Unwrap me, p.1
Unwrap Me, page 1
Unwrap Me is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
A Bantam Books eBook Original
Copyright (c) 2015 by Julie Kenner Excerpt from Dirtiest Secret by J. Kenner copyright (c) 2015 by Julie Kenner All rights reserved.
Published in the United States by Bantam Books, an imprint of Random House, a division of Penguin Random House LLC, New York.
BANTAM BOOKS and the HOUSE colophon are registered trademarks of Penguin Random House LLC.
This book contains an excerpt from the forthcoming book Dirtiest Secret by J. Kenner. This excerpt has been set for this edition only and may not reflect the final content of the forthcoming edition.
eBook ISBN 9780425284544
Cover design: Beverly Leung
Cover photograph: (c) Konstanttin/Shutterstock randomhousebooks.com
By J. Kenner
About the Author
Excerpt from Dirtiest Secret
"You could get him that," my best friend, Jamie Archer, says, pointing at a sculpture displayed in the window of one of Rodeo Drive's most renowned art galleries.
I glance from the sculpture to Jamie and then back to the sculpture. I'm not entirely sure what it's supposed to be, but with the bronze cylinder thrusting upward from a rounded pewter base, it looks like a giant penis. Considering its resemblance to Jamie's favorite part of the male anatomy, I'm not surprised it caught her eye. I, however, am not inclined to buy it as a Christmas gift for my husband.
"I don't think it's Damien's style," I say. "Besides, he's already got a much better one."
I say the last dryly, and it takes Jamie a second to get it, then she grins. "Yeah, I don't need to buy it, either. Ryan's all set in that department as well."
"Which makes us both very lucky women," I say as we turn away from the gallery and fall back in step together. "But it's not much help with Christmas shopping."
It's December 23, and I honestly didn't mean to leave my shopping to the last minute. But my husband is Damien Stark, a man who pretty much owns one of everything in the known universe, and that makes shopping for him a frustrating, stressful process.
"I thought you bought him a pocket watch," Jamie says.
"I did. And I think he'll like it." It's an antique gold watch that I had a local watchmaker repair and polish, and then I added a sweet inscription to the inside of the cover. He's mentioned liking the look of pocket watches before, and I was shocked to realize that he doesn't own one. Since I think there's something sexy about a man with a pocket watch, it seemed like the perfect gift. Now, though...
Well, now it just doesn't feel quite personal enough. And even though the watch is already wrapped and ready to go--disguised somewhat by the giant box I put it in--I'm on a quest for something else. Something more personal, something cleverer.
Something that is not a giant bronze penis.
To be honest, I know that Damien has the same problem. He can buy me the world; coming up with something unique and heartfelt is more difficult.
"Well, duh," Jamie says when I fill her in on my thinking. "You guys are always getting each other wonderful presents. If you'd just hold off once in a while, you wouldn't be fresh out of ideas come the holidays."
I have to laugh--maybe she has a point.
"What about the app you were designing?" she asks.
"Got sidelined," I admit. I'd come up with the idea for a lovers' scavenger hunt app when Damien sent me on a romantic Valentine's Day treasure hunt. "Honestly, it's Damien's fault. He's the one who suggested that I submit a proposal to do the website and apps for The Resort at Cortez."
The resort is one of many under the Stark International umbrella, and since I've always been leery about getting preferential treatment as Damien's wife, I submitted my proposal blind. I'd been thrilled when Sylvia Brooks, the project manager, selected my company to do the work. The upside has been a lucrative contract which involves working closely with a woman who is both my friend and my sister-in-law.
The downside is that all of my spec projects have been pushed to the side. But the resort officially opened in September, so things have started to calm down on my end.
I still can't turn my full attention to the scavenger hunt app, though. I've been alternating work on the resort with an app design for Sykes Department Stores, which is another gig that I got through Damien, after he introduced me to Dallas Sykes, one of the investors in the resort and a man with a reputation for fucking around. To put it politely.
In fact, now that I think about it, most of my major clients have come to me through some connection to Damien. Even the small app that my friend Evelyn Dodge commissioned to show off her boyfriend Blaine's art came to me tangentially through my relationship with Damien.
For that matter, his friend Lisa was instrumental in getting me my office space. And I sure can't forget that even my start-up capital came straight from the million dollars that Damien paid me to pose nude for him, way back when I wasn't sure if I wanted to fuck him or run from him. Or both.
And, yeah, I know that I'm doing the actual work on my own--and goodness knows I work my tail off--but sometimes I can't help but wonder if I'd ever have managed to get my business off the ground if it weren't for my husband's help.
"You're frowning," Jamie announces. "Holiday stress? Is it time for a wine break?"
She asks the last part so eagerly that my frown transforms to a laugh. "Might be," I admit.
"Oh! I know! There's a new coffee shop just one block over, and they have the best brownies. And I saw an ad for their hot chocolate with peppermint schnapps. Doesn't get more Christmasy than that."
"Schnapps is Christmasy?"
"Duh. All alcohol is. Why do you think people say 'cheers'? Because of all the holiday cheer."
Her logic leaves a lot to be desired. But at the same time, I'm all about getting into the holiday spirit. It's a balmy seventy-one today, and I'm wearing a light red sweater with green embroidery at the cuffs just so that I can feel festive. The whole city is like that, actually, with Rodeo Drive being the most decked out. There's holly climbing the stairs at Via Rodeo, and a beautifully trimmed tree centered on the landing. Along Rodeo Drive itself, the palm trees are wrapped in red Christmas lights and the leafless trees are decked out in sparkling white ones.
Despite the bright California sun, it looks pretty. At night, when the lights are on and the street glows, it's magical.
"So Ryan and I should show up around ten tomorrow morning, right?"
"That's perfect," I say.
Damien and I are having friends and family over to the Lake Arrowhead house on Christmas Eve so that we can all be together on Christmas Day. The house is nestled in the San Bernadino Mountains, about two hours from our Malibu house. Damien designed and built it before we were together, and to me it's like a five-star resort, with its sweeping balcony and stunning view of the lake.
Not only that, but Lake Arrowhead Village is sure to be decked out in fabulous holiday style, too, if we want to take a stroll on Christmas Eve or on Boxing Day.
"Are you driving up with Jackson and Sylvia?" I ask.
"They're coming on their own," Jamie replies. "We offered, but Jackson said it's easier wit
Sylvia is five months pregnant with her and Jackson's first child, though Syl is already a mommy to Ronnie, who she adopted right after she and Jackson got married. Since Jackson is Damien's half-brother, that makes me an aunt. I adore Ronnie, and I can't wait to meet the new baby. After my sister's suicide, I thought I'd never be an aunt--never feel like I had a sister again. So seeing these kids--and growing closer to Syl--is both wonderful and bittersweet.
"Who else is on the guest list?" Jamie asks. "Did Ollie bail?"
I shake my head. "No, he's actually coming."
I nod my agreement. I'd been surprised when Ollie'd accepted the invitation. For that matter, I'd been surprised when Damien suggested we invite him. Ollie is one of my oldest friends, and to say that he and Damien have had their ups and downs is an understatement.
For a while, Ollie had been living in New York, but he's back in Los Angeles now. And although I know that Damien would be just fine never seeing Ollie again, I love Damien all the more for understanding that I don't want to lose the friendship that I'd depended on for so much of my life.
"Will that be weird for you and Ryan?" I ask.
Jamie shakes her head. "He knows I screwed around. And now he knows there's only one guy for me," she adds with a wide, happy grin. "So who else?"
I laugh. "Isn't that enough?" I'd actually invited three more couples, but Evelyn and Blaine are in Paris, Lisa and Preston are visiting family in Ohio, and Syl's best friend, Cass, and her girlfriend, Siobhan, are in Munich for some sort of tattoo festival.
"I'm kind of bummed Lisa can't make it," I admit. "The guy who owns my building is turning it into office condos, and I'm thinking about buying my unit. I was hoping to talk to her more about that." Lisa had helped me find the space originally, and she's told me that if I want to buy, this is a good opportunity. I've actually been working on my business finances, trying to maneuver my assets so that purchasing makes sense financially, and I'm excited that's it's actually--almost--feasible.
"Honestly, I'm surprised you want anyone over. I mean, Damien's been gone for what? A week now?"
"Eight long days," I confirm. He's been away for business--some new classified project for Stark Applied Technology--and since I had so much of my own work to do, I decided not to travel with him. It's the longest we've been apart since we got married, and I absolutely can't wait to see him again.
"He's meeting me at the Arrowhead house tonight," I tell her. "We're going to make up for lost time. In fact, if you don't mind, I want to pop into one more store before cocoa and brownies."
I tug her to a stop in front of Marilyn's Lounge, a high-end, German-based lingerie boutique that recently opened in Beverly Hills.
Jamie glances at the very sexy, very revealing items in the window, then raises a brow. "Plan to give Damien his Christmas present tonight?"
"Absolutely," I say, pushing the door open and stepping inside. "After all, this is the kind of gift that just keeps giving."
I'm pulling my car through the gated entry to the Alpine-style mountain home when Damien texts.
About fifteen minutes behind you.
I shake my head in amusement as I pull my car into the garage. Of course he knows that I've just arrived. He's either tracking my cellphone or my car or he gets a notification whenever anyone uses the gate code to any of our homes. It used to annoy me. Now it makes me feel safe.
I kill the engine and text back: That's eight days and fifteen minutes too long without you.
His reply makes me tingle with anticipation: I want you naked, baby. I don't want to waste any time.
I bite my lip. Naked and wet and waiting.
The reply comes back at the speed of light. Christ, Nikki.
I don't reply; I just grin.
A moment later, my phone dings again. How often have you touched yourself while I've been gone?
You know, I reply. And he does. Sort of, anyway. We've had phone sex, Skype sex. I even texted him a few naughty photos. And, of course, there were other times, too, when I was alone and missing him.
His reply makes my cheeks burn. Do I? Or did you touch yourself without me on the phone? Without my voice in your ear? Did you think of me and make yourself come? Did you deny me the pleasure of hearing you moan? Of hearing you call my name as you go over? Tell me, Nikki. Did you slide your fingers into your sweet cunt and imagine it was me?
I lean against the car door as I read the message, but I don't feel the least bit guilty. Instead, his words heat my already sensitive skin, and just the pressure of my jeans against my clit is making me a little crazy.
Are you touching yourself now?
I shake my head as I quickly reply: No.
But you want to.
Oh, god, how I want to.
I don't text a reply, but it doesn't matter. He knows me well.
Hell, he knows me intimately.
Naughty girl, he says.
Maybe I like naughty.
I imagine his cocky smile. Maybe I like it, too. Soon, baby. I'll be there soon. Until then, imagine me, touching you.
I draw in a ragged breath as I wonder how much time I have left. I can't be sure, and I want to be ready, so I grab my shopping bags from the backseat and hurry into the house. It's empty, but clean and fresh. The caretaker and his wife live on the property, and although they've gone to Victorville to visit their daughter for the holidays, they aired out the house and even set up a huge Christmas tree in the vaulted living room. It's lit, but there are no other decorations on it. That is something that Damien and I will do with our friends.
I take a quick look around and put Damien's present under the tree, but otherwise I don't waste any time. He may want me naked, but I have other plans, and I hurry to the bedroom with my bags--one from Marilyn's Lounge and another from the Target I popped into during my drive.
By the time I hear the telltale beep that signals the front door opening, I'm on the sofa in the great room. The sun is setting outside, and I can see the glow of the sunset on the hills through the glass doors. The white lights on the tree twinkle, and it's magical. I'm looking forward to seeing it decked out with presents and ornaments tomorrow night.
Right now, though, it's not the tree I'm thinking about. Instead, I lean back against the cushions and close my eyes. There are two glasses of wine on the coffee table. Mine is already half empty, and I can feel the warmth of the alcohol flowing through me, heating my already overheated body even more.
I hear his footsteps, and like Pavlov's dog, I respond simply to the proximity of this man I love. My skin tingling. My breasts tightening. I desperately want to slide my hand down between my legs and ease the ache, but I don't. Instead, I have one hand resting on the seat cushion, another on the back of the sofa. And I wait. I simply wait.
"Someone really is a naughty girl." He is right above me, and I think he must have taken off his shoes to cross so silently. I breathe in a quick, startled breath as I sit up straight, longing for him even though I had told myself I would play it cool and simply stay here.
His fingertip brushes my hairline, then my lips, then down to lightly stroke my collarbone.
"Very naughty," he repeats as he reaches the neckline of the very boring, very unsexy quilted robe I'd picked up at Target.
I open my eyes and smile at him, then bite back a moan when I see the wicked heat in his eyes and the stern expression on his face. "I don't know what you're talking about, Mr. Stark."
"Mmm." He says nothing else, but he walks around the couch to stand in front of me. He's still wearing a charcoal gray suit, his waistcoat still buttoned and his tie still knotted neatly at his neck. He looks confident and in control. He looks like a man who could command a boardroom as easily as he can command me.
He looks like the man he is--Damien St
Frankly, I can't wait to get burned.
"Stand up," he says, and I don't hesitate. He glances down, and I see the slightest twitch at the corner of his lips when he notices the ugly fuzzy slippers I've got on my feet.
He makes a rough noise in the back of his throat, then moves to sit on the couch, his feet on the floor and his knees slightly apart. He pats the edge of the couch cushion between his legs. "Put your right foot here."
I comply, then close my eyes again when he slowly strokes the tip of his finger around my exposed skin before pulling the ugly slipper off. He tosses it aside, then turns his attention to my foot again, moving his finger slowly along the instep, then over my heel and up the back of my calf until I'm whimpering from the pressure building between my legs.
He feels it, too. I can see his erection bulging against the suit material, and as I meet his eyes, I move my foot inward, closer to his crotch. And then, very gently, I press the arch of my foot over his erection and am rewarded with his low, deep groan of pleasure.
"The robe," he says, his voice a growl. "Take it off."
I move to comply, tugging down the ugly plastic zipper and then throwing the quilted monstrosity onto the floor. I know that he expects me to be naked underneath, but I'm not. I'm wearing a black and red underbust corset with tiny, frilly panties that are both crotchless and backless.
Frankly, that would be more than enough to surprise my husband, but I'd grabbed one more thing from his closet before I'd left for the mountains--a set of nipple rings attached with a silver chain. The chain hangs down over the corset and the clamps on the rings are just tight enough so that the weight of the chain and the brush of that robe against my nipples has kept me in a constant state of pain, pleasure, and arousal.
"Christ, Nikki." I hear the passion in his voice, and beneath my foot, his cock has hardened to steel. I see the subtle working of his jaw as he tries to cling to control. Since I'm determined that he will lose that battle, I slide my hand down between my legs, over the satin that seems to cover my crotch, and then slowly--very slowly--slip my fingers into myself.
"Oh, fuck, baby. That is so damn hot." He closes his hand over my foot and guides me, rubbing my arch against his growing erection. "Tell me what you want," he demands, his voice hoarse with need.
by J. Kenner / Romance / Paranormal / Suspense have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes