Posted by Susan Sey Apr 15 2015, 12:14 am in Blake Brothers trilogy, contemporary romance, New Release, Susan Sey
That’s right, you heard it here first! It’s finally TIME FOR TROUBLE! Just yesterday, I released the final book in my Blake brothers trilogy. It was touch & go for a while there but the Book The Would Not End has finally ended. And though I know I haven’t caught all the typos (they are legion, & I suspect they’re reproducing), I published it anyway. Because lordamercy I needed to cross that finish line.
Why? Well, this series has produced three full-length novels & one novella. That’s a lot of words for one writer, & committing them all to the page took me the better part of three years. (I’m a tragically slow writer, as I might’ve mentioned in the past.)
Now, setting aside the fact that readers like to be fed, and quickly, being a slow writer isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I mean, I met TIME’s hero, Drew, back in the first book of this series, TASTE FOR TROUBLE. He was just a kid back then, barely 20. When TIME picks up, he’s nearly 30. I’ve given him about ten years of story-world time to grow up, but he’s also been living in my head–talking to me, arguing with me, nudging me–for the better part of three real-world years. It’s a good long while to live with somebody.
And that’s kind of a luxury when you’re writing a book. I usual get one year, tops, to live with my heroes. And I have to start the book when I barely know the guy. But I got three whole years with Drew’s voice in my head. It allowed me to really get to know him, inside & out. I watched him grow up. And that gave me plenty of time to dream up his One True Love.
Which is how I met Meghan Wise, & she’s a firecracker. Which is, of course, exactly what our easy-going, lazy-bones, baby-brother Drew needed. Meg’s driven & smart & sharp, and she doesn’t suffer fools lightly. She’s totally worthy of him, but better yet? She makes him want to be worthy of her. Which could’ve been a tough sell, because Drew’s a lover, not a fighter. But I’ll tell you what–the second somebody threatened his Meggy, he discovered his inner hero, no problem. Quick, fast & in a hurry.
And it was absolutely delicious.
Meg & Drew’s happy ending was exactly right for them. And it was right for me. As I said, I’ve lived in this world for a looooong time. I’m ready for something new, something fresh, something exciting. Something that pushes me in new creative directions & stretches me as a writer & a thinker.
But I’d be lying if I said I wouldn’t miss these guys. The Blake brothers showed me what family could be. What it could mean. Their bedrock belief in putting family first, in valuing each other above all else, reminded me of what’s important. Spending time in their world every day made me want to be a better sister, daughter, wife & mother. I might be moving on to other stories & other worlds, but I’m leaving a little piece of my heart in theirs.
Which is how every good story should end, don’t you think? If the author does it right, you really ought to leave a little chunk of your heart in the book. And take a little chunk of the book into your heart.
So what about you? Did you ever read a book–or a series of books–that kept a little chunk of your heart? Is there a story-world that lives in your heart? That you revisit every now & then like comfort food? What is it? One lucky commenter will receive a free Kindle copy of TIME FOR TROUBLE!
Posted by Nancy Northcott Jan 21 2015, 12:27 am in contemporary romance, Flirting with Felicity, Gerri Russell
My guest today is well known for her Scottish historical romances, but now she’s branching out. Her first contemporary romance, Flirting with Felicity is a February release from Amazon Montlake. As of this posting, it’s #1 in Contemporary Fiction in the Kindle store.
Congratulations and welcome, Gerri! How did this change of pace come about?
How I started writing contemporaries isn’t a very exciting story. My editor asked me if I’d like to write a contemporary romance, and I said yes. The interesting part was deciding what to write. I figured if I was going to venture into unknown territory, the most important thing would be to write about something I know. So, I set the book in Seattle, where I live, and made the heroine a chef. I’m no chef, but I do love to cook and I’ve taken many cooking classes from professional chefs over the years…the rest just kind of fell into place.
How does writing in a contemporary setting differ from writing in a historical one?
Writing in a contemporary setting was great fun for a research geek like me. I loved being able to simply walk down the street to find out what something looked like, instead digging through research books or hopping on a plane. Although I did have to hop on a plane in order to research the island of Kauai in Hawaii. The things we have to do in the name of research, right?
One thing I absolutely delighted in while writing my first contemporary was the language. Every day felt like Christmas when I got to use words I could never have typed in my medievals—words like automatic, mesmerize, and picnic. It made writing feel fresh and joyful.
What is Flirting for Felicity about?
Felicity Wright never expected to inherit the hotel where she works as head chef. But now, she’ll do anything to keep the Bancroft Hotel operating—even if that means mixing it up with the late owner’s handsome nephew, Blake Bancroft. He’s here to challenge her unexpected inheritance of the Bancroft Hotel, and there’s no way either of them are walking away without a fight.
When his uncle wills away his family’s oldest property, Blake Bancroft cooks up a plan to get it back. To check out his competition, he’ll need to check in. Too bad his first encounter with Felicity proves to be anything but smooth. As their battle over ownership begins, things begin to heat up between them—and not just in the kitchen. Their attraction may be a recipe for disaster. Yet with the right ingredients, it could turn into a recipe for love…
What keeps Felicity and Blake apart?
Both Felicity and Blake want the Bancroft Hotel, each for their own reasons.
For Blake: The Bancroft is part of Blake’s heritage. The hotel is Bancroft Industries flagship hotel. Blake wants nothing more than to make a shining example of what older hotels can become with regard to Green certification.
For Felicity: She needs the hotel to generate income so her father can have the experimental surgery she’s been saving for years to give him. His brain was damaged years ago in a tragic car accident that killed her mother. Felicity is also desperate to keep the hotel to save her employees’ jobs.
Would you like to share an excerpt?
While her crew finished closing down the kitchen, Felicity headed out to check on things in the bar. After eleven, only Michael and Casper would remain on duty to serve a limited menu to the late-night patrons of the bar. However, she always liked to see how busy they were before heading home. The thought brought a smile. Tonight, her journey home would only involve a trip to the second floor. Living in the hotel had its perks.
The cozy leather wingback chairs were filled with Seattleites and visitors just as in days past. She’d learned today that this very room once hosted the Vanderbilts and the Guggenheims upon opening over 105 years ago. The lounge’s signature drinks still welcomed authors, musicians, and artists. At the highly polished mahogany bar, Ryan, her bartender, garnished a Haute Toddy with a cinnamon stick and a lemon twist before setting it on Valerie’s tray to be delivered to one of their guests.
At her approach, Ryan smiled. “Sit yourself down for a minute.”
Felicity slipped into one of the tall wooden chairs at the busy bar and took off her chef’s cap. She smoothed her fingers over her hair, tidying any loose strands back toward her usual ponytail. “Things are hopping tonight.”
He reached behind him for a tall flute and a bottle of champagne. “Nothing we can’t handle.” He filled the flute with bubbly liquid and set it before her.
“A small celebration of your exciting news,” Ryan said with a wide smile. “Not every day a girl inherits a fortune.”
Felicity contemplated the bubbles erupting inside her glass. She ached to talk to someone who would understand the fear and the joy that whispered through her since the reading of Vern’s will. She was tempted to pour out her troubles to the man who had proven more than once what a good listener he was. Instead, she only allowed her fear to take form as a thought: It’s not mine yet. She lifted her glass in a salute. “Cheers.” She took a sip.
“Enjoy, and let me know if I can do anything to help,” he said before moving away to serve another customer.
At this point, she wasn’t sure she could do anything other than trust that she could make Blake see why she so desperately wanted to keep what Vern had given her. She continued to stare down into her glass as the sound of soft, soulful rhythm of Brazilian jazz tried to soothe her.
“Is this seat taken?”
At the sound of Blake’s voice, her heart gave a wild leap. She twisted around to see him.
He stood a few feet behind her, tall and straight. He’d changed out of his suit and into faded blue Levi’s and an expensive-looking gray sweater. If it were possible, he looked even more handsome than he had this morning, despite the loss of his three-thousand-dollar suit.
Great. She’d hoped to look her best the next time they met, not garbed in the most unattractive uniform possible. Her chef’s coat and black pants had always been comforting to her before this moment. “It’s a public place. I can’t stop you from sitting wherever you choose,” she said, trying to recover her balance and ignore the tug of his eyes and voice.
Taking her discouraging words as an invitation, he slid into the seat beside her. “Celebrating?” he asked with a nod at her glass.
She shrugged. “A gift from Ryan,” she said a little breathlessly as she raised her champagne flute and took a sip.
Blake signaled for Ryan. The bartender answered Blake’s summons instantly. “What’ll it be?”
“The same,” he said, motioning to Felicity’s glass.
Ryan turned and filled another flute with champagne. When he returned, he set Blake’s glass before him, then set the bottle between them. “Let me know if you need anything else,” he said before moving away.
“To the next two days together,” Blake toasted as he leaned forward.
Their gazes held. The moment spilled out, lengthened in an odd way that made her heartbeat speed up. “Yes, and may the best person win.” She’d almost said “man,” before she’d caught herself. She didn’t need to give him any more of an edge, even verbally, than he already had.
What’s next for you?
Later this year, I’ll be launching a new contemporary series that begins with Along Came Mr. Right. The series follows four friends who all belong to the Unlucky in Love club.
Flirting with Felicity is available in January as an e-book through the Kindle First program. The book will be released in e-book, print, and audio on February 1st.
For more information about Gerri and her books, you can visit her website, http://gerrirussell.net, or connect with her on Facebook or Twitter.
Gerri is giving one commenter today a choice of a paperback copy or a Kindle download of Flirting with Felicity. So tell us about your favorite book or movie about hotels or chefs.
Posted by Anna Campbell Dec 9 2014, 12:01 am in Anna Campbell, Annie West, Australian Authors, Back in the Italian's bed, Bargain Books, Bought by the Italian, contemporary romance, ebooks, Hot Italian Nights, novellas, travel
Annie hard at work researching in Italy!
Delighted to have as my guest today Annie West, who is here to tell us about her fabulous new novella, BOUGHT BY THE ITALIAN, book 2 in the Hot Italian Nights series.
I’ve read this story and believe, it’s a sizzling little romance. And all for the princely sum of 99 cents. If you want to buy it for Kindle, just click on the cover below. For other formats, Annie has given us links.
Road Trip to Romance
Hi Anna! Hi Banditas! And hi to the GR dude too. It’s lovely to be back, visiting in the lead-up to the festive season. Anna, thanks for letting me share my little adventure with you all.
Sometimes the life of a writer is so tough – solitude, writers’ block, aching body from being attached to a computer too long, concerns about sales or marketing or bad reviews. But at other times, a writer’s life is sheer delight. I want to share one of those times with you.
For a couple of years in high school I studied geology. That’s when I saw my first photo of the Dolomite Mountains in the north of Italy. Instantly I was in love. I vowed to visit. Of course I didn’t. I was busy with family and work, mortgage and commitments. Till this year when I was in Europe for a readers’ convention and convinced my husband we really needed to drive over the Alps…as you do. He took a bit of convincing but finally he agreed and we found ourselves driving from Austria to Italy and spending time in the Alto Adige aka the South Tyrol.
Heaven! At almost every hairpin bend (and there were lots, I counted), another ‘Wow’ would burst out (usually from me). The scenery was stunning. The roads, well, they were an experience in themselves, especially as we arrived on a holiday weekend so everyone in Italy who owned a pushbike, motorbike or luxury car (as well as tourists like us) were out to enjoy the balmy weather and great scenery. And occasionally overtake just before a hairpin bend…
We found lovely towns with friendly people. We discovered at least some of those people take their dogs up the mountains in cable cars! We tasted lovely food, both Italian and German style (since this used to be part of the Austro-Hungarian empire). We got snowed on and sunburnt. We walked in mountain meadows and saw marmots up close. We heard the local language, Ladin, an ancient tongue used by only about 30,000 speakers, and only heard in these mountain valleys. (As Mr. West is a language buff, he was thrilled.) We tasted wonderful regional wines and basically soaked it all up.
By the time we left I was even more in love with the place than I’d been when it was just an armchair travel dream.
Because I’m a writer, that meant I had to write about it. I’d already published a novella earlier this year (BACK IN THE ITALIAN’S BED) and readers had been asking about a story for Chiara, a character in that novella. I had deadlines for my longer books. but the lure of the mountains won out and I carved out time for a second novella, inspired by my trip.
I was also inspired because, browsing the net, (as you do when you have several deadlines looming and you really should be writing so of course you need displacement activity…) I found a photo that WAS Chiara and her lover Gennaro. I wrote BOUGHT BY THE ITALIAN, inspired by the photo you see on the cover now, and by my memories and photos of the Alps. What a happy ending!
It’s not the end though, because I have half an idea for another story that might just start in this part of the world. I’m wondering if that means another research trip, but Mr. West is looking at me with raised eyebrows, which means I may have to wait awhile.
If you’re interested in the story inspired by these mountains and my road trip, here’s a taste:
She’s up for sale, and he’s the highest bidder.
Gennaro De Laurentis might prefer motorcycle leathers to Armani, but when it comes to what he wants, he’s as ruthless as any corporate raider in a killer suit. And he wants Chiara, the unforgettable woman who denied the passion sizzling between them and walked away without a backward glance. Now he has the high society princess back in his power – and he’ll risk everything to make her his.
When glamorous fashion designer Chiara Armati goes up for auction, she’s selling her company over dinner for charity. Nothing else. As bidding rises to astronomical heights, she gets nervous. Yet only when she discovers her purchaser’s identity does she realise she’s caught in a trap. She’s never stopped wanting Gennaro or forgiven his betrayal. Now she’s at his mercy – and he’s as irresistible as ever!
BOUGHT BY THE ITALIAN is on sale for just 99c at:
Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/bought-by-the-italian-annie-west/1120836889?ean=2940149986385
and Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/497810
Have you ever been on a great roadtrip? Or is there one you’d love to take? I’m up for suggestions!
I’d also like to take the chance to wish all of you a safe, happy and wonderful Christmas!
Thanks, Annie! Get commenting, people! Annie has very generously offered two commenters today their choice of her full-length romances (international). Good luck!
Posted by Anna Campbell Nov 4 2014, 12:01 am in Anna Campbell, Australian Authors, contemporary romance, Destiny Romance, e-books, interviews, Jennifer St. George, Penguin Australia, Tempted by the Billionaire Tycoon, travel
One of the fun things about being a Romance Bandit (and believe me, there are LOTS of fun things about being a Bandita!) is that I get to host some of my favorite people on the blog. Aussie author Jennifer St George fits the bill admirably. She’s always fun and smart and ready to support another writer so I’m delighted today to have her as my guest in the lair.
Jen’s latest release is the sparkling and sexy contemporary romance TEMPTED BY THE BILLIONAIRE TYCOON. Here’s the blurb:
Three strikes and you’re out…
A series of strange accidents are occurring at Sirona, a luxury spa resort in the picturesque English countryside. Billionaire owner Nic Capitini wants the person responsible, the resort’s GM Poppy Bradford, sacked. But the law requires he give three official warnings. Nic checks in undercover to gather the evidence he needs.
Despite first impressions, it isn’t long before Nic realises that not only is Poppy beautiful, she’s a brilliant manager who runs the resort superbly. And the chemistry between them is undeniable. When Poppy herself is threatened, it seems clear the incidents are part of a systematic campaign of sabotage. Even though he believes she’s innocent, Nic knows Poppy is hiding something. But will learning her secret mean losing her forever?
Hmm, a resort in the English countryside? I’m there!
You can find Jen on social media:
Blog: http://www.jenniferstgeorge.com/blog and http://lovecatsdownunder.blogspot.com.au/
Jen, I’m delighted to welcome you back to the Romance Bandits and congratulations on the release of TEMPTED BY THE BILLIONAIRE TYCOON. Can you tell us something about this story?
TEMPTED BY THE BILLIONAIRE TYCOON is the second book my Billionaire Romance series with Destiny Romance.
What were the inspirations behind this story?
TEMPTED BY THE BILLIONAIRE TYCOON was inspired by two recent trips. One to a health retreat which gave me my heroine’s profession and one to France and the UK which was the inspiration for the luxury locations in which the book is set. Each time I visit Paris (and during a trip to Versailles for the first time) I’m in awe of the beauty and romance of France. My heroine, Poppy feels this too as it is her first trip to this amazing country. My hero of course has seen it all before, being an international entrepreneur, but it all feels that little bit different now he is with Poppy!
Me with Aussie authors Helene Young and Jennifer St. George at the Gold Coast Libraries Literati Event in 2012.
What’s coming up next?
I’m currently working on the third book in my Billionaire Romance series. I’m currently playing with lots of different characters and settings waiting for it all to come together.
We’re very nosy here in the lair. We’d love a peek at your writing day. Was there anything you learned during your time as a corporate wonder that has helped you in settling down to life as a writer?
What did I learn from my corporate career that has helped me with writing? Discipline. Discipline. Discipline. Getting my head down and getting the job done. I get up early every day (and I’m a night owl…definitely not a morning person) and get 1000 words done before the rest of the house wakes. That way, no matter what the day throws at me, I’ve got words down on the page. Also, you can never stop learning, improving, refining your skills. I continually find ways to learn and I know I can always do better.
Contemporary romance is taking the world by storm. Have you any theories as to why this genre is the flavour du jour right now?
Great question and I’m not sure. Maybe it’s because people can relate to the stories as they are written with contemporary themes and situations. Although, my stories do have a lot of ‘escapism’ elements. I mean, it’s not everyday you stumble into the glamorous world of a billionaire and he sweeps you off your feet into the world of luxury only accessed by the mega-rich.
Oh, if only I would! Is there another genre you’d like to try?
I love reading crime. I love a good thriller – Michael Connelly, Patricia Cornwell, David Baldacci. I’d love more time to read crime and I’d like to one day have at go at writing it. I have a story in my head that won’t leave me alone (it’s based on a dream I had when I was twenty, so it’s been tapping on my brain for a long time), so I hope one day to get that story down on paper and out into the world.
Ooh, sounds intriguing. Do you have a question for the Banditas and Bandita buddies to get conversation going?
So I love featuring glamorous locations (Paris, Barbados, Brunei) and having my characters engage in luxurious activities such as slipping over to Paris on a private jet for dinner, cruising on a super yacht or dining on a Caribbean beach. If you could have a billionaire lifestyle and money was a non-issue, what would you like to do?
A bit of a twist in today’s prize. Jen has offered a download of TEMPTED BY THE BILLIONAIRE TYCOON but for people in Australia only – so if you’re an Aussie, please tell us so in the comments so we know you’re in the draw. Jen’s book is available internationally from all good e-book retailers!
Posted by Anna Campbell Nov 3 2014, 12:02 am in Anna Campbell, Annie West, Australian Authors, Bought by the Italian, contemporary romance, Continuities, Harlequin Presents, interviews, Rebel's Bargain, Reunion Stories, the Chatsfield, The Sheikh's Princess Bride, The Sultan's Harem Bride
Annie researching at Chateau Chenonceau.
It’s always a pleasure to host Annie West and hear about her latest release. This month, she’s put out a doozy of a contemporary romance with REBEL’S BARGAIN, a tempestuous, emotional and very sexy reunion story set in a glamorous French Chateau.
Um, I’ll have what she’s having, thanks!
Here’s the blurb:
When the thrill–seeker strikes a deal!
Five years ago, Poppy Graham married Orsino Chatsfield beneath a confetti of paparazzi flashbulbs. But Orsino spent more time chasing the rush of adrenaline than with his wife and, in her darkest hour, he let her down. Their split was bitter and Poppy’s striven for independence ever since. But now her arrogant husband is back…
Injured in a climbing accident, there’s only one person Orsino can turn to…his deceitful wife! They have unfinished business and he’ll face it before he walks away for ever. But the blazing passion between them reignites in an instant, leaving Orsino to wonder whether it will kill or cure!
You can read an excerpt on Annie’s website here: http://www.annie-west.com/books/rebels-bargain/
I’m not the only person raving about how good REBEL’S BARGAIN is. RT Book Reviews gave it 4.5 stars and called it “imaginative and intensely thrilling.” Coffee Time Romance called it a “delicious concoction of sultry passion and angsty second chance romance.”
Annie, congratulations on the release of REBEL’S BARGAIN, your addition to the steamy Chatsfield continuity for Harlequin. Can you tell us about this story?
Thanks so much for the invitation back to the lair, Anna. You know how I love visiting!
Rebel is my first full-length reunion story and I discovered the situation was rife with emotion and passion. Poppy and Orsino met and married quickly, falling headlong into instant attraction. But when things got tough between them neither had what it took to keep the relationship together. Orsino even believed his wife had betrayed him.
They parted on bitter terms and have spent the intervening years burying themselves in activities that keep them from dwelling on the past. Orsino dives into more and more reckless adventure and Poppy concentrates on building the career she thinks will give her security.
But when Orsino is buried in an avalanche (yes, I DO torture my heroes) then spends time in hospital, he realises he still has unfinished business with his wife since he can’t get her out of his head. He ‘persuades’ her into looking after him while he recovers. He thinks a couple of weeks’ proximity will cure him of his lingering feelings.
How wrong he is!
The pair are stuck together at a French chateau while Poppy finishes a modelling assignment. Sounds hard to take, doesn’t it? But close proximity (and there’s a lot of that) leads to all sorts of fireworks. They’re forced to face all the problems and the feelings they’ve tried to hide from.
I can attest to the fireworks. I think this is one of your most sensual books ever. How does REBEL’S BARGAIN fit into the Chatsfield series?
It’s fascinating seeing how the stories relate to each other. One thing I enjoy is that, while the stories do link, each can be read as a totally stand-alone book, so if you pick one up out of sequence it’s still a whole complete and hopefully satisfying story.
The series centres on the Chatsfield family and their international chain of luxury hotels. Gene Chatsfield has quite a few children and none of them had an easy family life. Now they, and he, are paying for that.
Orsino Chatsfield (yes, it’s an Italian Christian name, because of his Italian mother) is notorious to the world’s press for rebelling, risking his neck again and again in perilous adventures, almost as if he doesn’t care if he lives or dies. My story is about what happens when his devil-may-care attitude finally catches up with him.
There’s a terrific section on the Harlequin website devoted to the series. Here’s the link if you want to check it out. http://www.harlequin.com/store.html?cid=622516
What were the inspirations behind this story?
Well, Anna, I don’t think I need to say much. These photos show you some of the places that inspired the story.
Chateau Chenonceau is a gem of a palace that spans the Loire River in France. I knew I wanted to write about it and then along came this story. I found myself putting Orsino and Poppy in that gorgeous Rapunzel tower near the Chateau. Other scenes take place along the riverbank and inside the Chateau itself though in the book the place is never named as I took a few liberties with it.
Another inspiration was the gorgeous antique jewellery I saw in European museums. Poppy is modelling jewellery for an ad campaign for a fabulous design house that has made jewellery for royalty for centuries (think Faberge and Cartier). In my book I got to put her in all sorts of period settings with matching clothes and jewels from the 18th century to the roaring twenties to ultra modern. It was delicious fun.
What’s coming up next for you?
I’m thrilled to have a duet out early in the new year with Harlequin – two linked stories (which can be read as stand alones) called THE SULTAN’S HAREM BRIDE (Jan/Feb) and THE SHEIKH’S PRINCESS BRIDE (Mar/April).
Watch out too for a novella I hope to bring out very soon – the second in ‘Hot Italian Nights’ novella series, called BOUGHT BY THE ITALIAN. I’ll leave you to ponder what that’s about.
Ooh, lots coming up for your fans. I know, like many writers, that you’re a voracious reader. Do you have any recommendations for us on books that you’ve recently read and loved?
Some recent fabbo reads have been Christina Brooke’s THE WICKEDEST LORD ALIVE (what a story, Christina!), Cathryn Hein’s romantic adventure quest THE FRENCH PRIZE (sadly not yet available in the U.S.) and among the a non-romance titles, Julia Spencer Fleming’s marvellous THROUGH THE EVIL DAYS. In shorter stories, I’m currently reading and enjoying Caitlin Crews’s sexy UNDONE BY THE SULTAN’S TOUCH. Plus of course there’s your new Regency novella, Anna, HER CHRISTMAS EARL, which hit the spot beautifully! Just right for a lush, pre-Christmas escape.
Great recommendations. I’m chuffed you enjoyed my novella! Thank you. Do you have a question for the Banditas and Bandita buddies to get the conversation going?
Poppy gets to wear some glamorous jewellery in this story (from cabochon rubies in old gold to gem-encrusted armbands straight from a flapper’s wardrobe). I find it impossible to choose a favorite.
But how about you? Do you have a favorite piece of jewellery? Maybe something special because of its sentimental value? Alternatively, is there a piece you’d buy for yourself if money were no object?
Get commenting, people! Annie has very generously offered two signed copies of REBEL’S BARGAIN (international) as prizes to people who visit the blog today. Good luck!
Posted by Suzanne Ferrell Nov 1 2014, 12:01 am in CLOSE TO THE FIRE, contemporary romance, contemporary romantic suspense, firefighters, Suzanne Ferrell
Flames shot up in front of him. Heat knocked him backward.
The noise deafening.
Smoke and cinders flew about in the firestorm like evil imps dancing to the tune of the monster raging around him.
Sweat ran down his face.
His mask fogged. Cleared.
His turnout gear plastered to his body. What little of his skin was exposed stung. Blistered.
He had to find Bill.
“Bill! Where are you?” he said into the radio amplifier attached to his mask and gear.
Thick smoke and wild flames raged around him.
Which way had he gone? He tried to get his bearings. Where was the exit?
They’d been unable to get across the lower part of the warehouse and instead went up the side stairs to the metal bridge-like structure along the side of the building. There they split up, trying to see the kid they’d been told had been dragged into the burning building.
“Over here, Deke. To your left.” Bill’s voice sounded over the radio.
He swung his gaze that direction. There he was. About ten feet away, near the edge of the scaffolding they were standing on. Safe.
“Any sign of the kid?”
Bill shook his head no.
A rumble sounded above them.
They both looked up. A hole in the ceiling open up. Flames whooshed upward.
Another rumble shook the building. A timber gave way and half the roof on the far side of the warehouse came crashing down, throwing Deke against the outer wall of the building. Bill flew backward onto the shaky scaffolding.
Deke held on to a window ledge as he tried to get his balance. He glanced out. Two figures ran away from the burning building. The larger one had the smaller one by scruff of the neck, hauling him away in the opposite direction of the fire engines out front.
Damn, the night watchman had been right. There had been a kid with the arsonist.
“Kid’s okay, Bill. We need to get out of here.” He signaled down just in case his partner hadn’t heard him.
Bill nodded. “Meet you down below.”
Deke was halfway down the stairs when the loud creaking started above. He looked up.
The remaining roof broke into two parts. It dangled by a few metal beams. Right over Bill.
The metal gave way. Hit the scaffolding.
One minute Bill was there, the next…only flames and twisted metal.
“Deke!” Bill said, then silence over the radio.
“Bill!” He tried to climb back up.
Another beam came loose. It hit him. Slamming him down the stairs, it knocked his headgear and mask loose. Flames all around him, hot metal landing on the side of his neck, something liquid seeping down into his turnout gear and searing his chest.
Screaming sounded in his ears.
Deacon Reynolds tumbled out of the bed and landed on the floor in a tangle of sweaty sheets. Willing his breathing to slow, he wiped his hands over his face.
“Dammit.” His words were followed by hacking coughs.
Jeez. He must’ve been screaming again. He didn’t do it every time he had the dream, but when he did his voice box complained with a coughing fit. The docs said the damaged vocal cords couldn’t take the trauma of making harsh sounds. He thought he’d had it under control. At least the screaming part. The dreams hadn’t been this bad in months, maybe even a year. What had triggered this one?
He ran his hand through his wet hair. His whole body was covered in sweat.
It had to be the summer’s heat.
Untangling himself from the sheets, he strode naked across to the bathroom and poured himself a glass of cold water. Drinking it slowly, he worked on letting his throat relax as he stared at his naked chest in the mirror. The thick cords of scar tissue extended from his jawline down his neck, across the left side of his shoulder and chest. Docs said he was lucky the movement of his shoulder hadn’t been damaged and that the burns hadn’t gotten too deep near his heart.
He barked out a harsh laugh.
Sometimes he wondered if it wouldn’t have been better if the fire had claimed him right along with Bill.