Running Wild
hell.
    Noah stepped off the mat. “I’m sorry, Josie,” he murmured, hoping Dominic wouldn’t overhear.
    She just stared back at him. “Goodbye, Noah.”
    He heard the knob rattle. He’d locked it. But still, Dominic wasn’t stupid. If he’d realized Josie was missing from the party too . . .
    “Don’t break the damn thing,” Noah called as he opened it. He stepped out into the night, forcing his friends to move back. He quickly pulled the door closed behind him.
    “What’s up?” he asked.
    “The party’s dying down,” Ryan said. His friend wasn’t smiling and hell, he looked as if he’d gotten into it with someone. His button-down flannel was untucked from his jeans, and he was off by a button.
    And yeah, Noah was too busy wondering what had happened to Ryan to see it coming.
    At the last second, he saw a flash of skin near his face. A fist. And then pain shot through his jaw. He reeled back, lost his footing, and landed on his ass in the dirt outside the barn door.
    “Zip up your damn fly,” Dominic growled, lowering his fist.
    Shit. He deserved that hit. Maybe another one for the way he’d left Josie naked and in fucking love with him beside the damn bull.
    Noah slowly got to his feet, stepped back out of Dominic’s reach, and zipped up his fly.
    “I’m not stupid,” Dominic said as he turned and headed back to the fire. “Josie’s been missing from the party for a while.”
    “I know. But you should know . . . I care about her,” he said, following him, Ryan falling in at his side.
    But I can’t love her. . .
    Dominic kept walking toward the bonfire, Lily, and the circle of friends determined to send them off on a high note.
    “Doesn’t change the fact that you’re leaving,” Dominic said flatly.
    “No.” Noah glanced back at the barn. He should go back in there. He should turn off the damn bull and help her find her dress. And then what? Tell her he was sorry again? He was leaving tomorrow and he might never come back. He couldn’t offer promises because he damn sure couldn’t keep them. “You’re right, it doesn’t change a thing.”
    Except Josie.
    Yeah, he had a feeling the hurt he’d left behind had cut deep. And he didn’t have a clue how to make that right.
    That was on him. But he hoped like hell the pain would fade. She’d find someone else, a man who wasn’t heading for a war zone.
    Noah closed his eyes. If the next guy hurts her . . .
    “One more drink,” Dominic said. “And then that’s it. The party is over. Time to head home and prepare to leave in the morning.”
    J OSIE WATCHED THE bull spin in slow circles. Her discarded dress waved through the air like a bright white flag. She hadn’t planned for her clothes to end up riding the machine without her. She’d walked into the barn hoping for a kiss, maybe a little more.
    But she hadn’t planned on this. She’d never in a million years wish for this ending.
    “He left,” she whispered as she sat up. But even if her words had been audible over the constant mechanical hum, there was no one here. He’d walked away.
    And yes, her brother had knocked. It was either be caught naked together or find a way to keep Dominic out. She understood that. But when he’d rushed to gather his clothes, mumbling apologies, she’d felt the wound open up. He’d taken a piece of her with him. And she had a horrible feeling it was her heart.
    “That’s going to leave a scar,” she told the bull as she pushed off the mat and headed for the controls. She hit the red stop button and then climbed onto the red section to reclaim her clothes.
    I’m strong enough to put it behind me. Bury the pain and move forward. I’ve done it before and I’ll do it again.
    But that wouldn’t erase the scar.

 
    Dying to know what happens to Josie and Noah?
    The rest of their story unfolds in
    SERVING TROUBLE
    the first full-length novel in Sara Jane Stone’s new Second Shot series!
     
    Five years ago, Josie Fairmore left

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