You may have noticed, I read a lot. Yet there are still authors who manage to make me fall in love with their writing time and time again, consistently blowing my mind with the sheer power of their words. And Kennedy Ryan is one of those rare authors for me. A true master of her genre, she writes with remarkable sensitivity and intelligence, weaving a quiet storm of prose that is thoughtful, incisive, and filled with deep, deep emotion, but it is the greater message in every one of her stories that leaves us aching to discover every single purposeful detail she has left on the page for us. In this exquisite slow-burning romance between two people whose pasts have taught them not to trust easily with their hearts, but whose every instinct tells them they’ve found something incredibly rare in one another, Ryan’s meticulous character development makes you feel every nuance of emotion between her two leads, and as she continues to weave a tale that is as painful as it is gorgeous, you find yourself knowing one thing from the start—this is a story you’ll want to read many times over.
The few encounters we’ve had were charged with an intensity that made one thing clear: the rules I set for other men—casual, easy, simple—do not apply with Kenan Ross.
Working as right-hand of one of the most powerful voices in fashion, Lotus DuPree is no stranger to beautiful men, but from the moment she locked eyes with Kenan Ross—in all his six feet and seven inches of dark bronze skin, flexing muscle, and regal bone structure glory—she knew she was in trouble. Every time their paths would cross, she would run the other way, until an unexpected new working relationship between them leaves her no place to run anymore. But as drawn as she is to Kenan in every possible way, Lotus’ demons have come knocking at the same time, forcing her to finally address a past that has left her feeling incapable of achieving real intimacy with anyone.
How do I explain how complex sex is for me? I’ve always compartmentalized it into a purely physical connection. I scratched the itch on my terms, letting men into my body, but allowing no real intimacy. Lately, though, not only has it left me unsatisfied, but it’s left me depressed. Empty. Bleak. Something in me wants more than what I’ve had, but true intimacy is a risk I’m not willing to take.
Kenan Ross never expected to find himself in the home stretch of his NBA career as a divorced, single dad, with all the innermost, most painful details of his private life splashed across the tabloids, and if there’s one thing he’s learned from that whole ordeal is never to give another woman his trust so easily. But when a bewitching pixie eleven years his junior walks into his life and keeps knocking the air out of him every time he sees her, he begins entertaining the idea of exploring the crackling chemistry between them. A stolen kiss reveals to them both just how powerful their connection truly is, but while Kenan continues to push for more, Lotus remains set on keeping their relationship purely platonic.
“I don’t kiss my friends.”
“Good. Then when you kiss me, I’ll know you want to be more than just my friend.”
Kenan Ross is a patient man, however, and he is willing to bide his time for as long as it takes if it means earning the right to call a woman like Lotus his. As hard as they try to keep their friendship uncomplicated, their every interaction speaks of a connection that won’t go away and could disrupt both their lives, and before too long, they are giving in to the irresistible pull they’ve both felt from the first time they met. Entering a new relationship with heavy emotional baggage is never easy, however, and sometimes the greatest challenge is knowing when to walk to away for the one you love. With their lives whirling faster and faster around them, giving them every reason to stay apart, Lotus and Kenan soon learn that there can be no true future for a relationship like theirs until they make peace with a past that neither of them can change.
This man is so dangerous. He’s the kind who could fool me into thinking I’ve had it all wrong. That the cycle I’ve seen from the women in my family is one I could break. That I could share more than my body, and be rewarded with more than his in return.
Kennedy Ryan’s knack for creating breathtaking, timeless love stories, punctuated by subtle notes of social commentary that reveal some of the important things she has to say about the world we live in, makes for a seriously addictive read. Her storytelling is bold and confident and engaging, but it is her focus on strong central characters that turns every one of her novels into a true masterpiece. I can’t say this enough: read this book.
“More than any time in my life, I need simple. I need simple, but I want you.”
One little kiss.
The trick is to control it. A little pressure. A little tongue. A tiny taste, then get out.
With my battle plan in place, I meet Kenan’s eyes over our shot glass rims and, on the crowd’s count of three, we knock our drinks back together. The fiery liquid scorches my throat. I give an “ahhhhhh” and slam my glass down. He does the same, and we face each other across the table.
“Let’s get this over with.” I flash a wide smile and false bravado to my friends. “I’m gonna blow his mind, folks.”
They answer with wolf whistles and catcalls, emboldening me. The tiniest quirk of Kenan’s mouth is the only clue that he might find this all amusing.
Instead of leaning across the table like everyone else has done so far, he steps around the table until he stands directly in front of me. My quips and quick humor wither under the intensity of his stare. He leans down until his lips are only a breath above mine. He slides his hands down my bare arms and grasps my elbows to pull me up, eliminating the last few inches separating our lips.
It starts with the lightest pressure, barely a kiss at all. His lips rest against mine. Him, demanding nothing. Me, determined I won’t give him anything, but with a slight shift of his head, the new angle deepens the contact, opens my mouth. It’s a petition to enter, to taste, to sample. My lips barely part, but my sigh grants permission, and he doesn’t hesitate, cupping my face, tugging gently on my chin, opening me and probing inside, slowly and languorously with fiery, liquored licks. When his tongue brushes the roof of my mouth, a thousand fingers, everywhere at once, stroke my arms, my spine, my neck, my legs. Not even the most hidden parts of me remain untouched by sensation. Every inch of me is stimulated. I gasp, and he immediately dives deeper, like he’s chasing the secrets tucked under my tongue and sealed in the lining of my mouth.
I don’t know if the growl is his, if the whimper is mine, but all the things that would keep this tame—my friends watching, our inhibitions, propriety—melt in the wrath of this heat, like we’re kissing under the sun. Rusty cogs inside of me, oiled by tequila and passion, start turning in ways long forgotten, if ever known before. Mindlessly, I strain up, push my hands over the width of his shoulders and wrap my fingers around his neck. He’s too far, and I want to be close. He splays his hands over my back, completely encompassing as he pulls me into the shelter of his body. He bites my lip and I lick into the tangy well of his mouth. God, he’s delicious. I’ve never tasted anything like him. Never felt anything like this.
With each second, it intensifies. We intensify. Our hands grip tighter. Our mouths grow desperate. The breaths come fast and short through our noses because I won’t release his mouth and he won’t let mine go. This kiss is a dark corridor, twisting and turning, luring me deeper. I can’t find my way out, and if someone opened a door offering escape, I’d slam it in their face.