Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Love Ignites Amidst a Firestorm of Regret #RomanceReaders

The Wildfire Romance Series is a shared world where multiple authors tell the tale of a wildfire threatening the town of Ouray, Colorado, from differing perspectives. All stories are stand-alone books that share common landmarks, a few overlapping characters, and the same crisis situation. This blog hop connects all stories so readers can take a peek inside each one. 
The link to various posts are below the excerpt. 

This post features Seducing the Flame, Book One, of the Wildfire Romance Shared World Series. 

From the back cover...

Flames rip through southern Colorado and fire crews from across the US rush to battle the Million Dollar Fire. Devon Ross never thought he would step foot into his hometown of Ouray again, but as captain of the Flame Slayers—an elite fire jumping squad out of California—his call to duty thrusts him onto a collision course with his past.

Darby Shaw can't believe her eyes when she sees Devon at the makeshift camp for the fire crews. He had disappeared—literally—ten years ago and his possible whereabouts had become a source of town lore. Seeing him here, now, under these crisis conditions, creates a whirlwind of conflict within her. The last time she had seen him face-to-face, she had whipped him with her wedding bouquet. 

There is an arsonist in their midst. When a second fire develops southeast of town, the life and death struggle intensifies. 

Devon may be brave when facing down a fire, but is he courageous enough to confront his reasons for cutting ties with his family and friends? Can Darby come to terms with the depth of her past betrayal? Will the seduction of the flame be more powerful than love? With the fire roaring its way through the mountain landscape, time works against them as they struggle to heal what went wrong between them for a second chance at a what-if. 


An Excerpt

History brewed like a slow-burning fuse between them, yet they both chose to ignore it. She had no idea when or if they would ever have a deep discussion or all-out argument about what had happened ten years ago—but she honestly didn't know if it was necessary. Being with him now felt more precious and more important than dwelling on pain a decade old. 

They walked in an easy silence through the series of log cabins nestled in their own corners of seclusion behind trees and bushes until coming to one that stood at the very end of the path. Devon stepped onto the front porch and sat in the swing. He tugged on the chains holding it to the ceiling before looking at her with a question in his eyes. 

She remembered this cabin—it seemed to always be off the registrar, in a constant state of supposed renovation. She wondered if the Ross family—including Lester and Matilda—had a reason for keeping it as a sneak-away retreat for family only. She sat on the swing with him and tucked her legs beneath her hips while he moved it to-and-fro with his foot. 

She took a moment to simply look at him. Age had treated him with kindness. He was more handsome now than he had been at twenty-three, which said a helluva lot. He was now one hundred percent man—no trace of the boy remained. Little lines shot out from the corners of his blue eyes. His face appeared sharper, more defined. And his mouth...she studied his lips as they curved into a smile under her scrutiny...she wanted the right to kiss him whenever she wanted. 


And she wanted. 

"Tell me about this shirt."

"Women go wild for me where ever I go—they try to rip the clothes right off of me. It's kind of embarrassing." 

She laughed and linked her fingers through his. "I bet you go through a lot of shirts."

"I do. It's kind of problem. I've really needed to adjust the budget to account for it."

She wanted to say more than she had yesterday but had no idea where to start or how to begin. If she said too much, he could disappear. If she said too little, then she might always regret it when he left. With a sigh, she realized that both scenarios ended with him walking away. 

He tilted her face up to his with his index finger and simply stared into her eyes. "I never wanted to hurt anyone. I thought I was doing everyone a favor by leaving."

She curled her hand around his wrist. "I know you did, that's why it's so sad."

He dipped his head and kissed her slowly. His hands moved down to her waist and he pulled her onto his lap. He kissed her neck while his fingers undid the buttons of her shirt until he pressed it open to reveal her bra. His head dipped into her cleavage. He hands reached around her back to undo the clasp to free her breasts from the purple lace. When his tongue flicked over her nipple, she gasped and clenched his head closer to her. 

Every move, every touch, every kiss, every caress was done with slow deliberation. She tilted her head back and allowed him to make love to her breasts with his hands and lips and teeth and tongue. 

She ripped the tattered shirt from his shoulders and tossed it aside. She laughed against his mouth as he muttered, "There goes another one." 

They moved from the porch swing to the porch floor. She touched his tattoos on his chest and arms—some old, some new. 

He brushed the hair from her face before claiming her lips with a tenderness that broke her heart. His hand kneaded her breast, his thumb teased her nipple, his knee parted her thighs. She arched her hips against him, craving connection. 

"Devon! Are you out here?" Lester. "Kiley said you were out this way. Devon! Oh, sorry, oh, I, uh," Lester darted behind a tree. 

"I'm kind of in the middle of something, Dad." Devon laughed against her neck and whispered, "Don't move. My dick's about to bust out of my pants. Give me a minute to think of something else." 

"Someone named Tucker is here looking for you. He said there's been a development back at the camp but you left your phone in your tent so he drove over," Lester explained his interruption. 

Devon moaned against her hair, gave her breast a final squeeze, and pushed himself up so he could see her face. Eyes full of regret and desire, he sighed. "Duty calls." 

She kissed his neck and whispered against his skin, "What a damn shame." 

He pulled her to her feet, bent close to her ear, and whispered, "It didn't work with the teacher because she wasn't you." 

"I'm sorry, Darby," Lester called out from where he remained behind the tree. "I didn't know you two were...when exactly?...no, that's fine. I don't need to know...but I am curious, but, no, I don't need to know. I'm sorry. I didn't mean to interrupt." 

Stunned at Devon's admission, she said nothing as she adjusted her bra and shrugged back into her shirt. Once again, she watched Devon walk away and wondered if this would always be the way it was between them—her in disarray watching him leave.



Monday, July 2, 2018

Bursting the Bubble #StartingOver #Inspiration


Selling the home I had lived in for nineteen years and leaving a state that I had called home for twenty-five years felt like diving head first off a cliff. I was leaving behind memories of a life I had built with my late husband and my children--and not all of those memories were good, but many of them were. People told me, "you're crazy, you'll never be able to come back and have all this again" and said things like, "how can you abandon your kids (who are 22 and 20)?"

I was scared. In some ways, I felt like a failure because I couldn't hack living alone in the mountains. My husband had died, the kids were in college, I had nothing in common with the people in the community it seemed, and I felt as if I were dying. That's not an exaggeration either--I literally felt like I would die if I remained there. And not die as in "someday" but soon.

So I left and it wasn't easy. The transition hasn't been easy either. There have been highs and lows and doubts--but I have no regrets.

I had been living in a bubble that had been suffocating my spirit for years. Trying to fit in as a widowed single mom in a community that really disliked grief or anyone who struggled in any way isolated me to such a degree that I started believing the lie that I was flawed. If I grieved, I would be told how so-and-so got a divorce and moved on or how so-and-so's ex killed himself and she was fine--as if there was something wrong with me and my feelings--as if my struggle wasn't real because of the constant comparison with so-and-so (who I never knew personally, of course). If I admitted to struggling financially as a single mom whose little kids had anxiety issues after witnessing their dad's suicide, I was shunned rather than helped and my kids were bullied. I have no love loss for the community I left. None.

Why did I stay so long after my husband's death? I told myself it was because the kids needed stability after experiencing such a loss, but I did as well. It was hard enough moving alone with two adult children, I'm sure it would have been much more stressful if the kids had been younger and were protesting every step of the way. But, I stayed too long. I know that now with certainty. The bubble may have been stifling, but it was also safe.

Now that I've moved, I look back and see that the bubble that I lived in was not only toxic, but was also created in a false reality. To those people who still live in that bubble, they only know what they know based on everyone around them trying to fit the superficial facade that is perpetuated there as normal.

It's not normal, though, and I only see that now because I burst the bubble and set myself free. Shortly after moving, I met a sophisticated woman at the airport who was on her way back to Santa Fe on my flight. We started chatting and she told me that she moves to a new city every five years, no matter how happy or content she feels. She does this because she wants to be aware of becoming too comfortable and possibly prevent herself from becoming close-minded.

That conversation started me thinking about how afraid I had been all along to shake up my life. I have met so many interesting people in the past year since my move. I have participated in activities that have deepened my spirit and opened my mind in ways that never would have happened if I were still living in that secluded bubble on the mountain top.

I am no longer afraid of anything. I could sell this house tomorrow and become a vagabond for a year and would not be afraid of doing it. I shut down a part of my business because I am sick of snarky people who think that "snark" makes them powerful (or smart) when it is genuinely disrespectful and mean. Money and stability concerns would have prevented me from doing so a year ago--now I don't care. Yes, I still need to earn a living, but I now value my self-respect and my peace more.

A shift has occurred within me on the core level. Fear no longer has any power over me. I think when you're someone like me--someone who has lost everything at some point, who has hit rock bottom and who has looked around and realized how alone they were and are still standing at the end of the day--you do become fearless. You do develop a "fuck you" attitude to anyone who tries to disrespect you. And that's okay. Once you're out of the bubble, the freedom to be yourself sets you on fire.

We all live in certain bubbles--which is why some who have never left their hometowns become so set in their ways and suspicious of outsiders. Traveling expands our bubbles to an extent, but I've traveled enough where I've met people who only whine about "how things are done" where they're from--which only shows their closed-mindedness to anyone or anything outside their comfort zone. That's living small. That's being small. When you open yourself to others who are different from you, you learn how big life is meant to be.

I think the only true way to burst your bubble and break free of the limits you may be experiencing is to move--and move again if you don't like it--and move back to where you started if you realize that's truly meant for you. But how do you know what's meant for you if you don't experiment? How do you know what you're capable of if you don't reach higher than you ever dreamed possible?

I hope to keep bursting my bubble and creating new ones--more expansive ones--throughout my entire life until I have a kaleidoscope of experiences that shape me into the woman I want to be.

Boldly go, my friends!

Peace,
Amber
http://www.amberleaeaston.com 





Monday, June 25, 2018

Their Affair is Secret Until a Wildfire Changes Everything #NewAdult #NewRelease


Shining the spotlight on HEAT, a new adult romance by Cassidy Springfield. 
Their love is a secret until it's not...can they stand the HEAT? 

from the back cover...

Kiley Ross and Leo Marshall have a secret. He's her indulgence, her vice. She's his compass, his impossible dream.

Kiley is home for the summer between graduating the University of Colorado and attending graduate school out-of-state in the fall. Everything is changing—friends are scattering across the world, her long lost brother has appeared out of nowhere, a wildfire is threatening the family home, and her secret affair with the local outsider—Leo—is exposed.

As the wildfire ravages the forest around the small town of Ouray, she realizes what really matters and what truly doesn't. Her resistance toward change forces her to come to terms with her own failings—or risk losing the friendships and relationships that mean so much to her. Can she break free of the expectations that have held her back in time to rescue her love affair with Leo? Can he forgive her for wanting to keep him a secret? Confronted with seeing everything she has ever known burn to the ground, can Kiley rise up and step into her own power?

Books2Read *all including Kobo**

An excerpt...

Ever since my big brother Devon dropped off the face of the earth ten years ago, I have heard every lecture imaginable about the dangers of being reckless and flighty, the perils of being a dreamer. That's what my brothers had been—Brandon who died when he was only seventeen had wanted to be a photographer, maybe work in film one day and Devon who vanished had always had ideals about being an explorer. So my parents made sure that Diane and I were practical—always have a plan, always be responsible, always maintain control.

 I look at Leo and bite the edge of my glass. It's as if he knows I am looking at him despite the sea of writhing bodies in front of the stage. He stares right at me. I know he's seeing me—sometimes I think he is the only one who has ever truly seen me. Desire churns in the pit of my gut. 

Leo and I have a secret. 

He's my indulgence. He's my vice. 

If anyone ever discovered the truth, my family would disown me and my friends would freak. There are lines I know I can't cross—but I do anyway. I like sneaking around, like having a side to me that no one knows. Yet there are moments when I feel like the secret is just a lie to hide behind because I'm too afraid of being who I really am. 

When the band takes a break, I make an excuse to disappear. I weave past women in line for the bathroom until I find the door leading into the back alley. There he is, waiting, taking a long drag of a cigarette. He crushes it under his foot as he watches me walk toward him. That's the thing about Leo. He watches—not just me, he watches everyone and everything. He leans his shoulder against the building and waits. 

"Good set. You guys are really setting the place on fire." 

"Thanks." He scoops me against him and tilts my head back with the tip of his finger. "You're looking extra hot tonight." 

"Same." I crush my lips against his. The rhythm of my heartbeat ramps up with the slide of his mouth against mine. 

He spins me around and presses my back against the hard bricks of the building. His hands are under my crop top and on my breasts. His leg is parting my thighs. 

I can't get enough of touching him, especially when he's sweaty like this and hungry for me. There's something intoxicating about knowing that almost every girl in the bar wishes they were me right now, wishes they had access to his full mouth, wishes his hands were on their bodies, wishes they could grab his ass like I'm doing. 

And what a fine ass it is. 

"My break is only ten minutes," he whispers into my open mouth. 

"I should be getting back to my friends anyway." I slide my fingers through his hair. "What's with calling me a pampered princess?"

He bites his lower lip, eyes half-closed, and traces my mouth with his thumb. "When I'm on stage, I speak only the truth."

"You can be a jerk, Leo."

"Same." He sucks my lower lip until I moan with need. 

I hold onto his shoulders and wish we had a few more minutes and a more secluded location. 

His hands roam over my exposed abdomen before sliding over my ass. His fingers scrunch the material of my skirt up until he's touching bare skin. He kisses my neck before moving his mouth to my ear and whispering, "Later, Princess Ki." 

I smack his shoulder because he knows I hate nicknames, especially that one.

With a wink, he steps back and drops his hold on me. He bows slightly and motions for me to walk ahead of him into the bar. 

I'm shaken but not from his kiss. There is so much I wish I had the courage to say, not just to Leo but to everyone. There is always this part of me that wants to stop in the middle of the street or wherever and scream. 

I want to be wild. It's like there is this voice inside of me that wants to shake off the good girl image and embrace being bad. 

But I can't do that. I won't do that. I'm Kiley Ross and there are things I can't do because my family would be too disappointed—and they have already suffered too much tragedy.

"You coming? You look like you're about to...I don't know what. Are you okay?" He tilts his head to the left and looks at me with those green eyes of his that make me want to confess all my secrets. 

But I don't. I won't. I'm Kiley Ross and there are expectations. 

"Why didn't you tell me that you and the band were going on tour later this summer?" 

He shrugs and looks away. "You're going to be gone by then and talking isn't something you and I do." 
I hold my head high and strut past him like the princess he thinks I am. 

I'm Kiley Ross. Pretending to have confidence is what I do. 

As I walk back to the table where Naomi is getting overly friendly with the cute waiter, I am aware that a group of girls stopped Leo to talk about his music, but I don't look back. We're a secret. I need our relationship to stay hidden in the shadows—to be ours alone. Private. 

Then why do I want to scream? 

Books2Read *all including Kobo**





Monday, June 18, 2018

Seducing the Flame #NewRelease #SecondChance #Romance


Spotlighting the new release Seducing the Flame--he's the elite of the elite, a fire jumper sent in to battle a wildfire threatening his hometown. She's the woman he had hoped never to see again in his life. Can love rekindle while the world burns around them? 


An excerpt--

Not asking questions proved to be a challenge. As she drove past the turn-off to the resort where he had grown up, she glanced at the large log posts holding up the sign proclaiming, Tailwind. Solar lights lined the long curving driveway to the top of the hill where the resort sprawled across thirty-five acres that backed up against the National Forest. 
He said nothing. Made no sound at all. 
Sighing, she looped one hand over the top of the steering wheel and rested her other elbow on the open window. Fresh pine air laced with the ever-present smell of smoke wafted into the car and the breeze tossed her hair away from her face. Tears welled up in her eyes at the memories that swarmed in her mind. 


"Darby, you need to listen to me. Ted's a bad guy." Devon stood in her dressing room in the back of the chapel. He looked like he hadn't slept in days. His button-up shirt was unbuttoned, displaying his Trust tattoo across the left side of his chest. They had both gotten one during spring break in Cabo their junior year at CU—his on his chest, hers on her wrist. His black jeans were smeared with dirt as if he had just crawled out of a ditch. Dead pine needles stuck here and there in his sandy blond hair. 
"Ted was alone with Brandon, not me. He got the drugs, not me. I don't do drugs, never have, and you know it. I—"
"No, you just get wasted every night and act like you don't give a damn about anything."
"—Ted bullied Brandon, always did and we had more than one fight about it. Brandon got to the apartment early and I was too late, but that's the extent of my guilt. You have got to believe me."
She stumbled forward, nearly tripping on the lace gown of her wedding dress. Out of sheer frustration, she whipped his chest with her bouquet, sending white rose petals flying across his shoulders. "For months you've been silent. Months!"
"I didn't want to hurt you, okay? I was confused, sad, stupid—" 
"Why would you do something like this?"
"Ted left before the ambulance arrived. He just took off! He is a rotten—"
"You didn't even come to Brandon's funeral!"
"I wasn't wanted, the good ol' Ross family made that clear." He grabbed her wrists and yanked her toward him. His eyes searched hers for something. Maybe hope? Maybe love? Maybe understanding? Maybe all three? "Come with me, Darby. Come on. You don't want to do this, not really. I know you. Come with me." 
"Today is my wedding day, you jackass!"
"People assumed it was my fault and I let them. I figured if they thought I was capable of killing my seventeen year-old brother, they aren't people I care to know anyway. Fuck them all. If someone thinks that little of me, they aren't worth the energy to convince otherwise. I never thought you would believe it, though."
"Who says I believed it?" Her voice hitched on the last word.
"Then come with me. I'm sick of this place and all these people with their twisted expectations. We'll drive until we hit the Pacific. Come on. Leave with me, let's see what happens." 


She pulled the 4Runner onto the side of the highway and took a moment to breathe. Those words...let's see what happens...sometimes woke her from a dream. 
She looked toward the passenger seat expecting to see his mocking expression at her abrupt stop, but instead he slept. His head against the window, his chest rising slowly, his long legs tucked at an odd angle in the space in front of him—definitely asleep. 
The lights from the dashboard illuminated his face in a perfect contrast of shadows. She had always thought he was too pretty for his own good. High cheekbones, long eyelashes, full lips and a nose made to be flicked with her finger while lying in bed. 
She glanced down at her own Trust tattoo on her left wrist and traced it with her right fingertip. Best friends forever, that's what they had promised, but even then she had known their feelings went much deeper than that. 
Ted had hated that tattoo, had made her cover it with make-up and bracelets when they went out with people from the firm. 
She traced the ink with her fingertip, her mind racing with questions. 
"Are we here?" he slurred his question, his eyes opening as he shifted upright in the seat. "Fell asleep. Sorry."
"I pulled over—there was a deer in the road." 
He scrubbed his eyes with a closed fist. "You okay? Did you almost hit it or something?"
"I'm fine." She blew out a long breath. 
"Animals run ahead of the fire," he muttered more to himself than her. "Wind has died down, though, hasn't it?"
"Seems to, yes." She hadn't really been paying attention to the wind. 
"Hope it stays that way so the slurry bombers can resume in the morning. This afternoon was too windy for a decent air attack." He shifted in his seat and rolled down the window. "I could really use a long, hot shower and a nice, king-sized bed."
She laughed. "That doesn't sound very van-like to me."
"Don't tell anyone, but I live in an actual house. I even have running water and indoor plumbing." 
"Wow, you're rich then?"
"Yeah, we firemen are known for our immense wealth."
She shot him a smile and resumed her promise to be silent. 
But, oh, the questions that rolled through her mind.
"San Luis Obispo."
"What?"
"That's what you're wondering, right? Where I live?"
"I promised no questions so I am sticking to it."
"Or you Googled where the Flame Slayers were based already and don't want to admit it."
"So cocky."
"Hey, when you have a reason, is it really cockiness or self-awareness?"
She caught her lip between her teeth and squirmed in her seat. Desire flickered in her gut, warming her in all the wrong places. She inhaled sharply when he snagged a strand of her hair beneath his fingertips. 
"I like your hair shorter like this. It flatters you."
Acting on instinct rather than common sense, she slid the driver's seat back a few notches, undid her seatbelt, and twisted to face him. 
Alone in the dark in the confines of the front seat of her SUV nothing outside mattered. He took the hint, grabbed her face between his hands, and kissed her as if the world were ending and they only had a few more minutes before dying. Mouths slid together, hands squeezed, breath tangled, tongues danced against one another. 
Somehow she ended up straddling his lap. She couldn't stop touching the hardness of his body. Lips locked with his, she moved her hands over his shoulders, over his thick biceps, down his chest, around his neck, into his hair. Her movements were frantic and needy. 
His hands were under her shirt—sliding over her back, over her bra—slipping beneath the waistband of her jeans—and back again. 
The loud honking of a passing vehicle paired with a chant of "Darby and Devon" forced them to break away abruptly and gape at each other. 
"Bastards," he muttered with a brief glance at the taillights. 
"Your team?"
"Who else would be that obnoxious?"
She slid off of him and collapsed into the driver's seat, her legs still across his lap, and closed her eyes. Her shirt was still pushed up past her bra. Cool night air kissed her abdomen. She struggled to gain control of her raging emotions. Her rapid heartbeat thumped hard in her throat. 
He slid his hand along her thigh. "That was unexpected."
"And unwanted?"
"I didn't say that." He squeezed her knee. 
They studied each other for what seemed like an eternity in the dark. 
"It's been a strange day," she whispered.
"I expect nothing less when I'm around you."
"You haven't been around me in a long time."
"Likewise."
"I feel like I should make a confession of some kind."
"What would you confess?" He laughed low and soft. "I'm the kind of guy who lives in the present, Darby. Maybe it's best if neither one of us dwells in the past."
"Yeah, the past is somewhat convoluted."
"Somewhat."
She shifted until her legs were under the steering wheel and her shirt was pulled back into place. "I had better deliver you to your camp as promised." 
"Yes, it would be a shame if you broke a promise."
She shot him a look and drummed her fingertips against the steering wheel. For a man who didn't want to talk about the past, it was obviously on his mind. But now was definitely not the time or the place to bring it up, she knew that much even if she was the biggest fool in Colorado. 
"Maybe tomorrow night you can stay with me? I have a queen-sized bed and a shower."
"Ooo...tempting me with creature comforts." He smiled, his teeth eerily white in the dashboard light. "What else is on that menu of temptations?"
"Let's see what happens..." 
"What about Ruby?"
"We have a huge place, she'll never know. I'll sneak you out before dawn."
"It's been a long time since a woman has had me sneaking out before dawn."
"How long?"
"Long enough."
"You're so evasive these days." Resting both hands on the steering wheel and forcing herself to look straight ahead, she took a deep breath and tried to concentrate. 
Did I really just ask him to come to my place to fuck? I could have just texted him DTF. What is wrong with me? 
Exhaling, she turned the car back onto the highway. 
He might be gone in a week. He might never come back. 
"I can't make any promises," he said so softly she wasn't sure she had heard him. 
"Promises about what?"
"Tomorrow night, or the next night, or anything after that. I'm not here socially, you know. I have a team and a big job...it's an unpredictable situation." He dropped his hand on her leg and leaned across the seat to bite her shoulder before moving his mouth to her ear. "But I'll be there if I can."
A ripple of excitement quaked over her skin from the top of her head down to her toes. Not turning her head to look at him, she smiled and leaned her left elbow on the open window. 
As a single mom, she knew she needed to be careful...but there was a big part of her that was sick to death of being careful. 
When she stopped at the front of the camp, she glanced at him. "What does it mean if they relocate this camp?"
"Why?"
"I heard that they might be relocating you all tomorrow to the High Meadow Ranch north of town." 
He removed his seatbelt and took his time in responding. "They like to keep us and the equipment in a guaranteed safe spot."
Guaranteed safe spot. She gnawed her lip. Tailwind was only a few miles down the road.
"Where did you hear we were being relocated?" He had his phone in his hand and scrolled through texts. "I haven't...oh...here it is."
"So you're being moved?"
He met her gaze through the shadows and nodded. 
"That's bad isn't it?"
"Not as bad as you are letting yourself think." He flashed her a smile. "It's all about safety, that's it. No need to freak out the town."
"Lester told me."
His smile faded at the mention of his father. 
"They have two weddings at the resort this weekend and are booked to capacity at the resort. He is worried about getting everyone out if he needs to do so fast."
"The fire has to get passed us first." He motioned toward all the tents set up and the vans lined along the perimeter. Two helicopters rested at the far end of the meadow. 
"But you're moving." 
He leaned forward and cupped the back of her head with his palm before leaning close to her face. "Don't overthink this. I need to go. I am bone tired and need to be up before dawn."
She grabbed his wrist and held him still for a moment longer. "I missed you, Dev."
He smiled against her lips before kissing her long and slow. 
She moved her hands from his wrists and slid them along his hard arms and over his biceps. She wanted to hold him close, simply hold him until the sun came up and then keep holding him so he would never leave again. With every stroke of her lips against his, she tried to communicate that without needing to put that into words. 
"I need to go," he whispered into her mouth. 
"Then go."
He pressed his forehead to hers, eyes closed, and sighed. 
"We'll just see what happens," she whispered, her fingers sliding down his chest before gently pushing him away. 
"We'll see what happens," he repeated with a slow smile. "Where have I heard that before? Hey," he snagged her hand and squeezed, "thank you."
"For?"
He shrugged, released her hand, and opened the door without another word.
She leaned her arms against the steering wheel and watched him walk away. His body in silhouette, she grinned at the knowledge that she would recognize him anywhere —the saunter, the way his arms swung at his sides, the way his heels came off the ground, the shape of his shoulders — all the details that made him Devon. 
What would he do if he knew that she had run after him that day? Would she ever tell him or would that forever remain her burden to bear? 


"Are you telling me no?" He stood there in her dressing room, scream-whispering at her. "Are you seriously staying behind? I'm leaving, Darby, do you understand that? C'mon. Say you'll come with me." 
"What do you expect? This is my wedding day." She waved her now tattered bouquet through the air. "My wedding day! We have two hundred guests out there. My parents paid a fortune for the caterer—"
"Who the hell cares?" He grabbed her forearms and squeezed. "Just say fuck it all and come with me."
"Look at you." She twisted free and gaped at his open shirt and dirty jeans. "You look like you have been crawling through a ditch all day, or did you sleep in one? You've been a wreck since Brandon died, a complete disaster." 
He dragged a hand down his face and moaned. "I know that, Darby, and I'm sorry I screwed up so bad. So many things I screwed up." He turned his back on her and paced in front of the door. "I'm going to turn it around, you need to trust me. That's what we do, right? We trust each other."
She didn't know what to do. Seeing him like this shattered her heart into a billion bits of searing pain. 
"What do you want from me? A traveling buddy? I want more, Devon. I want a life, a good life, stability and a career. We're too old to be roaming aimlessly around the country. It's time to grow up. We're twenty-three, college is over." 
"Do you hear yourself? Twenty-three is young, too young to be getting married –especially getting married to that asshole."
"Why are you doing this to me now?"
"Why are you marrying him when six months ago you told me that you loved me?"
"That was before."
"Before Brandon. Say it." 
"You're a walking disaster, Devon Ross."
"So are you, Darby Shaw, you just hide it better."
She shoved bits of bent flowers back into her bouquet while fighting back tears. "I've made a commitment."
"To the wrong man." 
"And you're the right one? You still smell like beer, Dev."
He stopped his pacing and faced her, a grim look on his face. "Yeah, I probably do. I needed to get the courage up to stop you from making the biggest mistake of your life. I guess I failed at that, too."
"Damn it, Dev." She tossed the flowers onto the floor and stomped her foot out of sheer frustration. 
"No, I get it." He held his hands up in surrender. "I'm out. You will never see me again, Darby Shaw. No one in this fucking town will ever need to put up with my presence again. I promise you that." 
He turned abruptly and stormed out of the door. 
She heard her bridesmaids entering the bridal cottage and calling her name. 
"Devon, stop." She didn't want to yell to draw attention from the guests walking toward the ceremony site at Tailwind. She winced at the significance of getting married at his parents' resort, the place where they had played as kids, where they had sneaked into vacant guest cabins to fuck when they were teenagers. It must all seem like a giant 'screw you' to him. 
He disappeared around towering hedges and the idea that that would be the last time she would see him terrified her. 
Uncaring of anything but stopping him, she kicked off her high heels, lifted up her dress, and ran across the grass. He was already getting into his truck when she turned the corner. 
She ran faster, not knowing exactly what she would do when she reached him, but knowing that if the choice was between living with him in her life or without him in her life, she would choose the former. 
She waved her hands in the air as he turned the truck onto the driveway. 
He didn't stop or look back. 
He simply drove away.

Devon turned back now, as if sensing her watching him, and lifted a hand in a brief wave goodbye. 
She blinked back the tears, thankful that he couldn't see them, and waved back. 
No, she wouldn't tell him about that day. Him knowing wouldn't change the past ten years. Sometimes keeping secrets saved the day. 


From the back cover: 

Flames rip through southern Colorado and fire crews from across the US rush to battle the Million Dollar Fire. Devon Ross never thought he would step foot into his hometown of Ouray again, but as captain of the Flame Slayers—an elite fire jumping squad out of California—his call to duty thrusts him into a collision course with his past.

Darby Shaw can't believe her eyes when she sees Devon at the makeshift camp for the fire crews. He had disappeared—literally—ten years ago and his possible whereabouts had become a source of town lore. Seeing him here, now, under these crisis conditions, creates a whirlwind of conflict within her. The last time she had seen him face-to-face, she had whipped him with her wedding bouquet. 

There is an arsonist in their midst. When a second fire develops southeast of town, the life and death struggle intensifies. 

Devon may be brave when facing down a fire, but is he courageous enough to confront his reasons for cutting ties with his family and friends? Can Darby come to terms with the depth of her past betrayal? Will the seduction of the flame be more powerful than love? With the fire roaring its way through the mountain landscape, time works against them as they struggle to heal what went wrong between them for a second chance at a what-if.