Read Sweet Southern Nights (Home In Magnolia Bend Book 3) Online

Authors: Liz Talley

Tags: #Action & Adventure, #Contemporary, #Fiction, #Romance, #Sensual, #Female Firefighter, #Best Friend, #Lovers, #Co-Worker, #Crossing Lines, #Past Tragedy, #One Kiss

Sweet Southern Nights (Home In Magnolia Bend Book 3)

BOOK: Sweet Southern Nights (Home In Magnolia Bend Book 3)
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One kiss can change everything

Eva Monroe is always cool under pressure. As a firefighter, it’s part of the job. But after kissing Jake Beauchamp in a moment of confusion, she’s struggling to keep it together. Jake’s her best friend and coworker—two very good reasons why crossing this line is a bad idea.

Yet something between them must’ve changed, because one kiss isn’t nearly enough—for either of them. But Jake is haunted by a past tragedy and isn’t the commitment type. With more than just Eva’s heart on the line, she needs to end things now before this fire burns out of control.

Eva sat up.

“It was a dumb kiss,” she said. “I don’t know why I did it. Just drop it.”

Of course she knew why she’d kissed him. She’d dreamed about doing just that for three years, yearning for his body against hers, almost desperate to take one little taste of Jake.

But he didn’t have to know that.

“No,” he said, wiping his hands on a napkin.

“No? What do you mean, no?”

“See, thing is, that was a crappy kiss. How can I let you walk around thinking that subpar kiss was indicative of what I’m capable of? That would be...a travesty.” He reached over and dragged her into his lap, turning her so she tipped à la Scarlett O’Hara into his arms.

“Jake,” she said struggling against him even as something way deep down inside her screamed, “hell, yeah.”

Dear Reader,

I’m so happy to be back in Magnolia Bend and giving that rascal Jake Beauchamp a bit of a comeuppance with a woman so suited to him. Of course, ol’ Jake never thought about how perfectly his best friend fits him. Eva’s such a strong woman, fearlessly stepping in to take care of her younger brother and determined to prove to everyone she’s tough enough to be the MBFD’s newest captain. And Jake has to make amends with a past he’s run from for all too long, finding the courage to break out of being the man he created long ago. There is danger, excitement and passion within the pages of this story, and I think you’ll like catching up with the rest of the Beauchamp gang.

So come back with me to the sweet Louisiana town where love, life and the good stuff all meet up.

I love hearing from my readers. You can stay in touch with me through
liztalleybooks.com
or find me on Facebook at
liztalleybooks
.

Happy reading!

Liz

LIZ
TALLEY

Sweet Southern Nights

After being a finalist for RWA’s prestigious Golden Heart Award in Regency romance,
Liz Talley
found a home writing sassy contemporary romance. Her first book,
Vegas Two-Step
, starred a spinster librarian and debuted in June 2010. Since that time, Liz has published fourteen more Superromances. Her stories are set in the South where the tea is sweet, the summers are hot and the men are hotter. Liz lives in North Louisiana with her childhood sweetheart, two handsome children, three dogs and a mean kitty. You can visit Liz at
liztalleybooks.com
to learn more about her upcoming books.

Books by Liz Talley

HARLEQUIN SUPERROMANCE

Home in Magnolia Bend

The Sweetest September
Sweet Talking Man

The Boys of Bayou Bridge

Waters Run Deep
Under the Autumn Sky
The Road to Bayou Bridge
Vegas Two-Step
The Way to Texas
A Little Texas
A Taste of Texas
A Touch of Scarlet
The Spirit of Christmas
His Uptown Girl
His Brown-Eyed Girl
His Forever Girl

Visit the Author Profile page
at
Harlequin.com
for more titles.

The book is dedicated to the men and women who face deadly fires in order to save lives and property. A special thank-you goes to my childhood neighbor, Captain Guy Mandino, and the Minden Fire Department who so graciously gave me a tour, answered questions and modeled what it is to be an everyday hero.

I would also like to thank Bora Sunseri, who helped me in regards to Child Protective Services.

And finally, the person who gave me a chance to blossom into the writer I am today. I will forever be grateful to Wanda Ottewell for guiding me, teaching me and being my friend.

CHAPTER ONE

E
VA
M
ONROE
ADJUSTED
her helmet as Engine One roared up to the Magnolia Breeze residential complex.

“You ready?” Jake Beauchamp asked her, his blue eyes intense.

“I’m always ready,” she said, fitting the Nomex hood over her braided hair and securing the Velcro on her bunker coat. Her heart galloped in her throat. Didn’t matter that she’d done this hundreds of times. Preparing to battle a fire always felt the same. Like sex. Didn’t know how good or bad it was going to be, but you were going to get hot and sweaty either way.

Captain Sorrento crossed himself as he shifted the engine into Park alongside a curb grown wooly with overgrown crabgrass. A string of tired duplexes squatted next to the one smudging a sky the color of Cozumel Bay with dark smoke. “Check your radios. Everyone safe.”

“Everyone safe,” she and Jake repeated the department mantra.

Eva fitted her SCBA, strapping the air tank securely before pulling her mask over her mouth. She glanced at Jake, who’d done the same, his eyes crackling with intensity and focus.

Jake was always focused.

“FD2, go to C and give a status. FD5, start initial attack at A.” Captain Hank Sorrento already stood at the helm, flipping levers and barking directives at the engines pulling in behind. “Catch me a hydrant, Engine Four.”

Eva bailed out after Jake, just the way she liked it. When she first joined the squad, one of the older guys tried to let her out ahead of him saying “Ladies first.”

It had pissed Eva off...and Jake must have noticed because he said, “You kidding? She ain’t no lady. She’s a goddamn fire swallower, ready to put this bitch out.”

His words had made Eva laugh...and Dutch Rinaudo frown. Dutch was a home-grown Louisiana boy who still struggled with the fact Eva was his equal on the squad. Jake had grinned at Dutch and then pushed Eva back, bailing out before she could.

Later when she rolled the scene around in her mind, she wondered if his charging in first was because he couldn’t wait to face death or because he wanted to protect her.

Probably the first one.

Though she’d been friends with Jake for years, she didn’t doubt that embedded deep within his modern brain was the masculine desire to protect the weaker sex.

She snorted at the thought of her being weaker.

Weaker, her ass.

Jake hooked his accountability tag on the large cone designed to help keep track of who had tanks and was active on the scene before jerking back around to face her. “Want me to get the beast so you can break the window?”

Eva gave him the look, and Jake grinned. Ever since she’d nearly broken her hand trying to break a thick plexiglass window with the Halligan tool, Jake had given her grief.

Her heavy gloves prevented her from giving him the finger.

Smoke poured from the upper right corner of the freestanding, single-story apartment building. When Eva reached the backside as the captain instructed her to do, she called in her position and assessment. The captain barked commands, and Eva noted Moon Avery attaching the LDH to feed the pump.

“FD5, get the front door. Start initial through A. Let’s push this back. FD2, report to front.” Jake would go through and attack, while Eva headed back to the front to assist...or whatever the captain wanted her to do.

Moon set a ladder against the front side of the building and started securing the hose straps. Moon drove Engine Four and had worked for the department for almost twenty-three years. Martin drove the snorkel truck, which idled behind the two pumpers, the aerial bucket dangling like a forgotten toy.

Moon looked at her and jerked his head to an older woman huddled with a young girl, both crying.

Eva’s stomach flared aggravation. She shook her head.

Her radio crackled and Captain Sorrento said, “FD2, interview residents.”

“Shit.” Eva gritted her teeth, pissed that once again she wouldn’t be part of the attack and that she’d been relegated to deal with the teary-eyed while Jake and Martin smashed in the front door and knocked down the fire.

But then Eva looked at the older woman standing in a striped housecoat, dampness streaking her cheeks, anguish in her eyes, and softened as she headed toward where the pair held each other. Chief Blume met her there.

Eva pulled off her mask. “Anyone else in the building, ma’am?”

“Just me and Kiki. The people next door are at work. Ollie puts Zeke and Zara on the bus at ten to seven before she leaves for the day,” the woman said.

With sad eyes, the woman watched the hoses begin to pump. “They gonna ruin my mama’s quilt.” The girl she held to her looked about ten or eleven years old, and she watched stoically as the other firefighters scrambled to get into position.

Eva slid off her gloves, hooking them on her bunker coat. “We have tarps, and once we access the apartment we’ll do our best to cover your furnishings.”

The chief leveled bushy eyebrows at Eva. “I’m not assuming command, but I’ll send Martin next door to clear the apartment.”

“I can go,” Eva said.

“No, you stay here with Ms....”

“Glory Mitchell,” the woman managed, wiping her eyes with one hand.

“Ms. Mitchell,” the chief repeated, glancing back at Eva. “Take care of things here, Eva. Thanks.” The chief walked away before Eva could protest. She snapped her mouth shut, tamping down the sour taste of disappointment.

Over her shoulder, she heard Jake burst into Glory’s apartment using the battering ram. The older woman sucked in an injured breath before moaning and turned away. Her threadbare cotton robe swished against the tall hitchhiker grass peppering the yard.

“Oh, Jesus, they broke the door,” Glory said, her shoulders shaking. “I can’t believe this. I just can’t believe this.”

“It’ll be okay, Ms. Mitchell. You’re safe, and that’s most important. Doors can be fixed.”

The older woman nodded, trying to staunch the emotion shaking her.

“So, can you tell me what happened?” Eva asked.

“When I saw those curtains on fire, I grabbed Kiki and we ran out the back door. She had her phone so I called 911.”

“Very smart, Ms. Mitchell,” Eva said, taking the older woman’s elbow and moving her back toward the sprawling mimosa tree on the edge of the yard. Seemed like the only thing that grew on the hardscrabble lot. Glory shuffled back, but her eyes remained fixed on the apartment building.

Captain Sorrento released the valves, and water started pumping out of the blue hose strapped to the ladder and the red hose Jake had dragged in through the front door.

“Ms. Mitchell, do you have any idea what may have sparked this fire?” Eva asked, placing a gentle hand on Glory’s shoulder.

“I don’t rightly know. I was cooking breakfast, and Kiki was in the bathroom. You do somethin’, Kiki?”

The girl shook her head but her gaze slid away.

“Then I heard Kiki start screaming.”

“So you don’t know where the fire started?”

Glory shook her head.

“Uh, the bedroom. I think,” Kiki said. “I mean, there was this, uh, lighter sittin’ on the dresser.”

Glory stiffened. “What’s a lighter doin’ in you and your mama’s room?”

“Ms. Quita gave Mama a candle that smells like peaches. She been lighting it at night so our room don’t smell like feet,” Kiki said, her voice almost a whisper.

Glory grabbed Kiki’s shoulder, pulling her toward her. “Girl, did you start this? Did you?”

“No, Ma Glory,” Kiki said, whipping her head back and forth. “I didn’t do nothin’. Mama lit the candle last night but she blew it out. I think. I don’t know. I just saw that lighter. That’s all.”

“Don’t make no sense,” Glory said, anger crackling in her voice even as she released the girl. “A lighter don’t suddenly light itself.”

“I opened the window,” the girl said.

“Why you do that?”

Kiki swiped an arm across her nose and stuck out her chin. “I was hot. We ain’t had no air-conditioning in a long time and I don’t wanna go to school sweaty. That’s all I did. I only told this lady the lighter was there ’cause there’s fluid in it that catches fire, right?” The girl looked at Eva.

“That’s right,” Eva said, scanning the area. A few residents of Spring Street had gathered, all in various state of morning dress, some holding coffee cups. Nothing like a fire to bring out lookyloos.

Eva flinched when she saw a Magnolia Bend Police cruiser lurch to a stop behind the snorkel truck. Funny how every time she saw one of the town’s finest stepping from a police car, she tensed for a confrontation. Her break up with Officer Chase Grider was recent enough to still make her uncomfortable.

Thankfully, it wasn’t Chase but his brother Cole.

Eva excused herself, radioed the point of origin to the captain and went to Engine One to get the prefire plan binder so she could start the on-scene report. Hank was still busy running the fire, which looked to be knocked down, while Moon was at the back of the engine, pulling out the positive pressure fan to clear the smoke and blow some good air inside the still-smoking apartment.

Bobby John Crow, the department’s fire investigator, pulled in behind the police cruiser, meeting Cole, who held a coffee from the Short Stop. Bobby John’s motto was that every fire was potential arson. Eva had argued with him about it once, to which Bobby John had flipped a beer bottle cap and declared it was his job to prove it wasn’t.

Whatever. Wasn’t her job.

Jake came trudging out, still on his tank, tugging the red hose. Moon had already cut off the blue one. Acrid smoke hung in the air like a persistent salesman, and the apartment building looked forlorn and lost.

“Morning, fellas,” Bobby John said as he approached the engine. Eva grabbed the binder and stood, nearly bumping her head on the top of the engine. Bobby John made a face. “Oh, sorry. Didn’t see it was you.”

But he had known damn well it was Eva bent over in Engine One.

He was the only guy who took pleasure in needling Eva about being a female firefighter. Yeah, Jake teased, but he respected her. And Dutch was just old-school and found it hard to step outside the social mores he’d been raised with. But Bobby John outright didn’t like the fact Eva had been hired— period. She’d overheard him once tell Dutch she was a token, that women didn’t belong in the department. He also hadn’t let go of the fact that when he’d hit on her the first night she was in town, she’d shot him down.

Eva turned, shapeless beneath her gear, her dark wavy hair concealed under her helmet. “Easy mistake, since you don’t get to see the female form that often.”

“Ouch,” he said, the smile not quite reaching his cold blue eyes. “What’ve we got here?”

“I think you’ll find your origin in the back bedroom. Ten to one, the curtains blew into a lit candle, but the residents are over there.” She pointed toward Glory and Kiki, who were now talking to a few neighbors.

Bobby John’s gaze flitted over her face, lingering a bit too long on her lips. For the umpteenth time in her life, Eva wished she was plain.

Yeah. Most girls wanted to be dainty and pretty.

Not Eva. Because being small and attractive wasn’t a plus when a gal was fighting for equality in a nontraditional occupation for women. She figured if she’d been born country-strong with a blockier form and a jutting jawline, she’d probably have climbed the ladder of the firefighting profession more quickly. Only a handful of female firefighters had made captain or chief in other Louisiana municipalities.

Eva barely met the required weight for being a firefighter, and her upturned exotic eyes, long dark hair and breasts a bit too big for her body type didn’t help when it came to hefting hoses and swinging axes. So she used her smart-assed mouth and brains to gain respect.

It worked, for the most part.

Sometimes the guys even forgot she had boobs.

But most of the time they didn’t, cracking jokes about her orchid shampoo or blanching when they found a box of her tampons under the sink at the station.

In some ways it felt like the 1960s in Magnolia Bend.

She probably should have taken the job in Slidell, but the charm of Magnolia Bend and the fact that it was only a short drive to where her mother lived had swayed her.

And then there was Jake.

“Hey, Eva,” Jake called, jogging toward her, mask connector dangling, his jacket split open to reveal the softball T-shirt that clung just tight enough to show how trim his stomach was. “Want to work out later?”

“Sure. But I already told Clint I’d meet him there.” She worked out with Jake’s childhood friend several times a week. Though Clint was in a wheelchair, he was a gym rat.

“That’s cool. I can pick him up and head to Ray-Ray’s from there.”

She and Jake were on C shift and had been since she’d started three years ago. She’d transferred in from Baton Rouge FD with six years under her belt. Jake had the exact same number of years’ experience and an easy way about him. Captain Sorrento had put them on the same shift, and they’d pretty much stayed together unless someone was on vacation.

Jake was probably her absolute best friend.

And he had no idea she’d fallen head over heels for him the first time she laid eyes on him.

“Perfect,” she said, pulling his tag off the clip on the cone and handing it to him. “I’ll be glad to kick your ass again.”

“Pfft,” Jake scoffed, rolling those pretty eyes before tossing his bunker coat in the back and grabbing the nearest hose. “You kickbox like a girl.”

“Damn right.”

“Which means she fights dirty,” Moon snickered, lifting the ladder back into place.

Jake glanced up, cracking a smile, making Eva’s heart skip a beat. Why did the man have to be so gorgeous? Why did his T-shirt have to cling so spectacularly to his torso? Why did—

The radio crackled, distracting her, as Martin relayed that the apartment was clear. Time to clear the scene.

Eva tugged off her helmet and bunker coat and found a pen. Normally, she’d help stow the equipment, but since Hank had pulled her around front and several volunteer firemen had arrived to assist, she filled in the paperwork normally done by the driver. Might as well save Hank some time and earn her some brownie points. With Wendell contemplating retirement in order to run a yard service full-time, Eva wanted to make captain.

BOOK: Sweet Southern Nights (Home In Magnolia Bend Book 3)
11.9Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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