Related to: 'Justified'

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.”

Headline Eternal

Marriage on Madison Avenue

Lauren Layne
Authors:
Lauren Layne

Aa heartfelt and laugh-out-loud romantic comedy that's perfect for fans of Sally Thorne and Christina Lauren. From the author of the New York Times bestselling Stiletto and Oxford series, Marriage of Madison Avenue is the third in a sizzling new series following the unlikely friendship of three Upper East Side women as they struggle to achieve their dreams and find true love and happiness in the city that never sleeps. 'The word charm is pretty much synonymous with Lauren Layne' HypableCan guys and girls ever be just friends? According to Audrey Tate and Clarke West, absolutely. After all, they've been best friends since childhood without a single romantic entanglement. Clarke is the charming playboy Audrey can always count on, and he knows that the ever-loyal Audrey will never not play along with his strategy for dodging his matchmaking mother-announcing he's already engaged...to Audrey.But what starts out as a playful game between two best friends turns into something infinitely more complicated, as just-for-show kisses begin to stir up forbidden feelings. As the faux wedding date looms closer, Audrey and Clarke realize that they can never go back to the way things were, but deep down, do they really want to?Filled with charm and heart and plenty of heart and wit, this entertaining series will hook you from the very first page. Look out for the other two titles, Passion on Park Avenue and Love on Lexington Avenue Want more fun, fresh, flirty and very sexy rom-com? Check out Lauren's Oxford series and don't miss her warm, witty and sexy Wedding Belles series and the I Do, I Don't series, as well as the romantic standalones in the Love, Unexpectedly series.

Headline Eternal

The Royal Bodyguard

Lindsay Emory
Authors:
Lindsay Emory
Headline Eternal

Her Deadly Secrets

Laura Griffin
Authors:
Laura Griffin
Headline Eternal

Love at First Like

Hannah Orenstein
Authors:
Hannah Orenstein

A witty, modern rom-com for fans of Jo Watson, Jasmine Guillory and Sophie Ranald's Sorry Not Sorry, from the author of Playing with Matches. Written with singular charm and style, Love at First Like is for anyone growing up and settling down in the digital age.Eliza Roth and her sister Sophie co-own a jewelry shop in Brooklyn. One night, after learning of an ex's engagement, Eliza accidentally posts a photo of herself wearing a diamond ring on that finger to her Instagram account beloved by 100,000 followers. Sales skyrocket, press rolls in, and Eliza learns that her personal life is good for business. So she has a choice: continue the ruse or clear up the misunderstanding. With mounting financial pressure, Eliza sets off to find a fake fiancé. Fellow entrepreneur Blake seems like the perfect match on paper, and in real life he shows promise too - if only Eliza didn't feel also drawn to someone else. But Blake doesn't know Eliza is 'engaged'; Sophie asks Eliza for an impossible sum of money; and Eliza's lies start to spiral out of control. Now she can either stay engaged online - or fall in love in real life. 'This glittering gem of a novel is a wise and witty take on family, ambition, and modern love' Andrea Dunlop, author of We Came to Forget

Headline Eternal

Stone Cold Heart

Laura Griffin
Authors:
Laura Griffin
Headline Eternal

Someone Like You: Oxford 3

Lauren Layne
Authors:
Lauren Layne
Headline Eternal

I Wish You Were Mine: Oxford 2

Lauren Layne
Authors:
Lauren Layne

Anna Kaling

Anna Kaling writes mostly British contemporary romances featuring lots of tea, rain, and passive-aggressive queuing. By day she writes about concrete erections for a construction firm, and by night she...well, never mind. She's working towards being an old cat lady and is a big fan of sharks, bad horror movies, and the Loch Ness Monster.To find out more visit annakaling.com, or find her on Facebook /annakalingauthor or Twitter @AnnaKaling.

Emily March

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Emily March lives in Texas with her husband and their beloved boxer, Doc, who tolerates a revolving doggie door of rescue foster dogs sharing his kingdom until they find their forever homes. A graduate of Texas A&M University, Emily is an avid fan of Aggie sports, and her recipe for jalapeno relish has made her a tailgating legend.Connect with Emily via her website: www.emilymarchbooks.com, on Twitter @emilymarchbooks, and via Facebook: facebook.com/emilymarchbooks

Hannah Orenstein

Hannah Orenstein is the author of Playing with Matches and Love at First Like, as well as the senior dating editor at Elite Daily. Previously, she was a writer and editor at Seventeen.com. She lives in Brooklyn. For more information, visit her website: hannahorenstein.com or follow her on Twitter and Instagram: @hannahorens.

J.B. Salsbury

JB Salsbury, New York Times bestselling author of The Fighting Series, lives in Phoenix, Arizona, with her husband and two kids. She spends the majority of her day lost in a world of battling alphas, budding romance, and impossible obstacles as stories claw away at her subconscious, begging to be released to the page. Her love of good storytelling led her to earn a degree in Media Communications. With her journalistic background, writing has always been at the forefront, and her love of romance prompted her to write her first novel. Since 2013 she has published six bestselling novels in The Fighting Series and won a RONE Award.Visit J.B. at www.jbsalsbury.com, find her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/JBSalsburybooks and on Twitter @JBSalsbury.

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.

Jasmine Guillory

Jasmine Guillory is a graduate of Wellesley College and Stanford Law School. She is a Bay Area native who has towering stacks of books in her living room, a cake recipe for every occasion, and upwards of 50 lipsticks.Visit her website: www.jasmineguillory.com, find her on Facebook www.facebook.com/jasmineguillorywriter and follow her on Twitter @thebestjasmine and Instagram @jasminepics for more information.

Jill Shalvis

New York Times bestseller Jill Shalvis is the author of many romance novels including her acclaimed Cedar Ridge, Lucky Harbor and Animal Magnetism series. The RITA winner and three-time National Readers Choice winner makes her home near Lake Tahoe. Visit her website at www.jillshalvis.com for a complete book list and daily blog, and www.facebook.com/jillshalvis for other news or follow her on Twitter @jillshalvis.

Jo Watson

Jo Watson is an award-winning writer whose romantic comedies were originally published on Wattpad. Her first novel Burning Moon won a 2014 Watty Award for being one of the site's most downloaded titles and has now had over 7 million reads. Jo is an Adidas addict and a Depeche Mode devotee. She lives in South Africa with her family.Visit her website www.jowatsonwrites.co.uk for exclusive extras and follow her on Twitter @JoWatsonWrites, Facebook at www.facebook.com/jowatsonwrites and Instagram @jowatsonwrites.

Laura Griffin

Laura Griffin is the New York Times bestselling author of more than twenty books. She is a two-time RITA Award winner as well as the recipient of the Daphne du Maurier Award. Laura got her start in journalism before venturing into the world of romance fiction. She lives in Austin, Texas, where she is working on her next novel. Visit her website at www.lauragriffin.com and find her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/LauraGriffinAuthor and Twitter @Laura_GriffTo hear about new releases, sign up for Laura's newsletter at: http://lauragriffin.com/subscribe/

Lauren Layne

Lauren Layne is the New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author of more than two dozen romantic comedies. Her books have sold over a million copies, in eight languages. Lauren's work has been featured in Publishers Weekly, Glamour, The Wall Street Journal, and Inside Edition. She is based in New York City. Join Lauren at www.laurenlayne.com to get news on her latest books, or keep up to date with her on Instagram: @laurenlayneauthor.

Lindsay Emory

As a Texan and recovering sorority girl, Lindsay Emory has strong opinions on 'real' football (soccer, duh), wine (bubbles, please), and wearing white after Labor Day (just don't.) Lindsay writes books with mystery and romance featuring cranky heroes and the sassy heroines who drive them crazy. She lives on the North Texas plains with two big dogs and her own cranky hero, drinking gimlets and raising two STEM warrior princesses.For more information, visit her website lindsayemory.com, find her on Facebook /Lindsayemorywrites, Twitter @Lindsay_Emory and Instagram @lindsayemory.

Rebecca Zanetti

New York Times bestselling author Rebecca Zanetti has worked as an art curator, Senate aide, lawyer, college professor, and a hearing examiner - only to culminate it all in stories about Alpha males and the women who claim them. She writes dark paranormals, romantic suspense, and sexy contemporary romances.Growing up amid the glorious backdrops and winter wonderlands of the Pacific Northwest has given Rebecca fantastic scenery and adventures to weave into her stories. She resides in the wild north with her husband, children, and extended family who inspire her every day - or at the very least give her plenty of characters to write about.Visit Rebecca at www.rebeccazanetti.com, on Twitter @RebeccaZanetti and on Facebook, www.facebook.com/RebeccaZanetti.Author.FanPage

Tara Sue Me

Tara Sue Me lives in the southeastern United States with her family, two dogs, and a cat. Visit her website:www.tarasueme.com and follow her on Twitter @tarasueme and Facebookwww.facebook.com/TaraSueMeBooks for more information.