Hot Country Series, Book 4
Hope O’Malley, one of country music’s most talented divas, is the target of an attempted abduction at her Houston concert. She’s saved by Buck Boudry, a big, sexy Cajun wrangler she’d invited to the concert. But the only way they can keep Hope safe is for her and Buck to head out on a wild cross-country trek.
Spending a week in hiding together at a beautiful, remote location, Hope and Buck find solitude, romance, and hot lessons in Buck’s sexual dominance that leave them both gasping and wanting more. But when Hope learns that she has accused the wrong people of attempting her abduction, she returns to her life and her career. And Buck returns to his job working with horses while wanting every minute of every day just to be with Hope.
When Hope offers Buck a huge reward, he sees that their lives are too dissimilar for him to even think about a future with her. But when he realizes she was offering him more than just the reward, is it too late for him to be part of Hope’s life? And when the real kidnapper tries again, will Hope be lost to Buck forever?
Hope O’Malley sang the last word of her new hit song, and the crowd cheered. The fans on the arena floor jumped and waved their arms. She stood alone on the stage, having chosen to play this sweet love song on an acoustic guitar.
She smiled and pointed at some of the fans, then hauled the guitar strap over her head. A few strands of her shoulder-length brown hair flew forward and stuck to her lip gloss, and she freed them as she handed the guitar to her tech.
Hope walked to the edge of the stage, the three-inch heels of her boots boosting her to almost six feet tall but murdering her arches.
The shouts and applause grew louder.
She tossed a few guitar picks to the fans and blew kisses to the upper sections of the arena.
Her new manager had suggested she either lose some weight or try to look taller. The asshole. She walked back and forth across the stage, her feet aching like she was walking on rocks. Then she spotted him standing in the wings to her left.
Buck Boudry, ranch foreman for country music superstar Ryder Landry.
At her invitation, Buck had driven all the way up from Louisiana to Houston for her concert and had faithfully stood and watched her perform for over two hours. She blew him a special kiss.
He ducked his head, a shy smile on his face. He’d tied his straight black hair at the nape of his neck and had shaved, but his dark stubble, dark blue eyes, skin almost the same tan color as hers, and black clothing gave him the look of a pirate. A six-foot-eight-inch Cajun, originally from the Gulf coast? He could very well be a pirate.
She gave one last bow and walked to where he stood. “I’m done.” She set her hand on his shoulder, and he wrapped his arm around her waist.
They’d had very little time together tonight and hadn’t seen each other since weeks ago when she’d spent a few days at Ryder’s horse ranch. She and Buck had come close to falling into bed together back then but had held off and made do with some kisses and PG-13 touches.
Now, she daydreamed of hauling him back into her dressing room for a little cuddling, then up to her ranch in Austin for some heavier loving. She shivered and stroked her hand over his solid chest under the guise of straightening the backstage VIP pass hanging on a lanyard around his neck.
The house lights came up in the seating areas, and canned music played softly.
“You were amazing, Hope.” He tipped his head down toward hers. “You are so talented.”
She let out a breath, wishing she could ask him to pick her up in his arms and take her away from here. But she had some after-show hoopla to attend to. “Thank you. It made the show special to have you here.”
Furrows formed between his eyes. “I’m privileged to be here.”
Hope laughed. “We sound like we’re each other’s greatest fans.” She pushed back from him. “Let’s go to my dressing room.”
He held out his arm, and she wrapped her hand around it, using his solid strength to take some of the pressure off her aching feet.
A loud explosion sounded from backstage.
Screams followed from behind the set.
Buck tensed. “I’m gonna assume that’s not normal.”
She sucked in a breath. “Not normal at all.” Her heart thudded.
In the arena seating area, a few people started screaming.
Hope turned to look and saw concertgoers pushing toward the exits and climbing down the seats to get out faster.
“I should say something to them.”
A voice came over the speakers. “Please be calm. There’s nothing to be alarmed about. We’ve just had a small—”
Another explosion, and the crowd noise doubled, their hysteria manifesting into a stampede.
Buck pulled her close to him. “Something’s wrong. Let’s get you to safety.” He hauled her with him. “Which way to your security detail?” His head swiveled, looking for her team.
She didn’t see her guard. She looked around. Didn’t see her manager. None of his people were in sight. This was not right.
Backstage, people ran in all directions. Someone carried a fire extinguisher, yelling for everyone to get out of their way.
Hope looked back at the stage. The security team that usually stood on the floor between the stage and the security bike-rack was gone. “This is really not good.”
“Hang on tight, Hope.” Buck’s voice rumbled. He walked a few steps keeping her close beside him.
The backstage lights dimmed.
She cried out.
He rubbed his hand on her back. “We’re good. Hang on to me.” He kept walking toward the nearest light. An exit sign. Their boots sounded too loud on the concrete floor.
They weaved their way through the empty black anvil cases used to transport musical instruments. She glanced around, then looked up at him. “Something’s really wrong, Buck.”
“I hear you. I won’t let you go.” Buck kept her tight against him, watching where they stepped, keeping an eye on the people running past them.
A man in a black suit ran up to them. He grasped Hope’s arm. “This way, ma’am. He tugged her. “We’ll get you out of here.”
Hope looked at him and tried to pull her arm back. “I don’t know you.”
He pointed behind her. “Your manager sent me to get you.” He tugged again. “We’ve got to go. Now.” He shouted the words.
“No.” She grabbed onto Buck’s arm with both hands. “Where is my manager? Get him here. Right now.”
The man’s face turned ugly. He opened one side of his jacket, showing her a pistol. “Now, Ms. O’Malley, you need to come with—”
Buck’s body twisted, and his arm shot out. His fist slammed into the guy’s nose.
She stifled a scream, and it came out a squeak. “Buck.”
The man went down in a heap.
Buck walked Hope to a dark spot among the cases. “Stand right here.” Buck set her away from him and peeled her hands from his arm. “Right here, I’m not going anywhere.” His gaze locked with hers.
She nodded and sucked in air.
He looked around them, then went to the man and grabbed him by his arm and his belt. He picked him up like he weighed less than a bale of hay. Buck carried him into the sea of cases and dumped him in an open box the size of a coffin. He closed the lid and flipped the hasps shut. Buck ran back to her. “You okay?” He pulled her close and started walking.
“Yes. No. Yes.” She didn’t know what to say.
“Just like a woman.” He gave a quiet laugh. “Sorry.” He turned and looked around. “I need you to stand here between these cases.” A few tall anvil cases were grouped in a circle. “I suspect there will be more people coming for you, and I want to head them off.”
“Don’t talk strategy. I have no brain cells working right now. Just tell me what to do.” Her voice sounded small and wavery to her own ears.
“Good. Trust me.” He bent and looked into her eyes.
“I do.” She stepped back into a dark space between cases, and he shifted one to form a cubby for her. She had a small opening to see out of.
Buck walked toward the exit light.
He wasn’t leaving. Was he? She shook her head. No. She knew he wouldn’t leave her. Hope crossed her arms over her chest, and a shiver tore through her. If he hadn’t been here…
He picked up a bright yellow safety vest that was lying over the edge of a trash can and pulled it on. It was a few sizes too small for him. He grabbed a fire extinguisher from the wall and walked to an open service elevator. He leaned inside, then back out, and the doors to the elevator closed.
Footsteps, running fast, came their way. They stopped nearby, then voices, male and female. “Hey, you!” Someone shouted.
Buck walked quickly toward them. “Yeah?”
“Have you seen Hope O’Malley?”
“Yeah. Yeah, I did.” He made his voice sound agitated as he pointed to the elevator. “She and some guy in a black suit just went into that elevator.”
The people talked, their voices angry, sounding confused. “Are you sure it was Hope?”
“Yes, sir. Ms. O’Malley. And she looked scared.” Buck sounded so different than his usual confident self. “Do you know what’s going on? Is there a fire, or—”
The people ignored him and walked toward the elevator, whispering, gesturing wildly. Hope saw them clearly as they stood waiting for the elevator. Two of them wore police uniforms. “Oh my god,” she whispered.
Buck walked out of her line of sight. Then he was back. Pushing a four-foot-tall anvil case on wheels.
The elevator door opened with a swoosh, and the voices continued as the three stepped into the elevator, then the swoosh of the elevator doors closing, then silence.
Buck leaned into her hidey-hole. “Those people. Two of ‘em had police uniforms on.”
“I saw that.” She whispered the words.
“Hope.” He looked around, then back at her. “I hate to ask, but will you please get in this crate?”
She looked at the small, dark box. “I don’t want to.” Hope took a deep breath. “But I will.”
“Quick.” He looked around and held the crate. “Please.”
She sat in it and scooted back, then pulled her legs in. It was longer than it was wide, and her shoulders were squashed. “Okay.” She whispered the word.
He appeared in front of her. “Sorry. I will make this quick.”
She nodded. Then huffed out a half-laugh. “You sound like my ex-boyfriend.”
“Stop it.” Buck smiled and snorted, then looked around. He leaned down. “Knock on the top of the case if you start feeling like the air is growing thin.” He closed the front of the cabinet and latched it.
Thin air? The darkness in the crate was total, the silence broken only by the ringing in her ears. She took a few slow breaths to calm down. She trusted Buck. With her life.
Buck looked around, then scanned the area between him and the exit door. A few people walked past. He tucked his VIP pass inside his shirt, then he took a breath. “Okay. Let’s go.”
He wheeled the anvil case across the concrete floor to the door. He pushed the horizontal bar on the door that warned an alarm would sound, but there were already at least five going off simultaneously.
The door swung open, and he looked outside. The parking garage loomed in front of him, and people walked and ran in all directions.
He eased the case to the edge of the small sill and lifted it down, setting it carefully on the sidewalk. A quick glance around him showed no one paying any attention to him. He spotted two security cameras and looked down, keeping his face in shadow.
Buck had parked his truck at a surface lot. The camper on the back of it was too tall to try parking in a ramp. But he had no clue where it was. He had oriented the location of the parking lot to the main doors of the arena.
He pulled out his phone and did a search. When he found the lot, he set up a walking map and got moving in the direction it showed. It was after midnight. He hadn’t realized the concert had gone that long. He’d enjoyed every minute of Hope’s performance.
As he pushed the big case, a few people looked at him, but he kept a calm look on his face and moved at a fast pace. They gave him lots of room to get past them. He thought about Hope in that pitch-dark case. The air in there must be getting stale.
It took a few minutes to reach his truck, and he used the fob to unlock the back door to the camper. He needed to get her out. Quickly.
Buck pulled the door open, retracted the step, then bent down and lifted the case, carrying it up and setting it on the floor of the camper. He jumped in, bending over to accommodate the low ceiling of the compressed pop-up. He shut the camper door and unlatched the case, opening it wide.
Hope leaned forward, gasping in fresh air. “That was a wild ride.”
He turned on the overhead light. “I’d take a guess and say you’ve never done that before.”
“Nope.” She sucked in air and slid forward, her legs coming out first, then held out her arms. “And I hope I never have to again.”
He grabbed her hands, pulling her out, then up. Then into his arms. She felt perfect against his chest.
Her whole body shook as she wrapped her arms around his waist, pressing her cheek to his chest. “Thank you, Buck. If you hadn’t been there….” She let out a small cry.
He held her tighter. “I was there. And we’re safe now. But I think we need to get moving.”
Hope pulled back. “I made a plan while I was in solitary confinement.”
A laugh rolled out of him. She was so damn funny. “What’s the plan?”
“Head toward my place in Austin.”
He nodded. Buck had researched her fifty-acre ranch outside the capital city. “Head toward?”
She smiled up at him. “You caught that. I’ll explain when we’re on the road.” Hope lifted her hands. “I don’t have my purse, my phone.”
He pulled his phone out and handed it to her. “I’m thinking that you might—”
“Want to use a burner phone?” She nodded. “Exactly what I was thinking. I don’t want anyone to track us using your phone.”
“Agreed. As soon as we’re out of town, I’ll find a store that’s open and buy a few phones.” He slid his phone back into his pocket.
She stepped back. “I see you’ve been plotting our escape, too.”
He nodded and sat on the padded bench that served as seating and sleeping. He’d made the base out of steel tread plate and welded it in. Solid. Safe.
She looked around at the mini kitchen with a half-refrigerator, gas burner, microwave, sink, and cabinets, and the small corner room that held a waterless toilet. “This is really nice.”
He shook his head. “Functional.” Buck reached between his legs to the steel drawer on rollers under the seat. He pressed in the code, and the drawer popped open an inch.
Hope backed up. “What’s that?”
Buck slid the drawer open a few more inches. As long and wide as the bench, and two feet deep, he kept his important stuff locked in there. Including three pistols and boxes of ammunition right in the front.
She stared at the guns. “Oh.” Hope swallowed. “You come prepared.”
“Yes, ma’am.” He picked up a small pistol. “You know how to use one of these?”
“Yes, sir. Country girl, ready for anything.”
He nodded. He liked her so damn much. He checked the gun to be sure it was empty, checked the safety, and slid in a full clip. “The safety is on.” He set the gun in the drawer. “I’ll leave this here for you and leave the drawer unlocked, so if you need it.” He looked up at her.
She nodded, her hands clasped together in front of her.
“You’ll stay back here, Hope. Too many cameras to spot you if you sat up front with me, and too many fans downtown here.”
“Okay.” She sat next to him. “Thank you for doing this, Buck.” She leaned close, her shoulder touching his. “I’m not going to insult you by saying I’ll make it up to you.” Hope gave him a sexy smile. “But be prepared for some hefty rewards when we get to safety.”
His body heated, and his cock filled. He groaned and shook his head. “If I start thinkin’ about that now, we’re not gonna get out of here any time soon.”
Hope nodded. “Understood. Business first. Then pleasure.” Her voice went soft.
He closed his eyes and let out a long breath, imagining her naked and in his arms. “You gotta stop that, Hope.” He stared into her light brown eyes.
She nodded. “Sorry.” But she did not look sorry at all.
He picked up a large pistol and two clips, checked for safety, and put them back into the drawer. “Once I get us moving and on the freeway, I’ll ask you to hand this to me through the passthrough.” He stood, bent over in the low space, and turned off the overhead light.
Buck walked forward to the passthrough hatch between the camper and the cab of his pickup. He slid open the hatch then walked to the back door. “We can talk on the road, but keep your face hidden.”
“Got it.” She looked at the door, then lay on the bed and pulled the blanket over her.
He stared for a minute. Hope. In his bed. A hot surge of lust raced to his groin, and he had to tighten his body to get it to pass. He had a powerful need for this amazing woman. That promise of a reward she made? He’d be sure to earn it.
Buck pulled off the yellow vest and his VIP pass, rolled them up, and put them in one of the kitchen cabinets. He closed the door of the rolling case and fastened it, then set the wheel locks so it didn’t roll around. He thought about dumping it in a trash bin, but they might need it again.
He opened the camper door and stepped down.
“Hey!” A male voice from close by.
Buck ignored it, closed the door, and used the fob to lock the camper door and another fob to lock the truck doors.
“Hey, you by the camper!”
Turning, Buck spotted a police officer running toward him. “Officer?” He spoke loudly to alert Hope. “Everything okay?” He didn’t know if this was a real cop or one of the fake ones, but he wasn’t going to take any chances. Not with Hope’s life in danger.