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Shelly Laurent escapes her life as a high-class escort, but against her better judgment she takes the scared young Ella with her. In retaliation, her pimp and his dirty cops frame them both for murder. On the run, Shelly turns to the one man who could be her salvation: Detective Luke Cameron. She doesn’t know if she can trust him or if he’s just a mirage, but she needs his help to free them all.
With a heart forged in fire and irreverence born of necessity, Shelly fights Ella’s demons—and faces her own. She throws light on the shadows of Chicago’s underworld, challenging everything she knew and the man she’s come to love. Together, a prostitute and a cop fight for truth stronger than secrets, hope deeper than deception, and a bond more enduring than betrayal.
“Shh,” I murmured, stroking his back.
But his protests fell away as I pressed my breasts to his arm and my tongue to his ear. His harsh inhalation sounded broken, shattered, or maybe that was me.
I tasted salt and man, earth and spring. Slow licks alongside his lobe and upward, more suggestive than sensation, but for a man like this, anticipation would be everything. Or so I had imagined, all the times I had dreamed of it.
A small sound escaped him, somewhere between a grunt and groan. I took it as encouragement and smoothed my hands along the hard planes of his shoulders, his chest. Not anywhere near the bulge in his jeans, because this wasn’t about pleasure—it was about wanting.
Anything to get closer, I let my knees slide apart around his side, the faint heat of his body a shock to my core. His hands clenched and opened on his knees, and again, the muscles rippled beneath his darkly tanned skin. Was he restraining himself from touching me or pushing me off?
“Baby, no,” he groaned, letting his head fall back onto my shoulder.
No, I would never deserve to have him as more than a sex partner. And he had never fucked me, though I knew he wanted to. Every time he saw me, his eyes would darken and my stomach would bottom out, but we’d never touch. But maybe for one brief inconvenient moment, while the door was open and the young woman beyond it needed help, we could pretend. Maybe it could be enough.
I shut my eyes tightly and pressed a kiss to his temple. Pretend, just pretend. I would give him the sex he had craved, and in return, he’d give me memories. It would be a payment, just the same.
“You want this,” I whispered.
He shuddered in my arms; it was like hugging a wild animal, one who could just as easily maul me as cuddle.
“Can I touch you?” he whispered. “Please.”
It unraveled me, that plea. As if he understood that a little bit of my soul slipped away every time someone touched me. As if he would cherish the part I gave him.
I scrambled away from him as if burned, breathing hard. No.
No one understood, which was exactly the way I liked it. I ran a shaking hand over my face to smooth away the panic.
Sure, he knew the score better than most people. He had worked the beat as a patrol cop and then as a detective. Life as a high-priced escort wasn’t glamorous; it was sweat and blood sprinkled with glitter. But he didn’t know the full extent, and I prayed he never would. Henri didn’t sell bodies; he gutted them.
I panted against the headboard, unable to walk away but unwilling to beg. Luke remained carved in stone where I’d left him sitting on the edge of the bed. The air pulsed with doubt and longing—with sex.
“I want it to be real between us.” He spoke low and hoarse.
A quiet sound escaped me. Every caress, every pinch. Every slur ever spoken. “It’s always real. That’s the problem, Luke. It’s always too damn real.”
He hung his head, and I thought for a moment I heard him say I know, but the moment slipped away, the sweet intimacy sailed away like clouds on the horizon—never really mine.
Ms. Lin, I have to admit that I almost gave up on the book. I read it on my Kindle and when I was 26% read, I got frustrated. The beginning was too slow for me. Jump to 36% and I couldn’t put it down. 🙂
I know what you are thinking? Hooker and cop in love with each other troupe, right? Yes but there is soooo much to this story than that. Betrayal, lies, secrets, family dynamics, violence, the sex trade and emotions that neither Shelly or Luke were ready to admit to themselves.
One word of warning: if you looking for a book filled with sex you will be somewhat disappointed. Shelly and Luke don’t hook up until the half way point of the book but when they do its flat-out sexy, emotional and sigh worthy. These two are very damaged people inside and out. They have guilt issues, reasons for being in the sex trade business and why they want it stopped for good and out of their lives. I wasn’t prepared for a huge secret towards the end. It actually pulled the whole book together and I actually shut the Kindle to collect myself. It was that powerful of a moment in my mind. 🙂
If you read Allie’s book “Giving It Up”, some of those characters figure prominently in this one but that don’t take over. I would suggest that you read the first book to get a feel the secondary characters in the book but you can read it as a standalone.
This book is very dark, dealing with escorts, hookers, the sex trade in general and how one man and woman turn to each other to take a piece of it down in Chicago. Ms. Lin doesn’t sugarcoat it either. The book is told from Shelly’s POV and while there are parts that are cringe worthy, its also a book about hope, love and putting the past IN the past. I had my doubts that Shelly and Luke would find the love that they both wanted and needed…
I don’t want to give a lot away about the book but don’t think you can read this one in a couple of hours. Its character driven, emotional, and above all a richly detail, brutal story about how two people can TOGETHER finally see light at the end of their dark world. I can only applaud Ms. Lin for writing a book that most people would skim over given the content but DON’T. You’ll regret it later…
Oh…one of the best books of 2013. 😉
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Amber Lin married her high school sweetheart, birthed a kid who’s smarter than she is, and spends her nights writing down her dirty thoughts. In other words, life is good.
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