Authors: Shauna Allen
SOUL MATE PUBLISHING
INKED BY AN ANGEL
Cover Design by Rae Monet, Inc.
This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places, and incidents are the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, business establishments, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
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Published in the United States of America by
Soul Mate Publishing
P.O. Box 24
Macedon, New York, 14502
The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party Web sites or their content.
Thank you for your unending love and support
and for being the kind of man
every romance hero should be.
Not perfect, but one who loves his lady
so well she can’t doubt it.
And for Jacob, Terrilyn, and Natalie.
You are my angels.
I love you more than you will ever know.
The day I sat down and tried to write my first novel, I had no idea if I’d be able to pull this off. That was nearly five years and five manuscripts ago. It’s been quite a journey, full of ups and downs and lots of learning, tears, laughter, and prayer. I have a ton of people to thank that helped me along the way, and I’m sure I will forget a few.
First, thank you God for the gift and the vision. Thank you, thank you, thank you, Mom and Dad for the encouragement, love, and support that you’ve given in more ways than one. I also owe lots of love and props to my husband and kids for the sacrifices they’ve made on my behalf as I’ve tried to get the dream off and running. From financial sacrifices, to giving up chunks of time together so I could write, to listening to me whine about any number of low points along the way and celebrating the highs, they’ve been wonderful and deserve to share in this as they have earned it along with me.
And lastly, I know, without a shadow of a doubt, I could never have reached this wonderful point in my life without the wonderful community of writers that surround me. From my friends at my local RWA chapter, to my awesome critique group. I absolutely must give a shout out to my “babes,” Jaye, Stella, Jan, and Susan. I couldn’t have done this without your invaluable input, love, and support. I also want to give a thank you to my oldest and dearest friend, and the first person who shared in my writing journey with me—Jenn Uthoff. Thank you for not laughing at the crap and for cheering me on. I love you. Also, Jan Nash, thank you for being my critique partner, but more than that, I’m honored to be your sister in faith. Thank you for the prayers. And last, but most definitely not least, Susan Muller. I’d be lost without you. Your writing insight is priceless, but your friendship is precious. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
Tattoos, cupids, and bad boys: Shauna Allen delivers one heck of a read. Fresh, sassy, and witty - she brings a new voice to romance that readers are gonna love!
New York Times Bestselling Author, Christie Craig
An impressive start to a sassy new series. When Shauna Allen writes, “The Angel made me do it,” how could you not read more? This delightful, witty, unpredictable romance is downright heavenly.
2012 Golden Heart Finalist and author of
Powerless Consent, Janet Nash
Most people thought her boring. She let them think it; encouraged it even. Her boyish name, Kyle, was the only slightly cool thing about her. She’d squeaked quietly through life, no muss, no fuss, and it’d always worked for her.
But, for the life of her, she could not figure out how her stable, predictable world had altered so terribly off-kilter. She pondered this and stared up through heavy, blurred eyes at the man with sweat pouring down his beautifully sculpted face as he threw back his freshly shaven head with a warrior’s moan and thrust into her body.
“Oh, God,” she heard herself cry in a voice too deep and sensual to be her own.
It was like a wanton, pornographic out-of-body experience.
And she liked it.
Who was he, really?
For that matter, who was she?
In that moment, it made no difference. Her eyes rolled back into her head and she enjoyed the ride. She moved her hands and they tangled into the mess of her hair. Sex kitten’s hair, she realized. Mussed and rumpled, not in a sensible ponytail or bun. This out-of-body experience was getting more liberating by the minute. Perfect.
“Open your eyes,” he gritted out in a deep, gruff voice that rolled over her skin like butter.
She obeyed and focused solely on him. He had the most memorable shade of blue eyes she’d ever seen. The exact opposite of her own. And he was watching her as if he were waiting for something.
He speared her with a particularly deep and thick thrust. “Does that feel good?”
She nodded, too stunned to answer.
He did it again and she moaned her thanks. Her eyes slid down to take in his features. His nose, which would’ve once been aquiline and perfect, now stood slightly skewed to one side, probably from a break. Dark brown stubble covered divots, too manly to be called dimples, bracketing either side of his mouth.
His lips. Oh, man, his lips. Now,
were perfect. Kyle reached up to trace them with the tip of her nail and his tongue darted out to taste her fingertip. She stifled a surprised breath when he drew it into his hot mouth for a teasing suckle.
When he released her finger, she touched his firm chin and found herself fascinated by the small black stud pierced beneath his lower lip. He was so not her type. And yet, as his body continued the magic, he was apparently
her type after all.
He reached down and hiked her knee up to his shoulder to allow the deepest penetration possible and she nearly broke. She raked him with her fingernails as she cried out, “Holy . . .”
“I know, baby.” He quieted her with his lips.
He rocked his hips. He thrust. He shook her world.
She choked in air, her lips at his neck where she tasted the salt on his skin. She felt, more than saw, the earrings that lined his ear.
not her type.
He thrust again.
He pulled back and pushed up onto his hands so he could gaze down into her face. Something about all of this tugged at her memory—her heart. But what . . .?
Her heavy-lidded eyes slid down his chest. Just as she was about to succumb to what he was doing to her, and within her, her blurry vision cleared enough for her to focus and her mind froze.
There, on his smooth left pec, her face, in black and white repose, stared back, her name boldly inked below.
Her eyes flew back to his.
He searched her face. Something in the way his eyes blazed begged for understanding. “The Angel made me do it.”
The only thing Jed hated more than portrait tattoos were portrait tattoos with friggin’ names. Who, in their right mind, would put someone’s name and face on their body for the rest of their lives? It was like inviting in the evil juju and was doomed to fail every time. He’d seen it too many times to count. Husbands, wives, girlfriends and boyfriends, girlfriends and girlfriends, you name it. The only exception he’d make was for children. And, even then, he’d heard some horror stories from parents of how their children had screwed them over.
Idly, he rubbed the newest tat on his forearm and ambled over to examine his latest case in point. Some poor schmuck was having his giggly girlfriend’s face tatted to his left bicep—big red lips, toothy grin and all. The guy was gritting his teeth and bearing it like a man, but Jed was sure that in the next six months they’d be broken up because giggly girl would either cheat on him with his best friend or dick with him in some other way.
“Looks good,” Jed commented, trying to be encouraging. After all, the schmuck was a paying customer.
Michael, AKA The Angel, raised his head with a grin and dipped his needle in the ink. “Yeah. Thanks.” He glanced back at his customer. “Almost done here, dude. You hangin’ in there?”
The schmuck nodded, sweat beading on his upper lip. “Yeah.”
Giggly girlfriend leaned in for a closer peek. “I like it, baby.”
“Yeah, yours is sexy too, babe.”
The girl tried to turn and admire the angel Michael had already tattooed onto her lower back—one of his specialties, and the inspiration for his street name.
She twisted to look in the mirror. “You really
an angel!” she cried. “This is freakin’ gorgeous!”
. Another satisfied customer. The schmuck was getting lucky tonight.
Once again, Jed counted his blessings that Michael had come in last month hunting for a job. He’d been down one tattoo artist with no suitable candidates on the horizon when big Mike had practically fallen into his lap. And, Jed thought with a little shake of his head, Mike was a fantastic portrait artist. Kudos to him, because he would be getting all of those jobs from now on. Yep, friggin’ portraits. He hated ‘em.
He strolled to the next station and leaned over the partition to watch his best friend, Noble, add the finishing touches to a sketch.
“Whatcha workin’ on?”
“Some girl wants a tramp stamp.” Noble tilted his head, erased, then added to his drawing. “I’m trying to class it up before she gets here for her appointment.”
“Ah, yes, we wouldn’t be in business if it weren’t for the tramp stamp,” Jed joked. The lower back tattoo that had become the darling of so many young women was a double bonus. It brought in cash and customers. Hot, young, female customers. Maybe that was a triple bonus. “You’ve been doing quite a few of those lately. Anything I should know?”
Noble looked up, his brows furrowed. “Like what?”
Jed laughed. His friend apparently had no idea chicks dug the tall, dark, and silent types. “Nothing.” He moved toward his back office to wait for his next appointment.
The studio grew silent when the poor schmuck and his giggly girl left. A few minutes later Michael popped his head in the door. “Hey, Jed, I need to go out for a while. You cool with that?”
He glanced up. Michael was pulling on his leather jacket and looked like he was in a hurry. “You don’t have any appointments coming in?”
“All right, cool. Catch us a pizza from Papa Turoni’s on the way back, eh?”
“Again? We just had one.”
Jed arched a brow. The mom ‘n pop Italian joint next door rocked. And if Mike went in, it saved him from the Papa Turoni’s matchmaking ways. “Dude. Is there such a thing as too much pizza?”
Mike grinned. “Guess you’re right.”
The front door’s small bell tinkled, signaling someone else had come in. Masculine laughter and the silky tones of Kierstan’s voice sweet-talking a man immediately set his teeth on edge. It was probably his next appointment.
He stood and rushed to save his client from his partner, the man-eating piranha.
Michael hotfooted it out without another word to anyone as Kierstan breezed over to her workstation. “Hi, Jed.”
He barely acknowledged her before greeting his client. If only she would accept his most recent offer to sell her part of the business back to him—hell any of his last hundred and one offers—the damn monkey would climb off his back. Then he wouldn’t constantly be hounded by their sordid past and by his more-than-justified anger. He could finally have the peace he craved. Maybe.
Jed turned to his customer, who was thankfully having a complex piece finished on his back so he didn’t have to think much about the design, and got right to work. But damn if there wasn’t a disturbance in The Force when the she-wolf started circling like a bitch in heat.
“So, Carl”—Kierstan sidled up and leaned against the counter, invading his workspace as she watched—“You interested in getting any more piercings?”
Jed glanced over as he wiped the ink from Carl’s back. What was she up to?
Carl turned his head and smiled at her. “I’m not sure. What did you have in mind?”
“Well, how did you like the brow?”
“I liked it fine.”
Jed tried not to sigh in frustration, or bite her fucking head off. Carl seemed to be enjoying the flirtation.
She stepped away from the counter and moved further into Carl’s line-of-vision. “We could try your lip.” She reached out and brushed his mouth with a blood red nail. “Or maybe something a bit . . . more interesting if you’re up for it.” She winked as her finger trailed down his chin and throat to his chest. “Let me know when you’re done here.”
She stared pointedly at Jed as if to say:
What? You gonna
and strutted away.
He couldn’t believe there had ever been a time they once loved . . . He shook his head, denying the rest of the thought, dipped his needle, and got back to work. “Sorry about that, Carl.”
“Don’t worry about it, man. Kierstan’s somethin’ else, isn’t she?”
He took a cleansing breath. “You could say that.”
The front doorbell sounded again, but he continued his work. His West Austin studio was considered upscale with allowances for privacy, but the main floor was still open with his office in the back. He could get some reprieve when he needed his space, yet still keep an eye on things. It was also good for clients who wanted a more private setting for their custom work. Tattoos could be surprisingly personal.
The shop was suddenly too quiet. Except for the buzz of his needle, all motion had ceased. Something wasn’t right.
Kierstan whispered, “Holy shit . . . . What have we got here?” and snickered under her breath.
He turned to see what had Kierstan all worked up.
Well, well, well. Little Miss Muffet had come off her tuffet
. He watched the newcomer fidget for a moment with her purse and check a piece of paper. He wondered if she’d turn around once she realized she’d stumbled into a tattoo parlor. She didn’t belong in here any more than she belonged on the moon.
“Excuse me”—he nodded to Carl as he stood and pulled off his gloves— “I’ll be right back. Poor thing must need directions to the library.”
Carl glanced up and gave a small laugh.
“Can I help you?” Jed ambled over. “Are you lost?”
She looked up, startled. She had on ugly, thick glasses and absolutely zero makeup to hide the flush riding her cheeks.
“Uh,” she stammered. What? Did she think he’d bite? “Is this”—she glanced down at the paper in her hand—“3101 Loop 360 South?”
“Then no, I’m not lost.” Her voice cracked, but she looked him in the eye.
He studied her for a moment. She actually had her hair in a bun, for Crissake. He hadn’t seen a woman sport one of those in ages. Well, not one under seventy anyway.
He settled his weight onto one hip. “You here for a tattoo, sweetheart?”
Her lips parted then she snapped them closed. Noble stifled a laugh behind him and her eyes darted nervously over his shoulder then back to his face. He knew his appearance must intimidate her; it did most people. Tall guys with shaved heads, tats, and piercings had that effect on folks. But what did she expect, coming into a place like this?
“Well? If not a tattoo then a piercing?” He smiled and toyed with the stud under his lip with the tip of his tongue.
The tips of her ears flushed to match her cheeks. “Most certainly not!”
He grinned. “No?”
“No!” She looked ready to bolt back to her tuffet.
She backed up a step.
Yup, ready to bolt. He was doing her a favor.
“Yes. I’m quite sure. But thank you,” she added half-heartedly.
He caught a hint of her perfume. Something sweet with a hint of sex. “You’re welcome. Come back if you change your mind.” He pivoted back toward his workstation, but not before he’d seen the way her pulse was pounding against the pearls circling the pale white column of her throat.
“Wait,” she called in a quiet, defeated voice.
He glanced over his shoulder.
“Are you Michael?”
Something in the way she said the big guy’s name made him nervous. “No. I’m Jed Gentry. This is my place. Why?”
“Oh.” She glanced down then back up like she’d renewed her resolve to stand toe-to-toe with him. “Would you please let him know I’m here?”
“If you don’t have an appointment for a tat, you’ll have to come back.”
She sighed and shoved her glasses up with a little more force than necessary. “But, we
have an appointment. He’s hired me to be his accountant.”
He sat back down next to Carl and slapped on new gloves without looking at her. “Sorry. He’s not here.” He picked up his needle, turning it on and letting the familiar vibration buzz up his arm. “Why don’t you leave a card or something?”
He saw her pace a few steps out of the corner of his eye. “That’s okay. I’ll wait.”
Shit. Michael practically lived at the studio. Guess he could be seeing a lot more of Little Miss Muffet’s tuffet.
Kyle couldn’t believe his arrogance. The big, bald Jed Gentry began tattooing the man’s back again as though she wasn’t there. Jerk. She sighed. A jerk with the most amazing blue eyes and piercings she’d ever seen! She averted her gaze and studied the shop.
Breathe. Act casual
An even bigger man, with coal black eyes who could’ve been conjured straight out of a Cowboy and Indian dime store novel, caught her gaze. All he needed was war paint and a feather in his long black hair to make him more intimidating. She swallowed and he looked away.
She hugged her purse closer and took the seat nearest the front door to wait. Who was this Michael Smith anyway that he would have her meet him
? She’d been hopeful when she drove up and saw the Italian pizzeria, but quickly realized the address was wrong. Strangely enough, this place was bracketed by a Little Angels Daycare on the other side. Was that even legal? But, no, it wasn’t a position with children either.
. She was led straight into a place where people permanently scarred their bodies. And she’d never even known anyone with a tattoo.
Her eyes unconsciously drifted to the man lounging in the chair adjacent hers. Both of his arms were literally covered in tattoos—skulls, demon heads, naked women. He glanced at her just as she noticed the ring that resembled something a bull would have through his nose and the gigantic tubular plugs in his earlobes. He grinned, seeming to relish her discomfort.
She wanted to jump up and run as fast as her four-inch Louboutin’s would carry her, but she stayed rooted where she was and returned a small, forced smile. A client was a client and she needed her first one. The wolves were at the door and she couldn’t tuck tail and run now. They would expect that. She glanced down with a wry half-grin. If she ever hoped to afford another pair of Louboutin’s—her one and only shot of pure feminine confidence—she had to suck it up. It’s just for now, she reminded herself. Just for now.
She tried to relax and melt into the crimson velvet chair. The place wasn’t all that bad really. There weren’t garish pictures of tattoo art on the walls or ear-splitting thrash metal pouring out of a boom box. Instead, some sort of soothing, meditative music played sedately in the background and the walls were painted a nice, surprisingly proper shade of golden yellow with beautiful Asian artwork tastefully displayed. And was that incense? It was unlike any other tattoo place she’d ever been . . . wait, scratch that. Who was she kidding? She’d never been in any tattoo places.
A small cough shifted her attention to her left. The woman behind the front counter studied her, making no attempt to hide her curiosity.
“Hello.” Kyle finally spoke, having had enough of being examined like a specimen.
The woman rose and leaned on the countertop, exposing heavily tattooed arms, milky white cleavage, and confidence in spades. “You’ve got the most beautiful nose for piercing. Like Angelina Jolie. Perfect.”
Unconsciously, Kyle reached up and touched her nose. “Uh, thank you . . .?”
The woman sat back down, picked up a magazine, and began flipping through the pages. Kyle was amazed. She’d never had such a
compliment. Especially from someone as stunning as the Ms. Kat Von D look-alike over there. She touched her nose again. Angelina Jolie? Huh.
She turned back to the owner, still bent over tattooing his customer. Soon, she was just as engrossed in his work as he was. The man’s back was his canvas as a dragon was beginning to breathe fire in vivid oranges and fiery reds with scales that seemed to slither when he moved.
The door next to her crashed opened, breaking her concentration. She jumped in her seat and turned to look death in the eye as three-hundred-plus pounds of hell-bent-for-leather biker hitman strolled in like he owned the joint. A Harley Davidson bandana covered his bowling-ball-sized head and a thick metal chain hung from his front pocket to the back of his black leather pants. His thick black boots made heavy
clomp, clomp, clomping
sounds as he shrugged out of his massive leather jacket and slung it behind the counter near Ms. Sexy-I-Wanna-Pierce-Your-Angelina-Jolie-Nose.