“This tale will melt even the iciest heart.”— Publishers Weekly STARRED Review
What’s a guy to do when the one who got away returns home with a big surprise in tow…
I thought I had everything I could ever want. After all, half the women in my small town call me “cowboy hot,” and the other half ask me regularly if I can help them put out the fire in their pants. A guy could do worse. But there’s only one problem…they’re not who I want.
The woman of my dreams walked away from Wildcat Bluff right after she broke my heart, and I never thought I’d seen her again. But I guess I was due for a second chance, because now Lauren Sheridan is back, and she’s not alone. She’s got her spunky daughter with her and a dead husband she’s mourning.
I want to be a friend to her, but being around her again has got me all upside down. And when the old spark between us starts to really burn, we’re both going to have to reconcile the mistakes of our past if we want to earn a future together…
Praise for A Cowboy Firefighter for Christmas:
“Vividly written firefighting scenes, a rich cast of characters, and folksy charm…will keep you warm and toasty and entertained in a big—and I mean Texas big—way.” — USA Today Happy Ever After
— Excerpt —
Up on Cougar Lane, the Wildcat Bluff Fire-Rescue Station’s front door banged open. A shirtless man stepped into the open doorway and peered outside, drying his sable-brown hair with a white towel.
Lauren Sheridan stepped back in surprise to make room for him, not wanting to be run over by so much muscle mass. She’d been about to grasp the stainless steel handle of the metal entry door and walk inside. Now she simply gazed in appreciation at the hot body of a guy who belonged as the centerfold of a firefighter calendar. He could definitely claim the blazing month of August, particularly since he wore nothing but faded, ripped-in-the-knees blue jeans that he’d zipped up but hadn’t buttoned so he’d left a slightly gaping fly. Eye candy.
“You seen Hedy?” He flicked a glance in Lauren’s direction before he studied the parking lot while he used the towel to rough up his thick hair. “She must’ve slipped out while I took a shower.”
Lauren felt his husky voice strike a deep chord within her, causing a memory—tantalizing by the feel of it—to swim up from the depths of her subconscious and hover on the edge of her conscious. Yet the memory eluded her until she caught the spicy, musky, with a hint of leather scent that was all his own. And just like that, she fell headlong back into the memory of that hot, steamy summer of love when she was just sixteen.
She jerked her gaze upward to look at the guy’s face and felt her mouth go dry. Kent Duval, as she lived and breathed. She knew this man. At least, she’d known him as a boy. He’d once been her everything. And she’d shared wild kisses with him in the bed of his blue pickup up on Lovers Leap overlooking the Red River just north of their hometown of Wildcat Bluff.
He’d grown taller and wider in the shoulders, carved of muscle upon muscle with long, powerful legs. Once his sun-bronzed skin had been smooth, but now lines radiated outward from the corners of his eyes as if he laughed a lot or squinted in the sun. Maybe both. The planes of his face were sharper and more angular with high cheekbones and a square jaw. But his eyes were still the same fascinating hazel mix of brown, gold, and green.
Back then, they’d been head-over-heels in love and totally immersed in each other till one fateful day. She still felt the sting of her personal loss when her parents had told her that her daddy had a great new job. They were moving from Wildcat Bluff, Texas, to Stamford, Connecticut. And just like that, she’d been torn from Kent’s arms. They’d been too young to fight the separation, although they’d stayed in touch for a while. Soon distance and college had drawn them into separate worlds. And she’d stuffed away her Kent-fueled, sweet-sixteen memories.
Now he was back in raw, vibrant color. As a boy he’d been irresistible. As a man he was the stuff of hot, sweaty dreams. She must have made some sound deep in her throat because he looked back, focused on her, then his eyebrows shot up in surprise.
“Lauren?” He dropped the towel—as if forgotten—and reached toward her with long, strong fingers outstretched as if they’d scoop her up like ice cream for a sweet, delicious treat.
“Yes.” She smiled, feeling warmth for him uncurl in her depths just like the old days. “It’s been a long time, hasn’t it?”
“Way too long—thirteen years too long.” Kent grinned, revealing straight white teeth and a deep dimple in each cheek.
She felt the past tug hard at her. Those dimples had once made him look like a naughty imp when he’d made suggestions that had pushed her limits. He’d always walked a bit on the wild side, and she’d always tried to pull him onto the straight and narrow. They’d seesawed back and forth, teasing and tormenting until they’d made everything come out right in the heat of their love and passion.
She’d been well aware that he’d featured in the fantasies of many a starstruck girl back in high school, what with Kent being a rodeo and football star as well as a smart and popular student. Still, he’d only had eyes for her till she’d moved away. Now she bet he had a well-deserved reputation with the ladies. Who could possibly resist him? Not that it mattered to her anymore. She’d sworn off guys, particularly heartbreakers.
She heard the soft, lilting, birdlike voice of Dolly Parton singing her famous song, “Jolene,” drift outside from a radio somewhere in the station. The song jolted Lauren back to reality. No point in begging a woman to leave your man alone if he was bound to wander like Jeffrey, her player of a former husband. Burned once. Twice shy. She wasn’t ever treading that dangerous territory again.
Even so, she wouldn’t walk away from Kent’s friendship. She was glad to see him—a lot of him. She grasped his hand and matter-of-factly shook it.
He chuckled as he rubbed his rough thumb across the smooth flesh of her palm. “When were we ever on a hand-shaking basis?” He jerked her against his hard, damp chest, then wrapped her in his strong arms and gave her a big bear hug.
“Stop! You’re squeezing the life out of me.” And truth be told, she could hardly catch her breath—maybe from the crush but maybe from the fact that the sheer masculine power of Kent was causing her to lose her breath.
“Got to make up for lost time, don’t I?” Despite his words, he set her back but kept his hands on her shoulders. “How’d you stop the clock? You look better than ever. And that’s saying a lot.”
When he followed those words with a flash of his dimples, she felt a telltale blush that she hadn’t felt in years warm her cheeks.
He grinned even bigger at that display of how he was affecting her and planted a hot kiss on her forehead before he dropped his hands. “Hope you’re back in town for more than a short visit.”
She nodded in agreement, getting her feet under her now that he wasn’t scrambling her brain and body with his touch.