Pretty in Ink

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Pretty in Ink by Ava BlackstoneNever close your eyes while you’re getting a tattoo—even if you have a pathological fear of needles.

All Liv Voretti wanted was a small, tasteful butterfly tattoo. What she got was her (now ex-) boyfriend’s name—the worst goodbye present in the history of the universe. With the tattoo about to be revealed thanks to a strapless bridesmaid dress, Liv comes up with a desperate plan to keep her judgmental parents from pulling their loan for her clothing design business. Convince the stable, responsible, incredibly hot family friend—who happens to have the same name as her ex—to pretend to be her boyfriend.

Even with your eyes open, sometimes it’s hard to see what’s right in front of you.

The Vorettis are the closest thing to family Caleb has, and he’s not about to risk that relationship for a fling with Liv. She’d be bored with his predictable, color-inside-the-lines lifestyle inside a week. They’re just not compatible, even if she is the last person he thinks about before he falls asleep.

But when Liv comes to him for help, he can’t say no—not when he’s the reason she ended up with her jerk of an ex in the first place. But as their pretend relationship becomes all too real, Caleb must decide whether he’s going to stick to the plan, or take a chance on a woman who isn’t the person he’s looking for, but might be exactly who he needs.

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PRETTY IN INK Excerpt:

“It’s not your name,” Liv blurted out.

Caleb didn’t say a word. He didn’t have to, because he was staring at his name in bold, cursive letters that would never come off her arm. Her skin burned under his gaze, which made everything worse, because, no doubt, Caleb could see that too.

“Well, okay. It is your name. But it’s not your name. I didn’t put it there because of you. I got it for my boyfriend.”

His brows jutted up dangerously.

“Ex-boyfriend.”

He didn’t look pacified.

“Actually, it was supposed to be a butterfly.” Shut up, Liv. “Or a flower. That’s what I was trying to point to. But I was shaking a little bit and I guess my hand must’ve slipped, and… You know.” Finally—finally—she got her stupid mouth closed.

“No.” The word came out flat, like Caleb had crushed it with the power of his anger. “I don’t know.”

“I’m not good with needles. So I was a little nervous when I went inside.” She really needed to stop there. Telling Caleb the whole story would only give him more ammunition to use against her. But his intense stare was completely focused on her. The muscles inside her throat bypassed her brain entirely, like he was controlling them through the power of his gaze, and the next thing she knew, she’d told him exactly what had happened.

“You were freaking out so bad you didn’t even know you’d pointed to my-boyfriend’s-name-here instead of a butterfly, and CJ didn’t say anything?”

“I don’t think he…you know. Realized how badly I was freaking out.”

“Bull.” The word exploded from Caleb’s throat, so fast and hard it almost knocked her on her ass. “One thing you’re not is subtle. If he didn’t notice, it’s because he chose not to.”

“I—”

“I’m gonna have a little talk with CJ.” Caleb regarded her, all pulsing veins and clenched jaw, clearly in the mood to do way more than talk.

Her belly fluttered and her fingertips tingled.

“Where is he?” Caleb demanded.

“He’s gone.”

“What’s his address?”

“Come on. What are you going to do? Hunt him down and kick his ass?” The idea wasn’t as ridiculous as it should’ve been. With that fierce intensity in Caleb’s eyes, he wasn’t Captain Integrity anymore. He was a man and she was a woman and anything could happen.

“Where is he?” The words were soft. Level. But Caleb’s stare was brimming with intensity.

She tried for a laugh, but it came out flat. “Who are you, and what have you done with Captain Integrity?”

He ran a hand over his forehead. Cleared his throat. Just like that, the smooth, even expression she knew so well was back. “Sorry.”

“That’s, uh, okay.”

“I got a little carried away. I won’t touch CJ, but there has to be something I can do.” He spoke in his normal, even tone, but as if a curtain had been lifted, she saw the raw power and intensity beneath it like they were a physical things coming off of his skin. Something that made her soft and warm, because it made him seem less like an overprotective brother and more like—

She cut the thought off there. “If you really want to help, there is one thing you could do. But you’re not going to like it.”

“Let me worry about that.”

She hesitated. Caleb clearly wasn’t himself right now. It would be wrong to take advantage of him in this vulnerable state.

Or, maybe he was himself. Maybe she’d met the real Caleb for the first time today.

It couldn’t be healthy for him to keep so much locked up inside. And if being around her helped him get in touch with his feelings, they’d be doing each other a favor.

Her mind made up, she slanted him a you-know-you-want-to smile. “The thing is, I kind of need a boyfriend.”

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