Take one clueless, spoiled guy with notoriously bad luck…
When Derek Leigh is diagnosed with breast cancer at twenty-four, it’s the final straw in a lifetime of bad luck. If he’s going to die, it’ll be on his terms… with one helluva party that packs a lifetime’s worth of fun into whatever time he has left. To make this happen, Derek blows up his life: dumps the long-term boyfriend in the worst way possible, borrows money he can’t repay from a loan shark, and heads to Atlantic City… where his luck unexpectedly changes, giving him fresh hope.
Add one easygoing tattoo artist with a big, open heart…
Asher Matthews has dealt with a lot in his thirty-five years: he and his twin were born addicted to heroin and abandoned at birth… until Mama Maisie added them to her brood of lost boys. ADHD and dyslexia didn’t keep him from following his dream of opening his own tattoo shop, especially with his family’s support. With all that he’s been given in life, Asher makes a point of giving back where he can.
To equal two men who instantly connect in all the best ways.
Derek is shocked to not only survive his cancer treatment, but to come to the end of it in great health. Too bad he’s blown through all his money, lost his car, and has nowhere to turn. On a whim, he goes for a free tattoo. Asher takes one look at the sexy twink who’s down on his luck and offers him a room, a job, and even better, a friend. If they have a little no-strings fun along the way, it’s fine. It’s not like anyone is looking to fall in love, right?
This 55k novel is the seventh book in the LOVESTRONG series about finding love and being yourself in a small town. Watch out for ridiculous amounts of money won and lost, a butler who takes everything in stride, and a scruffy dog you’ll want to cuddle. This is an mm romance full of all the fun, laughter, and sweet feels you’d want from a Susan Hawke book.
Possible trigger for anyone currently fighting cancer or closely related to a breast cancer patient. The book is low angst and the experience is gently handled, but the subject matter is present.
I stepped aside to allow him by, refusing myself the stolen pleasure of letting his body brush against mine. As he leaned in to see, Derek wasn’t shy. But then, neither was Marlena, a trait common among cancer survivors. I guess it was par for the course going through what they had, constantly poked and prodded and denied basic modesty because saving your life was way more important.
She showed him the surgical scars, now hidden by the tattoo. Marlena acknowledged me with a wink, complimenting my skills with both line and shading. I was just glad she liked it and couldn’t wait to see how it looked when it healed and settled in.
While they chatted, I finished cleaning my tools. Marlena left after putting on her shirt and giving me a careful but grateful hug. Derek watched her leave, his expression both stunned and excited.
After the door closed, he snapped out of it, turning to me with those vulnerable eyes again. “Can you really help me? Give me something to make me feel normal again when I’m naked?”
“Absolutely. I can give you anything you want. But first, you need to define normal because it’s relative. I’m liking your style, a little bit fem but with enough masculinity to convince me it’s part of your style but not necessarily how you identify. I only say so because my sibling-in-law is nonbinary, but feel free to correct me if I’m wrong.”
A sex kitten emerged as he batted his lashes with a sexy little smirk. “Don’t worry, honey. I identify as completely male. There’s no law against dressing up pretty, so I do what I can with what I was given.”
“Yeah, you do.” With a kick of my foot, I pushed off on my rolling stool, wheeling myself back a few feet to my computer and drawing supplies. “Sit down, cutie. Let’s get to know each other some more so I can give you the kind of tattoo you deserve. Can I see the canvas I’ll be working with?”
Biting his lip, he glanced around nervously before nodding almost shyly and immediately pulling the shirt over his head. I rolled over and took a good long look at his chest, design ideas already sparking in my head.
“I can definitely give you something to make you feel good naked. Your scar tissue hasn’t faded as much as I’d like, so it’s hard to say how invasive it might be in the future. But if I tattoo over them today and make them part of the design, you won’t need to worry. The only item of importance is creating a design you can happily live with because you’ll have it forever.”
“Isn’t that kind of the idea?” The haughty tone was back, and damned if it didn’t turn me on. “What kind of design are we talking about? I don’t exactly want to seem like I’m wearing a bra. A sexy lace cami, maybe, but I don’t want to get stuck with a color. How does anyone decide this? It seems too hard.”
Normally, I would want a new client to wait and sleep on it before putting any ink on their body. But in Derek’s case, it seemed urgent for him to find a way to connect with his body again. And if his looks were closely tied to his self-worth, as would be expected in a young, hot guy like this, ink was the obvious answer. Now it was simply a question of picking the right design.
Fortunately, I was good at my job.
“I could do a cami with cutouts displaying three-dimensional nipples incorporated in the design if you want to go with something more common. But if you trust me, I can do something freehand to represent you as a person and be totally unique without feeling like underwear. Stick to getting your clothing at the designer boutiques. Let me give you some artwork you’ll be proud to show off when you get naked.”
Derek’s eyes lit up. “Yessss, I want something unique and totally me, definitely nothing common. Does this face deserve common?”
“Definitely not, but I’m at work, so I’m not going to follow my line of thought.” Winking, I ran my tongue between my lips. “Quit distracting me, cutie. Let’s get the design done first. Once I have a plan and the basic lines put down, you’re welcome to flirt all you want. Do you have anything you absolutely do or do not want?”
He simpered before taking it seriously. “I wouldn’t mind something natural, like flowers or leaves or whatever. As long as these deep slash marks are hidden, I’m good. Wait… I don’t want anything freaky. Nothing scary, no creepy bugs or skulls. This is probably where I should warn you, I suck at making decisions, and giving me too many choices is a bad idea.”
“I hear you. You’re talking to a guy with ADHD. Too many options will have me bouncing off the walls. I can seriously lose entire days waffling if I let myself.” Grabbing an art pad and pencil, I tapped the end of the pencil against the paper while I considered how to proceed. “How about this? You said you want something natural. Close your eyes and give me the first thing that comes to your mind when I ask you these questions. No thinking. I’m seeking gut reactions.”
Derek wiggled his shoulders, giving a little clap. “Sounds fabulous. I’m totally in.” He closed his eyes, lifting his chin expectantly as if waiting for a kiss. As tempting as the idea was, I still had a job to do.
As an avid reader and big romance fan myself, I love sharing the stories of the different people who live in my imagination. My stories are filled with humor, a few tears, and the underlying message to not give up hope, even in the darkest of times, because life can change on a dime when you least expect it. This theme comes from a lifetime of lessons learned on my own hard journey through the pains of poverty, the loss of more loved ones than I’d care to count, and the struggles of living through chronic illnesses. Life can be hard, but it can also be good! Through it all I’ve found that love, laughter, and family can make all the difference, and that’s what I try to bring to every tale I tell.
I’m a happily married mom with one snarky teenage boy, and three grown “kids of my heart.” I’m more widely known for my mpreg writings as Susi Hawke; this new name is a departure from that. Whether written by Susan or Susi, the books are filled with that all-important love, laughter, and family I mentioned; the only difference is that this name has no male pregnancy. I look forward to sharing my stories with you, and to bringing more romance and laughter into this world that needs it so very badly.
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