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Wicked Torture (Stark World #3)
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Sometimes, it feels so damn good to be bad …
From New York Times and #1 International bestselling author J. Kenner, the first in an all new series of fast-paced, provocative novels centering around the ambitious, wealthy, and powerful men who work in the glamorous and exciting world of the Stark International conglomerate … and the sexy and passionate women who bring them to their knees.
Outwardly, Noah Carter is riding high as the tech world’s hottest new genius. Inside, he’s still reeling from the abduction of his wife and baby daughter eight years ago, and then the devastating discovery of his child’s body. For years, he kept up hope that his wife was alive, but now that she’s been declared legally dead, he’s thrown himself even more deeply into his work, cutting himself off from emotional ties because they just hurt too damn much.
Then he meets Kiki Porter, an eternal optimist with a killer work ethic and dreams of fronting a band. And everything changes. Even though he tries his damnedest to fight it…
Sexually, they are combustible together. But their true fire is emotional, though it is a slow to burn. But once it lights, it is all consuming. The relationship grows emotionally, the sex is hot, things are good.
But just when it’s looking like they might have a real future together, the past comes back to haunt them. And Noah’s going to have to decide what he’s willing to give up for love …
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Nothing in this world is solid—I know that better than anyone. The way the world can suddenly shift beneath you. The way you can fight so hard and still lose everything. The way happiness can slip through your fingers.
Luck has never been my friend. On the contrary, it has mocked and teased me, dangling happiness like a carrot that is just out of reach.
I know that—I’ve known it for my entire life, and it has always eluded me.
That’s why I should have known better. I should have never let him get close enough to break my heart.
But I did, and now he’s back.
I should have run, but he touched me, and I froze. Then he kissed me, and the world fell away.
And all I can do now is hope that he has the strength to save us both.
She had an obsession with swizzle sticks.
Noah tried to concentrate on his date’s words, but it wasn’t easy. She kept twisting the plastic stick between her fingers, then lifting it to her cherry red lips and teasing small drops of liquid from the end with her tongue.
He supposed that she thought it was sexy. That somehow, by stroking her tongue against the thin rod, she was making him hard.
Which was probably for the best. He hadn’t wanted to come out tonight, after all.
Or, correction, he hadn’t wanted to come out tonight with an actual date. He’d wanted a pick-up. A one-night stand during which he could exorcise all the demons that had been roiling inside him, building up since the last time he’d let himself go. When getting lost in his work no longer had the power to battle back the memories or the guilt.
A hot, fast, intimate encounter with no strings and absolutely no purpose except the participants’ mutual satisfaction. Hers, in the form of the explosive orgasm that he was more than happy to provide. His in the simple act of stepping outside of himself and away from the ghosts and the memories. Of getting lost in erotic sensations and the comfort of knowing that even though he’d destroyed two women completely, with this woman at least he could bring pleasure.
Correction. Three women. He’d destroyed three women.
The voice in his head was harsh. Insistent. And he winced, his body tightening as if steeling himself for a blow.
Three woman, yes. But not really. Two women, and a child.
Darla, his wife.
Kiki, his love.
And little Diana, who never even saw her first birthday. Oh, God.
His stomach lurched, and he fought the urge to close his eyes in defense against the memory now filling his head. His sweet Diana’s lifeless body, as clear and crisp and horrible as the reality had been all those years ago.
He’d never forget—hell, he didn’t want to forget.
But it had been almost nine years since Darla and Diana had been kidnapped in Mexico City, and his friends were right—he had to move on. His wife and daughter were gone, and he was here. Alive and well and trying so damn hard to block out the morass of guilt and loss, to keep it at bay with long hours of work and clandestine moments of physical release that never provided any true relief despite his continued delusions that it would help.
Which brought him right back to Evie and her swizzle stick.
“She’s a lawyer based in LA, but she spends a lot of time in Austin,” his friend Lyle had said when he’d insisted that Noah meet Evie for drinks. “She’s pretty and smart and funny. And if it doesn’t work out it’s just one night out of your life. So suck it up and meet her, okay?”
Noah had wanted to say no. But he also knew it was time to start clawing his way back into the world.
So he was starting with Evie. And Lyle was right. She was smart, and she was pretty.
She might not be anonymous, but she was probably good in bed, and God knew he needed someone tonight. Needed those few moments of pure oblivion.
This week had been harder than most, and if Evie could help him forget . . .
He shifted in the leather armchair as he looked at her. They were tucked away in a dark corner of the bar, a small cocktail table between them. She’d stopped sucking on the swizzle stick, and now she was using it as a pointer.
“I’ve always loved this hotel,” she said, indicating the interior of the Texas-themed bar area. The Longhorn cattle head mounted above a fireplace. The oil paintings of ranch scenes. The sofas upholstered in cowhide and leather.
Before he’d moved to Austin six months ago, he’d imagined that all of Texas resembled the inside of this bar. He’d been deeply relieved to learn he was wrong.
It was a Wednesday night, but even so, the place was crowded. The Driskill Hotel had been an Austin landmark since the 1800s, and Noah had become familiar with its restaurant, bar, and rooms during his first weeks in Austin after moving from LA. At the time, his condo was still being painted, and so he’d spent ten days in one of the suites until his own place was ready.