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 (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.