Friday, May 27, 2022

Read an Excerpt From Playing with Fire by Taylor Lee



Praise for Playing with Fire...

“A rookie firefighter escapes an abusive past only to find herself accused of setting the fire that kills her husband and his mistress. A heroine that will tug at your heartstrings and a hero that is as outrageous as he is irresistible.”

“Cops AND Firefighters? An alpha – male lovers delight. A SEXY kick-ass hero and a beautiful, vulnerable woman in a life and death face-off can’t resist their voracious appetite for each other. This is one SIZZLING romantic suspense!”
Erotica Rocs

“An edgy mystery thriller with pulse pounding action and steamy romance. Unforgettable characters that will capture your heart.”
Action Junkie


•A rookie firefighter accused of setting the fire that kills her husband and his mistress

•“A bad-assed cop falls for the beautiful firefighter only to discover she is his #1 suspect in a double murder.

•Can Nate find the real murderer before the murderer finds her?


Nate drove the rain-soaked street, trying to ignore the thunder and lightning streaking the sky. Driving back and forth in front of the exits from the park, he finally spotted Erin coming along the path by the reservoir. Rain was rolling off her in sheets.

He pulled up alongside her and honked. Winding down his window, he called out, “Erin, get in. You’re soaking wet. C’mon. This storm is dangerous.”  

A huge clap of thunder broke at that moment. Erin startled looking up at the threatening sky that was getting darker by the minute. She hesitated glancing at his car. Nate reached across the console and opened the door. His stern command didn’t brook a refusal.

“In. Now.”

Erin tossed her head, then climbed in and avoided looking at him. She was shivering and her lips were blue.  Her hair hung in damp clumps around her face and down her back. Nate cranked up the heat and reached over the seat hunting in the back for his jacket. When he handed it to her, she shook her head refusing it. Instead, she crossed her arms and stared straight ahead. Her knuckles were white with the cold.

Nate slammed on the brakes and turned off the engine. Ignoring her startled gasp, he grabbed her chin and forced her to look at him. He kept his voice as calm as he could.

“Okay, Erin. Let’s start over.  I’m sorry I made that crack at the party. It was a lousy thing to say. I apologize.”

She jerked her head free and turned back to stare out the front window.

“You already apologized.”

Nate persisted.

“Yeah, I know I did. Guess the question is: Do you accept my apology?”

Her voice was so low given the rain pounding against the car roof, he could barely hear her response.

“What does it matter if I do or not?”

He forced himself to be calm.

“It matters to me.”

She shrugged, making it clear that was his problem, not hers.

He decided to try another tack.

“Look, sweetheart, you are soaking wet. Your lips are blue and your teeth are chattering.  Will you at least put this jacket over you, if you don’t want to put it on?  And maybe you should wring out your ponytail… or something.”

He waited a moment. When she didn’t answer, he draped the fleece-lined leather jacket over her.  It was so much bigger than she was, it served as a blanket.  When she didn’t shove it away, he started the car and pulled back onto the rain-drenched streets.

After a minute or two of ignoring him, she said, “My address is 289 Wingate.  It’s off of St. Peter in Charlotte Prairie.”

He was purposefully non-committal.

“I know where it is.”

They drove in silence for several moments. Nate’s chest hardened, knowing that if he hadn’t insisted that she get in his car, she would be running home in this dangerous thunderstorm.  Glancing at her, seeing the deep crease between her brows and the stern set of her jaw, he shook his head. And he thought he was stubborn.  Deciding to take a stab at conversation, he broke the heavy silence.

“What were you trying to do, little spitfire? Get a twenty-day sick leave for pneumonia?”

Her voice was sharp.

“Don’t call me that.  Who do you think you are? My name is Erin. No matter what you think of me, a ‘girl firefighter wannabe’ and all that, I do not shirk my duty -- nor do I take sick days or in any way slack off.  Not that it is any of your business, but I have a perfect attendance record….”

Her voice broke and she turned her head toward the passenger window.  Nate had a suspicion the gesture was meant to hide tears, not that he’d be able to tell given the raindrops on her face.

“Look, little spitfire, I’m not your school principle and I don’t take attendance at the firehouse. I’m just trying to figure out why the hell you thought you could run over ten miles in a torrential downpour.”  

He didn’t expect her to answer, and she didn’t.  But to underscore her disdain she shoved the jacket off of herself, dropping it to the floor.

He observed her out of his periphery. As much as he disliked women working in positions meant for men, he did like women!  And tallying up Erin’s assets, this was one hell of a woman. His dick agreed. Hell, he’d had a hard-on since he first saw her at Mama D’s. Erin’s abbreviated white shorts showed off shapely legs that didn’t quit. Even now, dimpled with goose bumps, they were gorgeous. Now that he knew how much she ran, it wasn’t a surprise.  And all that firm muscle was balanced by some very soft, very feminine curves.  Her hips and ass beckoned to him, deserving more than a second look. But at the moment, he was drawn to the swell of her breasts hovering under her wet tank top. Now that she’d dispensed with his jacket, her perky nipples responded to the cold, sticking out like tiny doorknobs waiting to be tweaked.  

At his chuckle, she followed the direction of his eyes, then glared at him.

Pressing her lips together in a firm line, she snapped, “Eyes on the road, detective.”

He laughed.

“Hey, you’re the one who didn’t want my jacket. Besides, like a good driver I was keeping my eyes on the headlights.”

 She huffed out a disgusted puff of air.

“That pitiful joke is as bad this time as the thousand other times I’ve heard it from sexist assholes.”

Nate couldn’t hold back his grin.

“Again, my apologies. We sexist assholes are so busy annoying beautiful women we don’t have time to refresh our pick-up lines.”

Erin gave a derisive snort.  

“A pity.  Makes you not only a contemptuous chauvinistic jerk, but a boring one. You know, you should maybe move to Saudi Arabia, someplace like that, where I understand your views on women and their role in society would be very well received.”

He had to give it to her.  She was a feisty one -- not easily put down. Interesting.  At least his dick seemed to think so.  He made an effort to keep the amusement out of his voice.

“Hmm. Well, Miss Firefighter of the Year, I’ve been called a lot of things.  An asshole? Definitely.  Sexist, chauvinistic? You bet. And proud of it. But boring?  Uh uh, sweetheart. That one doesn’t fit.”


At her shout, he managed to keep from slamming the brakes but even so the car skittered dangerously to the left. His seatbelt responded, snapping him against the seatback.

“Jesus, Erin!  What the hell--”

She unfastened her seatbelt and had the door open before he could react.

“This is where I live.”

Her flashing eyes and raised chin dared him to comment on the shabby street and shabbier house.

He looked at the ramshackle clapboard structure that hadn’t seen a fresh coat of paint in thirty years, and probably never hosted a handyman. He met her gaze.

“I see.”

She gave him a dismissive nod.

“Thanks for the ride.”

He opened his car door and jumped out, but before he could cross to her side, she slammed her door and ran up the cracked sidewalk. On the rickety porch, she fumbled for a minute, jimmying with the lock.  To Nate, it didn’t look like she used a key. Christ, why bother?  By the look of that doorframe, a swift kick would bring the whole damned door down.

Leaning against the side of his car, Nate wondered if Erin carried a piece. Watching her tight little ass in the skintight shorts disappear behind a slamming door, he scoffed. It would have been a challenge to get his hands in those pants, much less a gun.

He stood for a moment, letting the rain pour down his back.  He was already drenched, so what the hell.

With a grimace Nate took in the neighborhood.  If you could call it that.  Half the houses on the street appeared vacant.  The ones that were occupied were lit up, as if illuminating the shadows would scare away the Boogeyman. His hackles rose. It would take a dead man not to sense the danger in those houses, and the vacant lots surrounding them. Empty lots littered with trash and overgrown weeds were nearly as plentiful, and only a little less pathetic than the houses.

The cars cluttering the streets ranged from tricked-up 70’s pimpmobiles, to fifteen-to-twenty-year-old sedans so covered in rust it was a wonder they didn’t fall apart each time the engine ginned up. Looking from one depressing sight to another, Nate’s protective instincts kicked in. Christ, what was Erin doing living in a dump like this?  It was one thing for him to be here. Half his “clients” lived in scrapheaps like this or worse.  At least Charlotte Prairie was relatively free of drug dealers.  Hell, they even had a neighborhood watch group.  They’d invited him to speak once; seven “members” showed up. Mothers and grandmothers, their faces lined with strain, asked question after question about how to keep their kids safe.  All he could tell them was to move out as quickly as they could.  They never invited him back.

He’d talk to Connor in the morning. Erin had no business living in a place like this.  Christ, what the hell were they paying rookie firefighters these days? Surely she could afford a safer place to live. He’d put Naomi, his desk sergeant, on it tomorrow. She’d understand. Naomi spent half her days chasing after runaway kids. She’d know how to ask the right questions, how not to embarrass Erin. To be sensitive and all that shit. Find out what was going on.

Because something definitely was going on with the Firefighters of America poster girl. Nate wasn’t a cop for nothing.  And six years spent crawling in steamy bug-infested jungles on missions the U.S. Government would deny with their dying breath -- or with his -- had tuned up his antennae.  He could smell trouble a mile off. And this feisty young woman with those damnable turquoise eyes was in trouble.  He didn’t miss the way she jumped when he took hold of her arm. How she tried to run by him. That flash in her eyes was panic, pure and simple.  And how many times did she look over her shoulder running down the street before he got her in his car?

Nope. Ms. Erin, spelled E.r.i.n., was not the All-American girl next door living out her lifelong dream to be a big bad fireman. The prickles on his neck told him that much.  But who was she? And what kind of trouble was she in?

Nate was a master interrogator. He’d gotten answers from the baddest of the bad. He snorted, thinking back on Erin’s non-answers to his family’s innocent questions, or the way her eyes darted from side to side, grasping for another acceptable lie. Hell, the only time she told the truth was when she said her parents were dead.  Well, and when she called him out as the immature asshole that he was. He chuckled, then sobered. Yeah, he’d get answers. Real answers.  But first, he needed data.

 He whistled to himself as he eased his long legs into the expensive leather seat in his Z, and fiddled with the high tech gizmos decorating the dashboard.  Good thing he was a whiz at ferreting out information, no matter how deep it was buried.  There wasn’t a site he couldn’t hack, a program he couldn’t break into. It was against departmental rules, of course.  Illegal as shit.  But then, he’d never been much for rules.

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