You can’t be a romance fan and not love and pine for an HEA. It’s in our DNA. So we were especially excited to hear that Laura Kaye had penned a novella, “Hard Ever After,” ending her Hard Ink series, starring Hard As It Gets couple Nick and Becca. And their wedding! And of course, tons of drama. We love drama. When it is in books. To celebrate the nuptials, we are giving away an entire series e-set. Details after this most excellent excerpt.
Wearing only her bra and jeans, Becca sat in a chair in the middle of Nick’s tattoo room. Since the shop was closed while Jeremy focused on getting the construction on the other half of the building started, they were the only ones down there. The driving beat of a rock song played from the radio as Nick moved around the room getting everything ready.
Cabinets and a long counter filled one wall, which was otherwise decorated with drawings, tattoo designs, posters, and photographs of clients.
Becca had seen Nick work before and loved the dichotomy of this hard-edged, lethal soldier having a soft, artistic side. He was really freaking talented, too.
He handed her three sheets of paper. “I worked up a couple different fonts. What do you think?”
She shifted between the pages. “This one,” she said, settling on the cursive design that best interweaved the letters in the words Only, Always, Forever.
“That was my favorite, too,” he said, giving her a wink.
“How is this for size? Bigger? Smaller?”
The total design as he had it on the sheet was about four inches square, the words stacked atop one another.
“This looks good to me. What do you think?”
Nick nodded and came behind her. He folded the sheet to focus on the design, then held it against the back of her right shoulder. “Yeah. This is a good size for the space. Gonna be fucking beautiful.” He leaned down and pressed a kiss to her skin. “Let me go make the stencil, and we’re ready to go.”
A few minutes later, he cleaned her skin, affixed the stencil, and let her look at its placement before getting her settled into the chair again.
He pulled her bra strap off to the side. “Ready?”
“Very,” she said, butterflies doing a small loop in her belly. The tattoo machine came to life on a low buzz.
“Just relax and let me know if you need a break, okay?” he said, dipping the tip into a little plastic cup of black ink.
“Okay.” His gloved hands fell against her skin, and then the needles. Almost a scratching feeling, it didn’t hurt nearly as bad as she thought it would. And just like when he’d drawn on her with skin markers, she was already dying to see what it looked like.
“How you doing?” he asked in a voice full of concentration she found utterly sexy. Just the thought that he was permanently altering her skin—just like he’d permanently altered her heart, her life, her very soul—sent a hot thrill through her blood.
“I’m good,” she said, relaxing into the sensation of the bite moving across her skin. “Is it weird that I kinda like how it feels?”
He didn’t answer right away as the needle moved in a long line. He pulled the machine away and wiped at her shoulder. “Not weird at all,” he said, his voice a little gravelly. “Some people like the sensation and even find getting tattoos addictive.”
“I can see that,” she said. He worked without talking for a stretch, and the combination of the quiet intensity radiating off of him, the driving rock beat, and the buzz of the machine was heady and intoxicating. She found herself breathing a little faster and wanting so much more of him to be touching so much more of her. If she thought he was sexy putting ink on someone else, it was nothing compared to how she felt when he was doing it to her.
“What are you thinking about so hard?” Nick asked, his breath caressing her bare shoulder.
“Really want to know?” she asked, already smiling at what his reaction might be.
“Always,” he said, wiping at her skin. He dipped the machine in the ink and leaned in again.
“How turned on this is making me.” She really wanted to turn to see his expression but knew she wasn’t supposed to move.
He pulled the machine away again. “Jesus, Becca. You’re killing me here.”
She grinned. “I asked if you really wanted to know.”
Nick chuffed out a laugh. “Yeah, well, I’ve never had a fucking hard-on the entire time I’ve done a tattoo before, so you’re not the only one.”
Becca unleashed a small moan. “Now you’ve got me thinking about your cock, Nick.” She couldn’t help the hint of a whine in her voice.
“You’ll never convince me that that’s a bad thing, Sunshine.”
“God, I really want to touch you right now,” she said, heat spreading over her body.
“Be still,” he said, his tone full of a stern command that made her smile.
“Fucking yes, sir,” he grumbled under his breath.
Another long stretch passed without them talking, but knowing that what they were doing was arousing Nick as much as it was her made her wet and needy and absolutely ready to jump him the minute she could.
Nearly ninety minutes had passed by the time Nick said, “There. It’s done.” He wiped at her skin and handed her a mirror. “Take a look.”
Anticipation made her belly feel like she was looking over the edge of a tall cliff. She crossed to the mirror and turned her back to it, then lifted the hand mirror to see her first tattoo.
“Oh, Nick,” she said, her gaze drinking it in. The way the stacked letters intertwined with one another was so beautifully done. “It’s . . . gorgeous.” Her heart squeezed in her chest. “You are so freaking talented.” She looked from the mirror to where he still sat, his gaze glued to her face.
“I think it looks phenomenal on you. You really like it?” he asked.
She looked at her ink again. The stark crispness of the black lettering was so striking against her skin. She adored everything about it—the design, the words, their meaning. “I don’t just like it. I love it, Nick. It’s perfect. Everything I wanted.” Her gaze cut back to him. “Just like you.”
“Come here,” he said, his voice a little rough. When she stood right in front of him, he pressed a kiss between her breasts. “It was an honor, you letting me do that.”
She dragged her hands through his dark brown hair. “Sweet, sweet man,” she said, leaning down to kiss him. It started off soft, full of gratitude and love, but quickly flashed hot until they were devouring one another, claiming, wanting, moaning.
“Fuck, Becca,” he said, pulling back. “Let me take care of your tattoo.”
Wiping the wetness from her lips, she smiled and nodded. “Okay.” She sat back in the chair, and Nick cleaned the skin over her tattoo and taped a bandage to it.
“All done,” he said. “Now, there’s just one more thing I need to do.”
So good, right? To celebrate the ending to the series, we’re giving away an entire series e-set. You know what that means? The contest is open internationally! We’re so excited! The e-titles one lucky winner will get include: Hard As It Gets, Hard As You Can, “Hard to Hold on To,” Hard to Come By, “Hard to Be Good,” Hard to Let Go and “Hard Ever After.” Enter below, and good luck! The contest will be open until Monday, February 1.