Kelly Watson got involved with mogul Caleb Marshall for all the wrong reasons: namely, to prove that he murdered her father twenty years ago. But Caleb is hotter than hell, the sex is mind-blowing, and Kelly’s afraid that she’s falling for him despite her chilling suspicions. Now, the more time she spends in his arms, the more she risks betraying her identity and losing her heart. The only way out is to discover the truth before Caleb figures out who she really is.
Caleb’s feelings for Kelly are taking him into uncharted territory, replacing his weakness for call girls and one-night stands with a hunger for something real. Still, the ruthless businessman in him can’t resist looking into Kelly’s background. When his investigation suggests that he’s not the only one with something to hide, Caleb is forced to decide if he can trust someone who’s been telling him lies. For the first time, Caleb understands how intimacy can be so tempting—and, in the wrong hands, so dangerous.
Praise for Darker the Release
“Darker the Release is hot and steamy, full of complex characters, with a dash of suspense and a surprise thrown in for good measure. Readers will not be disappointed.”—Library Journal
“I was rooting for Kelly and Caleb all the way! They just were perfect together, flaws and all. And these two have so many different faces that you never know who’s on first. Or what’s on second. But you just can’t stop reading till you know . . . everything! Every. Crazy. Hot. Wild. . . . Thing!”—Kris & Vik Book Therapy Cafe
“There is so much conflict and angst. Love that consumes and destroys but also builds and expands until it is everything. . . . Kent has written a book that will move you to tears and make you long for a connection as deep as Kelly and Caleb’s.”—Romantic Fanatic Book Blog
“A great read, full of questions, danger, angst and revelations.”—Jeannie Zelos Book Reviews
Darker the Release is intended for mature audiences. This eBook includes a special message from the editor, as well as an excerpt from another Loveswept title.
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Darker the Release
By Claire Kent
Random HouseCopyright © 2015 Claire Kent
All rights reserved.
Kelly Watson was getting annoyed because Caleb wouldn't hang up the phone.
She'd come over to his big estate outside DC for the weekend. She wasn't living with him all the time anymore — the way she had in the beginning — but she'd spent the last three weekends with him. Now it was Friday at almost seven in the evening, and he was still on a work call.
He was also wearing nothing but a towel around his waist.
Caleb Marshall was the CEO of Vendella and Co., a high-powered pharmaceutical company. He didn't have the luxury of working only on weekdays. She didn't expect him not to work — or not to take calls on any day or at any hour they came in.
But still, they were scheduled to leave for a black-tie event in ten minutes. The cocktail party was his thing — since she was a pet portrait artist and wasn't in the habit of attending formal events of any kind. It was only because of him that she was going to this party at all. She'd gotten out of the shower, dried her hair, and done her makeup in the bathroom, and she'd expected him to be dressed when she reentered his bedroom.
But he was sitting in a leather chair near the window, talking on the phone, naked except for the towel.
And he didn't even appear aware of her presence.
It worried her.
They were supposed to be in a real relationship. They'd never said the words "I love you." Given both of their pasts as commitment-phobes, that would have been far beyond the comfort zone for either of them. But they'd admitted that the feelings between them were real, and they'd agreed to try to make the relationship work.
He was supposed to care about her, be totally into her, feel for her more than he'd ever felt for anyone else. That was what he'd said, at least.
Which was why it was concerning that he hadn't noticed that she'd walked into the bedroom wearing nothing but her underwear. He hadn't even glanced over at her.
Caleb wasn't just her boyfriend. He might have killed her father. And the only way she could ever find out the truth was to get him to trust her completely, let down his guard, and allow her access to the information she needed so she could find concrete evidence about who had arranged her father's murder. And she only had a limited amount of time to accomplish all this in the month or so her mother had left to live.
If Caleb was losing his interest in her, if she wasn't as attractive to him as she used to be, then she could never do what she needed to do.
So she felt distracted and out of sorts as she walked over to the dresser and looked in the mirror.
Her makeup was good — setting off her blue eyes, high cheekbones, fair skin, and full lips — and her long, dark gold hair was pulled up into an elegant twist. Her bra and panties were a sexy black lace — much more expensive than she'd ever bought for herself before she'd met Caleb.
In the past, she'd only ever had one-night stands. There was no man in the world whom she'd known as deeply and intimately as Caleb. No man who could turn her on as much. No man she'd invested nearly as much in as him.
No man she'd hated as much.
It was the bitter irony of her life — to live torn apart like this until she could finally find the truth, finally find closure, finally heal. If such a thing was even possible.
But all of it would be futile if his interest was waning.
He was talking about some sort of marketing campaign on the phone. She heard the words, but they were of no interest. It didn't sound like an emergency, though, so it was definitely time for him to hang up the phone.
With that same flutter of anxiety and uncertainty, she grabbed a tube of lotion from the bag she'd brought over for the weekend and squeezed some out on her palm.
Then she walked over so she was directly in Caleb's line of sight, sat down on the edge of the bed, and started to rub the lotion into one of her legs.
Her body was pretty decent, with long legs and good breasts. Caleb had always seemed to really like it before. Might as well use it to her advantage.
She massaged the lotion in slowly, extending her leg in a way she hoped was sexy.
With a clench of pleased satisfaction, she noticed from the corner of her eye that Caleb's eyes had shifted over to her.
He was still talking, but at least now he was watching her.
She took her time rubbing the lotion on her other leg as well, and then she stood up and started applying it to her arms and shoulders in turn.
He was definitely focused on her now. His brown eyes had taken on a familiar heat — albeit still distracted by his conversation — and his gaze didn't leave her body.
Making sure to act unaware, she walked over to the closet to get a dress. She'd brought two possibilities with her for this evening, since she hadn't been sure which she should wear. Inspired, she grabbed the one she'd already decided against.
She returned to his line of sight to slowly, sensually pull the dress on, letting the soft fabric cling to her body.
It was a blue that matched her eyes, and she studied herself in the mirror, turning around and pretending to be evaluating the effect. She slipped on her high heels and looked at herself again.
Then she unzipped it and let it fall slowly to the floor so she was standing in nothing but her underwear and heels.
Caleb stumbled over something he was saying.
Acting as though she weren't paying any attention to him and hiding her flush of pleasure at this clear evidence that he was so affected by her, she walked back to the closet to get her other dress.
This one was a deep red — a sleeveless column of fabric with well-tailored ruches and a slit on one side that came all the way up her thigh.
Caleb wasn't talking much anymore — just occasionally saying "yeah." She didn't dare to look over at him fully, because he would suspect what she was trying to do.
But the brief glances she sneaked proved that his body had grown tense and his skin was slightly flushed.
He was turned on. No doubt about it. It gave her a rush of pleasure and relief — and also a pride that left her a little uncomfortable.
She was so focused on looking sexy as she tried to zip up her dress that she was at a loss when the zipper snagged on the fabric.
She tugged on it gently and then frowned, wondering how she was supposed to get it unsnagged and still look sexy.
She gasped and gave a little jump when she felt a hand over hers on the zipper.
Caleb had gotten up and moved behind her while she was distracted.
"Stuck?" he asked, his voice thick and textured the way it always was when he was turned on.
He was standing behind her, and his eyes were moving with a hungry heat from her face down her body in the mirror over the dresser.
"Try not to tear it," she said as he focused back down on her zipper. "This dress was expensive."
"It was well worth the money."
With a little work, he freed the zipper and pulled it all the way up.
"Did you finish with your call?" she asked, glancing back to where he'd left his phone on the table next to the chair.
"You made sure of that, didn't you?"
She made her eyes wide and innocent. "What do you mean?"
"You know exactly what I mean. You think I'm so easy that I'll be manipulated by the sexy you little show you just gave me."
She glanced over her shoulder and down at his groin, where he was visibly aroused beneath the towel. She just cleared her throat, trying to hide a smile.
"That's only a victory," Caleb said, "if a man is led around by his dick."
"And you're not?"
"What do you think?"
She met his eyes in the mirror, and she felt the strangest twisting of fear, pleasure, and possession at what she saw in his expression.
"I think I told you on the first day we met that, by the time I was through with you, all your unrelenting alpha-maleness would be broken. I think I'm off to a good start." She made sure her expression was teasing, almost taunting. They'd done this verbal dance from the beginning, and it was sometimes as exciting to her as his touch.
She had to be so careful, though, and not surrender completely to her feelings for him. She'd loved her father too much to sacrifice justice for him that way.
"Is that what you think?" As Caleb spoke, he pulled the zipper of her dress back down.
She glanced over at the clock. "We're supposed to leave in five minutes."
"Then I'll have to prove my point quickly."
Her breath was already quickening as he slowly slid her dress down to the floor, leaving her again wearing nothing but her heels and underwear. "What point?"
"That there's nothing broken about me."
She reached behind her to caress his hard cock through the towel, pleased when he gave a soft grunt. "It feels like you're not going to hold out very long in this little show of strength you're putting on."
He took her wrist and pulled her hand away, planting it on the dresser. "Was that a challenge?"
"I know how you feel about those." She gave him a teasing smile in the mirror.
She did know how he responded to a challenge — the same way she always had. She'd never met another man who could match her will, in bed or out of it. She could see the defiance smoldering in his eyes right now, and it triggered a matching reaction in her.
He might not know the real battle that would always be waged between them — the clash of mighty opposites, as Shakespeare had put it — but these smaller duels had always shaped their relationship.
So she was ready for him when he stepped forward, pressing his body into hers from behind and kissing the side of her neck.
Instinctively, she leaned back into him, and she sighed with pleasure as his hands stroked up and down her mostly naked body. Her eyelids lowered involuntarily, but she could see in the mirror through her mostly closed eyes as Caleb skillfully worked over her body with his hands.
She stifled a gasp as he fondled her nipples through the lace of her bra, and she arched her spine as the pleasure started to build.
She still felt in control, though. She wasn't yet in danger of losing this challenge.
He caressed her skillfully in silence, both of them watching him in the mirror, and Kelly could see her cheeks redden and her nipples growing visibly tight with her arousal.
Then he tilted his head and said against her ear, the vibration of his husky voice making her shudder, "Your pussy is wet."
It was true. Her pussy was wet. And hot. And aching. And her whole body was now flushed with heat.
But she wasn't about to lose a challenge so easily. "And you're still hard. That doesn't mean anything. You're going to have to work a lot harder than that if you want to win this little game."
"I've only just started." His voice had grown softer, although that same primal heat was evident in his eyes. His hand dropped down to the curve of her breast and, using his knuckles again, he flicked one of her nipples — which were jutting out prominently through the fabric of her bra. "I can see how much you want me now. You're dying for me to fuck you."
The light fondling of her nipple generated tugs of desire so sharp Kelly had to bite her lip to keep from whimpering in response. Unconsciously, she arched her back, causing her breasts to jut out even more. "I could say the same about you," she managed to say. There wasn't any sense in denying his words, though. Her body's responses had already betrayed her.
Caleb had been watching her closely, registering every detail about her reactions and expression. "Do you want to watch yourself?"
He'd adjusted his hand so he was cupping one of her breasts, and she couldn't help shifting to press her chest against his palm more fully. "I think you're the one with that kind of ego."
It didn't come out quite as clever as she'd intended, but it was the best she could do, now that Caleb had started rubbing her nipple with the heel of his hand.
"You can complain about my ego all you want, but you like it." His hand slid down until it was cupping one side of her ass. "Don't you?"
He was right. Of course he was right. His absolute arrogance and entitlement might be obnoxious, but it also drew her in, thrilled her, posed the deepest sort of challenge.
Caleb could obviously see the confirmation on her face. He leaned forward, mouthing a spot just below her jaw. "Fuck, Kelly," he murmured against her skin. "You're so hot. And even hotter because you look so innocent."
She had a rosy, heart-shaped face that gave the impression of youth and innocence. There was nothing she could do about it, but Caleb knew by now her appearance was a lie.
There wasn't anything innocent about her.
If he had known why she was really with him, he would have known this truth even more deeply.
He didn't know, though. Not yet. He only knew the Kelly she'd revealed to him, and that was only part of who she was.
Two of his fingers slipped under her panties and stroked her intimately, parting the soft folds of flesh and feeling her hot, wet arousal.
"I knew your pussy was wet," Caleb murmured, sliding a finger inside her and stroking her inner walls.
His words shouldn't have been as hot as they were, but her muscles clenched around the penetration of his finger, and she let out a thick gasp of pleasure.
When he joined the first finger with a second, the fuller feeling made Kelly jerk her hips involuntarily, the pressure at her center pushing her forward into shameless urgency.
"You like that, don't you?" He used his other hand to hold her thighs apart as he fucked her with his fingers.
Biting her lower lip hard, Kelly tried not to give him any sort of answer.
"It's not going to take long," Caleb murmured in that same sultry voice. "You're almost there already."
The pleasure was building so quickly she had to hang on to the dresser in front of her. "Oh, God!"
The loud cry escaped her lips without her conscious intention, and she burned with both lust and slight embarrassment, since she hadn't held strong as much as she'd wanted.
"That's right," Caleb said in raspy encouragement. "Let go."
He pitched his hips forward, allowing her to feel the hardness of his arousal against her ass. "Just say the word, and I'll make you come — over and over again."
She whimpered helplessly, overwhelmed with so much hunger and heat that she was afraid she might melt. Then she remembered the challenge and made herself answer, "As long as we both acknowledge that you're cheating."
"How am I cheating?"
"I turned you on without touching you, and you've got your hands all over me. So it hasn't been a fair fight." She met his eyes in the mirror, feeling a kind of connection that went far beyond physical touch.
There was pleasure in knowing her mind was a match for his, as much as in how good he made her body feel.
Something changed on his face as he acknowledged the words. Then he stepped back, causing her body to tense in disappointment. He was still watching her face in the mirror.
"Giving up?" she asked, smiling at him in the mirror, even as her skin felt chilled where his hands had just been.
He gave her a feral smile. "You know me better than that."
He moved forward, his warm chest pressing into her back and his erection rocking slowly against her. For a moment he surrounded her — his heat and strength impossible to escape. But then he slowly eased back until he wasn't touching her at all. "We're going to make this an even challenge. So if you want to be touched, you'll have to touch yourself."
Her whole body clenched with a strong pulse of lust, but she gave a little huff of amusement. "I'm pretty sure I can resist."
"Not for long." His eyes were crawling over her body in the mirror again, as warm and lingering as a caress. "Remember when I had you bent over the desk in my office?"
Her body tightened again at the memory. "Of course I remember. That was more of your ego."
"I had you bound, just by the sound of my voice. You wouldn't move until I told you. That's how much you wanted to surrender control to me."
Her pussy was throbbing so deeply it actually hurt. Her cheeks were flushed hot, and she could see her breasts rising and falling with her fast breaths. "But you couldn't hold out that day either. You released me prematurely, if I recall correctly."
Excerpted from Darker the Release by Claire Kent. Copyright © 2015 Claire Kent. Excerpted by permission of Random House.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.