Tonic by Staci Hart
Published by Indie on October 13, 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
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Joel Anderson doesn’t take anything seriously.
Not his relationships, which have been few and far between since his brutal divorce. Not the drama of working in a tattoo parlor, which seems to be around every corner. When things get him down, he smiles and cracks a joke. But he’s not the kind of man you cross, or you’ll find yourself at the wrong end of his fists.
Annika Belousov takes everything seriously.
Like her job as a reality television producer, given that she typically has something to prove. Or her love life, which is defined by a series of requirements — affluent, ambitious, accomplished, to name a few. Definitely her family, who worked their whole lives to afford her every opportunity, a sacrifice she doesn’t take lightly. When she’s tapped to produce a reality show at Joel’s shop, she doesn’t think twice, just goes in for the kill, as if there were any other way.
The second Annika walks into Joel’s shop, he makes it his mission to crack her open, but she’s not having it. He’s all wrong — too crass, too hairy, too un-serious. But it doesn’t take her long to find out there’s more to him than smirks and tattoos. And what she finds could put her career and his heart on the line.
Not that Joel cares. Because for the first time in a long time, he’s found his tonic.
This is my first Staci Hart book and it certainly won’t be my last. I have no idea why I haven’t read any of her work before. I sure have been missing out. When I read the blurb for this, I was instantly intrigued. A reality show about a tattoo parlor where the hot owner falls for the producer? Um, yeah, I wanted to know all about that!
Joel Anderson started his shop with his brother over a decade ago. He’s spent the majority of that time trying to protect his heart. He doesn’t take anything serious and always just goes with the flow. He isn’t about to let anyone get to him. When his brother approaches him about doing a reality show about his tattoo shop, Joel is reluctant. He’s spent a lot of time trying to avoid drama. Somehow, Shep convinces him to do it. Already on edge for letting the world into his life, Joel didn’t expect for one cold and calculated woman, who just happens to be the show’s producer, put him on edge even more. There’s just something about her that draws her to him.
Annika Belousov loves her job as a reality tv show producer. She’s paid to watch people and to manipulate them into creating the type of shows that are successful. In her personal life, she’s always felt like she has something to prove and she’s deemed the smart, responsible and successful one of the group. In order to be success at her job, she comes off as cold, which has always been her amo. As she steps foot into Tonic, Joel’s shop, her cold exterior doesn’t seem to work on Joel. He seems to take it as a challenge to chip away the ice. Will he succeed in breaking through to Annika or will she remain cold in order to get the job done?
“That’s not what I see.” I met his eyes. “What do you see?” “Snow. Cold and soft, the sum of an infinite number of beautiful pieces. And when the light hits just right, you shine.”
What I like the most about this story is how polar opposite Joel and Annika are yet the balance each other out perfectly. I like the fact that there are a few metaphors used to show just how opposite they are from each other but the fire and ice one is my favorite.
“I wondered fleetingly if we would ruin each other. If my fire would melt her ice until it evaporated. If her ice would snuff my fire out of existence.”
I loved the push and pull between the two of them in the beginning and the slow burn of their relationship when they finally did get together.
I adore Joel. He’s this tatted tattoo parlor owner with roguishly handsome looks and a beard to top it off. He’s loyal and ultimately has a heart of gold. He isn’t afraid to fight for what he wants. He’s charming but there’s just something about him when he is vulnerable. He’s raw and honest and he makes you feel for him. Feel his emotions with him.
I also liked Annika. Sure, she comes off as the Ice Queen that she is referred as but you get to understand her and why she is the way she is. She’s the complete opposite of that with her friends and family and you get to see just how strong, loyal and loving she really is.
Overall, I enjoyed this book. If you like push and pull stories on top of opposites attract, then this book is for you!
“Let me see it.”
“What?” I blustered, caught off guard.
“Stand up and turn around. I want to see it.” I was too surprised and caught up in the moment to refuse, so I stood and turned, laying my palms on the armrests as I faced the back of the chair.
One hand rested on my hip.
My heart stopped as I wondered what the hell I’d gotten myself into.
I glanced over my shoulder, my gaze bouncing between his face —turned down too much to read —and his reflection in the speckled, antique mirror, which I couldn’t see much of either. His free hand moved to the waistband of my tailored pants, and his fingers hooked and tugged, pulling the band down low.
His thumb ran over where I knew the tattoo was, and I felt his breath. Every place where we connected spoke to me of ownership.
“You got this done here? In New York?” His voice was rough.
Mine wasn’t much better. “Yeah. In Brooklyn.”
“Let me cover it up for you. Give you something you’re proud of. Your skin …” He paused, and I wished I could see his face, read his mind. “This shouldn’t be here, not on you. Let me … I want to …” He had moved closer, his hand on my hip pulling me back into him slightly enough for me to not have noticed that the backs of my thighs were touching his, my back arched just enough, his breath hot.
And then, he disappeared. I stood, finding my hands were trembling, wondering where I was and how I’d gotten there. The shop was mostly empty —no one had seen, not that it would have looked like much from the outside. But from where I stood, I felt every single
deliberate move like a telegraph, telling me exactly what he wanted to do without him having to finish the sentence.
His back was to me when I turned around, his face down —I couldn’t see it in the mirror over his cabinet of ink and needles as he dug around in the drawers, seemingly for nothing in particular.
“Let me know if you want me to draw something up.”
“Okay, I will.” I paused, not knowing what else to say, feeling like I should say something. But there was nothing that I could say. “Well, have a good night, Joel. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
He nodded, glancing at me in the mirror. “See you, Annika.”
I tried not to bolt out of the shop, but once outside, I admit it —I took off. I hauled up the stairs and into the office to grab my bag, grateful that Laney was already gone, and I texted my driver, asking him to pick me up a few blocks away so I could walk, put some distance between me and Joel, get the energy out of my body, through my legs and feet, into the pavement.
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