Authors: Melissa Foster
Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Romance, #Contemporary, #Contemporary Fiction
Bursting With Love
Bradens, Book Five
ove in Bloom Series
A captivating blend of the dance between lust, love, and life
Bestselling Author Keri Nola, LMHC
This is a work of fiction. The events and characters described herein are imaginary and are not intended to refer to specific places or living persons. The opinions expressed in this manuscript are solely the opinions of the author and do not represent the opinions or thoughts of the publisher. The author has represented and warranted full ownership and/or legal right to publish all the materials in this book.
Bursting With Love
All Rights Reserved.
Copyright © 2013 Melissa Foster
This book may not be reproduced, transmitted, or stored in whole or in part by any means, including graphic, electronic, or mechanical without the express written consent of the publisher except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.
Cover Design: Natasha Brown
WORLD LITERARY PRESS
PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
A Note to Readers
Bursting with Love
is the eighth book in the Love in Bloom series and the fifth book of The Bradens. While it can be read as a stand-alone novel, for even more enjoyment, you may want to read the rest of the Love in Bloom novels. Savannah has been such a strong character throughout the series that it was nice to see a more vulnerable side to her in her own love story. And get ready to meet Jack Remington! Jack has quickly become one of my favorite heroes, and in Jack and Savannah’s story, you will get to know his siblings, Rush, Kurt, Sage, Dex, and Siena, who will each have their own book in my next contemporary romance series—The Remingtons.
For my older brothers, Adam, Jon, and Dale. Thanks for teaching me to be strong, stubborn, and self-confident through competition.
PRAISE FOR MELISSA FOSTER
“Contemporary romance at its hottest. Each Braden sibling left me craving the next. Sensual, sexy, and satisfying, the Braden series is a captivating blend of the dance between lust, love, and life.”
—Bestselling author Keri Nola
on THE BRADENS
“[LOVERS AT HEART] Foster’s tale of stubborn yet persistent love takes us on a heartbreaking and soul-searing journey.”
“Smart, uplifting, and beautifully layered.
I couldn’t put it down!”
—National bestselling author Jane Porter (
on SISTERS IN LOVE
“Steamy love scenes, emotionally charged drama, and a family driven story make this the perfect story for any romance reader.”
—Midwest Book Review (on
SISTERS IN BLOOM
“HAVE NO SHAME is a powerful testimony to love and the progressive, logical evolution of social consciousness, with an outcome that readers will find engrossing, unexpected, and ultimately eye-opening.”
—Midwest Book Review
“TRACES OF KARA is psychological suspense at its best, weaving a tight-knit plot, unrelenting action, and tense moments that don’t let up, and ending in a fiery, unpredictable revelation.”
—Midwest Book Review
“[MEGAN’S WAY] A wonderful, warm, and thought-provoking story...a deep and moving book that speaks to men as well as women, and I urge you all to put it on your reading list.”
“[CHASING AMANDA] Secrets make this tale outstanding.”
“COME BACK TO ME is a hauntingly beautiful love story set against the backdrop of betrayal in a broken world.”
—Bestselling Author Sue Harrison
THE ENGINE OF the small bush plane echoed in Savannah Braden’s ears as they flew past the edge of a colorful forest and began their rapid descent into the Colorado Mountains. September didn’t get much prettier than the bursts of red, orange, yellow, and green foliage that were quickly coming into focus. The plane veered to the right and then cut left at a fast speed, shifting Savannah and the other five passengers in their seats. Savannah clung to the armrest and looked out the window as the dirt landing strip came into view.
The too-short landing strip
. She’d been flying her whole life, and never had she seen such a short landing strip.
Great. I’m gonna die before I even get to clear my head.
She hadn’t seen the pilot’s face before takeoff, and now all she could make out was the back of his wavy brown hair, thick headphones over his ears, and a black T-shirt stretched tight over burly shoulders. She wondered what the man who was going to kill her looked like—and why the hell he thought he could land on a freaking Band-Aid–sized landing strip.
The couple in the seats across from her appeared far too calm in their hemp clothing and scuffed boots. They’d introduced themselves as Elizabeth and Lou Merriman, and they were traveling with their six-year-old son, Aiden. They seemed pleasant enough, but Savannah couldn’t help staring at the reddish brown dreadlocks that hung past their shoulders, as if it weren’t hair at all but thick, clumpy strands of the same prickly rope her father used back home on his ranch in Weston, Colorado.
“Do you mind?”
“Oh, sorry,” Savannah said, pulling her clenched fingers from the armrest that separated her from the younger, sullen man next to her with his tuque pulled down low and his shoulders rounded forward. He hadn’t said two words to her the whole flight, and she wondered if he was escaping civilization and had sworn off the opposite sex, too.
Savannah’s emotions were fried after finding her on-again off-again celebrity boyfriend, Connor Dean, in bed with another woman—again. Her eyes stung as she remembered the evening their relationship had come to a stormy end.
A final end
. On the recommendation of an article she’d read about how to reclaim one’s life after a breakup, she’d taken Friday off from work to go on this damn four-day survival retreat that the article touted as
The best way to regain your confidence and reprioritize your life!
The timing had been perfect. There was no way she was ever going back to Connor, and in order to accomplish that, she had to get the hell out of Manhattan. Connor was just charming enough to make her forget that she deserved more than a guy who still acted like a high school jock, always looking for the next good lay.
The plane descended rapidly, and Savannah pulled her seat belt tighter across her hips and closed her eyes. She felt her stomach flip and twist as the engines rumbled in agony. Then the wheels of the plane made contact with the dirt and the brakes screeched, sending her forward, then slamming her back against the seat.
“Shit!” Savannah’s eyes flew open. Everyone looked at her: the granola couple and their young son, and of course, attitude boy sitting next to her. Everyone except Josie, the young woman who sat across the aisle behind Elizabeth and Lou. She had her eyes clenched shut and was white-knuckling the armrest.
I should have sat next to her
“Sorry,” Savannah said with a cringe.
Savannah looked out the window, and the landing strip was a good fifty feet behind them, but at least they were alive.
Maybe this was a mistake
The engine silenced, and the other passengers stood and stretched. Elizabeth and Lou collected Aiden and smiled like they hadn’t just seen their lives pass before their eyes.
What is wrong with them?
Josie squealed, “We made it!”
The guy with the tuque shook his head, and Savannah prayed she wouldn’t pass out from her racing heart.
The pilot craned his neck as he glanced back over his shoulder and removed his headphones. Savannah caught a quick glimpse of the most handsome, rugged face and piercing eyes she’d ever seen before he turned back around and she was left staring at the back of his thick head of hair again.
A thrill rushed through her.
Maybe this wasn’t a mistake after all
In the next breath, she realized he was the man she’d seen in the airport when she was racing to catch the plane and had fallen on her ass, sending her bags flying across the corridor. He’d been cold and standoffish—and far too handsome.
PILOT AND SURVIVAL guide Jack Remington sat in the cockpit of the small bush plane with a knot in his gut. He’d been so conflicted about where his life was headed that the last thing he needed was for his body to suddenly remember what a woman was. For two years, he hadn’t looked at a single woman—had never felt a twinge of interest since his wife, Linda, died in a car accident. Then, today of all days, when he was running late and already pissed after having driven past the site of her accident, he saw that gorgeous woman with auburn hair flat on her ass in the airport. He’d wanted to walk right by her, and when she rose to her feet, he just about did. But when he’d gotten close enough to really see her, he noticed a competitive streak in her eyes, and behind that determination, he’d seen something soft and lovely.
Damn it. I don’t need soft and lovely
. He pushed the image of her away and allowed his anger to turn inward again. Once he felt the familiar fire in his chest, he opened the door.
The first thing he did when he stepped off the plane was touch the earth.
. Jack considered every blade of grass, every tree, every bush, and every stream on this particular mountain to be his personal possession. Not in the legal sense, but in his heart. It was this land that had helped him to heal after Linda’s death. Hell, that was a lie. He hadn’t yet healed. But at least he was capable of functioning again—sort of. He still couldn’t sleep inside the chalet in Bedford Corners, New York, that he and Linda had shared. He returned to the house only once or twice a month to make sure partying teenagers or vandals had not broken in. And on those nights, he slept on the back deck and showered in the outdoor shower. He’d spent most of the last two years in the safety and solitude of his rustic cabin—the cabin even his family didn’t know about—set on two hundred acres in the Colorado Mountains.
Last night, however, Jack had stayed at the chalet because of the early flight this morning, and before leaving the house, he’d sat out front with his motorcycle engine roaring beneath him, reminding him that he was still alive. When he’d reached the bottom of his steep driveway, instead of turning left as he always had, he looked right toward the site of Linda’s accident.
Eighty-seven paces. Less than three seconds from our driveway.
Flashes of painful memories had attacked, and he’d gritted his teeth against the gnawing in his gut.
It should have been me
In one breath he wanted to leave behind the guilt and the anger of having lost her and move forward. He missed seeing his brothers, sister, and parents. He missed hearing their voices, sharing the details of their lives, and he even missed their loud family dinners. In the next breath he pushed the idea of finding a path back to them into the dark recesses of his mind and allowed the familiar anger and guilt to wrap its claws around him and seed in his mind, tightening each one of his powerful muscles, before he revved his engine and sped away. Jack didn’t know the first thing about moving on, and no matter how much he might want to, he wasn’t sure he ever would.
He turned and surveyed this weekend’s group of yuppies-turned-survivalists with their nervous smiles and eyes that danced with possibilities. He’d been running survival training retreats as a means of remaining at least a little connected to civilization, and though Jack had plenty of money, the extra income made him feel like he was a productive member of society. He looked over his new students, silently mustering the energy to be civil and patient.
Lou and Elizabeth Merriman stood behind their young son, Aiden, each with one hand on his shoulder.
A granola family.
He knew from their registration form that they lived a green lifestyle, Elizabeth homeschooled little towheaded Aiden, and they were vegans. They were there to make an impression on their young son. He’d had enough granola families attend his survival camps to know that they all thought they had the answers to life and health, when the reality was that they had no damn answers at all. It wasn’t the answers about life he was concerned with. Jack had yet to meet anyone who could give him the answers that really mattered—the answers about death and how to deal with it.
He shifted his gaze to their left. Pratt Smith, a brooding, brown-haired artist, and Josie Bales, a dark-haired beauty who taught second grade for a living. Josie played with the ends of her hair. The two twentysomethings who were traveling separately—he, for the hell of it, and she, to find herself—were trying to pretend they weren’t sizing each other up as potential hookups.
. Jack didn’t have anything against young couples getting together, but he sure as hell wished they’d do it on their own time. His job was to bring them out into the woods, show them basic survival skills, and send them home feeling like they were Bear Grylls. The last thing he wanted to deal with was a couple sneaking into the woods seeking privacy and doing something stupid like getting lost or being eaten by a bear. And he sure as hell didn’t need the goddamn reminder of how good it felt to be in love shoved in his face every time he looked at them. Love had been off his plate since Linda died, and he wasn’t looking for a second helping.
Now, where in the hell was the goddamn woman who’d called and signed up three days ago? The pushy one who wouldn’t take no for an answer when he’d said registration had already closed. He saw boots land on the ground on the other side of the plane. She was taking her own sweet time, and they had work to do.
She’d better not be a Manhattan prima donna.
He’d had enough of those whiny women to last a lifetime, and he never understood why they enrolled in the weekend courses anyway. He forced the thought away. The students paid for a guide, not a critic.
He planted his boot-clad feet in the dirt and opened his arms. “Welcome to survivor camp. You’ll notice that there is no formal name for my program, and that’s because emergencies don’t come packaged neat and tidy with cute little names. We’re preparing for survival. I’ve spoken to each of—”
“I’m sorry. The landing was a little nerve-rack—”
The woman from the airport made her way around the plane, cutting him off midsentence. As she flashed a broad smile at the others, he remembered her name. Savannah.
She glanced at Jack, and their eyes caught. Her smile faded; her green eyes narrowed. She was taller, curvier, and even more beautiful than he’d realized when he’d run into her at the airport.
Jack clenched his jaw. He cleared his throat and looked away, then continued.
“I’m Jack Remington, and I live on this land.” His eyes drifted toward Savannah and he paused, then looked away and began again. “I served eight years as a Special Forces officer with the United States Army. I can get you in and out of here alive if you listen and work together. Let’s keep the land clean and the attitudes friendly.”
His eyes swept over Savannah in one quick breath—a breath that carried hope rather than the breath that had carried the pain of loss when he’d left his home earlier that morning. She was tall and slim with auburn hair and killer breasts.
Too fucking pretty
. It took all his focus not to stare, and out of his peripheral vision, he watched her brush dirt from her jeans. He allowed his eyes to follow her hands as they stroked her lean thighs, and when she glanced up, he dropped his eyes to the ground.
He shifted his gaze back to the rest of the group, silently chiding himself for looking at her in the first place. How the hell was he going to keep himself from looking at that gorgeous face and killer body?
Fuck. I must be losing my mind
“Let’s get your bags. Then we’re going to hike up the mountain to base camp. If you need to go to the bathroom, the forest is your toilet.” He ran his eyes across the group, stopping short of Savannah to avoid getting lost in hers again.
“Cool,” Aiden said.
“I think so.” Jack smiled at the wide-eyed boy. “I assume you all met on the plane? Got to know one another?”
“Yes, we introduced ourselves.” Lou pushed a wayward dreadlock from his shoulder. “Well, most of us, anyway.” He shot a look at Pratt.
Pratt stood with his hands in his jeans pockets, looking away from the group.
Damn it. Another prick
. Even as the words ran through his mind, he knew he shouldn’t be too quick to judge. Some people would consider Jack a jerk, too, and they’d be right. Some broken men were assholes, and that’s just the way it was. He made a mental note to try to talk to Pratt, but for now, he had to nip this shit in the bud.
He narrowed his gaze and spoke in his favorite cold voice—the one he usually reserved for beautiful women. He didn’t have time for them any more than he had time for a kid with a bad attitude.
“See those woods behind me?” He turned sideways, as if clearing a path for Pratt’s eyes to follow—which they didn’t. “There are bears, snakes, poisonous plants, and all sorts of scary shit out there. You may find yourself in need of someone’s help, and if you’re a di—unkind—to the group, no one’s gonna rescue you.” He crossed his arms. “I suggest you introduce yourself.”
Elizabeth and Lou exchanged a guarded glance. Then they each put a hand on Aiden’s shoulder.
Jack hadn’t caught his poor choice of words quickly enough. He knew he was being harsh, but bad attitudes caused accidents, and there was no room for accidents in his camp.
Pratt clenched his jaw and held Jack’s stare. His tall, lanky body was no match for six-four, two-hundred-thirty-pound Jack Remington, but the hurt and anger in Pratt’s eyes looked familiar, and Jack knew he wasn’t contemplating anything physical. A spear of guilt ran through him. There was no turning back now. He’d taken a hard line, and backing down would leave him in a position of lesser authority.