Welcome to Second Circle, a tattoo shop where you leave with more than ink… Scarlett Cole’s debut romance, The Strongest Steel has done more than please her readers–she’s found great success with a story filled with tender love and a second chance at life…
Harper Connelly never expected to find herself outside of a tattoo parlor at one in the morning. The scars that decorate her back are just one more reminder of things she’d rather forget, the past she wants to leave far behind her, but before she can move on she needs him.
Trent Andrews has his own reasons for specializing in inking over scars. And there’s no way in hell he’s going to turn Harper away. Not when a swirling mix of tenderness and desire slams into him every time her sees her. Being with Harper is like going 10 rounds in the ring-exhilarating, powerful, and dangerous. She stirs feeling in him he thought were long gone… if he can only get past her carefully constructed defenses.
Running was the only thing that saved Harper last time, but each session at Second Circle Tattoos brings her closer and closer to Trent. His lingering touches seduce her, making her believe in a life without fear, where she can be happy, whole, in love. But when cryptic messages start appearing on Harper’s phone, strange deliveries arrive at her door, and Second Circle is vandalized, Harper is convinced that her ex-boyfriend has tracked her down, and worse, that he knows about Trent. She ran from her past once before, this time will she have the strength to fight back?
Tell us about that AHA moment when you knew you wanted to be a writer.
I’ve loved romance stories for years, ever since picking up Nora Robert’s Jewels of the Sun in an airport during a snowstorm in Chicago. But it was when I started to read Jaci Burton’s Play-by-Play series that I was hooked. The way Jaci set up the fabulous Riley family, and the sports backdrop was brilliant. At the time, I was senior vice president of a large retailer in Canada, but had been ‘playing’ with the idea of writing for years. My husband and I had talked about moving to the UK, but when the opportunity arose to move, I realized this was the moment I had been waiting for. So I left my job, and started writing.
Share your favorite scene from your hit debut, The Strongest Steel.
This is from the first time Trent and Harper meet. She has gone to his tattoo studio to see if he can help her cover the scars of her attack, but is terrified of letting anyone see or touch them.
He repositioned the lights so they were shining straight onto her back, the scars more startling in relief. Trent pursed his lips and blew out a soft breath. Her shoulders shook as she gripped her shirt to her chest like a security blanket.
He took a step back, walked around to the front of the bed, and straddled a wheeled stool.
Harper looked at him with fear and steely determination. He leaned forward, resting his arms on his knees.
“I want you to touch my arm. Nothing creepy or weird. Just touch me.”
“What for? I mean, why would you want me to do that?”
“When I touched you out there earlier, you flinched. I’m thinking if you could get used to touching me first, my touching you wouldn’t feel quite so strange.”
Harper’s perfectly white teeth indented her soft pink lip.
He put his arm on the bed, the inner side facing toward her. Holding still, he waited patiently.
Tentatively, Harper lifted her left hand, her fingers twitching again like she was running her fingers down the keys of a piano in sequence. Seconds ticked by. Hell, he could wait all night if that’s what she needed. She exhaled slowly as she lowered her blouse and moved her arm toward him. She brushed her fingertips lightly along his skin, starting with the inside of his wrist, stroking the inked drops of blood where the corner of a tattooed cross appeared to dig into his skin.
Studying the ink she touched, seeing it in a new light as she continued her way to his elbow, reminded him again of just how incredible an artist Junior had been.
Her touch was like a breath of air whispering against him. He watched the very tip of her index finger brush over the tightly packed ink, the gentle pressure sending shivers down his spine. Her shaking fingertips were as cold as marble.
“It’s beautiful. Will you explain it to me?”
Trent studied her face as she continued to touch him. All flawless complexion and high cheekbones, long dark eyelashes curling softly outward. “Sure. You familiar with the Divine Comedy?”
Trent smiled. “No, all my tattoos are from Dante’s Divine Comedy. Some people say Dante’s Inferno but that’s not totally accurate. It’s three chapters. Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven.”
“So this is . . . ?” Harper paused.
“Heaven.” His left arm showed Hell and his back showed Purgatory.
She continued slowly stroking his arm, her soft fingers sending tremors throughout his body as she crossed the Roman numeral XII. He’d been so excited to show it to Cujo after he’d gotten it done. Cujo’d loved it right up to the point where Trent told him all about the twelve souls who illuminate the world intellectually. Then he’d just laughed and called him a pompous ass.
“Beatrice leads Dante through nine celestial spheres, starting with the Moon for the Inconstant here.” He pointed to the rosary wrapped around his wrist with its cross bound in barbed wire. “Souls who abandon their faith. It goes all the way up my arm to the ninth, Primum Mobile, the home of the angels.” He pointed to the top of his bicep. “My shoulder is the final destination. Empyrean, where God lives.”
He lifted his arm and let her trace the letters that wrapped around it just above his elbow. Junior had spent forever getting the midnight-blue text with stars through it perfect, cursing Dante for describing the “pattern of lights” in such detail. Diligite iustitiam qui iudicatis terram.
“‘Love Justice, ye that judge the earth,’” she said, surprising him.
“You know Dante?”
Harper dropped her head to focus back on his tattoos. “It’s a popular quote, isn’t it?”
He wasn’t sure. “It’s the sixth celestial sphere. Jupiter, home of the Rulers.”
Her fingers continued their slow, teasing slide across the fixed stars of faith, hope, and love.
“I’ve never seen anything quite like it.” Man, those eyes were something else. She lifted them from his arm to his face.
“Are you going to be okay if I touch you now?” He felt the absence of her fingers the moment they left his skin.
Harper pursed her lips. “I honestly don’t know. I think so. Just go slow, okay? I haven’t let anybody see or touch my back in years. Just having you standing behind me is a huge deal.”
What an amazing responsibility for her to trust him with. He was honored.
Trent stood and pushed the stool back to the corner. “Trust me. I’ve got you.”
Romance is such an incredible and exciting genre to write in. However, if you could be a bestseller in any other genre, what would you choose? Why?
I’d write a non-fiction business book on women in leadership. As a senior executive, former management consultant, and engineer, I’ve mentored hundreds of women over the years. I’d love to write a book that creates a framework to empower women in the workplace. A book that harnesses the most powerful advice from some of the most successful women in industry and politics.
Who is your latest book boyfriend/girlfriend? Why?
I am very loyal to my two long term book boyfriends – Matthew Wellesbourne (from Kathryn Le Veque’s The White Lord of Wellesbourne) and Master Marcus (from Cherise Sinclair’s Make Me, Sir). These two men have been my favourites for a long time, and no-one has knocked them off their spot.
List the top five reads of your life.
Oh, what a great question. Hmm … Well, let’s take my two trusty book boyfriends, and Jaci Burton, out of the list.
- A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. My high school English Literature exam. I think this book becomes more meaningful to me the older I get. I didn’t really understand the scale of Sydney Carton’s sacrifice until I was much older. And that famous line … It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.Chills!
- We Need To Talk About Kevin – Lionel Shriver. The twist at the end of that story blew me away. Everything you thought you knew about the main character, every judgement you’d made, blew apart at the seams less than a chapter from the end. Brilliant.
- Take Time For Your Life by Cheryl Richardson. This book totally reframed the way I thought about my life and the way I was living it.
- Jewels Under The Sun – Nora Roberts. Showed me that reading didn’t have to always be serious literary tomes. Great writing, captivating stories, lovable characters, and great settings, come in all shapes and sizes.
- Death On The Nile by Agatha Christie. What suspense writer worth their salt wouldn’t say Christie? The way she weaves this plot with such an extensive cast of secondary characters in such a spectacular setting is incredible. I loved it. And I loved Peter Ustinov in the movie version, even though he didn’t look like anybody’s idea of Poirot. (Plus, one of the characters, Salome Otterbourne, is a romance writer).
List the top ten items you’d pack in your ultimate survival kit (food and water a given). Where would you like to be stranded during the zombie apocalypse? Why?
Okay – here goes:
- A really big knife
- Bear Grylls or Ray Mears (come on, you know you thought of it too, right? I need a survival expert on this apocalyptic journey – I’m a city dwelling, high-heel wearing girl. The idea of camping makes me itch!)
- My phone (ticks off music, photos, books, GPS/navigation)
- A solar charger for my phone (wow, I’m better at this than I thought)
- Warm clothes
- A first aid kit including my epi-pens
- Matches or a lighter. I’m no Tom Hanks dancing on the beach shouting I made fire. That rubbing sticks together thing looks like a lot of work.
- A sleeping bag
- A solar flashlight. I hate the dark after watching movies like the Exorcist and a Nightmare on Elm Street way too young.
- Tarpaulin sheets. You could sleep in, on, under those suckers and stay dry.
… I’d also try to squeeze in emergency rations of tequila for those moments when surviving gets a bit much.
I’d like to be stranded during the zombie apocalypse in Tilt Cove, Newfoundland, Canada. Population: 7. It strikes me that given zombies need human flesh, I’d be best off where there isn’t much of it.
Name your favorite real life hero. How have they influenced you?
My little girl was born with a focal lens cataract in her eye. Her initial eye sight tests put her in the legally blind category. Under the care of Sick Kids Children’s hospital in Toronto, and the Royal Manchester Eye Hospital in the UK, she’s made great progress, but we still have to patch her good eye for two hours every day. Her chronic depth perception makes her clumsy, yet despite this, she just saved up for a ‘stunt scooter’. She never lets her vision issues interfere with trying something new. And when she falls down, which happens often, she just picks herself up and keeps going. I love that attitude.
What’s the hardest lesson you’ve learned from your journey as a writer?
That the first draft is only the beginning. I thought it would be ninety percent complete by then. I can laugh at that now, but it was a painful lesson.
Favorite Color: Orange
Favorite Actor/Actress: Jimmy Stewart
Favorite Movie: A Wonderful Life
Favorite century and why?: 20th Century to live in (indoor plumbing, electricity, penicillin) … 13th Century to romanticize (knights, castles, honor!)
Favorite Food: Sweet potato and black bean enchiladas
Least favorite vegetable: Kale
When Scarlett isn’t writing, she spends her time reading, hoarding mason jars, and working out to off-set an epic sour candy habit.
Having travelled the world for work and fun, Scarlett is a citizen of both Britain and Canada. A true city-dweller, she considers Toronto and Manchester home and likes to set her books in vibrant locations such as Miami and Los Angeles.