Bestselling Author Delilah Devlin
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Flash Point

His touch makes her burn…

Troy Barlow wasn’t looking for love when he competed in the Texas Tough Firefighting Competition, but one feisty little blonde caught his attention and wouldn’t let go. The more she tried to deflect him, the more determined he became to make an impression, until he did something she couldn’t possibly ignore.

The last thing Diana Boyle expected to feel was attraction for another firefighter. After her husband’s death, she’d been adamant — never another firefighter. But Troy was impossible to escape. When he wore down her resolve, she thought a one-night-stand might purge him from her system once and for all, but his powerful appeal and uninhibited lust and zest for life were addictive. When a harrowing fire threatens their newfound happiness, Diana has to face her worst fears.

Read an Excerpt

Troy Barlow began pulling up the hem of his T-shirt to wipe away the sweat stinging his eyes, and the constant chattering nearby silenced. The women leaning over the fence bordering the track circling the high school football field had their cell phones poised, waiting to view some skin. To tell the truth, he’d been flattered by all the attention, at first, but now he was more than a little tired of it.

Sure, he’d been warned when it was announced that the Caldera FD would be hosting the Texas Tough Firefighting Competition that year. His boss, Chief Blake Thacker, had mentioned the event was a babe magnet, but during opening ceremonies, he’d made a huge point of introducing his pretty wife the mayor. In the next instant, the honeys standing at the sidelines had turned their attention Troy’s way.

And while there were dozens of well-honed bodies around for them to ogle, he’d been introduced as a new local firefighter, “A single guy, ladies,” and therefore available for pursuit by the unmarried women of Caldera. And there seemed to be many. Other firefighters from firehouses all over Texas were only in town for the weekend, and therefore not nearly as interesting. After a day of having his every twist and turn inspected, Troy was feeling like a piece of meat.

Not that he wouldn’t have minded one particular woman’s attention. A pretty blonde with bottle-green eyes and a slim, but curvy, figure. She sat behind the San Angelo firefighters’ table, pouring plastic cups of ice water and handing out cookies to the men and women she’d come to support.

He’d already determined that she wasn’t one of the firefighter’s women. She treated them all with equal affection. And when he’d ogled her a little too long, one of the San Angelo crew had approached him to introduce himself and tell him to look elsewhere.

Cade Westmoreland’s expression had been bullish. Troy knew to take him seriously, because he’d attended the same state-run training sessions with the man a time or two over the years. Cade was a decent firefighter and built like a tank.

Troy wasn’t interested in starting trouble, but the woman had drawn his eye from the moment he’d arrived that morning. She’d worked the registration table, giving him a form to complete before he could receive a band to wear around his upper arm with his contestant number.

He was fairly new to Caldera, but he’d known instantly she wasn’t from around here. If he’d spotted her once, he would never have forgotten her. Not that she was the prettiest woman he’d ever seen, but something about her, an air of fragility, pulled at his protective instincts—which was completely at odds with the stubborn tilt of her chin. Something she’d shown him when he’d tried to chat her up. “I’m Troy Barlow,” he’d said, tipping his straw cowboy hat.

“Of course, you are,” she’d said and handed him a form. “Bring it back when you’re finished, and I’ll give you your arm band.”

“Not telling me your name?” he’d drawled.

Her chin had jutted upward. Her green eyes narrowed. She’d cleared her throat and reached for another form, handing it to a firefighter from Dallas, one Troy knew from another workshop they’d both attended. The world of professional firefighters was small. And a guy tried not to ruffle feathers because he never knew who he might be working with or for down the road.

He’d let Kole Brandt jostle him to the side, his cheeks heating because his friend had witnessed her set down and grinned. Troy had moved to a folding chair to fill out his registration. By the time he’d finished, a line of firefighters stood in front of her. She’d held out her hand for his form and quickly passed him his armband. And that had been the end of their conversation.

Still, he hadn’t been able to keep his gaze from seeking her throughout the day. Every time he’d finished an event, he’d searched, encouraged when he found her looking his way, even if she did immediately give him her back or pretend she wasn’t staring.

He guessed he wasn’t hard to miss. Even in a crowd. Besides his large frame, he was extremely athletic. A ringer, some of the firehouses had complained good-naturedly to his chief. Which was true, he’d competed nationally in other firefighter challenges and placed. But this weekend wasn’t about trophies or blue ribbons, the competition was about raising money for the Fallen Firefighters Fund. Chief Thacker had told his crew not to embarrass him, placing would be nice, but having fun and making sure the people attending enjoyed themselves was the highest priority.

Troy had already done his part, winning the ladder competition—his score seconds faster than Cade’s score climbing a ladder up a tower of scaffolding. He’d helped his team secure second in the hose relay, where firefighters representing their houses ran with fire hoses, extending them as fast as they could to the next firefighter on the track, who then had to run with his own section of hose toward the finish line. Yeah, he’d more than done his part. And while he was pretty sure he could blow through the competition during this final event, he didn’t think his boss would mind if he broke the rules and disqualified himself—all in the name of giving the crowd something they’d love.

At last, his turn arrived to stand behind the starting line, this time beside Kole. There being only two Rescue Randy dolls meant only two firefighters could compete at one time. The goal was to lift the weighted doll and drag it to “safety” a hundred feet to the finish line. Troy eyed the doll lying on the ground in front of him and smirked.

“Don’t think I’m making this easy for you,” Kole said.

Troy fought to keep his voice even. “Oh, I know you can give me some competition. Just don’t break your stride over anything I might do.”

Kole shook his head and laughed. “Already making excuses for why I’m gonna smoke your ass?”

“Just saying,” Troy said, grinning. He shot a look at the blonde woman’s table. Her gaze widened when it locked with his. Did instinct tell her she ought to run? He hoped so.

A shot rang out, and Kole leapt forward to pick up his doll, tucking his hands under its armpits and shuffling backwards down the track.

Troy turned and darted into the crowd, heading straight for the woman’s refreshment table.

“And we have a firefighter who’s a little directionally challenged,” drawled the commentator over the loudspeaker.

Troy didn’t break stride, leaping over duffels and hoses, his gaze on his prize.

His prey’s eyes widened farther, and she pushed up from her chair, her head turning left and right as though making sure she really was his quarry. Her delayed reaction gave him time to catch her. He planted a hand on her shoulder, turned her gently, then bent and pushed his shoulder against her soft belly.

With a yelp, she folded over his shoulder and grabbed for his waistband to steady herself, because he was already straightening and turning. From the corner of his eye, he noted the firefighters from San Angelo beginning to stand, hands fisted as they moved to cut him off, but he was closer to the track, and definitely more determined. He reached up to pat her bottom. “Hold on tight. I’ll try not to bounce you too much, sweetheart.” With laughter ringing out among the onlookers, he jogged behind Kole who shook his head and continued dragging the dummy down the track.

“Seriously, bro?” Kole shouted out.

“Put me down, idiot!” came the sweet, chopped voice of his victim.

“Can’t now, hon. I’m committed. You really should have told me your name. We’d have shook hands, I’d have asked you for your number and a date—”

“I would have said no!”

He laughed, not the least disappointed. She acted as he’d expected. “And that would have been okay. Not that I would have given up.” He slowed his pace, not wanting the race to end too quickly.

Kole laughed too hilariously to threaten anyone’s time. At the moment, he was bent over the doll he’d dropped as he held his sides.

Troy was nearly running in place, doing his best to drag out his rescue. “Yeah, I’d have called, and when you blocked my number, I would have shown up at your job and sweet-talked all your friends into telling me where to find you.”

She wiggled on his shoulder, pinched his sides. “You’re just a stalker! A freaking perv.”

Only he noted that she didn’t sound very outraged. Instead, she sounded like she was choking. Was she laughing? He grinned.

“And you’re a liar. There’s no way you could find out where I live or work.”

“Sweetheart, I have friends with badges. I’d have followed you to your car, got your plate number—”

“That’s illegal. Officers wouldn’t just run a plate like that.”

“I’d have said you stole something. That I saw a pretty girl carrying it away. And hey, I did my civic duty and wrote down her license plate…”

“Oh yeah? And what did I steal?”

Pretending to stumble, he patted her ass again. “You don’t know what you took?”

This time laughter shook her frame. “You’re a jerk.”

“That’s okay. You’re a thief.” He crossed the line behind Kole and turned toward the crowd, holding out his arms and raising his hands, still balancing her slim body on one shoulder.

The crowd roared, but her friends moved in on him, their faces tight and red. He figured he needed her help to keep this friendly and slowly bent, lowering her to the ground.

She shook back her hair and met his gaze. “What did I take?” she asked, her face reddened, her expression a mixture of embarrassment and something kind of…poignant.

Troy hated to end the moment. She deserved a truthful answer. Instead, he reached for her shoulders and turned her toward her friends, then wrapped an arm around her middle and pulled her against his side. “Don’t suppose you could tell them we planned this, huh?”

She gave a breathless laugh and cocked an eyebrow. “Think it would help? They look pretty pissed.”

“Maybe they’d believe it, if…” Knowing he gambled but couldn’t resist, he turned her again, bent with her, and then brushed her mouth with his.

The crowd roared their approval.

He glanced toward her friends who’d slowed their stomps, deep frowns lessening as her hands rose to grip his shoulders. And for a moment, he forgot this was just a way to blow off steam, to teach her a little lesson in good dating manners. Forgotten was the crowd. His boss. Her friends. His attention narrowed to the soft lips moving beneath his, the small hands kneading his shoulders.

As he deepened the kiss, he felt something click into place. A feeling of certainty. Crazy as it might have sounded if he’d said it out loud, he knew she was meant for him. That she had indeed stolen his heart. Now, he wondered how he’d help her see the truth—that he was meant for her. As stubborn as she was, he doubted she’d simply take his word. Nope, she’d make him work for the privilege of calling her his. At the thought of the kind of work it might take, he deepened his kiss.