Exclusive Excerpt + Giveaway: Dirtiest Secret (S.I.N.) by J. Kenner - Vilma Iris | Lifestyle Blogger

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Exclusive Excerpt + Giveaway: Dirtiest Secret (S.I.N.) by J. Kenner

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The Stark world expands and evolves with more sizzling, suspenseful stories sure to keep you enraptured and it all starts with Dirtiest Secret—the first in the exciting new S.I.N. trilogy. For fans of the Stark books, you may recall meeting wealthy playboy Dallas Sykes in Say My Name and Deepest Kiss, but for new readers, you can pick up his story fresh—a story about secrets, scars and relenting to an inescapable desire.

I’m thrilled to give you a sneak peek at this novel, which is out April 19th, plus make sure to scroll to the bottom so you can enter to win 1 of 2 paperback galleys!

Amazon ebook | Paperback | iBooks | Barnes & Noble ✦

Synopsis

Dirtiest Secret starkIt was wrong for us to be together, but it was even harder to be apart.
 
The memory of Dallas Sykes burns inside of me.

Everyone knows him as a notorious playboy, a man for whom women and money are no object. But to me, he’s still the one man I desperately crave—yet the one I can never have.

Dallas knows me better than anyone else. We bear the same scars, the same darkness in our past. I thought I could move on by staying away, but now that we’re drawn together once more, I can’t fight the force of our attraction or the temptation to make him mine.

We’ve tried to maintain control, not letting ourselves give in to desire. And for so long we’ve told ourselves no—but now it’s finally time to say yes.

Excerpt

“It’s a joy to see you here, miss, isn’t it, Mr. Sykes?”

I almost expect him to disagree, but I hear the sincerity in Dallas’s voice when he answers, very simply, “Yes. It really is.”

For just an instant, our eyes meet, and both our guards are down. I want to just stand there, drinking him in. I want to touch him. More, I want him to touch me.

I shouldn’t have come, I think. I should never, ever have come.

“I’ll tell the pilot you’re running late,” Archie says, his crisp, efficient voice completely breaking the spell.

I gasp a little, feeling flustered. Dallas, damn him, looks as cool as he always does.

“Miss Jane,” Archie says, “it was lovely to see you.”

“You, too,” I say sincerely, and then watch as he turns and heads down the stairs.

“Why did you come?” Dallas asks again, and his voice is so flat that I have to wonder if I’d been mistaken. If the desire I saw in his eyes was just an illusion. Or, worse, wishful thinking.

I want to tell him that it doesn’t matter, but this is the one thing that I won’t lie to him about. We suffered through too much together. And while I may not respect the man he’s become, I love the man he could have been.

“I got a call from Bill this morning,” I admit, then watch his face for his reaction.

It’s not hard to miss. He winces. “Your husband.”

“Ex-husband,” I remind him. “You know damn well we divorced two years ago.” William Martin and I were married for almost three years, which was almost three years too long. I’d known from the first week that saying yes had been a mistake. I’d respected Bill, trusted him. And I think I even loved him on some level. But there wasn’t passion, not really, and there was never an us.

But I’d been lost for so long, trying to hold together all the various strands of a life that was spinning out of control. Trying to figure out what I needed. How I could heal.

I’d thought having a husband would help. A normal life with a normal family.

I hadn’t understood then that normal isn’t something you can play at. It has to be there at the core. But I’m a long way from normal, and I probably always will be.

“You still keep in touch with him?”

“I divorced him, Dallas,” I say. “I didn’t banish him.”

Not like I banished you. I don’t say that aloud, though. Doesn’t matter. I know he’s thinking the exact same thing.

“Bill Martin was never the man for you,” he says, and my simmering anger really starts to boil.

“Really? Did you really just say that? Because at least I tried to move on, to grow up. To find something in my life that mattered, and didn’t just sit around mourning what I couldn’t have.”

“Is that what you think?”

“Honestly, I try not to think about you at all. I saw your potential once. I saw your heart. Now, all I see is bullshit. Now all I see is what the world sees—a class-A fuckup with too much money, too much time, and way too little discretion.”

He drags his fingers through his hair, and I see the apology on his face, even before he says, “I’m sorry. He’s a good man. I shouldn’t have—you threw me off kilter,” he admits. That, at least, I know is honest.

“Bill’s one of my best research sources,” I say and hate that the words sound almost like an apology, as if I have to justify continuing to talk with the man who was once my husband and is now my friend.

“For your books.”

“Of course,” I say. “What else?”

He doesn’t answer. Instead, he takes a step toward me. I take a corresponding step back, and feel the bannister press just below my waist. He doesn’t relent, though, and there’s nowhere for me to go when he closes the distance until only a few inches remain between us. At six foot four, he has a good eight inches on me, and I’m forced to tilt my head back so that I can see his face. I can smell the scotch on his breath. I can see the way his shirt moves with the beating of his heart, a fast rhythm that matches my own.

I hold tight to the polished rail in defense against the unwelcome urge to reach out and touch him.

“And what the hell could Bill have to say that would send you running to me?” he asks.

I lick my lips, knowing how my words will affect him because I know how much they affected me. “Not here,” I say, glancing down the stairs to where some of the partygoers have started to drift up to the second floor. “Not where anyone can overhear.”

He studies me for a moment, then nods. He takes my arm, and I try not to react as sparks shoot through me from nothing more than that simple connection. I let him lead me down the hall and into the third floor den, a room that I know so well. It’s pristine now. The wooden furniture polished, the silk pillows neatly placed. There’s a glass coffee table in front of the sofa, and a basket with logs near the fireplace, even though winter is months away.

It looks neat and tidy and relaxing. Not at all like the place where we used to spread our toy cars all over the floor. Where Liam used to set up his train set, and Dallas and I would tie one of my hated Barbies to the tracks before getting bored and racing our Hot Wheels across the polished-to-a-shine floors.

I sigh deeply as the memories flood back, at the same time both welcome and disturbing.

I remember the trips to this house with my mother, Lisa, and my birth father, Colin West. Eli Sykes and Colin had been fast friends since college, and we used to spend weeks inside these walls, the adults doing their thing, while Liam and I—and later Dallas—played and explored.

I recall with perfect clarity the night that I overheard Archie telling Eli that Donovan, Eli’s brother, was dead. Lost at sea after falling off his yacht, apparently the victim of too many pills and booze.

And I can still smell the lemony scent of furniture polish that lingered on the sunny afternoon when I’d first seen Dallas. That was the day his strung-out mother had shoved both the boy and a paternity test at Eli. The test proved that the five-year-old boy was Eli’s nephew. And Eli kept him because everything about the woman—including the needle marks on her arms—testified that she wasn’t fit to raise him.

I’d been five, too, and I’d come to Eli’s house with my parents—Lisa and Colin—for one of our regular vacation weeks. I’d held on tight to both my favorite stuffed bunny and to Liam’s hand as we watched the drama play out from our hiding place inside this very room’s dumbwaiter.

Mrs. Foster, Liam’s mother and the live-in the housekeeper, was summoned to help get Dallas settled. She ushered him out of the den, and Liam and I waited until we were sure the coast was clear to sneak out and go look for this mysterious new boy.

We found him in the bedroom next to the one I always used when my family came for overnight visits, and although Eli had frowned when Liam and I had poked our heads in, Mrs. Foster gestured us into the room. “I know it’s not my place to tell you what to do, Mr. Sykes,” Helen Foster had said. “But I think some playtime with my Liam and Miss Jane may be just what this boy needs.”

Eli had considered her words, then looked earnestly at his nephew. “You’ll let Liam or Jane know if you need anything? Food, a bathroom, whatever you want.” He’d smoothed Dallas’s hair and looked into his eyes. “This is your home now, young man. Do you understand that?”

Dallas barely nodded, and when he looked over at me, I smiled, thinking that he was really, really brave.

After Eli left, Liam had gone and sat on the bed, then put his arm around Dallas like a big brother, his dark skin contrasting against the pale little boy. I stood in front of them both holding Mr. Fluffles, my stuffed bunny, tight in my hands.

“So,” Liam said, “do you need anything?”

Dallas just shook his head. He had long brown hair that hung in loose curls over his eyes. His oversize T-shirt was gray, but so was Mr. Fluffles, and I knew that both of them were supposed to be white. The boy looked out of place. Lost and terrified. But when he lifted his head and pushed his hair out of his face, I saw his green eyes and thought they were even more beautiful than my mom’s emeralds.

I don’t know why I did it, but I thrust Mr. Fluffles into his hands. For a moment, he smiled, so wide and happy that sunshine lit the room. Then it faded as he passed the bunny back to me. “He’s yours.”

“Friends share,” I’d said.

“Are we friends?”

I’d glanced at Liam, and we’d both nodded. “Sure we are,” Liam had said.

“Forever,” I’d added.

Forever.

The hollow echo of my childhood voice seems to fill this familiar, empty room.

Forever?

I’m not even sure what that means anymore. And I sure as hell don’t know if Dallas and I are still friends.

Honestly, I don’t know what we are anymore.

“Jane?”

His voice banishes the last of my memories, and I realize that I’d stopped right on the threshold, neither in nor out of this room.

“Are you coming?” He’s still holding my arm, and I tug it free. The truth is that I don’t want to go in—not all the way. I’m too raw here in this house so close to the man I lost. The man I could never really have.

Series Reading Order
About J. Kenner

A New York Times, USA Today, Publishers Weekly, and Wall Street Journal bestselling author, J. Kenner (aka Julie Kenner) writes the international bestselling Stark and Most Wanted series of erotic romances.

As Julie Kenner, she writes within a range of genres including romance (erotic, sexy, funny & sweet), young adult novels, chick lit suspense, and paranormal mommy lit.

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