Series: Ten Tiny Breaths #3
Genres: Contemporary, New Adult, Romance
Publication date: November 4, 2013
Publisher: Atria Books
Format: eARC, 416 pages
How I got it: NetGalley
Add it: Goodreads
Buy it: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
When a gorgeous young dancer walks through his door, a strip club owner must decide whether to follow his rules or his heart in the third novel by the author of One Tiny Lie and Ten Tiny Breaths.
Owning a strip club isn’t the fantasy most guys expect it to be. With long hours, a staff with enough issues to keep a psych ward in business, and the police regularly on his case, twenty-nine-year-old Cain is starting to second guess his unspoken mission to save the women he employs. And then blond, brown-eyed Charlie Rourke walks through his door, and things get really complicated. Cain abides by a strict “no sleeping with the staff” rule. But being around Charlie challenges Cain’s self-control…and it’s been a long time since any woman has done that.
Twenty-two-year-old Charlie Rourke needs a lot of money, really fast, in order to vanish before it’s too late. Taking her clothes off for men makes her stomach curl but Charlie tells herself that at least she’s putting her acting and dancing skills to good use. And though her fellow dancers seem eager to nab their sexy, sophisticated, and genuinely caring boss, she’s not interested. After all, Charlie Rourke doesn’t really exist—and the girl pretending to be her can't get distracted by romance.
Unfortunately, Charlie soon discovers that developing feelings for Cain is inevitable, and that those feelings may not be unrequited—but losing him when he finds out what she’s involved with will be more painful than any other sentence awaiting her.
“I believe some people are inherently evil. I believe guilt is a powerful motivator. I believe redemption is something you can strive for but never fully achieve. I believe second chances exist only in dreams, never in reality. I believe you don’t have years, or months, or weeks to impact a person’s life. You have seconds. Seconds to win them over, and seconds to lose them.”
K.A. Tucker has a way of writing beautifully flawed characters, particularly men, in a way that makes me love them more because of their faults, their pasts. Cain is no exception to this rule. I loved Trent in Ten Tiny Breaths. I absolutely adored Ashton in One Tiny Lie. Cain… I’m not sure how to put my feelings for Cain into words. He’s deliciously flawed. He bucks all the stereotypes. He feels guilt because of the times in his past where he was unable to help someone he cared about and he spends every day trying to make up for it by helping others. He owns a strip club, but it’s not the trashy, scum-filled kind of place people would imagine. He doesn’t sleep with the dancers, he doesn’t charge them stage fees to try to make more money from them, he ensures they have a roof over their heads and that they follow their dreams and get off the stage at Penny’s. He protects them. His staff protects them. He’s beyond gorgeous and built – a former fighter – but he’s more than that. To call Cain complex is a giant understatement, but I don’t have a better word for him. He has a sketchy past and has been involved in some dangerous things over the years, but it’s all in an effort to protect those who work for him. I just… wow. Cain.
“I know Charlie’s coming with her own bag of secrets. But, frankly, as long as she’s not willfully doing something immoral, I don’t give a shit what she’s done. I just want to help her get away from it.”
Charlie is in over her head. She’s desperate to get away from her stepfather Sam’s influence and his business ventures. She knows she’s in danger and it’s not the kind of danger she can just walk away from easily. She’s going to need a lot of money to disappear. Charlie’s disgusted with herself for what she’s doing for Sam and she’s trying to find a way out. When she arrives in Miami and meets Ginger, she suddenly has a new option: a job at the local strip club, where she can rake in a lot of money, fast. She doesn’t want to strip – or do any of the other things that typically come with the job – but she’s in a bad situation and this is the only way she can see to get out.
“He’s made no effort to speak to me since hiring me. The few times I’ve crossed paths with him in the back hallways, I’ve gotten nothing more than a nod. But while I’m on that stage, I feel those dark eyes on me, like those of a predator stalking his prey, while the music vibrates through my body, and my limbs coil around the cool brass, and my hips swirl and curl and dip and bend. I really am a fantastic actress. And Cain is an even more fantastic distraction.”
When Ginger, one of Cain’s employees, brings her mysterious new friend Charlie to the club because she’s in search of a job, Cain is stunned. Not only is she gorgeous, but she reminds him so much of Penny, the woman he loved, who used to work for him, who was murdered by a jealous fiancé before he had a chance to save her. There’s an instant spark between them, but neither of them are willing to admit it to themselves… or anyone else. Cain refuses to allow himself to open up to someone else, especially someone who works for him. He’s all about the meaningless hookups with women who don’t know who he really is. He’s definitely not looking for more. But, we often find what we need most when we’re not looking.
“She’s the first person I’ve seen you look at twice since Penny was around. And you never used to come out and watch Penny onstage like this. Charlie’s gotten under your skin. That’s gotta mean something, Cain.”
Cain and Charlie skirt around the issue of their mutual attraction once she starts working at the club. Their fellow employees and closest friends, Ginger, Nate and even Ben, can see what’s happening between them, what they’re both so determined to pretend isn’t. With Ginger’s encouragement, Charlie begins to perform each dance *for* Cain when she steps out onto the stage. They play with fire, flirting and being suggestive with each other while she’s on stage, but interact very little when she’s off, until it all comes to head one night after an incident at the club has Cain believing his worst fears may come true again. That incident, along with the support of their friends, make him willing to admit that he wants more with Charlie.
I would be remiss if I didn’t make mention of Ginger and Nate more than just in passing. We got a small taste of Nate in TTB and it was enough to intrigue me, but he’s unbelievable in this book. In a good way. Sure, he’s quiet, intimidating and dangerous to the outside world, but there was a lot more to him than met the eye. More than I would have imagined from his presence in the first book. He’s a great friend to Cain. He’s there for him regardless of what he needs. The advice and the support he offered in this book blew me away. Ginger gave him nearly as much support. I loved her. She was spunky and sassy and real. She wasn’t afraid to tell it like it was. I loved both of these characters nearly as much as Cain and Charlie. I really hope one (or both!) of them gets their own book in the future. There’s no denying that K.A. Tucker writes fantastic characters. Whether they’re main characters or secondary characters, she just puts something into them that makes me fall in love with them and want to get wrapped up in their lives. She keeps me coming back for more.
“So this is all about a second chance?”
“No. It’s about trying to balance out the good with the bad. I don’t believe in second chances, Charlie.”
I’m not going to get any further into the plot of the book, or the romance between Cain and Charlie, except to say both were phenomenal. This book had the perfect balance of action, angst, suspense, sexual tension, friendship, sex and drama. I refuse to spoil it for you. It’s truly something you have to experience for yourself. It’s gritty and dark at times. I laughed and cried, smiled and freaked the hell out waiting to see what would happen next. This book took me through the full gamut of emotions and exhausted me – in the best way possible. You might think you know what happens and how everything turns out, but you’ll never imagine the path it takes to get there.
“And I don’t think any less of Cain for it. In fact, if possible, I love him more. We are simply two good people with equally flawed pasts, looking for perfect futures. And I think we’ve found it, in each other.”
K.A. Tucker has hit the trifecta of perfection with the Ten Tiny Breaths series. I’ve read and loved each of the books in the last several months and, as a matter of fact, I’m in the process of “re-reading” Ten Tiny Breaths right now on audiobook because I had to go back and see if the story would affect me as much the second time around. It totally is. One Tiny Lie was amazing in its own right. I adored Livie in TTB and was so excited to read her story in OTL. But, Four Seconds to Lose absolutely blew me away. It was darker, grittier than the first two books. It kept me on the edge of my seat, and this time, for more than just wondering if the two characters would find their way to each other. There was danger and suspense and I found myself cheering on the characters for doing things I couldn’t believe I was condoning. It transported me to a different place. I was totally floored. I still haven’t stopped thinking about this book and the characters. It’s the kind of story that will stick with you for a long time.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher, via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review. All quotes come from the review copy and may differ from the final version.