"I'm just gonna put this out there first thing because I feel it has to be said...BEST. SHOWER. SCENE. EVER!!! No joke. It was deliciously hot and steamy, and not because of the temperature of the water. Know what I'm sayin'?" - Tanya, I <3 Books
When her car breaks down off the side of a lonely highway far from her sunny Miami home, tattoo artist Lia never expected her very own white knight to ride up on the back of a barely street-legal motorcycle...and she never expected to fall for her dark savior. After a string of failed relationships and a bruised heart Lia is not looking for forever, and the hot mechanic, with his sexy scruff and shaggy hair, is simply impossible to resist. He's the perfect candidate for a mind-blowingly-perfect, no-strings-attached one-night stand.
Reid left his life in Chicago far behind him and hasn't been back, but he's never been able to escape the guilt he feels about his own painful role in inviting a monster into his baby sister's life. A monster who almost destroyed her. Being with Lia is an unexpected gift, one he doesn't feel he deserves, and their one night together has him wanting more than he should. When he surprises her at her tattoo studio, Second Circle Tattoos, in Miami, he's in for a shock—and a fist to the face—when his past and present collide.
With secrets coming to the surface, Reid and Lia are thrown into a world of betray and lies that threatens to pull them under, and the last link to his former life may be the darkest of them all.
PRAISE FOR THE DARKEST LINK
"I absolutely adored alpha Reid from the moment I met him and his dirty mouth. He is protective and a bit crass but completely lovable and sweet two. The way he treats Lia is the way all men should treat the women they love." - Red Cheeks Reads
"There's plenty of mystery and intrigue to keep you curious, and there's even more danger and suspense to keep you on the edge of your seat. I got a lot more than I bargained for, it wasn't just a lighthearted read, it was the full deal and I enjoyed every page." - Rosa, iScream Books
"This was a very well written book with excellent character development. These are such colorful characters and I love them all so much. All the guys are smoking hot in my eyes.
I'm sad this series is ending." - Melissa, Book Addicts Reviews
"The Darkest Link is Lia & Reid's story, boy what a great read it was. Fantastic characters, suspense and off the charts sex scenes, Scarlett Cole has done an amazing job of bringing this series to an end." - It's Just My Opinion (Goodreads)
"Scarlett Cole delivers a poignant tale of love and salvation found on the side of the road by two lost souls when they least expect it. I highly recommend The Darkest Link along with the complete Second Circle Tattoos series for stories that run deep with steamy encounters and vivid characters that are sure to leave their mark." - Catherine, Rochelle's Reviews
"As always with Ms. Cole's stories an exciting read! Romantic, sexy, with danger
thrown into the mix! Perfect combination!" - Pat, The Book Queen's Book Palace
“It isn’t your platform we’re worried about, Franklin. It’s the most solid agenda I’ve ever seen. True to the roots of the party, it will be well received. It’s your family’s image that concerns us.”
Julianna Carlisle inched closer to the large wooden door, slightly ajar, that stood as guardian to her father’s home office. She didn’t recognize the speaker’s voice. At twenty-nine years of age, she considered herself above eavesdropping, but the gruff mention of her family had caught her attention as she’d silently let herself into her parents’ home in the luxury gated community of Star Island, the crown of Miami real estate.
“It’s clear that my wife will require some training for the role.”
“Training might be too inadequate a word,” another voice added. “She’s no Barbara Bush, or Nancy Reagan. Heck, even Betty Ford, for all of her more social ideals.”
Lia shivered a little. The conversation confirmed her worst fears. Her father had danced on the edge of a full-blown push into politics for most of her life. He was a highly regarded defense attorney with an ego bolstered by his win rate, but it didn’t come close to quenching his ambition.
“And then there is your daughter . . .” The speaker let the words hang. Lia leaned into the doorway.
For a single heartbeat, Lia waited to hear her father defend her, to tell the asshole to watch what he said. But she knew he wouldn’t, just as surely as she’d never remove the tattoos he despised from her skin.
“I’m aware,” her father replied, just as she’d expected. “Julianna has always been . . . spirited. Believe me, I have every intention of bringing her to heel before my decision to run for governor is made public. We have some time before that has to happen.”
Her heart sank. After all these years, she should have been used to the perpetual feeling of parental disapproval. Her grip tightened on the small gift bag she carried.
“Yes and no,” the speaker replied. “You need to start lining up your sponsors now while the recent election loss is still raw.”
“Believe me, Charles,” her father replied crisply. “I know how to manage my family.”
“Very well, Carlisle. I will let the donors know. Please confirm when you have things in order,” the other person said resolutely.
Beneath her favorite vintage 1950s navy-blue halter-neck dress, her legs shook. Bring her to heel. Lord knew her father had been trying for years. They didn’t agree on a single aspect of her life. He hated that she was a tattoo artist most of all. Called tattoos a modern scourge. Every time a public health official set foot in Second Circle Tattoos, the Miami Beach studio where she worked, she was convinced it was her father’s doing. He knew all the right people to make her life miserable.
Shoring up her defenses, and taking care not to knock the Lalique Anemones Grand Vase off the small table behind her, she turned and hurried in the direction of the large sunroom at the back of the house that her mother had converted into a huge greenhouse. It would be a billion degrees in there, the late-August Miami sunshine all but baking the glass room where her mom nurtured all kinds of tropical plants. Though Lia joked that they were a replacement for her and her brother, Ben, an active-duty Navy SEAL, in truth her mother had always had a fascination with planting and grafting. Lia had been twelve when she’d realized it was the only place in the house her father didn’t visit.
“Mom,” she called out from the doorway. Unlike her father, Lia loved the scent and collision of color that clashed brilliantly with the classic taupe-and-white decor in the rest of the house, but the humidity would ruin the victory rolls she’d carefully pinned her hair into, and she wouldn’t have time to fix them before she hit the road for the tattoo expo.
“One moment, Julianna.” Her mother’s melodic voice sounded from the back of the room.
She heard the clatter of tools and the hiss of the faucet and then Grace Carlisle appeared. She removed the perfectly fitted lab coat that she preferred to gardening overalls, revealing her usual twinset, a pale mocha this time to match the walls, and pearls. It was as if her mom were two different people. The one in the greenhouse, and the one everywhere else. “How are you?” she asked quietly, bussing the air in the general direction of Lia’s cheeks. It was as close to a display of emotion as her mother ever got.
“I’m good,” Lia replied, resisting the urge to straighten her skirt or remove a mutinous piece of imaginary lint under her mother’s scrutiny. In her head, all the criticisms she’d heard growing up were on display. “Only strippers wear platform shoes, dear.” “The difference between décolleté and décolletage is a couple of inches and your pride.” “Vintage is still secondhand.”
But that was before her mother had become a shell of who she used to be. Before she’d stopped leaving the house to do all the things she used to love. And most definitely before she’d required medication to function.
Lia handed her mother the gift bag. “Happy birthday, Mom.”
Her mom’s hand fluttered to her chest, and raw surprise sparkled in her eyes. “You remembered,” she whispered.
Lia thought back to Granny Emmeline’s words the night before she died. “I remember who your mother was before she met my son. Promise me you’ll keep reaching for her, Lia, because she’s trapped inside herself.”
Carefully, Grace slid the gift out of the vibrant orange gift bag and unwrapped the bright cerise-colored tissue. The sun hit the crystal butterfly at exactly the right moment, sending rainbows sparkling all over the bland, white kitchen walls.
“I thought you could hang it in there,” Lia said, tilting her chin in the direction of the sunroom.
Grace passed her fingers over it gently. “It’s beautiful, Lia. You never forget. Thank you.” Tears glittered in her mom’s eyes, and at moments like this, Lia understood the wisdom in Granny Emmeline’s words.
“Did Daddy remember?” Lia asked even though she already knew the answer.
Her mom shook her head sadly. “He’s been very busy this past week and has another television segment next week that he is preparing for. I’m sure he’ll remember eventually.”
Lia hated the way her mom excused his behavior. There were old photographs of the two of them dotted around the house that gave the illusion they’d loved each other once. Arms wrapped around each other, giant smiles on their faces, but somewhere along the line her father had stopped, leaving her mother desperate for the smallest hint of affection.
“Grace,” her father bellowed from the hallway. “Where is Julianna? I see that awful car of hers in the driveway.”
Lia recognized the tone, the one that said he was about to lay down the law, and her stomach tightened.
Her mom dropped the butterfly back into the bag, and pulled open a kitchen drawer, hiding it inside. “You’d better go,” her mom whispered, the light gone from her eyes as she ushered her gently toward the garden. She swiped a finger under her eyes before air kissing Lia again. “The Herald found out he advocated for the end of the death penalty while in law school and now he’s furious.”
“I love you, Mom,” Lia whispered as she hurried through the french doors.