Boone | Lori Foster

Boone

Book 12 in the Buckhorn Brothers Series

Second chances were never more seductive than those in this brand-new Buckhorn novella…

The day April Kasper offered herself to Boone Barton is etched in her memory—for all the wrong reasons. He turned her down flat. Five years later the humiliation still stings, but April isn’t a naive kid anymore. Now that Boone is back in Buckhorn, she needs him to see that she’s older, wiser and over him. Or at least two out of three…

Back then, Boone was a bad boy—no question. But even he knew that sweet, smart April was off-limits. Now though, it’s an entirely different ball game. No matter how hard he’s tried to forget her, she’s plagued his dreams. So he’s back in Buckhorn to prove that letting her go was the biggest mistake of his life, and a wise man never repeats his mistakes…

Boone is Lori’s 2019 Reader Author Get Together benefit book. All author and agent proceeds from the book will go to the Animal Adoption Foundation.

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Boone

is Book 12 in the Buckhorn Brothers Series

The full series reading order is as follows:

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Boone

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Chapter 1

Cool lake water lapped at her legs where they hung over the side of her paddleboard. blazing afternoon sun warmed her bare shoulders and the nape of her neck. She’d paddled along for quite some time before reaching the cove here at one of the more remote fingers of the lake. It was so quiet here that bringing a boat would have made too much noise.

She couldn’t sneak up on him if he heard her coming.

Boone Barton, her high school crush, her biggest fantasy—and her one true heartbreak.

Curse the man, he was still gorgeous.

Unaware of her watching him, he worked on his dock, submerged in the dark water to his waist. Broad shoulders glistened, and with every flex of his arm, muscles moved and shifted.

Even his damned back was sexy.

April felt as drawn to him now as she had five years ago, before he’d moved away.

She also felt just as young and foolish.

She was twenty-three now, yet humiliation crawled over her, as fresh as the last time she’d seen Boone. The urge to flee sent her heart into a wild, frantic beat.

This absolutely would not do.

She’d come here for payback, to even the score, to—hopefully—free herself of the embarrassment.

The cove was secluded from the rest of the lake, and Boone thought he was alone. She’d silently paddled up the lake, driven by the intent to see him.

Confront him.

She would not chicken out now.

When her sisters had told her he was back in town, she’d decided to see for herself.

Now that she had, those blasted memories bombarded her.

At seventeen, she’d never met a more gorgeous man. When he’d smiled at her, her stomach bottomed out. If he talked with her, she thought things she’d never thought before. No matter how casual he was, no matter that he never asked her out, she couldn’t help wanting him.

They’d never been alone, though she’d tried to engineer it a few times. Boone always resisted. He was kind, even friendly, but never, not once, had he come on to her.

Her cousin Adam, who’d been closest to Boone’s age, had told her to stop flirting with Boone because he was too old for her.

Six years hadn’t seemed like much, so she’d tried to press the issue. Adam had threatened to tell her dad if she didn’t stop “eyeballing” Boone, and then he’d admitted that Boone himself thought her too young—after all, she was only seventeen.

And that’s where her foolishness had started.

Shortly after she’d turned eighteen, April had found Boone alone in this very place, at his father’s rustic cabin on the lake.

The entire awful scene unfolded in her mind, making her stomach burn. She pressed a hand there, but it didn’t help.

She saw herself in the bikini she’d chosen just for him. Boone had stared at her with a hot gaze and a lot of trepidation. When she’d realized that he was struggling to keep his attention on her face, she’d felt empowered.

“You alone here?” she’d asked, already knowing his dad was in town having lunch.

Standing there in shorts, his upper body and feet bare in deference to the ninety degree summer day, Boone had asked, “What are you doing here, April?”

Looking back, she remembered his tone as worried, his posture rigid.

God, why hadn’t she backed off? She knew why, of course. She’d wanted him, and thought she could convince him.

“I’m eighteen now.”

He’d nodded. “I know.” His reluctant gaze had taken a quick dip over her before he locked eyes with her. Looking a little haunted, he’d rubbed his mouth and rasped, “You shouldn’t be here, April.”

In reply, she’d untied her bikini top and let it drop.

A splash drew her away from the memories, and she looked aside to see the ripples left behind from a fish.

You need to do this, she told herself with a bracing breath. You need to purge those awful memories once and for all.

She wasn’t a misguided kid anymore, an immature woman who couldn’t accept rejection. She was an adult, living on her own with a growing career, making a name for herself as a creative photographer.

She needed Boone to see her now, to know she was fine—and if he had regrets, that’d be terrific.

Sitting there on her board, she tipped her head to study him as he moved to a shallower spot of the lake. A deep groove divided his back, thick muscles on either side. He reached up to the dock to grab a nail, and she caught the profile of his narrow flat stomach. Heavens, he’d matured nicely.

The rumor going around was that Boone Barton, Buckhorn’s bad boy, had returned after five years and now worked on his dock in the all-together.

If April busted him naked…well then, they’d be even.

Right?

While watching him, she idly lifted water with her fingertips and let it drip over her chest.

It didn’t cool her down.

Oh, how she’d love to photograph Boone just like this, his brown hair slicked back, his back and biceps bunching as he worked to repair the dock.

Yes, he’d been beautiful five years ago.

He was more so now.

Was he naked in the water?

There was a lot of speculation, but no one had confirmed it yet. Yet the fact that his shorts were on the dock with his shirt seemed to be evidence enough.

Decided, April forced herself to stand, to use the long paddle to silently propel her over the surface of the lake toward the dock where Boone worked. The closer she got, the heavier she breathed.

Boone seemed oblivious as he continued to hammer in a steady, even beat. Yet when she was only a few yards away, he paused, carefully setting the hammer on the dock. For only a moment, he gripped the top of the dock, his arms spread, his posture alert—and then he turned to face her.

April sucked in a breath.

This close, she saw that the last five years had made him…more.

More handsome, more muscular, more devastating to her senses.

His brown hair, now wet and slicked back, wasn’t as long as it used to be but it still touched his shoulders. His skin was bronzed, his chest hairier but not too hairy. Strength carved every inch of his torso, adding bulk to his shoulders, making his biceps prominent even while relaxed.

April realized she was staring at his body and lifted her gaze.

Small lines fanned out from the corners of his eyes as he squinted against the sunshine, smiling. “Wondered how long you’d sit out there.”

Her eyes flared. He’d been aware of her all that time? Damn him. Fresh shame scalded her face and chest.

Feigning supreme indifference, she smiled. “I was speculating.”

“Yeah?” He dunked once, came up a little closer to her and pushed back his hair. Green eyes, brighter under the harsh sunshine reflected off the lake, drifted over her. “About what?”

That single quick glance scattered her thoughts. How was it possible that he could still muddle her with so little effort? She’d spent five years getting over that awful, mortifying moment. Five years putting Boone Barton out of her mind.

Today was her day, a way for her to prove she was fine, that he hadn’t hurt her, hadn’t irreparably stomped her ego.

Hadn’t left her with a broken heart.

“I heard this interesting rumor,” she said, her tone a deliberate purr, “that you’re working on that dock buck-ass.” She rolled one shoulder, hoping the attempt at nonchalance didn’t look as jerky as it felt. “I’m just here to verify.” Her gaze met his. “I figure that’d be fair, right?”

“Tit for tat?” he asked, his gaze dipping to her chest for a heartbeat.

What an awful way to put it! Worse, how he said it, all sensual and dark, made her think that this Boone was different, more dangerous.

At least to her composure.

He’d be twenty-nine now, and she briefly wondered how life had changed him.

Glancing up at the cabin built toward the top of the hill, she asked, “What does your wife think of you flaunting yourself down here?”

With a note of humor, he said, “No wife.”

Somehow he’d gotten closer without her realizing it. If he wanted, he could reach out those long arms and rest his hands on her paddleboard. Was he standing still?

April hadn’t realized the lake was so shallow in this section. Then again, he was six feet four inches tall, and the water currently lapped at his collarbone.

“What about you, April?” He drifted nearer still, until he was even with her ankles. “Husband?”

No, no, no, she chided her tripping heart. You do not hear interest in his deep voice. It’s only curiosity, nothing more.

She shook her head, and in direct contrast to her silly words five years ago, she said, “I’m only twenty-three, too young to tie myself to a single man when there are so many available for entertainment.”

Without any discernible change in expression, he managed to look more vigilant, and maybe slightly disapproving.

How dare he?

Suddenly she heard another splash, this one louder coming from near the dock. Massive ripples in the water, along with a black head, careened toward her.

“Brace yourself,” Boone said, grabbing the edge of her board, but it was too late.

Whatever plowed into her, it knocked her off balance, and she went sprawling into the water in a most ignominious way, legs splayed in the air, arms thrown out, her ponytail flying up. She landed on her back with a loud and painful smack.

People unfamiliar with swimming might not realize it, but when you hit water wrong, it was as solid as concrete.

The landing knocked her breath from her, and she sank.

It wasn’t the worst fall she’d ever taken. She’d wiped out big-time before while waterskiing or attempting a tricky dive. Despite the ache in her lungs, she knew what to do, and she was doing it.

Then strong hands closed around her arms and pulled her to the surface. She tried to gasp, but couldn’t yet catch her breath, so she sounded like a dying seal.

“Easy. You got the wind knocked out of you.” Arm under her breasts, Boone dragged her toward shore, then lifted her up onto a low retaining wall of stacked stone. He spread her arms out to the sides. “Slow inhales. That’s it.”

Her air returned with a choked wheeze. “I’m…all right.” Damn it, she’d been swimming since she was born. She been skiing since she was seven. She didn’t need his help.

But having been up against Boone’s body? That threw her more than the surprise dunk had.

Still holding her wrists out, which meant his arms were wide also, showing off that perfect body, he asked, “Better?”

April could see his underarms, the paler skin there and the tufts of hair in his armpits. Why was that so freaking hot? The next inhale made her cough again, then she managed to ask, only wheezing slightly, “What the hell was that?”

“Sunshine.”

She coughed and choked some more until she could breathe more easily. “Sunshine?” she asked with disbelief.

Boone rocked one big tanned shoulder. “That’s what I call her when she’s not being a dumb ass. Guess this is one of those times where DA suits her more.”

A wet nose shoved into April’s side, to see a big black dog, tongue lolling out, brown eyes playfully bright. Automatically she pulled away from Boone to stroke the dog. “Well, hello there.”

Of course, that was the moment the dog decided to shake, sending sprays of water everywhere.

Laughing, April asked, “DA?”

“Short for dumb ass.” Boone gave her a funny look, as if she’d surprised him.

What? Had he expected her to be mad at a dog for being a dog? Hardly.

“Abbreviated, since some people are offended when I call her that.” Boone turned to the dog, rubbing her ears and saying sweetly, “But you are a dumb ass, aren’t you, sweetheart?”

Panting, the dog tilted up her furry face and narrowed her eyes as if in bliss. Her tail slapped the water in happy response.

“Should call her Torpedo,” April grumbled, even while admiring the beast. “She’s a shepherd?” Everyone in her family loved animals—even the type that knocked people over and made them look graceless.

“Mostly, I think. She’s bigger than the average shepherd so she must be a mix of some sort.”

“She’s beautiful.”

Boone’s fingers nudged April’s chin, and he brought her gaze to his. “Are you all right?”

That casual touch sent a riot of reactions zinging through her body. The first was oh-my-God-he-touched-me-again. It felt like her heart bounced within her chest.

Today was the very first time they’d ever had real physical contact. Five years ago he’d been so conscientious about keeping things strictly platonic. Occasionally, when she could manage it, they’d bumped shoulders. Once she’d sat beside him, their hips touching, until he’d casually scooted away. Mostly she’d devoured him with her eyes and done explicit things to him in her imagination.

In real life, he’d always resisted her.

And remembering that prompted the second reaction of how-dare-he-think-he-can-touch-me-now? Because she was here to prove something, right? And it wasn’t that her heart played ping-pong the second he laid a finger on her.

Those two thoughts were quickly followed by a third as she realized he was more out of the water than in it. “You’re not naked,” she accused.

A lopsided grin only made him more attractive. “Was I supposed to be?”

She looked at him, standing there with the water only to midshin, molding his hips and…other parts.

Jerking her fascinated gaze away, April complained, “According to rumor, yes.” She could feel a rush of heat throbbing in her face.

“Is that disappointment I hear?”

Yup. In part, anyway. Forcefully, she brought her gaze back to his. “You could have told me right off instead of letting me think—”

“About me naked?” He stepped closer, and his voice went low, sort of rough and suggestive. “I like the idea of you picturing me that way.”

Heavens, he smelled good, April thought. Like sun-warmed skin, fresh air—and salty man.

In other words, delicious.

Noticing that wasn’t at all appropriate to her purpose. Unfortunately, every breath she took filled her head with the scent of him.

Boone’s smile leveled into interest. “Want me to skin them off?”

End of Excerpt

Boone

is available in the following editions: