Book of the Month July 2013

  • Complete Me: a peek at J. Kenner's explosive finale

    July Book of the Month

    Fear yanks me from a deep sleep, and I sit bolt upright in a room
    shrouded with gray, the muted green light from a digital alarm
    clock announcing that it is just after midnight. My breath comes
    in gasps, and my eyes are wide but unseeing. The last remnant of
    an already forgotten nightmare brushes against me like the tattered
    hem of a specter's cloak, powerful enough to fill me with
    terror, and yet so insubstantial that it evaporates like mist when I
    try to grasp it.

    I do not know what frightened me. I only know that I am
    alone, and that I am scared.

    Alone?

    I turn swiftly in bed, shifting my body as I reach out to my
    right. But even before my fingers brush the cool, expensive sheets,
    I know that he is not there.

    I may have fallen asleep in Damien’s arms, but once again, I
    have awakened alone.

    At least now I know the source of the nightmare. It is the same
    fear I have faced every day and every night for weeks. The fear I
    try to hide beneath a plastic smile as I sit beside Damien day in
    and day out as his attorneys go over his defense in meticulous
    detail. As they explain the procedural ins-and-outs of a murder
    trial under German law. As they practically beg him to shine a
    light into the dark corners of his childhood because they know, as
    I do, that those secrets are his salvation.

    But Damien remains stubbornly mute, and I am left huddled
    against this pervasive fear that I will lose him. That he will be
    taken from me.

    And not just fear. I’m also fighting the damnable, overwhelming,
    panic-inducing knowledge that there isn’t a goddamn thing
    in the world I can do. Nothing except wait and watch and hope.

    But I do not like waiting, and I have never put my faith in
    hope. It is a cousin of fate, and both are too mercurial for my
    taste. What I crave is action, but the only one who can act is
    Damien, and he has steadfastly refused.

    And that, I think, is the worst cut of all. Because while I understand
    the reason for his silence, I can’t quell the selfish spark
    of anger. Because at the core of it all, it’s not just himself that
    Damien is sacrificing. It’s me. Hell, it’s us.

    We are running out of time. His trial will begin only a few
    hours from now, and unless he changes his mind about his defense,
    it is very likely that I will lose this man.

    I squeeze my eyes shut, forcing the tears to remain at bay. I
    can push the fear back, but my anger is like a living thing, and I
    am afraid that it will explode no matter how hard I try to quell it.
    For that matter, I’m afraid that suppressing it will make the ultimate
    explosion all the more brutal.

    When the indictment came through, Damien had tried to
    push me away, believing that he was protecting me. But he’d been
    wrong—and I’d flown all the way to Germany to tell him so. I’ve
    been here for over three weeks now, and there has not been a day
    when I have regretted coming, and I do not doubt that what he
    said when I arrived on his doorstep is true—he loves me.

    But that knowledge doesn’t diminish the sense of foreboding
    that has been rising within me. A trepidation that is especially
    potent at night when I wake alone and know that he has turned
    to solitude and Scotch when I want him in my arms. He loves me,
    yes. But at the same time I’m afraid that he is pushing me away
    again. Not in big steps, but in little ones.

    Well, screw that.

    I peel myself away from the cool comfort of our bed and
    stand up. I’m naked, and I bend to retrieve the white, lush robe
    provided by the Hotel Kempinski. Damien brushed it back off my
    shoulders after our shower last night, and I left it where it fell, a
    soft pile of cotton beside the bed.

    The sash is a different story, and I have to dig in the rumpled
    sheets to find it. Sex with Damien is always intense, but as the
    trial comes closer, it has been wilder, more potent, as if by controlling
    me Damien can control the outcome.

    Idly, I rub my wrists. They bear no marks, but that is only
    because Damien is careful. I can’t say the same about my ass,
    which still tingles from the feel of his palm against my skin. I like
    it—both this lingering sting and the knowledge that he needs my
    submission as much as I need to give myself to him.

    I find the sash shoved down near the foot of the bed. Last
    night, it had bound my wrists behind my back. Now, I tie it
    around my waist and tug it tight, relishing the luxurious comfort
    after waking so violently. The room itself is equally soothing,
    every detail done to perfection. Every piece of wood polished,
    every tiny knickknack and artistic addition thoughtfully arranged.
    Right now, however, I am oblivious to the room’s charms.
    I only want to find Damien.

    The bedroom connects to an oversized dressing area and a
    stunning bathroom. I check briefly in both, though I do not expect
    to find him, then continue through to the living area. The
    space is large and also well-appointed with comfortable seating
    and a round worktable that is now covered with sheafs of papers
    and folders representing both the business that Damien continues
    to run despite the world collapsing around our ears, and the various
    legal documents that his attorney, Charles Maynard, has ordered
    Damien to study.

    I let the robe drop where I stand and pull on the stunning
    trompe l’oeil patterned sheath that Damien cavalierly tossed over
    the arm of a chair after peeling it off me last night. We’ve spent a
    few hours escaping reality by shopping on Munich’s famous
    Maximilianstrasse, and I have acquired so many shoes and
    dresses I could open my own boutique.

    I run my fingers through my hair as I cross the room to the
    phone by the bar. I force myself not to go into the bathroom to
    primp and freshen the makeup that has surely rubbed off. It’s
    more challenging than it sounds; the mantra that a lady doesn’t
    go out unfinished has been beaten into my head since birth. But
    with Damien at my side I have thumbed my nose at many of the
    tribulations of my youth, and right now I am more concerned
    with finding him than with applying fresh lipstick.

    I pick up the receiver and dial zero. Almost immediately there
    is an accented voice on the other end. “Good evening, Ms. Fairchild.”

    “He’s in the bar?” I do not need to explain who “he” is.

    “He is. Shall I have a phone brought to his table?”

    “No, that’s all right. I’ll come down.”

    “Sehr gut. Is there anything else I can do for you?”

    “No, thank you.” I’m about to hang up when I realize there
    is something. “Wait!” I catch him before he clicks off, then enlist
    his help with my plan to distract Damien from his demons.

    Despite the age of the building and the elegance of the interior,
    the hotel boasts a modern ambiance, and I have come to feel
    at home within these walls. I wait impatiently for the elevator,
    and then even more impatiently once I’m in the car. The descent
    seems to take forever, and when the doors finally open to reveal
    the opulent lobby, I aim myself straight for the Old English–style
    bar.

    Though it’s late on a Sunday, the Jahreszeiten Bar is bustling.
    A woman stands by the piano softly singing to the gathered
    crowd. I barely pay her any heed. I don’t expect to find Damien
    among the listeners.

    Instead, I wander through the wood and red leather interior,
    shaking off the help of a waiter who wants to seat me. I pause for
    a moment, standing idly beside a blond woman about my age
    who is sipping champagne and laughing with a man who might
    be her father, but I’m betting is not.

    I turn slowly, taking in the room around me. Damien is not
    with the group at the piano, nor is he sitting at the bar. And he
    does not occupy any of the red leather chairs that are evenly
    spaced around the tables.

    I’m starting to worry that perhaps he was leaving as I was
    coming. Then I take a step to the left and realize that what I
    thought was a solid wall is actually an optical illusion created by
    a pillar. Now I can see the rest of the room, including the flames
    leaping in the fi replace set into the opposite wall. There is a small
    love seat and two chairs surrounding the hearth. And, yes, there
    is Damien.

    I immediately exhale, my relief so intense I almost use the
    blonde’s shoulder to steady myself. Damien is seated in one of the
    chairs, his back to the room as he faces the flames. His shoulders
    are broad and straight, and more than capable of bearing the
    weight of the world upon them. I wish, however, that they didn’t
    have to.

    I move toward him, the sound of my approach muffled by
    both the thick carpet and the din of conversation. I pause a few
    feet behind him, already feeling the familiar pull I experience
    whenever I am near Damien. The singer is now crooning “Since I
    Fell for You,” her voice cutting sharp and clear across the room.
    Her voice is so mournful that I’m afraid it is going to unleash a
    flood of tears along with all of the stress of the last few weeks.

    No. I’m here to comfort Damien, not the other way around,
    and I continue toward him with renewed resolve. When I finally
    reach him, I press my hand to his shoulder and bend down, my
    lips brushing his ear. “Is this a private party, or can anyone join
    in?”

    I hear rather than see his answering smile. “That depends on
    who’s asking.” He doesn’t turn to face me, but he lifts his arm so
    that his hand is held up in a silent invitation. I close my hand in
    his, and he guides me gently around the chair until I am standing
    in front of him. I know every line of this man’s face. Every angle,
    every curve. I know his lips, his expressions. I can close my own
    eyes and picture his, dark with desire, bright with laughter. I have
    only to look at his midnight-colored hair to imagine the soft,
    thick locks between my fingers. There is nothing about him that
    is not intimately familiar to me, and yet every glance at him hits
    me like a shock, reverberating through me with enough power to
    knock me to my knees.

    Empirically, he is gorgeous. But it is not simply his looks that
    overwhelm. It is the whole package. The power, the confidence,
    the bone-deep sensuality that he couldn’t shake even if he tried.

    “Damien,” I whisper, because I can’t wait any longer to feel
    his name on my lips.

    That wide, spectacular mouth curves into a slow smile. He
    tugs my hand, pulling me onto his lap. His thighs are firm and
    athletic, and I settle there eagerly, but I don’t lean against him. I
    want to sit back enough that I can see his face.

    “Do you want to talk about it?” I know what his answer will
    be, and yet I hold my breath, praying that I am wrong.

    “No,” he says. “I just want to hold you.”

    I smile as if his words are sweetly romantic, refusing to let him
    see how much they chill me. I need his touch, yes. But I need the
    man more.

    I stroke his cheek. He hasn’t shaved since yesterday, and the
    stubble of his beard is rough against my palm. The shock of our
    connection rumbles through me, and my chest feels tight, my
    breath uneven. Will there ever come a time when I can be near
    him without yearning for him? Without craving the touch of his
    skin against my own?

    It’s not even a sexual longing—not entirely, anyway. Instead,
    it’s a craving. As if my very survival depends on him. As if we are
    two halves of a whole and neither can survive without the other.

    With Damien, I am happier than I have ever been. But at the
    same time, I’m more miserable, too. Because now I truly understand
    fear.

    I force a smile, because the one thing I will not do is let
    Damien see how terrified I am of losing him. It doesn’t matter;
    Damien knows me too well.

    “You’re scared,” he says, and the sadness that colors his voice
    is enough to melt me. “You’re the one person in all the world I
    cannot bear to hurt, and yet I’m the one who put fear in your
    eyes.”

    “No,” I say. “I’m not scared at all.”

    “Liar,” he says gently.

    “You forget that I’ve seen you in action, Damien Stark. You’re
    a goddamn force of nature. They can’t possibly hold you. Maybe
    they don’t know it yet, but I do. You’re going to walk away from
    this. You’re going home a free man. There’s no other way that this
    can end.” I say the words because I need to believe them. But he
    is right. I am desperately afraid.

    Damien, of course, sees through my bullshit. Gently, he tucks
    a strand of hair behind my ear. “You should be scared. This is the
    kind of case that has prosecutors salivating.”

    “But you were only fourteen,” I say.

    “Which is why they’re not trying me as an adult.”

    I frown because even though he was only fourteen, he’s looking
    at a decade in prison.

    “But you didn’t kill Merle Richter.” That, after all, is the most
    important point.

    His expression darkens. “Truth is a malleable thing, and
    once I walk into that courtroom, the truth is what the court says
    it is.”

    “Then you need to make sure the judges know the real truth.
    Dammit, Damien, you didn’t kill him. But even if you had, there
    were mitigating circumstances.” Only recently had Damien told
    me what happened. He and Richter fought, and when Richter
    fell, Damien held back, refusing to step forward to help the coach
    who’d abused him for so many years.

    “Oh, Nikki.” He pulls me against him, his arm swooping
    around my waist and shifting me on his lap so quickly that I gasp.
    “You know I can’t do what you’re asking.”

    “I’m not asking anything,” I say, but the words sound brittle,
    because of course I’m asking. Hell, I’m begging. Damien damn
    well knows it, too. And yet he is denying me.

    Anger flares within me, but before it explodes, his mouth
    crushes against mine. The kiss is deep and raw and all-consuming,
    and warm desire blooms within me. It doesn’t erase my anger or
    my fear, but it does soothe it, and I shift closer to him, wishing I
    never had to leave the safety of his arms.

    His body tightens beneath mine, the bulge of his erection
    under his jeans teasing my rear as I shift my weight and lean
    closer, deepening this kiss and wishing like hell we were in our
    suite instead of in a very public bar.

    After a moment, I pull back, breathless. “I love you,” I say.

    “I know,” he says, and though I wait for the reciprocal words
    to come, he doesn’t say them back to me.

    My heart twists a little, and I force a smile. A pageant-quality
    All I Want Is World Peace kind of smile. The kind of smile I show
    the public, but not Damien.

    I tell myself that he’s just tired, but I don’t believe it. Damien
    Stark does nothing without a purpose. And though it is impossible
    to truly get inside that head of his, I know him well enough to
    guess at his motivations, and I want to jump to my feet and
    scream at him. I want to beg him not to push me away. I want to
    shout that I get it, that he’s trying to protect me because he knows
    that he might lose the trial. That he might be ripped from me. But
    goddammit, doesn’t he know that all he’s doing is hurting me?

    I believe with all my heart that Damien loves me. What I fear
    is that love isn’t enough. Not when he’s determined to push me
    away in some misguided attempt to protect me.

    So I don’t lash out. That’s not a fight I can win, but I can play
    the game my own way.

    With renewed resolve, I kick the wattage up on my smile and
    slide off his lap, my hand extended to him. “You have to be in
    court at ten, Mr. Stark. I think you’d better come with me.”

    He stands, his expression wary. “Are you going to tell me I
    have to get some sleep?”

    “No.”

    His gaze slides over me, and my body quivers in response as if
    he had physically touched me. “Good,” he says, and that one
    simple word not only conveys a world of promises but takes the
    edge off the chilly fear that has filled me.

    I allow the corner of my mouth to quirk up into a hint of a
    smile. “Not that, either. Not yet, anyway.”

    The confusion on his face brings a genuine smile to my lips,
    but he doesn’t have the chance to ask, as the concierge has approached.
    “Everything is ready, Ms. Fairchild.”

    My smile broadens. “Thank you. Your timing is perfect.”

    I take the hand of the very confused man that I love and lead
    him through the lobby, following the concierge to the front of the
    hotel. There, parked on the street beside a very giddy valet, is a
    cherry red Lamborghini.

    Damien turns to look at me. “What’s this?”

    “A rental. I thought you could use a little fun tonight, and the
    A9’s just a few miles away. Fast car. German autobahn. It seemed
    like a no-brainer to me.”

    “Boys and their toys?”

    I lower my voice so that the concierge can’t overhear. “Since
    we already have some interesting toys in the room, I thought you
    might enjoy a change of pace.” I lead him closer to where the
    valet stands by the open passenger door. “I understand she’s very
    responsive, and I know you’ll enjoy having all that power at your
    command.”

    “Is she?” He looks me up and down, and this time the inspection
    is tinged with fire. “As a matter of fact, that’s exactly what I
    like. Responsiveness. Power. Control.”

    “I know,” I say, and then slide into the passenger seat, letting
    more than a little thigh show as I do.

    An instant later, Damien is behind the wheel and he’s fired the
    powerful engine.

    “Drive fast enough, and it’s almost like sex,” I tease. And
    then, because I can’t resist, I add, “At the very least, it makes for
    exceptional foreplay.”

    “In that case, Ms. Fairchild,” he says, with a boyish grin that
    makes this all worthwhile, “I suggest you hold on tight.”

    J. Kenner

    J. Kenner loves wine, dark chocolate, and books. She lives in Texas with her husband and daughters. Visit her online at www.jkenner.com to learn more about her and her other pen names, to get a peek at what she's working on, and to connect through social media.
    Headline Eternal

    Release Me: Stark Series Book 1

    By J. Kenner

    The first in an irresistible, erotic, emotionally charged romance series for fans of Fifty Shades of Grey and Bared To You of a powerful man who's never heard 'no', a fiery woman who says 'yes' on her own terms and an unforgettable indecent proposal...

    He was the one man I couldn't avoid. And the one man I couldn't resist.

    Damien Stark could have his way with any woman. He was sexy, confident, and commanding: anything he wanted, he got. And what he wanted was me.

    Our attraction was unmistakable, almost beyond control, but as much as I ached to be his, I feared the pressures of his demands. Submitting to Damien meant I had to bare the darkest truth about my past - and risk breaking us apart.

    But Damien was haunted, too. And as our passion came to obsess us both, his secrets threatened to destroy him - and us - for ever.

    Spellbinding romance. Electrifying passion. Why not indulge in J. Kenner...

    Discover the whole story of Damien and Nikki's epic romance in J. Kenner's hot and addictive bestselling Stark series: Release Me, Claim Me, Complete Me, Take Me, Have Me, Play My Game, Seduce Me, Unwrap Me, Deepest Kiss, Entice Me and Anchor Me.

    PERFECT for fans of Fifty Shades of Grey and Bared to You. Release Me is a powerful and erotic romance novel that is sure to make adult romance readers sweat, sigh and swoonRelease Me sucked me in from the very beginning. I started cheering for the heroine, Nikki Fairchild on the first page... An emotional roller coaster, full of tenderness, love mystery and...hot sex - Release Me is definitely one you'll want to add to your TBR listRelease Me...just made the top of my list with Damien and Nikki...the way in which J. Kenner tells the story, how vulnerable and real Damien and Nikki feel, makes this story so good, and re-readable many times overThis is deeply sensual and the story packs an emotional punch that I really hadn't expected... If you enjoyed Fifty Shades [and] the Crossfire Books, you're definitely going to enjoy this one. It's compelling, engaging and I was thoroughly engrossedI will admit, I am in the "I loved Fifty Shades" camp, but after reading Release Me, Mr Grey only scratches the surface compared to Damien StarkI couldn't put this book down. I HAD to know what happened next... If you liked Fifty and the Crossfire series, you will love Release MeDamien Stark...belongs with some of the greatest fictional characters...what makes Release Me stands out from the crowd is the fact it has such memorable characters...it was good, very good'It is not often when a book is so amazingly well-written that I find it hard to even begin to accurately describe it... I recommend this book to everyone who is interested in a passionate love story'Along with the wave of new erotic romance novels, came this, Release Me by J. Kenner...I really wasn't expecting it to be as mind-blowing as this was. Release Me was SO MUCH MORE EMOTIONAL and DEEP and complex than I was expecting, I loved it...simply amazingThe story is one that will rank up with the Fifty Shades and Crossfire trilogies. I am impatiently awaiting book two! A definite read for those who enjoyed Fifty Shades and Bared to YouRelease Me by J. Kenner will undress you and leave you breathless! Kenner's erotic story, brings two souls together, where a love that has been elusive is suddenly craved. The attraction between Damien and Nikki is palpable, they are two strong personalities with past demons to contend with. Release Me gives readers tantalizing pages of sensual delight, leaving us reeling as we journey with this couple and their passions are released. Release Me is a must read...!J. Kenner has written a sensually seductive storyline that catches your imagination and pulls you in

    J. Kenner's evocative writing thrillingly captures the power of physical attraction, the pull of longing, the universe-altering effect one person can have on another. She masterfully draws out the eroticism between Nikki and Damien... Claim Me has the emotional depth to back up the sex... Every scene is infused with both erotic tension, and the tension of wondering what lies beneath Damien's veneer - and how and when it will be revealed

    Claim Me by J. Kenner is an erotic, sexy and exciting ride. The story between Damien and Nikki is amazing and written beautifully. The intimate and detailed sex scenes will leave you fanning yourself to cool down. With the writing style of Ms Kenner you almost feel like you are there in the story riding along the emotional rollercoaster with Damien and NikkiThe first in an irresistible, erotic, emotionally charged romance series for fans of Fifty Shades of Grey and Bared To You, readers will be mesmerised by intensely passionate story of magnetic Damien Stark and Nikki Fairchild - woman who fascinates him and to whom he makes a very indecent proposal...J. Kenner loves wine, dark chocolate, and books. She lives in Texas with her husband and daughters. Visit her online at www.jkenner.com to learn more about her and her other pen names, to get a peek at what she's working on, or connect with her via Twitter @juliekenner, or through Facebook: facebook.com/JKennerBooksReader appetite for erotic romance is still incredibly strong not least with the phenomenal FIFTY SHADES trilogy selling over 10 million copies in print in the UK and Sylvia Day's BARED TO YOU selling over half a million copies in print.Headline is incredibly excited to be publishing this brilliantly addictive and passionately sexy new erotic romance trilogy by bestselling and RITA-nominated US author Julie Kenner, writing as J. Kenner.J. Kenner has an extraordinary ability to create characters with depth, and convey their story with empathy and emotion, as she then explores their dark secrets and the pain in their past which haunts them. This, along with her immensely likeable, strong and capable, yet vulnerable heroine in Nikki Fairchild, is what makes RELEASE ME absolutely stand out from its competitors and will make the whole trilogy so compelling.Connect with the author via her website: www.juliekenner.com, on Twitter @juliekenner, and via Facebook: facebook.com/JKennerBooks
    Headline Eternal

    Claim Me: Stark Series Book 2

    By J. Kenner

    For fans of Fifty Shades of Grey and the Crossfire series. In Release Me, powerful multimillionaire Damien Stark made Southern belle Nikki Fairchild an unforgettable indecent proposal which she couldn't resist. Now their sensual, erotic, powerfully emotional romance continues in Claim Me, the next in J. Kenner's New York Times bestselling series.

    For Damien, our obsession is a game. For me, it is fiercely, blindingly, real.

    Damien Stark's need is palpable - his need for pleasure, his need for control, his need for me. Beautiful and brilliant yet tortured at his core, he is in every way my match. I have agreed to be his alone, and now I want him to be fully mine. I want us to possess each other beyond the sweetest edge of our ecstasy, into the deepest desires of our souls. To let the fire that burns between us consume us both. But there are dark places within Damien that not even our wildest passion can touch. I yearn to know his secrets, yearn for him to surrender to me as I have surrendered to him. But our troubled pasts will either bind us close...or shatter us completely.

    Spellbinding romance. Electrifying passion. Why not indulge in J. Kenner...

    Discover the whole story of Damien and Nikki's epic romance in J. Kenner's hot and addictive bestselling Stark series: Release Me, Claim Me, Complete Me, Take Me, Have Me, Play My Game, Seduce Me, Unwrap Me, Deepest Kiss, Entice Me and Anchor Me.

    PERFECT for fans of Fifty Shades of Grey and Bared to You. Release Me is a powerful and erotic romance novel that is sure to make adult romance readers sweat, sigh and swoon

    J. Kenner's evocative writing thrillingly captures the power of physical attraction, the pull of longing, the universe-altering effect one person can have on another. She masterfully draws out the eroticism between Nikki and Damien... Claim Me has the emotional depth to back up the sex... Every scene is infused with both erotic tension, and the tension of wondering what lies beneath Damien's veneer - and how and when it will be revealed

    Claim Me by J. Kenner is an erotic, sexy and exciting ride. The story between Damien and Nikki is amazing and written beautifully. The intimate and detailed sex scenes will leave you fanning yourself to cool down. With the writing style of Ms Kenner you almost feel like you are there in the story riding along the emotional rollercoaster with Damien and NikkiThe second in an irresistible, erotic, emotionally charged romance series for fans of Fifty Shades of Grey and the Crossfire series. Readers have been mesmerised by the intensely passionate story of magnetic Damien Stark and Nikki Fairchild in RELEASE ME. Their powerful and sensual romance continues in CLAIM ME...J. Kenner loves wine, dark chocolate, and books. She lives in Texas with her husband and daughters. Visit her online at www.jkenner.com to learn more about her and her other pen names, to get a peek at what she's working on, or connect with her via Twitter @juliekenner, or through Facebook: facebook.com/JKennerBooksReader appetite for erotic romance is still incredibly strong not least with the phenomenal FIFTY SHADES trilogy selling over 10 million copies in print in the UK and Sylvia Day's BARED TO YOU selling nearly three quarters of a million copies in print.Headline is incredibly excited to be publishing this fast-paced, brilliantly addictive and passionately sexy erotic romance trilogy by bestselling and RITA-nominated US author Julie Kenner, writing as J. Kenner.J. Kenner has an extraordinary ability to create characters with depth, and convey their story with empathy and emotion, as she then explores their dark secrets and the pain in their past which haunts them. This, along with her immensely likeable, strong and capable, yet vulnerable heroine in Nikki Fairchild, is what makes this trilogy so compelling and stand out from its competitors.Connect with the author via her website: www.juliekenner.com, on Twitter @juliekenner, and via Facebook: facebook.com/JKennerBooksFollow Headline's Stark Trilogy campaign via the Twitter hashtag #starknaked and enter the world of Damien Stark on Pinterest www.pinterest.com/headlinebooks/releaseme-s-Damien-stark