Love's Fiery Resolution: Flynn's Crossing Romantic Suspense Series Book 10
Their arsonist could be one of their own, unless he can prove his innocence.
Gideon Kinkead is a firefighter who cares – about the burning wildland, about his peers, and about his family. He protects his brother with the same ferocity he uses to fight the flames, but his own past tragedy might be more than he can overcome. When a hot sheriff’s lieutenant demands evidence, Gid doesn’t want to resist. He’s ready and willing but not exactly able to provide more than a one night stand.
Protect and serve is what Danielle Trajan embraces, because that’s what law enforcement is all about. She didn’t rise through the ranks by being sweet, and she isn’t about to change for any man. Only her twin sees through her defenses. When her path crosses with a potential suspect who has already stolen her heart, Dani will have to decide what’s more important, her black and white principles or the chance at love.
Red roses appear each time Gideon is on a fire, and Dani suspects he knows more about these arsons than he’s letting on. He’s a player, but then, so is she. She might have to play him to learn what he knows. Will getting too close result in scorching burns for both of them, in real life and in love?
Prologue - Last Autum
Blisters formed where heat baked bare skin. Dense smoke made vision of more than a few feet impossible. Gid’s tongue had long gone dry from scorching air penetrating his breather. Twin sensations of power and fear rippled through him. Conditions were beyond the realm of reason, and he loved it.
He brought the Pulaski down with a surge, intent on digging a scratch line in partially burnt ground. The understory had disappeared on the first flash and they thought they had this front contained. Madame Fire had other ideas. A gust of wind built into a flame devil, tearing a new hole in their line and racing away, even as it left behind torches skipping from treetop to treetop. There was no way down, and no way up. They were left to fight the monster, cut off from help.
Still, he felt powerful. Perhaps there was something wrong with him. Part of him fought the fire with the last surge of energy he had. The other part, the part he’d like to think was wise and objective, jittered in knowing they were five men alone in hell, and despite their best efforts, they might die on this ridge.
“Hey, hey, over here.”
The disembodied voice sounded urgent but controlled. Training surpassed fear in circumstances like this. Over the roar of combustion, he heard a keening scream, and his eyes swung to the dim shape of a small building. Sparks lapped its roofline and the shingle siding smoldered.
Instructions poured over his comm unit faster than slippery retardant falling from planes above them. A fresh rain of red spattered around the team, but it made only marginal difference. Their yellow turnouts had long since turned a mixture of gray and red, making locating his men harder by the moment. Pines engulfed to their tops outraced their efforts.
“Clear a path. One evacuee, a little girl. Anyone got a spare hand?”
Gid stepped toward two waving figures. Two more flanked them with their backs turned, their faces to the advancing fire.
“Honey, we’re here to help you. Please stop struggling. We’ll get you out.”
He heard the words of the rookie. He and the other firefighter carried a child between them. A fire shelter protected her head and shoulders, making her unrecognizable. Her feet would soon suffer from the heat in those sneakers. He wondered if she could run.
The rookie said, “She was behind the cabin. I didn’t get a chance to check inside. You take her and I’ll go back.”
Gid shook his head. “Nah, keep moving. Might be safe in the streambed between the bounders. Head down. I’ll check the cabin.”
He rushed forward over their protests. Who left a child alone in a tinder dry forest? Behind him, he heard the child’s startled cries. “Binky. You have to get my Binky.”
Figures. Binky was probably a dog or a cat. But if it was a living thing and he could catch it, he’d bring it to her. The girl would have precious little else left.
He rammed the head of his Pulaski into the door and heard splinters of wood where the hinges left the old frame. The interior was darker than the forest, and he struggled to see through his visor. Smoke twirled in the light from the blaze outside. The space was meager but crammed with belongings. He heard his name called over the comm and acknowledged the directive to move out. It would only take another minute. There weren’t many places to search.
Lifting his visor, he peered into the corners. “Here, Binky.” He felt stupid, but he did it again anyway. “Binky, come on. You don’t want to be a roast, do you?”
The impact came from nowhere, settling with a hard thump between his shoulders blades. Pain radiated down his arms. He tightened his grip on his equipment automatically. Whatever Binky was, it was huge. He wouldn’t put it past the kid to keep a pet bear. People in these backwoods locations where never predictable.
He prepared to face his attacker when he heard shouts. The voices magnified in his earbud grew urgent.
“Kid, stop struggling. You can’t go back. He’ll find it. Honey –”
“Shit, she’s running toward the cabin. Kid, are you crazy or –”
“Gid, get outta there. Roof’s gonna go.”
The cacophony of noises, the men’s voices mixed with the pitched howls of the child, accompanied the raging voice of wildfire. He dropped his visor and turned toward the open doorway.
A large form filled his view of freedom. Raised like claws on the ends of arms extending from a big body, something loomed over him. Outside over the shrieks of the inferno, he heard the child’s plea.
“Binky. I need Binky.”
Something slammed into his face, cracking the visor’s surface in a snowflake of fissures. What the hell? Another crash and he recovered his protective instincts and raised his tool to shield him from the next impact. This time, the swipe of a strike closed on the handle with a determined yank.
“Get out of my house,” said a deep raspy voice, with enough rage to convince him he was hearing things. Everyone knew bears didn’t talk.
The large hands closed on either side of his and pulled the handle away as if he’d been holding on with a single finger.
“Binky. Binky.” The girl’s sobs registered in his comm and echoed from the doorway, and he realized she was inside.
“Kinkead, outta there now. Gid, get out.”
Frantic shouts in his ear went unheard when a flash from the woods lit the interior with an unearthly glow. In the light, he saw his attacker. A man taller than him by a good foot and more and with shoulders so broad, he probably needed to turn sideways to enter the door. But what scared him the most were the man’s eyes. Even in the dimness, he could see their whites and the crazed expression in them. The bear of a man raised the Pulaski in the air with the fine point aimed for Gid’s head. It bore down and he heard his own voice scream with the impending collision.
“Wake up, man. Kinkead, wake up. Gid?”
Rough shakes tumbled him over until his face bit into dirt. Something heavy pressed against his back, holding him in place. He struggled to free his arms, but they were pinned at his sides.
“It’s okay, man. Gid, it was a dream. You’re safe.”
The voice penetrated. He wasn’t fighting for his life. The weight on his back wasn’t the bear-man. He drew deep breaths, feeling the douse of unhealthy sweat soak his sleeping bag. He stopped fighting, letting his body go limp as he turned his head.
“I’m okay.” His voice came out weak without conviction and he tried again. “I’m awake.”
The pressure eased, and the face of another firefighter swam into view as the man knelt next to him. Shaking his arms to stop their trembles, Gid drew a deep breath and pushed himself up to his knees. Feet shuffled in the small group surrounding him. He lifted his gaze to meet sympathetic eyes, but something else lurked behind those expressions.
This would never be over.