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Read on for a juicy snipped of Cracks in the Armor by Helena Hunting! Tattoo artist Chris is doing his best to win the heart of grad student Sarah…but does he have the courage to let her see behind his bad-boy facade? You’ll have to read it to find out…and the best part is that it’s available right now for only 99 cents!

Cracks in the Armor

My next stop was the bathroom. I shut the door and checked the showerhead to make sure it was pointed at the wall. If it wasn’t, the water would spray out of the tub and soak the floor. I’d found that out the hard way. It took a long time for the water to heat up, so I removed the fake eyelashes and the makeup while I waited. Although Chris’s bathroom wasn’t particularly nice, it had the benefit of a powerful showerhead. The spray came so fast and hard it almost hurt.

I used Chris’s soap and shampoo. They weren’t anything special, just some no-name Axe knock-offs, but they made me smell like him. He’d left me two towels: one to dry off and one for my hair. Hanging from the back of the door was my favorite shirt of his. I pulled it over my head, wrapped my hair in the towel, and went back to the kitchen.

The sandwich was exactly the way I liked it. On thick sourdough, it was piled high with ham, cheese, lettuce, and mayo. I checked the other messages on my phone while I ate, my stomach rumbling even as I filled it.

When I was done, I put the plate in the sink and headed for Chris’s room. It was sparse, just a bed, a dresser, and a night table with a lamp and a digital clock. The bed was the nicest thing Chris owned, aside from his bike. The mattress was soft and plush, his sheets always satin smooth and freshly washed. It was the only reason I preferred to stay at his place over mine. The headboard was a solid wood piece of art he’d gotten from Serendipity, the antique store my landlady owned. She also happened to be

Hayden’s aunt.

As I pushed open the door, the dim light from the hall brought him into view. He was sprawled out over the bed, a massive mountain of muscle and ink. I stood there for a long while, watching the rhythmic rise and fall of his back. His sandy blond hair was cut short, making the hard angles of his face seem more severe, especially cast in shadow as they were. But when he smiled all that menace melted away, replaced by boyish good looks that charmed the pants off more women than I could count, myself included.

He moved his arm, muscles flexing as his hand fanned out over the sheets and stopped at the unclaimed pillow beside his head. His brows came down, a deep furrow replacing the softer lines of peaceful sleep. After a moment his hand drifted higher, fingers curling around his own pillow, and he relaxed back into

I left the door ajar so there was enough light to make the trip to the bed. The sheets were cool as I slipped between them, sinking into the mattress. I was beyond wiped.

I was under no delusion that the exhaustion wasn’t going to get worse when I started my internship. I’d heard horror stories from some of the other people in my program. How they were given projects to develop or manage outside of work hours that kept them up all night. I didn’t get much sleep as it was. The possibility that I might get even less in the coming months worried me.

I sighed as my head hit the pillow, easing into the comfort of Chris’s bed. As soon as I pulled the sheets up, he rolled onto his side. His arm came over me, pulling me closer. His hand moved down, along my thigh until he reached the hem of the shirt and hit bare skin. And then it was a case of under and up, his wide palm flattened against my stomach. He curled around my body, knees pushing into mine, his chest against my back.

“I didn’t mean to wake you,” I said softly.

I felt his nose as he burrowed through my hair, warm breath against my neck, finally replaced by his lips.

“S’okay,” he replied in a sleep-heavy voice. “I’m glad you came.”

“Me, too.” I put my hand over his and laced our fingers, pulling his arm farther around me.

Soft kisses brushed along my neck, shoving down the exhaustion and waking up the part of me I turned off as a protective measure every time I went to work. It was difficult to compartmentalize the constant attention of The Sanctuary’s clientele. Occasionally, a little voice in the back of my mind reminded me that Chris had been among them at The Dollhouse. But he hadn’t fit the typical profile.

He’d never tried to touch me when I worked, never made a crass comment. He’d been the pinnacle of politeness. Sure, he’d been flirtatious and persistent, telling me I was beautiful, asking me out for coffee, but that was as far as it went. He always looked me in the eye when I waited on his table, instead of at my chest or whatever other skin was exposed. I hadn’t known how to take him at first.

“You have an okay night?” Chris asked.

“It wasn’t bad.”

He stopped nuzzling my neck and his body stiffened. I hoped he hadn’t read anything into the noncommittal answer. “Anyone put their hands on you?”

“No, baby.” Not tonight, anyway.

It was the main reason I’d been able to come to his place. I couldn’t face him after the nights with unasked-for physical contact. He was too good at calling out my lies. So when something happened that I didn’t want to tell him about, I avoided his texts and waited until the next day to get back to him. Beyond that, I couldn’t manage his affection on those nights, even if it was wanted. The internal conflict was too much to handle. As if I’d been cheating on him, even though I wasn’t. I couldn’t stand it.

His body relaxed again and I felt his cheek against my neck. He’d shaved tonight. For me. It made me feel good and bad. I knew he didn’t expect anything. He’d be just as happy to snuggle and fall right back to sleep until I gave him the go ahead for something more.

It had been too long since we’d been together. I missed the physical release almost as much as I missed his bed, his arms, and his gentle way. I turned over to face him, the thin slice of light from the hall just enough to make out his shadowy features. Sliding a hand up his bare chest, my palm came to rest at the nape of his neck.

“Wanna make out?” he asked huskily.

“Mm. I’d like that.”


I grinned in the darkness and waited for his mouth. Except it didn’t come. The hand on my waist disappeared. I inhaled sharply at the slow glide of his fingers along my arm. When they reached

my neck, he pushed my damp hair back, tucking it behind my ear. I closed my eyes on a deep exhale. There was such intimacy in the way he traced the contours of my face, it made it difficult to meet

his gaze. I could feel his eyes on me, though. When his fingers touched my lips, I let them part. The pad of his thumb swept along the bottom one.

“Sarah,” he whispered.

I opened my eyes as I sucked his thumb into my mouth. His face was a picture of masculine desire. Eyes hooded and intense, lips parted. I bit down, licking at the pad, watching the muscle under his right eye twitch. His thumb disappeared, replaced by his mouth. His lips were velvet soft.

His tongue met mine in a languid rhythm. It became almost maddening, the longer it went on, and then he took my lower lip between his, dragging his teeth across it. He wouldn’t take it any farther. He was waiting for the “green light,” as he called it. Early on, I’d realized that if we were ever going to get to the next level, as in get naked, I would have to be the one to initiate it. That hadn’t changed over the last several months.

I pushed through the sheets until I was pressed up against him, hoping that would make clear what I wanted. If he clued in, it didn’t register in the kiss. He just kept up that same slow, drugging rhythm. I dug my fingernails into the back of his neck and pressed my hips into his, desperate for more. I could feel him through his boxers, huge and hard and ready, just like the rest of him.