Beautiful Burn

(4 customer reviews)

With tragedy comes change. With change comes new responsibility. For newly appointed Fire Chief Jensen Keetes, change comes in the form of long time co-worker, the sexy, spunky Gwendolyn Carlson.

After years of avoiding her true self, Gwen has decided that enough is enough and jumps into a new relationship with her demanding new boss.

All too soon, their relationship is put to the test when the police arrive at the station in search of the Hill City Arsonist.
Can Jensen balance being her lover, Dom, and boss? Or will Gwen’s secret push them apart?

Publisher’s Note: This steamy, action-packed romance is book two of the Hill City Heroes series but can be read as a standalone. There are elements of power exchange.

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Sample Chapter

 

 

Gwendolyn stared at her reflection in the smudged mirror. Her auburn hair was pulled back into a long ponytail at the crown of her head, and she eyed the strands already trying to escape the confines of the elastic band. Her curls had a mind of their own and she knew that in just a few short hours, she would have a head full of frizz despite her efforts to tame the locks.

The sound of the heavy locker room door opening stopped the scrutiny of herself, but it was the sound of hot and heavy kissing that forced the exaggerated sigh from her lips. “Seriously! You could at least do a sweep of the room first.”

“Sorry, Gwen.” Leland’s apology was torn to shreds when the sound of Autumn’s laughter hit Gwen’s ears. “Princess.” Gwen smiled when she heard the muttered ow from the other side of the room.

“We agreed you wouldn’t call me that at work.”

I agreed to nothing. And if you pinch me again, I will drag you to the repair closet again.”

With one more quick glance at herself, Gwen headed toward the door and the overly enthusiastic couple. “Seriously, guys, you were literally apart, what, maybe an hour this morning? Do you have to start with the groping so early?” She paused in her turn toward the door. “Oh, and do us all a favor and move in together already. Having to pretend we don’t know you guys spent the night together is starting to get old.”

“I told you we weren’t fooling anyone, princess.”

Gwen watched as her partner glowered at the man, earning herself a pinch to the thigh. “Come on, princess, let’s get the rig check done before you get yourself into any more trouble.”

“See! That is why you need to stop calling me that at work.” The man simply raised an eyebrow and shook his head. As soon as they were in the hallway, Autumn started whispering, “That was the worst hint you could have ever given. He knew the second you spoke that I put you up to it.”

“He’s your Dom. Isn’t the first rule of your relationship something about communication?”

Autumn rolled her eyes. “Only about the important stuff.”

“I doubt he would agree with that statement.” When they arrived at the ambulance, Gwen turned to her friend. “Just tell him that you want to move in. You guys have been through more in your six months together than most have in their entire life. You belong together, and you both know it.”

“I know, but why hasn’t he asked me to move in? I’ll be damned if I am going to do it all myself.”

“That is exactly why you need to talk to him. Quit beating around the bush and tell him what you want.”

“Are you sure you’re not a Domme? You have the bossy thing down. No? Then you should really stop rolling your eyes. What? I’m just trying to help you. It’s going to be a hard habit to break when you finally snag yourself a Dom. See! Right there, you rolled them again!”

* * *

“Meeting in the great room. Thirty minutes,” Jensen announced as he stuck his head in the back of the rig an hour later.

“He’s back,” Autumn stated. Her eyes narrowed as her face reddened with anger.

Gwen watched as Jensen softened the slightest bit. “You don’t have to be here. No one would think less of you if you decided to pursue a different career.”

“I will be damned if I am going to let that bastard keep me from doing my job.” She jumped from the rig, giving the man’s shoulder a shove as she passed. “If you’ll excuse me, I am going to find Lee.”

The smile on his face as he watched the confidant woman walk out of the garage stirred a far too familiar feeling in Gwen’s gut. She quickly looked down at the incomplete checklist. “You did that on purpose.”

“What?”

She gave him her best ‘are you kidding me’ look. “You reverse psychologied your way into getting her to do exactly as you wanted her to do.”

“Is psychologied a word?” At her eye roll, he shook his head and continued. “If it works and gets her to do what she was already going to do without her stressing over what she can’t change, what does it hurt? Your smile could light up an entire room.” She ignored his sudden change in topic and the goofy smile plastered to his face as she turned back to the clipboard. “You know, the men around here would be a lot more likely to believe you and your claim to be straight and narrow if that look didn’t take over your face as often as it does.”

She absently flipped through the pages, as looking the man in the eyes right then was not an option. “What look?”

“The one on your face right now.”

Shocked, she quickly studied his handsome face before brushing past him as she climbed out of the rig. “There is no look.”

“There is. It’s in your eyes. A soft, subtle look, but there is no doubt a look.”

He followed her through the bay as she ducked and weaved past the trucks. Doesn’t he have a job to do?

“I just don’t understand why you deny your need to submit. It’s nothing to be ashamed of.”

She stopped in her tracks and turned on the man. “I haven’t denied that need since—” She looked away, not wanting any more of a reminder. “I don’t deny it anymore. I just don’t talk about it like everyone else around here does. Shit. Do you know how desperately I want a man to love me the way so many of the men here love their women. I want it so badly, but before everything happened, I could hardly speak in the presence of a dominant, demanding man without tying my tongue into a knot. The worst part is that I’ve denied it for so long, I’m not sure I know how to talk to them anymore, let alone submit.”

“That’s because you didn’t want to talk to them.” He softly chucked her under the chin, all but forcing her to raise her eyes to his. His voice growled with the next declaration, “There isn’t a guy in this station who wouldn’t be willing to help you fight off old habits.”

She looked away before her instincts took over and she answered the question written all over his face. “I can do it on my own. I will do it on my own. Dropping the timid, little mouse act was harder than I would like to admit, but I did it.”

He stepped closer to her and took hold of her arms. She watched as his thumb rubbed back and forth over one of her shoulders. “I have no doubt that you can absolutely do this on your own, but when you tell people of how you conquered your inhibitions, I want to be part of that story.”

She stood there for a second, mouth agape before she finally met his eyes. “Wait. You what?”

He smiled as he ran his finger along her bottom lip. “Come on, Gwen, you can’t be that surprised. We have been hitting on each other for months, but if you need more time, I’ll give it to you. Let me know when you want me to be part of that story. In the meantime, I guess flirting is better than nothing.”

She licked at the path his finger had taken. “You haven’t been hitting on me for months. Where are you going? You can’t just drop a bomb like that and then walk away! Jensen!” He simply waved at her over his shoulder and kept walking. Her foot stomp was far less effective than she intended it to be.

“At least when he walks away, you get a great view of his best asset.” Autumn’s whisper had her jumping. “Then again, rumor has it he’s got more tattoos than the uniform lets on and some fun piercings to go with them.”

“Don’t we all?” Gwen ignored the calls from her friend as she stole a page from Jensen’s book and walked away. A girl needs to have a few surprises up her sleeve.

She stepped out of the station, took a deep breath of the cold, late winter air and brushed the snow off the top of the picnic table before taking a seat. She leaned back against the building and the rough brick bit into her back the slightest bit as she allowed her eyes to drift shut.

“I’m sure there are plenty of beds in the station if you need a nap that badly.”

She looked at the petite woman who stood across from her. “There are, but there are also a lot of people in there. People equal noise.” She sat up straight. “How did you get back here?”

The stranger looked around the fenced in area, her green eyes sparkling as the light reflected off the snow. “I’m not really sure. I was supposed to meet with Chief Keetes about ten minutes ago, but there was no one at the front desk when I came in, so I wandered around and you were the first person I found.”

“It’s Saturday. Our secretary has the day off, and God only knows where the chief is.” She felt the jealousy flair for a second before she was able to tamp it down. Hell, he had hardly spoken to her before a couple of months ago. She had no claim.

“I am the new guy, er, girl, I guess. I start next shift, but the chief wanted me to come in today so he could introduce me and finish the paper work.”

Gwen shook the woman’s hand. “We can always use another girl around here. I’m Gwen, one of the medics on this shift.”

“Nice to meet you. The other medic is a woman, too, right?” At Gwen’s nod, she chattered on. “I thought so. I saw her on the news when that building collapsed on the old chief and her—”

Gwen felt a sharp pain in her chest as the world around her faded. Her palms grew clammy and the memories flooded her system.

She pushed the drugs, giving Leland some relief from the pain just as the rear doors of the rig swung open. Three soot covered firemen struggled to hold onto Kevin’s limp form. His bunker gear stained red. His eyes fixed. Motionless.

“Gwen? Gwendolyn! Look at me.” Hands wrapped around her upper arms and gave her a shake, pulling her from her memory. “Gwendolyn, look at me!”

She felt the cold breeze on her sweat covered face. “I’m looking at you, Jensen.”

“No, you are looking through me. Focus your eyes and look at me.” The command in his voice managed to pull her securely into the present. “That’s my girl. Stop scowling at me.”

Her scowl deepened. “You can’t praise me in one breath and scold me in the next.”

He released her arms and smiled. “The hell I can’t. It is literally in my job description.”

She rolled her eyes. “You need a dictionary. There is no way that is literally in your job description.”

“Oh the sass. She’s fine.”

“I’m sorry, Gwen. I didn’t mean to—” the woman started, only to be cut off by the concerned man next to her.

“What happened? Don’t turn away from me.”

“I’m fine, Jensen.”

“As your boss, at the very least, you owe me an explanation, but as your friend, I need to know you are okay.”

She turned her narrowed eyes on the man. “You fight dirty.”

“No, I simply use every advantage I have. It just so happens one of those advantages is that you’re madly in love with me.”

Gwen groaned, “I have never said or even hinted that I’m madly in love with you.”

“Oh, the hints are there, baby. As far as the words go, I will be hearing them soon enough.”

Before Gwen could retort, a throat was cleared. “I’m sorry, but this looks like it is about to get all hot and heavy, and I am pretty sure the two of you forgot I was standing here.”

Heat crept into Gwen’s face, but she held the eyes of the cocky man in front of her. “Way to go, Chief. You embarrassed the new girl!”

“Embarrassed her?” He scuffed. “If she is going to be working here, she should probably get used to being embarrassed. Especially with this shift.”

“Am I missing something?”

* * *

“There is no reason for this to be so hard. He wants you, you want him. Quit pussyfooting around it and go for it already.” The exasperation was evident in Autumn’s voice. “The conversation the two of you had this morning should have been enough to crush any remaining doubt.”

“Why can’t he just snatch me away and make me his?”

“The same reason Autumn enlisted you in her plot to get me to ask her to move in.” At the confused expressions, Leland continued. “We can’t read your minds. Not to mention, kidnapping charges would not look good on the new fire chief’s record.”

“Nah.” The women waved him off.

“Look, he may be the Dom, but you hold all the power. Which means, if you want this, you have to make a move.”

“Oh, quit giving him that look. He’s telling you the truth. It only looks like the Dom has all the control, but we subs are a pretty powerful bunch.”

“Prove it.”

Autumn pondered for a second before she snapped her fingers. “It’s like a coloring book and crayons. Submissives are the coloring books. They lay out all the lines and boundaries. Dominants are the crayons. They can color that page any way they want as long as they stay within the lines set by the sub.”

“We mostly use red. We really like red.”

“I swear. I am trying to help a girl out here, and all you can think about is slapping my ass.”

Jensen cleared his throat from behind them. “If you three hens are done clucking, I would like to start the meeting.”

His whisper ended with a grunt when Leland’s fist met his gut. “I’ll show you a hen.”

Jensen chuckled as he walked to the front of the room. “We have a couple of things that need to be addressed.” He nodded, and the new girl joined him. “This is Kennly Foller. She will be starting next shift. I know you all will make her feel at home on C-shift.” He nodded again, and she took a seat next to Gwen. “As some of you have assumed, the arsonist had made contact with the fire marshal.”

“And here I was just getting used to sleeping at night again.”

“That’s just it; this letter was a little different. It only mentioned that he would be in touch. None of his usual compliments, criticisms, or niceties. And it didn’t arrive to the marshal when it usually does, so I am putting us on alert. Be prepared. Now, I am going to let the detectives have the floor.”

Gwen watched as three men made their way into the room. Whispered conversations tittered around them, until Davis’ voice rose above the quiet drone. “They think the arsonist is one of us!”

“You think we killed one of our own!”

“Are you fucking kidding me?”

“Enough!” Jensen shot daggers at each man who tried to argue with him. “PD is here because they suspect someone is using our IP address illegally. Nothing more.”

“Bullshit. If that was all they thought this was, they would have sent someone over from IT to update our security and passwords. There is more to it than some teen stealing our internet.”

“You’re right.” Detective Starling held up his hand, silencing Jensen. “There is more to this, but we aren’t sure what. So, while we work all this out, we are all stuck working together. I don’t like it any more than the rest of you. If it is the arsonist, we need to be ready.”

“Can’t your geeks do this remotely, Starling? The last thing we need is this guy figuring out that we are on to him.” Zander paced the back of the room as he ran his hand over his hair.

“Gee, why didn’t I think of that?”

“Okay, I was just—”

“Just what? Trying to do my job for me?” Starling’s knuckles popped as he fisted his hands at his side. His swift change from placating to on the defensive was unsettling. “You think I want to spend my days in this hell hole? I would much rather be at my desk back at the station. At least that place doesn’t smell like sweaty men and smoke.”

“More like doughnuts and crispy bacon.”

“Who said that? You assholes think this is funny? I am working my ass off to solve this case, and all you fuckers can do is make jokes?”

“Calm down, Star—”

“Fuck you, Keetes. I have other cases that need my attention, but here I am, slumming with the help. For what?” Startling threw a hand out in Zander’s direction. “So this fucker can question how I do my job?”

“I wasn’t questioning you. I simply had a question.”

In an instant, Starling stalked to the back of the room and was nose to nose with Zander. “There’s no difference.”

Zander held his hands in the air, placating. “Man, I was just asking.”

“Don’t ‘man’ me after that insult. You think you could do a better job, be my guest.”

“All. I did. Was ask.”

Anger rolled off the two men. In an instant, Starling shoved Zander, forcing him to take a couple of steps back. Just as Starling went to take a step forward, Kennly wedged herself between the two men, her back to Zander’s chest. “Enough.”

“Fuck you.” Starling grabbed her roughly by the forearm. Without much effort, she broke the hold. As soon as she did, Zander physically picked the woman up and placed her behind him, out of harm’s way.

“Holy shit,” Gwen whispered as she watched one of the other officers wrench Starling’s hand behind his back, forcing him to the ground. With his potbelly to the floor, he quickly gave up the fight and just lay there panting between words. “I will have your job for this, Bass.” He nodded to Zander. “And yours.”

“Try it. I didn’t lay a hand on you, and neither did she. We will be filing a complaint with HR.” When Starling lunged again, the other officers were barely able to hold him back. “Get out of our station before you give us more ammunition in our quest for your badge.”

“Back off, Starling,” one of the other officers commanded as he joined the crowd and helped pull the man to his feet.

As soon as the door closed behind the infuriated man, another officer stepped forward, his slight accent thickening with anger. “I’m Officer Thomas. Oisin Thomas. On behalf of all my brothers in blue, I’m sorry for that. Not all of us are as hot headed as he is.”

“Seems you’re constantly making apologies for Detective Starling,” Autumn deadpanned.

“Feels that way, too. As for your question, Zander, we tried. Our IT guys have been working on it for a few days now, but the firewall is too good. None of our ‘geeks’ have been able to get through it. We are hoping that if we come at it from a different angle, we will find a weak point and be able to put a hole in his defenses.”

“Tell them the rest,” Jensen commanded. “If you want them to cooperate, even help, you have to tell them.”

“We have reason to believe that Miss Boisy is being monitored.”

“Wait. My sister is connected to this?” Leland’s fist clenched in his lap.

“Her name kept popping up. When we could no longer pretend it was coincidence, we got her permission to look at her computer.” With a sigh, he continued. “We found that two different IP addresses had been used to remotely access her computer. We were able to trace one of them back here.”

“And the other?” Zander’s voice was little more than a growl.

“It has been pinged around the world so many times, we haven’t been able to track it down yet, but we will.”

“Seems to me that is the one you should be focused on,” one of the men protested.

“And if it were your sister in the crosshairs of an arsonist turned murderer, would you be satisfied with them only following up on one lead?” When he was met with only silence, Leland continued. “I didn’t think so. Do your job; you have our total support.”

With that, the cops dispersed, and Jensen walked to the front of the room. “I expect everyone to cooperate with them. They are here to do their jobs, just like us.”

As the meeting ended, Gwen sought out Kennly. “It is nice to have a name to go with the woman.”

Before Kennly could respond, a determined Zander took hold of her wrist and pulled her from the room. “Excuse us, Gwen, I need to show Kennly around the station.” The whispered conversation between the two of them faded fast as they rounded the corner.

“That looked interesting,” Autumn stage whispered.

“Yeah, something is going on there. I’d put money on that.”

“Speaking of bets, you have to tell me what you have pierced. I bet Leland I could get you to tell me.”

“Not a chance.”

“If I bribe you with wine and pizza, will you spill?”

She paused in her retreat and turned back to her friend. “Girls only and you pay?”

“Just the two of us, or can we invite Sierra and Liv?” Autumn questioned.

“It wouldn’t really be a girls’ night out without them. Oh, and invite the new girl.” Autumn did a premature victory dance. “This doesn’t mean you’re getting those secrets out of me, but free food and drinks is a big step in the right direction.”

“Good. The night after next?”

“Tomorrow night would work better.”

“Sorry. You already have plans with the chief for supper.”

Gwen watched as her friend practically ran from the room.

“You can’t truly be surprised she stuck her nose where it didn’t belong.” Leland smiled as he watched his girl skirt around a corner and disappear.

“I know. Truthfully, I think that was why I was complaining to her about it. I knew she would eventually take the choice out of my hands.” She turned to the man beside her. “Can you at least fill me in on the details?”

“All I know is that you are supposed to be ready to go tomorrow night at seven. Oh, and the girls will be there to help you get ready at five.”

“Five? Who needs two hours to get ready for a date?” She watched him walk away without even attempting to answer her question. “And why does everyone keep walking away from me when I’m talking to them?”

 

4 reviews for Beautiful Burn

  1. Marybeth

    I loved this second book in the series. I know they say stand alone, but you have to read the first book to understand this book.

    Gwen and Jensen are the focus of this book. They have gotten together and we learn that Gwen is not the vanilla she portrays. We also learn that there is a copycat. The copycat is found out, but once he is taken care of the arsonist is ready to play. There is a HFN (happy for now) but I can’t wait for book 3!

  2. Redrabbitt

    The second book in the Hill City Heroes did not disappoint, and from the first page to the last, I was engrossed in the story and fell in love with the characters and their interaction. I will even admit that I was on the edge of my seat during an intense, life and death scene. As a series junkie, I am thrilled to know there will be more stories to come. While this did not end in a cliffhanger, it does leave the reader craving more, and yes, there is still an unsolved issue.

    The story has a very large cast of characters to keep up with, and this is a continuing saga and needs to be read in written order. The strong ties and friendship within the fire department carry over into their personal lives. They are still dealing with an arsonist who has escalated, but something is off, the messages are coming in different, do they have a copycat? Warnings are sent, especially regarding several of the ladies who work with the fire department, as well as, Sierra, who is a reporter, and her brother is with the fire department.

    The story will pick up with another relationship, that between Gwen and Jensen. It will include their dating, entering a D/s relationship, and some surprises that each has. Jensen Keetes is now the new fire chief after the death of their chief when a building collapsed on him. Gwendolyn Carlson has worked as a paramedic with Hill City Fire Department and has crushed on Jensen for years—this will be their story.

    “There is no reason for this to be so hard. He wants you, you want him. Quit pussyfooting around it and go for it already. The conversation the two of you had this morning should have been enough to crush any remaining doubts.”

    Once Jensen and Gwen start their relationship, it snowballs, including him taking her in hand, and introducing her to his parents. He will take her out on romantic adventures, but still, keeps a protective eye on her when they are working. You can’t help but feel the chemistry between these two.

    “This isn’t a normal relationship. You’re different, we are different, and neither one of us is taking this lightly. This isn’t some carefree fling. There’s a lot at stake here. I’m your boss, and you’re one of the best medics in Hill City. I put a lot of thought into how this would work before I ever started entertaining the idea of us as a couple.”

    The story includes several fires, unexplained and frightening incidences that take place at those scenes. But not only are they dealing with an arsonist, but it appears a copycat, and things seem to escalate. Warnings of protecting the woman are sent in messages, each of the woman’s homes must be secured, and even with the help of the police department, everything is uncertain, and danger exists.

    The story has several tense, life and death moments, kidnapping, and danger. It will have some exhibition, voyeurism, discipline, and explicit sex scenes. It is a mystery, suspense tale that has more stories to come. While it does not leave you on a cliffhanger, it leaves you craving the third book in the series.

  3. Ronald

    This story is about a group of firefighters and their lovers, who are medics. Jensen is the captain, and Gwen is the woman with whom he develops a relationship. The story is told through a lot of conversations involving a number of people, and it was very difficult at times to know who was speaking. There was a mystery involving arson, violence, and some loving and domestic discipline. The main characters were interesting, and the story was ok. I received a free copy of this book via Booksprout and am voluntarily leaving a review.

  4. Julie

    This is the second book in series, and personally, I think you will understand the characters better if you read the first book in the series first. It just appears to be a continuing saga for me which is excellent. I love it, but the first book needed to be read to get the entire picture.

    There is a copycat, and then the arsonist ups his game when copycat is caught. Warnings are sent to women at the fire station and to Sierra though she is a reporter her brother works at the fire station.

    Jensen Keetes the new fire chief and Gwendolyn Carlson, who is a paramedic that works with the fire department, has had a crush on Jensen for years.

    This story includes frightening situations, several fires, unexplained incidents, kidnapping, life, and death situations, there is uncertainty, mystery, suspense, and danger lurks.

    This book will keep you reading and wanting more.

    I received a free copy of this book. This honest review was posted voluntarily.

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