Stevie Sparks is a British author and long-time copy editor from Windsor, England (where Windsor Castle is). She suffers from a terrible medical condition that has left her incapable of reading books without smut. When it comes to books, she prefers the phrase ‘full steam ahead.’ Stevie writes dark romance and historical romance.
Warren was the boy Kate always had a crush on as a girl. Her brother’s best friend.
And his murderer.
A decade after Warren was imprisoned, Kate’s life hasn’t quite turned out how she’d have liked. She works for her father’s seedy nightclub-turned-casino, trying to outrun her suicidal thoughts, knowing that eventually she’ll run out of breath. But when her father loses the business—and their house with it—Kate’s breathing finally begins to stutter.
Kate was the little sister Warren had always wanted.
And the daughter of the man who framed him.
Finally free, Warren’s only goal is to enact revenge on the man responsible for ruining his life. A twist of fate made him a billionaire, but ruthless tenacity will ensure he gets what he wants. Except he finds Kate where he left her all those years ago, and suddenly his feelings for her aren’t so sisterly after all…
TW: This is a dark romance so there are triggers scattered throughout. False imprisonment, being framed for a crime, mention of abortion, pregnancy, knife play, spanking, drug addiction, gambling addiction, car accidents, loss of limbs, torture, poverty, revenge porn, physical violence, depression, suicidal thoughts, suicidal actions, murder, rape, human trafficking, CSA, prison, and, of course, foul language.
He was so like the teenager she’d once trailed after like a lovesick puppy, recognisable underneath the sinister guise of a tall, scowling man. Not even his locks of jet black hair could shadow his glittering emerald eyes. Black stubble grazed his cheeks. Where the Warren she’d known had been lanky, a wiry boy not yet having grown into a man, this Warren stood proudly. A man in his prime, with the wide shoulders and dark beard to match. A smile broke through her worry, shattering it into a thousand pieces.
Kate crossed the room on wobbly legs to throw herself into his arms. “Warren,” she hit his unexpectedly solid chest, clinging to him like he was the only thing keeping her afloat in a sea of misery. “I thought you were still in prison,” she choked, pulling his once-familiar scent into her lungs.
Warren’s arms remained at his side. She reared back. “You’re taller than the last time I saw you.” Aaron’s death. Her lips tightened at that. Kate had been so relieved to see a friendly face she’d forgotten what he’d done. He’d driven whilst drunk and high and killed her brother. His face remained expressionless, but his eyes were raging infernos. Kate attempted to take a step back, but Warren grabbed her chin with a hand that dwarfed her own. His touch was rough, far from the calm, protective manner in which he’d used to care for her. Her brother’s closest friend, who was more gentle than her brother had ever been.
“Warren…” she whispered, trying to push him away. “What’s wrong with you?”
“With me?” His brow cocked up as a cruel glint lit his face.
Kate wriggled in discomfort as his eyes traced her body, riding her curves. Except she knew Warren. Warren had taught her how to tie her shoelaces and how to ride a bike. He had been with her through so much of her childhood, a comforting, nurturing figure she could always rely on. More than she’d ever relied on Aaron or her father.
“You’re angry,” Kate stated, just as Warren forced her back against the wall.
“I was.” His eyes shone bright with hate; an emotion he’d never before directed at her. “But now I’m just disappointed in you, kitten.”
Kate’s sharp inhale nearly choked her. Kitten. A name she hadn’t heard in years. A treasured relic that had nearly been forgotten amongst her memories.
“You’re not quite grown up to be a Kate,” Warren had said not long after they’d met. The two had been at the local park, not far from the children’s home in which Warren had grown up. It had been an early spring day, drowning in butterflies and bumblebees and laughter.
“I am so,” Kate giggled, squealing as Warren pushed her higher and higher on the swings. She swooped her legs, flying through the air. Warren had kept a close watch on her, even from the beginning.
“You’re not a Kat either.” Kate leant back, her long plait dangling behind her.
“Definitely not a Kat.” He’d darted round to the front of the swings. “Jump,” he dared her. Warren braced as Kate leapt into his embrace without hesitation, but he caught her with ease. Giggling with joy, she wrapped her arms around Warren’s neck and squeezed him tightly. Warren grinned and hugged her in turn, holding her close. A boy of 14, Warren was a giant to her then. As they stood, surrounded by the bright sunshine and the sounds of laughter and play, Kate had felt the connection between them growing. Even then. He ruffled her hair, his face alight with pride. “Not a Kat, but perhaps a kitten.” Kate leant against him, treasuring the feeling of being cared for—for once in her life. A small grumble of acquiescence left her as she accepted Warren’s name for her.
“Come on then, kitten. We should be getting you home.” Warren announced, treading the path towards Kate’s house. “But first let’s get you an ice cream cone.”
A small chuckle left her. A nickname. Kate smiled gleefully; someone liked her enough to give her a nickname!
A decade apart had wrought changes in them both, but Kate still reacted to her old nickname. Kitten.
“What exactly have I done to disappoint you, Warren?” she asked pointedly. “Given the fact that you were imprisoned for causing Aaron’s death, I think the disappointment should be the other way round.”
Warren loomed over her, pressing her back into the wall further. His hand still held her chin in a punishing grip. A jolt shuddered through her as his thumb caressed her lips. Nothing more than a gentle whisper following their contours. His nostrils flared, his eyes fixed to her mouth.
I worked as a copy-editor for a large publishing company for ten years before deciding to publish my first book. Eventually, I got sick of editing other people’s work and decided to write a book of my own.
I outline the book in 2,500-word increments, using different coloured fonts to track plotlines and character arcs. I then proceed to ignore this.
Read! I’m definitely on a dark romance binge at the moment, but I’ve read everything from aliens, billionaires, and faeries to regency, mafia, and cowboys.
By editing it. Thrilling, I know.
By curling up into a ball of nerves and frantically refreshing the ‘Reviews’ page.
My first series, Lords of Desire, is set in the 1920s, but I wanted to do something set in the present day. I also wanted to do something a LOT darker, and Surrendering to the Duke has some pretty dark themes already.
As a whole, no. But Warren, Heart of Stone’s MMC, is fairly… unapologetic. I wouldn’t go so far as to say grumpy, but it’s a characteristic he shares with my husband.
Kate’s depression and suicidal urges. I suffer with them myself. Quite seriously, if I’m honest. There’s a particular scene in the book that was heavily inspired by my own rock bottoms.
How modern it was. I spent a year writing Surrendering to the Duke, researching 1920s words, items, phrases, idioms, clothing, inventions, popular culture, etc. It was a LOT of work in addition to actually writing the novel. With Heart of Stone, there was none of that. It was very freeing.
Too many to count! Specifically in the dark romance genre, I’d go for Layla Frost, H. D. Carlton, Elle Thorpe, K. A. Knight, and Tillie Cole.
The grovelling 😈
Oooh I’d like to meet Rhys. He’s always the character leaning in the doorway, watching the action going down, with a shit-stirring grin on his face.