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THE LOOK OF LOVE
The pager on her waistband sounded a moment before Penny heard the city's alarm sound. Her sense of duty and the need to help others pulled her back into the station to answer the call. "One vehicle off the road-milepost two on Oak Knoll Road." Penny read her pager out loud.
Once she put on her turnouts, she jumped into the engine. That's why she was there. After years of working at the bank, she'd gone back to school and became a paramedic. She wanted to help others and make a difference. Joining the fire department was the best way to honor Jim's memory.
Scott got into the officer's seat in front of her. She wondered if she should get out. Catching her reflection in the window, she straightened her turnout and renewed her fortitude. They'd shared a few kisses. Nothing more. The passion his kiss ignited was best forgotten. If he was uncomfortable with the situation, he could get into the other vehicle.
She ignored the usual chatter in the engine cab as other firefighters joined them and they drove to the accident. A pickup truck rolled over in the ditch with one occupant was all she'd heard. She drew a deep breath trying to still her clamoring nerves. Until now, she'd ignored her growing awareness of Scott. For some reason tonight her defenses were lowered and she could no longer disregard her desire for him.
Once they stopped at the scene, Scott asked. "Penny, do you feel comfortable directing traffic?"
Without looking at him, she replied, "Yes." Then she grabbed a flashlight, fluorescent vest and stop sign from the side compartment and hurried to the back of the engine. Red lights flashed around her. She directed the rescue unit and ambulance to the accident a few yards up the road.
"Watch your backside," Scott yelled. Like always, he stood behind her, protecting her.
Guiding drivers wasn't her favorite job in the department, but traffic was light for the middle of the night. She couldn't believe how much time they'd spent in the storage room.
"How are you doing?" he asked a few minutes later.
Penny jumped at the sound of his voice beside her. "You startled me, I didn't hear you." She hadn't been able to get Scott off her mind since they left the station. Now she hesitated to look at him.
"I wanted a chance to talk to you alone." His voice held a serious tone; an I-want-to-clarify-any-misunderstanding-tone.
Red lights from the rescue unit continued their rhythmic flash around them. The colored illumination added a surreal appearance to the worry lines that marked Scott's face. He too appeared shaken by something. In the darkness she couldn't fully read his expression. With his brows lowered, he had a stern look of finality over his features. She guessed their kissing surprised him as much as it did her. Afraid she was losing her best friend, she breathed in deep. She knew and dreaded the subject he wanted to discuss with her.
"I'm sorry about earlier. I…"
"I understand it won't happen again," she said hurriedly. If only she could turn back the clock.
Read and enjoy this one. Overall, this story gave me happy thoughts about life and love.
Seriously Reviewed 19 out of 20
He saw no one as he made his way up the incline to the dilapidated storage shed. Situated on the edge of an older residential area, the structure he’d picked was perfect. The weathered building appeared vacant, and a large empty lot separated the shack from the nearest house. He pushed opened the unlocked wooden door and removed the backpack full of supplies from his shoulders.
After wiping his sweaty palms on his pant legs, he opened two small containers and sloshed the liquid on the wooden floor. Soon the pungent aroma of gasoline filled the room. He placed the igniter in a bed of steel wool then attached the wires to the small batteries and the timer. After picking up his backpack, he hurried from the shed closing the door behind him.
He glanced in both directions. Confident no one was in the area, he walked up the dead end street. His heart hammered in his chest. Ignoring his trembling hands, he removed a pack of cigarettes from his coat pocket. After he flicked his lighter, he stared at the bluish-yellow flame. Excitement raced through his veins.
A foggy mist hugged the ground and darkness shrouded the sleepy little town. Despite the wetness from the damp, January air, he crouched at the edge of the trees across from his target and waited.
He pulled a long drag on his cigarette then checked his watch. Two minutes before the hour. He’d completed his work on schedule. He had everything under control. Nothing would stop him. With the heel of his shoe, he ground out the butt.
The ignition flared to life. Shattering glass and splintering sounds of wood interrupted the stillness. Debris shot in every direction. "Damn," he muttered as he covered his ears with his hands, blocking the pressure from the explosion. The detonation was more powerful than he’d anticipated. The flames were clearly visible through the gaping hole in the side wall. No alarms, no security, and no advance warning. Everything had gone according to his plan. His gaze locked on the growing flames.
"Fire! Fire!" A man pounding on a neighboring house drew his attention down the street. "There’s a fire over there. Call 911," the Good Samaritan shouted as he pointed up the street.
He didn’t plan for anyone to discover the fire until it was too late. He needed more time. The firefighters would destroy his masterpiece.
In the distance, the fire alarm clanged to life at the station. Within minutes, he tuned into the sound of sirens growing louder with the approaching trucks.
Anxiously, he looked at the shed. A smile formed on his lips when he noticed the flames reach the top of the window frame. Hopefully, the fire would finish the building before the crew arrived. He drummed his fingertips against his forehead.
Red lights from the approaching trucks flashed, brightening the pre-dawn darkness. He didn't intend to stay once the crew disembarked. On second thought, he'd enjoy watching their futile efforts to extinguish his creation.
Definitely not your normal run of the mill romance novel. On the whole a very good book and well worth reading.
Orchid for Long and Short Reviews
Miranda Cummings inhaled the fresh fir scent the moment she opened the door of her Chevy Impala-the fragrance of freedom. The cold, crisp air bit at her warm cheeks yet she felt exhilarated. Gravel and slushy snow crunched under her shoes as she hurried around her car. Opening the passenger door she picked up her overnight bag and placed the strap on her shoulder then she added her computer bag. Not wanting to make another trip out in the cold, she hooked several grocery bags on each hand. With one swift hip movement, she closed the door.
Gingerly she walked up the three snow-covered, wooden steps to the deck. Focusing on her weekend of solitude, she quickened her pace to the cabin on her right.
“Can I help you?” a deep baritone voice startled Miranda causing her to fling her arms out and drop one of her grocery bags.
Intent on carrying her belongings into the cabin, she hadn’t seen or heard the man behind her. Turning around, she froze. Reclined in an old-fashioned, white cast iron bathtub with claw feet, the man appeared relaxed, content and not at all perturbed as he bathed on a deck outside.
Steam rose from his warm water into the cold air. Water dripped from his short brown hair and glistened on his muscular torso. She suppressed the desire to caress the breadth of his wide shoulders. Stubble darkened his face with a day’s growth of beard. His rugged good looks caused her heart to flutter.
“I must have made a wrong turn…“ She couldn’t tear her gaze from his broad chest. As the water droplets traveled down his body her gaze followed suit. Miranda realized the hunk of a man was not only tranquil but also very naked. His muscular arms, which rested on the edges of the tub, could easily wrap around her. She wanted to feel his strength, his support from those strong arms. “…somewhere,” her voice squeaked.
He reached down and picked up a can of beer, which sat on the deck. Tipping the can back he took a swig then set the beer beside the tub. “Where were you going?”
His pecks rippled when he moved. Look at his face not his chest, Miranda scolded herself. “A friend of mine has a cabin up here.”
She glanced at the A-frame structure to her right nestled in a grove of fir trees where she’d intended to spend a couple of nights off the beaten path. Flower boxes below the two paned windows held browned plants from winter’s frost. The plumbing’s primitive her friend had said, which would explain a bathtub on the deck. The cabin in front of her fit her friend’s description.
“Abby Denton, I mean Chambers. Abby Chambers said I could stay at their cabin for a few days.” Confident she’d found the right place Miranda met his gaze.
She shifted the packages to her left hand and pulled a GPS device from her coat pocket. “I was a little confused on which road to take at the bottom of the hill.” She couldn’t stop rambling in her attempt to hide her obvious desire for this man.
Miranda looked toward the front of the cabin again. When she heard water splash, she stole a quick glance in his direction wondering if he’d gotten out of the tub.
He tilted his beer back for another drink then returned it to the deck. “You found the right place.” His angular features appeared stern and unyielding.
“Oh good.” Her shoulders lowered, relaxed. “How long until you leave?” Miranda’s gaze held his. She’d planned a quiet weekend which did not include a ruggedly, attractive man. Even with the snow falling around them she felt overly warm and knew the man in front of her caused her flush.
“Lady, it took me half an hour to fill this tub. If you don’t mind, I’m staying in here till the water’s ice cold,” the man’s rich voice drew her attention to his firm chin and broad, enticing smile which reflected in his eyes. “Then I plan to have a good night’s sleep in there.” His toned arm lifted as he pointed toward the cabin.
The man’s brows rose suggestively and Miranda wondered if he knew she found him appealing in a primitive, sexual way. He winked. He knew.
Miranda needed solitude, a chance to put her thoughts on paper. She had a deadline. Within three weeks, her editor required a completed manuscript on her desk. Since she filed for divorce, six months ago, Miranda found writing a romance novel impossible. To create a story of everlasting love was now ridiculous. She knew first hand there was no such thing as happily ever after.
“Obviously Abby and her brother Scott don’t communicate very well. Scott allowed me use of the cabin for the weekend.” The man shrugged his shoulders, his firm pecks lifted with ease.
Tiny snowflakes continued to drift down and stick to the frozen, wooden deck around her. Twilight settled around them with a darkening cloud-filled sky, which held a promise of more snow. Frustrated from the drive up the road, Miranda had no desire to turn around and drive back to town on a snowy mountain road especially at this time of night. She slipped the GPS unit back in her coat pocket. Her stomach churned; she desired this time as much as the stranger in the tub wanted a retreat. She needed a break so bad Miranda was willing to share the cabin with the man she’d just met.
“We could share the place. I’ll stay in my room and you won’t even know I’m here.” She tried to wave her hand in the air but the bags in her grasp forestalled the movement.
The man’s humorous laugh rumbled deep in his chest, causing excitement to dance through her.
“You’ve never stayed here before?” his reply was more of a statement than a question.
Miranda shook her head. “No. Why?”
“The cabin has one room.” He held up the index finger of his right hand. “Not one bedroom but one room. Kitchen, living area and bed are all in one room.” He studied her face.
Determined to hold her ground and not reveal her feelings, she tried to maintain a neutral expression on her face. The packages suddenly weighed her arms down and strained against her fingers. Miranda didn’t know how much longer she could hold them.
“If you’ll excuse me, my water is now cold and I’m getting out of the tub,” he stated matter-of-factly.
Miranda froze. She was unable to move and incapable of taking her eyes off his powerful male form. Reaching for a towel, which rested on a chair beside the tub, he started to stand up. She looked toward the cabin again. Could she spend the weekend in the small cabin with this stranger? She shook her head. The fact she didn’t know him wouldn’t be the challenge. The knowledge she’d spend the time with a virile, handsome man was what stopped her.
When she returned her attention to him, the towel was securely wrapped around his lower torso. With a desire for her fingers to run along the edge of the towel, Miranda swallowed quickly. Her gaze followed the caressing water down his body. He had a perfect male form straight from a page of her romance books. At least six feet tall, his body was lean and muscular. Desire had her heart racing.
Water dripped down his contoured torso and absorbed into the towel wrapped tightly around his waist.
“You’re welcome to spend the night, but I’m not sleeping on the couch,” he said.
Mesmerized, her gaze followed his movements as he started walking toward her. Standing within Miranda’s comfort zone, he glanced down at her face. His nearness didn’t trouble her. She felt the attraction and desire even stronger. Clutching the plastic bags tighter, Miranda suppressed the need to touch his bare chest and wipe the moisture off his skin. Rich chocolate brown eyes held her spellbound; the kindness she saw put her at ease.
“I don’t bite. At least not too hard.” His smile was her undoing, her legs felt weak and if she weren’t careful she’d follow him anywhere.
His statement brought to mind two lovers intertwined. Desire raced through her, heating her blood. The magnetism from this man radiated a rugged sex appeal she couldn’t refuse. Without a doubt, she knew if she spent the night here they’d have an evening of passionate sex. Staring at the man’s dark hair and broad shoulders, Miranda couldn’t think of a down side to this situation. She’d never had a friend with benefits or a one-night stand. Not even a short-term affair.
He gave her a slow lazy smile. “What’s your name?”
She swallowed quickly to relieve the dryness in her throat. “Miranda Cummings.”
“Miranda,” his deep rich voice awakened a hunger within her. “Nice to meet you. I’m Kevin Mathews.”
His grasp felt firm, strong and matched the confidence she’d seen in his eyes. She wanted to feel his caress on her bare skin; her body. He stared at their joined hands, and Miranda wondered if he felt as moved by their touch as she did.
“Scott and Abby have been friends of mine for a long time. I’d suggest you call and verify my credentials but most cell phones don’t work up here.” Holding the towel ends at his waist with one hand, he bent down and with his other hand he retrieved her grocery bag from the deck. The lower ends of the terrycloth opened slightly revealing a very masculine, toned thigh. “So Miranda what’s it going to be?” Lifting her bag of groceries up, he asked. “Do I take this to your car or to the cabin?” His brows arched in an obvious challenge.
Miranda thought of the divorce papers she’d received that morning and the freedom she’d experienced for the first time in years. She wasn’t one to make a snap decision, but her newfound independence and her need for a weekend away overrode her logical judgment. She nodded. “I’m staying.”