Apr 12 2013 9:00am

First Look: J. Kenner’s Claim Me (April 23, 2013)

Claim Me by J. KennerJ. Kenner
Claim Me
Bantam / April 23, 2013 / $10.99 print, $9.99 digital

For Damien, our obsession is a game. For me, it is fiercely, blindingly, real.

Damien Stark’s need is palpable—his need for pleasure, his need for control, his need for me. Beautiful and brilliant yet tortured at his core, he is in every way my match.

I have agreed to be his alone, and now I want him to be fully mine. I want us to possess each other beyond the sweetest edge of our ecstasy, into the deepest desires of our souls. To let the fire that burns between us consume us both.

But there are dark places within Damien that not even our wildest passion can touch. I yearn to know his secrets, yearn for him to surrender to me as I have surrendered to him. But our troubled pasts will either bind us close . . . or shatter us completely.

Claim Me, the second novel in J. Kenner’s bestselling Release Me trilogy, wastes no time bringing the reader back into the erotic dance between Nikki Fairchild and billionaire Damian Stark. It opens with Nikki standing naked and bound at Stark’s magnificent Malibu home, her raw sensuality being transformed into a nude portrait commissioned by Stark.

The painting is just one part of the one million dollar deal struck between Nikki and Damian. The other is that Nikki agreed to be at his command for one week, whenever and however he wants,“to touch, to tease, to tempt.” But the clock is ticking, and at midnight, the agreement ends. As the sun sets on the final day of their erotic bargain, the intense dynamic between them shows no signs of letting up:

His eyes meet mine, and I shiver from the shock of the connection. The athlete, the celebrity, the entrepreneur, the billionaire persona all fall away, leaving on the man and an expression that makes my blood heat and my insides curl with longing. An expression that is so raw and primal that were I not already naked, I’m certain that every stitch of clothing would have turned to ash, burned away by the heat in his eyes.

Nikki Fairchild is a former Texas beauty queen turned L.A. transplant. Just weeks ago, she moved to the City of Angels intent on leaving behind her troubled past to conquer the business world at age twenty-four. But a chance encounter at a party with former tennis star turned billionaire business man  Damian Stark changed everything: The immediate, powerful attraction between her and Stark drove them into each other’s arms.  But in getting close to Damian, Nikki was forced to reveal her scars, both emotional and literal.

Now that her deal with Damian is complete, Nikki faces the next turn in their relationship:

It’s not as if I will truly turn into a pumpkin when our game is over. And I certainly won’t be going away – to be honest, I don’t ever want to go away. All that will change is that there will be no more rules – no more ‘sir,’ no more orders, no more safewords. There will be panties and bras and jeans if I want them. And yes, there will be a million dollars.

But Nikki also knows that in order for them to forge something real, beyond the parameters of money and sex, she can not be the only one who reveals everything. Damian knows all her secrets—the darkness of her past and the damage it has inflicted on her body and mind. And while he accepts her for who she is, scars and all, he is not giving her the same chance in return. While Damian Stark has shared much of his troubled past, Nikki is certain that he still holds a dark secret—one he might be keeping from her to protect her more than to protect himself.

Because Damian is also painfully aware that every day is a battle for Nikki to stay one step ahead of her own demons—and that the spectre of her cutting is never far behind. He doesn’t want to be the thing in her life that pushes her back over the edge, and tells her that he will do whatever it takes to protect her, even if that means leaving her, “even if it kills me.” And she can’t deny that she is still vulnerable:

It’s barely been a week since I’d tossed a knife across my kitchen, angry and scared by how much I wanted to press the blade against my skin and erase my fears and doubts in the consuming rapture of the pain. 

But is loving Damien her new form of pain? And will the secrets he keeps set them free, or drive them apart?

J. Kenner’s evocative writing thrillingly captures the power of physical attraction, the pull of longing, the universe-altering effect one person can have on another. She masterfully draws out the eroticism between Nikki and Damian; the first sixty or so pages dip in and out of their breathtaking physical connection and  culminate in an explosive sex scene that marks the final night under their deal. Claim Me has the emotional depth to back up the sex. In a single line, Kenner deftly conveys Nikki’s conundrum: “I sometimes fear that while our desire is mutual, my need is one-sided.”  Every scene is infused with both erotic tension, and the tension of wondering what lies beneath Damian’s veneer—and how and when it will be revealed. Now the hard part: waiting for book number three, Complete Me, coming in July.

Learn more about or pre-order a copy of J. Kenner's Claim Me before its April 23 release:

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Jamie Brenner is the author of THE GIN LOVERS, a romantic drama set in 1920s Manhattan (St. Martin’s Press). Writing under the pen name Logan Belle, her upcoming modern day re-telling of Lady Chatterley’s Lover, MISS CHATTERLEY, coming May 13 (Pocket Star). For more, please visit or follow her @jamieLbrenner.

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