Series: Red Hot Valentine , Book 1.0
By: Jodi Redford | Other books by Jodi Redford
Published By: Jodi Redford
Published: Jan 18, 2014
ISBN # 9781310948466
By: Jodi Redford | Other books by Jodi Redford
Published By: Jodi Redford
Published: Jan 18, 2014
ISBN # 9781310948466
Word Count: 24,000
Available in: Epub, Mobipocket (.mobi), Adobe Acrobat
DescriptionValentine’s Day—the bane of Rory Sinclair’s existence. Hard to forgive the one holiday responsible for the single most moronic decision of her life. If it was up to her, she’d skip anything to do with cupid, but with her business partner home sick with the flu, she’s stuck delivering a bunch of cookie bouquets to a local firehouse. Who knows, maybe she’ll cure her Valentine’s Day neurosis and heat up the mattress with a hunky firefighter. Her plan of donning some edible undies and getting her freak on goes up in flames though the instant she steps through the doors of Station 5 and spots Bennet Jackson—the man responsible for her decade long Valentine’s Day boycott.
No matter how hard he’s tried, Ben has never gotten over the innocent girl he foolishly let slip between his fingers. When Rory unexpectedly crashes back into his world, he figures it’s his only shot at righting the wrongs of his past and getting her back in his bed and his life. For good. Unfortunately, she has other plans. Ones that don’t include him. He’s well aware that she has every reason to despise him, but if there’s one thing he’s up for, it’s a challenge. Because there’s no way in hell he’s losing the woman of his dreams again. And this time he’s prepared to pull out every dirty, sexy, and hotter-than-sin trick to convince her to stay.
Reader Rating: Not rated (0 Ratings)
Sensuality Rating: Not rated
Excerpt:Cupid. If it were up to her, Rory Sinclair would happily dropkick that little bastard off the nearest bridge. Instead she pasted on her best chipper smile and inspected it in the rear view mirror. I look like I’m f@@@ing constipated. She canned the smile with a grimace and merged into the right lane just as the opening strains of Def Leppard’s Pour Some Sugar On Me blasted from her cellphone. Distracted, she grabbed the device from its resting place in the center cup holder and jabbed the Talk button with her nail. “Hello?”
“Do you know what day it is?” A long death rattle of a cough rear-ended Hailey Yearwood’s raspy demand.
“It’s freakin’ Valentine’s Day. You are not allowed to mingle with the public today, much less deliver heart-shaped baked goods. You know this.”
“Relax, I’m fine. Trisha asked if she could stay back at the store and man the counter so she could get some studying done in between customers.” Rory eased up on the gas and scanned the addresses on the buildings flanking Lincoln Avenue. “And why are you calling me? You’re supposed to be taking it easy.” Earlier in the week, Hailey had come down with a hellacious case of the flu, hence the reason why she currently sounded like she was Harvey Fierstein’s vocal stand in. Hailey’s contagious cruddies were also the numero uno reason for Rory having to forgo her annual Valentine’s Day boycott. Something Hailey was clearly stressing big time over. Not that Rory necessarily blamed her. When it came to incompatible commodities, Rory and Valentine’s Day ranked somewhere between fire and gasoline and water and electricity.
Another phlegm-filled wheeze drifted through the receiver. “I’m lying in bed, not running a marathon, for cripe’s sake.”
Rory squinted. “Are you taking your antibiotics like you’re supposed to?”
“Yes. For the most part.”
“Hail, what am I going to do with you?” In addition to them owning The Sweet Spot together, they’d been best friends since middle school. It was Rory’s responsibility to make sure Hailey took care of herself, and vice versa.
“I hate medicine. All those side effects causing God knows what issues later on down the road.”
“You mean like actually being able to breathe and talk normally again? Yee gads, the horror.”
“I’ll take my pills as soon as I know you’re done with the deliveries.”
An imposing brick building with two shiny red fire trucks parked out front popped into view, and Rory mentally pumped her fist in victory. “I’m about to pull into the last one.”
Rory nosed her Subaru into the Fire Station’s service drive and scoped for a place to park. “I’ll have you know that I managed to get through every single delivery without once mentioning the weirdness of venerating a holiday that encourages open bow season on humans via a Pampers-wearing man-baby.”
“Yeah, you can run as many victory laps as you want for that crowning achievement after wrapping things up at that last stop. Where are you, anyway?”
“Fire Station 5, AKA House of the Smokin’ Hot Hotties.”
“Just don’t blow this one, okay? It could be a good gig for us.” A series of rattling coughs interrupted Hailey’s speech before she continued on. “Make sure and mention our daily muffin specials while you’re at it too. Firemen freakin’ love muffins.”
Rory quirked an eyebrow. “Where did you hear that newsflash?”
“I might have made it up. I think the sleep deprivation is starting to kick in.”
“Take. Your. Meds. And don’t fret anymore, Ms. Worry Wart. By the time I’m done with these fire dudes, they will freakin’ love muffins. And everything else The Sweet Spot has to offer.”
“I’ll just be happy if you get out of there sans any suggestion of d@@k-punching Cupid.”
“Jeez Louise, I mention it one time, and it’s held against me the rest of my life.” Rolling her eyes, Rory coasted into the solitary vacant spot next to the entrance and braked to a stop.
“That’s because you know damn well it isn’t Cupid who deserves the left hook to his nads.”
Rory massaged her temple. “Could we please not talk about that right now?” It was bad enough she had this damn holiday as a constant reminder. Short of it being permanently stricken from the calendar, she had no choice but to pull up her big girl panties and deal with it. But there was no way in hell she was going to waste one more thought on he-who-shall-not-be-named.
“It’s been ten years, Rory. Bennet Jackson doesn’t deserve another second of your mental energy.”
I know. I’m obviously a pathetic loser who’s mastered the art of holding a grudge. Go me. As much as she wanted to cling to the delusion of that being all it amounted to, the shameful truth was it went much deeper than that. She couldn’t forget Ben because he still mattered to her, even while she wished with every fiber of her being that he didn’t.
A long silence stretched across the line before Hailey’s sigh broke the obvious void. “Just promise me this is the last Valentine’s Day you boycott because of him.”
Rory nodded. “You have my solemn oath that next year I’ll find an entirely different reason that has nothing to do with him.”
“You know that isn’t what I meant. In fact, I’ve got an idea. Reinvent the holiday. Swap out the old standard with a new, improved version of Valentine’s Day that’s actually worth celebrating.”
“Holy crap, you are sleep deprived. The delusions are setting in.”
“Scoff all you want, but I think it’d be good for you. There’s no better way to get over Bennet than replacing his memory with another one.” Hailey’s voice turned calculating. “You can’t get much hotter than a firefighter, if you get what I’m sayin’.”
In theory. But Hailey didn’t know every nitty gritty detail of Rory’s past history with Bennet. He wouldn’t be that easy to lock away in a dim compartment of her brain. Lord knows she’d tried. “I’ll give it some consideration, okay? Now go take your antibiotics and get some damn rest.” She ended the call and thunked her head back against the neck rest with a weary exhalation.
Against her will, a not entirely time-faded recollection ghosted to the forefront of her mind. Beautiful cocoa brown eyes that she swore could see all the way into the depths of her soul, a shuddered breath synchronized with her own, and the scary, sweet joy of that first moment of completely letting someone in—both physically and emotionally.
“Am I hurting you?”
“No. Ben, it’s…you’re…” A gasp leaked from her as he started to move. She wanted to tell him everything singing in her heart. How she’d waited for this moment, this intimate connection she’d saved exclusively for him. Because he was the one. The only one. Always. But the words remained jammed in her throat, the intense emotions and erotic sweet sizzle zip-lining through her body making speech impossible.
He closed his eyes and nuzzled her neck, another shuddery exhalation slipping from him. “Good. I don’t want to hurt you, Ro. Ever.”
A siren blared, scaring the living crap out of her and snapping her back to the present with a harsh jolt. It took several seconds for the burst of adrenaline to recede and her pulse to return to a non-chaotic pace. Gusting a breath, she unclicked her seat belt and pulled on her gloves and hat before hopping outside. The cacophony of the alarm drew her attention to the massive garage doors fronting the fire station the same instant the middle one clattered open. A millisecond later, a ladder truck roared through the gap, its own siren competing with the racket emitting from the master alarm bell. Rory had only a moment to gape at the blur of motion before the vehicle sped off. A fraction of a second later, she had a whole new sight to goggle at as a trio of incredibly buff men outfitted in matching charcoal gray pants and navy blue long-sleeved thermal shirts stepped through the archway. One of the guys bent at the waist and picked up a large coil of fire hose, hefting it over his shoulder like it weighed nothing. Rory swallowed with a hard gulp, ungluing her tongue from the roof of her mouth. “Holy s@@t. I think my ovaries just exploded.”
Another of the men glanced in her direction, and she quickly turned toward her car, banging her kneecap on the bumper in the process. Snuffing the stream of swear words that wanted to sneak loose, she fumbled to unlatch the rear hatch—and almost clipped her forehead when the temperamental springs decided to hoist the door upward with a whiplash swing. Jumping back in the nick of time, she silently cursed the rusted metal to hell and back before cautiously grabbing the solitary cookie bouquet nestled within The Sweet Spot’s signature red box. Hugging the container to her side, she slammed the hatch shut and covertly inspected her teeth in the window’s reflection. Satisfied there’d be no embarrassing overlooked spinach incident, she headed toward the station’s entrance. As she approached, the three hunks stalled their conversation and flashed her with their appreciative smiles. It took every ounce of her willpower not to glance over her shoulder to check if a random Penthouse model was tailing her. Then she remembered the delicious cargo she held. Now it made sense. Forget Hailey’s sleep deprived claim. Firemen freakin’ loved double chocolate chunk and macadamia cookies.
“Hi there.” The Adonis carting the oversized hose gave her a blatant once over. Apparently convinced he might have missed something the first time around, he assessed her with another smoky sweep of his gaze.
Okay, maybe it wasn’t the cookies. Flustered and well aware that her complexion probably rivaled a lobster, Rory cleared her throat. “I, uh, have a package for one of you.”
“Ya don’t say.”
For some bizarre reason she was half convinced that Mr. Hot Fire Hose was about to counter her lame reply with his own, “I’ve got a package for you too, baby.” Followed by fantastically porntastic music, courtesy of the overhead intercom.
Sadly, neither happened.
Nodding toward the bouquet, he shifted the hose to his opposite arm, finally revealing the name embroidered on his right shirt pocket. Dallas. Nice, but he’d always be Mr. Hot Fire Hose to her. “We’d be happy to take those off your hands,” he offered gallantly.
“I’m sure you would. But I doubt—” She did a quick peek of the card sticking out of the vase. “George would appreciate y’all eating his cookies before he has a chance to try them.”
The cutie patootie with the gorgeous olive skin, adorable dimples, spiky dark hair, and neatly trimmed goatee anted up a grin. “Whaddya know. I’m George.”
She gave a considering hum. “Then why does your shirt pocket say Michael?”
“It’s my last name?”
She cocked an eyebrow. “Really? You’re George Michael? How’s that singing gig going?”
All three men chuckled. The last one to speak—Nev, according to his shirt tag, and a total Taye Diggs look-alike to boot—gestured with his arm. “Come on inside. We’ll find George for you. But only if you promise to bring us something sweet next time.”
Maybe it was Nev’s wink that did her in, but the words that popped from her mouth were unexpected nonetheless. “You mean like me?” Wow, where was this flirty, suggestive side of her coming from? It’d been pretty much nonexistent since Ben—
She halted the thought before it could scattershot into a host of memories she didn’t want to dig her way out of. Bottom line, aside from a few dates and even fewer hook ups, she’d practically been living like a nun for the last decade. Past time to do something about that.
As if on cue, Hailey’s challenge performed a high stepping can-can across Rory’s mind. “You can’t get much hotter than a firefighter, if you get what I’m sayin’.”
Oh she got it, all right. And it sounded like an excellent way to get a jumpstart on her Valentine’s Day resolution to permanently exorcise he-who-shall-not-be-named from her brainpan forever. She returned her attention to The Three Hunkateers and realized they were grinning at her.
Michael stroked his goatee, his eyes sparkling wickedly. “My sweet tooth is more severe than theirs, so I naturally get automatic dibs.”
“Nice try, Probie,” Nev said with a snort. “But why would the lovely lady settle for a rookie who can’t even handle his hose properly?”
Rory triple blinked at the inherent double entendre in that not so subtle burn.
“Yeah, ‘cause if anyone here has master status when it comes to superior hose technique, it’s clearly moi,” Dallas boasted with a smug look.
Yes, clearly. Tearing her gaze from the sizable bulk of his biceps—which didn’t remotely seem to be straining under the heft of the coiled hose, for God’s sake—she juggled the cookie bouquet and tried for a coquettish smile. “Now, now, boys. There’s plenty of me to go around.” The second the words slipped free, she realized how sluttastically wrong they’d sounded. Jeez Louise, she really was out of practice at this flirtation stuff. But on the bright side, if she ever wanted to solicit herself for a gang bang she’d obviously be a freakin’ pro.
As if they’d secretly synchronized it, Dallas, Nev, and Michael licked their lips. She swallowed, feeling like a mouse caught in the crosshairs of a trio of hungry tomcats. “You know, these cookies are getting kind of heavy,” she pointed out desperately. “How about if we go find George?” Not waiting around for their assistance, she hurried inside the station. The cavernous garage greeted her with the pungent odor of diesel fuel, pine cleaner, and some unrecognizable scent that she marked as being the chemical byproduct of a science project gone horribly awry. Or possibly gym socks. That’d last been worn by a dumpster cat. She only prayed she’d be able to find George before keeling over from noxious fume asphyxiation. Battling the overwhelming desire to run through the station, dramatically screaming, “George, George, dear God, where are you, George?” she peered around frantically. Because that made complete sense, considering her superhuman ability to pinpoint the lone George in the room. Never mind that she could never find that f@@@ing Waldo dude.
She could hear Michael, Nev, and Dallas closing in on her from behind. Before they could pounce, she blindly rushed around the backend of the farthest fire engine—and smacked headfirst into a solid wall of muscle. Her breath expelling in an oof, she tottered on her heeled boots, a hot wash of panic sluicing through her as she grappled to steady the cookie bouquet gripped in her arms, and not thud onto her ass in the process.
Two big, work-roughed hands closed around hers, thwarting imminent disaster from striking. Even through the thin leather of her gloves she could feel the warmth of his skin, and it offered a peculiar comfort. Relief and gratitude swelling inside her like an uncontainable balloon, she jerked her gaze upward to her savior. “Thank you. I owe you my—” The remainder of her profuse declaration withered to dust in her throat as she locked stares with a familiar pair of cocoa brown eyes.
Her stomach pitched, the world tilting at a crazy angle. One whispered word slipped from her on a weak breath. “Bennet.”