Unbreak My Heart (Rough Riders Legacy Book 1), page 1
Dedication—to all my readers who worried that Sierra McKay and Boone West wouldn’t get their happily-ever-after, and who waited patiently (and sometimes impatiently nagged me) for it the past four and a half years…this love story is for you.
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I blamed everything on the fever.
My utter lack of reaction when he strolled into the exam room.
He gaped at me like I was an apparition.
I continued to stare at him blankly, as if it was no big deal he was here, right in front of me, wearing scrubs and a cloak of authority.
But the truth was I hadn’t seen him for seven years.
I should have been in shock—maybe I was in too much shock. This definitely fell under the heading of trauma. Because on the day he waltzed back into my life? I looked worse than dog diarrhea.
I mentally kicked myself for not going to the ER. Or perhaps just letting myself die. Anything would have been better than this.
Screw you, universe. Fuck you, fate. Karma, you bitch, you owe me.
This chance meeting should’ve happened when I was dressed to the nines, not when I was sporting yoga pants, a ratty Three Stooges T-shirt, dollar store flip-flops and no bra. And the bonus? My hair was limp, my skin clammy, my face shiny from the raging fever I couldn’t shake.
Wait. Maybe this was a fever-induced nightmare.
“Sierra?” The beautiful apparition spoke my name in a deep, sexy rasp.
Pretend you don’t know him.
Not my most stellar plan, but I went with it.
I cocked my head and frowned as if I couldn’t quite place him.
His expressive brown eyes turned hard. “That’s really how you’re gonna play this? Like you don’t know me?”
I returned his narrow-eyed stare because I was too sick to fake an air of boredom.
“Fine. I’m Boone West. Your nurse,” he said sarcastically. “I’m here to take your vitals.”
I shook my head. My inability to respond wasn’t from pettiness—I’d lost my voice the day before due to the fever. But my middle finger worked fine and I used it to point at the door as I mouthed, “Get. Out.”
“Nice try. But keep your arm out like that so I can take your blood pressure.”
My heart rate skyrocketed, so no freakin’ way was he putting a blood pressure cuff and a stethoscope on me.
Boone moved in cautiously as if I were a feral creature. He smiled—not the sweet, boyish grin I once loved, but one brimming with fake benevolence.
My belly flipped, which pissed me off. And I wished projectile vomiting were my superpower instead of this uncanny ability to be at the wrong place at the wrong time, every time.
I jerked away from him.
“Look, Sierra,” he said reasonably. “I wasn’t expecting to run into you here. Not like this. Let me do my job and we’ll talk afterward.”
I shook my head so hard my vision went wonky.
“It’s not like you have a choice.”
Wrong. In full panic mode, I bailed off the exam table and hugged the wall, facing him as I crept toward the door.
“Whoa. Slow down. You came into the clinic because you’re sick. You can’t just leave.”
My throat felt like I’d gargled with gravel, but I managed, “Watch me.”
Then I threw open the door and booked it down the hallway.
But my fever had the last laugh.
My body chose that moment to fail me. Chills erupted as if I’d been plunged into a deep freezer, followed by sweat breaking out as if I’d been baking in the Arizona desert. White spots obscured my vision.
I swayed before everything went dark.
“She’s coming around.”
I recognized that voice.
I peeled my eyes open and noticed I was back in the exam room.
“Hey girl. How’re you doin’?”
Girl. She seemed to have forgotten that I was not a girl, but a twenty-three-year-old college graduate with the world by the balls.
“I need to poke around, so lie still.” She lifted my shirt and started palpating my belly. For such a tiny thing, she pushed hard enough on my innards that I swear I felt her fingers poking the inside of my spine.
“Nothing out of the ordinary. Can you sit up?”
As soon as I was upright, the whooshing sensation started in my ears. My eyes burned but I could clearly see that Boone blocked the door. I gritted out, “He goes.”
Doc Monroe got right in my face. “A patient who acts like they’re trying to escape and then passes out in a waiting room full of people is hell on my reputation, Sierra McKay. Boone stays. You’re lucky he acted so fast and caught you before you hit the floor.”
“How did I…?” I gestured to the surrounding area.
“I carried you,” Boone said. “You snuggled right into me. Strange behavior from someone who doesn’t know me.”
Goddammit. I hated this. I hated him. I leveled my best glare at his smarmy face.
He remained stoic.
Yeah, you were always good at hiding your emotions, weren’t you, West?
“Sounds like you have laryngitis too,” Doc Monroe said. “Boone, you didn’t get her vitals?”
“No, ma’am. Under the circumstances, maybe it’s best if you do that.”
The doc looked at me with a raised eyebrow.
“He has to go,” I croaked out.
“Sergeant West is here by government order, finishing the last few days of his training stint in rural healthcare that the army requires for medical personnel at his level.”
She didn’t have to explain that to me. In fact, I really didn’t want to know why he was here.
Doc sighed and took my temperature, which tipped the thermometer at a toasty 103 degrees. She checked my eyes, my ears and my nose. She pressed her thumbs down the center of my neck and beneath my jaw. She listened to my lungs. Lastly, she shoved a tongue depressor in my mouth and shone a light in my throat while demanding I say aaaaah.
No wonder I felt shitty and none of Rielle’s natural home remedies had worked on me.
Doc Monroe poked the call button before she plopped on the rolling stool and typed on her laptop.
I stared at my knees, grateful I wasn’t wearing a drafty exam gown that left me even more exposed.
To Boone fucking West.
Two knocks sounded on the door.
Boone stepped aside as the lab tech hustled in.
“One quick swipe is all I need,” she chirped merrily.
I gagged when she jammed the long cotton swab into my throat and swirled it around.
Then she took a blood sample and said, “All done,” with way too much fucking cheer.
She exited the room and Doc Monroe stood in front of me. “It’ll be about fifteen minutes until I get the lab results. Why don’t you lie down?” Doc pulled out the exam table extension.
After I curled up on my side, she covered me with a blanket. Part of me wished she acted cold and clinical instead of showing maternal concern.
The door shut with a soft click.
Everything ached. My throat was almost swollen shut so it hurt twice as much to cry. But the tears leaked out anyway.
“I’m still here,” Boone stated.
“Since you can’t talk, you’ll damn well listen.”
He’d gotten bossier from his years in the military. But he must have struggled with whatever he wanted to say since he remained quiet longer than I expected.
“Of all the places in the country I could’ve chosen to complete this training assignment, I elected to do it here, in my hometown, because I wanted to see you again. Even when I suspected you’d kick me in the balls at best, or you were in a relationship with some undeserving douchebag at worst.”
I hated that he admitted that his worst-case scenario was seeing me involved with someone else. Right then, I wished I had a hot, rich boyfriend with a big dick to flaunt at him.
“I don’t know what surprised me more,” Boone continued. “To find out that you actually changed your last name from Daniels to McKay—which is why, with all the damn McKays around here, I didn’t know the S. McKay on the patient chart was you—or that you no longer live in Sundance.”
Even if my vocal chords hadn’t been raw and nonfunctioning, I wouldn’t have responded. What could I say? He expected me to defend my choice to test my business skills beyond the Wyoming border? Screw that. He’d left for the very same reason. I owed him nothing.
“We’re not done with this, Sierra. Not by a long shot.”
His footsteps squeaked on the linoleum. The door opened and closed with a soft click.
I knew I was alone.
Nausea rolled over me. I closed my eyes.
I just needed fifteen minutes and this nightmare would be over.
When Doc Monroe woke me, I didn’t know where I was.
Then a cough and burning in my throat reminded me.
“You tested positive for strep,” the doc said, helping me sit up.
“Two treatment choices. A ten-day cycle of penicillin in pill form or a shot of penicillin.”
“A shot,” I whispered.
“Good choice. You’ll feel better faster. You want me to prescribe a cough suppressant?”
I shook my head.
“Rielle’s opinions of western medicine have rubbed off on you.”
My father’s wife preferred natural remedies whenever possible. Most people attributed that mindset to her hippie-like upbringing. But the truth was before she married my dad, her financial situation dictated she find fast and cheap alternatives. She and I laughed that she’d rather be seen as a hippie than a cheapskate.
The doc pulled out a syringe and a vial of clear liquid. She attached one to the other and looked at me. “Drop your drawers. You get this shot in the butt.”
Great. I hooked my thumbs in the waistband of my yoga pants.
Just then, three fast knocks sounded on the door before it opened a crack. “Doc, we need you right away in six.”
“Dammit.” She gestured to the needle in her gloved hand. “Get someone in here to do this.”
That’s when I knew the universe was giving me an opportunity for payback, because fifteen seconds later, Boone strolled in.
So the fever took control. Or the bad angel. Or the devil in my soul that Boone West put there when he left me with a broken heart.
“I’m here to—”
“Give it to me, right?” I said huskily in my best phone-sex-operator voice. I turned around. Peering over my shoulder, I affixed my gaze to his as I shimmied my yoga pants down to my knees.
He hissed in a breath.
I saw his struggle, the temptation to ditch decorum and drop his gaze from my face to my ass—which was completely bared by my thong.
My ass won out.
And oops—I accidentally shook my ass at him as I leaned over to rest my hands on the edge of the exam table.
“Hold still,” he said tersely. He prepped the area with a cool swipe of liquid on my skin.
I clenched my cheeks together; I couldn’t help it. Better that than him believing I broke out in goose bumps from his simple touch.
“Relax,” he murmured.
Then before I fully prepared myself, he jammed it in.
A soft grunt escaped me.
He soothed me, gently curling his hand around my hip. “Just a little more.”
I knew he was dragging this out. Big surprise that the bastard got off on causing me pain. The injection site started to sting, sending electric sparks shooting beneath my skin.
Paper rattled and I looked over my shoulder to watch him press a circular Band-Aid over the tiny dot of blood. Then he slowly swept his hand over my butt cheek.
I felt the pure male heat of him even through the latex.
“You can get dressed,” he said without conviction or even looking at my face.
I ignored him as I yanked my pants up.
Boone was still standing there when I turned around. “I’ll come find you when you’re feeling better so we can talk.”
I shook my head.
“You can’t escape the past, Sierra. More to the point, you can’t escape me. See you around, McKay.” Then he flashed that killer smile—my smile, the one he used to bestow only on me—and backed out of the room.
After that, I fled the office.
Three days later, I fled Sundance.
I told myself I wasn’t fleeing from him.
I told myself the only reason my dad let me know that Boone stopped by every day after he’d seen me at the clinic was to make sure I was over him.
I was in the clear now, with Wyoming in my rearview mirror and Arizona in my headlights.
But as the miles dragged on, I could admit that I did run from him.
I just didn’t expect Boone West to chase after me.
The first time I saw Sierra Daniels everything around me just stopped.
Time, objects and people were suspended in place as if I’d stepped into a sci-fi movie, where the hero has a moment of absolute clarity that only he experiences.
When her whiskey-hued eyes connected with mine, I knew pure joy and utter misery in equal measure.
Joy because I’d found her.
Misery because I couldn’t have her.
Not then, anyway.
I still felt that whomp in my gut every damn time I thought of it. Of her. Even now.
A horn blared, dropping me back into reality.
Traffic in Phoenix had me missing the wide-open spaces of Wyoming. Even cruising across the desert in a transport truck beat this bumper-to-bumper bullshit.
Pain shot up my forearm. I glanced down to see my knuckles were white from my death grip on the ste
Breathe, man. Stay calm.
Yeah, like that was gonna happen. It’d been seven years since I’d seen her.
Technically, that wasn’t true. Sierra had shown up at the clinic in Sundance ten days ago. Our mutual shock at the unexpected run-in had been overshadowed by the fact she was so goddamned sick…
My hands tightened on the steering wheel again. It still burned my ass that she fucking ran away from me as if I was the dirty rat responsible for infecting her with the plague.
When I’d driven out to her dad’s house the next day to check on her, Gavin Daniels refused to let me see her. While I understood his protective streak—especially given my history with his daughter—I pointed out that Sierra was an adult; he didn’t have the right to make that decision for her.
That’s when Daddy-O reiterated it had been Sierra’s decision; she wanted nothing to do with me.
A reaction I’d shrugged off and blamed on her high fever.
Justification? Or cockiness on my part?
Both. But I knew in the marrow of my bones that an apathetic woman wouldn’t have made such an edict because she wouldn’t have cared. Sierra cared.
Being a determined bastard, I’d shown up at Sierra’s house every day.
Being a stubborn McKay, she refused to see me every day.
By the third day, I recognized that even Gavin and his wife Rielle were starting to feel sorry for me. I used that to my advantage when Gavin informed me on day four that Sierra had returned to Phoenix.
My demand for her phone number garnered a “fuck no” and the door slammed in my face.
My request for the name and address of the place she worked resulted in a detailed description of the legal definition of stalking.
My promise that I would willingly let every male member of the McKay family—notoriously bad-tempered cowboys—hog-tie me to the flagpole in the middle of town and take turns beating the ever-lovin’ fuck out of me if I harmed a single hair on Sierra’s beautiful head had finally convinced Gavin of my sincerity.
He provided the information I wanted…after I’d signed a binding legal contract.
Okay. Not in blood, but the pen I’d used had contained red ink so it was a distinct possibility. But I’d gladly sign a deal with the devil himself if it meant I had a shot at making things right with the one woman I’d never forgotten.
Other author's books:
- Long Hard RideBoundCorralledMistress ChristmasWhat You NeedTurn and BurnHang ToughRough, Raw, and Ready
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