the now familiar room. I wipe the sleep and remnants of last night’s mascara from my eyes.
There’s no doubt I’m rocking sex hair this morning, I realize, as I attempt to run my fingers through my knotted, frizzy locks.
“Morning,” a groggy voice whispers as lips find my neck and start kissing me. A smile comes to my face.
“Hey,” I say, turning to see Jesse right next to me, his head actually on my pillow, his bare skin against mine.
Normally, I’d worry about morning breath. I’d feel like I should leap out of bed and start tackling a million to-do lists. Ordinarily, mornings lounging in bed with naked men aren’t my thing.
But looking at his body as he rolls to his side and props his head up with a hand, I think maybe I could get used to this.
We look at each other for a long moment.
“Breakfast?” he finally asks, and I nod quietly.
“Shower first?” I ask. A grin spreads on his face.
“I think that’s a great idea.”
I follow Jesse unabashedly into his shower, stepping over a snoring Jake on the way. The shower takes a little longer than normal, and our breakfast is delayed. I try not to analyze it like I tend to do. I try not to worry about the what-ifs and the hows and the logistics.
Instead, I try to let my heart lead the way, my now patched-up heart, and think about how even though love can hurt, sometimes it can just feel so damn good.
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