Broken With YouJ. Kenner
Broken With You
About Broken With You
Ruined With You
Meet Ryan Hunter
The Stark Saga
Also by J. Kenner
About the Author
Broken With You
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Broken With You
True love never fades…
After surviving a troubled childhood, Denise can’t believe that she’s blissfully married to her partner and soulmate. She’s confident that not even Mason’s long-term, deep-cover assignment will shake their bond. And she certainly doesn’t anticipate that when he finally walks back through her door that he’ll have no memory of her, himself, or their time together…
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When Mason is pulled out of an operation gone bad, all he knows is what he’s told — that he was a covert agent, that he has information vital to national security somewhere in his head, and that they can tell him no more for fear of burying those hard-fought secrets even further. They tell him nothing else; not even that the beautiful woman who makes his heart beat faster is not just his partner, but also his wife.
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The secret she must keep wrecks Denise, who wants only to return to Mason’s arms. But despite the desire that still burns hot between them, she can’t tell him who she is—or that she’s carrying his child.
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But when dark forces threaten both their lives in order to retrieve the information trapped in Mason’s mind, it’s not their past that will be tested, but the tenuous new love now burning hot between them.
Charismatic. Dangerous. Sexy as hell.
Meet the elite team of Stark Security.
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Shattered With You
Shadows Of You (prequel/short story)
Broken With You
Ruined With You
Broken With You is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously; they are not real, and any resemblance to events, establishments or persons (living or dead or undead) is entirely coincidental.
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Broken With You Copyright © 2019 by Julie Kenner
Excerpt from Tame Me © Copyright 2014 by Julie Kenner (used with permission from Evil Eye Concepts, Inc.)
Cover design by Michele Catalano, Catalano Creative
Cover image by Annie Ray/Passion Pages
Published by Martini & Olive Books
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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.
Faith is a tricky thing. Faith in people. In the universe.
Faith that at the end of the day, the power of good will overcome the power of evil.
I’ve managed to keep that faith through my entire life, even when the world was battering me like a raft on a stormy sea. Loss, pain, heartache—through it all, I somehow managed to hold tight to my unflappable optimism.
But that was before.
Now … well, now is harder.
Now, I stare down loss and loneliness on a daily basis. Now, I look back over the last two years and wonder how I’ve managed to survive without him.
Now, I fear that he’s never coming home. The man I love. The husband I need.
I know I must stay positive. I understand that I should keep hoping.
“Have faith,” they all say, and I try. I really do.
But the truth is that my faith in the universe disappeared along with my husband.
And I’m terrified that I’ve lost both forever.
For an eternity, that’s all there was. Just darkness. A void. An empty hole where nothing existed. Not even him, whoever the hell he was.
There was comfort in the dark. As if he was wrapped in a womb. Safe now. Not like before.
Strands of emotion, the precursors of thought, twisted inside him. There’d been pain in the before time. So much pain. Like fire in his gut. Like glass in his eyes.
How long had he suffered, his mind screaming, his body so exhausted that death would have been a welcome relief?
He didn’t know. For that matter, maybe death had come to release him. Or maybe none of it had happened yet, and his pain wasn’t a memory but a forewarning.
He didn’t know. He was simply there—no longer attached to time, to space, to anything. He was free. Not hot or cold. Neither happy nor sad. He was secure in the comfort of simply being, and it seemed as though he could stay that way, safe and warm and content—for all eternity.
Except there was something hidden beneath the calm acceptance of this new reality.
Something important. Something urgent.
A secret? A task?
It was right there, at the edge of his memory, but every time he grasped for it, it slipped away. He shouldn’t—couldn’t—let it go. But how could he follow? How could he leave this safe, warm place?
He longed to stay forever. Secure and comfortable and free.
And yet at the same time he didn’t. He wanted more. He wanted...
He didn’t know what.
He just knew that something was nagging at him. Something he missed. Something he craved.
A shock of awareness cut through him, along with a jolt of something he recognized as fear. And loss. And regret.
Mischievous green eyes flashed in his mind’s eye. Warm laughter teased him even as soft strands of golden-blond hair brushed against his skin.
She was his—and he yearned for her with a longing so intense it bordered on pain. Urgency roiled within him. Danger. Terror. Those dark secrets that he needed to—
Oh God oh God oh God, please no.
His body—his being—lurched, trying to reach her. Trying to battle back the horror that was looming, coming faster and faster. But he couldn’t see it. He couldn’t fight it. All he could do was sink into the whirlpool of disconnected, inc
omprehensible voices and images that were suddenly swirling around him, thick and fast and hot.
Where is it?
You might as well tell us?
Nothing to go home to. Nothing at all.
But there was. She was there. His life. His woman.
He had to get back to her.
Back? There’s nothing for you back there. She’s dead. I fucked her, then I killed her.
His body burst apart from the force of his scream, but the relentless, horrible words wouldn’t stop.
Do you know why she’s dead? Because you went to her. You told some useless cunt our secrets.
We had to punish you. Had to show you that we can always get to you.
His mind was spinning, trying to remember. To see her. To feel her.
To save her.
Remember, dammit. Remember the roadrunner. They can’t kill the roadrunner.
But he couldn’t move. Couldn’t think. Couldn’t do anything but exist in this cold, dark limbo as more voices assaulted him.
It’s all your fault.
Your friend? I was never your friend.
It’s not a tunnel. Just a black hole painted on rock.
32355 5-null 717
That won’t help you anymore. Not anymore, you wily sonofabitch.
You think he’s the only one? Damn naive considering your reputation.
Guess you’re not made of brick or stone after all, are you fucker?
Wily? Maybe once, but you’re not wily anymore.
Again and again, the flat, emotionless voices pounded against him as he struggled to find himself. To understand. But there was nothing. Only the words and the nonsensical images of numbers floating against a black background as a variety of tones beeped in his head.
32355 5-null 717
Most of all, there was fear. A cold, harsh terror that ran through him like ice, freezing his blood, making his skin prickle.
His blood? His skin?
Slowly, realization came. He was returning. Heading back from wherever he’d gone. Going back to the pain. The hell.
Mostly, though, he was going back to her…
The first thing he noticed when he woke was the cold. An icy blast from a wall mounted air-conditioner. An ancient unit with white plastic strings streaming from it, flapping in the frigid air.
He sat up, realized he was naked, and pulled the dingy, gray sheet up to his hips. There was no blanket, and the thin sheet did little to relieve the chill. His palms stung as he clutched the sheet, and when he looked down at them, he saw that the heels of both hands were abraded, as if he’d fallen onto something rough, like asphalt or gravel.
Maybe he’d been in an accident? Thrown from a car? A motorcycle?
He didn’t know.
Squinting against a violent headache, he let his gaze sweep over the rest of the room, looking for—what?
Something, anything, that would tell him where he was and what had happened to him.
And, most of all, who in God’s name he was.
Because right then, he didn’t have a clue.
A cold shaft of panic impaled him, and he fought against it, determined not to lose his shit. Not when control, reason, and observation were all he had going for him.
He cast his gaze around the room. A pair of threadbare jeans hung over the back of a straight-back desk chair. He stood, planning to walk toward them, but was forced to clutch the bedside table as his head dipped and swam.
What the hell was wrong with him? Had he gone on a bender? Been involved in a drunk driving incident?
He didn’t remember, but he didn’t think so. He didn’t think he was a man who’d drink to excess.
Christ, what the hell was going on?
He drew in a breath and ordered himself to be calm, not actually believing he’d get anywhere with such nonsense. But to his surprise, it worked. As if something in him was programmed to focus. As if this was just one more problem he could tackle.
Hell, yeah, he could.
He took another step, relieved when the room seemed to spin a bit less this time. He hadn’t passed out drunk—he was certain of it. Considering his vertigo and queasiness, that would actually be a reasonable guess, but the evidence suggested otherwise. There was no smell to his breath. No fuzzy sensation on his tongue. He hadn’t vomited that he could tell, and he didn’t need to. He didn’t need to piss, either.
Without any evidence that he was lost in the mother of all hangovers, he moved methodically on to the next option. But after running his fingers through his short hair and over his scalp, he found no bumps or abrasions.
So not a head injury. Strike two.
He thought of his red, raw hands. Something more sinister, then?
He shivered a bit, certain he was right. He didn’t know why he was so sure, but at the moment he didn’t know much of anything. If intuition was knocking, then he’d damn well open the door.
He continued to the chair, but didn’t stop. He just ran the tips of his fingers over the filthy denim. He glanced at the dust that attached to his fingertips, but since he had no explanation, he pushed the questions away. His head was clearing, and he needed to focus on what he did know. Solid facts based on his surroundings, not to mention any memories those facts might provoke.
He’d start with himself.
The bathroom door was ajar and he stepped over the threshold into a small but surprisingly clean bathroom with a porcelain basin on four thin chrome legs, a fiberglass bathtub with a clear plastic shower curtain, and a toilet with a dingy brown mineral stain at the waterline.
The only mirror hung above the sink. A fogged-up piece of shit glass with a long crack marking off one corner. But it was large and mounted in a way that tilted down, so that he could see his head and his hips at the same time. And if he backed up, he could see even more.
He looked, his dark brown eyes taking in the image reflected back at him. His left brow was broken by a scar—probably a knife wound—but a quick check confirmed that his vision was fine in both eyes. The question of why someone had come at his face with a knife was one that would have to wait.
He focused next on his body as a whole. His chest and abs were rock hard, but laced with scars, most white, but some still slightly pink. None tender, though, and he assumed that even the newest was several months old.
The same couldn’t be said of his neck, where five fresh, circular scars rose from his skin in a jagged line down from under his jaw to his collarbone. Cigar burns, maybe?
He filed the possibility away to contemplate later. This was a time for inspection, not for opining about why someone would hold a lit cigar against his flesh.
Still, he had to acknowledge that the wounds didn’t hurt, despite two of them clearly bordering on infection. Which meant that he was in shock or someone had drugged him and the effects still lingered.
He didn’t know, but he assumed the latter. Especially considering the odd, frenetic quality of those dreams he couldn’t quite recapture.
Once again, he mentally filed the question and returned to his assessment.
He guessed himself to be about thirty-seven years old, and since he had the kind of body a man only got by working out regularly, that gave him a solid bit of information about himself. From his position facing the mirror, he could see that he had a tribal band tattooed on his left arm and something else inked on his right, though he was at the wrong angle to make out the design. He didn’t bother turning for a better view. All in good time, and right then he needed to be as methodical as possible. Anything detail could be a clue to his identity. Any wound or bruise might bring back a flood of memories.
His dark hair was short, but still long enough to be sleep-tousled. An ungroomed beard suggested he hadn’t picked up a razor in ages, and that lined up with his sense that he’d been passed out for days.
urned his attention to his hands. Notwithstanding the scrapes, they were strong, and his fingers were calloused. He wore no wedding ring and had no tan line suggesting that a ring had once been there. That thought made him pause, as a glint of green eyes and golden hair flashed in his mind. His dream.
Was she real? A girlfriend? Sister?
Was she in danger?
In the dream, someone had been speaking to him, saying vile things about a woman. But who?
Try as he might, he couldn’t recall the dream. Damn frustrating, but it would come back eventually. And he had more than enough to worry about at the moment.
Drawing in a breath, he continued his self-inventory. His teeth were white and mostly even, so he’d probably had money for braces as a kid. But his nose was crooked, and he guessed it had been broken more than once. Possibly sports, possibly fights.
Considering the scars that decorated his chest, abs, and eyebrow, his money was on fights.
He turned sideways, and once the tattoo came into view, the crisscross of scars over his body made more sense. It was a skull wearing a green beret on what looked like a coat of arms. The words de oppresso liber filled the space at the bottom. He recognized it, though he didn’t remember the circumstances around him getting it.