Barefoot at midnight bar.., p.1
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       Barefoot at Midnight (Barefoot Bay Timeless Book 3), p.1

           Roxanne St Claire
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Barefoot at Midnight (Barefoot Bay Timeless Book 3)


  Barefoot Bay Timeless

  Book Three

  Barefoot at Midnight

  Roxanne St. Claire

  Barefoot Bay Timeless

  Barefoot at Midnight

  roxanne@roxannestclaire.com

  www.roxannestclaire.com

  www.facebook.com/roxannestclaire

  www.twitter.com/roxannestclaire

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  Copyright © 2016 South Street Publishing

  978-0-9970627-4-8 –EBOOK

  978-0-9970627-5-5 – PRINT

  This novel is a work of fiction. Any references to historical events, real people, or real locales are used fictitiously. Other names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination, and any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is coincidental. All rights to reproduction of this work are reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without prior written permission from the copyright owner. Thank you for respecting the copyright. For permission or information on foreign, audio, or other rights, contact the author, roxanne@roxannestclaire.com

  COVER ART: The Killion Group, Inc. (designer) and James Franklin (photographer)

  INTERIOR FORMATTING: Author E.M.S.

  Table of Contents

  Copyright

  Welcome back to Barefoot Bay Timeless

  Dedication

  Acknowledgments

  Prologue

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16

  Chapter 17

  Chapter 18

  Chapter 19

  Chapter 20

  Chapter 21

  Chapter 22

  Chapter 23

  Chapter 24

  Chapter 25

  Chapter 26

  Epilogue

  Dear Reader

  Books Set in Barefoot Bay

  About the Author

  Dear Reader,

  Welcome back to Barefoot Bay Timeless…celebrating the appeal of a 40-something hero and second chances at love! Like every book set in Barefoot Bay, this novel stands entirely alone, but why stop at just one? Barefoot Bay is a whole world of romance, friends and family, and unforgettable stories, divided into bite-size trilogies so you can dive in to the water anytime!

  The Barefoot Bay Billionaires

  Secrets on the Sand

  Seduction on the Sand

  Scandal on the Sand

  The Barefoot Bay Brides

  Barefoot in White

  Barefoot in Lace

  Barefoot in Pearls

  Barefoot Bay Undercover

  Barefoot Bound (prequel)

  Barefoot with a Bodyguard

  Barefoot with a Stranger

  Barefoot with a Bad Boy

  Barefoot Bay Timeless

  Barefoot at Sunset

  Barefoot at Moonrise

  Barefoot at Midnight

  Want to know the day the next Barefoot Bay book is released? Sign up for the newsletter! You’ll get brief monthly e-mails about new releases and book sales.

  Dedication

  This one is for all the amazing instructors at Innovation Yoga in Satellite Beach, Florida. Kellie, Virginia, Maddie, Anastasia, Loren, Laurie, and studio owners Deborah and Stephen…thank you for giving me peace, patience, and balance every afternoon when I need it the most. You inspire and enlighten and remind me that serenity is just one breath away. Namaste.

  Acknowledgments

  As always, my work is the product of a group of professionals that ride with me on every book journey. Huge love to the team—Kristi Yanta, the Picky Editor, who understands my characters better than I do; copy editor Joyce Lamb who knows grammar and math (not even fair); eagle-eyed proofreader Marlene Engel; and cover artist extraordinaire Kim Killion who has the vision I lack. Once again, photographer James Franklin had our hero in his head, and that man, gorgeous silver fox Dino Hillas, captured Law perfectly. More thanks to formatter Amy “there is no such thing as a problem” Atwell, superstar author assistant Maria Connor, and the Rocki Roadies (Roxanne St. Claire Street Team) who never let me down. (Want to join the street team? We’re on Facebook and have tons of fun.) This book benefited from the wisdom and love of two amazing beta readers, Sandi Fitch Hutton and Paula Robinson, and the collective wisdom of the ladies at Writers’ Camp. Thanks, friends. I love you all. Oh, and mom kisses to the fam…especially Dante who dug out his notes from Property class to help me out, and my super lawyer brother, Gregg. If I got any legal stuff wrong, they’ll represent me. Honestly, I am drowning in friends, family, and blessings.

  Prologue

  A relentless downpour made it nearly impossible to see more than five feet ahead, but Lawson Monroe gripped the handlebars of his vintage Triumph, clenched his teeth, and rocketed through the nearly deserted streets of Naples, Florida, at midnight.

  C’mon, Bonnie. You can handle a little rain, old girl.

  Law coaxed more speed out of a bike that had gotten him in and out of plenty of scrapes in their many years together. Under normal circumstances, he’d pull over and give her a break. He’d find a dry place to wait out the storm. He’d…quit.

  But these were not normal circumstances, and for once in his life, Law wasn’t going to take the easy way out. Not when a man who’d saved Law’s life more times than he could count lay in a hospital teetering on the hairy edge between life and death.

  The bike swerved in a puddle, a gush of rainwater spraying Law’s work pants. The chef’s jacket he hadn’t bothered taking off when he got the call was soaked through to his skin now, and his long hair was plastered to his head since he hadn’t wasted time putting on a helmet.

  Jake Peterson’s had a stroke.

  The words of some nurse who’d been kind enough to call him still echoed in Law’s brain. He’d been closing up at the Ritz-Carlton kitchen, wiping down the grill and cleaning off the remnants of a hellacious dinner rush, when his cell rang.

  He never told anyone he was leaving, but marched into the rain, got on his bike, and rode.

  Because that’s what Jake would have done for him.

  Through the rain, he spotted the red and white ER sign and pushed Bonnie to her limit, running a light to careen into the parking lot. Then he essentially abandoned the bike to charge inside. Still dripping wet, he launched the frustrating process of asking for help, directions, instructions. Down a hall, up an elevator, around a gurney, to another desk, then another, then, finally, the intensive care unit, where he was stopped cold by the fact that he wasn’t family.

  “I’m the closest thing he has,” he said to the nurse, who didn’t even soften when Law grabbed a tissue to wipe the rain dripping from his hair onto her glassy granite reception desk.

  She gave him a put-upon puss. “I’m sorry, but the rules are very strict.”

  He huffed out a sigh and looked around the austere waiting room just as another nurse came around the corner, stopping at the sight of a man dripping rainwater all over the floor. She was older than the one behind the desk, with smooth gray hair and a piercing blue gaze that dropped to the name embroidered on his chef’s coat.


  “Lawson Monroe,” she read out loud. “So you must be Law.”

  He nodded once, and she gestured toward the hall she’d come from, leaning to look around him. “It’s okay. He’s family.”

  Law gave a quick take that, babe face to the woman behind the desk who simply lifted a brow. “Whatever you say, Ruth.”

  Apparently, the rules weren’t that strict when Ruth was calling the shots.

  She came with him down the hall, her bright pink Crocs squeaking on the laminate wood with each crisp, efficient step. “He’s been talking about you.”

  Relief washed through Law, the news easing the bits of raw pain stabbing his chest. “He can talk?”

  “Oh yes.”

  “So it wasn’t that bad?”

  She didn’t answer right away, making him wonder if she was choosing her words carefully. Or if it was that bad.

  “It didn’t kill him,” she said simply.

  “Thank God,” Law whispered under his breath.

  “The next one will, though.”

  He slowed his step. “What do you mean?”

  “What I said, but you didn’t hear that from me. The doctor might tell you more, but you aren’t family.”

  “He doesn’t have any,” Law said. “I’m his friend.”

  “You’re his son,” she corrected.

  “Is that what you want me to tell the doctor?” Because he had no qualms about lying his way through the health care system to get information he needed and wanted.

  “That’s what Jake told me.”

  Then he was delirious. “Okay,” Law said.

  “Oh, he might have said ‘like a son,’ but the sentiment was the same.” She paused at a door with a glass insert, pulling a clipboard mounted on the wall to jot initials on a medical chart. “In any case, he begged me to contact you. You take it from here.”

  “Thanks, Ruth.”

  She opened the door and nodded for him to enter, closing it behind him.

  The room was freezing, dark, and deadly quiet except for a half-dozen rhythmically beeping monitors all connected to the thin, old man lying on the bed looking about one shade lighter than his white sheet.

  “Hey, Jake.” Law spoke softly and moved with a deliberate step, a little terrified he’d make things worse.

  Slowly, Jake turned his head and fluttered his eyes open. Without his glasses, he looked even craggier than usual, deep lines showing every one of his seventy-five years and then some.

  He didn’t speak but held Law’s gaze, and instantly, his pale blue eyes welled up.

  Oh man. Jake was a crybaby. He’d seen the old fart tear up over a McDonald’s commercial. But this was different. This was fear, and Law could smell it as strong as the bitter antiseptic that hung in the air.

  “Pretty crappy place to spend a Saturday night, pal.” Law tried to sound light, but it didn’t come out that way at all.

  “Not my choice.” The words were slurred and spoken through only half his mouth. The left side of his lips didn’t move; they hung a little, like one would expect on a stroke victim.

  The reality of a stroke sliced through Law like a nine-inch Wüsthof, cutting away his hope and optimism.

  “I’ll get you through this,” Law promised. “Rehab, therapy, whatever you need. I’ll run the restaurant for you, and you’ll get better.”

  “That’s why I got you here,” he rasped. “Come closer. Talk.”

  Law obeyed, getting up to the bed and putting his hands on the cool rail. “We’ll talk about it later. Now, you just rest, buddy.”

  One eye narrowed. The other was hidden under a drooping lid that looked like it would take a lot more than therapy to ever open all the way again. Law’s stomach tightened.

  “Whatever it takes,” Law said, squeezing the rail. “We’ll get you better.”

  Jake managed to shake his head a centimeter.

  “Yes,” Law insisted. “We will. Don’t be a quitter.” He slathered the warning with enough emphasis that even a man hanging on to dear life would get the inside…well, it wasn’t a joke. But they both got the implication.

  “You are no quitter, Lawson,” he managed to say on a raspy breath. “You think you are, but I know what you’re made of.”

  “Don’t talk, Jake. It’s taking too much effort.”

  “I have to…tell you something.” But his eyes closed with the effort, and Law didn’t try to rouse him. Instead, he leaned over, taking in the rough features of a man who’d lived and played hard.

  Law was fourteen when he met Jake, and the older man had been well into his forties back then. As he was to this day, Jake had been the proprietor of the town watering hole, a man known for lending a hand when it was needed. When Law was a messed-up teenager loaded on attitude and booze, Jake had set him straight. When Law ran away from the hell that was his home, Jake let him sleep in the room upstairs at the Toasted Pelican. When Law got out of the Army and smashed headfirst into rock bottom of a bottle, Jake had fished him out, got him into AA, and paid for culinary school.

  Jake Peterson had been a father to Law. And he’d been a hell of a lot better than the one Law had been cursed with at birth, that was for sure.

  Jake’s narrow chest rose and fell, making Law suspect he’d fallen asleep. He glanced over his shoulder at the door, expecting the nurse to usher him out at any minute, but she wasn’t around. Grabbing a wooden-back chair, he set it next to the bed, a chill shuddering through him as his soaking-wet clothes started to dry under the intense air conditioning.

  He ignored the discomfort. He wasn’t leaving until they made him, and even then, he’d just sit outside. He’d talk to a doctor, he’d handle anything that arose, he’d be the son, even if he wasn’t.

  He wouldn’t quit on Jake Peterson, the best friend he’d ever had.

  Closing his own eyes and realizing they burned with unshed tears, Law let his head drop on a sigh.

  “You’re only as sick as your secrets.”

  Jake’s words made Law’s head jerk up, mostly because they were remarkably clear for a man who’d just suffered a stroke.

  “So I’ve heard.” Anyone who’d been through addiction recovery knew the phrase and knew it meant you couldn’t get better until you got to the root of your problems, usually the secrets harbored in your heart.

  But something told Law revealing a secret or two on his hospital bed wasn’t going to make Jake better. Still, the concept had been pivotal to Law’s victory over the bottle, and Jake knew it. It was Jake who’d gone with him to the dock on Law’s first-year-sober anniversary and then to an all-night tattoo parlor to commemorate the date on his arm. It was Jake who’d listened to Law tell the story that plagued him his whole life, and Jake who—

  “The Pelican. It’s yours.”

  Law blinked at the words, taken aback as much by the sudden switch in subjects as the statement itself. He’d wanted the Toasted Pelican for years, and Jake refused to sell, give, or even let Law work at the restaurant he owned and ran forever. Yeah. Jake was definitely delirious, or the drugs had really kicked in.

  “Listen, we’ll figure all that out when you’re home and healthy.”

  Jake managed a get real look, which was no mean feat for a man whose face was half paralyzed. But it was like he knew…he wasn’t going to be “home and healthy” ever again.

  “There’s a will,” he said.

  “And a way,” Law finished, happy to hear Jake thinking like that.

  “No. Paperwork. Real paperwork.”

  “You have a will?” Of course, he should have a will. But it seemed strangely out of character for a man who loathed lawyers and kept his books with pen and paper.

  Jake struggled as though he wanted to sit up, but the effort was too much. “You, too.”

  Law needed a will, too? What did he mean?

  Jake moaned with frustration, or pain. Either way, Law wanted to quiet him. “Okay, listen, we don’t have to pound anything out this minute. If…something happens, I’ll take th
e Pelican. I’ve always wanted it, you know. I have plans.”

  Jake managed a smile. “Good plans. Great plans.”

  Then why the hell wouldn’t he let Law implement those plans over the past couple of years? Instead, he’d pressed Law to take the sous chef job at the Ritz and save money to buy his own restaurant while the Toasted Pelican remained exactly what it had always been: a fifth-rate dump of a landmark on Mimosa Key, not the hip gastropub Law thought it could be.

  But a visit to death’s door seemed to have changed that.

  “I want you to have it,” Jake said, his voice low and gruff. “I have to make sure…” His words faded out, breaking Law’s heart.

  “Okay, we’ll work that out…later.” Just don’t die, you old bastard.

  Jake closed his eyes for a moment, as if to say there would be no later.

  “You, too,” he said, his voice fading more with every word. “Promise you’ll…find it.”

 

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