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J. Kenner


  A Stark Novel

  By J. Kenner


  A Stark Novel

  By J. Kenner

  Copyright 2019 Julie Kenner

  ISBN: 9781948050753

  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


  By J. Kenner

  From New York Times and USA Today bestselling author J. Kenner comes a new story in her Stark series…

  I am Damien Stark. From the outside, I have a perfect life. A billionaire with a beautiful family. But if you could see inside my head, you’d know I’m as f-ed up as a person can be. Now more than ever.

  I’m driven, relentless, and successful, but all of that means nothing without my wife and daughters. They’re my entire world, and I failed them. Now I can barely look at them without drowning in an abyss of self-recrimination.

  Only one thing keeps me sane—losing myself in my wife’s silken caresses where I can pour all my pain into the one thing I know I can give her. Pleasure.

  But the threats against my family are real, and I won’t let anything happen to them ever again. I’ll do whatever it takes to keep them safe—pay any price, embrace any darkness. They are mine.

  I am Damien Stark. Do you want to see inside my head? Careful what you wish for.

  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 six-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 Saga) and in 2018 for her novel Wicked Dirty.

  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 to purchase

  Click here for an updated Printable Booklist

  The Stark Trilogy:

  Release Me

  Claim Me

  Complete Me

  Anchor Me

  Lost With Me

  Stark Ever After:

  Take Me

  Have Me

  Play My Game

  Seduce Me

  Unwrap Me

  Deepest Kiss

  Entice Me

  Hold Me

  Please Me


  Indulge Me

  Stark International

  Steele Trilogy:

  Say My Name

  On My Knees

  Under My Skin

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

  Stark World Standalone Stories:

  Justify Me (part of the Lexi Blake Crossover Collection)

  One Night (short story)

  Jamie & Ryan Novellas:

  Tame Me

  Tempt Me

  Dallas & Jane (S.I.N. Trilogy):

  Dirtiest Secret

  Hottest Mess

  Sweetest Taboo

  Most 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

  An Extraordinarily Yours Romance

  So (Very!) Much More than the Girl Next Door

  The Charmed Affair of an Invisible Bodyguard

  The “Super” Secret Life of an Accidental Daddy

  Never Trust a Rogue on a Magical Mission

  The Seductive Charm of a Sexy Shifter

  Mayhem, Matchmakers, and a Bit of Bewitching

  How a Sexy Hero and a Marvelous Makeover (Sorta!) Saved the World

  Redemption Chronicles

  Born In Darkness

  Lost In Shadows

  Surrender to Dawn

  Acknowledgments from the Author

  To all the readers who’ve fallen for Damien Stark over the years, thank you, and enjoy!

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  Table of Contents

  Book Description

  About J. Kenner

  Also from J. Kenner

  Acknowledgments from the Author

  Chapter One

  Chapter Two

  Chapter Three

  Chapter Four

  Chapter Five

  Chapter Six

  Chapter Seven

  Chapter Eight

  Chapter Nine

  Chapter Ten

  Chapter Eleven

  Chapter Twelve

  Chapter Thirteen

  Chapter Fourteen

  Chapter Fifteen

  Chapter Sixteen

  Chapter Seventeen

  Chapter Eighteen

  Chapter Nineteen

  Chapter Twenty

  Chapter Twenty-one

  Chapter Twenty-two

  Chapter Twenty-three

  Chapter Twenty-four

  Chapter Twenty-five

  Chapter Twenty-six

  Chapter Twenty-seven

  Chapter Twenty-eight


  Discover 1001 Dark Nights Collection Six

  Discover the World of 1001 Dark Nights

  Discover More J. Kenner

  Shattered With You, coming soon from J. Kenner

al Thanks

  Chapter One

  Dallas, Texas


  They surrounded him. Their lips glossy, their evening dresses tight. Curvaceous bodies, coiffed hair, manicured nails, painted faces. He was drowning in a sea of stunning women, and not one had the power to save him.

  Save him?

  Where the hell had that come from? He was twenty-four years old, already a sports legend with his name on goddamn cereal boxes, and fast on his way to becoming one of the wealthiest entrepreneurs in the country. Country? Fuck that, he was shooting for the world.

  Ambitious, maybe. But he’d never thought of ambition as a dirty word. On the contrary, it was what kept him alive. Like the air he breathed, the food he ate. Competition, too. The salty, almost bitter taste of it. The euphoria of success. The dark pit of failure.

  He’d learned early how much strength was needed to pull himself out of the pit. More than that, he’d learned how much sacrifice—how much sweat and blood—was required to tame the beast.

  And, yeah, maybe he was fucked up. Considering the life he’d led—the past he’d survived—it would be a miracle if he wasn’t. But he’d learned a long time ago that the only one who could save him was himself. And he was doing just fine on that score, thank you very much.

  And yet, there was that woman…

  Frowning, he scanned the room one more time, his gaze lingering on every conversational cluster. Every group surrounding a bar. Every guest hesitating over the buffet table. As the celebrity judge for the Miss Tri-County Texas Pageant, he was expected to make an appearance at events such as this. But it wasn’t etiquette that had brought him here. He’d come to the mid-pageant reception for a singular, selfish reason. To find the blond whose presence on stage had stolen his breath and whose words in her interview had touched his soul.

  Nichole Fairchild.

  She’d spoken of ambition and education. Of science and skill. There was nothing canned in her words. Nothing designed to impress. Nothing fake or false or manipulative.

  She’d stood on that stage in her pale blue evening gown, and he’d thought she was the most alive woman he’d ever seen.

  And now he’d lost her even before he’d—

  “You’re Damien Stark!”

  At the sound of his name, he turned, his body responding to the wish even though his mind knew that the voice didn’t belong to her. Instead, the speaker was a slender redhead sporting a seductive smile. He’d seen her on the stage earlier in the pageant. And damned if he could remember a single detail about her.

  “It’s so amazing to meet you in person.” She stepped closer, so that Damien caught the hint of bergamot in her perfume. “I’m Delancy. I’ve been a fan since you won your first match. I mean, you’re the reason I started watching tennis at all. And now. Your business career. I mean, like wow, right? I read that profile in People Magazine. So impressive, but I wasn’t surprised by your success. Not at all. I could always tell that there was so much more to you than being an athlete.”

  “I’m glad you think so.” He smiled politely, wondering at her definition of so much more. As far as he recalled, that particular article had featured three photos of him on the court, another of him pulling up to an event in a 1969 Jaguar Type E, and a two-hundred word sidebar explaining that he’d rebuilt the car himself in his scarce spare time. There’d also been a reference to his rapidly increasing net worth. They’d called him a money machine, with absolutely no reference to the actual work he did to make the machine hum.

  “It’s just…well…” She raked her gaze over him, slowing when she dipped below his belt. “You’re so much more…impressive…in person.” Boldly, she met his eyes, hers flush with the kind of silent invitation that had long ago become routine—and which Damien routinely refused.

  Not that he was a monk. God forbid. But as far as he was concerned there were only two reasons to have a woman in his bed. Entertainment or escape. And he didn’t see this woman providing either.

  Besides, he’d come to Dallas with Carmela D’Amato, his most recent entertainment. And he was quite certain that the stunning Italian cover model wasn’t the type who would share a man with another woman.

  “I appreciate the compliment,” he said, holding his ground as the redhead took a single step toward him. “But I’m going to have to decline your kind invitation.”

  Her mouth opened as the heat faded into panic. “Oh, no, I wasn’t—”

  “You were, and it’s fine. I’m flattered. But no.”

  This time when she bit her lip, there was nothing seductive about it. “You won’t tell—”

  “Your secret’s safe with me.” The pageant rules were strict, and though she hadn’t overtly crossed a line, it was clear that all he’d had to do was crook his finger to have her not just breaking the rules but completely decimating them. “But be careful, Delancy,” he added with a hint of a smile. “And try to be good.”

  He left her staring after him as he started across the room toward the exit. The reception was being held in the green room, which also happened to be the smallest ballroom in one of Dallas’s finest hotels. Damien had a suite, and since he’d done his duty by making the circuit, that’s where he was headed now for a fast fuck to take the edge off. And, of course, to keep Carmela from complaining about the hours she was spending alone, dropping her most recent modeling fee at Northpark Mall.

  After that, he’d review the schematics that damn well better have hit his in-box by then. He had an exhibition game in the morning and the conclusion of the pageant in the afternoon. With the two-hour time difference, his Los Angeles team would hate him for scheduling a conference call before the game, but he hired good people and paid them well. They’d deal. And once they’d put the final tweaks on the prototype … well, that would be one hell of a good day for everyone.

  He checked his watch and picked up his pace. The evening was getting away from him. At least he knew that Carmela wouldn’t mind ordering room service.

  And then he saw her.

  He’d stopped looking. Had assumed she’d simply stayed in her room. But there she was, the most stunning woman at the reception, and not because she was the most beautiful. Oh, she was pretty, no question there. He could have stood there all night, simply getting lost in the sensuality she projected, getting burned by the heat of her.

  But she wasn’t a classic beauty. More like the homecoming queen. Or a pageant princess. Her allure wasn’t an ethereal aloofness with cheekbones as sharp as glass. On the contrary, her cheeks were round, her plump lips begging to be kissed. Hell, to be fucked.

  And she had the long, golden blonde hair of an angel.

  She was thin, but still boasted curves, and his fingers longed to follow the shape of her body. Right then, her eyes were cast down as she examined the table, but that didn’t matter. He’d memorized the color earlier. Blue, but with a hint of green that flashed like a gemstone in the stage lights. Her eyes were vibrant, as deep and changing as the sea, and oh, how he wanted to dive in.

  It had been a long time since he’d truly craved a woman. He loved women, no denying that. And he’d never allow a woman to leave his bed unsatisfied. But most women were mere distractions. Either that or a balm. And when he invited them into his bed, it was always with the knowledge that they’d be leaving. Maybe the next morning, maybe the next month. But it would end. How could it not? There was nothing real between them, after all.

  This woman, though…

  Something about her intrigued him. Called to him. She seemed both strong and vulnerable at the same time, and when she finally looked up, he saw the flash of an unguarded expression in those sensual eyes. Longing. Almost immediately, she shuttered the emotion, a smile finding its way to her lips. She was a contestant, and she’d slipped the pageant mask back on as easily as another woman might slip on a shoe.

  But in that brief, unmasked moment, he’d seen a reflection of himself in her eyes. A craving. A need. A future.

p; He had a sudden fantasy of pulling her close. Of kissing her. Tasting her. Of ripping that damn gown off of her so he could see the real woman underneath.

  He didn’t understand it; he damn sure wasn’t going to let himself analyze it. And before he could talk himself out of it, he walked up to where she was eyeing the tiny cheesecakes, as if they were something dangerous that was about to explode.

  Without hesitating, he took two and popped them in his mouth, then grinned at her. She said nothing, only stared at him, a polite smile plastered across her face.

  For the briefest of instants, his gut did a somersault, which was ridiculous, because he didn’t get nervous. Nerves destroyed his edge, and if he lost his edge, he’d lose everything. Hadn’t every one of his coaches told him that?

  He squared his shoulders, then caught her eye. “I think we’re kindred spirits, Miss Fairchild.”

  “I’m sorry?” She glanced down at the cheesecake, clearly confused.

  “Neither of us wants to be here.” He nodded his head to indicate the emergency exit, fighting the almost overwhelming urge to grab her hand and whisk her away to a dark room. He longed to touch her. To kiss her. To get lost in the feel of her and the sound of her moans when he thrust his cock deep inside her. He wanted to hear her scream his name and beg for more, and he wanted to hold her close and kiss her tenderly after she’d shattered in his arms.

  He took a step back, the craving for her so intense he was certain that she could smell the scent of his desire.

  “I-oh.” Her eyes were locked on his, and in that moment Damien didn’t care if he never moved again.


  “Nikki.” The name came fast and hard. She dipped her head, then licked her lips. “I go by Nikki.” She looked back up at him. “Not that.”