Pretty in Ink (Voretti Family Book 3)

BOOK: Pretty in Ink (Voretti Family Book 3)
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CONTENTS

Copyright

About the Book

Title Page

Dedication

CHAPTER 1

CHAPTER 2

CHAPTER 3

CHAPTER 4

CHAPTER 5

CHAPTER 6

CHAPTER 7

CHAPTER 8

CHAPTER 9

CHAPTER 10

CHAPTER 11

CHAPTER 12

CHAPTER 13

CHAPTER 14

CHAPTER 15

CHAPTER 16

CHAPTER 17

CHAPTER 18

CHAPTER 19

CHAPTER 20

CHAPTER 21

CHAPTER 22

Sneak Peak - Catching Cleo

Also by Ava Blackstone

About the Author

Acknowledgements

PRETTY IN INK

Copyright © 2016 by Ava Blackstone

All rights reserved.

This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher, except for the use of brief quotations in an article or review.

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

Edited by Naomi Hughes

Cover by Damonza

ISBN: 978-1-944594-04-6

Never close your eyes while you’re getting a tattoo—even if you have a pathological fear of needles.

All Liv 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.

PRETTY IN INK

A VORETTI FAMILY NOVEL

AVA BLACKSTONE

To my husband, for the inspiration. Life is better with you.

CHAPTER 1

O
LIVIA
V
ORETTI
LIKED
to follow her instincts. Which was all well and good when it came to ordering dinner or designing the perfect dress, but every once in a while it came back to bite her in the ass. And, as she got out of her boyfriend’s GTO near the tattoo shop he swore was the best in San Diego, she felt a distinct chomp.

“Come on.” CJ gestured impatiently.

She forced her legs into action, moving closer even as her brain urged her to run the opposite direction. It was the sign. The black gothic letters hovered over the door, dark and threatening as a storm cloud.

Permanent Ink
.

Her legs shut down. She grabbed CJ’s arm to keep from splattering onto the cracked cement.

“Careful.” He barely slowed. “You’re gonna rip my jacket.”

She stumbled after him on jelly legs. “Sorry. I…”

CJ sighed. It was the kind of noise guys made when they meant
Can you believe I have to deal with this woman?
but didn’t have the balls to say the words out loud. The kind of noise he’d never made around her.

He’d never
used
to make around her.

“What’s wrong now?” He asked the question like he didn’t really want the answer, and her heart rate kicked up a notch.

“Nothing. Except that now might not be the best time for a tattoo. I have to work tonight. And I have…kind of a
thing
about needles.”

“What kind of a thing?”

“Sort of like…an allergy.” That sounded better than
irrational phobia
.

Ten feet from the shop, CJ finally stopped. “I knew you were gonna freak out.”

His eyes were flat. Expressionless. He wasn’t angry. He wasn’t
anything
, and she swallowed back something that tasted like panic. CJ might not be the perfect boyfriend, but he was the only one who understood her. When her older sister Annabelle had pushed her to interview for a data entry position at San Diego University, CJ had known she couldn’t handle a soul-sucking desk job. He’d taken her to Hannigan’s to celebrate her freedom from the man, and they’d toasted her principles, her free spirit, and the successful clothing design career she was going to have. As soon as she came up with a business plan.

“If you don’t want to get a tattoo, all you have to do is say so.”

“I do want to.”

He raised one pierced brow, angling his head toward the shop.
Then prove it.

She did want a tattoo, she reassured herself, for the thirty-seventh time. She loved the intricate tribal designs that twisted across CJ’s back and down his arms, marking him as an individual. When he walked into a room, people took one look at his leather jacket, the row of metal studs through his ears, and the ink that was always visible no matter what he wore, and they saw
him
. They didn’t assume he wanted to be an accountant so he could take over his parents’ business, or that he liked basketball because his brother had played on the team in high school, or that his favorite ice cream flavor was strawberry because it was all his older sister had ever eaten.

She could have that if she womaned up and walked through that glass door.

She started forward, eyes focused on the tarnished brass knob.

“Liv?”

She was vaguely aware of someone calling her name, but she couldn’t take her eyes off the prize now. She was only two steps from the door. Then one step.

And then a warm hand clasped her arm. Her brain switched back on, and her heart rate kicked up to I’m-about-to-go-under-the-needle level, even though the door to
Permanent Ink
was still shut. Because she knew exactly who it was even before she glanced at those tanned fingers wrapped around her bicep.

Caleb Ward.

She heard Annabelle’s smooth, sensible voice inside her head.
You know what your problem is, Liv? You don’t think. Slow down and take a breath. Assess the situation.

She sucked in some air, but—damn Imaginary Annabelle to death—she inhaled that rugged, masculine scent she knew all too well.

The summer sunlight went from a warm glow to a sultry heat. The soft breeze caressed her cheeks like a lover. Caleb hovered over her, close enough to touch though he’d let go of her arm. And all the while, she kept breathing him in—that scent that made her think of sex-rumpled sheets.

It had to be God’s favorite joke that this man shared a name with her boyfriend. She couldn’t even write a note to CJ without remembering that terrible crush she’d had on Caleb when they were kids.

At least the two men looked nothing alike. Caleb was taller. Broader. He wore dark slacks and button-down shirts instead of tight jeans and t-shirts with ironic sayings.

It made him look like a tool. At least, it did when he wasn’t clouding her judgment with his pheromones.

“Liv?” he said again.

She forced herself to face him head-on.

His dark hair was gelled into place and his pristine white shirt was starched and ironed. Everything about him was too rigid. Everything except the way he said her name, husky and low, like he was thinking about her naked and under him.

“What?” she managed.

CJ was watching her and Caleb with only a vague interest, like they were a movie playing on one of the ten big-screen TVs at Play Hard bar.
Thanks for nothing, CJ.

“What are you doing here?” Caleb asked her.

She must’ve imagined the husky note in his voice, because there was no sign of it now. He sounded like her dad had after catching her sneaking into her bedroom after curfew for the second night in a row.
 

Her brain flipped from inappropriate-sexual-fantasy mode to damage-control. She took a firm step away from Caleb. “I’m not doing anything.”
 

She couldn’t tell him she was getting a tattoo. He’d be on the phone with her parents in ten seconds flat.

“Who the hell are you?” Suddenly remembering he was her boyfriend, CJ assumed his tough-guy pose: legs spread, hands clenched into fists.

Caleb looked him over like he was a cockroach—dirty and unpleasant, but ultimately no real danger. “Caleb Ward,” he said finally, not offering CJ his hand to shake.
 

“So you’re a friend of Liv’s, huh?”

“I’m a family friend.”

CJ smirked. “Is
that
what we’re calling it now?”

Caleb’s expression remained impassive. “I’m not sure what you mean.”

“Caleb is Rafe’s best friend.” Liv’s brain spun and whirred, trying to figure out how much trouble she was in. Had Caleb been at that family dinner two months ago, when she’d sworn that she’d broken up with CJ? Caleb wouldn’t even need to tell her parents about the tattoo. CJ’s name alone would be enough to freak them out.

She took a step closer to Caleb, because the best defense was a good offense. “Why are
you
here?”

“I’m working,” he said, in that maddeningly vague tone she still remembered from ten years ago. Every day she’d asked where he and Rafe were going after school. And every day he’d blown her off.
Here and there
.
Later, Livvy
.

“Working, huh?” She made her voice extra cheerful. “Homicide at Hamburger Habit? Dead body at Delray’s Deli?”

“I can’t discuss open cases.”

“Of course not. I wouldn’t want you to break any rules.”

“And I wouldn’t want you to do something you’ll regret.”

Every muscle in her body clenched, resisting that I-know-best tone. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“You heard me.”

”Newsflash, Caleb. My body belongs to me. If I want a tattoo, it’s none of your business.”

“That’s not what I—”

“You heard her, man.” CJ wormed his way between them, throwing her off balance. “Get lost.”

A strong hand steadied her. “Watch yourself,” Caleb told CJ.

“Mind your own business.”

She wasn’t aware of Caleb moving, but somehow he became even taller, towering over CJ. “Liv is my business.”

“Since when?” CJ smirked. “If you wanna get in her pants come out and say so. Don’t hide behind some bullshit noble intentions.”

Caleb’s eyes went dark. His muscles tensed, like it was taking all his self-control not to launch himself at CJ, and Liv’s throat closed in on itself.

She pulled a breath in through the tiny opening. She needed to calm down. Captain Integrity wasn’t going to get into a fistfight. There was a law against that kind of thing, not to mention the mess.

But right now he didn’t look like his black-and-white, color-in-the-lines self. He looked like a street brawler.

She was still having trouble with that breathing thing, but she managed to force out a laugh. “Okay. Chill, you guys. This isn’t a big deal.”

Caleb blinked, and just like that, Captain Integrity was back.

“Don’t do anything stupid,” he told her. And then he strode away.

Later, Livvy.

“Damn.” CJ cracked his knuckles. “If that’s what all your relatives are like, no wonder you hate your family.”

“Caleb isn’t a relative. He’s my brother’s friend.” No—that was the wrong thing to object to. “And I don’t hate my family. Only, sometimes, I need a little space.”

She hurried inside
Permanent Ink
before CJ noticed that her face had heated to the temperature of the sun.

The dimly lit shop smelled like industrial-strength cleaners, but it felt like safety. Maybe because the area behind the glass-topped counter that held the cash register was deserted. She’d have at least a short reprieve before she went under the needle.

“If you wanna let those conformists force you to color inside their lines,” CJ said, “that’s your deal.”

“That’s not what I said.” She forced herself to meet his gaze, even though she was afraid of what she might see. “Are we okay? The two of us?”

He didn’t speak for a second.

She tasted the same panic as before, but then his lips turned up into that lazy grin that had caught her attention all the way across her cousin Ella’s living room. “Sorry, babe. I’m no good at dealing with posers like that, you know?”

“Yeah, but—a”

“The only thing you have to worry about is what kind of ink you’re gonna get.” He slid a binder across the counter toward her.
 

BOOK: Pretty in Ink (Voretti Family Book 3)
2.21Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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