Opening Up (Ink and Chrome #1)
by Lauren Dane
The men of Twisted Steel are great with their hands. And they're not afraid to get dirty.
Asa Barrons is never lonely for long. Co-owner of the Twisted Steel custom motorcycle shop, he works hard and plays harder. But he never allows his after-hours affairs to interfere with business-until he meets racing royalty PJ Colman. While the blue-eyed blonde is all princess on the outside, on the inside Asa can see that this woman is ready to take a walk on the wild side.
PJ knows trouble when she sees it, and Asa is the complete package: fast bike, killer ink, and a sinfully sexy smile that has her imagining things nice girls never do. She talks her way onto the Twisted Steel team to prove her painting skill, and soon learns that Asa is eager to show off some skills of his own.
With the help of Asa's expert touch, PJ is initiated into a world of wicked desire. No limits. No inhibitions. No turning back. But as perfect as their passion seems, a new challenge awaits, forcing them to ask just how far they are willing to go . . .
Struck silent for long moments, Asa simply watched her. She clearly had something going on because she bent and took a picture of the area with her phone and then stood with a smile.
“I work freehand. If you don’t like my design I’ll remove it and refund your money. Can I work here or do you need me to take it off-site?” She waited for his reply, and then when it didn’t come immediately she moved to him. “Here’s the thing, I’m sure you’re thinking, What the hell, she should be grateful and do it the way I said. Maybe you’re right. But while I am grateful for the chance, this is creative for me. I have my own process and it doesn’t include you or anyone else but the owner of the car. I’m worth it.”
“That’s a bold claim.”
“I’m more than happy to show you.”
Oh danger, danger, danger.
Asa liked the way she flirted. Straightforward. She wasn’t overly coy.
He reminded himself she was too young. Even if she kissed like she was made for him.
And he had to admit, her refusal to provide three samples was reasonable. He liked her spark.
“You can do it here. We have painting bays. Client is male, thirty-eight. He’s a cop. Saved up for years for this job, so I want it to be fan-fucking-tastic, dig?”
One of her brows went up, the one with the ring. His cock hardened at the haughty expression it lent her features.
“Just so we’re clear, all my work is fan-fucking-tastic. You dig? I don’t do it if I don’t do it all the way. Why else would I be here?”
They stood there not speaking, letting that chemistry between them build. Again. It ebbed and flowed like that every time they were near each other. Playing with fire. He knew it. Suspected she did too.
Which made it even hotter.
Even harder to pull back each time from taking a step into something intimate between them. Which, of course, he’d complicated by kissing her. Still, he couldn’t find it in him to feel bad.
“We’re waiting on some custom pieces for the dash, so I’ll have one of my guys take the doors off and you can work on them while we wait.”
“What’s this guy like? Is he an Ed Hardy–wearing cop? Earnest cop next door? Hot cop you dated in secret back when you were a senior in high school?”
He scrubbed a hand over his face. He totally had to let that one go. There was no way he could go down that road.
“There’s a story?” he heard himself ask like he stood in another room.
“He was hot. Bad. Bad and hot. One of my best friends’ older brothers. He’s still hot, actually, but engaged. The stuff he taught me.” She drew in a slow breath, pleasured at the memory. Her lip caught a moment between her teeth and she looked up at him through her lashes. “I like older men, I suppose.”
He pressed the tip of one of his keys into his thigh to keep from taking her hint.
“He’s an inked cop who is super active in his community. Works with youth. He’s a very cool guy.”
She pulled a notebook from her bag—the one he still held—and scribbled things down here and there as they went back and forth for a while.
“If I get this right in one,” she muttered as she began to sketch, “when I’m done with this job you can give me the next one right after I deliver.”
He wished he’d had her kind of confidence at twenty-five. It had taken eight years in the army for him to learn how to get his emotions under control, and once he’d done that, he’d gotten his shit together and begun focusing on what he’d do in his life after he left the military.
But he shouldn’t be encouraging it.
“All right. And if you lose?”
Her gaze left the paper and locked with his. “Do you have some terrible punishment for me?”
And he planned to send Duke a case of beer for walking in right before Asa answered that question honestly.
Moment broken, she smirked and handed him the pad. “No need to discuss what happens if I lose. Because, duh.”
He looked down and then handed the pad over to Duke.
“This is for Mort?” Duke asked.
“Damn. You’re good, beautiful. And you have perfect timing because those parts just came in.” Duke looked over to her. “Can you do this now? This guy is one of our good friends. He’s waited for this a long time. If you can do it now we can get it to him a little earlier.”
“I need to run home and get my stuff. I can be back in an hour. I’m happy to do this for Mort.”
“I’ll have the doors moved into a paint bay for you.” Asa paused. “And when you’re done, your next job will be ready.”
She flashed them both a smile, grabbed her bag from Asa, and headed out, waving over her shoulder and saying she’d be back.
“Sweet fucking shit, she’s hot. Just like a really bad girl wrapped up in a sweet girl-next-door costume,” Duke said as they watched her drive off.
“She’s just a kid.” Asa flagged one of his guys down and told him to get the doors off and moved.
“That person who was just here, trading so much sexual whatever you two have that I could feel it five feet way? That’s a woman, Asa.”
I went into Opening Up with high hopes, especially after stalking the Forever Romance Facebook page for the teasers they've been posting, but unfortunately it wasn't quite what I was hoping for.
Let me start off by saying that I loved PJ. She's snarky, sassy, and isn't afraid to be herself, which I absolutely love in a heroine. Add in the fact that she didn't sit around and pine for Asa when he was being a total asshat and she definitely got added to my list of all time favorite heroines.
My problem with this one was Asa. Towards the end of the book I started to warm up to him, especially after the way he stuck up for PJ when it came to her family, but after the way he acted towards PJ in the beginning it was really hard for me to fall in love with him. Not to mention the fact that he was a total hypocrite when it came to the way people treated PJ based on her age and looks. Did he not treat her the same way in the beginning of the book? Saying she was too young for him and blah blah blah, then he goes and beats people up for mistreating her? Yeah, that didn't really work for me.
That's not to say that I didn't find Asa totally hot though. He definitely had arrogant alpha down pat... Add in his dominant side when it came to the sexy times and I probably wouldn't turn him down for a roll in the hay. And like I said, I did end up warming up to him when he showed his protectiveness when it came to PJ... I just wish that he hadn't wasted so much time in the beginning of the book.
This was definitely an easy read once they got their relationship figured out. And the family drama was a nice change from the norm... It's not everyday you come across such a misogynistic jerk and poor PJ had more than one in her family.
Quite honestly, Asa's friend, Duke, totally stole the show for me and I absolutely cannot wait for his book, Falling Under, which comes out in August.
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