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Justify Me

J. Kenner

  Justify Me

  By J. Kenner

  A Stark International/Masters and Mercenaries Novella

  Introduction by Lexi Blake

  Justify Me

  A Stark International/Masters and Mercenaries Novella Copyright 2018 J. Kenner ISBN: 978-1-945920-75-2

  Published by Evil Eye Concepts, Incorporated

  All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author's rights.

  This is a work of fiction. Names, places, characters and incidents are the product of the author's imagination and are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or establishments is solely coincidental.

  Book Description

  Justify Me: A Stark International/Masters and Mercenaries Novella by J. Kenner

  McKay-Taggart operative Riley Blade has no intention of returning to Los Angeles after his brief stint as a consultant on mega-star Lyle Tarpin's latest action flick. Not even for Natasha Black, Tarpin's sexy personal assistant who'd gotten under his skin. Why would he, when Tasha made it absolutely clear that--attraction or not--she wasn't interested in a fling, much less a relationship.

  But when Riley learns that someone is stalking her, he races to her side. Determined to not only protect her, but to convince her that--no matter what has hurt her in the past--he's not only going to fight for her, he's going to win her heart. Forever.

  About J. Kenner

  J. Kenner (aka Julie Kenner) is the New York Times, USA Today, Publishers Weekly, Wall Street Journal and #1 International bestselling author of over one-hundred novels, novellas and short stories in a variety of genres.

  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).

  In her previous career as an attorney, JK worked as a lawyer in Southern California and Texas. She currently lives in Central Texas, with her husband, two daughters, and two rather spastic cats.

  Visit JK online at

  Subscribe to JK's Newsletter

  Text JKenner to 21000 to subscribe to JK's text alerts



  Facebook Page

  Facebook Fan Group

  Also from J. Kenner

  Click here for an updated Printable Booklist

  The Stark Trilogy:

  Release Me

  Claim Me

  Complete Me

  Anchor Me

  Lost With Me (coming Oct. 2018)

  Stark Ever After:

  Take Me

  Have Me

  Play My Game

  Seduce Me

  Unwrap Me

  Deepest Kiss

  Entice Me

  Hold Me

  Please Me (coming August 2018)

  Stark International

  Steele Trilogy:

  Say My Name

  On My Knees

  Under My Skin

  Take My Dare (novella, includes bonus short story: Steal My Heart)

  Jamie & Ryan Novellas:

  Tame Me

  Tempt Me

  Dallas & Jane (S.I.N. Trilogy): Dirtiest Secret

  Hottest Mess

  Sweetest Taboo

  Most Wanted: Wanted



  Wicked Nights:

  Wicked Grind

  Wicked Dirty

  Wicked Torture

  Man of the Month:

  Down On Me

  Hold On Tight

  Need You Now

  Start Me Up

  Get It On

  In Your Eyes

  Turn Me On

  Shake It Up

  All Night Long

  In Too Deep

  Light My Fire

  Walk The Line

  Bar Bites: A Man of the Month Cookbook

  Also by Julie Kenner

  Click here for an updated Printable Booklist

  Demon Hunting Soccer Mom Series:

  Carpe Demon

  California Demon

  Demons Are Forever

  Deja Demon

  The Demon You Know

  Demon Ex Machina

  Pax Demonica

  The Dark Pleasures Series:

  Caress of Darkness

  Find Me in Darkness

  Find Me in Pleasure

  Find Me in Passion

  Caress of Pleasure

  Rising Storm:

  Tempest Rising

  Quiet Storm

  The Blood Lily Chronicles:




  The Protector (Superhero) Series: The Cat's Fancy (prequel)

  Aphrodite's Kiss

  Aphrodite's Passion

  Aphrodite's Secret

  Aphrodite's Flame

  Aphrodite's Embrace

  Aphrodite's Delight (free download)

  An Introduction to the Lexi Blake Crossover Collection

  Who doesn't love a crossover? I know that for me there's always been something magical about two fictional words blending and meeting in a totally unexpected way. For years the only medium that has truly done it well and often is comic books. Superman vs. Batman in a fight to the finish. Marvel's Infinite Universe. There's something about two crazy worlds coming together that almost makes them feel more real. Like there's this brilliant universe filled with fictional characters and they can meet and talk, and sometimes they can fall in love.

  I'm a geek. I go a little crazy when Thor meets up with Iron Man or The Flash and Arrow team up.

  So why wouldn't we do it in Romanceland?

  There are ways out there. A writer can write in another author's world, giving you her take on it. There's some brilliant fanfiction out there, but I wanted something different. I wanted to take my time and gradually introduce these characters from other worlds, bring you in slowly so you don't even realize what I'm doing. So you think this is McKay-Taggart, nothing odd here. Except there is...

  Over the course of my last three books--Love Another Day, At Your Service, and Nobody Does It Better--I introduced you to five new characters and five new and brilliant worlds. If I've done my job, you'll know and love these characters--sisters from another mister, brothers from another mother.

  So grab a glass of wine and welcome to the Lexi Blake Crossover Collection.



  Available now! Click to purchase.

  Close Cover by Lexi Blake

  Her Guardian Angel by Larissa Ione

  Justify Me by Julie Kenner

  Say You Won't Let Go by Corinne Michaels

  His to Protect by Carly Phillips

  Rescuing Sadie by Susan Stoker

  Acknowledgments from the Author

  A huge thank you to Lexi for letting me play in her world, and to Liz, and MJ for letting me enter the playground in the first place!

  Sign up for the 1001 Dark Nights Newsletter and be entered to win a Tiffany Lock necklace.

  There's a contest every quarter!

  Click here to subscribe.

  As a bonus, all subscribers will receive a free copy of Discovery Bundle Three

  Featuring stories by

  Sidney Bristol, Darcy Burke, T. Gephart

  Stacey Kennedy, Adriana Locke

  JB Salsbury, and Erika Wilde

; Table of Contents

  Book Description

  About J. Kenner

  Also by J. Kenner

  An introduction to the Lexi Blake Crossover Collection

  Author Acknowledgments


  Chapter One

  Chapter Two

  Chapter Three

  Chapter Four

  Chapter Five

  Chapter Six

  Chapter Seven

  Chapter Eight

  Chapter Nine

  Chapter Ten

  Chapter Eleven

  Chapter Twelve


  Discover the Lexi Blake Crossover Collection

  Discover the World of 1001 Dark Nights

  An excerpt from Tame Me by J. Kenner

  Special Thanks


  I should never have let him get close, this man who swept into my life like living flame, beautifully wild and dangerously enticing.

  Didn't I know the risks? The price?

  Wasn't my soul already bruised and battered?

  And yet he slipped through my defenses and edged close to my heart.

  Now I'm balancing on a precipice, and all I can do is hope that, despite everything, he'll catch me if I fall.

  Chapter One

  Riley Blade reeled back as the frog-faced man's surprisingly strong punch landed soundly against his jaw, snapping Riley's head back and pissing him off.

  This, he thought. This was why he'd sworn to stay the fuck away from Los Angeles.

  And yet here he was again, risking bullets and bruises when he could be downing a Scotch in one of the many bars that dotted the international terminal at LAX.

  Clearly, he needed to have his head examined.

  Then again, he thought as Froggy took another swing, maybe he should take the punch and see if it knocked some sense into him.

  Since that option sounded more painful than practical, he shifted left to avoid the impact, swung his own arm up in a maneuver designed to both deflect and detain, then grabbed Froggy's wrist and twisted the wiry punk around. By the time Froggy started to howl, Riley had him in a headlock.

  "I warned you not to hit me," he growled, to which Froggy replied with a heartfelt, though not very inventive, "Fuck you."

  "Not my type," he said amiably, then spoke to the security team listening to the conversation through the hot mic and earpiece Riley wore. "All done. You wanna come relieve me of this piece of shit?"

  "Good work, Blade. On my way." Less than fifteen seconds later, Ryan Hunter stepped in, tall and lean, and looking every bit the badass. The dark-haired security chief for the multi-billion-dollar Stark conglomerate and Riley went way back. Although Hunter had always been private sector, their paths had crossed multiple times during Riley's days in LA as an FBI SWAT team member, and they'd become good friends, often mistaken for brothers because of their similar build and coloring.

  They'd kept in touch even after Riley escaped from La-La Land, and it was that tug of friendship that had landed Riley in this cheap motel room that stank of sex, urine, and something else that Riley really didn't want to think about.

  "Appreciate the assist," Hunter said. "I've been knee deep in assholes for the last few days. A little conversation with this one should go a long way to rounding up a few more and clearing my workload." He flashed a wicked grin at Riley. "Which means Jamie thanks you, too," he said, referring to his wife. "She gets cranky when my nights are spent without her. Especially if I'm in a motel."

  If what Riley remembered about the stunning brunette was accurate, she was more of a Ritz-Carlton girl than a No-Tell Motel type. But he understood where Hunter was coming from. Not, however, from personal experience. Riley's nights had always been his own, and if there was a woman in his bed beside him, there was no expectation on either of their parts that she'd still be there the next night.

  For years, that had been the way Riley rolled. Lately, though, he'd been spending too much time with Ian Taggart, and the man was so damn in love with his wife. Hell, it would be sickening if it wasn't so, well, appealing. And cute. Yeah, it was actually fucking cute.

  And now, as he listened to that tone of adoration in Hunter's voice, Riley couldn't help but wonder what it would be like to have a woman waiting for him at home. Someone who worried about where he was. Someone who shared hopes and dreams and a life.

  The odds of that ever happening were slim to none. Hell, he was edging up against thirty-six, but he'd only ever met one woman who'd truly gotten under his skin. A woman with whom he'd imagined long walks and easy conversations. Along with the more standard fantasies involving heated passion and sweaty, naked nights, of course.

  Natasha Black.

  Her tall, slim body with her just-perfect breasts. The cool gray eyes that could cut like a knife, and that wide, gorgeous mouth that was made for naughty things. Just the thought of her made his cock stiffen and his fingers crave the smooth brush of her skin. She, however, had very soundly shut him down without so much as a movie and popcorn between them.

  Just one more reason not to come back to Los Angeles, because why intentionally rub his nose in something he couldn't have? And yet here he was again.

  Not, however, for much longer. This was supposed to be his vacation, after all, and after his last operation with McKay-Taggart, he damn well deserved it. Especially since the operation had been in Los Angeles's backyard. Fucking Taggart. Riley had told Big Tag that he didn't do LA, and Big Tag had just shot him that cocky I'm in charge here grin, then informed Riley that Malibu and LA were two completely different cities. When Riley had retorted that they were both in the same damn county, Big Tag had told him to pull up his flowered pink panties and get with the fucking program.

  So Riley had hauled his manly brief-covered ass to Malibu and the mission. What the fuck, right? At least the assignment hadn't been in the damn city limits. But he'd been all too happy to leave Malibu-that-wasn't-LA after the mission.

  As for today, the layover was a necessary evil, and Riley had never intended to leave the airport.

  But now here he was again, right smack dab in the middle of Los Angeles, getting his ass kicked as usual.

  Apparently, he never learned.

  As soon as two of Hunter's men arrived to take custody of Froggy, Riley and Hunter took the back stairs down to the parking lot. "How badly did I screw with your schedule?" Hunter asked as he leaned against a midnight blue Range Rover.

  "No worries," Riley assured him, even though the truth was that he was itching to get the hell out of there. His flight had arrived just after noon, and his connection to vacation-land wasn't scheduled until after midnight. He'd texted Hunter from the tarmac to see if his friend wanted to pop over to LAX for a post-lunch libation, but instead Hunter had begged a favor.

  Apparently, Froggy had been in Hunter's sights for a while, but the little worm was familiar with the members of the Stark International security team and getting close was proving tricky. Hunter was about to call in outside help when Riley had phoned, and Hunter had recruited his friend to play the point man.

  Which meant that instead of getting a drinking companion, he'd gotten a punch in the face.

  "I'd give you a ride back and shoot the shit," Hunter said, "but thanks to your good work, my dance card is full. I'll have one of my guys give you a lift, though."

  "Fair enough," Riley said, then promised to send his friend a postcard from China.

  "Why China?" Hunter asked as a tall blond man in jeans, a black T-shirt, and a shoulder harness headed toward them.

  "Why not?" Riley shot back, making Hunter laugh.

  Moments later, he was in the passenger seat of the blond man's tricked-out Grand Cherokee, they were heading South on the 405 toward LAX, and Riley was pondering the question. Why had he picked China? His first instinct had been Hawaii. He'd imagined himself watching girls in bikinis as he kicked back on the beach with a thriller in one hand and a beer in the other. But somehow, Hawaii di
dn't seem far enough away. He wanted to get lost. To go someplace completely unfamiliar. Where he couldn't even read the signs. Some place that forced him to think.

  And then, maybe, he'd think about what the fuck he wanted to do next. Because the truth was, he'd been at loose ends for one hell of a long time. But damned if he knew how to tie those ends up.

  "Mind if I play some tunes?" his companion asked.

  "Go ahead. Sorry I'm bad company. I'm already sliding into vacation mode."

  The guy chuckled. "No worries," he said, then pushed a button on the console and filled the interior with ghetto rap as his blond head and shoulders gyrated to the music. Riley dropped his head back, letting the music pound against his brain.

  They were almost to the airport when he miraculously felt the buzz of his phone in his pocket despite the deep thrum of the music. He fished it out, checked the Caller ID, then grinned as he gestured toward the volume. "Sorry, man. Do you mind?"

  The guy waved off the question with a good-natured shrug, then flicked the radio off right as Riley took the call. "Hey man, how's London? I'm about to get the hell out of your neck of the woods."

  "You dick," Lyle Tarpin said. "You're in town and you don't even call?"

  "Hello? Because you're in fucking London. You're there doing publicity bullshit. Or am I wrong?" One of Riley's oldest friends, Lyle Tarpin was fast rocketing into one of Hollywood's most bankable stars. He was also Natasha's boss, and when Riley had been in town about a year ago consulting on one of Lyle's movies, she'd once again firmly shut down Riley's advances. At which point Riley resolved to quit trying. He was a lot of things, but not a masochist, and going after Natasha Black was like beating his head against a very hard--but very pretty--brick wall.

  "Shipping out bright and early tomorrow."

  "Ah, hell. I'm sorry I missed you."

  "Me, too."

  There was a pause, and Riley was about to ask about Lyle's wife, Laine, when Lyle jumped back in with, "Listen, I need a favor."

  "Anything, man. You know that."

  "Can you recommend a security company? I need to hire a bodyguard."

  Riley understood that. He'd been in town when Lyle had met his wife, Laine, and had seen the boy fall hard and fast. No way would he leave without making sure she was well protected. Whether Laine wanted to be or not.