UPDATE: The winner is Ronnie C!
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Christmas is almost here! And so much is happening in my world, I’m having a hard time catching my breath.
Some of you may remember that, last year, my family was dealing with my then 97-year-old grandma who had fallen and broken her back. After spending time in rehab, she was moved home, and our family pitched in to give her round-the-clock care. Well, this year is a new crisis. Beginning about two weeks ago, her health is failing, and despite the doctor’s best efforts, and ours, she’s declining. I suppose it’s to be expected at 98, and she’s ready for it. Still, we’re all very saddened, and we’re back in “pitch-in” mode.
My dd is her nighttime care-giver now. My SIL just started a new job with the sheriff’s office and works nights. So, guess what my job is? Yeah, I’m the kids’ nighttime babysitter. They are running me ragged, and my working hours have been slashed. We’re all tired and squeezed. No complaints though. Grandma and the kids come first.
So, here’s hoping your holidays are more joyous and restful than mine!
Hotter With A Pole
Noah hopes buying the classic ’68 Camaro from a fellow firefighter’s widow will ease some of the grief weighing down his heart. When a noise under the hood sends him looking for a mechanic, he finds so much more. Big and burly Hoyt grabs Noah’s attention right off, and not just because of his bad-boy biker looks and ice-blue eyes. The fact Hoyt is a Dom and a member at Club LaForge certainly interests Noah.
Hoyt never thought he’d feel that rush with a man again after his partner died, but his body certainly reacts to meeting Noah. LaForge seems like the perfect place to meet and work off some energy and explore this sudden flood of desire. The heat between them starts to burn through their emotional barriers, whether the men are ready to make a deeper connection or not.
Read an Excerpt
Noah stopped before the sign at the intersection. One right turn and one block’s drive, and he’d be at the fire house.
His fingers tightened on the leather-wrapped steering wheel of the Camaro. He still didn’t think of it as his Camaro. No one at the station would either. It was Danny Truitt’s car.
And the only reason Noah was driving it now was because Danny was dead.
“Huh.” Noah rubbed the pain over his heart. It was funny, but even thinking those words still had the power to make his chest tighten. Which made driving his buddy’s car feel somehow disloyal.
When Melody, Danny’s widow, had offered the car for sale to someone at the firehouse, he’d been sure Coop would take it. Coop had been Danny’s best friend, but Coop had stayed in a deep blue funk for weeks after the accident. Melody had wanted the car that had been Danny’s pride and joy out of the garage because she said looking at it hurt. When Coop walked away, Noah, who had always admired the car, paid her better than market value for the black 68 Camaro with white racing stripes stretched over the hood, but then he’d only stored it in his apartment building’s parking garage under a tarp.
Today, was the first time the car had been driven since he brought it home. And he was taking it to the station. Farley Russell, the grief counselor working with the men at Firehouse 69, said it was time to own it. Let the guys feel the punch to the gut when they first saw it. Danny was gone, but they needed to move through their grief, to talk about the things they’d loved about Danny—and his cherry Camaro he’d spent so many hours restoring was one of those things.
Every one of the guys at the firehouse had lent a hand with the car at one time or another. Whether helping to change the oil or apply a layer of Turtle Wax to the fresh paint job, they’d bonded over the car that had been a regular fixture in their parking lot.
Noah nudged the gas pedal but rather than getting a steady purr and moving into the intersection, the car sputtered and died. He twisted the key in the ignition, listened to the metallic grind as it started up, then put it into gear again and pulled forward. As soon as this shift was over, he’d drop it at the repair shop just around the corner from his apartment. The old girl needed a tune-up and likely a new starter, and he wasn’t willing to tinker under the hood. Not without Danny standing at his elbow to supervise.
A minute later, he rolled into the station’s parking lot, cut the engine and climbed out of the car. The bay doors were open, and the guys from the previous shift were beginning to filter out into the lot, heading to their own cars. Their gazes snagged on the Mustang, but other than a nod to him, they quickly looked away and moved on.
He made his way through the bay and into the open recreation room. The smell of bacon frying made his stomach lurch. As he’d feared, the guys on his shift lined the window facing the parking lot, Coop at the center, hands on his hips.
Noah stiffened, waiting to see how they’d all react, but especially how Coop would. He didn’t want to rub salt into a gaping wound. Wouldn’t have dared if Russell hadn’t suggested it.
Slowly, Coop glanced over his shoulder. His crooked smile was at odds with the stark look of his blue eyes. “She looks great. I can tell she’s in good hands.”
Noah gave him a nod, and feeling lighter, headed toward the locker room to stow his gear.
His gaze went to the new guy’s locker—Danny’s old locker. A gold plate replaced the temporary masking tape label. Luke Harris seemed to be all right. Seemed a good fit. Ex-military and older than most rookies, he hadn’t made any mistakes, so far, and he’d been a good sport about the probie hazing rituals. Last shift when his cot had collapsed due to a few loosened bolts, he’d laughed and settled back, hands behind his head, announcing he preferred a firm mattress.
Noah stowed his gear and ambled back to the rec room. The men had moved away from the window. The TV blared with the morning news. Luke was busy ladling scrambled eggs into a dish. Coop was seated at the table with a cup of coffee in his hand.
Noah poured himself a cup and took his usual seat beside him.
“I’m serious. I’m glad you took the car. Danny would have liked that.”
Noah nodded. “Melody wanted it gone. If you ever want to take it off my hands…”
Coop arched a brow. “What? You don’t like it?”
“Of course, I do. I love it, but you were his best friend.”
“Then shut up.” Coop’s smile was sad, but relaxed, something everyone at the firehouse was relieved to see, because he’d been a walking dead man since the roof collapse that had claimed Danny. Noah could only imagine the guilt Coop had felt, however misplaced. He’d been on the roof standing right beside Danny. But shit happened in fires.
“I’m coping better these days,” Coop said, “but I don’t want the car. Besides, Moira and I are talking about getting married, and we’ll be looking for something more family-friendly.”
Noah’s jaw dropped just a little. He was happy for his friend. “Seriously?” He playfully punched his arm. “You dog.”
“Yeah. Things are good.” His gaze went to the window. To the car. “Just wish Danny had met her.”
“Melody already thinks of her as a sister.”
Coop made a face. “I’m just glad no one’s blabbed to Mel about how we met.”
Noah choked on his first sip of coffee and quickly set it down. “What did you tell her? I know she had to have asked.”
“I told her I met her when I was out clubbing with the guys.”
Noah chuckled. “Kept it close to the truth. Smart.”
“Will we see you there tomorrow night?”
The way Coop asked, too casual to be real, had him giving Coop a steady stare. “She talked you into it, didn’t she? You’re going to play on a stage.”
Coop grimaced and took a quick sip of his own coffee. Then he cleared his throat. “With Britney and Anton.”
Noah’s grin stretched so wide he felt the pull in his cheeks. “No shit.”
“So if you don’t go tomorrow night…”
He knew Coop was asking him not to come. It was bad enough he’d be showing his junk to a crowd of strangers. Noah patted his shoulder. “Of course, I’ll be there. A show of support. Wouldn’t want you to be putting on a scene without anyone there to watch.”
Coop rubbed his eyes and then gave a rueful shake of his head. “If I didn’t love her…”
Luke Harris approached the table, and Coop and Noah quieted. The new guy wasn’t aware of their shift’s extra-curricular activities at Club La Forge. They didn’t know him well enough or trust him to keep quiet about the fact they all frequented a BDSM club. Everyone except the LT and the new guy was aware.
Drawn by the smell of food, the rest of the firefighters on the shift gathered around the table, helping themselves to biscuits and gravy, bacon, eggs and toast. “This is good,” Noah said, reaching for the Louisiana Hot Sauce.
Luke smiled his thanks. “Hard to screw up breakfast.”
They laughed, thinking about the spaghetti he’d made the last shift that had stuck together like a giant dumpling.
“Never had to eat spaghetti with a knife before,” Gage Eastwood said in his gruff voice. “What new culinary delight are you gonna inflict on us tonight, Harris?”
“Thought I’d try meatloaf.”
“Noah makes the best,” Lieutenant Knox said, giving Noah a steady glare.
“Yeah, I’ll show you how I make it,” Noah said, then ducked his head and kept eating. It was time to treat the guy like one of the crew. He’d earned his spot the last few times out.
And it was time to stop resenting the fact he’d replaced Danny. Wasn’t his fault Danny wasn’t there. “I’ll show you how to make scalloped potatoes like my mama, too.”
Gage groaned. “Love your mama’s potatoes.”
Noah glanced around the table, happy to be among his crew and feeling lighter than he had since that fateful day when the roof collapsed beneath Danny’s feet. They were all moving on. Not that they’d ever forget, but at last, the raw agony of their loss had passed.
Farley Russell had been right. The Camaro might always be Danny’s, but it also belonged to the firehouse. And he belonged to it as well. Past and present pulling together, knitting as cleanly as a healing fracture.
Coop kicked his foot under the table and nodded toward Luke Harris. “Think it’s time to feel him out?”
Noah studied Luke for a long moment and nodded. He’d been a Marine. Knew how to be loyal. And he seemed to want to belong. There was nothing like bonding with a group of guys bent on playing rough. “While we’re cooking dinner…”
They glanced around and snagged Gage’s gaze. Gage as always was perfectly in tune with their conversation even if he was across the wide table from them. He grunted and stuck another forkful of eggs in his mouth.
Noah could almost read his mind. “Gettin’ too cozy here,” he’d say. Not that Gage missed a Friday at the club either. Friday night was time to play, to get their sexy on, and try things they’d never have dared on their own. Where else could a guy paddle a woman he had tied up and bent over a bench and not worry he’d overstepped? Not with skilled Doms watching over them.
Not that Noah liked spanking girls. No, he was discovering a side of himself he’d never have known if not for the freedom afforded at the club. For nothing gave him greater pleasure, made him harder, than bending over that bench himself. The first time Anton had raked his balls with the soft strands of a flogger, he’d nearly shot off like canon.
When Anton had ringed his cock to prevent his orgasm, he’d been shocked, not because Anton was handling his junk—he’d watched him handle Coop’s without Coop getting too bent out of shape—but because he’d liked the idea of large firm hand gripping his cock.
At first, repulsed by the thought, he’d grown more accepting. The club did that. Seeing men and women float from male to female partnerings, learning the ins and outs of that lifestyle, he’d grown inured. And the fact some of their good friends were in ménage relationships where the men interacted as easily as they did with the woman who completed their trio, made it feel more…natural.
Still, Noah had yet to act on the yearnings that had been building inside him as night after night at the club, he watched men taking dicks in their asses and their mouths, and he wondered what it would feel like. Whether he was just curious or whether he would love it. But he worried about doing it in a public setting. Definitely, not on one of the stages or anywhere inside the salon. Maybe in private. Away from prying eyes, while he came to terms with what he might be and what he might need.
He didn’t think the guys on his crew would look at him any differently. They’d seen too much real shit to care which way his dick swung. But firefighters as whole were a macho group. Others wouldn’t be as accepting.
If he was actually gay. But that wasn’t even something that bothered him at the moment. He wasn’t looking. Experimenting at the club was simply showing him there were other options. At the moment, he’d only admit to being curious.
He spooned egg onto a biscuit and broke two pieces of bacon in half and stacked them on the sandwich.
Gage perked up across the table from him and made his own sandwich.
Sure enough, a second later, tones blared, followed by the dispatcher’s voice. A structure fire. Apartments. People trapped.
“Damned uncanny,” Gage barked as they hotfooted it to the truck in the bay, his sandwich in hand.
Noah shrugged and hurried along. So, he had these feelings every now and then, something seemed to tell him when a call was coming. Firemen were a superstitious lot anyway. He didn’t think too hard on it.
Putting his sandwich in his mouth to free his hands, he stepped into his turnout gear, eased his boots on, and then climbed into the truck as he closed his jacket. Once inside, he glanced across at Gage who was busy stuffing the rest of his breakfast in his mouth.
Gage gave him a nod, and Noah finished his own sandwich. Then they both gazed out the window, getting ready for the next battle, and praying silently they wouldn’t lose anyone else.
The next morning, Gage pulled into the automotive shop and cut his engine. He sat for a moment, breathing in the fresh air, feeling light and happy—surprisingly fresh given the fact he hadn’t slept a wink during his shift.
It had been a good fire. Yes, several units of the apartment building had been left charred hulls—but no one had died. He’d rescued a baby from a crib before the smoke had roiled in to smother her. Retrieving a dead child from a fire was the worst fate a firefighter faced. A save was the best. Once he’d placed the crying infant in her mother’s arms, he’d felt like a superhero and was reminded why he loved the job.
All the firefighters had looked up as he’d handed over the little blonde-haired cherub and smiled. The mood at the station had been happy even if they were dead tired.
When he entered the auto shop, a young woman with a dirty blonde ponytail sat at the desk.
She glanced up and offered him a smile, and then her gaze went to the Mustang just outside the door. “You’ll want Hoyt.” She raised a hand and pointed inside the garage. “He’s working on the Beemer.”
Noah entered the shop and passed a row of empty, rectangular pits, heading straight toward a shiny black BMW, the hood raised, a tall figure bent over the engine.
He couldn’t help but look. “Hoyt” was a husky dude, thick arms and thighs, a tattoo ringed the upper arm exposed by the rolled sleeve of his t-shirt—something black and tribal. But Noah’s gaze didn’t linger there. He noted the long black hair tied back and the stubble on the side of a firm jaw.
Noah cleared his throat. “The lady inside said I’d want you.” A flush heated the back of his neck when he realized what he’d said.
Hoyt glanced to the side then straightened, reached into his back pocket for the greasy bandana hanging there, and wiped his hands before offering one to Noah. “Did she now?” His gaze narrowed and gave Noah a bold onceover.
Had he been checking him out? Noah’s stomach tightened. Felt…fluttery. The blush spread across his cheeks. He jerked his thumb over his shoulder toward the lot outside. “I have a Camaro.”
Hoyt’s mouth quirked up on one side.
Noah couldn’t help but drop his gaze to that smile. He didn’t miss the sparkle of humor in Hoyt’s pale blue eyes.
Feeling flustered and not liking it one bit, Noah turned on his heel and walked through the garage doors to the car.
Outside, with the sun beating down, he felt more in control, until he reached the Camaro and turned. The closer Hoyt drew the more unraveled he became. Damn, he liked the way the other man moved. His hips rolled. His long legs ate up the pavement as he neared. He moved gracefully, like a big cat. Every move economical. The front of his dark tee depicted a Harley and a local bike club’s name. Already in his mind’s eye, he was picturing Hoyt in black leather pants as he strapped him to a St. Andrew’s cross.
“I haven’t driven her much since I bought her,” Noah blurted. “She died at an intersection yesterday, and ever since, she grinds when I twist the key.”
Hoyt grunted and held out his hand for the keys.
Noah passed them and nearly groaned when Hoyt’s gaze snagged on the La Forge key fob in the shape of an iron anvil. From the way he hesitated, Noah had the sneaking suspicion the other man recognized it.
Hoyt opened the door and slid behind the wheel, taking a second to adjust the seat backward to accommodate his longer legs. He adjusted the throttle and turned the key. A grinding sound was followed by the slow tumble of the engine as it roared into life.
“Your starter’s going.”
“Yeah, I figured it was the starter.”
Hoyt glanced around the interior of the car, his lips pursing as he gave a slow whistle. “She’s in nice shape.” He glanced up, his gaze squinting. “Might take a while to get the part.”
“It’s an old car. I figured that too.”
Hoyt smiled. “Need a lift home or are you going to keep driving her until I can get the part in?”
It was on the tip of his tongue to tell Hoyt he could drive it home and park it, but the thought of sharing a ride with the man…
Excitement stirred inside him. That look had probably meant nothing. The other man might even be mocking his interest, but on the off-chance the spark was returned, he nodded. “Yeah, I could use a ride.”