Time to heal.
Somehow, though, he never found the enthusiasm. Or maybe that was just an excuse. Another way of punishing himself for walking away from the woman he loved in favor of the woman he’d owed.
And since he’d never have either of them again, he needed to kick his own ass, pick up the pieces of his life, and start building something real. After all, there wasn’t a tech gadget he couldn’t design, build, or repair. So why was he so clueless when it came to his own damn life?
It was time, and it would be easy. Painless even, because God knew Evie embodied everything he admired in a woman. Strength. Intelligence. Ambition. Humor. Beauty. She was as desirable as Lyle had promised and obviously enthusiastic.
In other words, he was all out of excuses.
He stood up, intending to tell her to lead the way. But the words that came out of his mouth shocked them both. “I’m sorry, Evie,” he said. “You’ve been wonderful, but I have an early meeting, and I should probably get home.”
“Oh.” He’d surprised her as she was rising, and now she teetered awkwardly on her heels, as if his unexpected words would physically topple her.
He reached out a hand to steady her, and for the briefest moment, he considered pulling her close and fighting his way past his hesitation. She was everything he should want in a woman—with the unfortunately insurmountable problem that she wasn’t what he wanted at all. Or, rather, she wasn’t who he wanted.
Goddamn his stupid, unrealistic fantasies.
And while he was at it, goddamn Kiki, too.
He was being an idiot and unfair, and he knew it. An idiot, because he’d made his choice to walk away from Kiki long ago, and he knew damn well that he’d shattered her in the process. Even if he could have seen his way clear to look her up after all these years, he’d forfeited his right to come crawling back.
Unfair, because not ten minutes ago he’d been ready to take the plunge with Evie, and yet here he was, dodging and shifting like a damn coward, trying to swim up out of the deep black ocean of loss and pain. A familiar pain that wrapped him like a blanket, so cloying it was almost comfortable. And he knew damn well that there was only one way to fight it—he needed to take the girl to her room and try to fuck the darkness out of him.
The way he’d done with countless other women.
The way that never worked like it should. That only dulled the sharp edges of his pain, but added no light to the darkness.
That wasn’t what he wanted. Not anymore. One of the reasons he’d moved to Austin was to heal, after all. To heal, and to break bad habits.
Still, it was tempting, and it took more strength than he expected to shake his head again and say very gently, “I really am sorry. I’m not … ready.” She’d been polite enough not to mention the tragedy in his past, but he was certain that Lyle must have at least told her that he’d lost his wife and daughter. Hopefully, that softened the blow of rejection.
She’d regained her footing, and now she stepped back, her forehead creased as her eyes flicked over him, expertly assessing him as she would a witness. “It’s been almost nine years, I’m told.” The sharp edge of her voice sliced his heart. So much for softening the blow. “If you don’t get ready soon, I can’t help but think you’re going to end up sad and alone.”
With a thin, sympathetic smile, she turned and walked away, leaving him to watch her go and wonder at her perceptiveness. Because she was right.
He was going to end up sad and alone.
Hell, he already was.
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.
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 praised 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 for her novel, Claim Me (book 2 of her Stark Trilogy). 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 #3
✮✮✮ 3 STARS ✮✮✮
After Wicked Grind and Wicked Dirty I was very much looking forward to Wicked Torture. There were hints sprinkled in the second installment of the Stark World – I knew that Noah would have to work through some of the tragic events of his life. What the blurb doesn’t say is that this is a second-chance romance.
Noah and Kiki were both likable, no – lovable, characters. Noah is the epitome of a good man. He always wants to do right by people. He is honest to a fault and caring. He had always been Kiki’s champion, supported her and empowered her to do what she was best at. And then he dropped her. He knows when he left her more than ten years ago he did right by the mother of his child but not by her and it has been eating at him ever since. He wants her back but he knows that their experiences have changed them and he has a lot of Kiki’s resentment to overcome.
“So I’m telling you right now, Kiki, I want more. I want it all. And I’m not a man who settles. Not anymore.”
Kiki…she was a lovely heroine. I know there is a but in there. The problem I had was that she was described as character with a quick temper but that was inconsistent with the way she let things happen to her, the way she let Noah go. She was passive when Noah left her which I thought was a pretty understandable reaction given the circumstances. What I didn’t like, however, was that the author laid blame on her doing so. Seeing how Noah didn’t involve her in his decision I wouldn’t have fought for him either.
Generally, Kiki didn’t seem to me all that hot-headed except maybe in the beginning. She was scared to get hurt, yes, but that was only natural given her past of people leaving her behind.
Not to fall. Not to hope. I did all those things before, and then he left, taking my heart with him. He left, just like I’d known he would. Just like everyone does.
The story lost me towards the end – while it was pretty predictable the whole time the last couple of chapters really irritated me.
History repeated itself and I hated, HATED that Noah made the same mistake yet again. He excluded Kiki and just went on to do what he thought was for HIM the right thing to do without taking the heroine’s feelings into account. There was ZERO growth with him, and considering that he had ten years to think about his mistakes he didn’t learn a thing. And the decision to do right by Kiki didn’t come by itself – it took a third party to push him in that direction and I hated that, seriously, at least I wanted him to see his mistake. It pained me because I really loved Noah.
“The world doesn’t care what I think, and the people in it make decisions without me. My world changes, and I don’t get a say in it.”
One more thing that was a little unbelievable was how fast Kiki gave into the hero. She kept saying that she’d never let him hurt her, that there was no chance in hell that they’d ever be more again. It took two weeks for her to change her mind. Two weeks.
I loved the first two books in this series but this one just didn’t live up to my high expectations. I have come to love J. Kenner for her endearing characters you can only root for, the drama that was never over the top – just enough that you could feel the anxiety. This time I’m a bit disappointed. It happens and you can’t love them all.
Having said that I did enjoy some of this story!
As per usual, when I’m not entirely happy with a book I urge you to read other reviews and make up your opinion based on all of them. Although it didn’t work for me you might love it!