Ali Lyda – Purchase – Get Ink’d (latest book) – SFB Publishing

Bryan needs a protector.

Those rich old guys that chase after him aren’t the answer.
All I want is to keep him safe.
I want to watch him grow into the strong man I know he can be.
Falling for him wasn’t the plan.
But now that I’ve had a taste, I can’t let him go.

Sparks and ink fly in Hard Ink, a 60,000-word standalone m/m workplace romance between tattoo artist and teacher, Mateo, and his student and co-worker, Bryan.

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$4.99 or Free with Kindle Unlimited Subscription

Prologue - Bryan

Oh, God, what is he doing here? My chest squeezed uncomfortably as I saw Steven’s cool green eyes assessing me. We were celebrating Channing’s graduation, and the laughter was loud and copious at our table. Steven’s gaze slid to Mateo, who was sitting so close to me that I felt his every inhalation. That gaze iced over then, and heat flamed in my cheeks. I had to talk to Steven before this got any worse than it was already.

I mumbled a half-assed excuse and slid out of my seat; instantly I was aware of the distance between me and Mateo. The man’s body radiated heat and power, and I wanted to lie next to him and soak it up like the sun. But I couldn’t. My new job...it meant more to me than I could say. Reagan had given me a real chance, and I’d been busting my ass to say thank you. But ultimately, between school and having to cut my hours at the shop, I still felt like I was too close to the hollow-stomached poverty I’d experienced before going to juvie.

Which is how I’d met Steven, who didn’t take his eyes off me as I wove through the tables to head outside. With a smirk in my direction, he glided out the front doors ahead of me. I nodded to the hostess and stepped outside of the restaurant I wouldn’t be able to eat at if my bill wasn’t being picked up by someone else.

As soon as I was outside, a hand snagged my wrist, tight to the point of pain. Steven hauled me down the block and into an alley. I stumbled, and he used my momentum to slam my back against the wall. I’d met Steven a few months before through a queer community app that connected Sugar Daddies to...well, to young men like me. But Steven wasn’t sweet at all.

“You can’t just show up where I am,” I said, though I knew my tone lacked authority. Goosebumps erupted on my arms and my stomach was twisted. “I’m here for a celebration.”

Steven loomed in front of me; his sweater was soft black cashmere, fitted and reeking of prestige and money. That sort of thing should appeal to me. Hell, it was what I’d sought after. But now I was trembling and weak-kneed and knew I’d bitten off more than I could chew.

“You brat,” he said, his tone both a tease and a warning. “You’ve been avoiding me. And after all those nice things I did for you.”

I sucked my top lip between my teeth. As soon as I’d gotten out of juvie and into my grandfather’s house, I knew I needed to find money fast. And there was one thing my life to date had taught me: I was pretty and men would do things for me if I let them. If I...traded with them. Nothing too far, only things that didn’t feel too much like crossing a line, and this quickly led me to the app.

And, with the help of a new friend, connections to men like Steven.

My clothes had been paid for by him. He’d bought me dinners and my phone. Steve had helped me get on my feet when I needed it, and in return I’d given him company, and flirting, and a couple of handjobs when things had gotten hot and heavy after one of our dates. He didn’t know I was a virgin, and I wasn’t ready to take any sugar daddy relationship to the next level beyond what I’d already done.

“I’m not avoiding you,” I lied. “I just have other things going on.”

“Other things?” His voice was a warning. “You don’t have anything that comes before me. We had a deal. I’ll take care of you, gorgeous. I’ll pay your rent, buy you things, spoil you rotten. Isn’t that what you want? And all you have to do is let me fuck you. It’ll feel good, don’t you think? To suck my big cock and let me put it in your snug hole?”

That had never been the deal, but maybe Steven didn’t realize that. Maybe everything that had happened between us was just leading to this, and now he was tired of waiting. A shiver rippled through me, fear causing me to sweat. Steven must have mistaken it for pleasure, though, because he leaned in and mouthed at my face like I was food to be consumed. I shook my head out of instinct and accidentally knocked jaws with him. Steve jerked back in displeasure, his hiss making me nauseous. Before I knew what was happening, he slapped me.

The sting flared and burned, my cheek immediately sprouting prickles and warmth. My eyes watered. I’d never been hit like that before, a slap that left my lips numb and my teeth aching.

“You little cocktease,” he snarled at me.

I whimpered, trying to blink away tears. “I’m sorry, I just wasn’t ready—”

“What is there to be ready for? This is a quid pro quo situation. Not that you’d know that that means.” Steven knew I’d only recently finished my GED and had been quick to point out how a simple boy like me needed a strong, smart daddy to tell him what to do. “But I did my part, and now you need to do your part.”

Ice filled my gut. “I don’t want—”

The slap that cut me off was quicker and harder than the last one. Steven’s ring cut me under my eye on impact, my head whipping from the force of his strike. Shit. Shit. What was I going to do? He was obviously stronger than me—was I about to lose my virginity among bags of trash and puddles of oil-sheened rainwater?

But then a noise came from the side and Steven’s attention shifted. “Who the fuck are—”

And suddenly Mateo was there, his face so dark with anger it left me stunned. He wrenched Steven off of me and my brain began to catch up. Mateo didn’t know the deal I’d made with Steven, he didn’t know that Steven was a lawyer, oh, god, he didn’t—

“Mateo, no!” I shouted, trying to move, trying to stop him before he made a terrible mistake. It was too late. Mateo’s fist was flying and Steven only barely managed to sidestep a punch that would have shattered his nose. Instead, there was the muffled sound of knuckles striking something solid as Mateo’s fist connected with the side of Steven’s head.

Steven fell hard. His eyes rolled in his head for a moment, and I swallowed, afraid he would pass out. When Mateo went to drop on top of Steven, his fists clenched and his face promising pain, I grabbed at his shirt.

“Stop, Mateo!” I was so afraid—it shouldn’t be like this, this was all my fault. Tears made my voice thick and rough, and I felt snot dripping from my nose. “God, stop it!”

Something must have gotten through to Mateo, because the mindless fury dropped. His fists were tight and his jaw clenched, but he looked like he was in control. With calculated strength, he put himself between me and Steven, glaring at my former sugar daddy with venom.

“If you hit people who tell you no,” he ground out, “then expect to get knocked on your ass.”

Anyone else would’ve been shitting their pants if threatened by a hulking, rage-filled Mateo. Hell, I was close to shitting my pants, and he was protecting me. But Steven was a different kind of man who carried a different kind of power. The kind that could ruin people with records like Mateo and me.

Steven smiled up at Mateo, actually smiled, his teeth red with blood. He laughed, high and tight, and I knew we were in trouble. Oh, Mateo.

“You don’t understand,” I whispered to him as if I could stop the train wreck that was coming from happening.

I stared as Steven stood, his features twisted in pain but the smile plastered on. He pinned Mateo with green eyes that were sharp like knives.

“If you assault lawyers,” he said, each word a lesson in precision, “expect to get sued into oblivion.”

I wanted to throw up. It wasn’t an empty threat. Steven had spent a lot of time telling me about his prowess in the court system. Mateo’s face was a picture of surprise.

“Oh, yes. I’m a lawyer, and I’m going to leave you penniless. All you’ll have left is regret.” With that, Steven had his phone out and was calling 911.

Steven didn’t even know about Mateo’s record. I was sure once he unearthed that, Mateo wouldn’t just be poor from fighting lawsuits he couldn’t afford; he’d be locked away. Tears streaked down my cheeks; here was another life ruined because of me. Because I was somehow even worse at picking men than my mother had been.

Mateo didn’t run or try to steal Steven’s phone. He was still a mountain of a man next to me, his muscles bunched and flexed and exuding strength. He looked over his shoulder, eyes meeting mine. The connection that seemed to always spring to life when we were close was there, tugging with insistent heat.

God, I wanted him. Especially after he’d rushed to my defense like that. It had been reckless and terrifying—yet I’d never had someone protect me like that. I felt...safe. Of all the crazy things to be feeling in that moment, safety wasn’t one I’d thought possible.

“Well,” he sighed, his brown eyes bordering on black, “you’d better be worth the trouble.”

My breath hitched and hunger filled me. I wanted to fall into his tall, muscled frame. But worth the trouble?

Sirens echoed down the bricked alley walls.

No. I’m not worth the trouble you’re in.

READ HARD INK NOW 

$4.99 or Free with Kindle Unlimited Subscription

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