Read Sparking the Fire Online

Authors: Kate Meader

Sparking the Fire

BOOK: Sparking the Fire
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PRAISE FOR THE HOT IN CHICAGO SERIES

PLAYING WITH FIRE

Winner of the RT Book Reviewers' 2015 Award for Best Contemporary Love & Laughter

A
Publishers Weekly
Best Book of 2015

A
Washington Post
Best Romance of 2015

“Meader packs the flawless second Hot in Chicago romance with superb relationship development and profane but note-perfect dialogue.”

—
Publishers Weekly,
starred review

“Steamy sex scenes, colorful characters, and riveting dialogue . . . a real page-turner.”

—
RT Book Reviews
, Top Pick Gold

“A smart, sexy book.”

—Sarah MacLean,
The Washington Post

“Hot, sexy, wonderful.”

—Beverly Jenkins,
The Huffington Post

“I absolutely love Meader's voice and the easy flow of her dialogue, the growth of the characters, and the actual plot of the story. And, oh my God, is Eli Cooper one sexy alpha male.”

—
Heroes and Heartbreakers

“When it comes to writing hot, sexy heroes and strong, independent women, no one does it better than Kate Meader. Her Hot in Chicago series is a scorcher.”

—
Harlequin Junkie

“Ring the alarm because Kate Meader has once again turned up the heat in her newest scorching sizzling sexy read,
Playing with Fire
. It's definitely getting hot in Chicago.”

—
Four Chicks Flipping Pages

FLIRTING WITH FIRE

“Sexy and sassy . . . I love this book!”

—#1
New York Times
bestselling
author Jude Deveraux

“Sexy, witty, and hot, hot, hot. Kate Meader will make you fall in love with the hunky firefighters at Engine Co. 6.”

—
New York Times
bestselling author Sarah Castille

“Get your fire extinguisher handy—
Flirting with Fire
is HOT and satisfying!”

—
New York Times
bestselling author Jennifer Probst

“This book is everything you want in a romance: excellent writing, strong characters, and a sizzling plot that keeps the pace up throughout the story.”

—
RT Book Reviews
, Top Pick

“Extremely romantic and undeniably entertaining.”

—
Single Titles

“If you're a fan of contemporary romances or are looking for a great romance, I highly recommend Kate Meader's
Flirting with Fire
. I do have to warn you, Kate and I are not responsible if you decide to visit Chicago to look for your own Dempsey brother.”

—
Literary, Etc.

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To Nicole Resciniti, agent, cheerleader, and friend. I heart you, lady.

 PROLOGUE

Once upon a sultry summer night . . .

H
er nipples sensed his presence before every other part of her.

The drop-dead gorgeous Marine.

Though Molly Cade wasn't 100 percent positive that he was one of the few and the proud, there was just something about him that screamed Devil Dog. The tan line where the crease of his strong neck met those shoulders to rival Atlas. The ramrod military bearing. The Semper Fidelis tee.

He might have been a wannabe who never made it past boot camp or was bounced for insubordination, but Molly didn't think so. Likely, he was a just-returned. Barely a month, she'd bet. Even twenty feet out from her usual spot at the end of the hotel bar, she smelled sun and desert and all-American honor oozing from his pores.

She pushed her
I'm not here to be picked up
glasses higher on the bridge of her nose and turned to the bookmarked spot in her copy of
Macbeth
. Too keyed up to focus, she saw nothing but a mess of blurry words. A glass of Pinot Noir sat untouched on the bar, her hormones scrambled in anticipation of the night ahead.

She braved another peek. Most guys alone in a virtually empty hotel bar would be engaged in one of three activities:

1. Playing with their drink/coaster/phone to while away the time

2. Bugging the hell out of the bartender with yarns about sports/women/glory days long gone

3. Checking out the talent in the hopes of finding a warm, equally desperate partner for the evening

The Marine did none of these things.

He drank a Coke. Not a Jack and Coke, either, and not from a highball glass. He drank from an old-timey, hourglass-shaped bottle that greeted his sensuous lips in a way that made her jealous. Of a bottle. Watching the swallow of that smooth, tan throat was like witnessing a lascivious sex act.

“Can I get you a drink, honey?”

Molly's fingers stiffened on the book in her hand. So unsubtle, so unimaginative, and so unlike her Marine. The unwelcome new arrival now blocked her pleasure-filled sightline. She'd noticed him lurking on the short side of the L-shaped bar, and apparently her refusal to meet his gaze wasn't enough of a deterrent—he had finally made his move.

“Got it covered, thanks.”

The guy whose pickup lines needed work inclined his greasy forehead toward the open book in her hand and added fetid body odor to his list of offenses. “Shakespeare, huh? Pretty classy.”

“I'm studying for a test and I really need to get back to it.”

“Maybe I can help you bone up.”

Real original, bud.

“You heard the lady.” At last. The clichés were off the charts tonight, but there was comfort in them, and in twisting them deliciously later.

“It's none of your—” The words stalled in Stink Boy's throat as he realized how much trouble he would be in if he finished that sentence. “Okay, got it.” He backed off, away from the loaded weapon about to blow in his sweaty face. Away from the Marine.

Though the bones in her body ached with the need to look up at her savior, she resisted the urge. “Thanks,” she muttered, as diffident as a wallflower in her spectacles and conservative, high-necked silk blouse.

“I'll let you get back to your book, miss,” he said, words she could barely hear above the thunder in her blood and the throb between her thighs.

“You could join me if you like.” She lifted her gaze to meet shockingly clear blue-gray eyes. Magazine-cover, must-be-Photoshopped blue. Mama, he was a big 'un. Six three if he was an inch, the proverbial tall, dark, and badass.

“Don't you need to study?”

She leaned in, then remembered that her wallflower role required a modicum more reserve. Edging back, she owl-blinked as if the idea of a big, burly man in her personal space felt threatening. “Well, I just said that to . . .” She gave a wave to fill in the rest. “Really, I'm reading it for fun.”

Molly braced for the smartass comment about Shakespeare and fun making strange bedfellows. The Marine assessed her coolly like he might a roadside IED, an enemy combatant, maybe a revolver held to his temple. In the week since she had first seen him at the other end of the bar, his expression had never changed, except when . . .

He lowered his large, masculine frame to the stool beside her. Five seconds passed before the bartender placed the Marine's half-finished Coke before him.
Extra tip for you, good man.
His left hand curled around it like he needed it to anchor his body and keep him at a safe distance.

If he placed his right hand on her leg, Molly would part her thighs.

“Tell me something fun about
Macbeth,
” he said, desert grit in his tone.

Fun? She could talk about it for hours, but the fun aspects of that might be lost on the just-off-the-copter serviceman she had picked up in a bar. She elected to go for the more commonly known facts about the Scottish play. “It's supposed to be cursed. Unfortunate accidents and ghoulish deaths have been associated with the play throughout the centuries.”

“Sounds hilarious,” he deadpanned.

Encouraged by his good humor, she went on. “Billy Boy apparently used the spells of real witches in the text. ‘Double, double, toil and trouble. Fire burn, and caldron bubble.' ”

“ ‘Cool it with a baboon's blood,' ” he continued. “ ‘Then the charm is firm and good.' ”

Well, then.

Shock that the gorgeous Marine was quoting Shakespeare beyond the two lines everyone and his aunt knew left her dumbstruck. Laugh lines feathered out around his eyes. She wanted to kiss them.

“It can read, y'know,” he said, dry as dust.

“And I thought it just propped up hotel bars and kept the Coca-Cola Company in business.” She shifted in her seat. Crossed her legs. The sexy front slit revealed the tops of her stockings and the lace-trimmed satin garter. Oops.

When his hold tightened on the bottle, a flood of moisture pooled between her thighs.

His phone buzzed in the pocket of his jeans. He ignored it.

“You don't want to get that?”

He remained silent. After three more chirps, his phone followed suit. Terrorized into voice mail.

Six days ago, she had watched as he engaged in Activity No. 1 for Lone Men in Bars: scrutinizing his Coke bottle while he waited for a date to arrive. That night, Molly had worn shorts and a light summer sweater, having just completed the third week of her run in
The Who's Tommy
at Chicago's Ford Oriental Theatre around the corner. The strains of the show's get-up-and-sing closing number still echoed in her tired brain, the standing ovation with it.
Gazing at you, I get the heat . . .
All she'd wanted was a glass of wine at the bar to relax her before she headed to her sterile hotel room.

Then she saw the Marine.

First date was her best guess: he wore a likely borrowed jacket that fitted a little too snugly over his broad shoulders, stiff, unbroken denim, and loafers. Not like how he was dressed tonight, with his faded-to-touchable-softness tee, jeans that looked like an old friend, and boots that competed with his weathered face for mileage. Six nights ago, his date hadn't shown. Every night since, he'd sat at the other end of the bar, drinking a Coke and ignoring his phone.

Pretending to ignore her.

Now those relentless blue eyes pinned her to the spot, never leaving her face, even with that garter reveal. She knew he'd seen it. Every muscle in his body affirmed he'd seen it. Her gaze dipped below his trim hips, above his muscular thighs, and lingered. She was actually leering. The intriguing bulge expanded as she watched, turning the pulse between her thighs painful.

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