A Skin Deep, Inc. Novel
Fighter pilot Jon Russell never sleeps with the same man twice. Known for his lack of shame when it comes to hooking up, Jon has no interest in commitment—even friends with benefits sounds like too much work.
Matt Huffman has slept with lots of women. He’s had loads of girlfriends. So why does the hot as hell pilot getting a tattoo as the result of a lost bet stop his breath? And how come he can’t stop thinking about him, even after he’s gone?
When Jon returns to Skin Deep the second time, he doesn’t want another tattoo. He wants to hook up with the gorgeous artist he spent hours agonizingly close to, and Matt wants to explore some curiosity about men. Fulfill the desire he can’t stop fantasizing over. And he wants to do it with Jon.
As their casual hook up becomes more than just skin deep, both Matt and Jon are faced with questions they don’t want to answer. Matt understands he’s bi—but are these feelings he has typical of hooking up with a man? Or is it only Jon that can make his heart pound? If Jon wanted nothing more than a fling, why does he find himself needing not just Matt’s body, but all of him? And can their relationship withstand the hardships that makes Jon avoid them in the first place?
Pounding Skin is part of the Skin Deep, Inc series. The Skin Deep, Inc books can be read in any order—come enter a world where gorgeous tattoo artists and hot Navy men find passion, pleasure, and a happily ever after together.
L.A. Witt also writes under the name Lauren Gallagher.
About the Author
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
They lost. I can't believe they lost.
Jon Russell stared up at the screen above the bar in disbelief while his squadron mates whooped and hollered around him, clinking drinks together and celebrating their team winning the first game of the season. Because their team had won. They'd beaten his Falcons. They'd ... they'd won.
But how? How the fuck did this happen? The Falcons had been ahead fourteen to three until the fourth quarter. In fact, it had looked like a shutout all the way past the two-minute warning in the third quarter, but the Packers' kicker had squeaked in a long field goal with seconds left on the clock. It was an impressive kick, too, so Jon hadn't begrudged them the score. After all, his team was still up by eleven.
For three entire quarters, Jon had been confident and cocky and ready to collect the money his buddies would owe him. Even that field goal had seemed like putting a BandAid on the Titanic. The Packers were going down, and he was thrilled to savor every last delicious second of it.
And then it all came apart in the fourth quarter. First there'd been a fumble. They'd recovered, but then there was an interception. A defensive lineman literally tripped over his own feet and let a member of the Packers' offense slip past him with the ball.
Resulting in a seventy-seven yard touchdown.
Seventy. Seven. Yards.
Then another touchdown, with barely any effort. A third for good measure. And after the two-minute warning, another damn field goal like they just wanted to make sure the Falcons knew they'd had been soundly beaten.
So much for another undefeated season. Damn it.
"Well, Fumes." Nate, Jon's RIO and usually best friend, clapped him on the shoulder and grinned. "Looks like someone's getting inked."
Jon's stomach dropped to the floor. Oh shit. He'd been so horrified by the sudden turnaround, so nauseated by his team falling apart like that, he'd forgotten his side of the wager.
He was the only Falcons fan in the squadron. Half a dozen of his buddies — including his bastard RIO — were Packers fans. Had his team won, they'd have each ponied up a hundred bucks to him, but it hadn't seemed right for him to pay them a hundred apiece or make them split a single Benjamin. So Nate, being the asshole he was, had come up with a better idea.
"Since you're so fucking confident," he'd said a few nights ago, "I've got an idea. You lose, you get a tattoo. And we all get to decide what, where, and how big."
Jon was, in addition to being the sole Falcons fan on the squadron, the only one without any ink. They'd been giving him shit about that since forever, and were collectively bound and determined to find a way to get him into a tattoo shop. After consulting with a few too many beers that night, he'd agreed to the bet because maybe then they'd get off his back about getting inked. And besides, the Packers weren't beating the Falcons in a million years.
Except they had.
And now ... shit. Jon was getting a tattoo.
The squadron didn't waste any time, either. The post-game show had barely kicked off before everyone was herding Jon out to the parking lot. Most of them were drunk, but Taxi was sober. Of course he was. He didn't drink, which made him the designated driver any time the rest of the guys wanted to go out and get smashed. His call sign hadn't happened by accident.
Taxi's SUV comfortably held five people when three of those people were his kids. When they were drunk pilots who were long past their gangly scrawny stages, the backseat could get crowded. Even more so when Jon was stuck between Nate and Recon, both of whom were loudly brainstorming tattoo ideas the whole goddamned way across Virginia Beach.
"I got it!" Recon elbowed Jon. "A big ol' naked chick on your back." He snickered. "Next guy you bang from the 47th will love that."
Jon's face burned, and he suppressed a groan. They all had to be just sober enough to remember him sleeping his way through the other squadron last year, didn't they?
"Oh!" Nate twisted around in the passenger seat. "Maybe a guestbook on the inside of his leg! With preprinted names of those guys from the 47th."
"Don't do me like that, Screws," Jon warned.
Nate grinned at him. He was loving this. And he was pretty drunk, too, which didn't help anything.
"So, uh," Taxi broke in, "someone want to tell me where this place is?"
"Take the First Colonial exit." Nate motioned clumsily up ahead. "It's out by Seaside Barbell. Sign says Skin Deep Ink. You can't miss it."
Skin Deep Ink? Really? Kind of on the nose, isn't it?
All too soon, Taxi pulled into a strip mall not far from the airbase, and sure enough, there was Skin Deep, Inc.
Oh — Inc., not Ink. Cute.
Just Jon's luck, too — the lights were on and a neon OPEN sign glowed in the window above a drawing of a skull and a hissing snake.
The place was covered with edgy art and a few snarky bumper stickers, but at least from the outside, it looked reasonably clean. Some official-looking notices from the health department and various other government agencies stuck out like sore thumbs under the anarchy symbol, but they declared the place had passed all its necessary inspections with flying colors. So there was that. God knew his night had been bad enough without a hepatitis bonus.
Stomach roiling, Jon followed the guys inside.
As soon as they opened the glass door, they were greeted by the pungent scents of disinfectants and the sound of heavy metal blasting over the top of a buzzing that made Jon's skin crawl. He'd gone with friends to tattoo shops before. He knew what that sound was. It had always given him the creeps even when he wasn't facing the prospect of that damn needle touching him. Now that he was committed to some ink of his own, it actually made him queasy.
A divider covered in tattoo magazine cutouts and a dry-erase calendar blocked Jon's view of whoever was currently getting tattooed, and he was very much okay with that.
The needle quieted and the volume on the music dipped.
"Hey, Matt?" A voice called from behind the divider. "Can you help these guys?"
"Yeah. Hang on just a sec." This voice was smoother, but tinged with palpable frustration. "Need to finish with — son of a bitch."
"Take a break from that thing before you actually break it." The tattoo needle's buzz intensified, so whoever was behind the divider apparently wasn't too concerned about the other guy breaking whatever it was he was messing with.
The smooth voice swore, and something clattered. "Fuck it." Another clatter. Then footsteps. Then —
Jon's inability to speak suddenly had a lot less to do with his nerves. The man who stepped out of an open door behind the counter was stunning. The kind of stunning that made Jon's breath get lost in his throat while his stomach started flipping a whole different type of somersault — the kind that made him think that introductions and small talk weren't necessary as long as one of them had a condom within reach. And Jon generally wasn't that easy. A shameless slut, maybe, but he at least liked to know a guy's name before he committed to getting him off.
There were exceptions to every rule, though.
Jon wasn't even sure what it was about this guy. There wasn't one thing that jumped out and said "I should be on the cover of a magazine." He wasn't ... pretty, but Jesus fuck he was hot. All six-foot-something of him. He was tattooed all over and fit — lots of definition stretching his tight T-shirt without making him look like a balloon animal — and his clean-cut near-black hair somehow went perfectly with his scruffy jaw. There were two silver rings in his eyebrow, and a single diamond stud gleamed in his left ear.
Not surprisingly, he had elaborate ink down both of his arms and onto the backs of his hands, plus climbing up from beneath his collar onto the sides of his throat. Jon wondered where else he had tattoos, but he wasn't holding his breath. Given how this day had been going, he was pretty sure this guy was a hundred percent heterosexual. Nothing about him screamed straight, per se, but the Falcons had lost, Jon was at his squadron's mercy for a tattoo, and he doubted good fortune would suddenly manifest itself in this guy — this ridiculously sexy guy with scruff and muscles and tattoos — being queer.
The hot artist — Matt, apparently — raised his eyebrows, scanning the squadron who'd crowded into the shop. "Can I help you gentlemen?" Jon swore he could feel all eyes on him. They weren't going to speak for him. Oh, no. They wouldn't let him off that easily.
He cleared his throat and tamped down the nervous queasiness. "I'm, uh, looking to get a tattoo."
"Okay." Matt held his gaze. "You been drinking tonight?"
The question caught Jon off guard. "Uh. Yeah. Why? Do I look drunk?"
"Well, no. But ..." Matt tilted his head toward the others. "Birds of a feather."
Jon chuckled at his friends, who were noticeably unsteady on their feet. "Fair enough. I'm not sober enough to drive, but I'm not ..." He made a similar gesture.
Matt almost laughed, but his expression shifted to a scowl. "I can't ink you if you're drunk, so —"
"Fine by me." Jon turned to the others. "Hey guys, he says we can't —"
"Nice try." Taxi nudged him. "You can make an appointment and come back."
Matt's eyes flicked from one member of the squadron to the next until they stopped on Jon. "So, what and where?"
"Well ..." Jon gulped, gesturing over his shoulder. "That's up to them."
The pierced eyebrow shot up. "Come again?"
Jon took a deep breath. "I, uh ..."
Nate materialized beside him, leaning heavily on him since he was pretty shitfaced, and wrapped a helpful arm around his shoulders. "Fucker lost a bet." He beamed. "Now he's getting whatever we want."
Matt laughed, but he sounded a little uneasy. "Is that right?"
"Unfortunately," Jon said. "So, uh, do you have any books we can look at?" He swallowed. "I mean, that they can look at?"
"Sure." Matt reached under the counter and pulled out a stack of large leather albums. "This is all custom work. There's also ..." He gestured at the walls, which were covered from floor to ceiling with hundreds of designs. "Any of those."
Nate and Taxi grabbed the portfolios, and the squadron huddled around a footlocker that doubled as a coffee table. Jon hung back and tried to glare at them while they flipped through the albums and laughed hysterically as they brainstormed what he'd get tattooed and where. He couldn't help chuckling along too, mostly because it was hilarious to watch his squadron mates doubled over in fits of drunken laughter, even if it was at his expense. Or if it meant the odds were tilting strongly in favor of his tattoo winding up on his ass. It was probably just as well he'd laid down some ground rules when they'd made the bet. They'd all grudgingly agreed not to make him get anything that would be visible in uniform, and there'd be nothing on his cock or balls. With this group, those were guidelines that needed to be explicitly spelled out if he didn't want a biohazard symbol on the head of his dick or something.
"So." Matt nodded toward Nate. "I'm guessing he's the one in charge of this whole thing?"
"Might as well be. It was his idea."
"Oh. So, what? You guys are coworkers, or what?" "He's my RIO."
"Copilot." It wasn't entirely accurate, but he wasn't in the mood to explain the finer points of Nate's job. If anything, he was debating how difficult it would be to convince a maintainer to rig the ejection lever on Nate's seat so it could be set off by the pilot. Except then Jon would end up ejecting too, and he had enough back problems these days. Still, it was an amusing fantasy.
The portfolios had reached a couple of pages of elaborate pinup girls, and Jon pulled his gaze away. He didn't want to risk a look of horror because then he'd be getting a naked woman for sure. Wouldn't that be fun to explain to his next hookup?
"No, really. I'm 100% gay. The tattoo is ... it's a long story, all right? Just put on the condom."
"So what would've happened if you'd won the bet?" Matt asked.
Jon sighed. "Hundred bucks apiece from each of them."
Matt whistled. "Ouch."
"Yeah. Bad enough my team lost. No repeated undefeated season for us."
"Wait, this was a bet over a football game?"
Jon turned to him. "Uh. Yeah?"
Matt just smirked.
"Don't judge me." Jon laughed. "I'm the only Falcons fan in the squadron. Should've known that would bite me in the ass sooner or later." He paused. "That, and I think it was a ploy for them to make me get ink. They've been trying forever."
Matt sobered. "So, you don't really want a tattoo." There was genuine concern on his face.
"I'm ..." Heat rushed into Jon's cheeks, and he sighed. "I'm terrified of needles."
That loosened up Matt's features a bit. "Honestly, it's a completely different type of needle than what you're probably afraid of."
Jon eyed him dubiously.
Matt glanced at the squadron, then gestured for Jon to step behind the counter. "Come on. Let me show you."
Jon planted his feet. "I've, uh, watched someone get inked before."
"Yeah, but I'll bet you've never looked closely at the needle." He motioned again.
Jon hesitated, then followed him. They stepped into the room Matt had come out of a few minutes ago, and Jon was surprised to see a bunch of pieces of small machinery and wiring spread out on a massage table.
"It's not exactly working today," Matt muttered, "but this is what it actually looks like." He picked up the biggest piece of the disassembled device.
It didn't look like much. A pneumatic gun of some kind, just big enough to fit comfortably in Matt's long fingers.
"Make you nervous?" Matt asked.
"Uh. Yeah. A bit."
Matt flashed a knowing smile. "You know there's no needle in it, right?"
Jon looked closer, and no, he didn't see any menacing point at the "muzzle" of the gun, but the whole thing didn't look any less intimidating. "So what does the needle look like?"
Matt put the gun down, then rifled through a drawer. He pulled out a small sealed plastic sleeve. "This is what I use to outline. It looks big, but the majority of that is just to give the machine something to hold on to." He handed it to Jon. "You'll only feel a fraction of a millimeter of it."
It wasn't something Jon wanted anywhere near his skin, but somehow, seeing it isolated did make it less unnerving than, say, a hypodermic. There was no syringe attached. No feeling of dread that the whole thing would be sinking under his skin. Only the very end.
Or maybe his anti-needle fight-or-flight instinct was just dulled right then because he was alone in a room with Matt. The door was open and there were voices right outside, but for all intents and purposes, it was just the two of them. Just him and a walking talking collection of fetishes Jon hadn't even known he had.
"So, what do you think?" Matt asked.
Jon almost asked "About what?", but quickly remembered the needle in his hand. He handed it back. "I guess we'll see what happens when you actually use it on me."
Fuck, am I really doing this?
The creases between Matt's eyebrows echoed the question, but he didn't say anything. He took back the needle and put it in his drawer. They started to head back out into the main shop, and then he did pause. "I didn't catch your name, by the way."
"Oh. I'm ..." I have a name. I know it. I know my name. What is wrong with me? "Jon."
The tattoo artist smiled, and it was slightly lopsided, which screwed with Jon's senses just enough he almost didn't catch the response: "Matt."
Jon knew that already, but he returned the smile. Then they returned to the main shop, and Jon went around to the front of the counter. He leaned on one side. Matt leaned on the other. The squadron was still merrily flipping through portfolios, loudly fantasizing about making Jon get a giant dick in the middle of his chest. Good thing that had been one of the other caveats he'd laid down when they'd made the bet. Nothing religious, nothing that might make someone think he was part of a biker gang or a group of skinheads, and for God's sake, no genitalia.
Excerpted from "Pounding Skin"
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.