Tonic by Staci Hart
Release Date: October 13th
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Joel Anderson doesn’t take anything seriously.
Not his relationships, which have been few and far between since his brutal divorce. Not the drama of working in a tattoo parlor, which seems to be around every corner. When things get him down, he smiles and cracks a joke. But he’s not the kind of man you cross, or you’ll find yourself at the wrong end of his fists.
Annika Belousov takes everything seriously.
Like her job as a reality television producer, given that she typically has something to prove. Or her love life, which is defined by a series of requirements — affluent, ambitious, accomplished, to name a few. Definitely her family, who worked their whole lives to afford her every opportunity, a sacrifice she doesn’t take lightly. When she’s tapped to produce a reality show at Joel’s shop, she doesn’t think twice, just goes in for the kill, as if there were any other way.
The second Annika walks into Joel’s shop, he makes it his mission to crack her open, but she’s not having it. He’s all wrong — too crass, too hairy, too un-serious. But it doesn’t take her long to find out there’s more to him than smirks and tattoos. And what she finds could put her career and his heart on the line.
Not that Joel cares. Because for the first time in a long time, he’s found his tonic.
“Let me see it.”
“What?” I blustered, caught off guard.
“Stand up and turn around. I want to see it.” I was too surprised and caught up in the moment to refuse, so I stood and turned, laying my palms on the armrests as I faced the back of the chair.
One hand rested on my hip.
My heart stopped as I wondered what the hell I’d gotten myself into.
I glanced over my shoulder, my gaze bouncing between his face —turned down too much to read —and his reflection in the speckled, antique mirror, which I couldn’t see much of either. His free hand moved to the waistband of my tailored pants, and his fingers hooked and tugged, pulling the band down low.
His thumb ran over where I knew the tattoo was, and I felt his breath. Every place where we connected spoke to me of ownership.
“You got this done here? In New York?” His voice was rough.
Mine wasn’t much better. “Yeah. In Brooklyn.”
“Let me cover it up for you. Give you something you’re proud of. Your skin …” He paused, and I wished I could see his face, read his mind. “This shouldn’t be here, not on you. Let me … I want to …” He had moved closer, his hand on my hip pulling me back into him slightly enough for me to not have noticed that the backs of my thighs were touching his, my back arched just enough, his breath hot.
And then, he disappeared. I stood, finding my hands were trembling, wondering where I was and how I’d gotten there. The shop was mostly empty —no one had seen, not that it would have looked like much from the outside. But from where I stood, I felt every single deliberate move like a telegraph, telling me exactly what he wanted to do without him having to finish the sentence.
His back was to me when I turned around, his face down —I couldn’t see it in the mirror over his cabinet of ink and needles as he dug around in the drawers, seemingly for nothing in particular.
“Let me know if you want me to draw something up.”
“Okay, I will.” I paused, not knowing what else to say, feeling like I should say something. But there was nothing that I could say. “Well, have a good night, Joel. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
He nodded, glancing at me in the mirror. “See you, Annika.”
I tried not to bolt out of the shop, but once outside, I admit it —I took off. I hauled up the stairs and into the office to grab my bag, grateful that Laney was already gone, and I texted my driver, asking him to pick me up a few blocks away so I could walk, put some distance between me and Joel, get the energy out of my body, through my legs and feet, into the pavement.
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About the Author:
Staci has been a lot of things up to this point in her life — a graphic designer, an entrepreneur, a seamstress, a clothing and handbag designer, a waitress. Can’t forget that. She’s also been a mom, with three little girls who are sure to grow up to break a number of hearts. She’s been a wife, though she’s certainly not the cleanest, or the best cook. She’s also super, duper fun at a party, especially if she’s been drinking whiskey.
From roots in Houston to a seven year stint in Southern California, Staci and her family ended up settling somewhere in between and equally north, in Denver. They are new enough that snow is still magical. When she’s not writing, she’s reading, sleeping, gaming, or designing graphics.
LOVED this story! This is the first book I have read by Staci and will not be the last!
Annika Belousov- Is getting her first shot as assistant producer (AP) on a reality TV show. She lives & breathes work. She isn’t known for being “friendly”. This is her career and no one/nothing will get in her way including Joel. “That hairy f*****g guy. That hairy f*****g guy with those stupid f*****g eyes that looked at me like he could see me naked. I’d been given the label f****d b***h more than a few times, a label that would make most woman cringe-I embrace it. It was a mask, armor cultivated over years of practice, years of working in reality
Joel Anderson- Owner of Tonic, a tattoo parlor. Shep, his brother and also owner of Tonic came to him with a stupid idea: Do a reality show about the shop.
“THIS IS THE WORST IDEA you have ever had.” But here he was waiting in a suit to meet with the producers of the show.
“Listen,” he said, his voice a little softer, his smile a little less mocking. “I know you’re not happy about all this, but it’s going to be good for business, not bad. “It’s better than the show going to Hal, isn’t it? Hal- The owner of the second biggest parlor on the west side-the first being mine & the current husband of my ex-wife, Liz. “F**k Hal. So here I am waiting to expose myself and our crew. I better not regret this…..
Then she walks in: tall, blond, with the skin like a porcelain dish brimming with cream. Wide-set, big eyes with icy irises assessing coolly. “I just knew she thought little of us, yet her eyes scanned my arms, which were covered in tattoos.” Yeah, this was going to be fun.
Are Annika and Joel able to work together? Annika wants nothing to do with Joel. Joel knows what he knows and Annika does want him. Can Joel break through Annika’s icy demeanor? Can Joel open himself up again after Liz?
Can Annika keep from destroying Joel’s life to pursue her dream of producing her fist show?
Again, this was such a great story! Hot tattooed men, vodka, drama & kittens. What else do you need? Well done!!