The Tattooed Barista
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Peg heard ringing in her ears and a cough, then a sputter as though someone were choking. Her vision was hazy, but she could make out Samuel sitting with his hip on the edge of his desk, coffee dribbling down his chin. She should go over and help him, because the woman dabbing a napkin on his shirt was making it worse. Only, Peg couldn’t seem to move.
Her feet were rooted to the floor and the arm around her waist was vice-like in its tightness. That was good… and bad. Good in that it was probably the only thing holding her up. Bad in that the man the arm was attached to may not live out the rest of the day once the office cleared.
The stunned looks on the faces of the four women in front of her and Derek said everything she was feeling inside. Shock. Horror. Embarrassment. Disbelief. Anger.
Samuel had recovered and an amused look had taken over. She liked him. She really did. But if he didn’t do something to help save his friend’s life…
He said Derek was acting weird. Maybe what he’d really meant was that Derek was crazy. That could be it. She’d buy that Derek had lost his mind between the time he ran in and the moment his mother had confronted him.
“I wasn’t aware you were seeing anyone,” his mother said. She’d recovered her composure much more quickly than Peg, although Peg wasn’t sure when she might recover hers.
“Whirlwind romance,” Derek said easily, lightly. “I took one look at her and that was it for me.” He gazed down at her with what she was sure was supposed to be love and affection, but all she read was pleading in his eyes. “I was head over heels before I knew what hit me.”
Oh, something would definitely hit him. Something hard. Something sharp and pointy. Something he may not wake up from.
However, she would play along. She would make sure he paid for it, too, and paid big.
“Something similar happened with Samuel, as well,” one of the women stated, her blonde hair perfectly coifed around her head while Peg’s was bundled in a mess on top of hers and held in place with cheap chopsticks. She wasn’t sure if the comment was meant to be pleasant or biting, but the women looking at them, didn’t fill her with warm fuzzies.
“I guess love blooms in summer,” Peg said, pasting a smile on her face so big her cheeks hurt.
“Seems so,” Derek’s mother stated. “I simply hadn’t expected it to strike my son quite so firmly, but since you’re going to be part of the family, dear, that means you’ll be part of our small group of friends. Let me introduce you to Samuel’s mother, Bitsy Worthington, and this is Cricket, who was thought, at one time, to be the perfect match for Samuel, and this is Pamela, who has been a very dear friend of Derek’s for many years.”
“Perhaps tastes change with the seasons,” Peg offered, though she was most definitely out of her element with this particular conversation. She had no business fostering the idea in anyone’s head that she intended to marry Derek. Kill or maim him, yes. Marry him, no.
“Do they?” Samuel’s mother inquired.
That question wasn’t asked with friendliness and Peg watched as Samuel stiffened, then rose from the corner of the desk. “Yes, Mother, they do. Especially, when that taste was never there to begin with. Now, I hate to cut this short, but if you all will excuse us, Derek, Peggy, and I have a meeting to get to.”
“What sort of meeting could all three of you be attending? She doesn’t look like a business person.”
Meaning no tattoos or teal hair? Peg didn’t miss a beat. “A potential investor for my new company has asked to meet with us. Samuel is my advisor, and Derek is my attorney.”
“You own a company? Like the other woman?” the blonde asked. What was her name? Cricket? Who the hell named their child after a bug?
“Samantha? Yes, like her. Only a little different. I own The Tattooed Barista. It’s a mobile coffee business.”
“You didn’t get the tattoos just for the business, did you? That would seem a little extreme,” Pamela, Derek’s society intended, inquired, her delicate nose scrunching up ever so slightly.
Peg laughed at the absurd question. “No. I’ve had tattoos since I was sixteen.”
And that silenced them all, enough that the awkwardness became almost intolerable. Derek’s mother cleared her throat. “I believe then that we should go so you can make it to your meeting. Peggy, I’ll get your card from Derek and be in touch. If you’re marrying my son, I’d like to get to know you and help you… plan. Help you and your mother plan, that is.”
Oh. Joy. Peg started to say something, to correct Pauline, but chose to let it go. There wasn’t going to be any wedding, so there was no need to get into her family history. “Great.” Why didn’t she ask for a card directly from Peg? Why did she think she had to go through Derek?
Derek stepped away from Peg and she smiled at the stiff hugs that were exchanged between mothers and sons and the unfeeling little finger waves as they all exited the office, their heads close together in heated conversation. Peg could only imagine what they were twittering on about.
“Thank God, that’s over,” Derek said, slumping down in a chair across from Samuel’s desk and loosening his tie.
He was so gorgeous with his espresso colored eyes and his midnight black hair. He was taller than her, even in the heels she wore and she’d always been a sucker for guys who were taller. Then there was the little bit of skin he showed as he unbuttoned the top two buttons of his dress shirt that made her lick her lips. He would be a huge distraction if things were allowed to progress outside what had happened in the office. She couldn’t let that happen. No matter how much she wanted to drop to her knees and crawl between his and lick that spot on his throat that he’d revealed. No matter how much she wanted to undo each and every button on his shirt so she could lick and kiss and taste his skin from his chest to his belly.
No. No matter what. She couldn’t let that happen. Instead… “Yes, thank God, that’s over,” Peg agreed. She motioned with her hand. “Time to pay up.”
Derek looked up at her, those dark eyes raking her from head to toe much as she’d been doing to him. She never felt self conscious with a man before, but something in the way he appraised her, made her feel that way along with aroused and hungry. He was out of her league. It was just that simple.
“I know. What say we meet for dinner around seven?”
The man was out of his mind. “I’m not going to dinner with you.”
“Why not?” He also seemed genuinely shocked that she’d say no.
“Because that wasn’t part of the deal.”
“I’d like to take you out as a thank you.”
“What are you thanking me for? Not killing you in front of your mother and her friends? Because I can tell you that you came very close to dying with that little fiancé stunt.”
For the first time, he looked uncertain and she wasn’t sure she liked that look on him. “I’m sorry about that. It was all I could come up with.”
“Really? That’s all? You’re a lawyer, right? You can’t lie better than that when put on the spot?” Peg shook her head. “Your poor clients.”
“Hey, now. You don’t know me. You don’t know that I can’t lie better in a more normal situation. One that doesn’t involve my mother walking in with a woman she would like me to marry. You don’t know that I can lie convincingly at all. So, don’t go making judgements.”
Samuel chuckled and Peg scrunched up her face as she tried to figure out exactly what Derek had just said.“Is that who she was? Your hopeful fiancé? I thought she was a friend.”
“Once upon a time in fourth grade maybe. Today was the first time I’ve seen her in years.”
“Either way. You owe me and I don’t want to have to have dinner with you. Samuel? You’re welcome to chime in any time now. He’s your friend.”
Samuel finally let out a full laugh. “Why would I jump into the middle of this? It’s entertaining for me.”
“Samantha wouldn’t like you just sitting there while I’m being thrown under the bus.”
“No, she wouldn’t. But she’s not here. You handled yourself just fine, Peg. Derek handled himself like a coward.”
Derek not so discreetly gave Samuel the middle finger. “You took Samantha to meet the lioness in her den knowing exactly what you were walking into, what you were walking Samantha into, and didn’t bother to tell her.”
“Yep, and she was strong and beautiful and for every bite my mother tried to take out of her, Samantha bit back.”
“See? Coward.” Derek sounded pleased with himself.
“You two are pathetic. Are you sure you’re not still in college?”
“When dealing with the women who were just here, yes, we are pathetic cowards,” Derek confirmed. “So, dinner?” Derek stated, his tone serious. “Tower of the America’s? Chart House? I’ll see you at seven.”
Available as an ebook:
Lone Star Sweets, Book 3
Derek Forrester couldn’t lie his way out of a paper bag, but somehow he’s managed to convince his less than approving high society mother of his engagement to the teal haired, dangerously curved, tattoo covered, coffee cart owning girl named Peggy.
Peg, not ‘Peggy’, is far from amused by Derek’s fib, but the way he kissed, left her wondering what might have been if she hadn’t been paid to play along.
The stakes are higher than the original bargaining price, a new business is getting off the ground, and it’s going to take a whole lot more than caffeine to get through this wedded mess.
Other Books In The Series:
Lone Star Sweets has new covers created by TEZ Graphics. They’re beautiful. Bright. Light. And reflect the series.
I’ve flipped out the older covers and inserted all the new ones. I’ve uploaded all new information to Amazon, All Romance eBooks, and Barnes and Noble. Amazon seems to be taking the longest to get everything going in the right direction, but eventually, they’ll all be there and looking good. (more…)
She is one of my very favorite authors. When I discovered her Brooklyn Sinners series, I was hooked from the first word. SHE is Avril Ashton. We don’t talk a lot and we don’t hang out online together, but she’s become someone I look up to, we email sometimes, and have a deep, abiding NEED for coffee and most all things cake related. She’s no nonsense and she tells it like it is.
Please welcome her. It’s not the first time she’s been on the blog and it certainly won’t be the last.
These past few months have been filled with newness. Lot of newness. I moved my family to a new state on a whim, a hope and a prayer. Talk about new. Then I published my first self published book. Let’s not discuss that whole never say never ish. I’d always said I wouldn’t do it. So yeah, I’m steady eating crow. *coughs*
I’ve been re-evaluating my career, my process, my everything. I’d always wondered about my style. Like, what is it I’m known for? Can you pick up a book without knowing the author and be able to say yup, that’s an Avril Ashton book? After much thinking, I feel as if you should. At least, I feel as if you should know my brand and what I write, and know that it’s gonna be chock full of certain things, feel me?
I wrote So Far Gone because I wanted something short and not that complicated to take my mind away from the labyrinth of sticky ish that is my Sinners. The story wasn’t all that complex and the angst wasn’t all that deep.
In my mind.
Then I publish the book and I’m getting feedback that the book is all kinds of dark and painful. I had to question myself, like seriously? Is it really that messed up and if it is, how come I didn’t see it? Is my pain/angst threshold so jacked that I can’t even see it? Maybe my brain sorta figured hey, it’s not the Sinners, therefore it can’t be all that bad. An automatic pacifier. Crazy, but hey.
Here’s my thing: You should know by now how my stories run. I’m never going to apologize for what and how my brain translates my stories from my fingers to the page. Everything that’s there is meant to be. If you’re crying it’s because you’re meant to and if you’re all hot and bothered, embrace that, too. Now, you can step away from it, and put me on your “don’t read” list because I broke your heart. That’s sad, but hey, who am I to tell you how to feel?
I only hope to make you feel something, what that is, I have no control over.
It’s only fair that you know what to expect from my books. Let me tick them off my fingers for you. Heartbreak, pain, happiness, and arousal. Not a lot, but I’m pretty sure that about covers the range of human emotion.
I don’t know how to not make you feel something, and if I did, why would I? My goal has always been to make someone feel, to make you experience something, a genuine and valid emotion. There are authors out there who I really envy, because they can write awesomely funny and light-hearted stories that just make you laugh all day long.
That’s not me. You should know this. I don’t do much laughter.
There are authors who I envy who write amazing stories that warms the heart, but never makes you cry. It’s all a steady flow of aww.
That’s not me. You should know this.
I want to wreck you.
There’s a quote I printed out that sits on my computer desk.
“Break their hearts. Then fix it.”
That’s my goal.
To break you down. Sounds kinda horrific? It’s not. The worlds I build, the men I introduce you to aren’t the sunshiny kind, why would my books convey that? The subject matter is never soft or light-hearted, why would you expect that from me?
Loving each other isn’t easy in any of my books, why would you expect sunshine and roses and kumbaya?
I love romance. I love sex. I love angst and conflict and happily ever after. I give all of that to you. In my way. Don’t expect me to be someone I’m not, to write something that isn’t me.
Picking up one of my books ensures that you will go through it. You will run the gamut. I go through it, don’t for a second think that I don’t. I’m there on the frontlines, hurting before anyone else does. Don’t for a second think I’m writing my books just for the shock value, angst for angst sake.
But reading one of my books means that you understand, this is how I do things. It’s my way. Not for the faint of heart. If you’re looking for sweet and uneventful, my books are as far from it as you can get. They’re not the safe, sigh-worthy kind.
They’re the snot-crying, heartbreaking kind.
It’s for some. Not for all.
And you know what? I’m fine with that.
SO FAR GONE
One night? Feels like three years…
Jacob Donnelly wants something new. Something different. Which is why he’s got a one-way ticket to New York and his bags packed. One last night out to the bar finds him in a sexy stranger’s bed, giving in to an explosive chemistry Jacob had been searching for, but never found. Until now. It’s too bad he’s leaving town, although once he finds out his one night stand’s true identity, Jacob can’t get away fast enough.
Cash Warner made a mistake. It doesn’t matter that he’d never felt anything like the fire generated between him and Jacob. He doesn’t plan to ever see his one-night hookup ever again. Except he does. When the reality of what they’d done fully sets in, Jacob flees, leaving Cash struggling with how to deal with the bitter taste of betrayal he can’t escape. Because even with Jacob gone for years, Cash can’t stop wanting more of that one night. Fate conspires against them once again, bringing Jacob home after tragedy strikes, and they’ll find it near impossible to keep their distance despite being committed to other people.
Time fell away and he became lost in the sight of the man he watched. Something about this Cash perked his body right up, made his blood sing. Tonight of all nights. The feeling was bittersweet. He’d never had a reaction to another man quite like this.
Jacob jerked his head up and almost gasped. Cash sank into the chair opposite him, dark gaze intent.
“You been looking at me.”
That wasn’t a question. “I—” Jacob licked his lips.
“You.” The word mocked Jacob, but Cash’s gaze was searching.
“Yes.” Jacob cleared his throat. “I’ve been watching you.”
“You looking for something in particular?” Cash lifted a dark eyebrow and Jacob stared at him, trying to gather his thoughts. Cash didn’t break the gaze, he held Jacob tightly to him as surely as if they were locked in an embrace.
“Yes,” Jacob said slowly. “I was looking for something, but I…I think I may have found it.”
Cash blinked then, heat blazing in his eyes. He nodded once, but didn’t move otherwise. “I’m Cash.”
“Cash.” Jacob spoke his name for the first time testing it out. He liked it. “Jacob. I’m Jacob.”
“Jacob.” Cash smiled and Jacob shivered. “You should go to the men’s room, Jacob.”
His brain wasn’t working properly, wasn’t getting enough oxygen or something because for a second there, Jacob felt bewildered. Lost. He couldn’t process the words Cash spoke. He stared and Cash stared back, waiting…waiting…
“Oh.” He jerked backward then jumped to his feet. Cash’s gaze dropped to Jacob’s crotch. He followed the gaze then cursed.
“Shit.” He was hard. Clearly.
Cash’s lips quirked. “Bathroom?”
Jacob inhaled. “Yes.” One last gaze into Cash’s eyes and Jacob went. He walked to the bathroom on unsteady legs, palms sweaty, fists opening and closing as he tried to grasp and identify what it was he was feeling. He didn’t understand it.
All Romance: http://bit.ly/SFG01sh
A Caribbean transplant, Avril now lives in Stone Mountain, GA., with a tolerant spousal equivalent. Together they raise an eccentric daughter who loves reading and school (not so much school anymore). Avril’s earliest memories of reading revolve around discussing the plot points of Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys with an equally book-minded mother.
Always in love with the written word, Avril finally decided to do the writing in August of ’09 and never looked back. Spicy love scenes, delicious heroes, and wicked women burn up the pages of Avril’s stories, but there’ll always be a happy ending; Av remains a believer of love in all its forms.
Addicted to cake, the ID Channel and the UFC, Avril writes Erotic and GLBT Romance for Ellora’s Cave, Evernight Publishing, eXtasy Books, Secret Cravings Publishing and Total-e-Bound.
Friend me on: http://facebook.com/writeravrilashton
I have a lot of coffee stuff. A lot of coffee beans. Filters. A grinder. A couple French presses. A drip coffee machine. An espresso machine. A Keurig, and a travel K-cup machine that I take to conferences with me. I have scoops and a frother and syrups for lattes and miscellaneous other accouterments. There’s a basket which holds a lot of the stuff and I don’t even want to go into how many coffee mugs I have.
The point is, I’ve accumulated a lot of coffee paraphernalia. It’s something I love: Coffee. And I’ve spent this morning cleaning out, throwing out, organizing everything to make it all work a little better. I’ve soaked parts, re-washed a lot of pieces… Removing oils so there’s no rancidity and giving everything a fresh start. It is a new year, and all.
I’ve been doing a lot of this the last week or so. I’ve played in my home office, cleaning it out, organizing, trying to make it feel a little more conducive to writing and working rather than the catch all from the last few months.
All of this is maintenance for the brain and the spirit, too… This cleaning out of the cobwebs. This rearranging of spaces and places. I love fall. The changing of the leaves, school supplies, the weather cooling down, football season. But I love winter, too. Especially starting the day after Christmas. By New Year’s night the tree is down, the holiday stuff is in the garage and back in closets, and I’m ready to declutter and clean out and start over. Spring cleaning takes me 3-4 months. LOL… I have to start early!
But, something in this whole process, not only clears out my office and my house and my coffee basket, but it also cleans out my mind. It gives me somewhere fresh to start and gives me a great boost for wanting to write. It wasn’t that long ago that I went through a period of time where I didn’t want to write and wasn’t sure I would ever write again. That was only 3 years ago. so, time and movement helps, cleaning out, finding projects to get the creative gears churning. The trick though, it making it last through the year, through the dog days of summer when everything is heavy and laden with heat and humidity (ice coffee really helps, though).
For now though, I’m relishing this bit of maintenance, this bit of energy, this bit of spark… It makes the coffee taste better too. This is how I tend to celebrate and welcome the new year. Well, this and the last of the college football season 🙂
When do you start Spring Cleaning?