Fire and Ice (Firemen do it Hotter Book 1)

BOOK: Fire and Ice (Firemen do it Hotter Book 1)
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Fire and Ice
Fire and Ice
Cheyenne McCray
Fire and Ice


F
iremen Do It Hotter

Cheyenne McCray

©
C
heyenne McCray
LLC

1


I
think
I’ll burn down my house.”

“What?” Sandy jerked her head up, her hands frozen over her ice skate in mid-tie as she stared at Chelsey.

Chelsey Daniels barely noticed as she nodded toward a hockey goal at the end of the ice rink. They sat close enough that they could see a gorgeous dark-haired man as he practiced hitting a hockey puck into the net. He slapped the puck past a goalie wearing protective gear.

Music blared from the speakers as several people skated around the rink. The skaters kept their distance from the hockey players.

“Bette in concessions told me his name is Grady Donovan, and he’s a firefighter.” Chelsey put one elbow on her knee and rested her chin in her palm as she stared at the man who certainly set
her
on fire. Just watching him did funny things to her midsection, as if a pair of champion skaters performed triple axels in her belly. “He moved here to Wisconsin from Seattle.”

“Imagine finding that needle in the haystack of 75,000 Appleton residents.” Sandy gave Chelsey a teasing look. “You wouldn’t want to let it slip from your fingers.”

The firefighter wore jeans and a blue T-shirt that stretched at his biceps and chest. Chelsey would bet her last dollar he had ripped abs, too. “If only.”

“Hmmm.” Sandy finished securing her skate. “Have you seen the latest firefighter calendar? He’d definitely qualify for Mr. January.”

“Any month would do.” Chelsey sighed. “Yep, I definitely need to burn down my house.”

Sandy shook her head. “You’re a nut.”

Chelsey straightened and looked away from the man. “Think he likes BBW?”

Sandy lightly punched Chelsey in her upper arm. “Dammit, Chelsey. You’re gorgeous, and that’s that. Not only on the inside, but you are amazingly beautiful on the outside. No one cares about anything but who you are.”

Chelsey rubbed her arm even though it didn’t hurt. “Can’t help it.”

Sandy narrowed her gaze. “Yes. You. Can.”

Chelsey offered her friend a smile. “I’m happy with who I am…I just wondered—” She snapped her mouth shut at the murderous look in Sandy’s eyes. Chelsey raised her hands, her palms facing Sandy. “Nothing. I wondered nothing.”

Sandy sniffed as she stood and they made their way to the rink. “Come on and show me those moves you promised to teach me.”

Chelsey stepped onto the ice, conscious of the man who had taken over her waking fantasies. She was grateful she was skilled and confident enough that she didn’t worry about falling on her ass in front of him. As long as she wasn’t doing some kind of complicated move, she wasn’t concerned. She looked damned good on the ice.

The moment she started to skate toward the opposite end of the rink, Grady looked over his shoulder and their gazes met and held. He didn’t even look at Sandy, who had an elegant, willowy, and beautiful presence.

A slow, sexy smile curved the corner of Grady’s lips.

Chelsey’s cheeks heated in a five-alarm blaze. She cut her gaze away from him and put on a little speed to move across the ice and distance herself from the man she’d like to use to douse the fire that now coursed through her body.

“You’re blushing.” Laughter rang in Sandy’s voice. “Mr. Firefighter more than noticed you.”

Chelsey mumbled beneath her breath. “Shut up and pay attention.”

Sandy sniggered. Chelsey glared at her.

While Chelsey instructed Sandy on a few moves, Sandy landed on her ass several times. She laughed every time she hit the ice. They had been friends for a relatively short time, but one thing Chelsey liked about Sandy was that she could laugh at herself. She was fun to be around and easy going.

Chelsey avoided outright looking at Grady, but did glance at him beneath her eyelashes and from the corners of her eyes. She caught him watching her a few times. The thought that he could be interested in her, warmed her enough that she didn’t feel any chill from the ice.

After Chelsey had given Sandy extensive instruction on a move, she saw that the firefighter and goalie had left. She glanced around the rink and didn’t see anyone watching. Disappointment curled in her belly. She was so preoccupied that she nearly skated into Sandy.

“He’ll be back.” Sandy laughed as she held onto Chelsey’s arm in an effort to stay upright.

A song came on over the loud speakers that Chelsey had skated to in one of her championship performances. “I think I’ll stretch my legs.”

Sandy plopped down on a bench. “I’ll be your audience.”

Chelsey raced around the nearly empty rink, and let herself fall into the rhythm of what was one of her favorite old choreographed performances. She set her mind free, no longer thinking of gorgeous firefighters, or any number of things that bombarded her when she wasn’t on the ice. She was glad it was one of her longer performances. She needed the feel of cool air brushing her skin and the extra stretch in her muscles.

Her thoughts turned back to the firefighter and the reason she had decided never to date anyone in a dangerous profession. Why would she even look twice his way?

Because he’s so freaking hot and looks like a great guy.

Get a grip, Chelsey.

She sped up on the ice, performing her routine at a faster pace than normal.

Back when Chelsey competed, before her grandmother passed away, she had been a world champion skater. She had left home at fourteen to live with a host family in Colorado Springs while she trained for the Olympics in figure skating. She had worked with one of the most renowned trainers at the Broadmoor World Arena, one of the best facilities in the U.S.

Finally, she had been free of her abusive grandmother.

Her only regret had been leaving her four younger siblings with a woman who could harm them in any way. Chelsey had wanted to earn enough money that she could take care of her brothers and sisters.

As she skated around the rink, the day their grandmother died came to mind. Chelsey’s chest tightened at the thought of the unkind woman who had raised them.

Chelsey had become the pseudo-matriarch of the family and carried on, doing her best to raise her younger brothers and sisters.

She had always been an emotional eater, but she had controlled it with a strict diet and constant training. Once her grandmother was gone, and Chelsey could no longer compete because of her responsibilities, her emotional eating took over.

To help ease the tension thoughts of her grandmother caused, Chelsey performed one of her more complicated moves as her chest relaxed.

She had made peace with her emotional eating and her size years ago, but every now and then a hint of insecurity knocked at her mind. Well, she hadn’t given into that for some time, and she wasn’t going to now.

Chelsey came to the graceful end of her performance, smiling, her arms raised, her head thrown back as if she stood in front of a row of judges and knew every movement had been perfect.

Light applause brought Chelsey out of her thoughts. She whirled around and saw Sandy where Chelsey had left her.

Sandy clapped like mad. “Incredible!”

More applause came from behind Sandy, and she looked beyond her friend to see the drop-dead gorgeous firefighter on his feet in the stands, grinning and clapping.

She heard him say, “Beautiful. That was beautiful.”

The heat she felt earlier was nothing compared to how her body responded when he made a “come here” gesture with his forefinger. She was glad she wore a padded bra or it would have been obvious her nipples were standing at attention.

She hesitated just a moment as Sandy urged her on by mouthing, “Go on.”

Heart pounding, Chelsey skated to the place Grady stood. She came to a stop just inches from the barrier separating them. Not only was he built, but he had the most beautiful blue eyes she had ever seen. Fire-ice blue.

“That was incredible, Chelsey.” He gave her a sexy grin as surprise must have flashed over her features. He jerked his thumb in the direction of concessions. “Bette told me your name when I asked.”

Chelsey felt flustered for a moment. He had asked her name?

He held out his hand. “I’m Grady.”

She almost told him she already knew, but she grasped his hand instead. Wildfire seared her the moment they touched. “I think I need a fire hose.” The words came out before she could stop them.

He laughed. “Bette, right?”

Chelsey flushed as she realized she’d outed herself after all. “Bette mentioned your name and that you’re a firefighter.”

“You have beautiful green eyes.” He didn’t release her hand, and instead drew her closer to him. “Have dinner with me.”

“Thank you.” The way her entire body warmed at his compliment and his touch, she couldn’t think clearly, and it made her feel suddenly shy. “You are asking me to dinner?”

He gave a slow nod. “Unless you’d rather get together for something more casual, like coffee.”

She was still stuck on the fact that he had asked her out. “Dinner is good.”

“Terrific.” He inclined his head toward the entrance. “I’ve got to go. I wrote my mobile number down for Bette to hand to you when you’re ready to leave.” He studied her intently. “Give me a ring tomorrow afternoon. If I don’t answer, I’m probably out on a call. Leave a message and I promise to get back with you as soon as I return.”

How could she refuse his self-assured request? The way he spoke didn’t feel like a demand or an order. It felt like something more simple. Like they had known each other for ages.

She let out her breath. “I will.”

He squeezed her hand one last time. “Talk with you later.”

She missed the warmth of his hand as he released it and turned to jog away from the rink and toward the entrance. She couldn’t stop watching him and he smiled when he glanced over his shoulder and met her gaze.

All thoughts of him being in a dangerous profession drifted away until they were smoky, floating away as if carried by a breeze.

The man flipped a switch inside her that hadn’t been turned on in a long time. Not only was he good looking, but there was a kindness and genuineness about him that was so apparent that she’d felt like she could taste it.

She sighed and cut her gaze to see Sandy grinning.

“I won’t say I told you so, even though I more or less did.” Sandy laughed. “Oh, girlfriend,” she said, “You should see the stars in your eyes.”

“You should feel the meteorites dropping in my belly.” Chelsey shook her head. “What just happened there?”

Sandy grinned. “Did one of the best looking men on the face of God’s green earth just ask you out?”

“Dinner.” Chelsey turned to look back at the doorway Grady had disappeared through. “How many hours until tomorrow afternoon?”

“Can’t wait to call him, huh?” Sandy said.

“Hell, no.” A smile crept across Chelsey’s face. “And hell, no, again.”

2

G
rady rubbed
at a spot on the red-painted fire truck until it shone. The entire vehicle gleamed from Grady and another firefighter’s polishing efforts.

As Craig Roberts worked beside him, Grady thought about Chelsey. He’d been looking for a woman who was so good looking on the
inside
that he’d recognize her in a second. It had been that way with Chelsey the moment their eyes had met.

Memories of Daphne invaded his thoughts and he frowned. His old girlfriend had been superficial where Chelsey seemed so
real.
Daphne had been overly body conscious and had gotten to the point where she was always having Botox, spent a fortune on salves and creams, and had even scheduled a facelift before they broke up. Daphne had only been twenty-nine and was already stunning on the outside, and in no way needed a facelift. On the inside…Daphne wasn’t so beautiful. She could have done with a personality-lift.

Since then, all Grady knew was that he wanted someone real and beautiful both inside and out. His exterior beauty standards were far more realistic than his superficial ex’s.

“Damn, that woman can skate.” Grady smiled as he remembered every move Chelsey had made on the ice. “It was like watching an ice angel dance.”

Craig glanced up from polishing chrome on the fire truck’s front bumper. “Who?”

Grady hadn’t realized he’d spoken aloud. “Chelsey Daniels. A gorgeous blonde I met at the Appleton Ice Center.”

“I went to school with her before she left Wisconsin to train.” Craig flipped the polishing rag over his shoulder. “She was something of a local celebrity in her teens. National and world champion many times over from the time she was a teenager.”

“I can believe that.” Grady pictured moves Chelsey had made with such ease. “She skates like a pro.”

Craig braced one hand on the bright red truck. “She’s always been pretty, but she’s grown into one hell of a beauty.”

Grady stared out the garage bay to the street. Instead of the long concrete driveway, he saw Chelsey gliding on the ice. “She makes figure skating look like an art.” He turned his gaze to Craig. “Which it is. To compare her skating against others is like comparing a Monet to a five-year-old kid’s crayon drawing.”

Craig nodded. “I see Chelsey every now and then at the rink. She’s definitely still got it.” He looked thoughtful as he took his rag and polished off the handprint he’d just put on the truck. “A shame she had to leave competition when she was in her prime.”

Grady cocked his head. “Why is that?”

“I’ll let her tell you about it.” Craig shrugged. “You’re not a player from what I’ve seen, but when you want something, you don’t let anything stand in your way. I’d bet you’ve already asked her out.”

Grady polished a dull place on the truck’s grill with his own rag. “I’m that obvious, huh?”

“Like the Empire State Building grew legs and moved to downtown Appleton.” Craig slapped Grady on the shoulder. “You couldn’t have picked a better woman to ask out.”

Grady snorted. “I’m surprised she hasn’t been snagged by now.”

“Not from a lack of trying.” Craig set his rag on a work table. “I’ve heard plenty of guys have asked her out, but she turns most of them down.” He cocked his head. “How did you get her to say yes?”

Grady tossed his rag next to Craig’s. “Didn’t give her a chance to tell me no.”

“So that’s the secret.” Craig smirked. “I’ll have to try the Grady Donovan Method next time I find a woman I want to date.”

Grady couldn’t help but grin. “It’ll get you a date at least two out of ten.”

Craig went to the industrial sink and started washing truck polish from his hands. “I’m betting your success rate is closer to a nine.”

Grady paused to look at the pair of red, white, and chrome trucks that gleamed in sunlight pouring in through the open garage door. “All I care about is that woman calling me.”

“You didn’t get her number?” Craig asked.

Grady shook his head. “I told Chelsey I left it with Bette and to get ahold of me this afternoon as long as—”

The alarm blasted, drowning out the rest of Grady’s sentence.

“—as long as I don’t have to go out on a call,” he finished. He groaned even as he rushed to get into his bunker gear.

C
helsey tossed
the potholders onto the countertop as she moved away from the oven’s heat to the kitchen table where her sisters sat. Lori and Tina had dropped everything at their respective homes, and came straight to Chelsey’s place the moment she said she planned to make the cinnamon rolls she had promised.

Tina and Lori were grown women, out on their own, yet to Chelsey they were still her kid sisters.

It might be late fall, but the central heating and baking made things toasty in the kitchen. Warm smells of cinnamon rolls, fresh out of the oven, teased her stomach.

She had left the dress shop she owned early and came straight home to make the rolls for her sisters. She had promised a week ago, and she kept her promises.

As she braced her hands on the back of an empty kitchen chair, she wondered if Grady would be one of the firefighters to show up if her kitchen caught on fire. She almost laughed at her ridiculous thoughts.

Yeah, that man flipped her switch. However, she’d been thinking it over and she really needed to flip it off again.

Tina slouched in her chair as she looked from Chelsey to Lori and back. Tina furrowed her brows, her shoulder-length dark hair swinging to the side. “Have you heard from Brad and Joe?”

“A week ago.” Chelsey nodded at the mention of their twin brothers who roomed together on the opposite side of Appleton. “They were headed out of town to go camping. You’d think they would be back by now.”

Lori gave a slow nod as she pushed long mahogany hair from her face. “Yeah, but remember they’re men, and they’re camping. The male brain short-circuits when it involves the outdoors and hunting.”

“That’s not surprising.” Tina snorted. “The male brain goes on vacation when he’s driving to the freaking grocery store.”

Chelsey laughed and ran her palms of the smooth wood of the chair back as she stood behind it. “How’s online dating life?”

Tina rolled her eyes. “Met Mr. Oh-So-Wrong, but what’s new?”

“Yeah, I can sure pick ’em, too.” Lori grumbled and put her elbow on the kitchen table. “One of the last guys came to my company barbeque dressed in a wife beater with holes in it, ripped shorts, and flip-flops. I was so damned embarrassed when I saw him.”

Chelsey shook her head, picturing a real slob. “That’s not just tacky, it’s disrespectful to you and everyone at the BBQ.”

Tina made gagging sound. “Ewww. What did you do?”

Lori grimaced. “The moment he walked up to me at the park, I turned him right around and told him we’d pick up pizza, and then go through the DQ drive thru for ice cream, because the BBQ was a dud. After we got the goods, I dropped him off at home and never answered another call from him.”

“Jeez, what a loser.” Tina thumped Lori on her upper arm. “Why is this the first we’ve heard of it? Summer ended two months ago.”

“I was too pissed.” Lori lowered her head so that her hair covered her face, and she banged her forehead against the table. “Ouch.” Her words came out muffled. “Dating sucks.”

Chelsey smiled to herself as she stood near her sisters and enjoyed the back and forth between the three of them. Her sisters were fun and two of her closest friends. Blood was definitely thicker than water.

“I hear you, Sister.” Tina scooted up in her chair. “The guy I’m seeing now is on his way out the door. Everyone belches and farts, but not in front of other people.
All
the time.”

“Sounds like a winner.” Lori had a wry grin as she raised her head and sat up. “How is he in bed?”

Tina shrugged. “So-so.”

Chelsey waved her hand, as if brushing away dust. “Not worth your time. Who wants someone like that? You’re certainly not desperate.”

Tina put her arms on the table and leaned forward, her gaze focused on Chelsey. “Talking about dating, maybe you should go online, too.”

Chelsey’s thoughts bolted immediately to Grady, and she hoped her cheeks didn’t redden like they tended to do.

“Wait a minute.” Lori shook her finger at Chelsey. “You’ve met someone.”

Tina sat straight in her chair. “She has.”

Chelsey held in a groan.
Busted.
How did they always know? Her sisters were too intuitive for their own good.

“It’s nothing.” Chelsey gripped the back of the chair tighter as she shifted from one foot to the other. “Really.”

Tina leaned back in her chair, her arms folded across her chest, and looked at Chelsey with a gently accusing stare. “You’ve been holding back.”

“It’s not like that at all.” Chelsey shook her head. “A guy gave me his number at the skating rink yesterday.” She shrugged. “I haven’t called him.”

“Tell us about him.” Lori looked at Chelsey just as intently as Tina did. “Everything.”

“For cripes sake.” Chelsey huffed out a breath, half frustrated and half amused. “He plays on a hockey league and was practicing when Sandy and I went out on the ice. He’s a firefighter here at the Appleton Fire Department.”

“Oooooh. AFD.” Tina’s lips went from a firm line to tipping at the corners. “I bet he’s
hot
.”

It was Chelsey’s turn to roll her eyes. “Ha. Ha.” She couldn’t hold back the truth. “Okay, yes, he’s freaking hot.”

Tina and Lori gave each other high-fives.

Lori grinned at Chelsey. “About damned time.”

“I haven’t decided whether or not I’m going to call him.” His number was still somewhere in her purse. It was true she hadn’t decided, mostly because the thought of him being in a dangerous profession was giving her second thoughts.

Switch it to off, girl.

“You’re going to call him.” Tina held up her hand, as if she was holding a phone next to her ear. “It’s time you get out and enjoy life again.”

“Damn straight.” Lori nodded. “If we find out you haven’t, there will be hell to pay, big sister.”

Chelsey groaned. “This is exactly why I didn’t say anything.”

Lori scooted her chair back and stood. “You know you can’t keep anything from us.”

“Even if you try, we’ll find out.” Tina laughed as she got up, too. “I’m going for the cinnamon rolls. They’re shouting my name.”

“Same here.” Lori headed for the stove. “Dibs on the center roll.”

C
helsey hummed
as she put away her folded clothing, tucking stacks of sweaters and jeans into her bureau. Her sisters had headed to their homes a good two hours ago and she had been catching up on laundry.

Her mind couldn’t seem to stay away from thoughts of Grady, no matter how hard she tried. The fact the sexy firefighter had left his phone number for her sent thrills zinging inside her belly. She’d taken his number out of her purse and set it beside her cell phone. She intended to call him in a bit—when she got her courage up.

Strands of hair fell over her face as she leaned down and picked the pile of silky panties and bras off her bed. The stack was small and she held them under one arm as she pushed hair out of her face with her free hand. She returned to the bureau before opening the top drawer.

The lavender scent in her lingerie drawer had faded and the sachet needed to be replaced. She tucked the undergarments inside before turning to the vanity where she kept a couple of extra sachets in sealed bags. She pulled open the center drawer of her vanity. Her hand froze as her gaze rested on the picture of George and herself, from three years ago. They had married when she was thirty-three… By the time she was thirty-six, he was dead.

She picked up the picture and held it, her hands nearly shaking. Her heart thumped and her stomach tightened.

Her husband’s face had been so kind. Most of the time he was smiling, always teasing her, and cracking jokes.

However, he’d had a dark side that only Chelsey seemed to be aware of. His parents probably knew, but no one spoke of the fact that George had been an alcoholic. It had been a habit he had picked up in the military, when he was overseas and had lost friends to the war. Fortunately, he wasn’t a mean drunk, but would become aloof and would want to spend time alone, lost in his thoughts.

Many times she had wondered what he was thinking about as he sat alone in his man cave. The room would remain dark during those nights, no lights or TV to brighten the place. Those were lonely times for her. She’d loved George—the good
and
the bad.

She hadn’t known he was an alcoholic until after they were married. Maybe she should have suspected something, but he had been careful to keep it from her and never drank in her presence while they were dating. She’d been angry that he hadn’t told her, and he had apologized, but it took time to forgive him for keeping something so big from her.

Despite everything, she didn’t regret marrying him, she just wished things had been different in more than one way. A lot different.

Her eyes burned, but she held back tears. It had been three years since George’s death, but sometimes it still hurt so badly her chest ached from it. She took the picture and walked to her bed, staring at his features. Her heart in her throat, she slowly sat on the edge of the mattress and put his picture in her lap. She closed her eyelids and dragged in a deep breath.

She would never forget that day. She’d been warned just before her phone rang.

Something is wrong,
had screamed inside her head when she went to press the answer button on her phone.

She opened her eyes. After her husband died in an underground mining accident, she had told herself she would never again be involved with a man who worked in a dangerous profession. And here she was, considering dating a firefighter. Hell, she’d been more than considering it.

As she studied the picture, she traced one finger along the gilded frame. She had felt like a piece of her died when she’d heard a mineshaft had collapsed on George and his crew.

If something happened to another man she loved—if she ever loved again—she didn’t know if she could take it.

BOOK: Fire and Ice (Firemen do it Hotter Book 1)
9.64Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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