Race Kendall knows monsters. But not the monsters of horror flicks or the imaginary beasts that lurk beneath children's beds. He knows real monsters--men who walk among us, who stalk the weak and vulnerable. Men who prey upon women.
Race has spent his life seeking out such monsters. He hunts the hunters--and he destroys them. He is a man driven, but no matter how many monsters he defeats, nothing can purge the demons that haunt his own soul. Race wants to find love and he wants to build a family, but his past and his secrets prevent him from achieving happiness.
And then he meets Candra Brandt.
From the first moment Candra sees Race she can sense his pain, and as a professional therapist and sexual surrogate she believes she can help him. In fact she needs to help him in ways so deep she can barely fathom.
But Race's healing comes at a price, a price neither of them may be able to afford to pay. It could cost them everything.
It could cost them their very lives.
Note: Story contains scenes of violence that may be disturbing to some readers.
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Ellora's Cave Publishing, Incorporated
November 13, 2009
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Excerpt from Jagged Gift by Nikki Soarde
Candra stepped into the room and shook her head in wonder. A hexagonal bed, constructed of polished mahogany, complete with not four, but six thick posts, served as the centerpiece for the room. A stone fireplace, bearskin rug, solid oak bookshelves, bar and elaborate entertainment center completed the ensemble. A pair of glass doors opened onto a large balcony. Laughter and the sound of someone splashing in the pool, drifted up from the courtyard below.
She shifted her gaze to Race who lounged against the bar, glass of whiskey already in hand. "Eric certainly has elaborate tastes."
"He's a fucking show-off. He does things just to get attention, and just because he can." He lifted the glass to his lips and drained it.
"That's a nice thing to say about your best friend.
He glared at her over the rim. "It's the truth. Case in point--you."
She strode to the bar and picked up the glass he had poured for her. "You think he brought me here just to show off? You don't think he did it because he cares about you?"
"Rich people think they can control everything. That they can fix everything. But you can't. Some things just can't be fixed."
She sipped and allowed the liquid to scorch its way down her throat. "So, you're admitting it. You're admitting that you're...broken. That you do have a problem that needs fixing."
He slammed the glass onto the bar. "I didn't say that."
"I think you did."
Suddenly he stepped very close to her, his body pressing her back against the bar, his arms bracketing her in like a pair of wrought iron bars. She could feel the pounding of his heart, feel the sturdiness of his chest and see the way his muscles corded in his arms and neck. She lifted her chin and risked meeting his gaze. As expected, it stole her breath.
"What are you doing?"
And then he did the unthinkable--he lowered his head and kissed her. He sealed his lips to hers, his mouth hard and demanding. He forced his tongue past her lips and she tasted whiskey and heat. She lifted her hands to his chest with the intention of pushing him away, but found her fingers fisting in the material instead. She gripped him hard, knowing she should let go, but unable to force her fingers to relent.
He wrapped his arms around her and pulled her against him, she felt his burgeoning erection, the hardness and fullness of it pressing against her cleft and filling her with a need she neither expected nor wanted.
His tongue thrust deeper, his embrace tightened and she felt completely overwhelmed. Lost. Grasping at a last shred of rationality, she tried to turn her head and break the kiss, but he wouldn't have it. He sank his fingers into her hair and held her firm, plundering her mouth and grinding his cock against her until she felt the dampness seep down her thighs.
And then he was gone.
She sagged against the bar, her legs suddenly too weak to hold her, and watched in wonder as he walked to the bed and sat down. He leaned back on his elbows and glared at her.
"Wh-what the hell was that?" She had wanted to scream it, but it came out as little more than a pathetic whisper.
"Was that the kiss of a man who is afraid of intimacy?"
She opened her mouth to retort and then, very slowly closed it again. As the blood gradually seeped back into her brain her thoughts cleared, and she considered the question. She stood up a little straighter. "Maybe."
His eyes went wide, and then narrowed. "All right. Get over here, and let's finish it."
She gaped at him. "Look, Race. I don't know what you think a therapist does, but let me assure you, this does not fall into the job description."
"Bullshit. Did you think I wasn't listening when you listed your credentials earlier?"
A bit of heat crept into her cheeks. "You're referring to the sexual surrogacy I mentioned."
"I sure am, and I know full well what that means. You do a helluva lot more than just talk to your clients, and I figure what better way to convince you that I'm not in need of your services than to show you."
She took a chance and stepped closer to him. "Okay," she conceded, "I'll admit that as a surrogate I occasionally help my clients work through their problems with more...direct methods. But," she raised a finger to drive home her point, "that is always, always a last resort, after all traditional therapy methods have been tried and proved ineffective. Even considering that, I have often endured criticism from my colleagues for mixing what they consider two vastly different schools of thought on the subject. And I have no intention of jeopardizing my professional reputation further with this...this...farce!"
He looked at her then, pinned her with those steel-gray eyes of his, holding her captive as surely as a cat that has just pounced on a fallen bird. She couldn't move, could barely breathe. She silently wondered at herself and cursed her own inexplicable weakness.
His gaze never wavering, he slid off the bed and stepped over to her. He brushed a finger down her cheek, the touch so light it sent shivers skittering down her spine. "Are you saying you don't want me?"
She swallowed, and lied. "Yes. That's what I'm saying. And even if I did, it would be irrelevant. Now can we please sit down and--"
And then he was kissing her again. He crushed her mouth beneath his own, and pulled her body against him. Her heart leapt into motion and she had to struggle to maintain her hold on rational thought. She didn't want this--correction: couldn't want it. Couldn't allow herself to want it.
But as his hands fisted in her hair and his tongue plundered her mouth, as his scent filled her nostrils and the hardness of his body pressed more firmly against her, need overcame rationality. Almost.
She shifted her hips a little--just enough--drew back her leg and with carefully calculated force slammed her knee into his groin.
He must have sensed what was coming because at the last moment he broke the kiss and stepped away. He now glared at her, his gaze no longer cold, but hot as the center of a star. "Do you routinely try to castrate your clients?"
She allowed the heat to flare in her own eyes. "Do you routinely rape your friend's guests?"
The fire in his eyes flickered. She'd hit a nerve.
The muscles in his jaw flexed. "I wasn't going to rape you."
"Well, I don't recall consenting. What would you call it?"
Fists clenched and shoulders bunched, he stalked past her and stepped over to the balcony. He didn't step outside, just stood on the threshold gazing out over the ocean. Over the sound of the laughter and gaiety downstairs, she heard him say, "Well, then you may as well go. We're done here."