Read Night Driving Online

Authors: Lori Wilde

Tags: #Contemporary, #Fiction, #Romance

Night Driving

The Rules of the Road vs. The Laws of Attraction

How do you spell disaster? For former army captain Boone Toliver, it’s his sister’s wedding to a man she hardly knows, and he’ll die before he lets
that
happen. Boone has five days to get from Montana to Florida with an injured leg. And his only option is hitching a ride with his free-spirited neighbor, hairstylist Tara Duvall—whose body makes his mouth water and his libido burn.

With each passing mile, the magnetic pull between them grows stronger, and Boone’s trademark control is slipping away. But when his sex drive takes the wheel, will he be able to stop the wedding in time?

The night breeze blew coolly against his heated skin.

And for a long while, Boone and Tara just stood there, frozen in time. The make-or-break moment. Would he be strong enough to stop this and walk away before he did something he would regret?

He'd been resisting Tara's allure for weeks, heck, months even. Trying to convince himself that getting together with her would be a bad thing.

His body didn't care about reasons or excuses. It was too late for either, his brain issuing a primal message he was helpless to resist or deny.

His arms tightened around her.

She went up on tiptoes and leaned into him.

Turn back. Turn back. It's still not too late. Just let her go. Move away.

But darn his Montana hide, he did not let her go. He did not turn away. He did not walk off. Instead Boone did what he'd been struggling hard not to do.…

He kissed her.

Dear Reader,

What could be more fun than a road trip?

That is the question that led me to the premise of my new series, Stop the Wedding! Since it’s a three-book series, I thought why not have three different kinds of road trips? One by land, one by sea, one by air. All with the same objective: to stop a wedding. And the wedding they’re trying to stop is the marriage of Jackie Birchard and Coast Guard Lieutenant Scott Everly from
Born Ready.

So to answer the question in
Night Driving,
what could be more fun than a road trip? Why, take one drop-dead handsome, broody former Green Beret in desperate need of love in his life. Add in one good-hearted dizzy hairdresser on a move from Bozeman, Montana, to Miami, Florida. Mix well and you have chemistry that lights up the night sky.

I hope you enjoy
Night Driving,
and that you’ll be on the lookout next month for
Smooth Sailing,
the second book in the Stop the Wedding! series. If you’re on Pinterest, drop by my
Night Driving
board to see the collage I made of Boone and Tara’s trip @
http://pinterest.com/loriwilde/night-driving/
.

Until then, happy reading!
Lori Wilde

Night Driving

Lori Wilde

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Lori Wilde is a
New York Times
bestselling author and has written more than forty books. She’s been nominated
for a RITA® Award and four
RT Book Reviews
Reviewers’ Choice Awards. Her books have been excerpted in
Cosmopolitan, Redbook
and
Quick
& Simple.
Lori teaches writing online through Ed2go. She’s also
an RN trained in forensics and she volunteers at a women’s shelter. Visit her
website at
www.loriwilde.com
.

Books by Lori Wilde

HARLEQUIN BLAZE

  30—A TOUCH OF
SILK
  66—A THRILL TO REMEMBER
106—PACKED WITH
PLEASURE
123—AS YOU LIKE IT
152—GOTTA HAVE IT
175—SHOCKINGLY
SENSUAL
230—ANGELS AND OUTLAWS*
260—DESTINY’S HAND*
346—MY SECRET
LIFE**
399—CROSSING THE LINE†
411—SECRET SEDUCTION†
423—LETHAL
EXPOSURE†
463—THE RIGHT STUFF††
506—ZERO CONTROL
518—HIS FINAL
SEDUCTION
561—SWEET SURRENDER
648—INTOXICATING
658—BORN
READY††

  *The White Star
**The Martini
Dares
  †Perfect Anatomy
††Uniformly Hot!

To get the inside scoop on Harlequin Blaze and
its talented writers, be sure to check out
blazeauthors.com
.

To all the servicemen and women who give their lives to their country.

1

Monday, June 29, 5:25 p.m.

F
EELING
LIKE
Jimmy Stew
art in
Rear Window,
ex-Army Captain Boone Toliver stared glumly out at the treelined neighborhood as he sat on his front porch in Bozeman, Montana.

His right knee, fresh from a third surgery and wrapped in a stabilizing brace, lay propped up on a hassock. On the small table beside him sat a cell phone, a can of beer and a bottle of pain pills. He was trying to see if the beer would take the edge off his misery before surrendering to the medication. Although he knew well enough he wasn’t supposed to mix the two, he was a big guy in a world of hurt. Not all of it physical.

Third time’s a charm,
the orthopedic surgeon had said.

It better damn well be. If not, he would never fully gain back the mobile life that a bomb in Afghanistan had stolen from him. For now, he had to hire someone to do everything—grocery shopping, housecleaning, chauffeuring him to doctor’s appointments.

Not that money was an issue. Along with this house, his father had left him over a million dollars. Boone had invested wisely; he was set for life, even if he never worked again. Although he’d much rather still have his dad around than any amount of money.

Plus, he was not an idle guy. He was at the end of his tether with this invalid malarkey. He had read books until his vision blurred, played video games until his thumbs ached and watched movies until his brain complained. All of his friends were military, and now that he was out of the service and injured to boot, their visits had become less and less frequent. He was no longer one of them.

Boone was bored, bummed out and bitter.

Not an attractive combo. He realized that, but he couldn’t seem to snap himself out of the doldrums. This surgery was his last chance to reclaim what he’d lost. This time he was determined to follow doctor’s orders to a T. Which meant sitting here twiddling his thumbs and watching the world pass him by.

Awfully hard for a man who’d spent a big chunk of his adult life at war.

He picked at the Velcro strap on his knee brace, pulling it off, then pressing it back down, then pulling it off again just to hear the crinkly, ripping noise it made as the two pieces separated. The sound underscored the monotony of his life.

A few houses over a couple of kids shot hoops in their driveway. The steady strumming of the basketball against cement made him nostalgic. Once upon a time, he’d been one helluva basketball player, but those days were long gone. The scent of supper hung in the air as the summer sun headed west. Idly, he thought about getting up and sticking a frozen dinner in the microwave, but he couldn’t seem to drum up enough enthusiasm for even that task.

He took a swallow of beer and tried not to think about the throbbing in his knee.

An older model Honda Accord crawled down the block and then pulled into the driveway of the ranch-style bungalow across the street. His ditzy neighbor, Tara Duvall, got out of the Accord. Quickly, Boone picked up his cell phone and pretended to be deep in conversation, but his ruse didn’t thwart Tara.

She raised her hand in greeting, gave him that radiant smile she was constantly flashing. Hell, he needed sunglasses and a bulletproof vest against her obnoxious cheerfulness.

“Hey, Boone.” She wore a skimpy little halter top and cutoff blue jeans that hit her midthigh.

He tried not to notice just how tanned and supple those long, lean legs were. Or how, when she moved, that halter top with a handkerchief hem fluttered up enough to give him a glimpse of her gold navel ring. Her abdomen was taut and flat, her skin flawless. His mouth went dry and he felt an unwanted stirring below his belt. Annoying she might be, but the woman possessed a killer body.

Block the urges, Toliver. Sure, she’s sexy, but she’s not worth the aggravation.

She toddled across the street toward him in wedge sandals that were far too high for her petite build, but somehow she managed to walk in them with startling grace.

Frick. She was coming over.

Frowning, he held up the phone for her to see and waved her away, then stuck the phone back to his ear. “Yes, uh-huh.” He feigned conversation.

Tara was one of those breezy, gabby women who could talk the hind leg off a mule. The last thing he wanted was to hear one of her upbeat, riotous stories about what had gone on at the hair salon where she worked. She was funny, impulsive, lively and reminded him far too much of his ex-wife. Spontaneous gals were nothing but trouble. Still, his body responded at her approach and he resented the heck out of her because of it.

She tiptoed up on the porch, an index finger laid over her lips.

“You don’t say,” Boone spoke into the phone.

She hitched her butt up on the porch railing, legs dangling off, blues eyes dancing with mischief.

Go away.
He was not in the mood for Pollyanna.

“Yes, yes.” He nodded as if someone on the other end of his fictitious conversation had just said something he could really support.

Tara’s gaze skated over his injured knee. She pursed her lips in a pity pout, but then took in the beer and the bottle of pain pills. Her sympathy disappeared—thankfully—into a concerned scowl. She made a shame-on-you gesture, scraping one forefinger crossways over the other.

Buzz off, brat.

“Hang on a minute,” Boone said to his imaginary caller. He put his palm over the phone, met Tara’s eyes. “This conversation is going to go on for a while.”

“I don’t mind waiting.”

What the hell did she want? “I mind.”

“Private conversation?”

“Yeah.”

Her lips were glossy cotton-candy-pink and her hair was four or five different shades of blond. Streaked in that chunky way that was popular these days. A modest dolphin tattoo graced her left shoulder and numerous earrings lay nestled in each ear. Her toenails were painted an alarming shade of aqua, and on the second toe of her right foot a gold toe ring spelled out LOVE.

“I’ll go water your shrubs while you’re talking,” she said. “They look thirsty.”

“No, no.” He didn’t want her doing him any favors. “Leave it be.”

“Okay.” She held up her palms. “Didn’t mean to tread on your pride.”

Glowering, he pressed the cell to his ear again. “I’m back,” he said, feeling stupid for having gotten trapped into a fake phone call.

Well, if you could try just talking to her.

Except that never worked. Give her an inch and she took a mile. If he struck up a conversation, she’d plunk down on the porch beside him for hours as if they were friends or something.

That’s when the phone rang for real.

Tara’s lips formed a humorous O and her eye twinkled. “Oh, dude, you’re so busted.” She did the finger-shaming gesture again. “You were trying to avoid talking to me.”

“Yes, and I really am on the phone now,” he snapped and pressed the talk button without bothering to look at the caller ID. “Hello?”

“Boone?”

“Jackie? Hold on a second.” He covered the receiver again. “It’s my sister. Could we have this conversation later?”

“You have a sister?”

“Half sister.”

“I didn’t know that.”

“There’s a lot of things you don’t know about me.” Thank goodness for that.

“You never talk about her.”

“I never talk about her to
you.

“Touché,” she murmured, but she looked slightly wounded.

He forced a smile past his injured-war-veteran grouchiness. “Right now I just want to talk
to
her, if you don’t mind.”

“Sure.” She shrugged. “I only came by to tell you that I’m moving away.”

Yay! No more nosy neighbor butting into his business, throwing noisy late-night parties, no more bringing over casseroles and lecturing him on proper recycling techniques. But even as he thought it, Boone felt something else entirely. A strange, soft sadness. It was the same kind of melancholy that used to come over him every Sunday afternoon when he was a kid, knowing that the weekend was over, and he had to go back to school the next day.

Part of him almost told her to wait, but he managed to squelch the impulse. “See ya.”

“See ya,” she echoed and hopped from the railing.

He watched her lope across his lawn, her fanny swaying in those snug-fitting shorts. Mesmerized, his gaze locked helplessly on Tara’s delectable butt.

“Boone? You still there?”

“Yeah, yeah, I’m here.” He hitched in a deep breath and turned his full attention to Jackie. “Hey, sis. Long time no hear.”

“I’ve been really busy,” she said, sounding oddly giddy. Normally his sister was intense and serious. Her father was the famed oceanographer Jack Birchard. Jackie had followed in his footsteps and she was working on her PhD.

Boone realized it had been over four months since he’d spoken to her and he hadn’t told her about the third surgery. He hadn’t wanted her to worry. They hadn’t grown up together and they had really only gotten in touch with each other as teenagers when they’d bonded over the fact that their flighty mother had abandoned them both to their respective fathers. But Jackie was as resilient as Boone. They’d survived and thrived.

That is, he’d thrived until the damn bomb blast.

“What’s up?” he asked.

“I’m getting married!” Jackie announced.

“Married?” he echoed, stunned. “To who?”

“You don’t know him. His name is Scott Everly and he’s a lieutenant in the Coast Guard.”

“Jackie, seriously? A coastie?”

“What’s wrong with a coastie?”

Boone wasn’t going to get into the fact that he didn’t consider Coast Guard
real
military. “I can’t see you as a military wife. In fact, I can’t see you as a wife at all.”

“What does that mean?” All the joy escaped from his sister’s voice.

Don’t be a jerk, Toliver. Apologize.
“Your career means so much to you.”

“Yes, what’s that got to do with anything? Are you saying that I can’t have a meaningful career and be married at the same time?”

“How are you going to do research if you’re following him around from post to post?”

“He’s stationed in DC. Any promotions will just take him further up that chain. Besides, Scott is fully supportive of my career. He understands that there may be times when we’ll have to be separated.”

“How long have you known him?” Boone asked, feeling protective. She
was
his baby sister. He hated the thought of her making the same marital mistake he’d made. No matter how you sliced it, divorce hurt. He’d do whatever he could to save her from that heartache.

She didn’t answer him.

“How long have you known him?” Boone repeated.

“You’re being a jerk.”

“You’re not answering the question.”

“A little over a month,” she finally admitted.

“What!”

“Don’t go ballistic. I know what I’m doing. Scott is the best thing that’s ever happened to me. He’s smart and kind and he loves the ocean as much as I do and—”

“Are you insane? Didn’t you learn anything from my experience with Shaina—”

“I’m not you, Boone,” she snapped. “And Scott isn’t Shaina. This is real love, not some hot, horny, drunken Vegas hook-up on the eve of your enlistment—”

“Listen to yourself. Real love? You’ve only been dating the guy a month. He could be a serial killer for all you know.” Boone clenched a fist, quelled the urge to jump up and start pacing.

“Six weeks. I’ve known him six weeks.”

“Oh yeah, my mistake. Two weeks makes all the difference. Why didn’t you say so?”

“I thought you’d be happy for me. I finally found someone who means as much to me as the ocean.”

“You know exactly who you’re acting like, don’t you?”

“Don’t say it,” Jackie growled.

“Miranda.”

“I am
nothing
like our mother.”

He knew he’d struck a chord but for some unfathomable reason he just kept pushing. “Miranda married my dad after only knowing him for two months. How long did she date Jack before she plunged into that relationship? Six weeks, wasn’t it?”

“I cannot believe you’re reacting this way.”

Boone couldn’t believe it either. What was the matter with him? His knee hurt like a son-of-a-bitch, but that was no excuse. He could hear tears in her voice and that alarmed him. Jackie was a tough cookie. She didn’t cry easily.

You, Toliver, are the world’s biggest loser.

“I’m sorry.” He backed down. “You took me by surprise. Just tell me you’re going to have a nice, long engagement to make sure this guy is really the one.”

“We’re getting married in Key West on Saturday on the Fourth of July.”

“This Saturday? Are you out of your mind?”

“If you can be happy for me, then you’re welcome to attend the wedding. It’s at four o’clock on the
Sea Anemone
at Wharf 16,” she said, referring to Jack Birchard’s research vessel. “If not, then stay in Montana and stew in your own self-pity.”

“Jackie, I—”

She hung up on him.

Boone swore under his breath and immediately called her back. She didn’t pick up, letting the call go to voice mail. He tried three more times. She still did not answer.

A raw ache gnawed at the pit of his stomach. Disgusted with himself, he slung the cell phone across the yard.

Smart. Real smart. Now you gotta go get it.

Guilt was a rock on his shoulders. He pushed up from the chair, winced against the bolt of pain that shot up his leg. He stared at the steps, swallowed hard. Going down them would take forever. He blew out his breath.

And suddenly there was Tara.

Relief washed over him and he instantly hated the feeling. He didn’t need to be rescued.

She bent down to pick up his phone, then raised her head, concern in her eyes. “Did you have a fight with your sister?” She mounted the steps to hand him the phone.

“Thanks,” he said gruffly.

“You’re welcome.” She paused.

He said nothing.

“I guess you don’t want to talk about it?”

“I don’t.”

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