Jax | Lori Foster

Jax

Book 13 in the Buckhorn Brothers Series

She’s off-limits, but their chemistry’s off the charts in this all-new Buckhorn Brothers novella from Lori Foster!

When Briana Kasper returns home from college and sets eyes on hunky Jax Remmy, she knows she wants him. They were acquainted back in high school, and now that they’re all grown up, their attraction is instant, mutual and explosive.

Ever since his parents died, Jax has been responsible for his two younger siblings. He can’t get distracted by Briana, no matter how sexy she is. He tries to keep some distance from her—avoids her even. Little by little they grow closer despite his efforts. But when a freak snowstorm hits and they get stuck together overnight in her house with no electricity, everything changes.


Jax is one of Lori’s benefit books—all advance & royalties (and any direct-from-Lori sales) go to the local, no-kill animal shelter, the Animal Adoption Foundation.

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Jax

is Book 13 in the Buckhorn Brothers Series

The full series reading order is as follows:

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Jax

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During each of her last five visits home, Briana Kasper saw Jax Remmy. Each time proved memorable in extreme ways. Addictive, that’s what it was. She saw him, and she wanted to see him again.

Luckily, since he ran the sanitation truck that picked up their garbage, she had weekly opportunities.

She’d known him all through school, but holy moly, the man was a different story from the boy. Even during his last year of high school, Jax had been…well, lanky. Long and loose limbed with slouching shoulders and perpetually messy hair several shades darker than her pale blond locks. She’d associated him with sloppy jeans, faded T-shirts and tattered sneakers.

Back then, she’d often found his somber brown eyes watching her, and while she was always nice to everyone, she and Jax hadn’t exactly been close.

She’d first seen him during one of her visits home from college. Now though… Wowzers.

She’d awakened to the sound of the garbage truck and belatedly remembered the trash she’d wanted to ditch. Her hair wild, her sleep shirt wrinkled, she’d jumped out of bed to snatch up the bag of discarded papers from her classes, then raced out the door to reach the driver before he pulled away.

With college over, she planned to gradually transition back home. Purging a lot of mess from her life would make it easier to buy and set up her own place where she’d dig into her job full time.

The sight of the tall, muscular guy handling large trash cans with ease got her alert with more effect than caffeine. “Hey!” she yelled to the unrecognizable guy so he wouldn’t pull away before she reached him.

He looked up, paused and ran a wrist over his face. “Briana?”

The dew-wet grass nearly did her in. She awkwardly floundered and finally caught herself from landing on her backside. “Um…yes?” She got closer—and it hit her. “Jax? Jax Remmy?”

Without smiling, he nodded and finished dumping the cans, then placed them back at the curb.

“I…” Briana couldn’t stop gawking at him. A black T-shirt hugged broad muscular shoulders and a wide, defined chest. Those pecs…yum. Jeans, just as frayed as they’d been in high school, now fit him all too well. Instead of sneakers he wore lace-up brown work boots. She cleared her throat and managed to shift her fascinated gaze to his face. “How’ve you been?”

“Fine, you?”

He didn’t seem at all interested in chatting, and suddenly Briana was painfully aware of how she looked. Darn. “I got home from college late last night.” She tried a bright smile. “Finally done.”

“Home for good, then?”

“I’ll have to go back and forth a few times, but the education is done.”

He nodded at the stuffed plastic bag she held. “Throwing that away?”

“Oh. Yes.” She hefted it toward him.

As if it weighed nothing, Jax grabbed it with one hand and tossed it into the back of the truck. Starting back around, he said, “I have to stay on schedule. Enjoy your visit.”

And then he left, while she stood there staring after him as he stopped at the next two driveways before she finally caught herself and went back inside.

She’d thought about him every day until her next visit home, where she got up early and waited by the window, watching, until he came by.

My, my, my, she thought. He still looked as good as he had last time. She’d almost convinced herself that it was her sleep-muzzy brain that had turned gangly Jax Remmy into an incredible hottie.

“Something wrong?” her dad asked, making her jump in surprise.

Spinning around, Briana gave her patented blinding smile. “Good morning, Dad. You startled me.”

Gabe Kasper eyed his youngest of three daughters. “Uh-huh. What are you up to?”

“Nothing.” Apparently her sisters had made him suspicious. Certainly it wasn’t her who’d caused that edge of distrust. “Just glad to be home.”

Known as a regular lothario in his day, Gabe wasn’t fooled, but when he glanced out the window, the truck was already gone. Unlike his two olderbrothers, Sawyer and Morgan, Gabe had a house in town, just as his brother Jordan did. The view wasn’t as spectacular as it was out on the lake, but still, Briana considered Buckhorn beautiful.

Mature trees, clean streets, each house unique from the other. She loved her hometown and couldn’t wait to settle back here for good—preferably in her own place, with privacy, maybe even on the lake if she could find something affordable.

How far out did Jax service?

Buckhorn had grown a lot over the years, but it was still a small area.

After that close call, Briana found a better way to watch for Jax, usually by being outside on the porch swing, pretending to read.

It wasn’t that she kept secrets from her family, but they were all close, which meant everyone was always in everyone else’s business. If Jax shared her interest, no problem. She’d happily tell them all about it and include him on some family gatherings.

Sadly, so far, he’d been merely polite, so instead of sharing, she continued her stealthy surveillance—and invented trash so she’d have a reason to rush out to see him.

The last time…ugh. Embarrassing.

She’d gotten up extra early, showered and styled her hair, changed into cute shorts and a halter, and the closest thing she had to running shoes—which, admittedly, weren’t meant for anything more than style. Then accidentally stumbled on Jax by claiming she was headed out for a jog.

Those dark eyes had narrowed slightly as his gaze traveled over her head to toe, and she saw a slight quirk to his mouth. “Not exactly running gear.”

“Oh. Well.” Briana looked down at her outfit, which Jax obviously didn’t appreciate, and tried a laugh that sounded absurd.

Why couldn’t he be easy like other guys? She could think of a half dozen men right now who’d have complimented her then asked her to dinner or a movie.

Smile a little tight, Briana explained, “Most of my stuff is still at the apartment near college in Richmond.”

“You didn’t live on campus?”

She shook her head, doing her utmost not to stare at his biceps as he worked some gear at the back of the truck. Over the whine of crunching garbage, she said, “I shared a place with three friends.” Stupidly she added, “Females.”

Jax cocked one eyebrow at that extra info.

That’s right, she wanted to growl. I’m free of commitment. But of course, he still didn’t react. She sighed. “I’m moving back little by little.”

“If you want to jog, you’d do better at the park where it’s shaded.” He peered up at the broiling morning sun. “It’s going to be scorcher.”

She started to ask him about his job, if he’d moved back to Buckhorn and where he lived now, but he dismissed her again and headed back to the driver’s seat.

Because he only rolled down to the next house, and she was still plainly in sight, she felt obligated to keep up her lie. Unfortunately, she was not a jogger, so she only made it to the corner before she thought she was going to die. Circling the block so he couldn’t see her, Briana collapsed back against a tree, huffing.

That’s where her uncle Morgan found her.

He pulled up in his shiny black SUV and before she could even lift a hand to wave, he was out of the vehicle and striding toward her.

“Briana, you okay?” He looked up and down the quiet street as if expecting to find villains—which would maybe explain why she’d been running.

“Fine,” she panted, holding one hand to her side. “Just jogging.”

“Jogging?” Skepticism hung heavy in the single word.

Uncle Morgan’s frown was enough to send most people into a dead faint. That was, people who weren’t family and didn’t know him as well as she did.

Briana patted his chest. “Thought I’d get in some exercise.”

“Exercise?” he repeated, his eyes flinty. “In those shoes?” He gave a dubious glance at her very cute sneakers. “In a halter?”

Right. She’d damned near blacked her own eye, running without her breasts contained. “Well, you see—”

“And with your hair loose?” Morgan snorted. “You can sell that story to someone else, but not me.”

Yup, this particular uncle was the hardest nut to crack. Having been the sheriff and now the mayor, Morgan was used to taking charge in all situations. Actually, from what her dad and other uncles said, Morgan came by his bossiness naturally. He certainly had the muscular bulk to back up any order.

“Okay, look.” Briana glanced around to ensure they wouldn’t be heard. “I was out to see a guy, needed an excuse, and—”

“And jogging was the best you could come up with?” Morgan shook his head.

“It was dumb, I know.” Heck, her breath was still choppy. “But I think the coast is clear now, so I’ll just mosey on—”

Morgan folded his massive arms. “Who’s the guy?”

“None of your beeswax.” She folded her arms too.

“Briana…”

She laughed. “You can’t threaten me, Uncle Morgan.” Being the youngest of her siblings, she’d been doted on shamelessly, not just by her father but her three uncles too. “I know your secret.”

“What’s that?”

She leaned into him and said with smug satisfaction, “Deep down, you’re a sweetheart.”

Appalled, Morgan pulled back. “Bite your tongue.”

“I won’t tell,” Briana promised sweetly, “if you don’t go blabbing about my little adventure this morning.”

Morgan rubbed his mouth. “Come on. I’ll give you a ride.”

Perfect. That would ensure she didn’t run into Jax again.

Except that her diabolical uncle didn’t take her directly home. No, he decided to circle the block, to head down a side street—and damn it, there was Jax.

When she ducked, Morgan chuckled. “Your biggest mistake was in trying to blackmail me.”

“I didn’t,” she hissed, and when he started to slow down, she panicked. “Don’t you dare, Uncle Morgan, or I won’t speak to you for a year!”

“Sounds like a dire threat on top of blackmail.”

Uncle Morgan,” she pleaded.

Thankfully, he only waved to Jax and continued on.

Exhaling, Briana slanted him a dirty look.

Morgan grinned, totally unrepentant. “You can sit up now. And just so you know, Jax is a good kid. I like him.”

He was a full-grown very hunky man, but she didn’t quibble. “Then he’s single?” She’d assumed but hadn’t known for sure.

“Aha. So that’s why are you acting so sketchy about it?”

That had to be a joke. “If I’m secretive, it’s because I have the most intrusive family in the entire world.”

“Family who loves you and wants what’s best for you.”

“And that,” she insisted, “is something I can decide on my own.”

“Well, lucky for you, yes, he’s single.”

Excellent. If she couldn’t warm Jax up a little, she’d…well, she didn’t want to think about giving up yet, not when her attraction to him grew every day. “Thanks for the info.”

Uncle Morgan pulled into her parents’ driveway. Relieved to escape him, Briana opened her door—then heard his open, too.

No. No, no, no.

“Uncle Morgan—”

“Is your dad up?” He slung a heavy arm around her shoulders and started up the walkway. “I could use another cup of coffee.”

Briana hustled to keep up with his long-legged gait. Why did the men in her family all have to be so big? Even her male cousins towered over her. “Promise you won’t say anything.”

Morgan smiled.

Right as they stepped through the side door to the kitchen, she moved out of his reach. “Fine. Be a bully. See if I care.” She pivoted away, ready for a grand exodus—and almost plowed into her dad.

He caught her shoulders, held her back the length of his arms and asked, “What’s going on?”

Of course her dad was right there. It fit with the way the rest of her day was going. Briana almost groaned—until Morgan said, “She was out jogging in those shoes.”

“Jogging?” He took in her clothes with as much doubt as his brother had.

“I gave her a ride.” Morgan went to the coffeepot and poured himself a cup.

Unconvinced, Gabe looked at each of them. “And?”

“And,” Briana said, going on tiptoe to give her a dad a kiss, “I need to finish moving my things here so that next time I decide to jog—” which would be never “—I’ll be better prepared.”

“I told you I can help you.”

“We all could,” Morgan added. “I could get Garrett, Shohn and Adam together.”

“We’d have you moved in a day,” her dad finished.

Briana’s heart swelled. “You’re all awesome and I thank you, but I’ll handle it.” She hadn’t yet told them she wanted to live on her own. She planned to find the right place first, and then she’d break the news.

Backing out of the room, she called out, “Thanks for the ride, Uncle Morgan.”

He winked.

She made it to her room and dropped face-first on the bed. No doubt Jax had seen right through her ruse too, but he hadn’t taken the bait. Other than one quick perusal of her person, he hadn’t really looked at her.

What did he think?

Oh God, did he think she was desperate? Her face went warm as she considered every encounter they’d had. She’d been obvious, right? And not once had he reciprocated.

The truth hit her.

Jax acted the same way she did when trying to be polite without encouraging someone. He flat-out wasn’t interested.

Huh. She was so used to guys chasing her…but then, looking like he did, Jax was probably just as used to being chased. So maybe she needed to change her tactics.

No more subtle hinting.

The next time she saw him, she’d ask him out. Smooth and easy. If he declined, she’d smile and act like it didn’t matter.

Now all she needed was opportunity.

Since she was up and dressed, she decided to visit each of her sisters. As married working women, neither of them would be available for a while still, so she’d look at some properties first. She’d stay so busy, she wouldn’t be able to think of Jax.

At least for a little while.

End of Excerpt

Jax

is available in the following editions: