As a top draft pick from a family of hockey royalty, I’m under so much pressure that I’m losing my edge on the ice. I need something to snap my brain out of this self-destructive stress-loop. That’s where Indi Briscoe from my photography class comes in. She’s flirtatious and funny one moment, sweetly shy the next.
But she’s cagey. She has secrets. Also? She’s a virgin. Did I mention the pressure thing? Maybe I’m crazy for starting something with her. But we can’t seem to help ourselves…
Warning: this standalone novel contains heat, heart, familial expectations, extreme milkshakes, and a hamster with deep thoughts.
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To our surprise, there was a darkroom assistant named Randi there to develop the film on a giant machine and guide us through the rest of the process—using the enlarger, the three-step process for developing, adjusting contrast and making the final print. While this made our work a hell of a lot easier, I wasn’t getting the alone time with Indi that I’d hoped for. So with the third wheel in the darkroom, I had to get creative.
As Randi demonstrated how to adjust the enlarger to ensure the proper print size, I stood very close to Indi and placed my hand on her ass. She turned toward me, one questioning eyebrow raised, but I maintained a look of innocence as I slowly squeezed. Her eyes widened as Randi droned on about refocusing or something. I wasn’t paying that much attention. I was too busy enjoying the luscious handful I had in my hand.
Indi tried to listen to Randi, but, bad boy that I am, I persisted. I slid my hand down and between. She was wearing jeans, but I could tell she liked what I was doing by the way she subtly arched her back to give me a little more access.
Then, I felt her hand on me, which wasn’t something I had anticipated when I’d started this. Shit. My jaw clenched as her fingernails scratched their way from the bottom of my fly up to the button at my waist and then back down again.
That was some sweet fucking torture right there. In a matter of moments, I was hard and ready with shit-all I could do about it and no one to blame but myself.
“Now, shift the card every five seconds to expose one more inch or so of the paper each time,” Randi said. “Like this…one, two, three, four, five, shift. See? One, two, three, four, five, shift. We do this to determine the correct exposure time…”
Indi, that evil woman, timed her ministrations to Randi’s count, stroke, stroke, stroke, stroke stroke, but on “shift” she squeezed the head of my cock.
Jesus H Christ. I was going to lose my mind.
Eventually, I couldn’t take it anymore. Beaten at my own game, I removed my hand from her behind and she let go of my package. I really hoped Randi hadn’t caught onto our darkroom hanky-panky. I’d tried like hell to keep my breathing even. But even if she had noticed, I’m sure it wasn’t the first time.
“Okay, any questions?” Randi asked.
“I think we can handle it,” I said. Frankly, I didn’t care that much if we messed up. We’d taken some photos with our cell phones as back-up, so if we screwed up the prints, no big deal.
“Okay. Good luck,” Randi said and left.
“Alone at last,” I said.
I grinned as I flipped the switch so the room was bathed in that lurid red light. Handily, this also turned on the “No-Entry – Darkroom In Use” sign outside in the hallway. That handy bit of information, I’d paid attention to.
“Hudson, what are you doing?”
“Making sure we aren’t disturbed,” I said before taking her in my arms and sealing my mouth over hers.
Darkroom had a pretty standard romance trope, perceptible just by reading the synopsis. However, Hudson and Indi were much more than a jock and a virgin. These were complex, multi layered, loving characters. It was a very refreshing story that tackled so many important topics.
Hudson was a great character. At first I though he was just a typical hockey player but Hudson wasn’t typical at all. His dad was a ex NHL player, recognized basically everywhere. His family had a long tradition of hockey players that played in the NHL, literally a hockey royalty family, and Hudson was under a lot of pressure. Pressure to play in the NHL in the future, pressure to get to captain this season… To say he was stressed is an understatement.
Indi was dealing with a lot more than Hudson and that’s saying something. She was struggling with her self esteem and, as a Chinese-American adoptee, with her identity. I really liked how Ruby, Indi’s roommate helped her with this part of her character growth and Indi’s parents were super sweet too. Indi was a strong character. She went through a lot growing up and she had some issues and fears that she needed to work out and overcome.
Their romance was very sweet and funny and I was really rooting for these two. It was an emotional romance that had steamy and funny moments. Unfortunately, even though this story tackled a lot of important and sensitive topics, it was just too much to deal with in a short read. I just felt that we didn’t get much time following Indi and Hudson’s relationship because they were constantly dealing with other stuff. Also, some of the topics were really well intertwined in the story but some were underdeveloped and didn’t have a satisfying resolution. It was overwhelming. The ending was also rushed, probably because so much was happening with these characters.
Overall, I enjoyed Darkroom. It was an entertaining, emotional and sweet story with great characters. I just don’t think the story fulfilled its full potential.
USA Today bestselling author Kate Willoughby is in love with the sport of hockey. And the entire Los Angeles Kings team. Having lived most of her life completely uninterested in professional sports, she is surprised at the intensity of her enthusiasm and her growing collection of Kings merchandise.
She has held a variety of jobs—podiatrist’s assistant, telemarketer, typist, gift wrapper, painter, illustrator’s assistant, paste-up artist, calligrapher, teacher, transcriptionist and barista—but her favorite by far is author. She resides in Los Angeles with her husband, their two sons, and a Chihuahua named Mochi.
She is also a member of the Romance Writers of America, Los Angeles Romance Authors, and Santa Clarita Romance Writers, and winner of the 2009 EPPIE Award for Best Fantasy/Paranormal Erotic Romance and the 2016 EPPIE Award for Best Contemporary Romance.