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By the end of January, the Five Alarm Alphas box set will be broken up into individual novellas. You can still get it as a set until then, though. And while we’re at it, I thought you’d like to read a snippet from my story, Up In Smoke, which will be released later this year as the first in a new series, Fire Me Up.

Jess chewed nervously on the end of her thumb and shifted her weight from one foot to the other. She’d been back and forth in her head for a couple of hours over whether accepting the dinner invitation was a bad idea or not. One minute she decided yes, and the next minute she decided no. She couldn’t seem to make up her mind. All she did know was the work and plans she’d been hoping to get done during lunch hadn’t amounted to a hill of beans because couldn’t stop thinking about the two hot men from her disaster of a morning.

What were the odds that a sexy as sin fireman and a hunky, charming paramedic would flirt with her on the same day? What were the odds that she could admit to herself that she found them sexy and charming and hunky? Truth was, she’d take either one of them and wished she’d had the moments back so she could try to knock the rust off her own flirting skills. It had been too long since she’d had sex, let alone a real date with food that she hadn’t made or wasn’t reviewing, and a real conversation. At the very least she could hope for a real conversation, couldn’t she?

Of course, flirting on the day her kitchen blew up was probably not the best time, but she wouldn’t be a woman if she didn’t acknowledge how it had brightened her day for those two young men to do it. And, they were young. She didn’t know how much younger than her they were, but she couldn’t imagine that it would ever matter. Flirting did not equal bedding.

Behind her, a car drove by on the street and pulled her out of her thoughts. Should she knock? Or ring the doorbell again?

A small amount of fear and uncertainty crept in as she wondered if Josh had just been being polite when he invited her over for dinner. She shook that idea away almost immediately. No. He’d stopped to check on her and it hadn’t been a formal or official visit. It had been kind and kind of charming that he’d done so. He wouldn’t have made an empty gesture.

Yet, her nerves were going to get the best of her soon and she’d bolt. The more she had time to think about the men she’d met that day, the more she worked herself up to wanting one or both or in any combination they’d be willing to let her have them. They were her own private fantasy and one she’d never dare share with them.

Besides, the two men may not even know one another.

“What the hell is wrong with you, Jess?” she whispered to herself. She was meeting one man for dinner and she couldn’t stop thinking of another one. Not singularly, but still… She should put the paramedic out of her mind. She should put the attraction to both men out of her mind. “Dinner, girl. That’s all.” Another whisper to herself on the heels of which she heard metal slide against metal a second before the door swung open.

She took a deep breath, planned to let it out slowly, but when she looked at who was standing in the doorway, smiling down at her, she forgot everything. “You,” she gasped.

“Me who?” he teased.

She pointed and tried to remember how to speak. “You’re the paramedic.”

“I am.”

“Am I at the wrong house?”

“Nope. I live here too.”

He was the brother Josh had spoken of? “You’re Josh’s brother?”

“Yes. Surprised, huh? We get that a lot.”

“He just… He said his brother would be home, but he didn’t say I’d already met… Wow. I’m sorry.” She wiped her hand on her jeans, then offered it to him. “I’m Jess. I don’t think we actually were introduced today.”

“We were, but you were in a bit of shock.” He slid his palm against hers and wrapped his fingers around the back of her hand. He was solid where she trembled, scorching where she was chilled with nerves. “My name is Jay. How are you feeling?”

How did she not see it before? He looked almost identical to Josh, except Jay had that blond hair with sun streaks and those bright eyes. Their voices were slightly different, one more backwoods tinged than the other, but none of it mattered.

Part of her fantasy stood in front of her and part of her fantasy was somewhere inside the house. If she didn’t know herself better, she’d swear she could cream her panties just from the knowledge of it.

“Jess?” The way he said her name, soft Southern accent, washed over her and she knew she was wrong. She didn’t know herself half as well as she thought she did because the trickle of moisture between her thighs let her know just how much this man affected her.

It was going to be a long night.

“I… I’m fine. I was just surprised. I said that already, didn’t I?” Heat suffused her neck that had nothing to do with the temperature outside.

“It’s quite all right. Josh should have told you, I guess. C’mon in. He’s out back and just fired up the grill. We’ll be eating steaks before too long.”

“Steaks? He said hamburgers. I hope it’s still okay that I came over.”

“Why wouldn’t it be? We changed our mind at the last minute and thought steak would a nice meal to break you in with.”

“Break me in?”

“Get to know you. Let you get to know us. New friends and all that. Besides, after this morning and apparently the cardboard pizza you had last night, you deserve a good steak.”

He pulled gently her in the house, still holding her hand in his and after closing the door behind her, his other hand went to the small of her back. The heat from him seared through her shirt and she felt the brand all the way to her toes. It wasn’t possessive really, but it wasn’t a light, friends only touch, either.

“I apologize for staring. I see the resemblance in you and Josh now, but until you mentioned it, I didn’t.”

“No biggie. Most people don’t see it unless we’re standing side by side.”

“How much of an age difference is there? I mean, that is if you don’t mind me asking.” Jess felt off kilter and unsure what to say. She had talked herself into being able to handle Josh, but she didn’t know if she could handle both men. It was as though she was a teenager again, freaking out because her crush looked at her twice.

“Honey, you can ask anything you want. We have no secrets here.”

Honey. The word coming from his lips was slow and smooth, thickly covering everything it touched. Orgasms without someone actually touching between her legs wasn’t something she’d experienced before, but if he kept talking in that low tone, she might have one standing in their foyer.

“We’re half brothers. Not more ‘an a few months apart.”

“Really?”

“Yeah. We have the same father. My mother was the mistress and Josh’s mother was the wife. He left all of us at the same time.”

“I’m sorry. That must’ve been horrible.”

“Wasn’t so bad after a time. You learn to make the best of it and you build the walls you need.” Jess didn’t know what he meant by that, but she felt it might be intrusive to ask, so she kept the question to herself. He squeezed her hand before letting it go, though kept his other hand on her back. “What about you? Brothers or sisters?”

“Neither.”

“Well, you have us now.”

Again, she wasn’t sure what he meant by the familiarity. They’d just met. Did he know something she didn’t? They didn’t know her and she didn’t know them other than they’d come to her rescue earlier in the day. His flirting, and that’s exactly what it was, was also full of insinuation and maybe even promise that she didn’t understand.

At the same time, she was very curious to find out. He melted her from the inside out. There was no question in her mind about his sincerity. It was present in his tone as well.

If he was trying to make her feel at home, she couldn’t say it wasn’t working, nor that it was. It was strange, the feeling churning through her. Desire, for certain. A little fear of the unknown. Attraction, hero worship? Yes, definitely. One brother kept her house from burning down and the other kept her from falling apart with a little wit and charm.

She was lightheaded in an excited way and she was interested, very interested in seeing where the night would lead.

“Would you like a beer or a hard cider?” he asked, opening the refrigerator door and looking at her expectantly.

“Cider, please. I haven’t had one yet this year.”

“Wasn’t time for them until a few weeks ago.”

“You plan what you drink by the time of year it is?”

“Yeah. Don’t you?”

“Yeah, I do.” That was a strange thing to have in common and it only made her more curious about the two men who shared the house she was standing in. It looked very similar in layout to hers, except their kitchen was at the front of the house and hers was at the back. Much like hers though, theirs also opened up into a shared dining and living space which was exactly what she’d have imagined for two single men: a flat-screen nearly as large as the wall it hung on, video game systems filling the shelves of the built-in bookcases, along with a large movie and game collection. A leather sofa and two leather recliners filled out the living room, and the dining area housed a table to seat…six? Why would two men need a table large enough for six people?

Oddly enough, it was her preferred seating number as well. Six was a good number for a dinner and eight boarded on too much and too crowded. Six chairs would still allow for four to dine comfortably, while eight would make for an empty feeling and as though something were missing.

“You sure you’re feeling all right? No ill effects from the smoke?”

“No, I think I’m good. I was out of the house most of the day and was at home long enough to drop off my computer and change clothes.”

“Glad you decided to take Josh up on dinner,” he remarked, leading her again with that insistent, hot hand against the small of her back.

Out on the deck, Josh stood with back to them, tending the grill. Long bench seating ran the perimeters of the outdoor space and a picnic table sat to the far left, up one step. Three wooden barrels sat in various spots, one of which was near Josh and held a tray of steaks and a beer.

She had just enough time to admire his broad back in a white t-shirt and his legs, made visible by a pair of black and gray camo shorts. She suddenly over dressed, but then he turned around and she forgot everything.
The wicked look in his eyes belied the kind smile that crossed his lips at the sight of her. Jay was still at her back and it didn’t take Josh but four or five long steps to cross the deck. He stopped in front of her and a look passed quickly between the brothers. She couldn’t decipher it, but Josh’s gaze was back and focused on her before she could think more about it.

Heat filled her, drifting off both men and the melting effect began all over again. She stood between them and while logic said she should move away from the sexual tension, she knew she would stay rooted to the spot.

“How’re you feelin’?” Josh asked with a voice that was softer, rougher than Jay’s and it rumbled along her nerves.

She needed to find her own voice, but her lips, tongue, and throat were dry despite the swallows of the hard cider she’d taken. The fact that her mind was little more than a jumble of thoughts she couldn’t begin to sort out, didn’t help.

With effort, she responded, “I’m good.”

Josh smelled like the outdoors, like liquid smoke, like man. Jay’s scent was different, lighter, but no less intoxicating. Or was that her drink talking?

“Make yourself at home, darlin’. We’ll be ready to eat soon.” Josh slid a hand to the back of her head and placed a kiss against her forehead. It was tender as it had been when he did the same thing back at her house, but the air was charged with much more than concern and tenderness.

He turned away and she was finally able to breathe again, to think clearly, but realized she didn’t want to do either of those. She liked the overwhelmed by testosterone feeling. She liked being in the middle of the two men. She really liked the care they showed her. Every bit of it was foreign to her and she was soaking it up like a sponge: waiting, wanting, craving more.

Have a great Tuesday!

~lissa