Authors: Lisa Childs
He can't resist the heat!
“I always leave.” Part of the elite Hotshot firefighting team, Cody Mallehan is happy to jump from one dangerous situation to another. Getting attached to anythingâor anyoneâis the one risk he's not willing to take. So he carefully nurtures his “bad boy” reputation to keep people at a distance. Until his gorgeous, sexy new landlady tempts him to get very, very close.
Serena Beaumont is busy trying to hang on to her aging but beautiful boardinghouse. A home where she hopes to one day raise a family. She can't afford lusty thoughts about her newest boarder, his mouthwatering ripped body or his wicked reputation. But even the promise of getting burned won't stop Serena from seducing the hottest man she's ever met...
“What are you doing in my bedroom?”
“I'm seducing you,” Cody said.
Serena shook her head. “I'm supposed to do that to you.”
He laughed; she was drunker than he'd thought. But then he remembered her friend's crazy suggestion. “That's right. You're supposed to seduce
“I don't want to talk...” She reached up and locked her arms around his neck, then she pulled him down on top of her. “I just want you.” Her lips parted as she kissed him.
His body ached for hers. He wanted her so badly. But not like this. He pulled back. “Serena...”
She was definitely awake now, her hands tugging at his shirt and then his belt. Before he could stop her, she pulled it free. The buckle hit the floor with a clank, and she giggled. Then she reached for the button at his waist. He sucked in a breath as her fingers dipped inside.
Did he have the willpower to control his desire?
I hope you've been enjoying my Hotshot Heroes series! I've
been having so much fun writing stories for these sexy firefighters. Wyatt and
Dawson weren't just fighting fires or even their attraction to the women they
knew would change their lives. They had to deal with the relentless teasing of
their good friend and fellow Hotshot Cody Mallehan.
I have to confess that Cody is my favorite Hotshot. He's such
a flirt. But when I started writing his book, Cody surprised me more than any
character has in a long time. I can understand how Serena Beaumont has such a
struggle resisting his charms. I hope you enjoy his story as much as I loved
first romance novel (a Harlequin story, of course) at age eleven, all she wanted
was to be a romance writer. With over forty novels published with Harlequin,
Lisa is living her dream. She is an award-winning, bestselling romance author.
Lisa loves to hear from readers, who can contact her on Facebook, through her
, or her snail-mail address, PO Box 139, Marne, MI
Books by Lisa Childs
Harlequin Romantic Suspense
His Christmas Assignment
Bodyguard's Baby Surprise
Beauty and the Bodyguard
Special Agents at the Altar
The Pregnant Witness
The Agent's Redemption
Groom Under Fire
To get the inside scoop on Harlequin Blaze
and its talented writers, be sure to check out
All backlist available in ebook format.
Visit the Author Profile page at
for more titles.
Get rewarded every time you buy a Harlequin
Click here to Join Harlequin My Rewards
With great love and appreciation to Andrew Ahearne for believing in and supporting me.
his skin as someone panted in Cody Mallehan's ear. Then a wet, warm tongue slid over his naked shoulder. He shivered and shifted on the stiff firehouse cot. His body tensed. He hadn't brought anyone back to the firehouse with him the night before. He had never done that, so he had to be dreaming.
The tongue moved to his face now, slobbering all over him. He cursed and opened his eyes and met the adoring gaze of a besotted female. Too bad she was a bitch.
He pushed off the oversize puppy. She was some kind of mixed breed of big dog and even bigger dog. Maybe an English sheepdog and a mastiff because her black-and-gray hair was long and so were her drooling jowls. With the back of his hand, he wiped her doggy slobber off his face. His stubble, which always came in darker than his blond hair, scraped the skin of his hand. He needed to shave. And after the doggy tongue bath, he definitely needed to shower, too.
“Annie, what the hell are you doing here?” he wondered aloud.
Someone had abandoned the mutt at the firehouse a few weeks ago. But Stanleyâthe kid that Cody had convinced the superintendent to hire to do odd jobs around the houseâwas supposed to have delivered her to the humane society.
A chuckleâtoo deep to be Stanley'sâechoed off the cement-block walls of the bunkroom. As far as Cody knew, he was the only one who'd been crashing at the firehouse. He sat up and looked around and discovered his boss kneeling just inside the doorway as Annie jumped all over him.
“It's not like you to turn away a female's attention,” Superintendent Braden Zimmer said. His eyes, which were the same brown as his hair, twinkled with amusement.
Cody grinned. He liked seeing the other man like thisâjoking around againâinstead of all depressed over his divorce. So he didn't correct him. Everybody had the impression that Cody was some big player. Okay, maybe that was because he worked hard to give that impression. But he didn't even date during wildfire seasonâunlike some of his fellow Hotshots who'd recently fallen in love.
Hotshots were the US Forest Service's elite firefighters. During the off-season, they were regular firefighters, working out of firehouses all over the region. Cody worked out of the village of Northern Lakes, Michigan. He was in Northern Lakes now even though it wasn't the off-season. There had already been a couple of huge blazes here in the Huron National Forest. And it was probable that there would be another... Unless they caught the person who had been setting the fires.
No, Cody was too focused on the job to date, especially now with an arsonist preying on the town. He couldn't afford any distractions. And he had never allowed himself any entanglements.
“You must be having a dry spell,” Superintendent Zimmer continued.
Maybe he hadn't been working hard enough on his womanizing image. Or maybe he'd been with the Huron Hotshots long enough that they were getting to know the real him. This was his second season with them, and two years was longer than he'd stayed anywhere. His blood chilling, he shivered with dread. He didn't want anyone to know the
him. “What makes you say that?”
“Since your cabin burned down, you've been sleeping in the firehouse instead of some woman's bed.”
in some woman's bed,” he quipped cockily.
“That's because he's worried her husband will catch him,” another deep voice chimed in as Wyatt Andrews stepped into the bunkroom. His black hair was all slicked back with sweat; he must have just finished a workout in the weight room. “Cody only goes after other guys' women.”
He only flirted with them because he knew it was safe. He knew there was no riskâbeyond getting his ass kicked. He could handle the physical pain. It was the emotional pain he avoided at all costs. A split lip or a black eye hurt a hell of a lot less than someone letting him down.
Cody grinned. “Getting nervous?” he asked Wyatt. “There's still time for your fiancÃ©e to realize I'm the better man.”
Wyatt snorted. He had every confidenceâand with good reasonâthat Fiona O'Brien would become his bride. Their wedding wasn't until the wildfire season was over, though. The only thing that might thwart their plans was the arsonist. They needed to catch him.
Cody wiped sleep and the rest of the dog's slobber from his eyes, and peered at the clock on the wall behind Wyatt's sweaty head. Had he slept late?
“Why are you guys here already?” he asked. “The team meeting isn't for a few hours yet.” Adrenaline coursed through his body. If there was a local fire, he would have heard the alarm. No matter how tired he was, he couldn't sleep through that ear-piercing siren. So they had to be getting called out to a wildfire.
He lived for thisâfor the travel, for the adventure, for the excitement and most especially for the triumph when they extinguished the blaze. All those things were why he had become a Hotshot. And the fact that he'd needed a couple of years of experience as a Hotshot before he could get a position as a smoke jumper.
That job involved even more travel and adventure and danger.
“Where are we going?” he excitedly asked. “Washington? California?”
Wildfires had been raging out west for a while. They'd already done a couple of week-long stints on the front lines of each of those blazes, cutting breaksâtrying to contain the beast. By removing all the vegetation, they starved the fire of fuel, until it eventually burned itself out.
The hard work burned out a lot of Hotshots, too. They were probably needed to relieve another team.
Braden shook his head. “No, I passed on this assignment.”
They had been called up and Superintendent Zimmer had refused to go?
Cody cursedâbecause he knew why. “That damn arsonist.” That was undoubtedly why Braden had called the whole team together for a meeting later that day. But that didn't explain why Braden and Wyatt had come in to the firehouse so early.
“Why are you two here now?”
“Because of you,” Wyatt replied.
“What about me?” Cody asked as his blood chilled again. The air was blasting in the firehouse, and the cement-block walls kept it cool. But that wasn't why he was cold.
Wyatt Andrews was one of Zimmer's two assistants. In addition to his duties at a fire, he also helped Braden with personnel issues.
Did they have a problem with himâwith his work?
Sure, he was a smart-ass most of the time. But he was also damn serious about his job. It meant everything to him; he had nothing else.
“Let's go to the Filling Station,” Zimmer suggested.
Did his boss think he would need a drink to swallow whatever they had to tell him? Or that it was better to tell him in a public place so that he wouldn't make a scene?
“It's too early to drink,” Cody said. He really wasn't the wild guy he pretended to be. Didn't they realize that? That was the drawback to never letting anyone get too close, though. But he would prefer that they not really know him rather than know him too well. He didn't need their pity.
Zimmer chuckled again. “They serve coffee, too, you know. You look like you could use some.”
He hadn't been out the night before. “I'm not hungover,” he protested.
Wyatt snorted nowâderisively. “So you look like hell for no reason.”
“He looks like hell because he's been crashing here since his cabin burned down,” Braden said. “These bunks are miserable to sleep on.”
“Maybe the firehouse superintendent should order some new ones,” Cody suggested.
Braden mock-glared at him. “You need to find a real bed.”
“You need a place to stay,” Wyatt said. “You can't stay here.”
Cody chuckled, albeit a little nervously. “What is this? An intervention?”
“Sort of,” Braden admitted. “The US Forest Service has decided not to rebuild your cabin, at least not until we've caught the arsonist.”
“Of course.” The son of a bitch kept restarting fires on the scorched ground he'd already burned. The only good thing about this was that there wasn't enough fuel left to keep the fire burning. Usually the hay bales he poured gasoline over burned out quickly, and the fire didn't spread. But occasionally the guy started new areas of the forest on fireâlike he had when he'd torched the woods where Cody's cabin had been.
“You need to relocate,” Wyatt said.
He could have laughed again, but it would have had a bitter ring to it. He'd been told so many times that he needed to moveâthat he wasn't welcome anymore.
“You kicking me off the team?” he asked. And he was surprised that his voice didn't crack with the emotion that overwhelmed him. But he wasn't a kid anymore. He could take care of himself; he had for years.
“Of course not,” Braden said. “We're kicking you off the cot.”
“We all offered you a bed,” Wyatt reminded him. “You can crash at any one of our places.”
Until he inevitably wore out his welcome.
“You don't get enough of me now?” he teased.
“I'm usually not there,” Wyatt said. “I stay at Fiona's.”
Or she stayed at his place. Despite Cody's teasing, he didn't want to interfere in his friend's relationship. The Hotshots were sometimes gone for weeks at a time, so they needed to spend as much time as they could with their loved ones when they were in town. That was why he had also refused to stay with Dawson Hess, Zimmer's other assistant. Cody hadn't wanted to put a crimp in his new relationship with the hot reporter, Avery Kincaid.
“Don't worry about me,” he said. “Last night was my last night here. I found a place.” He actually didn't want to stay
, but now he had no choice. He just hoped like hell he was better at avoiding temptation than his teammates.
* * *
, Serena Beaumont set the court order on her desk next to her mother's portrait. She blinked back tears, so that she could focus on the picture. She had been toldâmany timesâthat she looked like her mother. Sure, she had the same long black hair and dark eyes. But she felt the resemblance ended there. She didn't have Priscilla's delicate features or the inner beauty that radiated from the portrait. Nor did she have her mother's strength.
She was about to lose the family home that her mother had fought so hard to keepâso hard that it had probably led to the heart attack that had taken her too soon a year ago.
Serena drew in a deep, albeit shaky, breath and lifted her chin. She wasn't giving up yet. Sure, it was a lot of money. But she didn't have to sell the house. She only had to come up with half the value of it.
A year ago she'd been turned down for a loan. But that had been before she'd gotten more boarders in the house. Now she could show that the property could support itself. Or it would...
If she could rent out the rest of the rooms...
Only four of the eight bedrooms were rented. In order to show any kind of profit, she needed to fill the houseâlike it had been filled when she was little.
When the sweet-talking man who had gotten her pregnant abandoned her, Priscilla Beaumont had become a single mom to her twin daughters. But she hadn't raised Serena and Courtney alone. She'd had Grandma's help. They had lived in this house with their grandmother, an aunt, an uncle and some cousins. Serena was the only member of the Beaumont family left in the house now. She was the only one who cared about her heritageâabout how her great-great-grandfather, a French trapper, had settled down near the village of Northern Lakes and built this house for his Native American bride.
Two and a half stories with a double-decker wraparound porch, the plantation-style house had also served as a stagecoach stop, although coaches hadn't often passed through this remote area of Michigan. Adjoining the Huron National Forest, the house was still miles from the village of Northern Lakes. Maybe that was why it was hard for her to find boarders. Most people would rather live in town.
Serena loved the house and the property. She'd already come close to losing it, but the local Hotshot crew had stopped the fire before it had consumed more than the acres of forest that were now just scorched black earth.
She and the house had survived then. They would again. Somehow...
She drew in another breath, but this one was steadier. It wasn't just her anxiety making it harder for her to breathe; it was the stifling heat. Sweat trickled down the back of her neck, beneath the thick fall of hair.
If she were to get any more boarders, she would need to fix the air conditioning unit. It had been broken for a few weeks. Mrs. Gulliver and Mr. Stehouwer didn't mind; the heat didn't bother the octogenarians. Mr. Tremont was younger than themâprobably only in his forties or early fifties. But he wasn't home much. Neither was Stanley, and when the teenager was here, he was usually outsideâlike he was now.
The kid lounged on the wide front porch. She could see him through the window of her office, which had formerly been the front parlor since its burled oak pocket doors opened onto the wide foyer. Those doors were open, and so was the heavy front door and every window, but no breeze blew through the house.
The air was so still that the sound of an engine startled her. She glanced out the window but could see only the grill of a truck as it pulled up to the house. Then she heard Stanley call out, “Hey, Cody!”
Her pulse quickened more than it had when she'd opened the thick envelope from the lawyer's office. Then her heart had raced with fear; now, it pounded with excitement.
Just looking at Cody Mallehan was exciting. With his blond hair, clear green eyes, and muscular build he was beyond handsome. He was probably also bad news for a woman like her.
He was a player. Or so her friends had warned her. The few times she'd seen him before today he hadn't flirted with her, though. Of course, they'd talked business then because he'd brought Stanley as a boarder.