What do you do when a “fake” relationship is so much better than the real thing?
Hope Donnigan is finlly getting her life together. She’s working a job she likes, has some amazing friends, and is steering clear of Mr. Wrong. Now if only she could get her mother to understand that. Maybe a hot tattoo artist from the other side town is just the ticket to teach her mom a lesson.
J.T. Webster fell for Hope months ago at his sister’s wedding. So when she propositions him to be her fake boyfriend to get her mother off her back, he’s all in. The only problem is J.T. had no idea their pretend relationship would be better than anything real he’s ever had…
- Release Date: May 1, 2018
- Publisher: Sourcebooks
- ISBN: 978-1492631910
- Length: Novel
Monday evening, J.T. was finishing up a client when Suke stuck her head over the high partition separating his station from the others.
“Sorry, but there’s a hot chick here to see you.”
“I don’t have anyone scheduled after Dan.”
Dan tensed as the needle dug into a tender spot.
“Yo, man, relax. I told you, we’re nearly done. You’re doing great.”
“Sorry, sorry.” Dan drew in a breath and let it out. “I friggin’ hate this part.” He’d had a similar tattoo drawn over his left wrist, so he knew what to expect on his right.
“Yeah, the parts that aren’t as fleshy hurt more. But you wanted it.”
“Hell, yeah.” Dan chuckled and remained still, his arm stretched out on the table extension, unmoving under J.T.’s hand.
J.T. once again put pressure on the foot pedal, the quiet of the rotary machine a welcome relief from the older, louder equipment he used to use. The days of the loud drilling noises, cigarette smoke, and metal music gone wrong no longer existed. Now he tattooed his clients to some chill bass vibing the studio.
“The chick?” Suke said again. “I told her to wait.”
“Yeah, sure. Fine. I’ll talk to her when I’m done.”
Suke nodded and left.
It took J.T. another half hour to finish with Dan. After covering the tattoo in ointment and plastic wrap—because he knew Dan would just rip a bandage free to show off his new tattoo—he walked the guy out.
“Remember, any problems, call me. You didn’t scab last time, so I’m thinking you won’t this time either. Give it a week and a half to heal, then I want you back in so I can take some pictures. That is one wicked reaper, Dan.”
Dan grinned. “I know, right? You’re the shit, J.T. Love you, man.” He did the perfunctory half chest-bump on his good side and cradled his tattooed arm like a baby. After paying Suke, he left with a promise to return.
J.T. sighed and rolled his head on his neck, then stretched his shoulders. The session had been three hours long, but so worth it. He’d done excellent work. He glanced around, pride in his efforts enforced by the artistic feel of the place. His place.
The funky lobby of Tull Paint & Body had been done in dark colors, the floors a clean gray cement. Original artwork decorated the walls, using photos of designs the guys and Suke had done in the studio. A few Tull T-shirts and mugs sat on a rack by the counter, where whoever manned the desk would catch walk-ins and take payments. Where their apprentice, Daisy, would have been if she hadn’t left early to run some errands.
He froze for a moment, feeling déjà vu. He kept hearing Hope Donnigan’s voice in the weirdest places. Although she had actually been at his dad’s on Friday. He turned to see her standing by the wall-mounted screen to his right. Huh. She was really here.
She wore open-toed sandals showing off dainty, blue-painted toenails. Shapely legs disappeared under a knee-length, floral sundress. A cropped sweater hid her shoulders. She looked like the essence of summer, and he wanted to kneel down in worship. Innocence radiated from her in waves, as if begging him to muss her a little.
He should have felt dirty for wanting to muddy that innocence. Instead, he grew more aroused. Hell.
“Hi.” She smiled at him.
His heart raced. Damn, that dimple slayed him every time.
“He says hi back,” Suke said dryly. “I’m Suke, one of the harder-working artists around here. I take it you know J.T.?”
Hope nodded. “Great place. I hadn’t realized it was down here.”
As she and Suke spoke, J.T. watched them interact. Hope didn’t seem to care that Suke had tattoos up and down her arms, piercings in her nose and lip, and spiked black hair in a dare-to-be punk style. Nor did she seem to mind the way Suke was eye-fucking her.
“Hey,” he growled; he minded.
Suke grinned. “I’m leaving for the day. You need me to stick around and lock up? Maybe walk Hope out to her car?”
Suke chuckled and left.
He laughed. “Suke? She busts our balls on a daily basis, but we love her. Now what brings you to the lion’s den?”
Hope grinned. “Is that what this is? The sign outside said Tull Paint & Body.”
“Yeah, a play on Auto Paint & Body, like a car paint shop. I worked for my dad before I opened the place, and some of him stuck.” Jesus, he was babbling.
He shrugged, searching for calm. “My dad is a big Jethro Tull fan. Sounded cool when I was twenty-five.” He paused, shoving his hands in his pockets. “What’s up, Hope?”
She flushed, now looking uncomfortable. “Ah, this is kind of awkward. I have a favor to ask.” She didn’t say any more.
She looked so damn adorable. He couldn’t help himself. He had to mess with her. “Okay. So you want a baby without the commitment. I get it. You want to make one right here or in the back room? Do you have some paperwork for me to sign first? You know, about rights for the kid?”
“What? No.” She blinked at him. “Have you done that before?”
“Nah, but I can’t think of a more awkward conversation. So now that I know you’re not here to use and abuse me, what can I do for you?”