What happens when you don’t know what comes next?
Jacob Wild has had a lucrative writing career, but somewhere along the way he misplaced his muse. Now, unable to put anything on paper, he’s resorted to hanging out in the neighborhood coffee shop with a pen and paper, trying to find something to spark his creativity again.
That’s when he meets her.
The coral-haired, tattooed beauty with the piercing gray eyes and sweet smile draws his attention in a way no woman before her ever has. Jake soon learns that when he’s around her his world is set to rights once more. Presley sparks something inside him and not just his ability to put words on paper.
But, Presley’s not the easiest woman to get close to and Jake finds himself trying to answer the burning question:
Does happily ever after only exist in fiction?
[Their] chemistry is off the charts! Presley has been burned before and Jake knows that he has a past that may scare her away.
I really was sucked into the story line. Presley and Jake together are sweet and sexy yet burning hot together too.
Inked on Paper - Prologue
One year ago—January
“See you later, Presley!”
“Later!” I hollered back, seconds before I stepped outside, the cold wind slamming into me. “Fuck.” January was definitely not my favorite time of year. Not only was it freezing-ass cold, but it was … well, January.
It’d been a hectic Friday night at Different by Design, the tattoo shop I owned and worked at, but I had no more appointments, and I didn’t feel like hanging around for any more walk-ins, so I figured it was time to head home, maybe curl up on the couch and watch an action flick or something equally mind-numbing.
My coat started ringing as I was crossing the street, drawing my attention away from the sleet that pelted my face. I slipped my hand into my pocket and yanked out my phone, staring at the screen. A smile formed when I saw that it was my best friend, Gavin. Hoping maybe he’d be up for watching a movie tonight, I hit the talk button and held the phone to my ear.
“Hey, Gav,” I greeted as I pulled my sleeves down over my hands to keep them warm. “What’s up?”
“Where are you?”
“On my way home. Was just thinking about you.” I cast a quick glance down the small side street before darting across. “Feel like chilling for a while? Maybe watch a movie?”
“You seen Adrian today?” he asked, ignoring my questions altogether.
Was it me or did he sound strange? “Not today, no. He said he had some stuff to do this weekend. Why?”
“I … uh … think you should check on him. I’ve tried calling him and he won’t answer.”
“It’s not unusual for him not to answer,” I told Gavin. Adrian was Gavin’s older brother and the man I was currently dating, so his concern wasn’t completely out of character, but there was an urgency in his tone that threw me. “You know how he gets when the band’s gearing up to head out of town.”
“I know, but … I think something’s off. Would you mind going by there?”
“Sure. Okay.” Adrian’s apartment was on my way home, so it wasn’t an inconvenience to make a quick pit stop on the way. Considering Adrian and I had been on the outs for a few weeks, it probably wouldn’t hurt for me to make an effort to calm the waters, per se. And if it would ease Gavin’s mind, I’d gladly do it.
“Cool,” Gavin added. “I’m workin’ tonight, but I’ll see you back at the apartment.”
“Yeah.” Apparently he wouldn’t be joining me for popcorn and a movie. “Don’t get in too much trouble,” I teased.
“You know me. Trouble’s my middle name.”
“Your middle name’s Roger, but you’re right, trouble suits you better.”
I hung up the phone and shoved it into my pocket as I continued down the sidewalk, sidestepping all of the people out on Sixth Street tonight. A few of them bumped into me, jostling me around as I tried to squeeze through the masses spilling out of the bars and onto the streets.
“Hey, baby,” someone crooned from nearby. “Lookin’ good.”
I rolled my eyes and kept going.
Ten minutes later, I had made it up the four flights of stairs to Adrian’s apartment. It took a minute to catch my breath, but once I did, I pounded on the door, then stepped back to wait for him to answer. Music sounded from inside and I figured he couldn’t hear me over the noise. Trying the knob, I found it unlocked, so I let myself inside.
“Adrian?” I called out to him, peering into the tiny kitchen and the living room at the same time. The place looked just as empty and threadbare as the last time I’d been there. “You here?”
The music was louder in the back of the apartment, coming from his bedroom. Another noise sounded as I made my way down the narrow hall, past the bathroom, but it definitely wasn’t music I heard.
I knew what I would find before I stepped into the doorway, and I should’ve turned around and run the other way, but something propelled me forward. I felt my chest tighten and my stomach roll, but still, I closed the gap to the door, put my hand on the jamb, and peered inside.
And there he was…
The lying, cheating son of a bitch.
Adrian Dennis, the man I’d been dating for the past eight months, was buried balls deep in some bitch’s…
“Such a tight ass, baby,” Adrian growled, his hips pounding against the woman currently bent in half before him.
“Pound her ass, Adrian! Make her beg for more.”
My head swiveled to see a naked brunette with enormous tits kneeling over the other chick’s head, holding the bitch’s ankles with one hand and pinching her nipples with the other.
“Fuck, yeah! Lovin’ that ass, baby,” Adrian roared, continuing to plow the woman hard and fast.
As though he sensed they had company—more company, obviously—Adrian’s eyes slid toward me, and a cocky smile formed on his face. We made eye contact briefly, and the first thing I noticed was there wasn’t an ounce of remorse in his ocean-blue gaze. The second thing that stood out was how he never stopped fucking the woman now squealing for him to “hit it harder.”
I had the sudden urge to vomit. Right after I beat the shit out of him.
But I couldn’t do that. One, I had no desire to spend the night in jail. And two, Adrian really wasn’t worth the time or effort.
While the threesome continued, I finally broke out of my stupor and forced my feet to move. Pivoting back toward the door, I didn’t stop until I was down the stairs and out on the sidewalk. Despite the anger and hatred that swelled in my chest, tears blurred my vision. I tried blaming it on the brutally cold wind that pummeled me as I made my way over one block to my apartment, but unfortunately, I knew that wasn’t the reason for the tears.
What the hell was I going to tell Gavin? That I’d found his brother fucking two chicks tonight? That it was evident Adrian didn’t give two shits about me? That I’d been a fucking idiot?
Right then and there, I paused on the sidewalk, taking deep ice-filled breaths, trying to calm down.
I couldn’t tell Gavin any of that. Not if I wanted to protect my relationship with him. Gavin loved his brother despite what a douchebag Adrian was. And since Gavin had warned me away from Adrian in the first place…
Gavin’s words echoed in my head.
Rock stars can’t be tamed, Pres. And you … you’re too good for him, anyway.
Yeah, well, looked like Gavin was right.
Only I had no intention of telling him as much.
Manhattan, New York
Untangling myself from the warm body curled around me in my bed, I groaned at the ringing of my cell phone from somewhere on the floor. A soft feminine moan sounded from beside me, and I glanced over, remembering that I had an overnight guest, but unable to recall her name.
Rolling over, I squinted into the darkness, trying to make out the time on the alarm clock. The bright red numbers causing electrical needles to stab into my brain showed 3:37.
I dropped my head onto the pillow, willing my headache to ease up.
No good came from a phone call at that time of the night … morning … whatever.
The question was, who was calling me and what bad news were they about to relay?
I was tempted to not answer. Shit, I was tempted to not bother looking at the phone at all, but I knew I had to.
Leaning over the edge of the bed, I fumbled around on the floor until I found my jeans, then managed to extract my cell phone from the pocket before peering at the screen. Upon seeing my sister’s name, I crawled out of bed, snatched my boxers up off the floor, and slipped out of the room before hitting the talk button.
While yanking on my underwear, I answered groggily, my voice gruffer than I’d expected, my head throbbing from too much alcohol the night before. “Paige? What’s wrong?”
A choked sob sounded on the other end and I was instantly alert.
“Paige? Talk to me.”
“Jake…” My sister’s voice was trembling, as though getting the word out was a chore in itself.
“Oh, God. I need you to come home.”
I made my way into the kitchen, leaving the lights off and grabbing a bottle of water from the fridge. “What happened, Paige?”
With the water forgotten halfway to my mouth, I leaned against the counter, my heart slamming hard against my ribs at the mention of my niece’s name. Everything Paige and I had talked about over the course of the last couple of weeks rushed through my mind, and I knew what she was about to tell me, and I wished in that moment she wouldn’t say another word. I wanted to wake up, to realize that this was a dream, that it couldn’t possibly be real.
“What happened to Abby, Paige?” I asked, trying to keep my voice even when my sister continued to cry. Paige was upset enough; she didn’t need me to get hysterical as well. “Is Abby okay?”
“She’s … alive.” Another sniffle sounded. “Does that count?” Paige’s flippant remark was followed by another pain-filled sob, and I knew my sister was struggling to keep it together.
But that one word—alive—struck me like a lightning bolt, drawing me up short.
Fuck. Shit. Damn. Please, please, please let this be a horrible dream.
“Oh, God, Jake. It’s...” A mumbled cry sounded in my ear.
Definitely not a dream.
“Was she in an accident?” I knew she hadn’t been, but I had to ask, anyway, though I could feel it in my bones that this … this was much, much worse.
“Jake.” Paige took a deep breath, then let it out slowly. “Abby tried to kill herself last night. She… Oh, shit, Jake… She slit her wrists.”
Son of a bitch. “Where is she now?”
“St. David’s,” Paige said, sounding a little calmer. “The cuts … they weren’t too deep. They said she lost a lot of blood, and she’s stable now, but they’ve admitted her for observation. I need you to come home.”
“They’re keeping an eye on her, right?”
“Yes. She’s under suicide watch. They think she might try it again.”
I closed my eyes and tried to calm my nerves. “Don’t let them leave her alone for a second, Paige.”
“Jake, come home, please.”
“Of course,” I told her. “I’ll be there on the first flight I can get.”
“No, Jake. I need you to come home. Not just for a visit. I… I can’t do this… Not by myself.”
I swallowed hard, glancing around my New York apartment, the one I’d come to like in recent years. My sister and my niece were back in Texas, as was my mother, while I was seventeen hundred miles away, unable to do a damn thing to help them.
And Paige wanted me to come home.
I sighed, trying to figure out how that was going to work, how I was supposed to pick up and start over again. I’d been living here for five years, had built somewhat of a life for myself, and my career was off and running.
Going back to Texas now…
Doesn’t matter, the voice in my head said, drowning out the fierce throb in my temple.
Right. It didn’t. Nothing mattered except getting home to help Paige and Abby. Family first. They were what was important. And I could write from anywhere. I had a good team. My publisher would take care of everything. I knew that. The only thing I was obligated to do was write; the rest they would have to assist with.
“Jake? You still there?”
I scraped my palm over my scruffy jaw and took a deep breath. “I’m still here.”
“Will you come home? Please?”
Switching the phone to my other ear, I inhaled deeply, then let it out. “Yeah. I’ll come home.”
“What about the movie?” she questioned.
“I can do everything I need to do from Texas,” I assured her, hoping that was true. A lot had gone into gearing up for the release of the movie that was based on one of my best-selling novels, but these things happened. They would just have to adapt. “Tell Abby I’ll be there soon, okay?”
Another heart-wrenching sob echoed in the phone, and I could feel my sister’s pain as though it were my own. I knew Paige had been having a hard time lately with Abby. My fourteen-year-old niece was going through a rough spot, but we’d all just thought it was normal teenage drama. Abby was a good kid. A smart kid. How could this be happening? Why hadn’t we seen it coming?
“Do you know why she did it?” I asked, not sure I wanted to know.
Paige’s voice lowered. “Last week, she told me she hated school. Said she never wanted to go back and that I couldn’t make her.”
“Did she say why?”
“Just that the kids were assholes and she couldn’t take it anymore.” Another sob. “But she’s said that so many times. I didn’t think…” More sniffling. “God, Jake, I figured it was hormones. I never thought…”
“Of course you didn’t,” I said reassuringly. “It’s okay, Paige. We’ll get her through this, I promise.”
“We’re gonna move in with Mom for a little while.”
Oh, shit. That didn’t sound like a good idea. “Why?”
“I… Terry’s back in jail and I can’t pay the rent on my own.”
“No,” I insisted. “I’ll pay your rent, Paige. I don’t want you to worry about that.”
“Abby doesn’t want to go back to that school,” Paige countered.
“Fine. You’ll find another house and a different school. Just let me know what you need.”
“No arguments, Paige. I’ll make sure it’s taken care of.”
“Thank you,” she said softly.
I downed half of the water, then searched the cabinet for some ibuprofen. I needed to send the woman in my bed home so I could clear my head and get my shit together. Unfortunately, I still couldn’t remember her name and didn’t have the patience to deal with her right now. The last thing I needed was a one-night stand asking about my personal business. As a rule, I didn’t share that sort of thing with anyone, and I damn sure wasn’t about to start now.
“I need you here,” Paige pleaded.
“I know. And I’m coming home. I promise.”
“Okay.” Paige sighed. “One more thing…”
“What is it?”
“Please don’t mention this to anyone? The last thing we need is for this to become public news. Your life’s an open book and everyone seems to know everything—”
“No one will know,” I assured her.
“Don’t thank me, Paige. You’re my sister. I’m here for you and Abby. Always.”
After I hung up the phone, I stood there, staring into space. This was something I had to do, but I couldn’t help wondering whether or not this would be the change that I couldn’t bounce back from.
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