Cover Up: A Skin Deep, Inc Novel

Cover Up: A Skin Deep, Inc Novel

by L.A. Witt

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Overview

After ten years of blissful marriage, Navy Pilot Nate Chandler is divorcing his cheating husband. Single for the first time in years, Nate is numb to all emotion and kisses any chance of another relationship goodbye.

Not only is Nate struggling to get through this divorce, but his body is branded with a permanent reminder of his failed marriage: a matching tattoo with his ex. Searching for a place to cover up his old tattoo, Nate finds himself at the Skin Deep, Inc., where he meets the young and charming cover-up tattoo apprentice, Lucas Brandt.

From just flirty glances to steamy hot encounters, Nate and Lucas dive headfirst into a fling of hookups. But worried that he’ll forever be Nate’s “cover up” rebound relationship, Lucas fears that their love won’t be anything more than just skin deep. What was once just a casual attraction, Lucas now hopes to turn into a real relationship. But will he be able to convince the still tender-hearted Nate to fall in love again?

Third installment of L.A. Witt’s Skin Deep romance series, COVER UP is a story of passion, pleasure, and happily ever after.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781250142030
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication date: 10/03/2017
Series: Skin Deep Inc. , #3
Sold by: Macmillan
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 83,790
File size: 1 MB

About the Author

L.A. Witt is a M/M romance writer who has finally been released from the purgatorial corn maze of Omaha, Nebraska, and now spends her time on the southwestern coast of Spain. In between wondering how she didn’t lose her mind in Omaha, she explores the country with her husband, several clairvoyant hamsters, and an ever-growing herd of rabid plot bunnies.
L.A. Witt is the author of Back Piece. She is a M/M romance writer who has finally been released from the purgatorial corn maze of Omaha, Nebraska, and now spends her time on the southwestern coast of Spain. In between wondering how she didn’t lose her mind in Omaha, she explores the country with her husband, several clairvoyant hamsters, and an ever-growing herd of rabid plot bunnies.

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

Nate Chandler's wedding band never looked better than it did somersaulting out of his hand and over the James River. The sun caught the gold and gave it a little glint, and then the ring hit the surface and disappeared with a quiet bloop.

From the river's edge, Nate watched with satisfaction as the ripples bloomed outward before disappearing into the otherwise calm surface. In less than a minute, there was no evidence he'd ever thrown anything into the water at all. The ripples were gone, and so was that damn ring.

"Feel better?" Jon Russell, his best friend and the pilot he'd flown with for years, stood beside him.

Nate considered the question for a moment, then nodded. "Yeah. A little." He'd feel even better once the divorce was final, and he'd planned to chuck the ring after that, but when he'd seen Caleb at today's hearing, he'd decided it was time.

Jon had come along for moral support. Though he hadn't said it out loud, there was also a good possibility he'd wanted to make sure Nate didn't leap over a table and choke the ever-loving fuck out of his lying, cheating, not-quite-ex-husband. Which was kind of entertaining to think about, and Nate sometimes joked about it, especially after a few drinks. But seeing Caleb had hurt more than anything. Getting violent hadn't crossed his mind. Getting sick? Definitely. Breaking down? More than once. But despite all his snide comments about his ex, Nate's only violent streak had ever been the odd drunken fisticuff with equally shitfaced aviators in bars, and he hadn't done that in years.

Caleb ... he'd never lay a hand on Caleb. He didn't even want to grab him and shake him by the shoulders and ask why he'd pissed away a fucking decade together. He didn't want to know if that other guy had really been worth it.

Though considering the other guy had been waiting outside for Caleb after the hearing, looking more than a little pleased with himself, apparently the answer was yes.

And that had been the moment Nate made the decision to feed his ring to the James River today, instead of when the divorce was final. In his mind, it already was. Their marriage had crashed and burned, and there was nothing left to do but put out the flames and pick up the rubble.

So Jon had driven him down here, and now it was done. And yeah, Nate kind of felt better. It wasn't like he'd been wearing the ring, anyway. He'd taken it off the day he'd caught Caleb and whatshisname in their bed three months ago, and hadn't put it back on since.

Jon put a hand on Nate's shoulder. "Hey. You want to get out of here?"

Nate stared at the water in the general vicinity of where his ring had vanished. The river was continuing its lazy course toward the Chesapeake Bay, moving on from the eighteen-karat assault, and he decided it would be a good idea for him to do the same. So he nodded and turned to his friend. "Yeah. Is it too early to start drinking?"

A sympathetic grimace pulled at Jon's features. "I don't think there's such thing as too early on a day like today."

"Good. Let's go." Nate paused. "Hell, it isn't like I can go home — the Realtor's showing the house this afternoon." One more thing to break his heart. He loved that house. Couldn't Caleb have cheated in a goddamned hotel room like a normal sleazebag?

"All the more reason to go out and get started with the booze." Jon squeezed Nate's shoulder. "I'm sorry about all this, by the way. Matt and I both feel terrible about —"

"It's not your fault. I'd been getting suspicious for a while anyway. When you guys told me you noticed something was weird, it just confirmed what I already kind of knew."

"Still." Jon let his hand drop. "I think we were all hoping for a better ending to this."

"Yeah, well. It is what it is. Now I just want to put it all behind me and move the fuck on."

"Well, you could ..." Jon hesitated.

"What?"

Jon glanced at him, then exhaled. "Look, I think we both know how I would cope in your shoes."

"Go screw anyone who'd let you?"

"Pretty much."

Nate managed to laugh but only for a second. Shaking his head, he slid his hands into his jacket pockets, fending off some late March briskness, and stared straight ahead. "I know that's exactly what you would do."

"And you're not wired for it."

"Nope. Not even now." Nate scowled. "In fact, I'm pretty sure my libido is as dead as my marriage."

Jon whistled. "That bad?"

"Yep. Hell, just thinking about sex makes me nauseous." It was having that effect now. His stomach roiled at the mere thought of looking at another man, let alone touching one. "I think I'd rather go drink myself stupid."

"I can definitely help you with that part."

"Matt doesn't mind?"

"Nope. He knows what's going on today."

Nate was surprised when Jon didn't add that Matt would join them. Sometimes he did, if he wasn't tied up at the tattoo shop until all hours of the night. And usually he was a welcome addition. Nate liked Matt. He would've even if Matt weren't Jon's boyfriend.

Today, though, he didn't need to be around a disgustingly happy couple. He was thrilled for them — and still amazed that Jon had ever settled down with anyone — and he hoped their relationship continued to be amazing.

If only for one day, though, he didn't want to see it.

They got into Jon's car, and as Jon started the engine, Nate questioned the wisdom of going out and getting shitfaced right now. He liked to drink and have a good time, but drinking while he was upset wasn't as fun. Chances were he'd wind up so depressed he couldn't move unless it was to throw up.

But right about then, that sounded a hell of a lot more appealing than staying sober enough to remember he'd ever been married to Caleb at all.

Jon didn't ask where to go. He was probably taking them to O'Leary's, their usual watering hole in Virginia Beach. They'd pass a hundred bars between here and there, and it would be a good half hour before he was finally drinking, but at least they'd be close to home when they were done. Never hurt to keep the cab fare to a minimum, especially since Nate was earmarked some money for a few things, and not just his eye-wateringly expensive divorce.

"By the way," he said, "once I've sobered up, I need to look into getting this fucking thing lasered off." He tapped his upper arm. He'd worn a dress shirt today, so he couldn't roll up the sleeve, but Jon would know what tattoo he was talking about. Sighing, Nate stared out the window. "Should've listened to you when you told us not to get matching ink."

Jon didn't respond right away. "You know ..." His thumbs thumped on the wheel. "That kid at Matt's shop is supposed to be a prodigy at cover-ups. I'll bet he could help you out."

"The apprentice?"

Jon nodded.

"I don't know...."

"Trust me. He's an apprentice, but he's better than some of the artists who've been at it for years. Especially for cover-ups." Jon glanced at him from the driver's seat. "I've seen some of his work. Even Matt's blown away by it."

Well, that was impressive enough. Matt was an incredibly talented artist. If this apprentice's work could turn his head, then it must be good.

Nate chewed on the idea. "Okay. I guess it's worth a shot."

"Want to head up there? Or you still want to go get a drink?"

"I just had to watch my ex-husband stroll off with his arm around the guy he fucked in our bed. We're going to go get several drinks."

*
After work a couple of days later, Jon and Nate changed out of their flight suits and into civvies, and Nate followed him over to Skin Deep, Inc. It wasn't like he didn't know where the place was, but Jon's boyfriend worked here, so he was on his way anyhow.

As they walked in through the glass front door, Nate had a pang of nostalgia, remembering the night he and the rest of the squadron had brought Jon in here for his tattoo. They'd been drunk, flying high after a football victory and laughing their heads off at the thought of Jon getting any tattoo — in any location — they chose. That night had been fun. Ditto with when he'd come in here to provide "moral support" while Jon had actually gotten the tattoo in question on his right butt cheek.

No way either of them could've had a clue that six months later, Jon would be monogamously dating one of the artists and Nate would be single and coming in here to get rid of his own tattoo. The one he'd gotten because he and Caleb had been blissfully in it for the long haul.

In the shop, Matt came out of the back and gave Jon a quick kiss. Then, since he apparently knew why Nate had come in, he said, "Lucas is in the back. I'll go get him."

"You're not still making him do bitch work, are you?" Jon asked.

Matt smirked. "He's the apprentice. Of course we are."

Nate arched an eyebrow. He still wasn't entirely sold on the idea of letting an apprentice ink him.

Apparently his uneasiness was written across his face, because Matt smiled and added, "Trust me, the kid's good. Especially with cover-ups." He gestured at the ink peeking out from beneath Nate's sleeve. "If he can't cover that up without you getting at least some of it lasered off first, no one can."

Nate shuddered. "Well, you guys are the experts."

"I'll go get Lucas." Matt smiled, and he and Jon shared one of those long looks that made Nate want to gag. They were the perfect couple, and Nate was happy for them, but it still amused him to see them getting all googly-eyed over each other. For years, Jon had mercilessly ribbed Nate for being cutesy and affectionate with Caleb, while Nate had given Jon endless shit for being an unrepentant manwhore.

How the mighty have fallen.

A moment later, Matt reappeared from the back with — Nate assumed — Lucas on his heels.

And Nate just barely kept his mouth from falling open.

Oh, shit. God had spared no expense making this one cute. Big blue eyes. Full lips that were currently curved into a shy smile. A ridiculously sexy balance between a baby face and not. Like he was in that midtwenties stage, where the teenage years are still there but the thirties are closing in fast.

"This is Lucas Brandt," Matt said. "Matt, Jon's friend Nate."

They shook hands, and Nate's mouth went dry as he looked Lucas up and down. The artist was probably two or three inches shorter than Nate, and Nate didn't exactly have to duck to go through doorways. From what Nate had heard, the guys here were all regulars at the gym three doors down, and judging by the way that ragged Black Sabbath T-shirt sat on Lucas's torso, he was no exception.

His left arm was completely covered in elaborate, colorful designs, while his right was bare except for a bracelet of text — too small for Nate to make out — around his wrist. Nate would've bet money there was a lot more ink under his torn shirt, and the thought of seeing him without that shirt send a shiver through him.

Nate shook himself. He hadn't so much as looked at a guy since he'd kicked Caleb out. Well, technically it had been a lot longer than that. He'd been faithful to a fault, and he'd stopped feeling much desire for Caleb when things had started falling apart over that last year. But in the three months that he'd been single and free to ogle and fuck any man he wanted to, he just ... hadn't. He'd fully expected to be put off relationships for a while, but it had been a bit of a shock when his sex drive went MIA.

One look at Lucas, though ...

Nate cleared his throat. A moment too late, he realized Matt and Jon had slipped off to the back, probably so they could head out, since they had dinner plans. They might've even said goodbye, but Nate hadn't heard them. And now they'd left him and Lucas alone to stare at each other like idiots. Shit. "Uh, so you're —"

"Lucas." The kid looked down at his hands, which he was wiping on a shop towel. "I'd offer to shake hands, but ..."

"No, that's okay. I get it." And Nate wasn't so sure Lucas needed to feel how sweaty his palms were suddenly getting. "So I hear you're good at cover-ups."

Lucas blushed a little but nodded. "That's my specialty. Whatcha got?"

Nate rolled up his sleeve to reveal the prowling tiger but didn't look at the ink himself. He'd seen it enough times over the years — on his arm and his ex-husband's — and just wanted it gone, whether that meant lasered off or inked over. Or amputated if it came down to it.

Lucas studied it, and after a moment, he grimaced. "There's a lot of dark colors and really thick black lines." He came closer and scrutinized it. "I mean, it's not impossible. Do you know what you want to replace it with?"

"Um ..."

Lucas's eyes flicked toward him. "I need to know what I'm going to be drawing over it so I have a place to start."

"Yeah, I gotcha. But, um, do you think you can cover it up? Or do I need to get it lasered?"

"Maybe?" Lucas shrugged again. "You might have to get at least some of the really dark lines removed, but depending on what's going over it, I might be able to work with this." Focused on the tattoo, he absently stroked his jaw with the backs of his fingers, and Nate caught himself wondering if the kid even had to shave more than once a week.

Abruptly, Lucas came back to life, and his eyes flicked toward Nate. "Well, I can at least trace it and see what I have to work with. Then we can talk designs to go over the top."

Nate nodded, hoping Lucas hadn't actually noticed he'd been staring.

"Okay." Lucas gave the tattoo another glance. "Let me put some clear plastic over it so I can trace the whole thing." He paused. "It'll take a while. Is that cool?"

Nate shrugged. "I'm not going anywhere."

"Okay." Lucas flashed a quick, cute smile. He gestured at the side room where Jon had gotten his ass tattooed a lifetime ago. "Have a seat on the table in there. I'll be right back."

Wordlessly, Nate went into the side room. The thought of having Lucas's hands on his skin — even through plastic — made his heart race. His stomach fluttered in ways he didn't think he'd ever felt before. It had been so long since he'd entertained any genuine lust for someone who wasn't Caleb, it was overwhelming. Or maybe Lucas was just that attractive.

So apparently, his libido wasn't dead. And the thought of sex wasn't forever tainted. Question was, did he have a shot with this guy?

Well, only one way to find out.

Nate sat on the table.

And waited.

CHAPTER 2

The second Lucas was in the back of the shop and presumably out of sight, he stopped in his tracks and finally let himself shiver. Jesus fuck, but that man was hot. Fit and ripped, clean-shaven with that neat but not severe military haircut that left just enough for a man to get a good grip. As if Lucas's concentration hadn't already been compromised for two damn weeks.

And it wasn't like a hot pilot — or copilot, or whatever — was any kind of rare thing here. There was always a steady stream of military men coming through the door, which was perfect, since he had a serious thing for guys in or out of uniform. That was half the reason he'd decided to come to this area to go to school, and he hadn't regretted that decision for a second.

It did, however, make it awfully tough to concentrate sometimes. Especially when someone like Nate showed up.

Colin, one of his two bosses, appeared beside him and gave his shoulder a friendly pat. "You got this one?"

Lucas nodded. A self-conscious knot wound itself in the pit of his stomach. "Just a sketch right now. So ..."

"So nothing written in blood, so to speak."

"Basically."

"You'll get your confidence back. Don't worry."

Lucas scowled. That was easy for Colin to say. Two weeks had gone by and Lucas still couldn't go a damned hour without thinking about the piece he'd fucked up. It didn't even matter that the client could have the bad part lasered off and redone. Or that, given the chance, Lucas could modify the design and seamlessly blend away the part he'd screwed up. The client had already said she'd never let him near her again, so that was moot.

He was mortified. Even if he could've fixed it, he didn't think he'd feel any better about it. From that day on, he'd second-guessed himself every time he'd even thought about putting the needle to someone else's skin. He'd made it through a number of tattoos and even had some custom designs in the works, but his confidence was shot. Which sucked, because prior to that catastrophe, he'd been this close to deciding he was ready to be more than an apprentice.

Nope. Training wheels were staying firmly in place for a while.

"I'm serious," Colin pressed. "You're excellent at what you do. Mistakes will happen. It's part of the job."

"I know. I'm just ..." Lucas sighed. There wasn't much point. They'd had this conversation seventeen times already, and they'd probably keep having it until he stopped being so gun-shy. "I'll get it together."

(Continues…)



Excerpted from "Cover Up"
by .
Copyright © 2017 L. A. Witt.
Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Cover Up: A Skin Deep, Inc Novel 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
Anonymous 11 months ago
Great+m%2Fm+story.
ButtonsMom2003 More than 1 year ago
Another hot story in this great series. When I finished reading Pounding Skin, book 2 in this series, I couldn't wait to read the next one. But for some reason I missed the release date for Cover Up earlier this month. Once I realized that, I quickly added it to my TBRL (to be read list) and I'm so glad that I finally read it. We met the MCs (main characters) briefly in Pounding Skin. Nate is still reeling from finding his husband in bed with another man. He can't wait for the end of the 6-month waiting period for their divorce to be final so he can change his name. His next task is to cover up the tattoo of a tiger that he had gotten to match his soon-to-be ex-husband's. It had been a romantic gesture at the time but one that he now regretted. Lucas is an apprentice tattoo artist but his mentors at the shop where he works think he has an amazing talent for doing "cover-ups," turning bad or unwanted tattoos into new works of art. As a bi-sexual man, one with two failed marriages to women, the last thing Lucas sees in his future is a serious relationship. Fate has other ideas. Nate is definitely not looking for a new relationship but a hook-up seems like just the thing to help him get over his ex. The attraction between Lucas and Nate is undeniable so they agree to have a good time with each other. Since this is a romance, one with an HEA, I knew that Nate and Lucas would soon be more than a hook-up for each other. However, the story that L.A. Witt wrote these two was much more complex than this simple premise. The ups and downs in their relationship had me both laughing and shedding tears. I was thoroughly entertained and hated to put my e-reader down so I could exit the plane that I'd been on for two hours. Upon waking the next morning, I promptly finished the story! I don't know if there will be any more books in this series or not but I will be reading them if there are. A review copy was provided by the publisher via NetGalley but this did not influence my opinion or rating of the book. ***Reviewed for Xtreme-Delusions dot com***
Trio More than 1 year ago
I was so pleased with L.A. Witt’s latest novel, “Cover Up”! Both Nate and Lucas were adorable from the start and I was rooting for them the whole way through the story. The banter was really sweet, funny, and (best of all) real. That was the overwhelming feeling I got through the whole book - it all felt real. Witt’s wonderful descriptions of what it is like to have a relationship with someone in the military, Nate’s process of dealing with a cheating spouse, and finding love again. It was all done extremely well. This was a terrific book and I’m going back now to read the first two in the series!
whatsbetterthanbooks More than 1 year ago
Salacious, flirty, and ardent! Cover Up, the latest novel in the Skin Deep Inc. series is a passionate, steamy tale involving the betrayed, resentful Nate who is struggling to come to terms with the end of his marriage and Lucas the young, hardworking tattoo artist with little self-confidence but huge talent. The writing is crisp and clear. The characters are handsome, diligent, and likable. And the plot, although a little repetitive, has lots of dirty talk, chemistry, lust, sex, emotion, and love.  Cover Up is the third novel in the "Skin Deep Inc." series and even though I was really looking forward to reading Nate's tale, I have to admit I would have liked just a little bit more depth to the storyline. However, saying that, Witt is still one of my favourite authors of this genre and you can be sure that her next release will once again be on my TBR list.
APB524 More than 1 year ago
Totally Hot!! I am definitely enjoying this Skin Deep, Inc series from L.A. Witt. It's solid for me, though I will admit at times the story could pace a bit faster. Overall though I really liked Nate and Lucas as a pair. They had scorching hot chemistry and the smexy times were oh so good. I thought that the conflict was a slow build for the pair, but I really liked how it was handled. These two guys had both experienced heartache in the past, and their coming together even if it started as a fling came to mean so much more. I liked that Lucas spoke his feelings and confronted Nate on what he was doing, and more importantly how it was hurting them. The emotions were real throughout, and I really liked how Nate's pal Jon called him out and questioned him too. Not sure if there will be more of this series, but I'd read it if there were. 4 Stars
TammyS32 More than 1 year ago
Nate is divorcing and goes to Skin Deep to get his tattoo covered up. Lucas is an apprentice at the shop and when these two meet, sparks fly. This read is very emotional as Nate was deeply hurt when his husband cheated and is working to move forward. The question is will this just be a bit of fun between Lucas and Nate or can this be more? I liked the characters as well as the story. A good read.
Maria-Rose More than 1 year ago
Cover Up by L.A. Witt is the third story in the Skin Deep, Inc. series, set with a tattoo shop as the background. It’s the first story of the series that I’ve read but is easily picked up as a standalone, with some previous story characters making significant appearances. It’s also made me move those earlier books up my TBR because if they are anything like this one they promise to be thoroughly entertaining! Nate Chandler is a Navy pilot going through a painful divorce from his husband of ten years. With thoughts of eradicating their life together, he’s come to Skin Deep, Inc. to get a tattoo covered, a matching part of a pair he and his ex-husband got early in their relationship. At the shop he meets apprentice Lucas Brandt, a younger, vibrant, talented man who pushes all the right buttons for him after he’s been feeling dead inside for far too long. Even though he’s only in his twenties, bisexual Lucas has gone through two divorces himself and is empathetic to Nate’s situation. He’s definitely not in the market for a long term romance, and neither is Nate. On the other hand a feel good fling sounds perfect. But if they start to get serious about each other, will it be because Nate is on the rebound or because they really belong together? I really enjoyed this story! Though there is a fair amount of emotion to it, especially as Nate comes to grips with his grief over his divorce, I didn’t find it depressing. Rather, it was cathartic to have Nate come full circle and be ready to give his heart again. Lucas is smart enough to realize that Nate is covering up his feelings when they first meet, and is okay with that since he’s not interested in a relationship. But as they become emotionally connected, it’s no longer enough for Lucas to be the mask Nate wears to avoid facing his grief. Because of their age difference (not huge, but definitely a difference between being in your twenties and in your thirties), part of the plot revolves around where they are in their careers. Lucas is just starting out as a tattoo artist, dealing with family who are not very supportive, and mistakes he’s made that make him question his abilities. Nate on the other hand is fully established and confident in his career as a pilot. But while Nate is older and wiser when it comes to the working world, it’s Lucas who assumes more control in the bedroom. There is no doubt they are hot together, with several steamy scenes that while at first are only about sex, quickly become more emotionally compelling for them too. There are several great scenes involving other characters from the two previous stories in the series, showing them moving on with their lives. Nate’s copilot is a true friend who isn’t afraid to ask the tough questions. Nate and Lucas go through some ups and downs and have to work to get their happy ending but it is a very satisfying one, complete with a really sweet epilogue. Cover Up is a sexy, emotional, engaging read.
CRISSYM More than 1 year ago
Cover Up is a great standalone in this interconnected series. This story gives us Nate, Caleb, and Lucas's story. However, I enjoyed seeing the characters from the previous books in this one as they are a very close group of men and friends. This story was just as great as the previous book in this series and just like the ones before it, it does not disappoint. I loved the chemistry between the characters and when it comes to this book it does not lack steam. The characters were great, the storyline was great, and the flow of the story was perfect. I finished it in one sitting and I really could have read more of these characters. If you've read the previous books in this series this one is a must read. If you haven't started the series yet and enjoy a good m/m read, then this is definitely a series worth reading. I'm looking forward to reading more from this author.
Bette313 More than 1 year ago
Another fantastic story in the Skin Deep series! We've met both these characters in prior books but even if you haven't read the prior books you can catch up quickly and enjoy this one. After ten years of marriage Nate Chandler found his cheating husband in bed with another man. Now in the middle of a divorce he's lost. After months of feeling numb, he's shocked when he finds himself drawn to the tempting tattoo artist Lucas Brandt. Lucas knows exactly what Nate is going through. He may be only 27 but he already has two divorces under his belt. These two start up a steamy fling but when feeling start to form Lucas knows things will never work out for them. He can't settle for being the rebound guy. Will Nate just let him walk away? A fantastic sexy M/M romance that I would highly recommend