The first time I met Jax Blackwood things went a little sideways.
In my defense, I didn’t know he was Jax Blackwood—who expects a legendary rock star to be shopping for groceries? More importantly, a blizzard was coming and he was about to grab the last carton of mint-chocolate chip.
Still, I might have walked away, but then he smugly dared me to try and take the coveted ice cream. So I kissed him. And distracted that mint-chip right out of his hands.
Okay, it was a dirty move, but desperate times and all that. Besides, I never expected he’d be my new neighbor.
An annoying neighbor who takes great pleasure in reminding me that I owe him ice cream but would happily accept more kisses as payment. An irresistible neighbor who keeps me up while playing guitar naked–spectacularly naked–in his living room.
Clearly, avoidance is key. Except nothing about Jax is easy to ignore—not the way he makes me laugh, or that his particular brand of darkness matches mine, or how one look from him melts me faster than butter under a hot sun.
Neither of us believes in love or forever. Yet we’re quickly becoming each other’s addiction. But we could be more. We could be everything.
All we have to do is trust enough to fall.
There’s always a risk when a romance author takes on sensitive topics – ones that readers have strong opinions on and ones that don’t follow a similar pattern for any two people. Society seems more apt to judge and to criticize instead of trying to understand and to sympathize that every person’s experience is different and that no one knows what someone else’s life is like because despite perceptions and assumptions, the reality of things is never what they seem.
Jax’s backstory is not a pretty one, but it’s one that needs to be told and understood because without that knowledge, the dynamics of Kill John, its implosion, and its future would not make sense and it’s pivotal that clarity is obtained, especially due to Jax’s present journey and how his past has led him to now.
Ever since meeting Jax Blackwood in the previous books in the VIP series, I’ve sensed there’s more to him than meets the eye; there’s an uncontainable darkness inside of him – one that ravages his body with depression and anxiety – a combination of imbalance that is unrelenting in its work to overwhelm Jax as he attempts to calm the maelstrom inside of him and keep it at bay so that he can continue to do what needs to be done, even when he’s more than willing to give up…just like he did over two years ago.
As much as readers may disagree with Jax’s choices and the things he has experienced due to those decisions, the havoc inside of him is debilitating, and Kristen Callihan illustrates Jax’s true circumstances brilliantly and with so much depth that it’s easy to see what he’s truly up against and how little his fame and fortune means to him when he’s fighting the battle of his life all due to his horrific demons.
Stella Button Grey may be ‘average’ in all ways that society cares about, but her giving and caring nature is extraordinary, which means that her inner beauty shines brightly despite her insecurities and the fact that she has no-one to champion her like she champions everybody else.
Jax and Stella give each other what they’ve desperately needed, and their friendship evolves into something more naturally. Their bond is deep and it centers around the idea that they are enough…that their ‘issues’ don’t make them damaged…they make them human and they’re enough simply because of who they are – warts and all, and that lesson is important for not only the characters in the story but readers as well and while it’s one that may take time to understand and even more to practice, it’s invaluable to learn.
I’ve loved this series since Idol was released because they’re not typical rocker romances; they focus on issues that matter and ones that resonate with readers and the heroes and heroines are uniquely and realistically portrayed, which makes a connection to these characters easily obtained as well as lasting.
4.5 Poison Apples
The air between us shifts. I’m filled with a strange giddiness, wanting to laugh for the fun of it, but I’m also too warm, my limbs oddly heavy as if simple movements might be too much for me.
His tone turns soft and cajoling, teasing the truth out of me. “Are you going to tell me what you do?” When I say nothing, the corners of his eyes crinkle. “I see. You’re going to torture me a bit.”
The warm, fuzzy feeling grows as I shrug. “Torture feels apropos in this scenario.”
He hums again, taking another step toward me. “What makes you think I won’t like being tortured by you?”
The heat of his body and the scent of his skin makes my head light and my pulse pound. How did it get to this point where the highlight of my day is flirting with Jax Blackwood? Despite the thrill, I know I’m in over my head. I haven’t gone out on a date in months because I form attachments, I get emotional, and then I hurt when they inevitably leave. And this man will leave. He is as bright and fleeting as a camera flash. I’ll be left with the image of him seared into my memory and nothing more.
I tell myself all of this, the voice in my head as stern as possible. But it doesn’t make me back away. It doesn’t stop my body from somehow straining toward his without even moving. Because it might be stupid of me, but I want to feel something that isn’t planned. Something, for however briefly, that’s real.
He’s too attuned to me not to notice. John’s lids lower as his attention slides down my body before easing back up to my face. Slowly, he rests his forearm on the wall beside my head. “Tell me, Stella,” he murmurs.
“No,” I whisper back, flirting, even though I shouldn’t.
His biceps bunch as he leans in, a smile dancing on his lips. “Tell.”
My breasts graze his chest, and I feel it in my toes.
“You’re crowding me.” I hate how breathy I sound.
“Can’t help it.” His voice is a rumble, the heat of his breath playing over my skin. He ducks his head, drawing close until our lips nearly brush, and when he speaks again, his tone is almost conversational, except for the husky quality that touches deep within my core. “You smell like strawberries. Fucking delicious.”
My lids flutter, and I swallow hard. “Ordinarily, I’d call you out on that cliché but since I’ve been eating strawberries, you aren’t exactly wrong.”
His chuckle is slow and easy, as he eases back and his gaze slowly travels over my face. “Were they sweet, Stella Button?”
He’s looking at my mouth like he might try to find out. My lips tremble in response, and John tracks the movement, his breathing getting deeper, faster. “You have two freckles on your lips. One on the top lip and one on the bottom corner.”
Those damn freckles. They were the bane of my adolescence. I hid them with lipstick and silently cursed whenever someone mentioned them.
Freckles don’t have any feelings, but I swear it’s as if he’s touching them.
“You’re just noticing this?” I try to make it sound like a joke, but it comes out weak and thready.
His own lips quirk. “Oh, I noticed. It’s distracting as hell. They’re like two little dots of butter toffee. Makes me want to lick them, get a taste.”
Oh, God. Lick them, please. I can almost feel it. I want to feel it.
No. Bad Stella. Behave.
John’s lips part a fraction like he just might take that taste.
“Back off,” I whisper. And yet somehow my traitorous hands find their way to his sides, running over the waistband of his jeans, holding him there.
John makes a sound deep in his throat and tilts his hips, pressing them against mine. A distinctly thick bulge nudges my belly. Both of us lose a breath, and then he’s closer, his cheek touching my temple. “You’ll have to let me go first.”
My thumbs slide under the edge of his shirt and find smooth, taut skin. A tremor goes through his body. I try to think, search for what the hell we’ve been talking about.
His lips brush the crest of my cheek as he murmurs against my skin. “Tell me what you do, Stella. You know you want to.”
My smile feels illicit. Somehow the action is directly tied to all my happy parts, making them draw hot and tight. “I don’t think I do.”
Another hum. “Liar. You’re dying to.”
Kristen Callihan is an author because there is nothing else she’d rather be. She is a three-time RITA nominee and winner of two RT Reviewer’s Choice awards. Her novels have garnered starred reviews from Publisher’s Weekly and the Library Journal, as well as being awarded top picks by many reviewers. Her debut book FIRELIGHT received RT Magazine’s Seal of Excellence, was named a best book of the year by Library Journal, best book of Spring 2012 by Publisher’s Weekly, and was named the best romance book of 2012 by ALA RUSA. When she is not writing, she is reading.