Title – Hard As It Gets (Hard Ink #1)
Author – Laura Kaye
Genre – Contemporary Romantic Suspense
Release Date – November 26, 2013
“Edgy, sexy, and full of suspense! A great read from a great new author!”
~J.R. Ward on Hard As It Gets
About Hard As It Gets:
Five dishonored soldiers.
Former Special Forces.
One last mission.
These are the men of Hard Ink.
Tall, dark, and lethal…
Trouble just walked into Nicholas Rixey’s tattoo parlor. Becca Merritt is warm, sexy, wholesome–pure temptation to a very jaded Nick. He’s left his military life behind to become co-owner of Hard Ink Tattoo, but Becca is his ex-commander’s daughter. Loyalty won’t let him turn her away. Lust has plenty to do with it too.
With her brother presumed kidnapped, Becca needs Nick. She just wasn’t expecting to want him so much. As their investigation turns into all-out war with an organized crime ring, only Nick can protect her. And only Becca can heal the scars no one else sees.
Desire is the easy part. Love is as hard as it gets. Good thing Nick is always up for a challenge…
Read Chapter 1 of Hard As It Gets
Hey everyone! I’m soooo excited to be celebrating my release of Hard As It Gets, the first book in my new Hard Ink series that follows the surviving members of a disgraced Army Special Forces unit as they follow new leads to uncover the conspiracy that saw them discharged from the military. Running their covert operation out of the back of Nick Rixey’s tattoo parlor, their mission brings them into all-out war against an organized crime ring. Along the way, the team finds love and support in unexpected places—but will they be able to regain their stolen honor?
Today, I wanted to share a sexy excerpt from the book where the action is heating up for Nick and Becca – ahem – enjoy!
Excerpt ~ Chapter 11, just after Becca
has survived a kidnapping attempt:
Becca’s insides nearly vibrated with the need to know what the hell Nick wasn’t telling her. She’d hit the edge of her tolerance for any more mystery, even of the tall, dark, and achingly handsome kind.
His lips pressed into a grim line and his eyes flashed. “Becca, let’s just—”
“No.” She stepped right into his space and jabbed a finger into the granite of his chest. “Don’t put me off anymore. I deserve to know. I need to know,” she said, hating the strained pitch of her voice.
His expression went dark and his jaw ticked. She saw it in his eyes the minute he made the decision to spill. Her stomach plummeted to the floor. It was bad. He didn’t need to tell her that much. Everything inside her braced for the onslaught of bad news.
When he spoke, the words were even, straightforward, factual. “Someone ransacked your house. Picked the back door lock again. Went through just about every room.”
The brick walls bent and warped around her, but she shook off the dizziness and forced herself to focus on Nick’s face. His presence was the only thing grounding her. “Why would they do that? Could you tell if anything was missing?”
He shook his head. “The why of it I intend to figure out. I promise you. But the place was too much of a mess to—”
“Take me.” Becca pushed past him and hit the handle on the door.
Arms wrapped around her from behind. “Becca, we—”
“No!” She threw off the hold and scrambled away, her back coming up hard against the wall.
Nick’s expression was a roiling sea of emotion. Surprise. Fear. Anger. Concern. “I’m sorry. What just—”
“That was how he grabbed me.” She swallowed hard and shuddered at the remembered press of the man’s flesh against hers. “I’m sorry,” she rasped, embarrassment heating her face, despair and exhaustion sucking the fight out of her.
He came forward slowly. “Don’t apologize,” he said, his voice cranked tight. “And don’t cry.” His thumb swiped under her eye, once, twice, and then his knuckles caressed her cheekbone. The little touches were comforting, sweet, and she thought maybe he needed to give them as much as she needed to feel them. He tucked the loose strands of her destroyed ponytail behind her ear.
“I’m not crying,” she said despite the wetness plain on her face. She shook her aching head, then pressed her cheek into his hand. “I’m not.”
Peering up at him, her breath caught. The moment their gazes connected, his expression shifted from sympathetic concern to uncontrollable desire. His mouth fell open. His chest rose and fell against hers. His fingers burrowed into her hair.
Becca went hot all over, like the sun had hung itself in the stairwell above them.
He leaned closer, closer, his free arm bracing on the wall above her shoulder. The warm puff of his breath caressed her lips as his gaze bore into hers. She couldn’t move, couldn’t blink, couldn’t breathe.
He kissed her on a groan so needful it made her dizzy and wet. His mouth devoured hers, his big hand cupped the back of her head, his body completely surrounded and trapped hers against the bricks. It was a full-body onslaught, with every part of him engaged in the act of claiming and seducing.
Becca clutched at his coat, his shoulders, his back, his hair. Anything to bring him closer, deeper. His lips pulled and tugged, his tongue stroked and twisted. He smelled of leather and mint and tasted like sin.
The harder he came at her, the more her conscious mind let go. Her aches, the stitches, her house, even Charlie—for a few minutes, just a few precious minutes, Becca let it all go.
The surrender was euphoric. It rushed through her blood and sent her flying.
“That was so close, Becca. Too close,” he rasped, kissing her jaw, her ear, her neck, and sending her heart flying. His fingers stroked down over her breasts and found the hem of her shirt. And then those warm, calloused hands snaked up her stomach, pulled down the cups of her bra, and caressed her breasts skin to skin. He massaged her, teased her with roughened fingertips, and tormented her until she was panting.
She gripped the collar of his coat, half afraid her knees would go soft and give out. Nick pulled his body away just enough to tear the coat off his arms and throw it to the floor. Geez, the gun holster was sexy hugging tight over his shirt, but he slipped out of it, too, and eased it to the floor with a thunk. Then his hands were back on her breasts and his tongue was back in her mouth, stealing her breath and convincing her she could live without it.
God, this kiss. It was the kind she’d remember forever, that would invade her dreams and haunt her in quiet moments. The kind her older self could look back on and know, once, she’d really lived. The kind that, no matter what, she could never, ever regret. And it made a part of herself bloom with affection for the man who’d made her feel that way.
She snaked her hands under his shirt, moaning when her palm smoothed over the hard planes and muscled ridges of his abdomen, his sides, his chest. Her fingers swirled through the light covering of hair on his chest and swiped light, teasing brushes over his nipples. The low growls he released into the kiss as they explored each other thrilled her, made her yearn for the opportunity to bring a man as powerful and deadly as him to his knees in ecstasy.
“Closer,” he ground out. With one arm, he ripped the cotton over his head, revealing a body that was no doubt capable of inflicting pleasure and pain in equal measure. Desire roared off his skin and his hands were everywhere, massaging her breasts, kneading at the swell of her ass, pulling them harder together.
The heat of his demanding touches ripped through her and settled a pressing ache low in her abdomen. She squeezed her thighs together in response, emphasizing her arousal against her panties.
“I want you, Becca. I’m not gonna lie.” He spoke in low tones against her cheek, but pulled back to meet her gaze. “But I think—”
She placed three fingers over his mouth. “Don’t think.”
Did you have a favorite line from the excerpt?
Introducing Nick and Becca from
Hard As It Gets
I am absolutely thrilled to be celebrating the release of my sexy contemporary romance, Hard As It Gets, the first book in my new Hard Ink series. If you like sexy, gritty contemporaries, military heroes and themes, and even a little suspense, Hard As It Gets is the perfect book for you! *grins*
Today, I’d like to introduce you to Nick Rixey and Becca Merritt, the hero and heroine of Hard As It Gets. They just sizzled together on the page and I really enjoyed writing them. I hope you love them, too! So, without further ado, please meet Hard As It Gets’s Nick and Becca:
MEET HERO NICK RIXEY:
Becca’s first impression of Nick:
“I’m Nick Rixey. Who wants to know?”
Becca jumped at the deep sound of the man’s voice. Geez. How long had he been standing there? And, big as he was, how had she not heard him approach? It was like he’d materialized out of thin air.
The surprise of his appearance pounded adrenaline through her system. Her racing pulse had absolutely nothing to do with the bulge of his impressive biceps straining the sleeves of his black T-shirt, the hints of ink just visible on his upper arms, nor with his harsh yet darkly handsome face. And definitely not with the way his jeans hung on those lean hips. Right. Definitely not.
Given who her father was, or had been, this was the type of man she’d expected to find at the end of Charlie’s cryptic note. His dark hair was a little on the long side, but the hard edges and leashed strength of his body clearly read ex-military.
Nick’s Job: Process Server, Part-time Tattoo Artist
3 Words that Describe Nick: Tortured, Alpha, Heroic
3 Things he Loves about Heroine Becca Merritt: Her courage, her compassion, the way she takes away his hurt
Who could play Nick if the book was made into a movie? Tyler Hoechlin hung above my desk for months (in fact, he just may still be there!), so he’s got the look for sure!
MEET HEROINE BECCA MERRITT:
Nick’s first impression of Becca:
Becca Merritt was the all-American girl personified, with her fierce blue eyes and wavy hair the rich color of honey. Bet she tastes as sweet, too. And, damn, that body. It was all he’d been able to do not to gawk at the curves her fitted T-shirt hugged, or trace his eyes over the lace just visible through the thin cotton. It was like the sun had strolled through their front door, casting heat and light all over him. Only the haunted dark circles under her eyes ruined the analogy.
Becca’s Job: ER nurse
3 Words that Describe Becca: Loyal, Compassionate, Strong
3 Things she Loves about Hero Nick Rixey: His intensity (in everything), his strength, his willingness to help her and her brother
Who could play Becca if the book was made into a movie? With her wholesome prettiness, Blake Lively would make a good Becca Merritt!
Do you have a question for either of the characters or their author lady? Ask away and we’d all be happy to chat!
Thanks for reading!
Q&A WITH LAURA KAYE
HARD AS IT GETS is one steamy read! How did you first get into writing?
Thanks so much! And thanks for having me here! I’ve been a writer all my life. I’m a historian by training, so writing non-fiction was a part of my job for the fifteen years I worked as a college professor. But I started writing fiction in 2008 in kind of an unusual way. I hit my head on July 4, 2008. I didn’t think much of it that day, but soon after I realized I’d really hurt myself, and it turned out I had a minor traumatic brain injury. As I recovered, I was filled with an amazing urge to be creative, so I started taking guitar lessons (still not very good at that!) and wrote my first novel in 12 weeks (fortunately, I’m better at that LOL!). The experience of writing that first book was truly transformative. It was what I was supposed to be doing, so I revised that book until it sold and kept writing new ones. And I haven’t looked back since!
Why did you choose to write romance?
I had been an avid reader of paranormal romance for years at that point, so I wrote what I loved. But I also picked romance—unconsciously, I think—because to me it’s an incredibly hopeful genre. Romance stories are inherently stories about people who can’t find love or think they don’t deserve it who overcome the odds and find it in the end. In the years leading up to starting writing, I experienced a number of very hard personal losses, so writing in this genre was one way I worked through those issues.
What does “Hard Ink” refer to? What importance do tattoos play in your story?
Hard Ink is the name of the Rixey brothers’ tattoo shop in the Hard Ink series. Nick and Jeremy Rixey are co-owners, though Nick (the hero of book one, Hard As It Gets) prefers to be more of a silent partner, despite Jeremy’s efforts to put Nick’s artistic talents to work. In this series, tattoos are a way people remember, pay penance, or highlight what’s important to them. The act of creating permanent marks on skin has deep meaning to them. And the shop creates a gritty setting where diverse kinds of people meet and interact in the series. I really love it!
Describe Becca—what do you love most about her? And Nick?
I’d love to! Because I really loved writing these characters!
Becca Merritt is smart and strong and honest and protective. I really loved the way she was willing to stand up for those she loves, even against people and forces who might be stronger and even a little scary. There’s a scene in particular when she dresses down Nick’s Special Forces teammates after a fist fight where I was particularly cheering for her! LOL
Nick Rixey is, omg, so freaking hot, you guys! He’s brooding and tortured and honorable and when he falls he falls so hard. I especially loved Nick’s mix of hard, alpha edges with his artistic side. When Nick shows Becca what her idea for a tattoo might look like on her skin, it’s just scorching!
What significance does the military play in the book?
Military themes are central to the whole Hard Ink series. The military isn’t just sexy window dressing nor is it just there to provide an intriguing backstory. The prior SF guys are this series are entirely defined by their military experience good and bad. It informs their identity, their sense of honor and duty, their view of the world, and of course gives them the skill set required to fight the battles they face in the series. The overall series mystery the characters are working to solve revolves around a military conspiracy in Afghanistan, so even though they’re out of the Army, the military themes are central.
If you could describe your book in a 140 character tweet, what would it be?
In #HardAsItGets, an ex-soldier joins forces w/his dead commander’s daughter to regain his tarnished honor & save her brother from a gang
Is there a particular author or book that has influenced your writing?
There are a number of authors that have influenced me, but if I had to pick one it would be J.R. Ward. A lot of what I know about how to write sexy, authentic male point of view comes from reading her books. And I definitely learned the importance of a good bromance to a romance novel from her Black Dagger Brotherhood series, too. Given my ginormous fangirling, you can only imagine how flipping excited I was when this happened:
“Edgy, sexy, and full of suspense! A great read from a great new author!”
~J.R. Ward on Hard As It Gets
You guys, I bawled like a baby in the middle of a huge workshop put on by my publisher. For real. LOL
What advice would you give aspiring writers looking to get into the publishing industry?
Here’s my advice:
1) Write, write, write. You can’t revise what you haven’t written and you can’t sell what you haven’t written. And the psychological and emotional boost you’ll get from writing “The End” for the first time cannot be overestimated.
2) Revise, revise, revise. That first time you type “The End”? Yeah, you’re nowhere near done. Your book will need to be edited, by you, several times before you ever put it in front of an agent or editor. You get one shot with them, so don’t waste it by not showing them your very best and most polished work.
3) Find critique partners. And your mom, siblings, and best friend do not count (unless you’re really lucky, like me, and your best friend happens t also be a professional author). You need other aspiring writers in your genre who will give you honest but constructive feedback about how to improve your manuscript. Let them catch all the embarrassing goofs and plot holes you thought you caught before it gets to an agent or editor.
4) Want to be a professional, then act it. And by that I mean join the professional organization(s) of the genre in which you write. Through them you will find classes to help hone your craft, critique partner match-ups, networking opportunities, calls for submission, and other opportunities invaluable to breaking into publishing.
5) Don’t give up. You will hear way more no’s than yeses, particularly early in your writing career. Stick with it. Believe in yourself. Give yourself one day to wallow in the rejection and eat a bunch of chocolate and then get right back on the horse. If your first book doesn’t sell, chalk that up to learning and write a second.
What can fans of HARD AS IT GETS look forward to next?
I’m currently writing four series: two contemporary (Hard Ink, Heroes) and two paranormal (Hearts of the Anemoi, Vampire Warrior Kings). I’ll have books from all four of those releasing in 2014. My next release is Hard As You Can (Hard Ink #2) coming 2/25/14!
Laura is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of over a dozen books in contemporary and paranormal romance. Growing up, Laura’s large extended family believed in the supernatural, and family lore involving angels, ghosts, and evil-eye curses cemented in Laura a life-long fascination with storytelling and all things paranormal. She lives in Maryland with her husband, two daughters, and cute-but-bad dog, and appreciates her view of the Chesapeake Bay every day.