WILDFIRE A spellbinding, new sexy romance in a bewitching tale.
Can I trust him? He says he loves me, but can he love a witch-- I fell in love, and then left him on his knees, in a trance with sirens in the distance, under my spell—and ran. I never expected to see him again.
Ready to escape to a town where one spell could change everything?
Read Chapter 1 CHAPTER 1 Up in Smoke Phoenix
“Nothing lubricates the gears of seduction like soft and romantic music.” Okay. I shake my head in pure amusement. I didn’t plan to read that out loud. I swipe the screen to discard the advice and hit my music icon. Scrolling through a few playlists in my library, I decide on The Boss. It’s passionate and romantic, without getting corny. “I’m On Fire” ––that’s what I feel in her presence. Perfect for the intended tone. I’d taken things slow up until tonight. The music begins to stream in every room of my house at the touch of a button, putting me in the mood to dance. My concept of rhythm almost knocks her on her ass, and she smiles. Ember Cane, the girl I look at and see being with––the rest of my life. Wearing faded jeans and a cotton shirt, simplicity describes her. An understated beauty, perhaps because she’s unaware of her prettiness. I reach out to steady her while my gaze lands on the soft cushions of her lips, lips I love to kiss. Lifting my attention to her eyes—the color of an emerald sea on a sunny day—but I realize they hold a sadness as deep, hopeless grief she never reveals, and deep secrets she’s not ready to share. But her smile...Oh, when she smiles, when she laughs, I can’t help but smile, even if only on the inside. I reach for the single rose, offering it to her, apologizing for my dance moves.
“Phoenix Nox.” I love the way she says my name. I lift my finger to her mouth, trailing the curve of her smile, across flawless skin and through hair that gently caresses her shoulders, falling down her back. Smooth as if tailored from a silk fabric. Its scent–vanilla—a natural aphrodisiac that has me wanting to steal a sly sniff, then bury my face deeply in it. “Happy twenty–first birthday.” My voice comes across a little too jagged. A little too broken. It’s the affect she has on me. I want nothing more than to please her, to cure my need for her. If only I could tell her, but I’ve never been good with words. “I haven’t celebrated my birthday since—” She doesn’t finish her sentence. She doesn’t need to. I know she hasn’t celebrated since her eighteenth. Nothing more. Nothing less. In time I hope she’ll trust me. I do understand. After a moment of silence, she reminds me of my own trust issues. “I thought you were afraid of temptation.” I know I am—was. Tonight, I plan to change that. Her eyes lock onto my bare chest as she edges closer. Her stare has her blushing and I feel her nervousness—or is it my own? “What makes you think that?” Usually she’s quite demure, but her finger traces the lines of my abs in a playful tease. She anchors her hands against the strength of my sculpted stomach, “You don’t take chances.” I know she’s referring to my last temptation—Rachel. The one that ended badly. But tonight, isn’t the time to rehash an old flame while attempting to seduce a new one. “I take chances all the time. I’m a firefighter.”
Grinning at my playful comeback, I eliminate any hesitation, pressing my lips to hers, feeling my heart thump in my chest as her breath catches. I place my hands on her hips, falling back, taking her with me. My head hits the soft, feathered pillows, and this time a breath catches in my throat, whispering in her ear, “Tempt me.” It grows silent as we lie with our foreheads touching and our breath mingling. She breaks the silence with her lips-crushing against mine. Her fingers tangle in my hair and I shut my eyes, feeling the intensity of the moment like an open fire. An inferno of lips, fingers, and grinding intensify the heat. She knows how to tempt me. Holding her small frame, I’m on the verge of burning up completely. My hands disappear beneath her shirt, giving a singeing tingle to my fingertips. Out of control. Unstoppable. All I can think is, she’s my wildfire, one I’m not about to fight. Beautiful slight moans escape her mouth, encouraging my hands to explore the softness of her skin. But I stop. Wanting nothing more than my fantasy to become reality, I need to tell her. Lifting my hands to her face, breaking the kiss, I admit, “When I’m with you...” Cowardly, I pause. With want heavy on my mind, I tell her what she does to me. “I’m so much more when I’m with you. I feel—”
A distinct, familiar aroma fills my senses. Within seconds of realizing what’s happening, I’m on my feet, eyes widened, and words I’d been trying to express, not forgotten, but erased. With great strides I make it to the doorway, taking in my surroundings. My heart and lungs expand together in panic. My brain tunes to high alert, drinking in the feedback of all my senses. At the far end of the hall, deep red and livid purple flames roar at the kitchen doorway, penetrating the walls. The firefighter in me knows the engineered wood could collapse in minutes and the roof will follow with this out-of-control blaze. Alarms ring out, smoke fills my home, and the corner of my eye catches the fire-lit bottle beneath the open window. Had it been tossed there? These thoughts leave me as I turn and find a glowing light encasing Ember on my bed. What the hell? I’d seen fire many times in my line of work, but never before have I seen anything like this. Like a bubble, protecting her from the fire, the heat, and the smoke that dominate my every breath. The flame from the bottle licks the floor like a hungry kitten with a saucer of milk. It crackles, flickers, and leaps. Fiercely, I attempt to stomp out the flames as the protective circle of light remains. I reach for her, needing to get us out of the house. Her hand moves outside the circle for a moment before she quickly pulls it back in. I know I have only two to three minutes to get us to safety. After three minutes, a flashover, and everything could burst into flames, sucking out all the oxygen. Within seconds it could spread. On purpose, I assume from the flamed bottle licking the floor. I wonder who I pissed off. My newly built house sits alone in a new development at the edge of town. There’d been some protest over the land, but no one, I imagine, in this quiet town, would go to this length. The hot, smoky air thickens, burning the inside of my breathing passages, and I reach for the fire-retardant blanket on the chair. There is no other option but to take control of the rescue and toss her over my shoulder. With my hand inside the lighted sphere, I feel the cool breeze on my skin. She’s safe inside it, but for how long? She isn’t safe inside this burning house. Without conscious thought, my brain directs me toward survival. Every muscle grows stronger with no restraint on the force I use when my hand moves underneath her lower back, pulling her from the coolness and closer to me. Wrapping the blanket around her, I toss her over my shoulder in one sweep.
The hot cloud of smoke deepens below the ceiling. Knowing how quickly it streams out of rooms and travels, I have seconds to get out. Smoke billows into the heated air. I should feel the radiating temperature on my face, on my body, but I don’t. The hallway fills with thick, hot, noxious smoke, but I don’t feel it in my lungs. The glowing ring I pulled her from, remains, and now surrounds us both. Tilting my face into the blanket, I run for the front door. With one foot, I kick the screen door open and reach the front porch. With one brief look back, I see fire spreading with ease, turning my home into a maze of flame. The sound of fire forces me to move to safety at the far end of the front lawn where I drop to my knees. Ember wiggles free, bending to her knees, placing her hands on my face. “I’m so sorry.” Tears build in her eyes and one droplet falls on her cheek. Puzzled by her apology, I attempt to speak, but cough, trying to clear the smoke from my lungs. I hear her say, “Forget me.”
Kneeling at the edge of the street, I watch, knowing that putting the fire out now would only increase the length of the demolition afterward. Better to rebuild from the ashes than work with a structure too compromised to stand. My thoughts force me to accept it. The radiant fire licks the inside with orange flames, the heat so intense, paint bubbles on the front door. Black smoke rolls upward to the sky, making dark columns into an otherwise starlit night. Walls crumble, and the smell of burning cedar confirms my horror—my house is gone. I vow one day to rebuild it, making it just the same with every last detail. My first home, the only place that has felt like home since my mother died. I flinch with the sound of fire shooting out windows and I release the once perfect blanket that now has finger indents from my tight hold. The charred wool stirs a memory, but for the life of me, I can’t remember how the blanket ended up around me. Heck I can’t remember leaving the house. Flames pour inside the doorway. I shut my eyes and try to remember. Nothing. Opening my eyes to fire everywhere—the roof, the doors, and windows, even flames licking up with the wind, trying to catch something else on fire and find nothing but air and then disappearing into the night. Sirens screech in the distance and I turn to see my mates arrive. The flashing lights blind me as much as the full-blown inferno. I hear my captain and feel a gloved hand on my shoulder. “You alone tonight?” What a silly question. I think, shaking my head in response. Of all people, he knows I’m a loner. Ever since–Rachel, losing my mother at fourteen, and never knowing my father. I grew up in a group home until I was eighteen. Then I met my captain. The man I trust with my life and my inspiration to become a firefighter. He tugs at my mask, adjusting it. “You inhaled a lot of smoke.” I cough through troubled breathing, pulling down the mask as streaks of black soot come from my nose and throat. I spit, then crack a smile. “Haven’t felt better.” An attempt to laugh only makes it worse and I raise the mask. Oxygen streams through my nose and into my lungs. Breathing deeply, fighting nausea, I hear him remark, “Smartass.” I feel a raindrop on my face, then another, and then everything goes black.
**** I wake and find my captain asleep in the chair beside me. Probably dreaming of her. Captain Ridge Weston, forty-two, still has it. There isn’t a woman within a hundred-mile radius that doesn’t want him. But he remains a confirmed bachelor. There’s only one woman he loves. One that doesn’t love him back. That’s the extent of that conversation. No matter how many times I try, his bruised ego shuts the door every time. I clear my throat to wake him. “Good dream?” “What?” Caught him. “Best to let sleeping dogs lie.” One eye opens. “Happy to see you’re feeling better, smartass.” Ridge stretches then stands, mumbling something about a coffee. “Want one?” I nod. “While you’re out there, find a doctor to release me. I hate hospitals.” He waves a hand in the air, rubbing his lower back, “Me too, mate.”
In the pale morning light, I look around at the charred remains of my house. The day before it had been so alive, so vibrant. The walls have long since crumbled and in their place stand thick beams of wood, blackened from where the flames licked at them. The ruins are still smoking with the faintest glow of embers as I maneuver around the creaking threshold. Black dust invades my lungs where my home once stood. The wind whistles through and the mist of rain drizzles on the ashes. All I have left are memories. Nothing escaped the fire.
Frustrated, I kick aside the glass littering the area. “Twisted plastic and charred wood, nothing to salvage, not a damn thing.” Ridge pulls me from the mess. “You’re alive. That, I’m thankful for.” Although appreciative for his gratitude, I feel lost. Something is missing and it just isn’t everything I owned. My heart aches as though I grieve for something, I can’t put memory to. “I can’t recall a damn thing. I remember the sirens, the fire, the smoke and watching it from where you found me. But there’s something about the blanket.” Ridge reminds me what we tell all fire victims, “Shock will do that. You’ll remember.”
He hands me keys. “Take some time at the coastal shack.” Ridge’s shack. I silently chuckle. The inherited beach property in Mystic Bay, with a crumpled old cabin that sits back in the trees, had been his grandfather’s. Still, to this day, he hasn’t had the heart to tear it down. On the edge of the beach is a beautiful beach home, he continues to call his coastal shack. One I helped build. The one place we both love to escape to. It’s two doors down from the woman he loves, but that’s not allowed to be mentioned.
No matter how much I love it there, I need to find out what happened here. “The investigation. I don’t want time off. I want to be around to see what the fire investigator determines to be the reason I lost everything.” “I’ll keep you updated.” Ridge gestures the way to his truck. “Come on, we shouldn’t even be here. Let me buy you breakfast.”