He promised to take me as far as I could go—and I wanted to go to the edge. My whole life has been a cover, a con, a lie. I was born into the grift, raised on the thrill of playing someone I’m not. As a rule, I never let anyone get too close—until Cole August makes it impossible for me to stay away. Cole is tough, sexy, and intensely loyal, yet his secrets are dark and his scars run deep. Not many women can handle his past, or the truth behind his fierce demands. But something about him beckons me—and our desire is a game I must play. I know he’s dangerous, that even his touch is trouble, but what is passion without a little risk? Add it to your Goodreads list here!
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He let go, then moved to face me. I missed his touch, but the trade-off was worth it. I’m not the kind of girl who swoons over hunky firemen calendars and I’ve only seen Magic Mike once. But as far as eye candy went, Cole was a walking, talking Milky Way bar, and at least as tempting.
“Really,”he confirmed. An easy smile bloomed on his face, and he shook his head slowly, with obvious pleasure. “I didn’t realize that working as a barista required such honed salesmanship.”
“I’m a woman of many talents,” I said, then fluttered my lashes.
“Damn right you are.” He drew in a breath as he looked at me, and try as I might, I had no clue what he was thinking.
“That was quite the commission you just brought in,” he finally said. “I have a feeling you’ll be getting Christmas cards from Tiki for the rest of your life.”
“I look forward to it. What about you?” I asked boldly, and blamed it on the wine. I met his eyes, and fervently hoped that mine really were a window to the soul, because right then I wanted him to see straight inside me. “What will I get from you?”
“That depends on what you want.”
“Want,” I repeated. Where Cole was concerned, what didn’t I want? “I told you earlier that you owed me,” he said. “Do you want to call us even?”
He was silent for a moment, and then one moment longer. “No,” he finally said. I lifted my chin. “Good.” His expression remained perfectly stoic, but he lifted his hand toward my face, then dropped it, as if he were a child who’d caught himself about to do something naughty.
“It’s okay,” I said, my voice almost a whisper. “I won’t break.”
“Don’t be so sure, blondie. I’ve been known to destroy even the most resilient things.”
“I’m not a thing. And you won’t destroy me.” I hesitated only a second, then took one step closer. The difference was only inches, but the air seemed suddenly thicker, as if my lungs had to work harder to draw in oxygen. “It’s okay,” I said again.
All around us, the party continued, but I’m not sure either one of us was aware. Instead, it felt as if we’d stepped into a vortex, and at least in our little corner of space and time nothing else mattered or even existed.
I held my breath, wanting his touch so badly I could taste it. And when he finally brushed the side of his thumb over my cheekbone, it was all I could do not to moan aloud.
All too quickly he took his hand away, leaving me bereft.
All too quickly he stepped back, forcing the world around us to come back to life.
“I just had to see if I was right,” he said.
“Your skin. It’s like touching a promise.”
“Is it?” I murmured.
“Tender,” he said. “And a bit mysterious. With layer upon layer just waiting to be discovered.”
My breath stuttered in my chest. “I didn’t know you thought that,” I said. “I didn’t know you thought about me at all.”
He was silent for so long I began to fear he wasn’t going to answer. When he spoke, his words cut through me, sharp and sweet. “I think about you more than I should.”
It was suddenly very warm in the gallery. Little beads of sweat gathered at the hairline on the back of my neck. I needed air, because it seemed as if all the oxygen had been sucked out of the room. Somehow, miraculously, I formed words. “What are you thinking now?”
Julie Kenner (aka J. Kenner and J.K. Beck) is the New York Times, USA Today, Publishers Weekly, and Wall Street Journal bestselling author of over forty novels, novellas and short stories in a variety of genres. Praised by Publishers Weekly as an author with a “flair for dialogue and eccentric characterizations,” J.K. writes a range of stories including super sexy romances, paranormal romance, chick lit suspense and paranormal mommy lit. Her foray into the latter, Carpe Demon: Adventures of a Demon-Hunting Soccer Mom by Julie Kenner, is in development as a feature film with 1492 Pictures. Her most recent trilogy of erotic romances, The Stark Trilogy (as J. Kenner), reached as high as #2 on the New York Times list and is published in over twenty countries. J.K. lives in Central Texas, with her husband, two daughters, and several cats.