Erotic Romantic Suspense
Ashlyn Chase's book store
"Standalone sequel to Heaving Bosoms.
Kendra Dempsey took her gangster boyfriend’s money and ran. The problem is, it was supposed to be split three ways. Going back to Las Vegas is out of the question, so she goes after the fresh start she needs. Indulging her fantasy of living in paradise, escaping the mob and having a career that utilizes her drawing talent, she moves to Hawaii and apprentices as a tattoo artist. Since all the mobsters are in prison now, she can finally relax, right?
Jake Jensen is a cop assigned to work his first undercover assignment at a suspected chop shop, Bump and Grind Auto Body, but he doesn’t look the part. The quickest thing he can do to roughen his clean-cut edges is to let his hair grow and get some cool tattoos. When the dyslexic tattoo apprentice makes a mistake in the lettering, will he be a laughing stock? Should he blow his cover and help her when she’s in more danger than he is?
"“I’m not…not breaking it off or anything, exactly.”
She leaned back and stared at him, utter bewilderment on her face. “Breaking it off? What are you talking about?”
“I told you I was no good at this.”
“You’re not kidding.” She looked over at the darkening ocean and shook her head. “Why don’t you just spit it out, Jake. You’ll be doing both of us a favor. You’re either gay, married or involved.”
“No! None of the above.”
She folded her arms and frowned. “Then what is it?”
Damn, even when she was irritated she was attractive. “Lauren, I…” Hell and be damned, his explanation for not seeing her would sound lame. One of the reasons he was having such a hard time was that he didn’t mean it. He did want to see her.
Kendra faced him squarely. “Okay, let me try to guess again. You’re afraid of my dog.”
He snorted. “No, I’m not.”
She shrugged. “It wouldn’t surprise me if you were. He puts off a lot of people.”
“Well, not me.”
“Okay… So how about you just fess up. Why aren’t you breaking it off, ‘exactly’ and what does that mean?”
Jake had a nice rehearsed speech, but he couldn’t remember a word of it. He had made up some crap about being hurt, wanting to stay casual, take it slow…
Lauren sighed. Some type of deep sadness crept into her eyes. “I get twenty questions right?”
“No need. Look, I was all set to say, I just went through a bad breakup so let’s take it slowly or just be friends if you want, but looking at you…sitting here with you, all I want to do is kiss you.”
She raised her eyebrows and waited. When he didn’t say anymore, she asked, “That’s it?”
He felt like an idiot and dropped his gaze to the white tablecloth. “Yeah, that’s it.”
“Oh. Well, that’s too bad. I was going to suggest a relationship of casual sex but no real involvement other than that.”
Jake stuck his finger in his ear and wiggled it, wondering if he had heard correctly.
“Did you just suggest we become…” He glanced around and lowered his voice. “Fuck buddies?”
She played with her Mai Tai straw and shrugged. “For lack of a better description, yeah, I guess I did.”
At that moment, the waiter brought their orders. They smelled delicious, but Jake wasn’t thinking about his dinner. Preoccupied with what she had just said, his mind raced right to dessert. As soon as the waiter left, he said, “And that would be enough for you? You wouldn’t expect me to turn myself into half of a couple and take care of your emotional needs too?”
She chuckled and shook her head. “To be honest, I’m not used to much emotional support.” She seemed pensive for a few moments, then took a deep breath and continued. “I’ve been on my own since I was fifteen. I didn’t get much support from day one. My parents were dead-heads.”
“Are you talking about the followers of the Grateful Dead rock band?”
“Exactly. I grew up in a van, traveling with two stoned people who, apparently, had forgotten to use birth control one night.”
“I wish I were.”
“What about school?”
She shrugged. “I didn’t get much support there either. We wouldn’t stay in one place long and my parents were afraid to attend a parent-teacher night. Occasionally some of the band members seemed to feel sorry for me. Jerry Garcia gave me a book. I liked the pictures. My parents thought if I had something to do, I wouldn’t bother them. So they tried to teach me to read better. Unfortunately…”
“You have dyslexia,” he finished for her.
“Isn’t it possible that you just never learned how to read properly? Maybe you’re not dyslexic at all.”
She shrugged. “Anything’s possible, I guess. But on one of their ‘layovers’, when they had to work a while to get money for gas and concert tickets, I was diagnosed at a school that had me in the dumb kids’ classes. They knew I wasn’t retarded, so they did some tests.”
“What if it was a misdiagnosis? How could your parents just…” He stopped himself in time. He wasn’t supposed to get involved and it was none of his business.
“It’s okay. I kept myself occupied by drawing. People seemed to love what I drew on my little sketchpads, so my parents and other fans kept buying them for me. I kept drawing and got some pointers. You’d be surprised how many dead-heads have artistic talent.”
“Well, I’m glad you had something. Which brings up another topic. What the hell are you going to do now that your job’s ended?”
She shrugged. “I’ll think of something. No rush.”
“What did you do to support yourself before?”
Her eyes shifted quickly to gaze at the ocean, and she seemed to clam up. “Look, you don’t have to worry about me. It’s not part of our arrangement—if you want to take me up on it. Trust me, I’m fine. All I need is a warm body next to me sometimes. One I can do more to than pat.”
Jake felt himself stir as he pictured her stroking him in all the right places. Besides, how could he abandon her when those sad eyes told him everyone else in her life had done just that?
“That sounds pretty damn good to me. Do you want to have the waiter wrap our order so we can take everything to your house?”
Lauren smiled and winked. “Sure, I’d like that a lot.” She wriggled in her seat and added, “I don’t need you to buy me dinner before we sleep together. I’m embracing the casual, Hawaiian, hang-loose attitude. And I’d like to embrace more than that.”
Jake zeroed in on the waiter and held up his index finger. “Check, please!”"