Wicked Nights – Stark World Series – Book 2
By J. Kenner
Sometimes bad isn’t good enough…
On the outside, Lyle Tarpin is a clean-cut Hollywood actor whose star is on the rise. Inside, he’s battling his own demons, shunning relationships and finding solace in the arms of a string of anonymous women paid very well for their discretion.
But when he’s photographed in a compromising position by an over-eager reporter, the only way to save his career is to say that the woman he was with is his fiancée. And now Lyle has to play a very public game with the only woman who’s ever managed to get under his skin.
Struggling waitress Sugar Laine agrees to spend one night with Lyle—but only because she’s desperate to save her family home. She never expects that a night of passion will turn into a pretend engagement … or that the heat between them will blossom into love.
But sometimes love has a price.
And now the only question is—can Lyle and Sugar afford to pay it?
My blood pounds through my body, my heart beating so hard that I can feel the pressure not only against my ribs, but against the wall behind me. My lips are parted, my breath coming in shaky gasps.
He’s only inches away, so close I could reach out and touch that famous, gorgeous face. His eyes, as deep and blue as the summer sky, roam over me. He eases closer, moving slowly, his face reflecting a hunger that sends shivers through me.
Once again, my mind conjures the image of a hungry wolf. Only now I’m thinking that maybe getting eaten wouldn’t be so bad after all.
Besides, I’m here. Might as well enjoy it.
Then, of course, I remember exactly what it is.
His fingertip brushes my forehead, and I almost jump out of my skin. I meet his eyes, see something that looks like irritation, and want to kick myself. I need to focus, dammit.
“You were somewhere else.” He speaks flatly, as if he’s working to keep all emotion out.
I shake my head, conjuring a lie. “I’m right here.” And then, because I’ve seen movies with call girls, I put my hand flat on his chest, trying to seem seductive. He’s wearing a gray T-shirt, and I can feel his heart beating beneath the planes of his muscled chest.
I read somewhere that he was getting in shape to play a superhero in an upcoming movie. And kudos to whoever’s orchestrating that transformation, because this guy is rock solid.
He’s still looking at me, and I fist my hand in the material of his shirt, needing an anchor against the storm of emotion I see playing out on his face. Desire. Hunger. Longing. Regret.
And pain. I see so much damn pain that I have to fight the urge to cup my palm against his cheek and tell him that whatever it is, it’s going to be okay.
Instead, I simply whisper, “Lyle?”
I’m not sure if it was the wrong thing or the right thing to say, but I know that it was unexpected. And before I can apologize or cover or say anything else at all, he is on me. One hand at my throat, the other hard on my breast. I’m pinned against the wall, helpless, as he claims my mouth again. Wildly. Brutally.
I try to think what I’m supposed to do—try to respond. But I’m trapped. I’m not Sugar. I’m not Laine. I’m not anyone. This isn’t about sex. It’s about pain and need and that storm of horrors I saw on his face. I might as well not even be here. And as his hand squeezes tight on my breast—as his mouth clashes so hard against mine that he draws blood—my only thought is that I shouldn’t have come at all. That this was stupid. Foolish. And that this night is going to leave me scarred.
I squeeze my eyes shut, trying to be what he wants. A warm body. An anonymous female.
But I can’t do it. I can’t do it at all.
All I can be is me. A woman desperate enough to have sex for money. A girl trying anything and everything to save her house. To protect her family’s memory.
I can be that girl.
But I can’t be nothing. I can’t be no one.
And as his hand tightens in my hair—as he kisses me violently—as his body presses hard against mine and I feel the steel of his erection—I know that I’ve made a terrible, horrible, awful mistake.
J. Kenner has created a sensational fictional world that leaves the readers wanting more. The characters are beyond dynamic, they bring something more to the Stark World that makes this series a success. Each character stands out on their individual merit as well as their contributions to their world. It leaves the readers wanting more of this world and more of all these dynamic individuals.
Lyle Tarpon is on the verge of superstardom with his upcoming role in a super hero film where he plays a villain turned good. This role will take him to the top and guarantees a blockbuster three film contract. For the past ten years he has solely focused on his acting career and kept his reputation squeaky clean. He’s determined to reach his professional goals but it comes with a great sacrifice. Lyle has kept his past under wraps, kept his Iowa farm boy image clean, stayed away from any type of romantic relationship, and dedicated his free time to children charities. His acting abilities have become more than a profession, it has literally taken over his life. He’s lost his true self along the way. The man he’s hidden away sometimes needs to be released before it explodes out of control. He’s found a way to keep those explosions under control by hiring anonymous women for their discrete companionship for one night and one night only. Lyle is determined to keep his secrets locked up tight.
Sugar Laine is struggling to hang onto her family home. The home is the last link she has to her family. She has sacrificed her life for the past five years trying to hang onto the house by working two jobs. She was forced to take out a balloon loan type mortgage in order to save the house from being condemned. Now the balloon note is due and she doesn’t have the money. When the opportunity to earn $10,000 by being an escort to an anonymous client arises, she’s willing to put aside her morals and personal feelings to earn the money. It’s just a business transaction and she needs the money. But when she arrives at the appointment, things go quite differently. Her client is non other than Hollywood superstar Lyle Tarpon. His behavior towards her isn’t anything like his reputation. On the surface he seems like a beast but it’s what hiding behind the beast that captures her attention. The man has so many contradictions that it’s hard to determine who the real Lyle Tarpon is. She doesn’t think he even knows who that is.
As luck would have it their secret liaison is exposed. Lyle is forced to hire her to become his “girlfriend” in order to keep his upcoming role in the movie. It’s a temporary solution that will fix Sugar’s financial problems and keep his squeaky clean reputation in tact.
Sometimes the best business deals take a different direction. Sugar is going to find out there is more to life than a house with four walls. Lyle is finally going to take on the biggest role of his life, learning to live with himself rather than the roles he created.
Once again J. Kenner had me hooked in the first chapter. I could not put this book down and loved the journey both Lyle and Sugar had to take to find their true happiness. I can’t wait to see what comes next in the Wicked Nights- Stark World series. There are some other dynamic people screaming for their happily ever after.
J.Kenner (aka Julie Kenner) is the New York Times, USA Today, Publishers Weekly, Wall Street Journal and #1 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, and paranormal mommy lit.
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 them.” A five 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 Demon Hunting Soccer Mom series (as Julie Kenner) is currently in development with AwesomenessTV/Awestruck.
Her books have sold over three million copies and are published in over twenty languages.
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.