Note: This ARC was provided by RockStar Lit PR in exchange for an honest review.
"The ink was a brand. And in this case, it branded me unsuitable for public acknowledgment by Vanessa Frost."
In his thirty-one years, Constantine "Con" Leahy has always had one constant in his life--the very heavy chip on his shoulder. Even with more money than he knows what to do with, Con still finds himself bearing the guilt of the double murder of his beloved adoptive parents. He's also sure he doesn't deserve the one woman he can't stop thinking about. He's already been with her once but, for the life of him, he can't remember that night they spent together two years ago. He wants two things: revenge for the loss of his parents and another chance at being with the woman whom he believes he can never truly have.
"The way he looked at me...the things he said to me... He just wanted me."
In her thirty years, Vanessa "Van" Frost has never forgotten that one night she stopped abiding by all the rules that have dictated her life and simply did what she wanted. Since then, she's kept her distance from the one man who's made her feel alive and done what's expected of her. She knows how it feels to be imperfect in the eyes of those you love and doesn't want to disappoint anyone. In order to show that she's capable of heading the foundation, she knows that she needs to make sure their latest project goes on without a hitch...except there is a hitch and it comes in the form of the one man she shouldn't want.
"Let. Me. Go."
"That's the problem. I can't."
When Vanessa is left with no other alternative but approach Con to ask him to donate the land he owns to the foundation, she knows he's not going to simply acquiesce. Con's less than warm reception to both her presence in his tattoo shop and her request proves her fears right. Con wants Vanessa to show that she isn't some rich princess who doesn't do more than approves grants and signs checks. After a seemingly good day at a center that he's supporting ends with angry words exchanged, Con comes up with a deal that will give both him and Vanessa exactly what they want from one another and she reluctantly agrees.
"What if it's not worth it? What if I'm not worth it?"
"I think we both know that ain't the case."
Just as Vanessa accepts Con's terms, Lucas Titan, a member of the foundation's board, approaches her with a deal of his own. Knowing that Vanessa and Con will not be able to go public, Lucas insists that Vanessa play the same "role" she did with Simon Duchesne, one of her dearest and closest friends. Lucas wants to achieve some level of acceptability in certain circles and sees the best way of doing so by being seen with Vanessa, daughter of one of the richest and well-known families in New Orleans. Forcing her hand, Vanessa says "yes" to four outings with Lucas but isn't allowed to let Con know what's going.
"You shouldn't let me have you."
"Why? Why would you even say that?"
"Because once I have--and remember every goddamn detail--I can't promise I'll let you go. And you need me to let you go. I need to be able to let you go."
As Con and Vanessa spend more time together, the undeniable attraction is still very much there but there's something much stronger, more life-changing that's going on between them. Even as common sense tells them that they aren't suited for one another, their hearts have other plans for them, plans that go beyond any wheeling and dealing. Even with the chances that Con gives Vanessa to walk away, she refuses, finally realizing that she wants to take a leap of faith and go with what she's feeling. Long before that first night together, they had already noticed each other and now they're ready to bridge the distance.
"None of this makes any sense. I shouldn't be here. But there's nowhere else I wanted to be."
Things begin to become even more complicated when more information regarding the murders of Con's parents come to light. Con doesn't want to drag Vanessa into the darkness that envelopes him whenever he contemplates seeking his own brand of justice for his parents' deaths. And yet, even as he tries to shield her from it, Vanessa is dragged into it. When the shocking truth finally comes to light, will their love for one another survive the harsh reality they need to face, both as individuals and as a couple, or will the unavoidable consequences of a series of reckless actions lay claim to what they have as its latest victim?
"Yeah, I guess we do need to be realistic. Because it'd be a goddamn fucking fairytale if this was anything more than a short-lived affair. You need to go back to your world, and I need to quit stepping outside of mine."
I kid you not when I say that Beneath This Ink was one of my most anticipated book releases for 2015. The first book in the series, Beneath This Mask, which I had the immense pleasure of reading last month and has already reserved a spot on my list of favorites for the year, blew me away, so my expectation for this second book were higher than usual. And now, here I sit in front of my computer, at a loss for words when it comes to expressing how absolutely in awe of Meghan March's talent for bringing together the sweet and the steam in a story and with characters that demand your undivided attention and affection.
As is par for the course, there are things that you don't see coming, especially when it comes to the reason behind the deaths of Con's parents. The senselessness of the crime gives you a glimpse of the depravity that can be hidden beneath those who appear to be pillars of society. Even when it comes to Lucas Titan, who I deemed the poster child for pomposity, not all is what it seems and I'm at that point where my curiosity is so piqued that I am itching for his story to be told. That's what happens with the supporting characters in Meghan March's books--they leave you wanting to learn and read more about them.
I am already in the midst of a book hangover, a sure sign that this book will land on the very same list its predecessor is already securely on. I've already got the author's debut novel, Flash Bang, on my to-be-read list, which seemingly has no end, and now I'm going to reserve a spot for the next book in the Beneath series, whether its about Lucas Titan or someone else. Heck, I'll reserve spots for every single future Meghan March release on my TBR list because I'm pretty sure that I'll be in for a literary ride to remember. I am highly recommending Beneath This Ink and unhesitatingly give it five-plus stars! ♥
Release Date: 12 February 2015
Date read: 08 February 2015
Learn more about author Meghan March here.
Read my review for Beneath This Mask here.