CRACKS IN THE ARMOR
Cupcakes and Ink Novella
by Helena Hunting
Pocket Star | e-novella: 60 pages |ISBN 9781476764344 |June 2014
Galley provided by publisher for honest review. No remuneration exchanged and all opinion presented herein is my own unless otherwise noted.
Chris, a sexy tattoo artist, tries to win the heart of Sarah, a grad student with little interest in him, in this second e-short and follow-up to Helena Hunting’s gripping love story, Clipped Wings—“twisted, dark, incredibly erotic…a love story like no other” (USA TODAY bestselling author Alice Clayton).
Part owner of the Chicago tattoo shop Inked Armor, Chris Zelter is a talented artist who decorates skin with gorgeous designs. He might look the part of the typical jacked-up, inked-up bad-boy, but underneath is a fiercely loyal, complicated man. Kicked out at sixteen, Chris has had to fend for himself for the last twelve years, making his Inked Armor crew as much family as they are business partners. For him, it’s enough—until he meets Sarah Adamson.
A grad student waitressing at the local strip club, Sarah is used to propositions and crude comments. The job is a means to an end—finish her MBA, pay off the tuition loans, and get a good job. Then she won’t have to rely on anyone to take care of her. So when brawny, tatted up Chris begins hanging out at the club, she rebuffs his advances. At first. But Chris isn’t like her usual clientele: despite his hard exterior, he’s almost…sweet.
Sometimes, the people with the roughest edges have the biggest hearts. Pocket Star
While this story doesn’t have the dark, immediate, and compelling twistiness that the first two books in this series, belonging to the characters Tenly and Hayden, it does offer a much more sympathetic view of a character I really did not like at all from those earlier books. Chris, Hayden’s co-worker, always seemed immature, lacking in the social graces, and a total jerk. He seemed like a bridge between the nasty, low-life element which previously defined Hayden’s life and the tattoo parlor they both are part of. Here we get a glimpse of a much more caring man in love-ish with a woman.
The woman is Sarah. an MBA student determined to get through school without loans or help. To do so she waitresses in a strip club, with all the attendant grabbiness, and pressure. And, she appreciates Chris’ care and attention. The thoughtfulness he extends to her is a “crack” in his armor. And she has some kind of crust that is holding her back too. I never thought of her as more than Tenley’s annoying neighbor — there but not too helpful.
It’s apparent they are the next couple up in this series will have Tenly and Hayden peripheral, off in whatever kind of shaky bliss two disaster survivors can have, and we’ll learn of Chris’ and Sarah’s personal traumas in the story of their romance. Since Chris was not my favorite character, this is going to be even edgier than the first part of the series.
As part of the Pocket Star-Nights Promo I have five e-copies of this novella to giveaway! US downloaders over 18 years of age, only and doesn’t include kindle. Enter below the excerpt.
At the end of my shift I changed out of my slut attire and back into my jeans and T-shirt, then headed out the back door. The security guard had changed. He was one of the ones I didn’t know. Or trust.
He gave me a sidelong glance. “You want me to walk you to your car?”
“I’m right there.” I pointed to my Tercel.
His eyes narrowed. “That’s your ride?”
It wasn’t much of a ride, compared to some of the flashy cars parked out here. The girls who performed the best also got the best perks, leased cars being one of them. I was perfectly happy not to be among the privileged few. “Yeah. Have a good night.”
“I think I should walk you over.”
I was parked under one of the lights. If he was looking for a little end-of-night action, it wasn’t the most covert place to have it happen. He must have read the skepticism in my expression.
“One of the guys on camera detail warned me that some dude was out here fucking around by the cars. It was during shift change, so there wasn’t anyone here. I’d feel better if you let me check things out.”
I glanced nervously at my car and shrugged. “Yeah. Okay.”
I trailed behind him as he stalked across the lot. He walked around the vehicle, looking for . . . signs of forced entry maybe? When he didn’t find anything sinister, I pulled on the handle to find that it was locked.
“Huh, that’s odd.”
His shoulders rolled back and his eyes shot around the dark lot. “What?” His hand went behind him, as if he was getting ready to go for a piece. It wasn’t the first time I suspected the security was armed with more than brass knuckles and walkies.
“I don’t lock my doors.”
“What?” He looked at me like I was crazy.
“Do you see this?” I gestured to the Tercel and then motioned around the lot. “Of all the cars here, who would choose mine to steal?” I peered into the backseat. All the doors had been locked. Only one person would do that.
I rummaged around in my purse until I found my keys. After unlocking the door, I bent down and felt around under the front seat until my fingers closed around a keychain. I bit my lip to stop the stupid grin from breaking out. Though it would be more convenient to have my own key, there was satisfaction in knowing he’d drop one off for me because he wanted to see me. “It’s cool. My b— friend was just leaving me a key.” I almost stumbled over the word.
“Next time, tell your friend to leave it with one of us instead of sneaking around back here. We’ll get it to you.”
“Yeah, sure. Thanks.”
Chris would never leave his key with one of these beefcakes. I slid into the driver’s seat and let the bouncer shut my door. He waited until I pulled out of the spot before he ambled back to his post. He was a lot nicer than some of the other guys who worked for Xander, surprisingly.
I checked my phone at the first red light. There were several texts from Chris—the most recent were admonishments for not locking my doors. The ones before and after contained an invitation to stay the night and a message about the key he left under the driver’s seat. Tonight hadn’t been bad, so I wasn’t about to pass up the offer. I was glad I’d packed an overnight bag, as I always did.
I pulled into the parking spot reserved for Chris’s bike. He’d angled it at the top of the space so there would be enough room for my car. He was always thoughtful like that. It made me feel like a bitch for not inviting him over to my place more often, where parking wasn’t an issue.
It had been too long since I’d spent any real time with him. I didn’t like how much that bothered me, or how excited I’d been about the text and key. That I constantly packed a bag in advance was a red flag I chose to ignore.
I was quiet as I made the trek up the stairs to his apartment and unlocked the door. The light above the ancient, avocado-green stove was on, casting a pale glow over the dated kitchen. There was a note propped up on the counter with my name written across the front in Chris’s elegant cursive. I always teased him that he wrote like a girl.
I set my bag down quietly, though a bomb could go off and Chris would sleep right through it. I left my shoes on, because Chris insisted I never walk barefoot around his place, and crossed over to the counter. There were little doodles in the corners of the note he left me. Designs that reminded me of the tattoos he put on other people. Ones he refused to put on me.
I hope you had a decent night. There are fresh towels in the
bathroom and a sandwich in the fridge. Give me a kiss before you
I folded it and put it carefully inside my bag. I had a little box of notes like these from him in my bedroom. I kept every single one.
Link continuing the excerpt to XOXO After Dark:
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Here are some comment ideas, but feel free to say anything meaningful, polite and on topic.
- What do you think about strip clubs?
- The strip club Sarah works in is particularly icky and dangerous, but the money is good. Would you work there to pay off student loans?
- What’s would be your stripper name?
- Any plans for the rest of summer?