The nationally bestselling author of the Ten Tiny Breaths series and Burying Water—which Kirkus Reviews called “a sexy, romantic, gangster-tinged page-turner”—returns with a new novel packed with romance, plot twists, and psychological suspense.
Ivy Lee, a talented tattoo artist who spent the early part of her twenties on the move, is looking for a place to call home. She thinks she might have finally found it working in her uncle’s tattoo shop in San Francisco. But all that changes when a robbery turns deadly, compelling her to pack up her things yet again.
When they need the best, they call him. That’s why Sebastian Riker is back in California, cleaning up the mess made after a tattoo shop owner who resorted to blackmail and got himself shot. But it’s impossible to get the answers he needs from a dead body, leaving him to look elsewhere. Namely, to the twenty-something-year-old niece who believes this was a random attack. Who needs to keep believing that until Sebastian finds what he’s searching for.
Ivy has one foot out of San Francisco when a chance encounter with a stranger stalls her departure. She’s always been drawn to intense men, so it’s no wonder that she now finds a reason to stay after all, quickly intoxicated by his dark smile, his intimidating strength, and his quiet control.
That is, until Ivy discovers that their encounter was no accident—and that their attraction could be her undoing.
About the Author
K.A. Tucker writes captivating stories with an edge. She is the bestselling author of the Ten Tiny Breaths and Burying Water series and the novels He Will Be My Ruin, Until It Fades, Keep Her Safe, and The Simple Wild. She currently resides in a quaint town outside Toronto with her husband and two beautiful girls.
Read an Excerpt
Ned pauses to stretch his neck and roll his right shoulder once . . . twice . . . before lifting the needle to his customer’s arm again, humming along with Willie Nelson’s twang, a staple in Black Rabbit for as long as I can remember. After all these years, the aging country singer still holds a special spot in my uncle’s heart. He even sports the matching gray braids and red bandanna to prove it.
“You’re getting too old for the big pieces,” I joke, pulling my foot up onto the counter, where my ass is already parked, to tighten the laces of my boot. I finished my last appointment an hour ago and could have left. Should have left, since the CLOSED sign hanging from a hook on the door is dissuading any potential walk-ins. But every once in a while I like to just sit here and watch my mentor work—his hefty frame hunkered down in that same creaky plastic-molded chair. It brings me back to my nine-year-old self, in pigtails and scuffed Mary Janes, trailing my older cousin to the shop so I could draw BIC pen tattoos on burly bikers while they waited for the real thing. It’s within these dingy black walls that I discovered my life’s passion, all before I turned ten. Not many people can say they’ve made that discovery, at any age.
“Too old, my ass,” he grunts. “Make yourself useful and grab me my damn dinner.”
I slide off the counter with a smirk, hitting the button on a cash register that belongs in a museum so I can grab a twenty. “Foot-long again?” The sub shop two blocks away gets at minimum fifty percent of Ned’s weekly food budget.
“Don’t forget the jalapeños.”
“The ones that almost put you in the hospital last time?” At fifty-eight, my uncle still eats like he’s in his twenties, even though his body is showing signs of revolt, his thickening midsection and aging digestive system begging for more exercise and less fatty and spicy food.
“I let the girl apprentice here when she was eighteen, and then she abandoned me as soon as she got her license. I let the girl come back six years later to work out of here without paying a fee to the house. I let the girl sleep under my roof without paying rent . . .” he mutters to no one in particular but loud enough for everyone to hear. “If I wanted grief about my life choices, I woulda gotten hitched again.” There’s a long pause, and then he throws a wink over his shoulder at me, to confirm that he’s joking. That he loves his niece and her smart-ass mouth and her acidic personality, and he’s ecstatic that she decided to come back to San Francisco and work alongside him again. He’d never take a dime of rent money from me, even if I tried to pay.
And I have tried. At two months, when the wanderlust bug hadn’t bitten me yet and I realized that I’d be staying longer than my usual four months. At four months, when I was afraid I was wearing out my welcome and started talking about finding an apartment to rent, and Ned threatened to kick my ass out of Black Rabbit if I did. At six months, when I left five hundred bucks cash on his dresser and came home to a note and the money pinned to my bedroom door with a steak knife, telling me never to bring up the subject of rent ever again. Except he put it in more colorful language.
I’ve been here for seven months now, and for the first time in I don’t know how long, I’m feeling no itch to leave. Between working alongside Ned six days a week, hanging out with Dakota, an old friend from high school who moved here from Sisters, Oregon, about a year ago, and hitting the streets at night with a crew of guys who are as into decorating walls as I am, I’m loving San Francisco. This time around, at least.
“I’ll be back.” I turn to leave.
Dylan, the guy sitting in the chair with arms as thick as tree trunks, clears his throat rather obnoxiously. This is his fifth session this month. One of those bulky arms is nearly all covered in Ned’s elaborate ink.
I roll my eyes. He’s clocked four hours in that chair tonight, the first half of them spent muttering in an irritatingly croaky voice about how expensive it is to eat organic. I was ready to stuff a cloth into his mouth at around the two-hour mark just to shut him up. I really don’t want to give him a reason to speak again. “Did you want me to grab you something?” I ask, not hiding the reluctance from my voice.
“Eight-piece sashimi dinner. Extra wasabi,” he says without so much as a “please,” his eyes glued to the matte-black ceiling above. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that this guy showed up here flying high as a kite. Ned doesn’t care if his clients are high or tipsy, as long as they don’t stumble in and they circle “no” to being intoxicated on the client paperwork, he figures it’s their ass, should something go wrong. I’m guessing this guy has been smoking weed. He’s too calm to be strung out.
“Try again, and make sure it ends with the word ‘sub.’?” I’m not going the extra three blocks to the sushi place. I’m nobody’s fucking errand girl.
Tree Trunks dips his head to level me with a flat gaze before focusing on Ned’s brow, furrowed in concentration. “You gonna let her talk to your customers like that?”
“You got an issue, you take it up with her. And good luck, because that girl can handle herself like no one I’ve ever met,” Ned mutters, never one to coddle anybody, even a customer paying well over a grand. He’s been running this shop for thirty years “the right way,” and he’s not about to change for “a bunch of lily-whites ruining a classic culture.” His words, not mine.
The guy eyes the full length of me—from the shaved sides of my hair and my black tank top and leggings, to my full sleeve of colorful ink, which unsettles some people but shouldn’t faze him, seeing as he’s getting his own done—down to my Doc Martens, and decides against whatever he was going to say, though that pinched expression never leaves his face. “Chicken club sub. Grilled. No oil or mayo.”
I could be a real bitch and demand a “please,” but I let it go. “Back in ten,” I call over my shoulder, heading down the narrow hallway to the back door, grabbing my tattoo case on the way, knowing that if I don’t toss it in the trunk of my car now, I’ll probably forget it later.
“Watch how that new kid over there makes my sandwich. He doesn’t know a tomato from his own asshole!” Ned’s shout catches me just before the door clicks shut.
I step out into the crisp evening with my jacket dangling from one arm, and inhale the clean, cool air.
I finally know what home feels like.
I let myself in through the back of Black Rabbit with my key exactly twenty-two minutes later with two subs: one with double peppers, one with breaded, deep-fried chicken, extra mayo and a splash of oil.
Ned was right; I had to give the dumbass behind the counter step-by-step instructions, going so far as to point out the vat of jalapeño peppers directly under his nose. He won’t survive a week before Ned revolts. Just the threat of losing Ned’s business will probably get the guy canned.
I’m going to tell my uncle that I think the dumbass is cute, and I’m going to date him. I smile, thinking about how Ned might react to that. I haven’t had a chance to parade a boyfriend through here for his guaranteed disapproval yet. In the seven months I’ve been here, I haven’t found one guy in San Francisco that even I approve of. That’s been the only downfall of this city, so far, and I’m really ready to get out of this dry spell.
Tossing my purse onto the old metal desk that serves as a catchall for mail, office supplies, the archaic security-monitoring system, and anything else that might land there on our way through, I reach for the cowbell hanging against the wall. A gag gift that Ned’s kept for years, even though the sound of it makes him wince and curse. I use it to irritate the shit out of him every chance I get.
A shout freezes my hand.
“Quit playing fucking games, old man!”
I hold my breath and try to listen, but the rush of blood flooding my veins and ears suddenly makes it hard to concentrate.
“Don’t know what the hell you’re talkin’ about,” Ned grits out, and his voice squeezes my chest, because I can tell that he’s in pain. That odd, muted sound of knuckles hitting flesh followed by a groan pulls a gasp from me, and I immediately purse my lips and dart back and out of sight, panicked. Was that loud enough to be heard?
Whoever is up front obviously didn’t hear me come in. Ned always jokes that I have the natural graces of a cat burglar, silent and stealthy even when I’m not intending to be.
An aluminum baseball bat leans against the wall next to the cowbell. If I were stupid, I’d grab it and run out front kamikaze-style. But Ned is two-hundred and twenty-five pounds of hardened man, Tree Trunks is even bigger, and someone has gotten the upper hand on both of them. I can only imagine how fast they’d have a hundred-and-ten-pound female subdued, even one that kicks and claws like a rabid wolverine. I don’t even know how many guys are out there.
The security camera.
I dive for the old thirteen-inch tube monitor sitting on the desk and hit the Power button, desperate to get a glimpse of what’s happening out front.
But only gray static appears. They must have busted the camera lens.
I do the only smart thing I can think of. I fumble for my cell phone, my fingers shaking as I dial 911. Hoping my whispers don’t carry as I beg for police backup for a robbery in progress. Can I get to safety? the dispatcher asks. I’m not leaving Ned, I snap. Stay on the line, the woman responds. We’re sending help.
The ding of the cash register sounds, and I hazard a peek around the corner and down the long hall, past the private room, and to the open-concept space at the front where Ned does as much of his work as he can. A hulkish man in dark cargo pants and a black turtleneck, with a black balaclava pulled up over his brow, hovers over the register, emptying it of cash with his left hand.
In his right, he grips a gun.
I squeeze my phone—pressed against my ear—tighter.
Beyond him, the window and front door are covered, the shades pulled to block anyone’s view inside. They weren’t like that when I left. I’m sure the front door is now locked, too, though it’s too far to see from here.
“I’ve always wondered what it feels like to be on the giving end of a tattoo gun,” a man with a deep voice and a Chicago accent says, and it’s not the same guy I see standing at the register, which means there are at least two of them. Where the hell is Tree Trunks, anyway? Is he in on this? I haven’t heard his croaky voice. “I just step on this pedal, right?” The buzz of the tattoo machine fills the shop, followed closely by a series of grunts.
Somehow, I know that it’s Ned making those sounds.
“Hurry!” I hiss into my phone, tears streaming down my cheeks, torn between the urge to run out there and pure fear.
The guy who was at the cash register is now searching front desk drawers. He glances behind him. “You know, you’re a sick bastard, Mario.”
Mario. I have a name.
“My ex used to say that to me.” A sinister chuckle sends shivers down my back. God, what are they doing to Ned? He has ink in a dozen different places. I did a design for him along the web of his finger when I got here seven months ago and he barely flinched then. “Go and see what you can find in the back.”
I’m in the back.
I duck behind the wall, my heart hammering in my chest as heavy footfalls approach down the hallway toward me. The back door is right there, and yet it’s not an option because it’s in his line of sight and he has a gun.
I have nowhere to run.
“Shhh!” I hiss into the phone, hoping the dispatcher will understand me, will stay quiet so I don’t have to hang up on her. I dive under the metal desk, tugging the chair in as far as I can, until my body is contorted around its legs and my entire left side is crammed against the wall. I thank God that I’m dressed in all black and hope it’s enough, that he won’t spot my bare skin. The female dispatcher hides with me under here, my phone pressed against my chest, smothering any sound she might make. She’s my only connection to the outside world—and perhaps the last person I’ll ever speak to—and she can surely hear my heartbeat.
Polished black combat boots appear around the corner. They stop for five seconds, and I feel each one of those in my throat.
And then those shoes swivel and stalk toward me.
I can barely focus through my fear anymore, sure that I’m about to find myself looking down the barrel of a gun. Where are the police? They should be here by now. We’re not far from Daly City, hands down the worst area of San Francisco, where cruisers circle the streets like crows over a ripe cherry tree.
Around me, boxes topple and papers shuffle, and I pray to whoever watches down from above that this guy doesn’t decide to check beneath the desk.
“Found something!” he shouts. It’s followed by a snort and a low mutter of, “People still use these fucking things?”
I know what he’s found. The VHS player that records the feed from the camera in the front on a continuous loop. Ned’s never been one to keep up with technology trends and, instead, swears by what he knows.
Sirens wail in the distance. They’re so faint at first that I think I’m imagining them.
“Fuck! Did you trip an alarm?” That angry voice—Mario—out front yells, and I allow myself a shaky breath of relief because he’s heard them, too, so they must be real. Only a few more seconds and we’ll be safe.
Ned’s laugh—deep and throaty—carries all the way back. Good. Whatever that guy just did to him, Ned’s still capable of laughing. Tough bastard.
“Come on! We can’t get caught here,” the guy above me shouts. He starts fussing with the VCR, first pressing, then slamming the Open button. I know that’s what he’s doing because she’s a temperamental bitch and I’ve done the exact same thing once or twice when Ned’s asked me to change a tape over. “Fuck it,” he mumbles, and he begins to tug at the cables plugged in beneath the desk. He’s taking the entire machine. He wants whatever video proof might be on there, I guess.
And if he reaches down to unplug the cord, he’s going to find more than just a power strip.
I yank the plug out of the socket for him and hold my breath.
The sirens grow louder, three distinct wails now. “Come on!” His boots shift away from the desk. Footfalls pound down the hallway, and the guy named Mario appears, also in polished black combat boots. I can see him only from the waist down, but it’s enough to see him peeling a black glove off.
A splatter of blood coats his wrist.
“Who the fuck called the cops? I could have gotten him to talk. I just needed more time.” I guess he was obviously expecting to work Ned over at a leisurely pace. I ruined that for them, at least.
They barrel out the back door.
I’m still frozen, unsure if it’s over or not.
“Hello? Hello?” A muted voice calls out, over and over again, and I finally remember the dispatcher pressed against my chest.
“They’re gone,” I whisper into the air, my voice hoarse.
And then I snap out of it.
I drop the phone and scramble out from under the desk, dashing for the door, my shaking hands snapping the dead bolt shut before those two can decide that it’s better to hole up in here. The dispatcher calls to me from beneath the desk. “They’re gone, out the back!” I yell, hoping she can hear me. I struggle to catch my breath and my balance, staggering down the hall toward the front of the shop, using the walls to keep me upright. I’m drenched in sweat, the relief so overwhelming. “Ned!” I’ve never been so happy to have the police coming for me. “They’re gone!” I round the corner. “It’s going to be—”
My words cut off with the sight of Ned’s slumped, still body, a puddle of blood soaking into the wood grain floor beneath him.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
While not my favorite book in the series I still loved this story. I liked seeing the different sides of Ivy and just adored Sebastian. K.A. Tucker has yet to disappoint me.
Surviving Ice is the fourth book in the Burying Water series by K.A. Tucker. I started this series late, so I really need to go back and catch up on the first two books. This isn't a series you need to read in order though. Each book stands alone. Ivy is a tough cookie. She doesn't take crap from anyone, and she guards her emotions. Sebastian is a tough, loner too. His work and past has pushed him in a direction I don't think even he expected. Putting these two together was an adventure. They are a lot alike, yet they each have their own voice. Meaning, their perspectives don't blend together. They stand alone as characters. These characters have depth and layers.You learn more about them the more you read. The action starts from the get go, plus the chemistry between Ivy and Sebastian made this book super hard to put down. The ARC of Surviving Ice was kindly provided to me by the publisher for review. The opinions are my own.
Just when I thought that K.A. Tucker’s Burying Water series couldn’t get any better, along came Surviving Ice. I made a silent (okay, not so silent) plea for Sebastian (the male lead) to make me swoon…and let me tell you…did.he.ever. Surviving Ice by K.A. Tucker follows a super talented tattoo artist, Ivy, who was never one to settle in one place. Jumping around all over the world, Ivy was surprised to find that she was ready to settle down in San Francisco with the uncle who got her love for tattoo artistry started. But Ivy finds herself sucked into a world of secrets and death when she unwillingly witnesses the murder of her uncle…and she doesn’t have any information on who the murderers were or why they went after her uncle. Ivy now finds herself wanting to escape the horrors that she witnessed, but is forced to deal with the aftermath. Little does Ivy know that all is not what it seems, and when she finds out the truth, her whole world will get turned upside down. A call from his boss has Sebastian back in San Francisco and face to face with a firecracker Asian tattoo. Sebastian has a mission, retrieve a video tape that has information that could incriminate his place of work. All he has to do is find the tape and give it back to his boss. Sounds easy enough. Not so much. When his target has zero knowledge of this tape or information leading to the tape, his “target” slowly becomes someone that he wants to protect…no matter what the cost. I love Ivy’s character. An independent Asian with a kickass attitude and doesn’t take crap from anyone. She is a character that I have been waiting for, and props to author K.A. Tucker for making her come alive in the pages of Surviving Ice. What I thoroughly enjoyed was watching the walls that Ivy has put up, slowly come down, all with the help of a sexy ex-Navy Seal named Sebastian. I also loved the character of Sebastian. Sexy, hot, and protective, and allllllllllllll man. He exudes sex appeal and it totally oozed off the pages. The interactions between Sebastian and Ivy were addictive, and had moments of humor. I had a good laugh with Sebastian and his thoughts on papercuts. I didn’t think that author K.A. Tucker would be able to pull off yet another amazing read, but she did folks! I absolutely love her writing. I love her characters (main and the secondary characters). I love the storylines and the twists in the plot that she expertly writes. I don’t think there’s anything that I DON’T love. And the men…ehrmagherd the men. They keep getting hotter and hotter! If you’re looking for a book that will have you swooning and laughing, Surviving Ice by K.A. Tucker is the one for you. If you’re a fan of the Burrowing Water series, you definitely do NOT want to miss out on this one.
Posted on: Brandi Breathes Books Blog Disclaimer: I received this book as an ARC (advanced review copy) for free. I am not paid for this review, and my opinions in this review are mine, and are not effected by the book being free. I wanted to read Surviving Ice because I have enjoyed the other books in the Burying Water series, as well as Tucker's Ten Tiny Breaths series. I like her hot romances, and characterization. Ivy is a wanderer and is just thinking about putting down some roots when she witnesses a crime and she is all of the sudden scared and wanting to leave again. But she has obligations and she feels the responsibility to help handle some of the fall out after losing her mentor and friend. Sebastian is on the other end of the spectrum, and Ivy has no idea what he knows and what he is after when they meet and he seems to connect with her. Their romance may or may not survive what the other knows and what they don't know is in fact hurting the other. It was hard to see when Ivy didn't know things abut Sebastian, and that he is having to lie to her or tell half truths. But they had so much chemistry and in a short amount of time found themselves depending on the other and entertaining thoughts of settling down where such things didn't really cross their minds before. It was a nice read and the mystery figuring out how Ned was involved and if Sebastian is going to have to push his morals in order to do his job. Source: netgalley Disclaimer: I received this book as an ARC (advanced review copy). I am not paid for this review, and my opinions in this review are mine, and are not effected by the book being free. Bottom Line: Nice chemistry and premise.
Another great read!
I absolutely loved Surviving Ice. The tension between Ivy and Sebastian was super interesting and super believable. That is what I love about K.A. Tucker stories. They are always so genuine and realistic. It's like you're reading about real people. It never feels made up or like it could never happen. They always hook me and it is always so hard to put them down. I am so happy that I got the chance to read this, and I can't wait to read the others in the series! If you haven't read anything by K.A. Tucker yet, climb out of your rock and grab one of her books, because they are all amazing!
Ivy has never been one to put down roots. So when her winds up murdered, her first instinct is to run. But first she has to ready the tattoo shop and his home to sale. Then walks in trouble disguised as a client. Sebastian is there for a job. Find a video tape and clear up any loose ties. Soon he finds out that this job is different than all the others. For the first time ever he is questioning his boss and the reasons behind this hit. Then moment he meets Ivy he knew he met trouble. Such an amazing book! I am so very glad to have followed all the books in this series from the start, but I seem to have found a great fondness for this one especially. I cannot quite put my finger on the whys, just that I adored it. Maybe it was the mystery that surrounds the murder of Ivy's uncle. Maybe it was the suspense that seemed to radiate off the pages. Or it could very well be the attachment I found with these characters. How about all of the above! Sebastian comes walking in from the start, absolutely oozing charm. So much so, that Ivy is willing to forget her independent ways. Even the readers will be panting over him and loving every square inch of his....great personality. ;) But seriously, I was in awe of the man and the mystery surrounding him and his occupation. It made for an interesting read. And had me eagerly flipping through the pages. And that suspense I mentioned earlier? I was in wow. Just when you think that the plot is finishing up, we are struck with the realization that their trouble might not be over with. That the real stress may just be starting. How will everything work out when there doesn't seem to be a way? Mercy! The tension is high in this one. I loved Ivy from the last book, CHASING RIVER. She was fun and feisty even then; more so now that we get her story. I enjoyed her bristly exterior but loved seeing it all chip away for Sebastian. It helped me really get to know her and love her all the more. And when she and Sebastian are together I was gaga over them. Together they are an amazing pair. I have complete and utter love for them both. Wonderful, amazing, beautiful, fierce book! SURVIVING ICE is a definite page turner, a keep you up late into the night kind of book. 5 Stars!
If Surviving Ice has to be the last in the amazing Burying Water series, I can't think of a better story-line to finish out this journey. Once again, K.A. Tucker has given us her all and written a book that completely got under my skin. Somehow she continues to create characters that are gloriously unique and true and gives them the narrative they deserve. Ivy Lee, with her no-nonsense attitude is the perfect match for Sebastian Ryker. Both don't have time for, nor desire anything more than easy and uncomplicated. Sebastian's sudden arrival at the door of her recently-departed Uncle's tattoo shop Black Rabbit, is the start of what will prove to be hard and very complicated. Something both try to avoid at all costs. Yet the sparks fly almost immediately and you just know these two stubborn fools are going to create a fire neither one will want to extinguish. What is so damn wonderful about this book and the others that preceded it, is that not only do you get a gorgeous love story, but a very engaging and thrilling mystery underneath. Sebastian lives a secret life working for a 'security' firm, performing dangerous missions with the intent to protect. His meeting Ivy is no accident and he soon learns that the 'botched' robbery at Black Rabbit has far-reaching consequences he never dreamed possible. As his world starts to unwind and collide quickly with Ivy's, it's a wonder these two even have a chance. Ivy. What a phenomenal heroine. I loved that she 'got' Sebastian. Each keeping their thoughts, their secrets, their desires to themselves. She never pushed him to open up. She respected that he did the same for her. Ivy Lee is one tough cookie and watching her 'man-handle' everyone from bikers to her former Navy seal was a sight to see! She can disarm even the most stoic of men. Her vulnerability was always there and as hard as she fought to keep it hidden, I loved that Sebastian was allowed to discover it. He is just as vulnerable and together they simply fit. And Sebastian. Clearly the silent type, he just couldn't let the spitfire, the feisty Ivy leave his thoughts. Even when he knew he should. Taking a path that his heart had long forgotten, it was beautiful to watch as his walls started to crumble. How his 'ice' started to melt. A man of few words whose actions always spoke loud enough for Ivy to hear them. This is not a lovey-dovey kind of couple and in fact, no 'I Love You's' are ever uttered. Yet you know the emotion is alive and well. That Ivy and Sebastian work together in their own special way and it doesn't bother them if others don't get it. They do and that's all that matters. It's sometimes hard to review a book like this without giving it all away so I will just say, go and read it. Get lost in the masterful words that only K.A. Tucker can produce. It's an adventure like no other. Each book is related in some way to the first and you get to visit with familiar friends throughout the series. A fitting farewell to a crew that I have embraced warmly and will miss dearly. A huge 5+++ stars and highly recommended.
Well, if you're going to end a series, end it with a huge cymbal rattling bang. With this series, I was never sure who was getting their story next. But once the blurb came out on this one, I was anticipation itself. Ivy was that character that was a jarring note since the moment she was on the scene in the first book. Ivy is Ivy and one in a million. I couldn't figure her out so getting her story and her perspective was like being handled a treasure trove to delve through. And if Ivy's story came from a hero that was equal to such a person and the situation was tension-wrought and dire? So, this was book four in the Burying Water series. It can be read as a standalone just as the others before it. Some of the characters and references are recurring, but the plot thread is new and trust me, Ivy was a mystery even though she has been around since book one. The story opens with Ivy now living in San Francisco with her crusty uncle and working with him in his tattoo parlor, Black Rabbit. He is tough to love, but then so is she. That said, Ivy does love Ned and for once is considering putting down roots. Then her world goes up in flames when Ned is murdered and Ivy is there hidden in the back to hear and see enough to leave her shaken. Her tough girl persona sees her through some of it, but she is definitely in over her head. That is, until she lets a near stranger past her defenses and trusts Sebastian to help her and so much more even though she knows he is keeping deep, dark secrets. Sebastian has been a contract killer since he left the military, but still doing the job of keeping people safe through his work. His handler is a man who is like a father to him so when Bentley calls him back to the States for a delicate job, he doesn't hesitate. But from the moment he hears the assignment and sees the file, he is uneasy. Bentley isn't his usual self either. Retrieve the compromising tape and clean up any loose strings including the blackmailer's niece. Sebastian goes into the assignment like any other and won't let Bentley rush him. He recons Ivy Lee and all the places Ned might have hidden the tape. He isn't convinced Ivy knows anything more than what the police think- a robbery gone bad or something to do with the local motorcycle club. He gets close to her and soon feels an unwanted attraction to the prickly independent woman who reminds him of himself the way she seals everything off behind her indifferent facade. Sebastian must keep Ivy from learning the truth even while finding the tape to get Bentley and the two bruisers he has sent in besides Sebastian off her back. He now wonders if he might be able to lay his ghosts to rest and come home. This was a humdinger of a story. It grabbed me in and wouldn't let go from the first chapter. I think I only put it down once. Whether it was the suspense situation, the intriguing characters, or the even more intriguing romance, I was hooked. Ivy is the key in this one. She is one tough woman. If she were a plant she'd be a cactus. She's all bristly and painful to touch on the outside, but soft and vulnerable on the inside. She makes any overtures toward her a hard fought thing. Only the few and strong get past her guard to the real Ivy underneath. The average person probably wouldn't put the time in with someone like her. Fortunately, Sebastian isn't average. He has gone through so much that it sucked the life out of his soul. He understands Ivy on a