Uniform Desires by Simone Anderson
Being the younger brother of the school bully has made Jason's life hell, until Marine Corps sniper Cade steps in to even the odds in yet another fight and offer Jason a place to stay. Can Jason find the strength to believe that love is worth fighting for?
A Ring and A Promise by Devon Rhodes
When Navy flier Cary secretly switches Academy rings with the love of his life, Owen, he makes a vow to make their unlikely relationship work. But when his Marine is called overseas, will a ring and a promise be enough to get them through?
Only Sam by Em Woods
When Dylan's restaurant burns down, his dreams turn to ashes, leaving him vulnerable to the man who wants to love him...and the one who wants to kill him. Fire fighter Sam has been trying to work up the nerve to ask Dylan out. But is it too late?
Zane's Inferno by Sara York
When Zane is trapped in a forest fire and almost killed, paramedic Nick moves in and doesn't leave his side. But a jealous ex is setting up Nick...and gunning for Zane. Will they survive the firestorm or succumb to the flames?
In the Name of the Law by Sue Holston
Vice cop Mitchell has a secret-he's in love with his partner, Ivan. When too much alcohol leads to them sleeping together, then Ivan is shot and nearly dies, Mitch realises he must tell the truth or lose Ivan for good.
Wings of Fire by Kit Sands
Fire fighter Salvatore's life will never be the same after he pulls Jamieson from a burning car. But can they avoid the actions of a deranged bigot long enough to have their dreams come true?
The plea-barely a whisper next to the loud music pouring from the Driftwood Bar and Grille followed by a thud and the faint ding of metal-caught Cade Donovan’s attention. Senses flaring, he listened again, weighing his options. The soft sound repeated itself-a body connecting painfully with a vehicle of some kind. His gut clenched and he turned to his brothers.
"Go on ahead, I’ll be right in."
"Cade, where are you going?" his older brother Riley asked.
"Just something I want to check out."
"We’ll go with you," his younger brother Christian said, nodding to his twin, Riordan.
Cade smiled and shook his head. "Pretty sure I can take care of myself."
It was rare for all of them to be home at the same time, but they’d managed it—everyone meeting at Parris Island for their sister Cheyenne’s graduation from Marine Corps boot camp three days ago. They had another two weeks before they all needed to be back to their respective bases. Earlier in the night, his sisters had gone to the movies, while their parents had gone to a couples-only party.
"Let us know if you need us to come rescue your ass." Riordan laughed.
Cade nodded as his brothers headed into the bar. Aware of his surroundings, he made his way around the side of the building. Knowing the music would cover the sound of his boots on the pavement, he kept to the shadows as he scanned the area. At the far end of the parking lot, four men stood on the other side of a brown 1990 Cadillac Seville, kicking and shouting at an unseen person. He made his way along the side of the building and his heart dropped as his intuition was confirmed. Pulling out his cell phone, he sent a quick message to his brothers.
"Four on one. End of lot."
Cade took a deep breath and hit send. Riley was with the SWAT team in the nearby city of Kalamazoo. Christian and Riordan were both Air Force Combat Controllers. It made sense to let them know and get their help, especially if any of the four men had weapons, but he had no intention of waiting for his brothers to show.
"Is there a problem?" Cade asked, striding over to the group then crossing his arms over his chest as he stopped.
"None of your concern, Marine," said a man with dark hair and the beginnings of a beer belly that his faded University of Michigan T-shirt failed to hide.
"Please help me," the boy on the ground sobbed out. "I didn’t do anything."
"You’re breathing, Carlson, that’s enough," a second dark-haired man sneered.
A Ring and A Promise by Devon Rhodes
Cary felt a trickle of sweat rolling down the centre of his back as he and his uniformed classmates baked on the unseasonably warm day. At least five hours they’d been out in the sun, but the end was finally in sight as the Second Lieutenant was welcomed back to the stage.
The surge of excitement in the group was palpable as the class was told to rise. Everyone knew what was coming next. Various scattered cheers broke out as they all stood, hats in hand. Under the pretence of stretching, Cary craned his neck and was barely able to see the service dress blues of his best friend two rows behind him and a considerable distance to the left. But try as he might, he couldn’t manage to see Owen’s face. Cary’s own summer whites at least had a shot at reflecting the sun. Owen must be sweltering in his dark Marines uniform.
Cary had seen him standing tall above the other graduates earlier as all the Marines had risen for their commissioning, pride and intensity radiating from the face he knew as well as his own. The moment before he’d retaken his seat, Owen’s gaze had zeroed in on his for a brief moment, a reconnection Cary had welcomed at the end of a busy, hectic week.
Cary sighed. Pretty pathetic to be missing him already with so much separation ahead of them. It was only a handful of hours and a hundred feet of distance right now. The enforced intimacy of sharing quarters for four years was going to abruptly end—way sooner than Cary was prepared for.
"I propose three cheers for those we leave behind! Hip, hip—"
"Hooray!" Cary shouted with the rest of the graduates.
"Hooray!" He tensed in preparation.
"Hooray!" Cary released all of the excitement of the day and uncertainty about the future in a huge upwards heave of his arm. Over one thousand hats flew into the air then smiling people were embracing and congratulating each other all around him.
Without the structure of the orderly rows of seats, when Cary looked back again, he could no longer pick Owen out of the crowd. Usually his friend and classmate’s height made him instantly recognisable, but then again, there were a lot of tall soon-to-be-Marines out here today…
"We did it, Care Bear." The familiar low whisper in his ear was accompanied by a firm clasp to his shoulder.
A breath gushed from him in relief. He graciously finished shaking hands with a female middie near him before he spun around and thumped up against Owen in a fierce hug. He couldn’t think of another occasion where he’d be able to hold his lover in public—the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ notwithstanding—and unashamedly took advantage of the rare opportunity.
Owen tensed for a second then curled his body to pull Cary in as close as possible, the muscles he took pride in maintaining flexing and rippling under his dark uniform. Cary closed his eyes and gave himself up to that strength. Just another minute…
Hands closed upon his shoulders and firmly set him away to a more respectable distance. Owen’s warm brown eyes met his from under dark brows, arched in warning. Cary took the hint and dropped his probably all-too-revealing gaze.
"Guys! Ring knock?"
Only Sam by Em Woods
How could this have happened?
Dylan Brookes kept his kitchen meticulously organised. He ticked off things in his head. The espresso machine, mixer and processor had been unplugged before he left, his stainless steel counters had been wiped down, and the garbage bags were always changed whether they had been used or not. Maybe it had been a short in the wiring behind the walls?
Though the sirens blared in the parking lot, they were still unable to drown out the snap and pop of the flames licking from the kitchen window of his upscale organic eatery, The Omni. Dylan sat on the bumper of an ambulance, a stiff hospital blanket wrapped around his shoulders, and watched his life going up in smoke...literally.
Dylan glanced up and took a shallow breath, trying not to wrinkle his nose at the acrid smell of smoke and burning paint in the air. His supposedly silent business partner and ex-brother-in-law Mike Eagon jogged up to him.
Mike patted him absently on the shoulder, his gaze flickering between Dylan and what remained of the restaurant. "You okay, man?"
When Dylan saw him like this, with his eyes a deep, meadow green, concern etching tiny lines between his brows, it was easy to see what his sister, Jenny, had seen in Mike when they’d first met.
"Yeah, but I don’t think Omni will be." Dylan’s gaze drifted back to the smoking building. One fireman stood with his hose on full bore, trained at the ground around the restaurant, and two more had theirs pointed in the windows. Dylan’s heart broke.
There had once been the most beautiful stained glass window depicting a sensual male form entwined in the bark of the Tree of Life. It was his trademark and had been gifted to him by Jenny shortly after he’d opened the restaurant with Mike.
"We’ll build it again. Maybe bigger next time, eh?" Mike faced the pile of rubble, his head tilted as he looked at the damage.
"Bigger?" Dylan couldn’t believe his ears. His eatery had been perfect. "I liked the size of our place."
"It’s just some bricks and paint, right?" Mike spun around, his eyes alight with whatever idea had struck next. "Maybe make it an Italian restaurant!"
Dylan’s heart thundered. And that was a prime example of why she’d divorced him. The guy had no sense of what emotional attachment meant.
"What are you going on about? Are you kidding me?" Dylan’s voice rose. "It isn’t even a pile of cold ashes yet."
Mike waved a hand absently. "But we have to start planning, right? Jenny could help."
"I’m not asking Jenny to come back to change my restaurant." Dylan didn’t know what the fuck was going on here, but he knew that for certain.
Mike paced in front of Dylan, occasionally stopping to stare at him as though he didn’t understand why he was resisting. "This is our chance, Dylan. We could go big time with this."
Big time? Dylan shook his head as he stood. "I can’t talk about this now."
"It’s okay. Tomorrow is soon enough."
"Never is even better."
"Dylan, don’t be an ass." Mike gripped Dylan’s shoulder as he passed. "This is our opportunity to do it right."
Zane's Inferno by Sara York
Zane Wilson inched forwards, barely able to move. Heat from the fire was baking his brain through his helmet. They were going to call him back any second. The swirl of the fire and the intense heat meant only one thing—this building was about to collapse. The stairs were engulfed in flames, blocking access to the upper floors. This had to have been deliberately set.
"Portable One, this is Command. You copy?"
"Command, this is Portable One, Zane here."
"Heat’s built up in the attic. Come out now. Over."
"Portable One exiting the building. We’re coming out. Over."
James, his hose man, slapped him on the back. They’d moved back three feet when he heard the loud crack over the roar of the fire. The three-storey mansion was coming down around them.
"Run!" James shouted over the intercom just before he slapped Zane again, this time on the shoulder.
Zane dropped the hose then turned to run. They both dashed for the door. Zane saw a huge beam fall and he shoved James out of the way before he jumped back.
A wall of fire surrounded him, blocking his exit. His oxygen tank alarm went off, signalling the end of his air supply. He would die in a few minutes if he didn’t escape the raging beast. Smoke seared his lungs, leaving him nauseous and dizzy. His tank should have lasted longer. Someone had given him an empty one. His stomach turned as he fought to remember who had given it to him. The flames grew stronger so he forgot about the tank and searched for a way out.
The fire died down to his right for just a few seconds. He braced himself for the heat and leapt through the uneven wall of flames. The fire burned him but he kept going, pushing his way into the living room. The heat was less intense as he made his way through the smoke-filled room. On the far wall he saw a window. He grabbed his hooligan tool and tried to smash out the glass. The bar bounced back, smacking his visor. Shit, Plexiglas.
Zane pulled the lock on the window and tried to shove the pane up, but it wouldn’t budge. The heat, maybe paint...something was making the window stick. He tried again as chunks of house dropped to the floor behind him like bombs on a battlefield.
He reached up, grabbing the sides of the window frame. There was a security rod preventing the window from rising. He pulled out the metal rod then slid the window up. Oxygen rushed in, fuelling the fire. The blaze snaked its way across the ceiling, straight towards him.
The curtain around the window burst into flames. He jumped back. Pain seared his shoulder as a beam fell and crashed into him. This was his one chance. Zane jumped forward, diving through the smoke and fire, landing and rolling to his knees. He ignored the pain racing through his body as he crawled to a standing position.
Noise split the air as an explosion ripped through the house. Heat pushed him forward, and for a brief second he was airborne. He hit the ground with a solid thud. Fire and ash rained down around him.
Three of his buddies circled him, one opening his coat while the other two pulled off his helmet and other gear. Bill stood above him and for a second Zane thought the man looked disappointed. That he’d made it out of the fire? The heat had done a number on him. Exhaustion was making his brain fuzzy and his stomach sour. He wasn’t going to throw up, but he sure as hell didn’t feel good.
"Zane, you with us?" Mike, his captain, asked.
In the Name of the Law by Sue Holston
Mitch looked down at his partner’s face, and he knew instantly what Ivan wanted-another drink. While alcohol might numb the pain his best friend was feeling, Mitch was certain that it was a bad idea. He needed Ivan coherent and sober. The only support Mitch could offer at that moment was to be there and listen as Ivan cried over the woman he’d loved…and lost.
As Mitch sat down on the bed next to his trembling partner, he cursed Sarah to hell and back. Ivan had been MIA since the disastrous engagement party. Mitch had finally found him, four days later, staggering into one of their favourite bars off Baltimore Street, drunk off his head.
Mitch had dragged his partner back to Ivan’s row home in Highlandtown. He’d put enough coffee in him to give Juan Valdez a seizure, in a desperate attempt to sober Ivan up so he could make it into work tomorrow. Then, Mitch had carefully undressed Ivan and put him into bed to sleep it off.
This had to work. Captain Reynolds wasn’t going to tolerate Ivan’s absences from the job much longer, despite having been at the party and seen the drama unfold. Being a police detective wasn’t like other jobs-for example, you couldn’t call in sick every day for a week without a lot of shuffling around of staff to cover your absence. Mitch needed Ivan back at work, and so did the department.
"Mitch? You there?"
"Yeah, I’m here," Mitch replied. "Ain’t going anywhere."
He looked at his long-time partner and friend and nearly cried. Ivan was a wreck. His normally beautiful blond hair was matted and unruly, and his eyes were bloodshot and red. In all the years they’d known each other, Mitch had never before seen Ivan in this state over the break-up of a relationship. It looked as if his partner had truly loved Sarah and really wanted to build a life with her. Mitch shook his head and thought of calling Sarah to curse her out, but decided against it. His anger wasn’t going to help Ivan now.
"I’m cold, Mitch," Ivan moaned. His whole body started shaking, as the chill overtook him.
Mitch walked to the other room and grabbed an afghan Ivan’s grandmother had knitted for him off the back of a chair. Not wanting to leave his partner alone for even a second, he wasted no time in going back to Ivan’s bedroom to wrap him in the blanket. "Feel better?"
"A little—I’m still so cold."
"Don’t worry, I’ll warm you up." As he was speaking, Mitch climbed into Ivan’s king-sized bed, gathered him into his arms and held him. "Better now?"
"Yeah," Ivan said, though he continued to shake in Mitch’s arms. Frowning, Mitch pulled his friend even tighter into his embrace, gently stroking and rocking Ivan’s body.
"Try to sleep. You’ll need your rest if you’re going to head into work tomorrow. I’ll be here with you, don’t worry."
Ivan’s shaking continued, but he closed his eyes anyway. Though he had no idea how much time had passed, Mitch eventually felt Ivan’s breathing slow and realised he was finally asleep.
Wings of Fire by Kit Sands
"What’s the situation, LT?" Salvatore Angelico shouted over the station house alarms as he stepped into his turnout gear.
"Looks like a multiple car collision on the 183. At least one extraction expected, make sure you grab the Big Bitch before you guys roll. From the sounds of it, the scene is a cluster-fuck." Lieutenant Gary Nelson, whom everyone called LT, held the phone receiver to his ear with his shoulder while jotting notes furiously on a pad. "Dispatch has a witness on the line with them but I’m not getting anything new, she’s just hysterical at this point."
Angelico nodded to LT, pulled on his helmet and went to the equipment shelf to get the Hurst Jaws of Life tool, affectionately called the Big Bitch. The Cedar Park Fire Department‘s Hurst was well over ten years old, but the city—which was just a small suburb of Austin—couldn’t afford a new one, so everyone had learnt how to keep the Big Bitch in working order. Thankfully, she spent most of her time sitting on the rack.
Hopping up into the passenger seat of the rescue engine, Angelico turned on the sirens and signalled to Julio Chavez to pull out of the garage. The streets were mostly clear—typical for a Tuesday night. Within minutes Julio was steering them up onto the 183 northbound exit ramp.
"Christ in a hand basket! Are you seeing this, Angelico?" Julio shouted at him a few minutes later as he flipped off the sirens, leaving the emergency lights blinking.
Without answering Angelico jumped out of the engine, taking a moment to grab the Big Bitch and a crash kit. Thinking that it would be a damned miracle if the driver had managed to live through the wreck, he ran towards the overturned car.
What once had been a sporty Mazda3 was now a mangled mass of crushed steel. The car had been flipped onto its roof and the front end was scrunched on top of a cement barrier that was nearly dissecting the vehicle. The windshield had been shattered but remained intact, though it was pressed against the barrier.
Fuel sprayed in an arc from the damaged injection system. Oil and other fluids were leaking from multiple severed hoses and Angelico could see it pooling inside the car. With the ignition likely still on, it was only a matter of time before the thing lit up.
"Julio! Take the Bitch and you get that door beam. I’ll pull the poor bastard out. There isn’t another way and he doesn’t have time for us to try anything else. You cut and I’ll grab. Then we’ll deal with any clean-up once he’s in the clear."
Julio nodded then gathered up the powerful tool. After a look at Angelico, he started cutting through the metal door frame. After a few minutes, smoke started to swirl into the air above the exposed undercarriage. The damaged fuel line was still spraying gasoline everywhere.
Angelico braced his foot against the roof of the car and the width of metal that was the door jamb. "Shit! Don’t stop, we’ve got smoke! Almost there!"
Devon started reading and writing at a young age and never looked back. After a creatively sapping career in the business world, she gratefully took some time off to be at home.
At 39 and holding, Devon finally figured out the best way to channel her midlife crisis was to morph from mild-mannered stay-at-home mom into erotic romance writer.
She lives in Oregon with her husband and two children, who are (mostly) understanding of all the time she spends on her laptop, aka the black hole.
Simone currently lives in West Michigan with her family, but has lived in a handful of states and Japan and traveled to many more of each. She has been writing all of her life, seriously in the past few years, when her writing took on a dark and delicious twist. A college student, she offsets the tedium of lectures by thinking up new and interesting ways to torture her characters, occasionally shrieking in the middle of class "I got it!" to the puzzlement of those around her.
All about little ol' me? Hmm. Okay, the normal stuff first. I currently live in the Midwest near Detroit, Michigan with my husband and two sons who are ten and seven years old. All three keep me on my toes. I work in the automotive industry making sure all the parts inside the car look pretty along with handling all the paperwork that goes along with that (you'd be amazed at how much there is!).
Not so normal stuff now. I am an eclectic soul, having lived in three out of the four corners of the United States. I can count as personal friends people from many walks of life (dare I say, some are family too?). I think this is what allows me to see past the things that make us different to the things that make us alike. Hence, I am a person who will accept anyone for what they are, almost to a fault sometimes.
I love angst (as you very well know if you've read one of my stories). I adore digging into an issue, touching on it and those people it effects, and then giving it a happily-ever-after. Research is probably one of my favorite parts of writing. Finding out new facts, meeting new people while I do that…asking them questions they would never expect.
Writing is Sara York's life. The stories fight to get out, often leaving her working on four or five books at once. She can't help but write. Along with her writing addiction she has a coffee addiction. Some nights, the only reason she stops writing and goes to sleep is for the fresh brewed coffee in the morning. Sara enjoys writing twisted tales of passion, anger, and love with a good healthy dose of lust thrown in for fun.
Sue Holston is the writing team of H.L. and Sue, who have been friends for more than a decade.
H.L.,who also writes as H.L. Holston, is a teacher by day, and sometimes writer by night. She admits she is a horrible blogger, even worse in keeping up on FaceBook, but tries anyway. However, all bets are off if Bruce Springsteen is on tour!
Sue is an an ex-patriot Brit who lives in Vancouver, BC. She has a cat and a compulsion to write. The rest is subject to change without notice.
A voracious reader from an early age, Kit has always enjoyed a great story, new or old. After dabbling in the online world of fan fiction, she decided to give her own characters a voice. Fortunately, now they won't shut up!
With a career in IT and an avid love of video games, Kit considers herself a geek, not a nerd. What's the difference? Geeks have social skills.
A Southern transplant, Kit now calls Ohio home where she lives with her husband and devoted beagle hound.