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Embrace Me (Stark Ever After Book 7)

J. Kenner

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  About Embrace Me

  Growing up, I never expected to have so much love in my life. My childhood had been a nightmare, but despite our challenges, my life now with Damien and our daughters is nothing short of miraculous. Even better, we have a baby boy on the way, and I’m walking on clouds as I await the big day.

  These final weeks should be magical, but when my mother appears on our doorstep with a promise that she has changed and a plea for us to welcome her back into our life, I’m suddenly adrift in a sea of uncertainty. Now, I’m floundering once again, tossed back into the nightmare of my past. And as the whirlpool of memories and fear once again tries to suck me under, I can only hope that Damien’s strength is enough to pull me back again.

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  A note from JK

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10


  My Fallen Saint

  Also by J. Kenner

  About the Author

  Embrace Me 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.

  Embrace Me Copyright © 2021 by Julie Kenner

  Excerpt from My Fallen Saint Copyright © 2020 by Julie Kenner

  Cover design by Michele Catalano, Catalano Creative

  Cover images by MOELLERTHOMSEN (deposit photos)

  ISBN-D: 978-1-953572-22-6

  ISBN-P: 978-1-953572-23-3

  Published by Martini & Olive Books


  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.

  A note from JK

  Hello, awesome reader!

  As a bonus, I’ve included four chapters from My Fallen Saint, book one of my most recent trilogy. So be sure to keep reading after you finish Embrace Me! If you love Damien, you’re going to love Devlin Saint, too!

  Chapter One

  I stand on the bedroom balcony, the doors open behind me as I look out at the morning light glinting on the Pacific. I’m barefoot and fresh from the shower, now wrapped in the extra-large spa-style robe that Damien bought for me when I was pregnant with Anne.

  I kept it after she was born even though it swallowed me up because it was so snuggly and comfy. I never expected to actually need it again, but as I press my hand over my very extended belly, I sigh with happiness. Because I do need it again. And this time for a boy. B.B.S. we’re calling him for now, since we still haven’t decided on a name.

  Hopefully that will change soon, I think as I rub my hand over my belly. “Because Baby Boy Stark just isn’t the kind of name a young man takes with him to college, is it, precious?”

  “That’s my wife,” Damien says, coming up silently and rubbing my neck as I moan with pleasure. “Always bowing to tradition and expectations.”

  I laugh. “Good morning, Mr. Stark.”

  “Ms. Fairchild,” he says, my name now a term of endearment. Personally, I’ve gone by Stark since our marriage, but my business was started as Fairchild Development—now Fairchild & Partners—and I’ve kept the name simply because I want to grow the business on my own and not because I’m married to a master of the universe.

  “And good morning to you, too, B.B.S.,” that master of the universe says, abandoning my neck to reach around and cup my baby bump, which is really more of a baby mound these days.

  I turn in his arms, sacrificing the gorgeous view of the ocean for the gorgeous view of my husband. He’s looking down at me with those incredible dual-colored eyes, his amber eye alight with love, the onyx one dark with strength.

  He hasn’t shaved yet, and I reach up to brush his cheek, enjoying the feel of his scruff against my palm. His hair is mussed from sleep, as jet black as it was the day we met except for his temples. There’s a hint of silver now, something that I think makes him look all the more powerful and sexy, but which I also know is the reflection of more than just the passing years. It’s a manifestation of his own scars. The trauma of his past, and the trials of his present. Anne’s kidnapping. The death and betrayal of one of his closest friends. Me in danger.

  Damien’s always stood as a fortress against the horrors of the world, protecting the people he loves, me and the children most of all. But it’s not an easy battle, and I know better than anyone how much it has cost him.

  He brushes a finger lightly over the tip of my nose. “You’re thinking very loudly.”

  “Am I?” I raise my brows. “Then tell me what I’m thinking.”

  “That you love me. And,” he adds with a smile, “what a coincidence. I’m thinking how much I love you, too.”

  “It’s as if you know me,” I trill, moving even closer so he can envelop me in a hug, at least as much as our unborn son’s girth allows. “And I was thinking all that and more,” I admit. “Mostly, I was thinking about what a great dad you are.”

  “I can’t wait to meet this little guy.”

  I take a step back, grimacing as B.B.S. shifts position, a foot getting me right in the bladder. “You and me both. But maybe it’s good that we still have over two weeks. I think it’ll take us that long to decide on a name.”

  I’d suggested Ash, in honor of my sister, but as much as I love and miss Ashley, it doesn’t feel quite right. My best friend, Jamie, had suggested Damien, Jr., but as far as I’m concerned there will only ever be one Damien Stark, and I vetoed that idea.

  We’ve poked around on baby naming sites, but so far, no name has clicked the way Lara and Anne, our daughters’ names did. Those, we simply knew.

  “We’ll find his name,” Damien says. “I promise you he won’t graduate college as Baby Boy Stark.”

  “It would make for interesting press,” I say, making Damien laugh. I force a smile, too, but the reality that the press will inevitably surround our kids is something I do think about, and often. Because no matter what, our children will always be in the spotlight. And as we’re about to bring a third child into our family, I have to hope that we’ll be good enough parents to help them grow up knowing how to deal with that.

  I’m about to share my thoughts with Damien, but the patter of little feet and the cry of “Mommy! Daddy! Mr. G made chocolate pancakes!”

  It’s Lara, our newly-turned six-year-old. Her four-year-old sister Anne is hurrying behind, shouting, “Choca-pipcakes, Lara! They called choca-pipcakes!”

  Lara sighs as she looks at Damien and me, then shakes her head and rolls her eyes, making her long dark hair sway. “Kids,” she says, and I almost lose it right then, especially when I feel Damien’s body vibrate with laughter.

  “Go get started,” I manage to tell the g
irls. “We’ll be right there.”

  They scurry off, and I clap a hand over my mouth as Damien says, “I can’t tell you how much I wish I’d recorded that.”

  “I know. Oh, man.” I smile up at him. “They are growing up way too fast.”

  “They are,” he says. “But isn’t it a hell of an adventure?

  “Mr. G! More juice, pleeeeeeze.” Anne’s voice echoes through the third-floor kitchen area. This house was unfinished when I first saw it, but this kitchen was already functional. Originally designed for caterers to use during parties, it’s cozy and comfortable and has come to completely overshadow the full-blown, restaurant-style commercial kitchen downstairs.

  In other words, it’s now the heart of our home.

  Gregory, who’s just settled at the table, starts to rise again. I don’t actually know how old Gregory is, but I’m guessing he’s at least fifteen years older than Damien. He’d been hired as a valet, a job that expanded into house manager. And after that, he took on the role of nanny when Bree Bernstein, our first nanny, quit to go back to school in New York.

  “No, no,” I say, waving Gregory down. “I’ll get it.” I’ve already finished my avocado and cheese omelet, and I stand carefully and then waddle—yes, waddle—to the refrigerator. Right now, it’s just me and Gregory and the girls. Damien had coffee earlier, but declined the pancakes or an omelet when Troy Reed, his newest assistant, had called with the first crisis of the day.

  “Okay, be good for Mr. G today,” I say, as I pour juice, then kiss both girls’ foreheads. “Mommy’s going to go get dressed. You two do the same, okay? Like big girls.”

  Lara salutes. “Aye-aye, Captain.”

  “Aye-aye!” Anne mimics.

  I salute back, then share a smile with Gregory before I head out. There’s no doubt that he adores our children, but I can’t help but think the job is too much for him, what with running the house, too.

  “Do you really think Gregory is up for three kids?” I ask Damien, when I find him in the bedroom, finally untethered from his phone. “Especially since this one is going to be a handful.” Considering he’s just delivered an NFL-worthy kick, that’s an assessment about which I’m very confident.

  “I’ve talked to him about it,” Damien says. “He swears he loves taking care of them.”

  “I don’t doubt it,” I say. “I mean, it’s obvious how much he adores the girls, but they exhaust us. And Gregory’s not as young as he used to be.”

  “I know. He was looking a little frazzled earlier. And he stopped by the court on his walk over this morning. I noticed he was a little breathless.”

  A former professional tennis player, Damien habitually works out in the mornings. Sometimes he goes down to our gym, but most days I know I can find him on the court with a ball machine. As for Gregory, Damien built him a small house on the property, just beyond a rise. Close enough to walk, but not so close that we’re on top of each other.

  “He loves the girls,” Damien adds. “I’d hate to have him feel as if he’s not part of the family.”

  “What about part-time?” I suggest, following him into our walk-in closet. So large that it could hold a small motel room, the closet took my breath away the first time I saw it. Honestly, it still does. “Maybe we should look for someone to work part-time? We can tell Gregory it’s because we know he has so much to deal with otherwise.”

  “Maybe,” Damien says. “Let’s think on it.”

  “Sure. We don’t have to decide right now.” I sit on the padded bench and reach around to rub my lower back as I watch Damien finish dressing. He’s in a crisp white shirt and the slacks from his suit. I lean back, enjoying the show as he expertly knots a deep red tie, then fastens his cuffs with pewter cufflinks, each accented by a matching red stone. He’s already in his shoes, polished to perfection, and now he slips on the dark pewter suit jacket, then runs a hand over his hair before turning to me, one eyebrow raised as if to say, Well?

  I laugh. “Like you have to ask. You look amazing, and you know it.” I stand, grimacing as I do, and move to him, smoothing the material of his shirt just for the pleasure of feeling the silk blend beneath my hand. “A presentation?”

  “Potential investor,” he says. “A project in Tokyo.”

  “Right,” I say, as if I have a clue what he’s talking about. “Well, you’ll knock ’em dead.”

  He always does, after all.

  He finishes adjusting his tie, then frowns at me. “Your back?”

  “I’ll be fine. And it’ll be better in couple of weeks for sure.”

  He comes closer, then pats the opposite end of the bench I’d been sitting on. “Sit here,” he says. “Legs on either side.”

  I do as he says, basically straddling the end as he slides onto the bench behind me, one hand on my shoulder, and the other pressing against my lower back.

  “Oh, God, Damien,” I say, as his fingers knead the sore muscles. “That feels incredible. Normally, I’d say that nothing beats sex with you, but this is coming very, very close.”

  He chuckles, then uses the hand from my shoulder to sweep my hair away from my ear as he whispers, “I’m always up for a challenge.”

  I sigh with pleasure as he runs his fingers through my hair. It’s long now, the waves hitting just above my shoulder blade. The perfect length as far as I’m concerned because I can pull it back from my face with a band or a clip if I’m dealing with work or a kid. At times like this, though, I can’t deny there are other benefits, too, like the sensual way that it rubs my skin now that Damien is peeling me out of my robe.

  My eyes flutter open with the realization that he’s undressing me. “Damien,” I protest, as the robe drops away.


  I start to protest that, yes, there is definitely a problem. I’m positively huge, and not exactly feeling sexy in my maternity bra and panties. But then he returns one hand to my lower back, the pressure more intense. At the same time, his other hand snakes around my body and eases between my legs. I draw in a breath and decide that my current wardrobe will do just fine.

  “Close your eyes, baby,” he says as his fingers tease my clit over the cotton panties and he works magic on my back.

  “Damien,” I murmur, but this time it’s not a protest. I have never not been aroused by Damien’s touch, but the pregnancy has my hormones on overdrive and one look from him can practically send me spiraling off into an orgasm.

  But it’s so much better if there’s a touch to go with the look, and I let myself fall back against him, my eyes closed as he takes control of my body, my senses. As he harnesses that pressure he’s building inside me. That craving for release, for an explosion.

  “That’s right, baby,” he murmurs. “Just let me take you there.”

  I reach up and cup my breasts, spreading my legs wider as I do, and I’m rewarded by Damien’s low growl.

  “Christ, Nikki, do you know what you do to me? Do you have any idea how much I love you?”

  “At least as much as I love you,” I whisper, the words forced out ahead of a low gasp and then a cry of pure pleasure as I draw my legs together to stop the sweet torment, trapping Damien’s hand between my thighs. “Yes,” I gasp, my breath shallow. “Oh, God, yes.”

  For a moment, he just holds me, both of us breathing hard. Then I force my eyes open and tilt my head back and around so I can see his face. “You’re a keeper, Mr. Stark.”

  He brushes a kiss over my lips. “I’m very glad to hear it.”

  He eases off the bench, then helps me back into the robe before holding a hand out to ease me to my feet. “And now I have to run.”

  My eyes dip to his erection, and he flashes a sideways grin. “I need to think about spreadsheets anyway.”

  I laugh, and he pulls me close for a deeper kiss. “I’ll see you tonight.”

  “Have fun buying the universe, Mr. Stark.”

  “I always do,” he says, and I stand still for a moment, enjoying the view of his ass disap
pearing into the bedroom.

  I start to sit, then realize that I’m buzzing. Or, rather, that the phone I’d dropped into the robe’s pocket is buzzing. I know it’s not from Damien, and I almost ignore it. But it could be from my partner, Abby, and so I fish it out and glance at the screen.

  Immediately, I wish I hadn’t.

  Because the caller ID on my phone shows the caller as Elizabeth Fairchild.

  My mother.

  I frown as I decline the call. I haven’t spoken to that woman in years. But apparently she still has a knack for destroying an otherwise excellent mood.

  Chapter Two

  “I’m drowning in resumes,” Eric says, then makes a show of banging his blond head on a stack of print-outs representing the fifty candidates we’ve moved into the second round.

  Eric and I have spent the last forty minutes discussing the various potentials, and I laugh at his show of frustration because the truth is we still have a long way to go.

  He lifts his head and grins at me. “Onward?”

  “Onward,” I say. “But with coffee. Loaded for you. Decaf for me. See? You should consider yourself lucky.”

  I start to push back from the table to go get fresh cups for both of us, but he waves me down. “I’ll do that,” he says, then smirks. “I can get there and back in the time it takes you to get out of that chair.”

  “You are not nearly as funny as you think you are,” I chide, tossing a balled up sheet of paper at him.