Hottest Mess

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The S.I.N. series continues with the seductive follow-up to the Stark International Novel Dirtiest Secret, from the New York Times bestselling author of “red-hot and angsty” fiction that “keeps readers guessing” (Publishers Weekly, on Under My Skin).

No one can know about our love—and hiding only makes it hotter.
 
Dallas Sykes has a reputation. He is known for his parties, his money, and the countless women on his arm. Yet the Dallas I know is a different man—darker, smarter, and unbearably sexy. Just one look from him can leave me breathless; the anticipation of his touch can make me lose control.
 
Inextricably bound by our past, we keep each other’s secrets. And while there are people who have the power to hurt us, it’s the truth that threatens us most of all.
 
Dallas can be mine only behind closed doors, our passion as searing as it is forbidden. Yet nothing in this world has ever felt so desperately, deliciously right.

Praise for Hottest Mess

“J. Kenner has done an amazing job writing about this delicate subject. . . . Be prepared for a roller coaster filled with twists and turns, ups and downs, hope, heartbreak and cliffhangers.”—Book Boyfriend Blog
 
“The heat practically radiates from the page. . . . This book is sexy, romantic, steamy and thrilling all wrapped into one extremely well written package.”—Books & Boys Book Blog
 
“Kenner continued to push the boundaries with this edgy, passionate story. Forbidden love has never felt quite so right as it did between the perfect, combustible pairing of Dallas and Jane.”—Harlequin Junkie
 
“Gripping and consuming . . . Hottest Mess reveals the heartbreak and pain of betrayal, [and] the need for revenge.”—The Reading Cafe
 
“Kenner has created a fascinating world with raw and intriguing characters that you want to root for. . . . This is a series not to be missed!”—About That Story

Praise for J. Kenner’s Dirtiest Secret
 
“[A] high-octane contemporary, the first in [Kenner’s] new Stark International Novel (S.I.N.) trilogy . . . Kenner skillfully builds a top-notch thriller.”Publishers Weekly
 
“Fans of Kenner’s steamy, decadent and daring plotlines will feel right at home in her new S.I.N. series and revel in the escapades of her tortured characters and their forbidden passion. As always, Kenner delivers a sensual and heady physical relationship, fraught with danger, forbidden love and high-stakes complications.”RT Book Reviews
 
“Strong writing propels an exciting tale of longing, danger, and forbidden desire. The ending’s twist will leave readers eager for the next installment.”Library Journal

Hottest Mess is intended for mature audiences.

Under the Cover

An excerpt from Hottest Mess

1

Pretty Little Liars

The universe is completely unfair.

For four long, luxurious days this Southampton mansion had been my personal paradise. Here, my body had been adored. My skin stroked. My blood had burned with a passion that had been building over seventeen long years. I’d been touched and kissed and worshipped by the man I’ve loved my entire life, and I’d relished the freedom to explore every inch of him in return. My lips on his strong jaw, his tight abs. My tongue tasting the sweetness of his skin and the saltiness of his cock.

We made love tenderly, then violently, then tenderly once more. We curled together in each other’s arms. We watched late night television with our legs twined, until the sensation of skin against skin overwhelmed us and we muted the drone of talk show hosts, and explored each other again in the flickering light of the television.

We swam naked in the pool during the day, then walked along the beach in the moonlight.

Those days had been a gift. A reward.

A decadent, sensual heaven.

But all that changed this morning, and now this mansion that I love has transformed into hell. A luxurious hell with cool ocean breezes, a wet bar, liveried waiters offering sushi and canapés, and the man I love fondling the ass of a pert blonde with tits that are going to pop right out of that barely there dress if she so much as sneezes.

Bitch.

And I’m not the only one mentally plotting Blondie Bitch’s demise. On the contrary, I’m certain that every female in the vicinity would take her down in a heartbeat in order to take the twit’s place at his side. Dallas Sykes. The infamous billionaire bad boy. The man known publicly as one of the two heirs to the Sykes family fortune, and who women all over the country reverently refer to as the King of Fuck.

The man I love.

The man I can have in private, but never in public.

The man who is my brother.

Well, fuck.

The bitch leans closer to him, and as her teeth tug at his earlobe, I turn away—­there’s only so much torment I can take—­and make a beeline for the bar.

“Woodford Reserve,” I say to the bartender. “Two ice cubes.” I recall the way his hand cupped her rear. “Actually, let’s make that a double.”

“Sure thing, miss.”

Beside me, a runway-­thin model-­type with at least four inches on me takes a sip of red wine. “The hard stuff, huh? Guess you’re singing the same song I am.”

I glance at her, confused. “I’m sorry?”

Her mouth curves up in a way that makes her cheekbones even more prominent. She looks like a fairy with her pale skin and short dark hair. A devious fairy, I amend, seeing the glint in her pale blue eyes. “The Ode to Dallas,” she clarifies. “The siren’s song to make him ditch the bimbo and come straight to you. Or, in my case, me.”

“Oh. Oh, no.” My cheeks burn, and right then I’d totally welcome a natural disaster. A sinkhole, perhaps. Or a tsunami blowing in off Shinnecock Bay. “Me? With Dallas? That’s not even—­”

I clamp my mouth shut before I get in a serious the lady doth protest too much situation. How the hell could I have been so obvious? Could she really see the lust in my eyes? Surely not? Surely I was more careful. Because I have to be careful. I’ve been careful my whole damn life.

Yes, but before you two weren’t together. Now you are. At least when you’re alone. But not here. Not in the world. Not where it matters.

Her smile is knowing. “Oh, come on. Don’t tell me that you don’t—­wait.” She tilts her head, studying me, and as I watch, her eyes go wide, and she presses four long fingers over her blood-­red lips. “Oh, shit. I’m sorry. I didn’t—­”

“Didn’t what?”

“Didn’t recognize you. You’re Jane, right? You’re his sister. God, that was totally lame of me.” She drags her perfectly manicured fingers through her pixie-­style hair. “I just saw you looking at him, and I assumed that you—­anyway, never mind.” She draws a deep breath and extends her hand. “I’m Fiona. Did I mention I’m an idiot?”

I can’t help but laugh. “Honest mistake. Really. I was looking at him. But that was irritation you were seeing. Not lust.” That, at least, is half true, and I allow myself one deep breath in relief. Crisis averted. Bullet dodged.

But I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that some tiny, screwed up part of me wishes that she’d called my bluff. That she’d felt the heat that burns in my veins for him—­and that she’d figured it out.

Because as much as I love Dallas, I hate that we have to hide. And some rebellious, hidden, bold, stupid part of me wishes that we could be open and out there and real.

We can’t, though. I know we can’t. The law and our parents and the threat of public humiliation keep us trapped firmly in the shadows. And, honestly, I’ve never been too fond of the spotlight, so the idea of having tabloid attention focused on me because I’m sleeping with my brother really doesn’t sit well.

But it’s not just family and privacy and social mores that are keeping us apart. There’s Deliverance, too. Because as long as Dallas is Top Secret Vigilante Guy, everything in his life is going to remain hidden, including the man he truly is. A man so very different from the one he shows the public. A man that even I don’t fully know or understand, because we haven’t yet talked about how Deliverance operates or about its core mission to track—­and presumably kill—­the miserable excuses for human beings who kidnapped us both seventeen years ago. We need to, of course, but neither of us wanted that conversation to intrude on our four days of bliss. We only wanted each other.

“Hey,” Fiona says, her forehead creasing as she peers at me. “You okay?”

“Fine.” I force a smile, even though I feel like crying. Because for the first time it’s fully hit me. He’s mine. Dallas Sykes is absolutely, one hundred percent, totally mine.

And yet I can never truly have him.

Not in the way that counts. Not in the way that matters.

We’re living a lie that is shiny and perfect and wonderful in the shadows, but that shrivels and dies in the harsh light of day.

I love him. I do.

And even though we promised each other that we would make this work, I can’t help but fear that’s a promise we never should have made. Because it’s a promise that is impossible to keep.

2

Rear Window

An hour later I’m finally alone and on my third bourbon. Fiona has overcompensated for her faux pas by prattling on about nothing and everything, which was good in that her constant attention kept my eyes from drifting to Dallas.

And bad, in that her constant attention kept my eyes from drifting to Dallas.

Even knowing I shouldn’t, all I want to do is watch him. And imagine him touching me. And seethe about the fact that he is spending the party touching everyone but me.

Apparently, he’s even touched Fiona.

“We went out a couple of times,” she told me, eyes sparkling. “Everyone knows he hardly ever sees the same woman twice, but, well, he saw me three times.” Her lips curved wickedly. “He saw all of me.”

My stomach twisted as I smiled politely and said something about my brother’s reputation and how I really needed to go take care of something with the staff. I escaped inside, hid out for half an hour, and when I returned, I didn’t see her at all.

Dallas, however, caught my attention right away.

Now, I’m leaning against the corner post of one of the pool cabanas trying not to watch him. Or, at least, trying not to be obvious about the fact that I’m watching him.

He’s moved on from the blonde. Now he stands next to a brunette with streaks of neon blue. Her long hair falls in loose curls over her back, bare in the designer halter she wears. She sports a tattoo on her shoulder—­not a feminine one, but a skull against a blood-­red background.

She wears a black leather miniskirt and five-­inch heels, and I have no doubt that this is a woman who takes what she wants. I can tell simply from looking at her. I can also tell from the way she keeps leaning toward Dallas and running her tongue over the edge of his ear.

I’ve never met the woman, but I’m going out on a limb and saying that I don’t like her. Not at all. Not even one little bit.

I realize I’m staring again, and so I pull out my phone and make an effort to go through my emails. The attempt is futile—­I see words, but they make no sense to me at the moment.

At least not until a text message flashes across my screen.

Watch.

It’s from Dallas, of course, and my body tightens merely from seeing his name. I react on instinct—­my head lifting, my eyes going straight to where he stands with Skull Girl. He’s not looking in my direction, but I know that he is aware of me. He always is. Just as I’m always aware of him.

I stand, my feet like weights holding me in place as I watch the scene unfolding in front of me. Dallas and the woman standing near the pool, chatting casually with a few of the guests. Dallas’s hand, brushing lightly against her bare back. His fingers trailing down her spine, then over the halter’s tie at her waist.

I expect his hand to stroke the soft leather and cup her ass, but that isn’t what happens. Instead, his nimble fingers unfasten the button of her waistband, loosening it just enough so that he can slip his hand inside her skirt and slide it down over her ass. For just a fraction of an instant, he looks up, his eyes finding mine. Heat pours through me, turning me liquid, making me wet.

I know what he is doing—­we’ve done this before. Him touching another woman. Me watching. And both of us pretending that he is touching me.

The first time, it was hotter than sin. I’d been alone in a bathroom, watching the scenario play out on video. We weren’t together yet—­in fact we were doing everything to stay apart—­and that moment had been a turning point for both of us. A bold—­albeit completely fucked up—­statement of just how badly we wanted each other. Of what we were willing to do.

- About the author -

J. Kenner is the New York Times bestselling author of Release Me, Claim Me, Complete Me, Wanted, Heated, Ignited, Say My Name, On My Knees, Under My Skin, Dirtiest Secret, Hottest Mess, Sweetest Taboo, and the novellas Take Me, Have Me, Play My Game, Seduce Me, Unwrap Me, and Deepest Kiss. She spent more than ten years as a litigator in Southern California and Central Texas, using her rare free time to indulge in her passion of writing. She lives in Texas with her husband and daughters.

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Hottest Mess

— Published by Bantam —