Related to: 'The Duke Of Shadows'

July Book of the Month

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

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.”

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Luck Be A Lady: Rules for the Reckless 4

Meredith Duran
Authors:
Meredith Duran

Meredith Duran returns with another witty, humorous and smart romance in the fourth book of her Rules for the Reckless series. Fans of Julia Quinn, Jane Feather and Eloisa James will delight in Meredith's trademark headstrong heroine, cunning hero and tale of deep emotional intensity!Enter Eveleigh's Auction Rooms at your own risk. Prepare to part with your fortune...and lose your heart.They call her the Ice Queen. Catherine Everleigh is London's loveliest heiress, but a bitter lesson in heartbreak has taught her to keep to herself. All she desires is her birthright - the auction house that was mercilessly stolen from her. To win this war, she'll need a powerful ally. Who better than infamous crime lord Nicholas O'Shea? A marriage of convenience will serve them both.Having conquered the city's underworld, Nick seeks a new challenge. Marrying Catherine will give him the guise of legitimacy and access to her elite world - no one need know he's coveted her for a year now. Their arrangement is strictly business, free from the weakness of love. Seduction, however, is an altogether different matter - an enticing game that he's determined she'll play, and what's more, enjoy... Want more Rules for the Reckless? Don't miss Your Wicked Heart or Fool Me Twice.

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Lady Be Good: Rules for the Reckless 3

Meredith Duran
Authors:
Meredith Duran
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A Lady's Lesson In Scandal

Meredith Duran
Authors:
Meredith Duran
Headline Eternal

At Your Pleasure

Meredith Duran
Authors:
Meredith Duran

Meredith Duran returns with another witty, humorous and smart romance. Fans of Julia Quinn, Jane Feather and Eloisa James will delight in Meredith's trademark headstrong heroine, cunning hero and tale of deep emotional intensity!By candlelight, she lures him...Glittering court socialites and underworld cutpurses alike know that Adrian Ferrers, Earl of Rivenham, is the most dangerous man in London. Rivenham will let nothing - not the deepening shadow of war, nor the growing darkness within him - interfere with his ambition to restore his family to its former glory. But when tasked by the king to uncover a traitor, he discovers instead a conspiracy - and a woman whose courage awakens terrible temptations. To save her is to risk everything. To love her might cost his life.At swordpoint she defies him...Lady Leonora knows that Rivenham is the devil in beautiful disguise - and that the irresistible tension between them is as unpredictable as the dilemma in which Nora finds herself: held hostage on her own estate by Rivenham and the king's men. But when war breaks out, Nora has no choice but to place her trust in her dearest enemy - and pray that love does not become the weapon that destroys them both...Looking for more Meredith Duran novels? Try Wicked Becomes You or her Rules for the Reckless series.

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Bound By Your Touch

Meredith Duran
Authors:
Meredith Duran
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Wicked Becomes You

Meredith Duran
Authors:
Meredith Duran
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Written On Your Skin

Meredith Duran
Authors:
Meredith Duran
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Your Wicked Heart: A Rules for the Reckless Novella 0.5

Meredith Duran
Authors:
Meredith Duran
Headline Eternal

That Scandalous Summer: Rules for the Reckless 1

Meredith Duran
Authors:
Meredith Duran

Meredith Duran returns with, That Scandalous Summer, a witty, humorous and smart romance beginning her Rules for the Reckless series. Fans of Julia Quinn, Jane Feather and Eloisa James will delight in Meredith's trademark headstrong heroine, cunning hero and tale of deep emotional intensity!One daring widow meets one reluctant suitor ...In the social whirl of Regency England, Elizabeth Chudderley is at the top of every guest list, the life of every party, and the belle of every ball. But her friends and admirers would be stunned to know the truth: that the merriest widow in London is also the loneliest. Behind the gaiety and smiles lies a secret longing - for something, or someone, to whisk her away . . . Raised in scandal, Lord Michael de Grey is convinced that love is a losing gamble - and seduction the only game worth playing. But when duty threatens to trump everything he desires, the only way out is marriage to a woman of his brother's choosing. Elizabeth Chudderley is delightful, delicious - and distressingly attractive. With such a captivating opponent, Michael isn't quite sure who is winning the game. How can such passionate players negotiate a marriage of necessity - when their hearts have needs of their own?Want more Rules for the Reckless? Don't miss Your Wicked Heart, Fool Me Twice, Lady Be Good and Luck Be A Lady.

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Fool Me Twice: Rules for the Reckless 2

Meredith Duran
Authors:
Meredith Duran

Isabella Bradford

Isabella Bradford is a pseudonym for Susan Holloway Scott, the award-winning author of more than forty historical novels and historical romances. Her bestselling books have been published in nineteen countries and translated into fourteen languages with more than three million copies in print. Isabella also writes as half of the Two Nerdy History Girls, an entertaining history blog that is also on Twitter and Pinterest. She is a graduate of Brown University, and lives with her family outside of Philadelphia. Find Isabella online at www.susanhollowayscott.com, and www.twonerdyhistorygirls.blogspot.co.uk, on Facebook, and connect with her on Twitter @2nerdyhistgirls.

Jane Feather

Jane Feather is the New York Times bestselling author of more than thirty sensual historical romances. She was born in Cairo, Egypt, and grew up in the south of England, and she has more than 10 million copies of her books in print.

Joanna Bourne

Joanna Bourne has always loved reading and writing romance. She's drawn to Revolutionary and Napoleonic France and Regency England because, as she puts it, 'It was a time of love and sacrifice, daring deeds, clashing ideals, and really cool clothing.' She's lived in seven different countries, including England and France, the settings of the Spymaster series. Joanna now lives on a mountaintop in the Appalachians with her family, a peculiar cat, and an old brown country dog. Visit her online at www.joannabourne.com, and connect with her via @jobourne, www.facebook.com/joanna.bourne.5, or www.jobourne.blogspot.co.uk.

Johanna Lindsey

Johanna Lindsey is world renowned for her 'mastery of historical romance' (Entertainment Weekly), with more than sixty million copies of her novels sold. She is the author of fifty-one previous bestselling novels, many of which reached the number one spot on the New York Times bestseller list. Johanna lives in New Hampshire with her family.

Jude Deveraux

Jude Deveraux is the author of forty-one New York Times bestsellers to date, including Moonlight in the Morning and A Knight in Shining Armor. There are more than sixty million copies of her books in print worldwide.

Karen Hawkins

Karen Hawkins is the New York Times bestselling author of some of the funniest and freshest Scottish romances. When not stalking hot Australian actors, getting kicked out of West Virginia thanks to the antics of her extended family, or adding to her considerable shoe collection, Karen is getting chocolate on her keyboard while writing her next delightfully fun and sexy historical romance.Find her online at www.karenhawkins.com, follow her on Twitter @TheKarenHawkins, and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/AuthorKarenHawkins.

Kate Noble

Kate Noble is a national bestselling, RITA-nominated author of historical romance, including the acclaimed Blue Raven series. She has also written television for NBC and FOX, as well as the Emmy award-winning hit YouTube series The Lizzie Bennet Diaries. Kate lives in Los Angeles.Keep up to date with Kate via www.katenoble.com, by following her on Twitter: @NobleRorick or visiting her on Facebook: www.facebook.com/katenoblewriter.

Meredith Duran

Meredith Duran blames Anne Boleyn for sparking her lifelong obsession with British history. A graduate student in the social sciences, she spends her free time collecting old etiquette manuals, guidebooks to nineteenth-century London, and travelogues by intrepid Victorian women.The Duke Of Shadows and Bound By Your Touch ranked among the top 100 romances of all time in the 2010 All About Romance poll, and the USA Today bestselling Fool Me Twice won the 2015 RITA for Historical Fiction.For more on Meredith visit her website www.meredithduran.com, and connect with her on Twitter @meredithduran, and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/AuthorMeredithDuran.

Robyn DeHart

A life-long lover of stories and adventure, it was either become a stuntwoman for the movies or live out those adventures from the safety of her PJs and computer. Award-winning author, Robyn DeHart chose the latter and couldn't be happier for doing so. Known for her unique plotlines and authentic characters, Robyn is a favorite among readers and reviewers. Publishers' Weekly claims her books as 'sizzling romance' while the Chicago Tribune dubs her 'wonderfully entertaining'. Robyn is an award-winning author as well as being a four-time RT Bookclub Reviewers' Choice award nominee, and a three-time RomCon Reader's Crown nominee.

Sabrina Jeffries

Sabrina Jeffries is the New York Times bestselling author of 36 novels and 9 works of short fiction (some written under the pseudonyms Deborah Martin and Deborah Nicholas). Whatever time not spent writing in a coffee-fueled haze of dreams and madness is spent traveling with her husband and adult autistic son or indulging in one of her passions - jigsaw puzzles, chocolate, and music. With over 7 million books in print in 18 different languages, the North Carolina author never regrets tossing aside a budding career in academics for the sheer joy of writing fun fiction, and hopes that one day a book of hers will end up saving the world. She always dreams big.For more information, visit Sabrina's website www.sabrinajeffries.com, Facebook page www.facebook.com/SabrinaJeffriesAuthor and follow her on Twitter @SabrinaJeffries.