by J. Kenner
Published on April 7th, 2015
Meeting Jackson Steele was a shock to my senses. Confident and commanding, he could take charge of any room . . . or any woman. And Jackson wanted me. The mere sight of him took my breath away, and his touch made me break all my rules.
Our bond was immediate, our passion untamed. I wanted to surrender completely to his kiss, but I couldn’t risk his knowing the truth about my past. Yet Jackson carried secrets too, and in our desire we found our escape, pushing our boundaries as far as they could go.
Learning to trust is never easy. In my mind, I knew I should run. But in my heart, I never felt a fire this strong—and it could either save me or scorch me forever.
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Whatever you need, baby, I promise. You only have to ask. Jackson, I—I need you to leave me. I need you to walk away and to never look back.
The memory pounds like red neon inside my head.
“Tell me,” he repeats.
“I asked you to leave.” I say the words simply, as if every syllable isn’t ripping me to shreds.
“And did I?” His voice is still even, still calm, but there is no hiding the tension that backs each and every word. “Did I not do exactly what you asked? Did I not walk away even though it just about killed me?”
It killed me, too. I want to shout the words at him, but I don’t. I can’t, because that would only make him suffer more, and after everything I’ve done to him, I can’t add that burden. So all I do is nod. “Yes.” My voice sounds lost. Hollow. “You did.”
He leans closer, placing one hand on the pillar just over my shoulder. He is at an angle, his face so close I can smell whiskey on his breath. “So what exactly do you want from me now?” He strokes his free hand down my bare arm until he reaches my hand. He twines his fingers with mine and pulls me hard against him.
I gasp and try to ease backward, but it’s not possible. He has moved his palm from the pillar to my lower back. He holds me close, so tight that I am breathless, lost in the feel of him and, yes, in the erotic sensation of his erection, unmistakable against my abdomen.
“Are you offering me a job?” he continues, ignoring my protest. “Are you offering to bring back everything you killed when you pushed me away?”
He releases my hand. “Or are you offering me this?” he asks, as he brushes his fingertip over my lower lip, so softly and gently that I have to fight not to gasp with pleasure. “Or maybe this?” he asks as his hand moves lower, his palm grazing over my breast.
My nipple tightens as my skin prickles with need. I have to focus on breathing, on not letting my knees give out.
Jackson takes no pity on me. Instead, he gently rubs circles on my breast, taunting and teasing even as his words continue to flow over me. “Surely you remember how it felt,” he presses. “You in my arms. Your release. That expression of ecstasy etched on your face. The surrender I felt in your body.”
“Don’t.” That single word is a cry. A plea.
“Don’t?” His hand slides down again, his fingers twining with mine once more. “But I have to. So tell me, Sylvia. Because I need to know. What exactly are you offering me?”
My eyes sting, and I squeeze them shut, wishing for the release of tears but they simply won’t come. “Just the job,” I finally say. I take a deep breath and open my eyes to face him. “Nothing has changed, Jackson. We can’t . . .” I shake my head, letting my words trail away.
He holds my gaze. The heat building in the space between us is so intense that I swear I can see the molecules spinning.
Slowly, he releases his grip on my hand. He steps back and I feel cold when he lifts his other hand from the small of my back. “You’re right,” he says. “We can’t.”
And that is it. Two little words, and then he turns away from me and walks down the hall. I stare after him, breathing hard, watching until he disappears into the shadows of the larger room.
He never once looks back.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
J. Kenner (aka Julie Kenner) is the New York Times, USA Today, Publishers Weekly, Wall Street Journal and International bestselling author of over seventy novels, novellas and short stories in a variety of genres. Though known primarily for her award-winning and international bestselling erotic romances (including the Stark and Most Wanted series) that have reached as high as #2 on the New York Times bestseller list, JK has been writing full time for over a decade in a variety of genres including paranormal and contemporary romance, “chicklit” suspense, urban fantasy, Victorian-era thrillers (coming soon), and paranormal mommy lit. Her foray into the latter, Carpe Demon: Adventures of a Demon-Hunting Soccer Mom by Julie Kenner, has been consistently in development in Hollywood since prior to publication. Most recently, it has been optioned by Warner Brothers Television for development as series on the CW Network with Alloy Entertainment producing. JK has been praised by Publishers Weekly as an author with a “flair for dialogue and eccentric characterizations” and by RT Bookclub for having “cornered the market on sinfully attractive, dominant antiheroes and the women who swoon for him.” A three time finalist for Romance Writers of America’s prestigious RITA award, JK took home the first RITA trophy awarded in the category of erotic romance in 2014 for her novel, Claim Me (book 2 of her Stark Trilogy). Her books have sold well over a million copies and are published in over over twenty countries. In her previous career as an attorney, JK worked as a clerk on the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, and practiced primarily civil, entertainment and First Amendment litigation in Los Angeles and Irvine, California, as well as in Austin, Texas. She currently lives in Central Texas, with her husband, two daughters, and two rather spastic cats.