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Jax
Author: Lori Foster

CHAPTER ONE


   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.

   Now though... Wowzers.

   She’d first seen him during one of her visits home from college. 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 older brothers, 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 in 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 a scorcher.”

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