Release Me: A Novel

Release Me: A Novel

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For fans of Fifty Shades of Grey and Bared to You comes an erotic, emotionally charged romance between a powerful man whoa€™s never heard a€œnoa€ and a fiery woman who says a€œyesa€ on her own terms. He was the one man I couldna€™t avoid. And the one man I couldna€™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 pasta€”and risk breaking us apart. But Damien was haunted, too. And as our passion came to obsess us both, his secrets threatened to destroy hima€”and usa€”forever. Release Me is an erotic romance intended for mature audiences. About the Author J. Kenner spent more than ten years as a litigator in Southern California and Central Texas, using her rare free time to indulge her passion for writing. California born, she now livesa€”and writesa€”in Texas, with her husband and daughters. Excerpt. Ac Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved. 1 A cool ocean breeze caresses my bare shoulders, and I shiver, wishing Ia€™d taken my roommatea€™s advice and brought a shawl with me tonight. I arrived in Los Angeles only four days ago, and I havena€™t yet adjusted to the concept of summer temperatures changing with the setting of the sun. In Dallas, June is hot, July is hotter, and August is hell. Not so in California, at least not by the beach. LA Lesson Number One: Always carry a sweater if youa€™ll be out after dark. Of course, I could leave the balcony and go back inside to the party. Mingle with the millionaires. Chat up the celebrities. Gaze dutifully at the paintings. It is a gala art opening, after all, and my boss brought me here to meet and greet and charm and chat. Not to lust over the panorama that is coming alive in front of me. Bloodred clouds bursting against the pale orange sky. Blue-As gray waves shimmering with dappled gold. I press my hands against the balcony rail and lean forward, drawn to the intense, unreachable beauty of the setting sun. I regret that I didna€™t bring the battered Nikon Ia€™ve had since high school. Not that it would have fit in my itty-Asbitty beaded purse. And a bulky camera bag paired with a little black dress is a big, fat fashion no-Asno. But this is my very first Pacific Ocean sunset, and Ia€™m determined to document the moment. I pull out my iPhone and snap a picture. a€œAlmost makes the paintings inside seem redundant, doesna€™t it?a€ I recognize the throaty, feminine voice and turn to face Evelyn Dodge, retired actress turned agent turned patron of the artsa€”Asand my hostess for the evening. a€œIa€™m so sorry. I know I must look like a giddy tourist, but we dona€™t have sunsets like that in Dallas.a€ a€œDona€™t apologize, a€ she says. a€œI pay for that view every month when I write the mortgage check. It damn well better be spectacular.a€ I laugh, immediately more at ease. a€œHiding out?a€ a€œExcuse me?a€ a€œYoua€™re Carla€™s new assistant, right?a€ she asks, referring to my boss of three days. a€œNikki Fairchild.a€ a€œI remember now. Nikki from Texas.a€ She looks me up and down, and I wonder if shea€™s disappointed that I dona€™t have big hair and cowboy boots. a€œSo who does he want you to charm?a€ a€œCharm?a€ I repeat, as if I dona€™t know exactly what she means. She cocks a single brow. a€œHoney, the man would rather walk on burning coals than come to an art show. Hea€™s fishing for investors and youa€™re the bait.a€ She makes a rough noise in the back of her throat. a€œDona€™t worry. I wona€™t press you to tell me who. And I dona€™t blame you for hiding out. Carla€™s brilliant, but hea€™s a bit of a prick.a€ a€œIta€™s the brilliant part I signed on for, a€ I say, and she barks out a laugh. The truth is that shea€™s right about me being the bait. a€œWear a cocktail dress, a€ Carl had said. a€œSomething flirty.a€ Seriously? I mean, Seriously? I should have told him to wear his own damn cocktail dress. But I didna€™t. Because I want this job. I fought to get this job. Carla€™s company, C-AsSquared Technologies, successfully launched three web-Asbased products in the last eighteen months. That track record had caught the industrya€™s eye, and Carl had been hailed as a man to watch. More important from my perspective, that meant he was a man to learn from, and Ia€™d prepared for the job interview with an intensity bordering on obsession. Landing the position had been a huge coup for me. So what if he wanted me to wear something flirty? It was a small price to pay. Shit. a€œI need to get back to being the bait, a€ I say. a€œOh, hell. Now Ia€™ve gone and made you feel either guilty or self-Asconscious. Dona€™t be. Let them get liquored up in there first. You catch more flies with alcohol anyway. Trust me. I know.a€ Shea€™s holding a pack of cigarettes, and now she taps one out, then extends the pack to me. I shake my head. I love the smell of tobaccoa€”Asit reminds me of my grandfathera€”Asbut actually inhaling the smoke does nothing for me. a€œIa€™m too old and set in my ways to quit, a€ she says. a€œBut God forbid I smoke in my own damn house. I swear, the mob would burn me in effigy. Youa€™re not going to start lecturing me on the dangers of secondhand smoke, are you?a€ a€œNo, a€ I promise. a€œThen how about a light?a€ I hold up the itty-Asbitty purse. a€œOne lipstick, a credit card, my drivera€™s license, and my phone.a€ a€œNo condom?a€ a€œI didna€™t think it was that kind of party, a€ I say dryly. a€œI knew I liked you.a€ She glances around the balcony. a€œWhat the hell kind of party am I throwing if I dona€™t even have one goddamn candle on one goddamn table? Well, fuck it.a€ She puts the unlit cigarette to her mouth and inhales, her eyes closed and her expression rapturous. I cana€™t help but like her. She wears hardly any makeup, in stark contrast to all the other women here tonight, myself included, and her dress is more of a caftan, the batik pattern as interesting as the woman herself. Shea€™s what my mother would call a brassy broada€”Asloud, large, opinionated, and self-Asconfident. My mother would hate her. I think shea€™s awesome. She drops the unlit cigarette onto the tile and grinds it with the toe of her shoe. Then she signals to one of the catering staff, a girl dressed all in black and carrying a tray of champagne glasses. The girl fumbles for a minute with the sliding door that opens onto the balcony, and I imagine those flutes tumbling off, breaking against the hard tile, the scattered shards glittering like a wash of diamonds. I picture myself bending to snatch up a broken stem. I see the raw edge cutting into the soft flesh at the base of my thumb as I squeeze. I watch myself clutching it tighter, drawing strength from the pain, the way some people might try to extract luck from a rabbita€™s foot. The fantasy blurs with memory, jarring me with its potency. Ita€™s fast and powerful, and a little disturbing because I havena€™t needed the pain in a long time, and I dona€™t understand why Ia€™m thinking about it now, when I feel steady and in control. I am fine, I think. I am fine, I am fine, I am fine. a€œTake one, honey, a€ Evelyn says easily, holding a flute out to me. I hesitate, searching her face for signs that my mask has slipped and shea€™s caught a glimpse of my rawness. But her face is clear and genial. a€œNo, dona€™t you argue, a€ she adds, misinterpreting my hesitation. a€œI bought a dozen cases and I hate to see good alcohol go to waste. Hell no, a€ she adds when the girl tries to hand her a flute. a€œI hate the stuff. Get me a vodka. Straight up. Chilled. Four olives. Hurry up, now. Do you want me to dry up like a leaf and float away?a€ The girl shakes her head, looking a bit like a twitchy, frightened rabbit. Possibly one that had sacrificed his foot for someone elsea€™s good luck. Evelyna€™s attention returns to me. a€œSo how do you like LA? What have you seen? Where have you been? Have you bought a map of the stars yet? Dear God, tell me youa€™re not getting sucked into all that tourist bullshit.a€ a€œMostly Ia€™ve seen miles of freeway and the inside of my apartment.a€ a€œWell, thata€™s just sad. Makes me even more glad that Carl dragged your skinny ass all the way out here tonight.a€ Ia€™ve put on fifteen welcome pounds since the years when my mother monitored every tiny thing that went in my mouth, and while Ia€™m perfectly happy with my size-Aseight ass, I wouldna€™t describe it as skinny. I know Evelyn means it as a compliment, though, and so I smile. a€œIa€™m glad he brought me, too. The paintings really are amazing.a€ a€œNow dona€™t do thata€”Asdona€™t you go sliding into the polite-conversation routine. No, no, a€ she says before I can protest. a€œIa€™m sure you mean it. Hell, the paintings are wonderful. But youa€™re getting the flat-Aseyed look of a girl on her best behavior, and we cana€™t have that. Not when I was getting to know the real you.a€ a€œSorry, a€ I say. a€œI swear Ia€™m not fading away on you.a€ Because I genuinely like her, I dona€™t tell her that shea€™s wronga€”Asshe hasna€™t met the real Nikki Fairchild. Shea€™s met Social Nikki who, much like Malibu Barbie, comes with a complete set of accessories. In my case, ita€™s not a bikini and a convertible. AsInstead, I have the Elizabeth Fairchild Guide for Social Gatherings. My mothera€™s big on rules. She claims ita€™s her Southern upbringing. In my weaker moments, I agree. Mostly, I just think shea€™s a controlling bitch. Since the first time she took me for tea at the Mansion at Turtle Creek in Dallas at age three, I have had the rules drilled into my head. How to walk, how to talk, how to dress. What to eat, how much to drink, what kinds of jokes to tell. I have it all down, every trick, every nuance, and I wear my practiced pageant smile like armor against the world. The result being that I dona€™t think I could truly be myself at a party even if my life depended on it. This, however, is not something Evelyn needs to know. a€œWhere exactly are you living?a€ she asks. a€œStudio City. Ia€™m sharing a condo with my best friend from high school.a€ al...Not that it would have fit in my itty-Asbitty beaded purse. And a bulky camera bag paired with a little black dress is a big, fat fashion no-Asno. But this is my very first Pacific Ocean sunset, and Ia€™m determined to document the moment.


Title:Release Me: A Novel
Author: Ahacan Kanat
Publisher: - 2005-07-06
ISBN-13:

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