Chloe Addison is on the verge of a promising career in real estate development until an explosion destroys her first major project and casts suspicion on her in an arson investigation. Her career is suddenly at risk—and possibly her life.
Firefighter Ryan Monroe wants a spot on the arson team, and getting close to Chloe might be the best way to solve his first investigation. Despite a painful past of his own, Ryan has dedicated himself to saving people, and when he realizes Chloe is in danger, she’s no exception. He just might be the perfect guy to rescue her, but their attraction could bring them both down in flames.
Ryan was greeted by a loud shout of “Surprise!” from the members of the firehouse, some of whom weren’t even on shift. Black, red and gold balloons created a centerpiece on the dining table next to a chocolate-frosted sheet cake, fully ablaze with birthday candles. Even Max sported a cone-shaped paper birthday hat.
Ryan barely saw any of it. His attention was fixed on Chloe, standing at the far end of the long table in a white blouse and a gray skirt and the high heels he loved because when she wore them, he didn’t have to bend quite so far to kiss her. Her long hair fell in loose waves around that beautiful face he couldn’t get enough of. He went straight to her as the guys broke out in a rousing—though horrendously off-key—rendition of “Happy Birthday.”
He planted his hands on her waist. “You did this?” he asked.
She gripped his arms and shrugged with a mischievous smile.
He dipped her backward and pressed his mouth over hers, eliciting hoots and catcalls from the rest of the crew.
“Come on,” Sullivan yelled. “Are we gonna have to turn the hoses on you two? Blow out these candles before we have to get our gear out.”
Ryan pulled Chloe back to her feet with a laugh and threw his arm around her before leaning over the cake and extinguishing the flames. He turned and kissed her again.
“Look at that, I got my wish,” he said. He gazed down at her—mesmerized by those huge green eyes—and marveled at the way she’d seamlessly worked her way in among the crew at the firehouse. She belonged here. The realization might have hit him like a punch in the gut if it hadn’t felt so damned right.
Cooper gave Ryan a slap on the back. “This one’s a keeper, buddy.”
Ryan chuckled, still staring dreamily at Chloe. “Yes, she is.”
He pulled out a chair for her as the crew settled in at the table for a batch of Cooper’s five-alarm chili. “Can you stay for a while?”
Before she could answer or take a seat, Jeremy appeared at Ryan’s side. “Go borrow my office, dude.”
Ryan caught the look of confusion on Chloe’s face that must have rivaled his own. “What are you talking about?”
Jeremy frowned and rolled his eyes impatiently. “It’s your birthday and your girlfriend’s here. Go borrow my office.”
Ryan glanced at Chloe, and then swept an observant glance around the room. The crew was much more interested in lunch than they were in what he and Chloe were up to. She giggled at his side, seemingly ready to go along with whatever he decided.
She was perfect.
A lifelong resident of northern New Jersey, Dawn Altieri has been scribbling stories practically since birth. After reaching a milestone birthday (she won’t say which one), she figured it was about time she took a shot at writing professionally.
With an overactive imagination and a slightly twisted mind, she enjoys reading dark and dangerous tales almost as much as writing them. When she’s not curled up on the sofa with her laptop, her latest story, a box of chocolates and a cup of tea (or a glass of wine, depending on the time of day), she can be found volunteering in the world of animal rescue. She shares her home with her husband and daughter, and a menagerie of rescued fur-babies.