Busted (A Barnes Brothers novel)

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9780425273937: Busted (A Barnes Brothers novel)

From the national bestselling author of Wrecked and Razed comes an emotionally charged story of undeniable passion and life-affirming love...

Like his brothers Zach and Zane, Trey Barnes thought he had found the love of his life. But fate had other plans. A widower who’s had to raise his five-year-old son on his own, Trey has not allowed himself to be with another woman. Until he meets Ressa Bliss at—of all places—a children’s library program. The beautiful librarian is wonderful with his son, Clay, but every time Trey even considers asking her out, he is tortured by guilt.

Fate is indeed fickle. When the two meet again at a conference, this time the attraction is too powerful to resist. But is their connection and passion strong enough to survive Trey’s deep inner torment?

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About the Author:

Shiloh Walker is the national bestselling author of romance, paranormal romance, and romantic suspense novels, including Razed, WreckedFragileThe Protected, and The Reunited.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Prologue

There was, at times, only one way to completely lose yourself.

This was a fact that Trey Barnes knew all too well.

He’d spent a great deal of time losing himself to books, for instance—first as a reader, and then, as he’d gotten older, as a writer. He found other ways to lose himself, too. He liked to dabble in photography, although he was a bumbling amateur compared to his oldest brother, Zane. Still, it was a good way to while away an afternoon.

And he had loved to lose himself in the arms of his wife, Aliesha.

Now, though, all he had of her were memories . . . and that small infant on the other side of the glass, struggling for every breath.

“Mr. Barnes?”

He didn’t look at the nurse.

“Sir, why don’t you go home and get some rest?”

It was creeping up on ten. He’d been here since . . . hell. He’d come straight here after the funeral. Yeah, it had been a while. He’d taken every precious moment he could to be as close to his baby as possible. Not that he could do much more than stroke one small, frail hand.

Clayton Barnes, a mere three days old, was a tiny, little miracle from God. He’d been born more than two months early. Without the ventilator that was doing the breathing for him, he wouldn’t be alive.

“Mr. Barnes.”

Slowly, he looked away from the window and met the compassionate gaze of the nurse. She was older, her round face softened by time, and her eyes held his steadily.

She reached out and rested a hand on his shoulder.

“You need rest,” she said gently. “You have to take care of yourself now . . . for him, if nothing else. You’re all he has.”

A knot settled in his throat, then he nodded. “Can I have another few minutes with him?”

“Of course.”

*   *   *

Once he left the neonatal intensive care unit and the hospital behind, he didn’t go home. Not yet.

There was no way he could sleep in their bed.

Their bed.

Aliesha . . .

Tears burned his eyes and he blinked them away as the road blurred in front of him.

His phone buzzed—it was still on silent mode from the funeral. It had too many ignored phone calls, too many unanswered messages and he planned on letting them go ignored. Unanswered. The only people he’d care to talk to were his family, and all of them knew where to track him down. He’d be at the hospital sixteen to eighteen hours a day for the foreseeable future.

For now, he didn’t want to be around anybody he knew. Anybody . . . or any place.

Taking the interstate downtown, he found a hotel. Somebody came out from behind the valet parking stand but Trey already had the door open. “Will you be checking in, sir?”

He gave a short nod and moved to the back, grabbing the bag his mother had packed so he could have clothes for after the funeral. He’d never changed. They’d come in handy now.

“Do you have any other luggage?”

“No.” He turned his keys over and went to head inside, but then looked back at the man. “Where’s the nearest bar?”

“There’s the hotel lounge, although it closes at eleven.”

“Aside from that?”

The man cocked his head and gestured west. “Take a left at the next block. You’ll find quite a few. Plenty of places open til midnight, some even later.”

Trey gave another nod and passed over a few of the bills he’d shoved inside his pocket earlier. He’d meant to get coffee, or something from the vending machines at the hospital. Meant to—forgot. Again.

Check-in was a short, silent affair. One thing about some of the more upscale hotels—they seemed to realize when somebody wasn’t in a mood to chat.

The lady at check-in apologetically told him the hotel was rather full due to an upcoming convention, although she did have a single open for only one night. The word convention had his gut turning—

. . . an accident . . . hospital as soon as possible . . .

Shoving the memories aside, he said hoarsely, “I just need it for the night.”

He’d figure something else out tomorrow.

Trey barely remembered the walk from the desk to the elevator to the room.

He barely remembered throwing his bag on the bed and stumbling back out.

It was all a blur, and then he was sitting down at the bar, his hand closed tightly around a glass.

It was a dive. He’d asked for whiskey, a double, neat, and it had come in a smudged glass, the fumes of whatever horse-piss they’d brought so strong, it might have doubled for rocket fuel.

He tossed it back and tapped his glass.

The bartender slid him a look but served him up another before disappearing to tend to everybody else jammed in at the bar, elbow deep.

“You look like you want to drink away your sorrows.”

Sighing, Trey lifted the glass and pressed it to his head. He closed his eyes and said, “Go away.”

“Aww . . .” A hand stroked down his arm. “Don’t go being like that.”

Jerking his arm away, he tugged his wallet out and fished out some bills—how much did whiskey cost in a dive like this? He didn’t know. He caught the bartender’s eye and held up two twenties.

“Get your change in a minute—”

“Keep it,” Trey said sourly as the woman on his left leaned in closer. The feel of her breasts, the scent of her, had something inside him going cold.

Aliesha

He half stumbled away as days of grief, of guilt, crashed into him. He found a bare space of wall near the back of the bar, a painted-over window tucked up over his head. He rested there, taking another drink of whiskey, slower this time, grimacing at the almost painful bite of the cheapest, shittiest whiskey he’d ever had the misery to experience. Appropriate, he decided. Today was the most miserable, shittiest day of his life.

A tear squeezed out of the corner of his eye. He swiped at it with the heel of his hand, not giving a damn if anybody saw it. Then he tipped back the glass and had another sip.

“Hey.”

Cracking one eye open, he bit back a groan. It was the woman from the bar. At one time in the past, he would have given her a thorough look. Her hair was done in long, thick plaits that hung almost to her waist, while her hourglass curves were poured into a belly-baring shirt and a skirt that just barely skimmed the legal limit. A gold ring flashed from her navel and there was a piercing in her nose.

She looked like a woman capable of wicked things.

No doubt about it, she could make a man’s cock stand on end.

Now, though, all she did was angle her head to the side. “Look, I’m sorry if I came on too strong. You . . . hell, you look like you’re having a rough day. You want to talk about it?”

“No.” He closed his eyes again and had another long, hard pull of his drink, realized it was empty.

His head was also starting to spin. Usually two drinks wouldn’t do it, but he hadn’t eaten since the toast his mother had forced on him that morning. Not exactly the ideal dietary intake.

Didn’t matter. He could still think. If he could think, he wasn’t drunk enough.

Shouldering up off the wall, he went to cut around her.

She caught his arm and when he tried to pull away, she just gripped him tighter. “Come on,” she said, her voice firm. “If you’re going to get plastered, at least do it sitting down.”

He might have argued, except he was damn tired.

A few minutes later, he was in a booth.

She sat across from him and he watched listlessly as she picked up his glass and sniffed at it. “What is that, Old Grand-Dad? You trying to kill your stomach or what?” She flagged down one of the servers and Trey snorted.

She wasn’t ever going—

Well, scratch that. Some sort of blurry amusement worked its way free in his mind as somebody sidetracked to their table, shooting the woman across from him a hard look. “Yeah?”

That look was meant with an equally hard smile. “Get him something that isn’t going to kill his gut,” she said, her tone all sugar. Sugar, but the gaze was steel.

Too many undertones there for him to process.

Trying to juggle his way through all of that and deal with the noise in his head was making his brain hurt. He still wasn’t drunk enough. Maybe what he should do was hit that liquor store he’d passed . . . yeah.

He liked that idea. He could grab himself a bottle of whatever was closest to the door, lock himself in his room, and get plastered. The headache he’d have in the morning would keep him focused on something other than what he’d done today—

Something thunked down in front of him, hard.

Blinking, he stared at it.

He went to reach for it but before he could, a hand tugged it out of reach.

“Give me that,” he demanded.

She kept her hand over it as she slid into the booth next to him. He’d settled in the middle and he wasn’t exactly a small guy, so that didn’t leave her a lot of room. She didn’t seem to care.

Alarms started to screech in his head.

“You wanna talk now?” she said, managing to make that low purr of a voice audible over the din in the air. She stroked a finger down the glass.

“No.” He took the glass and the scent of it hit his nose before he took the first swallow. He almost sighed in appreciation. That was more like it. He couldn’t quite recognize it—some sort of bourbon, he thought, but a damn sight better than whatever swill he’d been tossing back. Slumping in the seat, he rested his head on the back of the booth.

The fog in his head crept in closer.

“So what has you looking so miserable today, handsome?” Her hand settled on his thigh, dangerously close to his crotch.

He picked it up and slowly, carefully, deliberately settled it on the table. That right there was enough to have the fog in his head clearing.

Even when she started to lean in closer, Trey found the energy to get his leaden legs moving, forcing his too-fogged brain to function. Her eyes—he studied her eyes through a haze of alcohol and realized something was off.

“I buried my wife,” he said. His gut went slippery cold as he said it, and then, he said it again. “I buried my wife. She went into early labor and died during the emergency C-section. My son almost died, too.”

She went to open her mouth and he leaned in, ignoring the absolutely lovely breasts she displayed as she reached out to touch his arm. “I’m not interested. You’re better off looking elsewhere.”

Something flashed in her eyes and then she inclined her head. “Pay for your own whiskey, then.”

“I wouldn’t have it any other way.” He nodded toward her and looked around, tried to figure out where the fucking hell he’d put the damn whiskey. He’d had a drink, hadn’t he?

“Son of a bitch,” he mumbled, barely even noticing that he’d banged into the wall on his way out of the bar. Lights blurred together and shadows swayed in and out of the focus, coming alive on him.

There were voices.

Then a shout.

The one last clear thing he remembered was trying to remember where the hell he’d put his damn phone.

*   *   *

A harsh pounding noise split through his head, like a cleaver striking through bone.

Trey jerked upright and immediately wished he hadn’t so much as moved.

Nausea churned inside and his belly revolted.

He shuddered, braced an arm over his gut as he looked around.

No light.

Couldn’t see—

“You awake there, sunshine?” Lights flashed on.

He flinched at the sound of that voice, as familiar to him as his own. It was quiet—logically, he knew that, but it sounded as loud and booming as a fucking gong.

He groaned and rolled over, grabbing for his pillow so he could drown out the too loud sounds and the too bright lights.

Hearing his twin’s sigh, he thought maybe Travis would take pity on him and let him sleep off this hangover from hell. Trey couldn’t remember the last time he’d been this wasted.

“Come on, man,” Travis said a moment later. “You need to wake up.”

The sound of his brother’s voice was too loud, too harsh and he groaned pitifully.

“Mr. Barnes?”

He jerked at the sound of the new voice.

A hand pressed down on his shoulder.

“Easy there, Trey. I’ll take care of it. You just . . . try not to fall out of the bed.”

That made him crack open one eye—immediately, he wished he hadn’t, because the lights were harsh and bright and unforgiving. Anybody who had ever painted hell as a dark and smoky place was out of his mind. Hell was pure, unrelenting, blinding light and there was no escape from it. Trey flinched away from the searing brightness, feeling like his eyeballs had been singed.

He heard low voices, a hushed, hurried argument and he decided he was going to have to brave that hell. Cracking open his eye once more—just a slit—he looked around.

The place was disturbingly familiar.

Too bright. Yeah, he didn’t like that. Aseptic smells—

That tugged at something—immediately, his mind went on a sideways lurch and he rolled into a seated position and found himself on the edge of a bed that was most certainly not his own. He was bare-chested but wearing pants that he thought probably were his, although they were torn at the knee and dirty. His knuckles were bandaged—bruised.

What the

“You okay there?”

He flexed his hand as Travis came around to stand in front of him.

Looking up, he found himself looking face-to-face at a disheveled mirror of himself. Then he glanced down at his wrecked trousers, his bare chest and his torn-up fists. Maybe he was the disheveled reflection this time around. Swallowing the nasty taste in his mouth, he eyed the wrinkled button-down Travis was wearing with a pair of trousers. He looked like he’d slept in them.

Then he looked down at himself, eyed the identification bracelet on his wrist. His head was an endless void—nothing but black stretching back—an awful pain settled at the base of his head and he slid from the bed, half stumbled, half shoved his way past his twin.

“Why am I in the hospital?”

“You . . .” Travis paused, taking his time before he said anything else. “You were at a bar. There was a fight. The bartender ended up calling the cops—you were all but unconscious in the parking lot.”

Trey ran his tongue across his teeth. “A bar.”

“Yeah. Ah . . . you lost your wallet. Whatever cash you had. I already shut down the credit cards, although I think whoever had them might have already tried to use them—I heard some talk from the cops. You can . . . we can talk about this later.”

“There was a woman,” he muttered as he flexed his aching hands. “I . . . I almost remember.”

“The doctors here, they ran a few blood tests. Ah . . . nothing happened. Just so you know—apparently you defaulted to fight mode and some . . .”

“What aren’t you telling me?” Trey asked, studying his brother’s face.

Travis came to stand closer, only a couple of feet away. “It looks like somebody s...

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Descrizione libro Penguin Putnam Inc, United States, 2015. Paperback. Condizione libro: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. From the national bestselling author of Wrecked and Razed comes an emotionally charged story of undeniable passion and life-affirming love. Like his brothers Zach and Zane, Trey Barnes thought he had found the love of his life. But fate had other plans. A widower who s had to raise his five-year-old son on his own, Trey has not allowed himself to be with another woman. Until he meets Ressa Bliss at--of all places--a children s library program. The beautiful librarian is wonderful with his son, Clay, but every time Trey even considers asking her out, he is tortured by guilt. Fate is indeed fickle. When the two meet again at a conference, this time the attraction is too powerful to resist. But is their connection and passion strong enough to survive Trey s deep inner torment?. Codice libro della libreria AAS9780425273937

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Descrizione libro Penguin Putnam Inc, United States, 2015. Paperback. Condizione libro: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. From the national bestselling author of Wrecked and Razed comes an emotionally charged story of undeniable passion and life-affirming love. Like his brothers Zach and Zane, Trey Barnes thought he had found the love of his life. But fate had other plans. A widower who s had to raise his five-year-old son on his own, Trey has not allowed himself to be with another woman. Until he meets Ressa Bliss at--of all places--a children s library program. The beautiful librarian is wonderful with his son, Clay, but every time Trey even considers asking her out, he is tortured by guilt. Fate is indeed fickle. When the two meet again at a conference, this time the attraction is too powerful to resist. But is their connection and passion strong enough to survive Trey s deep inner torment?. Codice libro della libreria AAS9780425273937

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Descrizione libro Penguin Putnam Inc, United States, 2015. Paperback. Condizione libro: New. Language: English . This book usually ship within 10-15 business days and we will endeavor to dispatch orders quicker than this where possible. Brand New Book. From the national bestselling author of Wrecked and Razed comes an emotionally charged story of undeniable passion and life-affirming love. Like his brothers Zach and Zane, Trey Barnes thought he had found the love of his life. But fate had other plans. A widower who s had to raise his five-year-old son on his own, Trey has not allowed himself to be with another woman. Until he meets Ressa Bliss at--of all places--a children s library program. The beautiful librarian is wonderful with his son, Clay, but every time Trey even considers asking her out, he is tortured by guilt. Fate is indeed fickle. When the two meet again at a conference, this time the attraction is too powerful to resist. But is their connection and passion strong enough to survive Trey s deep inner torment?. Codice libro della libreria BTE9780425273937

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Descrizione libro Berkley. Paperback. Condizione libro: New. Mass Market Paperback. From the national bestselling author of Wrecked and Razed comes an emotionally charged story of undeniable passion and life-affirming love Like his brothers Zach and Zane, Trey Barnes thought he had found the love of his life. But fate had other plans. A widower whos had to raise his five-year-old son on his own, Trey has not allowed himself to be with another woman. Until he meets Ressa Bliss atof all placesa childrens library program. The beautiful librarian is wonderful with his son, Clay, but every time Trey even considers asking her out, he is tortured by guilt. Fate is indeed fickle. When the two meet again at a conference, this time the attraction is too powerful to resist. But is their connection and passion strong enough to survive Treys deep inner torment This item ships from multiple locations. Your book may arrive from Roseburg,OR, La Vergne,TN. Mass Market Paperback. Codice libro della libreria 9780425273937

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