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       Barefoot at Moonrise (Barefoot Bay Timeless Book 2), p.1

           Roxanne St Claire
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Barefoot at Moonrise (Barefoot Bay Timeless Book 2)


  Barefoot Bay Timeless

  Book Two

  Barefoot at Moonrise

  Roxanne St. Claire

  Table of Contents

  Dear Reader

  Dedication

  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

  Sneak Peek of BAREFOOT AT MIDNIGHT

  Books Set in Barefoot Bay

  Acknowledgments

  About the Author

  Copyright

  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 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.

  www.roxannestclaire.com/newsletter.html

  Dedication

  Every Friday morning for the last few years, I’ve posted a silver fox (the two legged kind) on my Facebook page, and the response from readers made it clear to me that a “mature man” can definitely be hero material. This book is dedicated to the many friends and fans who inspired me to write a series that proves sexy comes in silver and romance can be just as dreamy the second time around.

  Chapter One

  Ken Cavanaugh charged into burning buildings on a routine basis. He faced life-threatening emergencies, unforeseen crises, and potential disasters almost every day with titanium nerves and steady hands. He led a crew of fearless, tough, muscle-bound mavericks who turned to him for wisdom, guidance, life-or-death decisions, and changes in their shift schedule. And, icing on his résumé cake, Captain Cav was the fan favorite to lead the fire station tours because women and children loved him.

  So why the hell did his feet feel like he was wearing iron boots? Why did his pulse thump as though he was seconds from stroking out? All he had to do was walk across a banquet hall in the middle of a high school reunion and talk to a woman, but he couldn’t bring himself to do it.

  Because Bethany Endicott had frozen him out this week no matter how hard he’d tried to thaw her. Of course, he might have had that coming, considering their past.

  But twenty-five years had passed since he’d been a grieving, angry eighteen-year-old who wanted to hurt anyone named Endicott…including his girlfriend.

  All he really wanted to do was put that dark day—all those dark days, in fact—in the past and clear the air.

  He had to talk to her before this week went up in smoke and he could do nothing but watch his chance burn to the ground.

  For the past week, during the interminable “planning” of this reunion, they had yet to have a substantive conversation. There was plenty of eye contact, all kinds of accidental brushes, and a low-grade simmer that stretched his nerves—and libido—to the limits. He’d caught her gazing at him on more than one occasion, but any time he’d initiated a conversation, she managed to be suddenly pulled away or busy.

  Who could blame her? He could rationalize what happened between them all those years ago for the rest of his life, but the fact was he’d said hurtful things, and now he just wanted to apologize.

  Wasn’t that what high school reunions were for?

  Time was running out, though, leaving tonight, the night of the all-class Mimosa High reunion at Barefoot Bay’s swanky resort, for Ken to make his move. After this, they’d go back to their regular lives, and another twenty-five years might pass before they saw each other again.

  This was his last chance.

  “Come on, Cav. Tap that powder keg.”

  Ken didn’t even turn to give Lawson Monroe a dirty look when the man sidled up next to him. Law was a few years older, and they hadn’t known each other in high school—though Ken knew of Law’s reputation for trouble—but this week the two men had had no choice but to hang out together at the various reunion-planning sessions. In the process, Ken grew to appreciate Law’s irreverent sense of humor and signature sarcasm.

  He’d let Law and Mark Solomon, who’d rounded out the trio of Y chromosomes on the planning committee, think his interest in Beth Endicott was physical—which wasn’t a lie. She still got him fired up with one look. But there was more to his need to get Beth alone. Much more.

  “Seriously, Captain Cav, what are you waiting for?” Law needled. “A kick in the ass? A glass of courage? I’m so pleased to provide both.” Law offered a glass of beer. “For you, since I don’t drink.”

  Ken took the beer and sipped, letting the man think all Ken wanted to do was hit on a pretty woman. He couldn’t tell Law the truth. He could never tell anyone the truth, but that was something he’d accepted years ago.

  Looking around, he considered his next opportunity to get Beth alone. There would be desserts and after-dinner drinks back on the beach following this. Could he talk to her there?

  “When is this dance contest thing over?” Ken asked, checking out the last couple participating in the Dance of the Decades on a stage at the far end of the banquet room. This pair was decked out in a poodle skirt and rolled-up jeans, celebrating the decade when they graduated from Mimosa High.

  “It’s over when the thousand-year-old couple keels over,” Law said.

  Ken smiled, taking in the married seventy-seven-year-olds surrounded by several generations of their family cheering them on. “They met at Mimosa High, class of 1956,” he mused. “Married forever.”

  Law grunted like the very thought pained him. “Damn, that’s a long time to ride the same love boat every night.”

  “How does a guy get so lucky?” Ken asked, his genuine question getting a cynical look from Law. Across the hall, the crowd broke enough for Ken to get a glimpse of the short, flared white skirt that showed off Beth’s heart-stopping legs and killer red and white high heels. She loved her high heels and short skirts and wore them just as well now as she had in 1991.

  She was watching the show, checking her phone, and occasionally glancing at the exit to the deck behind her.

  He had to move.

  “Are you nuts? Boredom sets in fast,” Law said. “I need variety.”

  “Variety gets boring, too,” Ken replied. “I’d rather have something steady.”

  “Shoot me now,”
Law moaned. “Two-point-five and a minivan in the driveway is my idea of hell on earth. Anyway, I hate to burst your bubble, but I heard your Beth is the poster girl for I Am Woman, Hear Me Roar.”

  His Beth. If only. Ken’s gaze drifted across the room, catching her checking her cell phone for the sixtieth time that hour. Who the hell was she waiting to hear from?

  “Weren’t you a freaking Navy first responder before you became a firefighter?” Law demanded. “Failure isn’t an option for you life-saving types.”

  No, failure wasn’t an option. Not in his line of work, not in his life. But where Beth was involved? Fail all around, even tonight.

  “Pretend the place is on fire and you have to evacuate her to the nearest…bedroom.” Law took the beer back. “Don’t make me show you how it’s done, son.”

  Ken checked out the couple on the stage, twirling—slowly—for their big ending. Everything in his gut told him Beth would never stay for dessert on the beach. She’d been half checked out all week long, barely showing up for any of the committee crap he’d agreed to do when he saw her name on the list.

  Maybe it wasn’t a man who had her glued to the phone. Maybe it was work. Maybe it was…him. Ray Endicott. He knew only that she was in some kind of housing and real estate business, so it was more than likely she worked for her father.

  An old, familiar metallic taste filled his mouth when he thought of the coldhearted bastard responsible for shattering Ken’s world. No conversation with Beth would ever change the truth of that, but she wasn’t responsible, and he wanted her to know he didn’t blame her.

  “All right,” he said. “I’m going in.”

  “Get ’er done, Captain.”

  Ken gave a quick nod and made his way across the room. Being six-two made it easy to see over most heads, but the crowd was thick with huggers and dancers and drinkers. To avoid them, and the possibility that someone would stop him to talk, he swerved toward the perimeter of the room. Staying locked on that golden hair spilling over bare shoulders and a sleek red halter top, he was steady and sure now.

  Beth’s gaze drifted over the crowd and settled on the spot where Ken had been standing with Law. Blue eyes narrowed, and a slight frown creased her forehead. She angled her head a bit, and her shoulders dropped as if she’d sighed.

  As if…she was disappointed that he’d left.

  Buoyed by that, he powered forward, slipping between two people with a quick, “’Scuze me.”

  “Oh no, you don’t!” A woman’s fingers snagged his elbow and squeezed, jerking him to a stop. “Ken Cavanaugh, if you don’t remember me, my heart’s going to break into a thousand pieces.”

  He turned quickly toward a petite woman with frosted-blond curls and glasses, with zero recognition of her face. “I…uh…sorry…I’m—”

  “Chrissie Bartlett!” she exclaimed, her voice rising along with her wine glass. “Spanish 1? Freshman year? Señora Norton’s class?”

  Oh yeah. He remembered the name. Remembered that she hadn’t given him the time of day in Spanish class back then. “Hi, Chrissie.”

  She came a little closer. “You’ve changed, Kenny.”

  Kenny. The only person who’d ever gotten away with calling him that was…inching closer to the exit. “It’s been a long time,” he said, trying to move away. “We’ve all changed.”

  “Well, you’ve improved with age,” she added.

  Another woman joined them, a three- or four-drink gleam in her eyes. “I don’t think we ever talked in high school,” she said. “I’m Marta Burns.”

  Marta Burns? No, they’d never talked, because Ken worked construction jobs after school to help support a struggling family while these two were busy with clubs and crap to pad their college applications.

  “I hear you’re a firefighter. And the captain, no less.” Chrissie added a squeeze to his bicep, blocking Marta from getting any closer. “Impressive.”

  “Yeah.” He glanced back to Beth, catching her making a quick scan of the room as she moved toward the door. Was she looking for him?

  “Excuse me, Chrissie, but I—”

  “Hey, ladies, why’d you slip away?” Another man approached, much shorter than Ken and with way less hair. He threw a look at Ken, who gladly stepped away to let him flirt with the women. The whole thing took two seconds, long enough for him to lose sight of Beth.

  Damn it. He made a few comments, shook a hand, threw out one more excuse, and finally got away, muscling through the rest of the crowd to reach the side exit that led out to a large wooden deck.

  But it was empty, with no sign of Beth.

  Swallowing a dark curse, he took a few steps toward the railing, and then spotted a pair of red and white high heels tucked by the stairs that led to the sand.

  He couldn’t help smiling, because, hell, this was better than Cinderella.

  All he had to do was follow the footprints in the sand.

  * * *

  Timeless.

  Beth gave a wry smile as she thought of the reunion theme that had permeated the entire Mimosa High all-class reunion. Plastered on posters, written on ribbons, and etched into the champagne glasses they got to take home…one word. Timeless.

  What did that even mean? That the years that had passed didn’t matter? That the clock stood still when two people made heart-hammering eye contact? Or that time…had run out.

  Because it had, at least where Ken Cavanaugh was concerned.

  When he’d walked into the first reunion-planning meeting a week ago, she actually gasped audibly. She had no idea he was on the planning committee, too. Why would he have volunteered for that? Could it have been he saw her name on the committee list? That seemed unlikely, but she couldn’t help entertaining the possibility.

  She’d tried to forget their ugly breakup when he was a senior and she was a sophomore and treat him like another one of the very few men—three, to be exact—on the reunion-planning committee. Okay, a man who’d aged well. Ridiculously well. Like, whoa, he was hotter now than he was in high school, and he’d been damn nice-looking as a boy.

  Until he dumped her on a miserable, rainy afternoon and said hateful, hurtful things about her family. Well, her father. Of course, as an adult, it was easy to understand why. His father had died in his arms, for God’s sake, on a job site owned and operated by Endicott Development Corporation. Her last name would be a constant reminder of how much he hated Ray Endicott.

  She might have even talked to Ken this week, since he acted warm and friendly, almost as if nothing had happened. But during the course of the first meeting, she could feel her whole being respond to Ken the way she had as a fifteen-year-old girl—with a fiery, undeniable attraction. Then she heard the rumors of what kind of guy he was and what he was looking for in life, and she knew she should keep her distance and protect her heart from falling for a guy who wanted…something she could never give him.

  So she purposely had missed a lot of meetings and acted distracted and distant when she had to be around him. That left tonight, the big reunion event at Casa Blanca Resort & Spa, which was far enough along that she could call it a night. When the old couple twirled for the last time, she slipped out, ready to end this week and get back to her normal, if lonely, routine.

  Inhaling the salted air, Beth let cool sand sift through her toes as she wandered closer to the water. The sky over Barefoot Bay had turned a magical deep purple around a dramatic full moon rising over the horizon, its silvery path glinting on the water. To her left, a row of yellow tented cabanas lined the beach. These were usually lit by tiny white lights and used for romantic cocktails and private parties of two, but all the guests at the resort were in the ballroom judging the Dance of the Decades contest.

  So the secluded shelters were dark and empty.

  Beth stepped to the open drapes of the cabana farthest from the resort, squinting inside to spy a chaise lounge the size of a queen-size bed, with half a dozen pillows. She felt a little like Goldilocks, but couldn’t resist the
inviting resting place, which offered comfort, solitude, and a view of that breathtaking moon overhead casting a silver spell on the waves of Barefoot Bay.

  As she exhaled, she tried to rid herself of everything stressful or unsettling, distracting or unbalancing.

  Like…Ken Cavanaugh.

  Oh, he’d been the talk of plenty of women who’d come early to help plan the reunion. How could he not be? Single, sexy, and silver enough to look like he lived life to the fullest.

  She closed her eyes and drifted back years and years.

  I could love you, Beth. I could love you forever. But I can never be in the same room as your father and not want to kill him. He’s the devil, don’t you see? So, this is it.

  She’d never forgotten his last words. This is it.

  This is it? She remembered how much she wanted to scream the question back in his face, but she’d been drenched by a downpour and crushed by his fury. Instead, she’d stared at him, watched him walk away through the rain, while she was left…shattered.

  And here they were, twenty-five years later.

 
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