Sometimes bad isn’t good enough…
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 (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.
Stark World #2
✮✮✮ 4 STARS ✮✮✮
Lyle Tarpin is Hollywood’s and everybody’s darling and heartthrob. He is charming, talented, rich, a rising star and generally a lovely human being. And while all this is true nobody in Tinseltown knows about his nights with call girls, when he loses himself in meaningless sex, if only for a couple minutes. Erasing the guilt, the pain, the memories for that short time. He makes sure that the girls change every time, never going for seconds. To never form attachments.
What I want—what I’m paying for— is the cymbal crash at the end. That release. That moment when everything shatters. I’m not paying for pretty words and flowers. – Lyle
Sugar Laine needs money. Fast. The short-equity loan she took to perform emergency repairs on her house is due soon and her job as a waitress isn’t going to cut it. When her best friend lets her in on a little secret and offers her a solution to her problems, Laine is conflicted. Having sex for money, a lot of money, mind you, feels wrong. Yet, her childhood home is at stake so she agrees.
When Lyle and Laine meet there is an instant chemistry. But there is more – Laine sees the pain in Lyle’s eyes and he sees a woman he needs to walk away from but knows that won’t be as easy it usually is. When a picture of their clandestine meetings appears in the tabloids he needs to come up with a solution to cover the truth. Laine becomes his fake girlfriend but soon the fake feelings become real and Lyle will have a decision to make: Face his past and embrace love or keep on hiding and wallow in self-pity.
Sugar Laine is an endearing heroine – perceptive, kind, always looking on the bright side of things, sometimes a bit too nosy and pushy in my book but it got her results so who am I to judge? She has a little bit of a fire cracker in her and doesn’t let people walk over her. When she meets Lyle she sees his demons and once their feelings solidify Laine is brave enough to walk away until Lyle gets his shit together. I loved that about her, she didn’t play along because she was scared of losing him and so he could keep on wallowing in his pain and guilt. She took the situation in her own hands and hoped for the best, prepared for the worst.
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. – Sugar Laine
Lyle is as swoon worthy as any celebrity crush you’ve ever had. He is sweet, earnest, driven and charming. On the outside he is the down-to-earth Midwestern guy from Iowa who has no worry in his life. But on the inside he is slowly unraveling – the guilt, the anguish, his complicated childhood – the reasons for his drive – escalating. But Lyle isn’t a coward. He is brave when it comes to facing his fears and it shows when he tells the girl he has fallen for about his past, his pain and role he played in the tragedy of his life. I fell in love with Lyle – he is one of those broken heroes who just has everything going for him. The charm, the kindness, the vulnerability.
She tasted like summer. As warm as sunshine and as sweet as cotton candy. Hell, she tasted like hope. And damn him, he couldn’t get enough of her. – Lyle
Wicked Dirty wasn’t as dirty as I expected but that doesn’t mean it was bad. I loved the growth of the characters’ relationship, the slow burn until it was inevitable.
We snuck up on each other, creeping backwards and with blinders.
One thing that I find notable is that when these two actually have sex they don’t talk about birth control or STD. Lyle has been with multiple women before so I figured that would at the very least be a topic…but it wasn’t. Not that it annoyed the hell out of me but I found it noteworthy.
Another thing that I have to mention is that while I loved Laine I couldn’t always see the development of her feelings. The thought process wasn’t always clear to me in that, that she was thinking and saying things that, yes, were sad and dramatic but all of a sudden she was in tears – I never saw her tears coming because she sometimes sounded so matter-of-factly in my mind. I don’t know if I’m explaining it properly.
With all that being said, however, I adored this story. I was completely immersed into Laine’s and Lyle’s whirlwind romance and while they really fell in love fast it wasn’t unrealistic. The world J. Kenner has built around the Stark’s is fascinating and scintillating and it keeps me coming back for more – and hopefully one day I’ll have time to read the original Stark Trilogy. I can’t get enough of it so I’m waiting for Wicked Torture which will showcase Lyle and Wyatt’s (from Wicked Grind) friend Noah.
Wicked Dirty is the second in the Stark World series and can be read as a standalone.