First In: A steamy, small-town firefighter romance
She lost her inheritance. He stole her job. When these rivals start playing with fire, sparks fly, donuts melt, and hearts burn.
"If you like hot, action-packed, firefighter romance, look no further. Danika puts you right on the front line in all the best ways."
~Cora Seton, NYT & USA Today bestselling romance author
At 24 and just 5’4”, Sophie Beaulieu may not look like the best candidate to become the first paid chief of the Lily Valley Volunteer Fire Department. But the crew have faith in her and everyone expects she’ll get the job. A job she needs to keep her family home after her father dies.
So when an arrogant and hot as Hades career firefighter rides into town wearing the new chief’s helmet, nobody is more shocked or angry than Sophie.
Nick West is convinced this small-town job is his ladder to a chief promotion in the city. Nick's been an outsider all his life, even in his own fractured family, so he has no trouble taking on the opposition, whether that’s the haters within the department, or the feisty woman he takes on as his Deputy—despite their explosive chemistry.
As the competition rages like an uncontrolled bush fire, sparks fly between Nick and Sophie, both in and out of their turn-out gear. Will their romantic fling be extinguished by their egos, or can they fan the flames to find their forever?
First In is a steamy, contemporary romance and the first stand-alone book in the Mixed Six-Pack series. If you like off-the-charts chemistry and enemies-to-lovers tales that end in a satisfying HEA, you'll adore Danika Bloom's emotional—and funny—love story.
Release date: May 4, 2020
Publisher: Fire Lily Press
Print pages: 349
Reader says this book is...: entertaining story (1) happily ever after (1) high heat (1) realistic characters (1) satisfying ending (1) sex scenes (1) strong chemistry (1) strong heroine (1) swoon-worthy (1) terrific writing (1)
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First In: A steamy, small-town firefighter romance
Chapter 1 — Nick
“Cool your jets, bro!”
I stared into my rearview mirror at the jerk riding my tail, flashing his Lambo’s high beams. As if there were somewhere I could go to get out of his entitled way.
The wanker flashed me again. I opened my window, gave him the finger, then geared down to fourth and reduced my speed to the actual limit.
“Not pulling over so you can gun it to the next car and harass their ass for the next three miles,” I said to the face I saw in my rearview mirror, which was also talking to me. Well, screaming at me.
I tapped my brakes three times to slow down just enough to be annoying, not dangerous. At least, it shouldn’t have been dangerous but this self-centered dick pulled around me, passed on the double line, then pulled back in less than two car lengths ahead of me. He hit his brakes. And not just to be annoying.
I slammed my foot down, fast and too hard. I skidded sideways, directing my car away from the oncoming traffic lane. My wheels touched the soft shoulder and pulled toward the ditch but I’d done this dance a dozen times before on icy roads. Muscle memory overrode brain and I lifted my foot off the brake. My trusty Subaru straightened out and I steered back onto the road. Aside from a very tight sphincter and an adrenalin sweat, everything was fine.
Sadly, it was just another day on the Sea to Sky Highway.
I’d been driving this highway at least once a week since I turned eighteen—in winter to ski, in summer to mountain bike. And in the shoulder seasons, I still made the seventy-five mile drive and spent double the time with fit young things from around the world who were happy for a short-term, holiday fling. I’d like to say I’d settled down in the last ten years, but that would be a lie.
It never ceased to amaze me how many Lamborghinis, McLarens and Porsche 911s I’d see in the two-hour drive from Vancouver to Whistler. Cars that cost more than I could earn in two years, risking my life as a Vancouver firefighter.
My heart was still thumping when I saw tail lights up the hill on the road ahead. An unusual number of them. I tapped my brakes a couple of times to let the driver behind me know I was planning to slow right down. I didn’t want to be the guy who rear-ended another car around a bend.
It was a good call. Twenty vehicles sat idling. Fully stopped.
“Shit!” I pulled out my phone and looked for a text. I called the number.
“Decker,” barked a man’s voice.
“Mr. Decker, this is Nick West. I’m going to be late. I’m south of Lily Valley by about five miles. Looks like an accident at the Point.”
“Huh.” That’s all he said.
“You’re not interviewing anyone else today, are you?”
“Nope, you’re it.”
“Great. I’ll be there as soon as I can.”
The cars ahead of me were turning off their engines. A sign that this was more than a fender bender. I grabbed the First Aid kit from under my seat and took off toward the accident.
Two vehicles were smashed beyond recognition. Unfortunately, neither was the apple green Lambo, but I’d put money on the fact that he caused this mess. A dozen people had gotten out of their vehicles and were standing looking helpless. Being useless.
“Has anyone called 9-1-1?” I yelled.
Several people called back, “Yes.”
“Does anyone have any first aid training? Any at all?”
The cars were about 100 yards from each other. I ran to the closest one. An older man, probably in his seventies, was in the driver’s seat. He was alone. His windshield was smashed and his face was covered in blood.
“Hey! Can you hear me? Hello?”
No response. I checked the pulse in his neck. Alive and unresponsive. Looking around I saw a middle-aged man in outdoor gear standing with what were probably his teenage daughters. I motioned him to come over.
He stared at me.
“Over here! Now!” I barked.
The teens moved with him.
“No. You,” I pointed at the girls. “stay. You do not come over here.”
Outdoor man jogged over.
“I need you to keep this guy company until the paramedics arrive. Don’t touch him. Just talk to him. Say any shit you think of. Tell him about your kids, where you were headed, anything. Just keep talking and keep it calm.”
I scanned the crowd and pointed to a couple of young guys, “Come with me.”
They obeyed. We ran to the farther vehicle. It was bigger, taller, an SUV. The upside? Lower likelihood of catastrophic injuries. The downside—higher chance there’d be more than one person in the vehicle needing medical attention.
The driver was trying to get out but his door had been crushed. He’d rolled the van but thankfully physics had been on his side so he was wheels down again. All the windows were shattered.
I pointed at the guys with me, “Wait.” Then I approached the driver’s side, “Sir.”
He gave me ‘the look.’ He was in shock, had no idea what had happened.
“Sir, you’ve been in an accident. What’s your name?” I used my elbow to push away glass so I could get a better look inside.
“Oliver,” he said, looking at me with wide eyes, tiny pupils.
Beside him, his wife I assume, had taken the brunt of the impact. They don’t call it the suicide seat for nothing. Clearly he anticipated the hit and steered to try to avoid it. What he hadn’t anticipated was the soft shoulder.
I motioned for one of the two guys to join me and spoke quietly to him, “This is Oliver. Talk to him and keep him focused on you. Don’t let him look at his wife.”
Crossing behind the van to see if anyone else was inside, I approached the woman in the passenger seat who was clearly unconscious. Her pulse was strong but there was zero chance she didn’t have a serious neck injury. Just as I was about to call 9-1-1 myself, to advise dispatch to send three ambulances, Oliver leaned across and shook his wife’s shoulder.
“Amanda!” he yelled.
I grabbed his hand and held it away from her body.
“Sir. Don’t touch her. She needs paramedics. You’ll do more harm than good.”
The driver dropped his arm and stared at his wife.
I looked for the second guy, to get him to find a door we could open so when first responders arrived they’d have quick access to stabilize the passenger. The idiot was walking away from me.
“Yo! Bro! I need you over here. No time to take a piss,” I yelled.
He ignored me and started to jog—in the wrong direction.
Turning back to the first guy, I said, “Try to get the driver’s door open. If he cooperates, let him stay where he is. But if he starts to touch his wife again, encourage him to get out. But don’t pull or push him. Let him move on his own. Clear?”
“Over here,” the runner called to me. He was twenty yards up the road and standing in the ditch, waving wildly.
I ran, hoping against hope that he wanted to show me some wildflowers in the ditch. Wishful thinking. What I saw was so not good. I put my hand on the guy’s shoulder and turned him away from the child laying lifeless in the mud. Despite a decade of emergency medical calls I knew that even I’d be needing to debrief this with a professional.
“Look at me,” I said, forcing him to make eye contact with me, “Call 9-1-1. Tell them we need air evac for a toddler. Say Captain West of Vancouver Fire and Rescue is on-scene. Got it?”
He nodded and was pulling out his phone before I finished my sentence.
I dropped into the muck and rolled a child of no more than five onto my extended arm so I could pick him up with as little movement to his spine as possible. I needed him on solid ground. As I lifted him I took one breath to redirect my rage at the parents who didn’t think car seats were necessary, into something a little more productive.
I gently lay him down on the pavement and checked his pulse. Nothing. But he was so small and my heart was pounding so hard I knew I might not feel it even if he had one.
“Hey little man, can you hear me?”
No eye flutter. No chest movement. I pinched his arm. No response.
The first guy had gotten the dad out of the van and was walking him toward me.
“Keep him away from here,” I yelled. I pushed a button on my watch and started CPR.
A few hundred compressions later, I noticed that two fire trucks were on-scene. All my focus was on making sure the blood was circulating in this small body so that if he could be resuscitated he’d actually stand a chance at having a functioning brain.
“Merde,” I heard as the boots and legs of a firefighter in full turn-out gear stopped in front of me.
“Get me your AED,” I said without looking up.
“It’s being used,” a female voice replied.
“If it’s not attached to a body I want it now.”
No response. I looked up and made eye contact with her, “Now!”
She looked startled. Deer in headlights. But she followed my command.
“Joe from Sophie,” she said.
“Go for Joe,” a voice on the radio replied.
“Has your driver got a pulse?”
“Weak. AED is charged,” the radio voice said.
“Sir, how long have you been doing CPR?” She asked.
I checked my watch, “8 minutes 27 seconds.” I stopped compressions, checked the boy’s pulse. Nothing. “I need that AED. Now!”
“Joe, bring the AED to the other car. Fast. There’s a kid.”
“Scissors. In my kit,” I ordered.
“I’m the Incident Commander, I—”
“I don’t care if you’re the fucking Queen of England. Get the scissors and cut this kid’s shirt off.”
* * *
Two hours later, I’d met and worked with eight of the crew of the Lily Valley Volunteer Fire and Rescue, including the event’s IC, Sophie Beaulieu. I’d never seen such a small firefighter in my life. No way she’d make it on a career crew. Hell, the jaws of life weighed more than she did.
But she was smart and fast and worked well under pressure. There weren’t that many decisions I’d have made differently in her shoes. I had to give her credit, she was a good Incident Commander. For a volunteer.
And damn was she ever cute. She could be a stunt double for Arya Stark, with her short, dark hair and those eyes… grey when she was barking orders at me—which I did not appreciate—but when we were taking a breath after the paramedics took over, her eyes were a shade of green that made you want to stare deep into them to see what kind of magic was burning there.
She was nothing like the women I was used to dating. Dating… that’s a stretch. The women I was used to having pre-fuck drinks with is more accurate. The women I met when I needed to get out of my head and forget a hard day at work. They met the cleaned-up, buttoned-down version of me which was about as authentic as they were with their Instagram-perfect make-up and push-up bras. Women who were as hungry for distraction as I was.
In just two hours, I felt like I knew more about this pint-sized firefighter than any of those flings. And, I really liked being near her. In a situation that normally left me needing a lot of booze and a naked body to remind me that I was still alive, I felt alive just working alongside Sophie. Alive and happy, despite the shit show of a car accident with a fatality.
Chapter 2 —Sophie
I took a minute to appreciate the sunny day and the successes of the worst emergency call I’d had to command so far. The little boy was conscious when the air ambulance lifted off. The paramedics said we’d saved his life, which allowed me to believe he’d be fine. I pictured him with all his five-year-old pals at his kindergarten graduation party. I also pictured the Good Samaritan firefighter who could take all the credit for having made that possible.
I did wonder, if we’d had two AEDs, if the old man would have survived, though. I took a deep breath to loosen the tightness in my chest, keep the tears at bay. I squeezed the skin between my thumb and first finger hard, to refocus the grief.
The guys were busy either packing up the auto extrication gear or directing traffic. The cops and coroner were taking pictures and doing their thing. Nobody needed me right now. I could relax. My job was almost done. This was the easy part. The calm between storms.
Back at the hall I’d have an hour of paperwork to do, making sure all the first responder reports were filled in properly—which they wouldn’t be. One of the downsides of a volunteer fire department is the variable abilities of the members. Joe's paperwork would be perfect. Buster’s would be a hot mess.
I walked around Engine One to make sure all the equipment bays were properly loaded and that nothing was missing. In responses like this, where the crew is working in two different locations, leaving something behind—a pair of gloves, a balaclava or a traffic cone is almost expected. Except when I’m IC. This was my fourteenth call as Incident Commander and my record was perfect.
“Hey! Do you have a minute?”
My heart did a little leap when I turned and saw the man who both challenged my authority and hung around to help when he could have left two hours ago. He’d royally pissed me off but made up for it a hundred times over by being right to override me and for keeping the little boy alive until paramedics could take over.
“You’re still here? I thought you left.”
“I tried,” he said pointing to his car, “but my car didn’t seem to want to go quite yet.”
That was a weird thing to say. He was in dress pants, now covered in mud. His white dress shirt was unbuttoned and untucked, sleeves rolled up, over a white t-shirt. Both looked brand new—they had that whiter than white quality that you lose after the first wash.
It was obvious that he trained to be able to climb thirty flights of stairs wearing fifty pounds of turn-out gear and that he could easily carry an adult woman over his shoulder without breaking a sweat. I had half a mind to ask him if he was in a fireman’s calendar, as a joke…but really, I’d pay top dollar to hang a picture of those abs in my turnout locker. No. That’s a lie. The guys at the hall would razz me too much. Plus, what good is a picture of a smoking hot body hanging in a place where you can’t properly fantasize about what you’d do if it was in your bed with you?
“It’s Nick, right?” I tried to play it cool, as if I’d have forgotten his name.
“Yeah. And you’re Captain…”
“It’s just Lieutenant—” I was saying as he put his hands on my shoulders and gently turned me so my back, and my last name were facing him.
“Beaulieu,” he said with a pretty decent accent as he spun me back around. “Are you French?”
“My mom and dad were. And I speak it, especially when I’m mad, ‘cause cursing in French is way more fulfilling than swearing in English. But, I’m a Lily Valley girl, born and bred.” I was an idiot. He wasn’t taking my life story. “My first name is Sophie.”
“Well, nice job, Sophie. Hard call with such a small crew.”
“Thanks,” I looked down, not really great with compliments. And as my eyes traveled to the ground they stopped part-way… oh dear… could he tell I wasn’t looking at my boots? He could only see the top of my head, right? Not the angle of my eyes. I hoped. Deep breath.
“Yeah, well, it would have been an entirely different outcome for that little boy if it weren’t for you. I can’t thank you enough. These calls are hard,” I looked up and into his eyes. My breath caught in my throat. He had the kindest eyes ever.
“So, I was wondering if maybe it would be helpful for me to come by the hall and you know, help with the paperwork for the response on the kid. Since I was there and you weren’t.”
He actually didn’t need to come in since he’d already given all the info that was needed to the paramedics who took over. But since he was offering... and since I had no legit reason to ask for his contact info...
“That would be amazing. I should be back at the hall in about thirty minutes. You can kill time in—”
“Shit! Right.” He looked at his watch. “I forgot. I was on my way to a meeting. And, I really need to get to it.”
“Of course.” I felt the silver lining to what was an otherwise awful day, a day that would require at least three therapy sessions, evaporate. “It’s all good. I understand.”
“I know where you are,” he said, putting his hands on my shoulders again, mild panic in his eyes. “When do you train? Can we connect then?”
“Yeah. Of course. Thursday nights. Seven pm. I usually get there early to set up before the guys arrive.”
“Six? Thursday. I can be there.”
“That would be great. Thanks again for jumping in. Saving that little boy.”
He nodded and smiled. He had perfectly kissable lips. Of course he did because he was a perfect model for Mr. April, wearing nothing but the raindrops of spring showers. Could he tell I was shamelessly objectifying him? I forced myself to look at his eyes and stop imagining getting to know his mouth better.
“All in a day’s work,” he said.
He looked like he meant it. Just a normal day for a career firefighter. I bet he didn’t even need trauma counseling after this. Our crew would, though few of them would ever admit it. Spending twenty minutes performing CPR on a body that doesn’t come back to life—it affects you even if you tell yourself it doesn’t.
I watched him jog over to his car. He moved with ease despite his size. He was so far out of my league, but I allowed myself to dream a little.
Two sleeps until Thursday. Two sleeps to find out if Nick, the calendar-worthy fireman, was a life-saving hottie who also kept his promises.
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