Excerpt from SLOW BURN

Slow BurnThe need for an Advil reached kill-for-it status, the dull throb behind Faye’s eyes a warning last night’s adventure had not gone as planned. Her headache threatened to spiral out of control.

God. What had she done?

Little flashes of memory teased her, unfortunate reminders she didn’t really want. Ma’s bar. The positively lethal rum punches the leggy blond bartender had poured. Someone popping a quarter into the jukebox, and who’d’ve thought this town would still have an old-fashioned jukebox? She’d wanted to dance and sing and laugh.

She’d done the dancing, met a few folks—and then what?

Because she clearly wasn’t sleeping it off in the Corvette, as she’d intended. She dug her fingers into the lush softness beneath her. That was one hundred percent mattress. Instead of the Corvette’s plush leather, she was lying on cotton sheets.

Hell. She was fairly certain that Strong didn’t have a motel and that she couldn’t spare the cash even if it did. Hence her whole sleep-in-the-Corvette plan.

The sound of steady breathing behind her had her opening her eyes wide despite another stab of protest from her head. It was still early, the room wrapped in that not-dark-not-quite-light shadow. She was in a cabin of some sort, the dim outline of a bathroom half-visible through a partly open door. From the middle of the enormous bed where she lay, she could also see a stone fireplace. Two easy chairs. The collection of clothes dropped haphazardly on the floor included jeans and a pair of work boots. A man’s balled up T-shirt.
No, she definitely wasn’t alone.

She looked down. A man’s arm was a warm, heavy band around her waist. There was a military tattoo on his wrist, a dangerously sexy swirl of dark ink that branded that too-large, capable hand as the lethal weapon it probably was.
Great. She’d started off her grand adventure by hooking up in a bar. She wanted to think she’d been all bold and luscious, that she’d swept this man, whoever he was, right off his feet. Unfortunately, it was looking as if she’d been the drunk pickup instead, because here she was, parked in his bed, wearing only her panties and an unfamiliar, too-large T-shirt.
At least the panties were good ones—Betsey Johnson and all wicked black mesh with little pink bows. She’d picked them out for a weekend getaway with her husband—now ex—all part of a master plan to rekindle the romance that had somehow gone AWOL from their marriage. Instead, she’d come home that afternoon and found Mike in bed with another woman.

Now she was in bed with someone else herself. Rolling over carefully, she took stock. And what a man.

She remembered this version of big, dark, and sexy from the bar all too clearly.

Unfortunately, when his eyes snapped open, on full alert, Evan Donovan didn’t look as if he was enjoying this morning-after any more than she was. He looked pissed.

“You’re the firefighter from the bar.” She couldn’t keep the note of accusation out of her voice.

“That shouldn’t come as a surprise to you,” he grumbled. “The whole damn bar was full of firefighters, darlin’. I’m just the one you happened to fall asleep on.”

“I fell asleep?” That didn’t seem possible, but he kept right on glaring at her. Still, whatever had happened, he’d brought her here. He’d put her in this bed—she was suddenly damn sure of that—and then he’d put himself right there beside her. So he had no business acting so pissy.

“Yeah,” he drawled. “One minute, there you were, perched on top of Mimi’s jukebox. The next minute, you’d picked my chest out as your new pillow.”
Pieces of memories, pieces of last night, assaulted her. Since the best defense was attack, she forced herself to lean toward him. Plus, that chest of his was something else, all hard muscles and summer-kissed skin. She wouldn’t mind starting at the top and working her way down, kissing each tempting ridge.

“You’re a big boy,” she said coolly. “I don’t think you did anything you didn’t want to do.”

Lying in this unfamiliar bed—in his bed—felt deliciously wicked. This high in the mountains, the day wasn’t hot yet. Not like it would be later, when the sun climbed right on up the sky and got to work. The cotton sheet felt good. She stretched her legs, working out the aches.

He was so big, and she didn’t know him, she reminded herself. God, this was beyond foolish. She should get out of his bed, find her clothes. Leave.
Only, she didn’t know where she wanted to go.

And she’d wanted an adventure. Last night, when she’d first laid eyes on him—before he’d opened his mouth—she’d thought he was every big-brute fantasy she’d ever had come to life. If she’d been home, back in L.A., maybe she would have worried. Right now, though, in this sleepy little town, he represented possibility, and she could feel the anticipation building inside her. He didn’t know it, but he was going to be hers. Only temporarily, of course, but she was so very tired of not living. Of coming home to an empty house. Of having empty arms.
“What,” he growled, “do you think our next step should be?”
He clearly expected her to acknowledge her mistake and get the hell out of his bed. Where he’d put her for some inexplicable reason of his own, undoubtedly tied to those protective instincts so many men seemed to come with. He was a firefighter, and that meant he knew how to protect. To defend. To keep on fighting when all that stood between the flames and others was his body and his determination to defeat the fire.

She sensed he was the last person who would hurt her.

Why not ask for what she wanted, explore where this could go? He’d been standoffish last night, but then he’d brought her here. That had to mean something.

She put a hand on his arm, soaking in the warmth of his bare skin. God, he felt so good. Live in the moment, she reminded herself.

“You could kiss me,” she said boldly.