The heat is on...
First Responders, Book 3
The last person firefighter Chris Jackson expects to rescue from a burning animal shelter is Ally Gallant—his ex-fiancée. Even though three years have passed since she gave him back his ring, one look at her frightened face in the haze of a smoky building is all it takes for him to realize he’ll still do anything to protect her.
Ally’s put her heart and soul into the shelter, and she’s devastated when it’s destroyed. What's more, Chris is suddenly there for her in ways she doesn’t expect—ways she’s sure she doesn’t deserve—as she makes decisions about her future. Then there’s the not-so-small matter of the blazing passion between them that refuses to be extinguished.
But when Chris is injured while on a call, Ally’s reminded of all the reasons she walked away. Now she must look deep within herself to find the courage to put fear on the back burner and step into the fire—into love.
Product WarningsAdorable dogs, a hot firefighter and five-alarm passion. Fire extinguisher (or cold shower) highly recommended.
Copyright © 2012 Donna Alward
All rights reserved — a Samhain Publishing, Ltd. publication
Chris put down his glass and reached over to put his hand on her knee. “It’ll all work out, you’ll see.”
“I hope so.” She toyed with her glass. “It was a big job getting it going in the first place. Now it’s like starting all over.”
“What about insurance?”
She shrugged. “Insurance will cover some of the contents, I suppose. But the building wasn’t ours. We rented it. In fact, we were looking at relocating because the landlord wanted to raise the rent. As a charity, that’s a tough pill to swallow, you know?” She sighed. “We don’t have a choice now. But we’ve also lost all our equipment, cages, food…”
“Don’t think about it.” Chris could tell she was feeling overwhelmed again. “You can figure that out later. One thing at a time, and right now it’s looking after you. Making sure you’re okay.”
She looked at him so sweetly he nearly forgot the edge of bitterness he still felt when he thought about their breakup. It still hurt, knowing they’d been so close but that she’d been able to walk away so easily.
“I’m okay thanks to you. A lot of animals are okay thanks to you. You saved us today, Chris.”
He’d left his hand on her knee, and now she put her hand on top of his. It was warm and soft, and without thinking he turned his over so his fingers were twined with hers. For all the hurt, he’d never hated her. It was impossible to stay angry with Ally. She was too kind of a person.
That kind nature was part of why her leaving had hurt so bad. It would have been easier to get over her if she’d been nastier, selfish, vindictive. But she was none of those things. She never had been.
“I was just doing my job,” he said. But he knew that wasn’t strictly true. For a second today, it had been intensely personal. All he had to do was think about her wide, frightened eyes and he had the urge to pull her into his arms and protect her.
He was suddenly aware that his thumb was stroking the soft skin at the top of her hand. And that she hadn’t pulled away.
“I was so scared,” she whispered. “I knew I had to try to get as many out as I could, but I could taste the smoke and hear the fire and I was terrified. And then you were there.” She slid over on to the cushion between them, turned and put her arms around his neck. “I was never so glad to see anyone in my life.”
“You’d never know it.” His voice came out all husky, and he swallowed, putting an arm around her back, trying to hold on to his composure. It was difficult when she was pressed against him, smelling like his shampoo, wearing his clothes. “You started barking orders.”
“Only because I saw you and I knew it would all be okay. I knew you’d make sure it was okay.”
It was the grandest statement of trust he’d ever heard. And certainly unexpected from her, who’d been so disapproving about his training to be a firefighter and had made no secret of her feelings. She’d hated the fact that he’d wanted to be a fireman. But he had no regrets. The only thing that had kept him sane for the first year after their breakup was how much he loved it. He still did, even if it was only as a part of a volunteer department. He could have gone somewhere else with a paid department, but he’d wanted to come back to the one place that was home for him. This way he got to have both the job and still stay in the valley. It was where he belonged.
She was pressed against him and he closed his eyes. He could feel her breasts against his chest, free from constraint inside the soft T-shirt. He turned his head slightly and his lips touched a wisp of hair just behind her ear. A breathy sigh fluttered against his neck and he felt his judgment weakening.