Superstar guitarist Ramsey’s reputation as a bad-boy rocker is exceeded only by his dedication to his music. When a jilted groupie gets back at him for a one-night stand with an intimate-and completely inappropriate-tattoo, he needs it fixed, and fast.
When a high-profile tattoo job lands Jewel an invite on Toxsin’s latest tour, she can’t say no. What she’s really worried about is ruining the gig by hooking up with the first guy to completely rock her world. She knows she should resist-Ramsey’s not the kind to stick around for a morning after. But the way he makes her feel could be worth any risk.
Review: Can a tattoo artist and a member of a rock band find common ground? Author Dawn Ryder dives in to see in Rock Steady, the second book in the Rock Band series.
One of the most interesting aspects of the story for me is the concept of tattoo rescue. I didn’t realize there was a specific phrase used to describe fixing a tattoo. I was very impressed with the descriptive language used to help me get a visual of how bad the original tattoo was. When Jewel saw Ramsey’s bad tattoo, her response was, “Oh, that is just wrong.” The author went on to say that the cherry blossom tattoo was like putting pink ribbons on the ears of a panther.
The sparks fly between Jewel and Ramsey, but that doesn’t mean an automatic happily-ever-after once the dust settles. The author manages to whip up some interesting challenges along the way to fit in well with the heated action.
I liked Jewel’s character because she maintains a strong attitude even when dealing with the fame that comes from being in a rock band. Her sassiness provides an excellent match for Ramsey because he is pretty much used to getting anyone he wants. Their verbal sparring helps build the tension.
I also enjoyed the teaser at the end of the story about Taz, which makes me ready for more in the series.
“Pissed off your girlfriend?” she asked pointedly.
“She wasn’t really a girlfriend.”
Jewel clicked her tongue and looked back at the cheery blossoms. “By the look of that, she disagreed with you on the topic. She must have taken you to Spike Collar.”
Taz was typing into his cell phone as she spoke. “Makes sense. You surfaced right around where that tattoo parlor is on the map.”
“Just don’t go back there,” Jewel warned as she went behind the counter and pulled a blank sheet of paper in front of her.
“Why not?” the blond asked. “I’ve got half a mind to have my lawyer pay them a visit.”
Jewel didn’t look up from what she was drawing. “Won’t do you any good. They never touch a client without a release of liability signed and sealed, with video footage to back it up. Whoever was gunning for you did her homework. The gals at Spike Collar don’t like guys, and they really don’t like any males who try to charm them.” Jewel cast a look at Ramsey. “You are exactly the sort they hate. Bet they popped a bottle of champagne the second you cleared the doorway with that little gem.”
Taz made a low sound under his breath.
But Ramsey was watching her. She felt his attention tightening, focusing on the motion of her pen as she inked a design on the paper. He’d sent a shiver down her spine before, but now he was warming her insides, melting her core slowly with the absolute devotion he was giving her. She looked up, locking gazes with him.
Her insides churned.
And her toes curled.
She’d never felt so connected to another soul. It was his doing, and she realized that his arrogance was something he’d earned.
That fact slapped her across the face and sent her into a full meltdown. He was the sort who could captivate.
Which was a damned dangerous place to go.
It wasn’t like she had any personal experience with it. Still, she felt like she was on pins and needles. The sheer level of sensitivity the guy was able to elicit from her was off the scale. It was fascinating to say the least.
As well as a really bad place to go when he looked like he could afford to hire her.
She looked back at her work, forcing herself to focus on the art and get a grip on herself before he knocked her flat. Sweat popped out on her forehead, but her hands responded perfectly. Art was like a living force inside her. A place she could take refuge in as well as being a gift she might share. She let it consume her, the drawing coming to life beneath the strokes of her pen. It was a little like giving birth: first she had to let it grow and form before it was ready to breathe.
“That is smokin’ hot,” Taz said as he leaned on the counter to peer at her work.
“You’re good,” the blond said in a tone full of awe.
Ramsey reserved judgment until she’d shaded in the last few areas on her sketch. When she lifted her pen, he swept it up and studied the drawing. It was a metal dragon crawling down his abdomen toward his cock. Its front claws would be where the cherry blossoms were, and its tail would wrap around his lean hip and onto his lower back. It wasn’t a reptilian dragon. It was a steel one, a merging of metal and mythical creature.
His eyes narrowed as he studied it, seeing more than just the black lines. He was seeing the attitude she’d tried to capture and portray. His expression gave her a hint of the man inside him. She got the impression he spent a lot of time covering up that man with his didn’t-give-a-rat’s-ass attitude.
But she saw it.
His attention shifted to her, their gazes locking over the edge of the paper. For a moment, she caught a flicker of understanding in his eyes. Just a moment of awareness, a few seconds when he admitted to himself that she saw him.
Really saw him.
It didn’t last long. In fact, she found herself questioning if it had really been there, when his gaze hardened and sealed her out of that place he was determined to keep private.
“You recognize me,” he said.
It wasn’t a question, but she felt inclined to answer anyway. “It isn’t hard to peg you for a metal-head when you’re wearing nothing but leather and have a stud bar through your nipple.”
“I’m a metal god,” he said.
“Right,” she countered, feeling a rise of heat in her cheeks. “I’m good at what I do.”
“You are,” the blond interrupted. He was studying her portfolio. “So why are you working the graveyard shift?”
“I wanted to work at the best shop in town. That left me to choose between Spike Collar and here,” Jewel said without hesitation.
“But you’re not a lesbian,” Ramsey finished for her. “Bet that was a bit of a problem with getting hired over at Spike Collar.”
“Definite ripple in the pond,” she confirmed. “Not on my side, mind you. They just don’t like straight girls. Shame really, they know how to do tats.”
“So do you.” Ramsey was thumbing through the pictures of her work. He had that businessman expression.
“Who are you?” she gave in and asked. All three men looked up at her. “I mean, since it sounded like you were trying to impress me.”
“Impressing you will involve more than my name,” her client said.
His lips curved, and his expression became sensual. He flattened his hand on the counter between them and leaned toward her. In one flat second, it felt like her breath caught in her lungs. She was hyperaware of him, fighting not to take a step back. There was a flicker of approval in his dark eyes as she managed to stand her ground.
“Count on that fact.” Her voice had turned raspy, but his arrogance was rubbing her pride raw. “I do tats. Only tat’s for pay. So if you’ve got a problem understanding boundaries, the door is behind you. There’s another place up a couple of blocks that opens in a few hours.”
Taz reached over and shoved Ramsey. “I told you not to piss her off.” He shook his smart phone in the air between them. “She’s the best in the nearest three cities—checked her out.” He turned to look at her. “Your references rock. Why are you working in this dump?”
“Because my boss might be a prick, but he’s also got twenty-five years’ experience, and references to top mine. I want to learn from the best, and there are a few things you can’t learn from anyone but a master.”
Taz nodded. “True, even if some masters are egomaniacs.”
“You didn’t answer me.” Jewel aimed her inquiry at Ramsey. “Who are you?”
“Ramsey, Taz, and I’m Syon,” the blond answered. “We’re members of a band called Toxsin.”
She bit back the snide, Yeah, right, that tried to escape her lips.
But they were all standing there looking pretty confident. She reached over and tapped “Toxsin” into the laptop on the countertop. Their website was the first thing to come up. She clicked on the link.
“What the fuck are you doing roaming the streets?” She looked between the screen and the three guys standing in front of her. It was weird, to say the least, to have the pictures from the screen living and breathing in her shop. “Don’t you have people to deal with stuff like this?”
Ramsey eyed her from where he was lying on the counter. “I’m a hands-on sort.” He covered her hand with his, stroking the back of it.
Jewel ended up taking that step back. Victory flashed through his eyes as she sent him a sharp look.
Taz punched him in the shoulder again.
“How’s that ‘hands-on’ thing working for you tonight?” Jewel said. It was a barbed comment, a challenge. Hell, it felt like she’d smacked him across the jaw with a white glove and dropped it at his feet.
The way his eyes narrowed confirmed he felt the same way. For one split second, she half feared he might just flip the counter out of the way or jump over it.
“Let’s focus on the problem,” Syon said. “We need this fixed—discreetly, quickly.”
“No joke.” Jewel happily changed thought tracks. She pulled one of the shop disclosure agreements up onto the counter. The tightly packed lines of legal mumbo jumbo didn’t give her the same sense of comfort they normally did. Ramsey grabbed it and yanked the top off a pen before boldly scrawling his signature across the bottom line.
Taz was flipping the lock on the front door.
“Good idea,” Jewel agreed. She didn’t care for the fact that she had to take a breath before getting her feet to move.
Ramsey flopped down on her worktable, popping his pants open. They were custom, all right, the right side of them shaped perfectly to contain his cock.
The guy had an impressive package.
She ended up stopping halfway around the counter, earning a smirk from him.
“Don’t let my fame make you nervous,” Ramsey teased her.
“Typically, I worry about my clients taking their displeasure out on my hide.” She made it to her stool and sat down. Her workstation was normally the place she felt most comfortable.
Today, she felt like the padded stool was full of spikes.
“So what’s your problem with me?” Ramsey asked.
She wasn’t going to answer that.
Not a chance.
She turned half away from him and sterilized her hands.
“Cat got your tongue?” he asked.
Jewel turned back toward him and swallowed the lump that had formed in her throat.
What a man animal.
She really needed to get a grip and enjoy the moment. She was pretty sure she was never going to get the chance to work on so fine a specimen again.
“I’m thinking you wouldn’t think twice about filing a lawsuit against me, signature on a release form or not,” she said.
His expression turned serious , his eyes narrowing, his lips thinning. “I don’t get my kicks out of using my money to pin my mistakes on other people. I own my fuckups.”
It wasn’t what she’d expected him to say.
But she liked it.
A whole lot.
Integrity was something most people sold out on. Especially when it came to admitting they’d made dumb mistakes.
“I’m beginning to see why the gals at Spike didn’t refuse to do your girlfriend’s dirty work.”
Ramsey leaned his head back. “She wasn’t my girlfriend.”
“I’m guessing that was the problem.”
He’d closed his eyes but opened them and looked at her. “Guess it was. But I didn’t lie to her.”
He really did own his screw-ups. It was there in the flat acceptance on his face. He looked past her to his bandmates. “I’m good. You guys can shove off.”
“Not a chance.” Syon settled himself on the other worktable. “Those little pink flowers will take us all down.”
“Yeah.” Taz sat down behind the counter and claimed her laptop. “Besides, I don’t trust you to be polite. Jewel is a lady.”
Ramsey made a low sound under his breath. “I bet she gets naughty with the right company.”
Jewel didn’t look up from where she was cleaning the skin on his abdomen. She was no stranger to personal jabs, especially off-color ones.
What surprised her was the way her pulse leapt.
She needed to get a grip.
“That’s what I’m talking about,” Taz said. “She’s an artist, like Kate.”
“Yeah,” Ramsey agreed. “Sorry, I’m still a little buzzed. Talking out of my ass.”
Jewel warmed under the single word of praise. She got the impression Ramsey didn’t hand out undeserving compliments. She ended up looking into his eyes because he was watching her.
“Kate made my pants.” He gestured at his buddies. “She makes all our leather gear.”
“She’s good.” Jewel picked up her sketch and began to position it. “I see my share of leather around here. The good, the bad, and mostly the ugly.”
“She’s the best,” Syon added without opening his eyes. “Even has good taste in men.”
Ramsey snorted. Syon offered him a single-finger salute.
“Aren’t you guys cute,” Jewel muttered.
“There’s nothing cute about the part of me you’re looking at.”
She should ignore him.
Should, but she wasn’t going to. Jewel looked up and caught Ramsey grinning at her. “Did you want this done sometime before Christmas?”
“You wouldn’t let me go on stage wearing flowers…would you, Jewel?” He tried out his puppy eyes on her.
“The idea is growing on me.”
He made a soft humming sound beneath his breath. “I like a girl who plays rough.”
“I bet you do.”
Which was just enough of a reality slap to get her focused. He was an animal, the prowling kind.
And she was already living on the edge enough.
She got the drawing in position and transferred it onto his skin.
Normally the word helped her tune out everything but the art.
Yeah, well there wasn’t much of anything that was normal about Ramsey.
Dawn Ryder is the erotic romance pen name of a bestselling author of historical romances. She has been publishing her stories for over eight years to a growing and appreciative audience. She is commercially published in mass market and trade paper, and digi-first published with trade paper releases. She is hugely committed to her career as an author, as well as to other authors and to her readership. She resides in Southern California.