Home > Wicked Dirty (Stark World #2)

Wicked Dirty (Stark World #2)
Author: J. Kenner

Prologue

 

 

It seemed like the perfect plan. Let a guy into my bed. Let him touch me. Let him fuck me.

Why not?

I was desperate, after all. And you know what they say about desperate times.

Besides, it’s not as if I was going to fall for one of my clients. I’m not one of those prissy girls who loses her heart at a kind word or a soft touch.

I’m not a woman who falls at all. Not for a man. Not for anybody.

I’ve been screwed far too many times. And if I’m going to get screwed anyway, I might as well get something out of it.

That’s what I thought, anyway.

Then he opened the door, with his beautiful face and his haunted eyes. Eyes that hinted at secrets at least as painful as my own.

He touched me—and despite all my defenses, I fell.

And now…

Well, now I can only hope that when I hit the ground, I won’t shatter into a million pieces. And that maybe—just maybe—he’ll be there to catch me.

 

 

1

 

 

The setting sun cast a warm glow over the Hollywood Hills as nearly naked waitresses glided through the crowd with a rainbow-like array of test tube shots. Or, for the more traditional guests, highball glasses of premium vodka and bourbon.

The liquor flowed, the guests laughed and gossiped, the hottest new band in Los Angeles shook the roof, and entertainment reporters took photographs and videos, all of which they shared on social media.

In other words, the lavish party at Reach, the hip, new rooftop hotspot, was a dead-on perfect publicity event.

The purpose, of course, was to officially announce that Lyle Tarpin, one of Hollywood’s fastest rising stars, had joined the cast of M. Sterious, next year’s installment in the wildly popular Blue Zenith movie franchise.

The script was solid, the action pulse-pounding, and Lyle still couldn’t believe that he’d been cast, much less that he was set to play the eponymous M, an emotionally wounded antihero.

It was a role that could catapult him from the A-list to over-the-moon, transforming him into a Hollywood megastar with his choice of meaty roles and the kind of multimillion dollar paydays that had only been a glimmer of a dream when he’d started this Hollywood journey.

In other words, this was an opportunity he didn’t intend to fuck up.

Which was why he forced himself not to wince and turn away when Frannie caught his eye and smiled. She tossed her head, making her auburn locks bounce as she walked toward him, her sequined cocktail dress revealing a mile of toned legs ending in a pair of strappy sandals that showed off a perfect pedicure.

One of Hollywood’s most bankable stars, Francesca Muratti was set to play Lyle’s love interest—the Blue Zenith agent who turns M from his dark ways and recruits him to the side of justice—both saving him and, hopefully, adding another long-running hero to the franchise.

“Hello, lover,” she said, sliding her arms around his neck and pressing her body against his. Frannie had a reputation for being a wild child who made it a point to sleep with almost every one of her male co-stars, and she’d made no secret that she wanted Lyle to join that little fraternity.

Honestly, Lyle didn’t know if she was insecure, overly horny, or simply into method acting. All he knew was that he wasn’t interested. Which, considering the damage a pissed-off Francesca could do to his career, was ten kinds of inconvenient.

“Kiss me like you mean it,” she murmured, then leaned in, preparing to make the demand a reality, but he angled back, taking her chin in his hand and holding her steady as her eyes flashed with irritation.

“Anticipation, Frannie.” He bent close so that she shivered from the feel of his breath on her ear. “If we give them what they want now, why would they come to the movie?”

“Fuck the fans,” she whispered back, her hand sliding down to grab his crotch. “This is what I want.”

And goddamn him all to hell, he felt himself start to grow hard. Not from desire for her, but in response to a familiar, baser need. A dark room. A willing woman. Just once—hard enough and hot enough that it wore him out. Soothed his guilt and his pain. Quieted the ghosts of his past, the horror of his mistakes.

Enough to tide him over until the next time. The next woman.

And to maybe, if he was lucky, chip away at the wall he’d built around his heart.

His thoughts churned wildly, and he imagined the feel of a woman’s soft skin under his fingers. A woman who wouldn’t look at him with Jennifer’s eyes. Who wouldn’t remind him of where he’d run from or what he’d done. A woman who’d give herself to him. Who wouldn’t care about his flaws as he let himself just go, hard and hot and desperate, into the wild, dark bliss of anonymity.

“Mmm, I don’t know, Lyle,” Frannie murmured, her hand pressed firmly against his now rock-hard erection. “Here’s evidence that suggests our onscreen chemistry is real. Give me a chance and I bet we can really raise that flag.”

“I like you fine, Frannie,” he said, taking a step back and cursing himself for giving into fantasy. “But I’m not fucking you.”

From the glint in her eye, he was certain her famous temper was about to flare, but an editor he recognized from Variety walked up, and Frannie downshifted to charming.

Lyle hung around long enough to greet the guy and answer a few questions about the role, then made his escape when the conversation shifted to Frannie’s new endorsement deal.

He grabbed a bourbon from a passing waiter and sipped it as he crossed to the edge of the roof. He didn’t like heights, which was why he sought them out. Hell, it was why his apartment was on the thirtieth floor of a Century City high rise, and the reason he’d spent countless hours getting his pilot’s license. When something bothered him, he conquered it; he didn’t succumb to it.

And that’s part of why this bullshit with Frannie irritated him so much.

“You never struck me as the stupid type.”

Lyle recognized the throaty, feminine voice and turned to face his agent, Evelyn Dodge. An attractive woman in her mid-fifties, Evelyn had been in the industry for ages, knew everyone worth knowing, and was as tough as nails. She also never took shit from anybody.

Lyle studied her face, trying to get a bead on what she was thinking. No luck. His agent was a blank slate. Good when negotiating deals. Not so good when he was trying to gauge a reaction.

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