Authors: Alexa Aaby
Southern Heat 2
Love’s Slow Burn
When the confident, prim, and proper Casey Prentice returns to the Tar Heel state of North Carolina at the request of her Great Aunt, Jenna Hastings, she has every intention of swapping her fast-paced, New York City lifestyle in an effort to recapture the tranquil, unhurried, home-style flavor of her joyous childhood roots. What she didn't count on was running into a most sexy blast from her memorable past, Jake Martin. Along with his inviting, charming roommate, Dean Stark, the two irresistible, gorgeous, strapping firefighters give Casey a run for her money. They will stop at nothing to stake claim to Casey's heart and complete their dream of finding the perfect mate. What follows is a most scintillating journey into the world of ménage and a homecoming, the likes of which will ignite a tantalizing romance that is destined to blaze a smoking-hot trail straight through the county of Dalton.
Contemporary, Ménage a Trois/Quatre
Southern Heat 2
Siren Publishing, Inc.
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IMPRINT: Ménage Amour
LOVE’S SLOW BURN
Copyright © 2014 by Alexa Aaby
First E-book Publication: August 2014
Cover design by Harris Channing
All art and logo copyright © 2014 by Siren Publishing, Inc.
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Love’s Slow Burn
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Here’s to you, my readers. Enjoy the continuing journey, and thank you for all of your support.
LOVE’S SLOW BURN
Southern Heat 2
Copyright © 2014
The Dalton County Spring Fling celebration was held every year during the second Saturday in May. The community fair got under way around 1:00 p.m. and ran until 10:00 p.m. that evening. It was always one of the most anticipated events of the year, including amusement rides and games, local musical talent, a delicious bake-off sponsored by the Spouses of Local Veterans Committee, a livestock competition, and performances by schools from across the county. There was even a beauty contest to crown the new Miss Spring Fling.
It was the place where Casey Prentice would encounter Jake Martin and his coworker, Dean Stark, for the second time since she returned to town after a long absence. The headstrong Casey never believed in love at first sight, but would she soon discover that it was indeed real?
Jake was a local firefighter, born and raised in Dalton County, North Carolina. He was the first to spark a twinkle in Casey’s jade-green eyes. She had first reconnected with him on a cold afternoon five months before. He was tall, strapping, and incredibly sexy with dark hair and crystal-blue eyes. His good looks and strong demeanor were more than enough to capture her attention, but with him came his partner, Dean. Standing eye to eye with Jake, he was a chestnut-brown haired, dark-eyed, scrumptious hunk of a man, who hailed from Baton Rouge, Louisiana. In no time at all, the two firefighters had charmed their way into Casey’s heart.
Like Jake, Casey was born in Dalton, but fourteen years ago, at the age of ten, she had moved with her parents and two older sisters to New York City.
Growing weary of the never-ending fast pace of city life, when Casey received an invitation from Jenna Hastings, her great aunt, to come back to her hometown and become her live-in assistant, she didn’t hesitate in leaving her job as a mortgage officer for a major financial institution. In no time at all, she abandoned the hustle-bustle lifestyle of the big city for the much slower pace of living in the Tar Heel State.
Since the death of her husband, Harold, the sixty-six-year-old Ms. Hastings had been a widow for the past five years. Harold Hastings left his wife well taken care of, but they never had any children. Now getting on in age, she needed someone to help her in maintaining her property and personal affairs. Of all her living relatives, she favored Casey the most. Jenna thought her choice would prove to be of mutual benefit for both herself and her young, restless grand-niece. Knowing just how independent Casey was and how strong-willed she could be, Jenna was sure she had made the right choice in seeking help from her quite capable relative. Casey had a knack for finance and an attention to detail, the likes of which Jenna was convinced her niece had directly inherited from her.
* * * *
Soon after Casey arrived, the town of Dalton was hit by a series of severe snow storms. It took five months for the powerful effects of the brutal winter to subside.
One bitterly cold afternoon in late February, while Casey was out grocery shopping, Aunt Jenna decided to carry in some lumber from the backyard woodshed and start up the fireplace. Forty-five minutes later, after taking a relaxing bath, Jenna sat down in her favorite recliner and fell asleep. Forgetting to secure the fireplace screen, a log rolled onto the antique Persian rug and ignited flames that quickly spread across the living room. Luckily, Casey walked through the front door in time to wake her aunt and get her out of the house safely. Afterward, Casey dialed 9-1-1 for help.
Engine Company 65, located less than ten minutes away, answered the call. Though the damage was minimal, both Jenna and Casey were apparently shaken by the potential deadly event. More than that, it was the day the former New Yorker would ignite a spark of passion strong enough to set off a blazing trail through Dalton County.
After working with the other firefighters to put out the flames, Jake Martin and Dean Stark approached Casey and Jenna, who were being examined by the EMTs. Removing their fire hats, the two men looked stern but caring.
Jake Martin was the first to speak. “Ladies, I’m glad you both are OK, but you need to know this situation could have been a lot worse.”
Still wearing her lavender terrycloth housecoat, Jenna said, “Thank you for all your help. My niece was out running errands. I’m afraid this was my fault. The fire was so comforting. I fell asleep before I set the screen in place.”
“You should always remember to do that. It’s been a bad winter, Ms. Hastings. That being said, you have got to be careful. This time it was just your living room, but the next time, it could be you,” Dean Stark told her.
“We are thankful for your help and your quick response,” Casey said, prefacing her statement, speaking up quickly with a slight toss of her long, thick blonde hair. “My aunt realizes she made a mistake, but we’re no worse for wear. We’re OK. Why don’t we just leave it at that?”
Dean wrinkled his brow. “Listen, Ms.—”
“I’m Casey Prentice,” she interrupted. “Jenna is my great-aunt.”
“You’re Casey Prentice?” Jake uttered, staring at the sprinkle of freckles displayed atop her forehead and the bridge of her nose. “Wow, I thought you looked familiar. I remember you. You attended Lee Elementary. I went to school with your sister, Margo. I didn’t know you had returned to town.”
“Why should you?” Casey questioned, causing Jenna to nudge her in the side. “I mean…Well, I’ve only been back for three months.”
Ignoring her intentionally rude comment, Jake continued, “News around here usually travels fast. Well, I must say, Ms. Prentice, you’ve grown into quite a lovely young lady.”
His comment caught her off-guard. Casey felt her cheeks begin to warm with embarrassment, but in spite of that, she managed to say, “Thank you.”
“Oh, this is my partner and best bud, Dean Stark.”
“Pleased to meet you,” Dean said, shaking Casey’s hand.
With a sparkle in her light-brown eyes and smiling widely, Jenna said, “You two young men are a couple of guardian angels, don’t you agree, Casey?”
Looking into Jake’s soothing baby blues, she nodded her head. “Yes, we’re so thankful you both arrived when you did.”
“Margo’s little sister…I can’t believe it,” Jake said, staring into Casey’s big, beautiful green eyes. Suddenly, he laughed, displaying a charming set of white teeth. “The past fourteen years have certainly been good to you.”
“I’ll say,” Dean added, revealing an equally bright smile, eyeing Casey intensely. “I must say I like the accent. It’s so New York.”
“So, how does it feel to be back?” Jake asked.
Relaxing a bit, she said, “Honestly, it feels good, almost like I never left.”