Hope Sinclair is done with abusive men and being a victim. A new town and a new job at a local diner are all she needs for a fresh start. That is until a sexy firefighter takes up near residence in her section. He wants to be friends, but she wants something more. With the holiday bachelor auction coming up, Hope sets her heart on winning a date with Chance.
One night threatens Chance's vow to remain single, but by the time he finally admits they belong together, it might prove too late. Turns out Hope didn't run far enough and her past may be the end of them both.
THIS BOOK IS A STAND ALONE STORY.
Release date: January 15, 2019
Print pages: 132
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Finding Hope: A Dragon Shifter Fire & Rescue
Engines 31 and 32 rolled out of the station, sirens echoing into the cold, cloudy sky, and a shot of adrenaline pumped through Chance’s veins. He lived for these moments. The opportunity to serve his community by saving property and most importantly, lives. For all the hell he’d seen in his years of service, every time he rescued a victim he was reminded why he was here. After strapping himself in, he glanced over at Derrick. “So, a wedding. I suppose I should bring a date.”
Derrick gave him the side-eye. “Really? I figured you’d go solo so you could work your magic on all the single women. After all, I understand weddings are the best place to get laid.”
Chance grinned. “Speaking from experience?”
“No comment,” Derrick shot back. “Just remember, Halee will kick your ass from here to eternity if you embarrass her on her weddin’ day.”
“I wouldn’t dream of it.” He glanced out the window. “Besides, it’s her father who scares the living fuck out of me.”
“Cearul? He seems like a perfectly nice guy.”
“Oh, sure he is, but ruin his daughter’s wedding? You’ll see what a several thousand year old shifter is capable of, and personally, I have no fucking desire to bear witness up close and intimate.”
Derrick laughed. “I thought you were a dragon not a pussy.”
“Funny, ha, ha.”
Minutes later, Reese was situating them in front of a two-story house, fire on the upper floor. Cold Creek was one of the nicer subdivisions located on the edge of town. Its homes of ten years and slightly older were mostly wood frame construction, which meant they could be dealing with fire hidden inside the walls and attics.
“Chief’s on site. Let’s go,” Gaelen said as he piled out of the passenger seat and headed to locate his brother Kadin, the chief of Station 3. Chance and Derrick jumped out and Chance grabbed a six-foot pike-pole from the engine and ran across the snow-covered lawn. Gaelen met him and Derrick halfway.
“Lines are going to the second floor. You guys get up there.”
“Got it.” Chance’s internal clock kicked in as he dropped the pole, removed his left glove, shoving it between his knees, and pushed his helmet behind his head. The motions now etched into his memory, he pulled down and secured his mask, stretched his hood over his head, shoved his helmet back on and tightened the chin strap before he donned his glove. Picking up his pole, he glanced at Derrick, who had finished a nanosecond before him. This new technique had been courtesy of Derrick, who was able to mask up and be ready to enter a building in nine seconds. Kadin, their chief, had been thrilled with Derrick’s training and the competition of who in the firehouse could mask up fastest had begun.
“A little slow on the uptake there, O’Connell.” Derrick referred to Chance by his last name.
“Next time, I’ll kick your Texas ass, Taylor.”
Derrick laughed. “Bring it on.”
Chance made his way to the front door where he ran into Devin on the nozzle and Torin trailing him, dragging in a charged line. Chance took the stairs with Derrick behind him. At the top, Asher loomed in a doorway, busy shoving aside charred debris.
Fire tore through the room.
“We need a fucking line up here,” Ash shouted.
“On its way.” Chance moved into a bedroom across the hall, looking at the ceiling as he went. He spotted a basketball-sized hole and the telltale orange glow that indicated fire. As he walked through the room, he spotted a second hole on the other side.
“Hey, we got fire. We got fire through the entire attic,” he shouted and began jabbing the pole into the ceiling. Once he had an opening, he started ripping down drywall. Burning chunks rained to the floor.
“Hey, I got ya a hole.” He walked back into the hall where the rest of the crew had punched holes into the ceiling, and Devin was on the nozzle, spraying water into the attic. “I got a hole in the bedroom.”
“Another line is on the way up,” Torin answered.
Chance spotted one of the guys shoving a nozzle at Derrick, who grabbed it and headed back down the hall. Chance moved to his friend’s back.
“Hey, give me more line,” Derrick shouted.
“More line,” Chance yelled and the words echoed down the stairs as men repeated the command. Soon Chance was pulling more hose so Derrick could get into the room and start putting water into the attic.
Evan jumped in behind Derrick to help support the line and Derrick’s back. Nothing made your muscles scream more than hosing over your head.
“Let me get you more holes,” Chance said as Derrick continued to spray. He grabbed his bar and started pulling the ceiling ahead of the water stream. Chunks of burning debris dropped and bounced off his helmet, singeing the carpet beneath his boots. Water cascaded off his shoulders.
“Hey, I’m gonna look at pulling that fucking corner.” He pointed to the other side of the room then proceeded. Jamming his hook into the ceiling, he pulled more drywall and the roar of flames greeted him. “We’ve got heavy fire over here.”
Derrick advanced with the hose and began dousing the flames. Water slicked the floor where there was no carpet and ran across the room. Chance stepped over charred chunks of wood and burning ceiling to make his way back across the room. He was looking for hot spots kicking up where they had already doused the fire.
“Taylor, hit it here.” Chance pointed into the rafters now exposed to the mid-day sky. They were actually lucky the roof had burned through. It helped not only bring in some much needed light but kept the smoke from curling down around them.
Derrick shut down his line. “I’m sitting at twenty minutes.” It was time for him to get out. His tank would soon be nearing the empty mark.
Someone’s PASS alarm went off then quickly quieted. A common occurrence Chance always paid attention to. He’d heard too many horror stories about the alarms being ignored out of habit only to later discover a fellow firefighter had been in trouble.
Not on his damn watch. Never.
Chance took the nozzle from Derrick. “Get out. We’ve almost got this.”
With three hoses going, the last of the fire quickly abated, and soon the men were heading down the stairs and outside.
Chance helped with clean up while Torin and Ash grabbed garbage bags and headed back in to collect clothing for the residents who were huddled across the street at a neighbor’s house. While their home could not be occupied, it was salvageable and everyone had gotten out. A young boy ran up to him, holding a thermos and a pack of Styrofoam cups.
“My mom said I could bring you coffee.”
Chance squatted so he was eye level with the boy. “What’s your name?” He accepted the gift of a hot drink.
“You doing okay, Brandon?”
The boy nodded. “Yeah. I remembered what you guys taught us when you came to my school, and I made sure we all got out when the smoke detector went off.”
“God job and thanks for the coffee.”
“You’re welcome. I better get back to my mom.” Then he ran across the street, his mother’s watchful eye on him every second. Chance smiled, thankful he hadn’t been forced to pull the small boy from his burning home.
Today was a victory.
* * *
Hope wiped down a table and looked up at the clock on the diner wall.
“You have looked at that thing a hundred times,” Bea said from behind the counter as she placed freshly baked pies into the glass case for the dinner crowd.
“I can’t help it.”
“You’re going to scrub the finish right off that table too.”
Hope stopped wiping and straightened. Her back hurt and her feet screamed a warning to take a break or else. She walked to a stool at the counter and sat down. Bea poured her a cup of coffee and slid a slice of cherry pie in front of her.
“Here, eat this. You have hours to kill before tonight's auction.”
She groaned then took a bite of pie. “Bea, your pies are always fabulous.” She emptied a packet of sugar into her mug and dribbled in creamer, stirring until it was a rich tan.
“You need to stop worrying. I’m sure you’ll win tonight's bachelor auction.” Bea came around the counter with her own cup of coffee. This was the quiet before the dinner crowds showed up so they would both take advantage of it. Bea was the owner of Kirkwood Diner, often cooking and sometimes waiting tables. The woman was a good soul.
The auction she referred to was held every year a week before Thanksgiving when all the eligible firefighters auctioned one date for charity. Hope had had a crush on Chance O’Connell since the day she laid eyes on him two years ago. He came into the diner for breakfast when he was working at the firehouse. She’d done everything to get noticed, but while he was always kind, it had been no more than that. Tonight, she was going to enter the bidding war for a single date with him, in hopes he would see her as more than just the girl who brought him his breakfast and listened to his stories.
Faith might spring eternal.
“I am a firm believer that if a couple is meant to be together, nothing will stop that from happening.” Bea broke Hope’s thoughts.
“Maybe I’m being silly. I mean, what do I really know about Chance?” Other than he didn’t really date. He was a man who liked to play the field and play it he did.
“That he is what a lady’s fantasies are made of?”
Hope laughed. Bea had been widowed a year before Hope had moved to Minnesota and come to the diner to answer the help wanted ad. The two had hit it off immediately.
“Sounds like someone might need a date herself,” Hope laughed.
Bea sipped her coffee while Hope polished off the slice of pie.
“I’m not above admitting I have a special friend.” She smiled. “With benefits.”
“Oh my God!” Hope lowered her voice. “Good for you. I wish I had your balls.”
Bea rose and picked up the empty plate. “When you get to be my age, you stop caring what others think and go for what you want. You’d do well to heed that advice now. Whether you win or lose at tonight’s auction, make Chance notice the true woman you are. He’ll come around soon enough.” Then she went to the kitchen and left Hope with a lot to think about.
Rising from her stool, the bell rang indicating a customer had entered. When she turned, she found herself face-to-face with the man who had spent many nights in her bed. Well, in her dreams at least. He appeared weary yet offered a smile as he took a spot in the booth.
“Hi, Chance. You on duty?” While he was in uniform, he was also here later than usual.
“Yeah. I missed breakfast and lunch but didn’t feel like hanging at the station.”
“Out on a call? I hope no one was hurt.” She didn’t know how the guys and gals of their local fire department did it but was thankful they did.
“Yeah. Everyone got out, but their home will need a lot of work before they can move back in.”
“That’s tough, especially at the holidays, but at least no lives were lost.”
He gave a nod before he opened his mouth and stunned her with what he said next. “You ever think of settling down and having a family?” This from the one-and-done guy?
“I... I’ve thought about it often. Just haven’t met the right guy.” She decided to go with the flow and see where this conversation led. “You?”
He shrugged. “I’d like kids one day, but love’s overrated.”
Well hell. Not the answer she wanted to hear, but then again what did she expect? Hope was forever picking the wrong guy to fall for. Even with that knowledge, she wasn’t about to be deterred in tonight’s bidding.
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