New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author

of Contemporary Women's Fiction, Romantic Comedies, and Historical Romances

 

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Naughty or nice, they’re all getting lucky this Christmas!

 

 

 

 

EMT Dustin Mauer has one Christmas wish: to make tough firefighter Cristina Lewis realize she’s in love with him. And he’s using his considerable bedside charm to convince her!

All He Wants for Christmas... by Jill Shalvis

Toni Rizzo is done with obnoxious firefighters. But flirtatious fireman Brad Griffin is managing to put himself at the top of her holiday list—one steamy kiss at a time!

My Grown-Up Christmas List by Jacquie D’Alessandro

When Dr. Lorelei Gibson gets stuck on her roof half-naked, she’s mortified when she’s rescued by hunky firefighter Ryan Quinn—her high school heartbreak! Until she learns he’d like to get naked with her...

Up on the Housetop by Jamie Sobrato



 

 

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Toni picked up the glossy calendar and turned to December.  And found herself staring at Brad.  Brad whose skin gleamed wet from the water trickling from the fire hose nozzle draped around his broad, muscular shoulders.  Brad who only wore a sexy smile and his bunker pants, which hung dangerously low on his lean hips, held up by a single red suspender.  Brad, whose gorgeous blue-green eyes seemed to bore into hers, inviting her to join him a little water fun.

            Her gaze skimmed over his defined pecs and ridged abdomen and she barely resisted the urge to fan herself.  A small cross of Saint Florian tattoo, the badge of firemen, adorned his chest, right above the place where she’d feel his heart beat if she were to touch him.

No doubt about it.  He had a really nice…hose.

 

 

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Chapter One

 

    

     Bradley Griffin closed his locker at the firehouse and breathed a sigh of relief that his stress-filled twenty-four hour shift was finally over.  After picking up his duffel bag, he waved goodbye to the guys polishing the pristine red ladder truck.  He hoped their shift would be quieter than his had been, but he doubted it.

     Unfortunately the Christmas season always proved busy for firefighters.  Fires and emergencies were always difficult, but they just seemed much more so to him at this time of year, when good cheer was supposed to prevail.  In his mind’s eye he could still see the soot and tear-streaked faces of the family whose house had burned last night.  The parents and two young children had made it out alive, thank God, but their home and all their belongings, including the Christmas presents they’d stacked under the tree, were lost, leaving them with nothing except each other.  How many times over the last seven years had he seen that same heart wrenching combination of terror and desolate sadness in people’s eyes?  Too many to count.  Yet, he still wouldn’t trade jobs with anyone.  Wouldn’t trade those moments when a life was saved, a loved one brought back from the brink.  That family last night...they’d clung to each other and the fact that they were alive to rebuild.  Unfortunately not everyone was so lucky.

     He walked toward the open bay doors, the sight of the bright morning California sunshine a welcome relief after the smoke blackened dawn sky he’d stood beneath only several hours earlier.  He pulled in a deep breath, loving the smell of the fire house--the lemony cleaning fluid the guys used to keep the place spotless, combined with a hint of what he called automotive potpourri, mixed with a whiff of the salty breeze blowing off the ocean.  Through the doors he caught sight of the sparkling blue Pacific running onto the sandy beach.  Lots of skaters, walkers and joggers already out and about today, he noticed.  A beautiful sunny day like this always brought the crowds to Ocean Harbor Beach, the laid-back surfing town where he’d lived his entire life.  And now that he had forty-eight off, he couldn’t wait to join them.  Two days to regroup.  To put the pressures of the job behind him.  To concentrate on happier things.  Like Christmas.  Which was only a week away.  Which meant it was about time he started Christmas shopping.

     “Yo, Brad.”

     Brad turned at the familiar greeting.  His best friend and fellow firefighter Jim Ballard exited the station’s kitchen and loped toward him.  According to the schedule, Jim had come on duty an hour ago and clearly it was his turn to cook as he carried a spatula and wore an apron that advised in bold red print: Firefighters Do It With Heat.  Brad sent up a silent prayer of thanks he was off duty.  He loved Jim like a brother, but he was the station’s worst cook.

     He gave Jim’s black and red stain splattered apron a skeptical glance.  “Soot and...ketchup?” he guessed, hoping it wasn’t blood.  “Doesn’t bode well for the morning meal.”

     Jim looked down at the apron then shrugged.  “Had a little mishap with the huevos rancheros.  Nothing a few handfuls of jalapenos won’t fix.”

     Brad’s stomach clenched in protest and sympathy for those poor bastards polishing the truck.  “What’s up?”

     “Been looking for you.  Found out something you might find interesting.”  Jim lowered his voice.  “About Antonia Rizzo.”

     Brad’s entire body quickened at the mention of her name--which totally annoyed and confused him--as it had from the first moment he’d seen her three months ago, when her florist shop, Blooming Pails, had opened in Santa Rey, the town just south of Ocean Harbor Beach, famous for its seaside boardwalk.  He’d stopped by on opening day, not so much to buy flowers--‘cause really he didn’t need any flowers--but more because he was walking right by the store and figured he’d be neighborly.  Not to mention scoring one of the free cannolis set on a huge ceramic tray just inside the door.  He’d taken one bite of the delicious, chocolate chip and cream-filled Italian pastry and his eyes had glazed with sheer bliss.  In the next instant he’d taken one look at Antonia--or as everyone called her, Toni--Rizzo and forgotten how to swallow.  Damn near forgot how to breathe.  Sure as hell forgot how to speak English.

     Holy smokin’ cannoli.

     His stupefied gaze had tracked over a mass of shiny dark brown spiral mess-with-me curls that loosely danced around her shoulders.  Her chocolate brown eyes sparkled as she wrapped a colorful bouquet in green paper and chatted with the customer purchasing the flowers.  Her smile...damn, her smile was gorgeous and sexy all at once, her full lips glossy with something dewy pink and flanked by a pair of shallow dimples.  She laughed, a deep, throaty sound, followed by a slightly husky voice that brought to mind hot, sultry nights and tangled sheets.

     His gaze skimmed lower and he knew that as delicious as the cannoli was, it didn’t hold a candle to Antonia Rizzo’s feminine form.  Damn.  Even her curves had curves.   She was striking and vivid and sexy as hell, and everything male in him went on red alert.  In the space of a nanosecond he fell totally, irreparably in lust.  Which admittedly had happened to him before--but never to this extent.  Never to the point where he actually forgot where he was.  What he was doing.  And what his damn name was.

     Once he recalled he was Brad--or Bill--or at least something that started with a “B”, he approached her.  Smiled.  Complimented her on her fabulous cannolis.  Flirted.  She was polite, but didn’t return any of the flirtatious lobs he tossed.  He bought a bouquet of flowers, which he immediately gave to her, along with an invitation to dinner.  She’d thanked him, handed him back the flowers and broken his heart by saying she was already involved.

     Whoever he was, the guy was damn lucky.  Brad had departed the shop deflated, unable to shake the feeling that he’d lost out on something really great.  He’d never experienced such a strong reaction to a woman, and she was unavailable.  What kind of crap was that?

     He told himself he was better off, that he wasn’t looking for a girlfriend.  Reminded himself of the ringer his last two girlfriends had put him through--Sandy, who hadn’t been able to deal with the dangerous aspects of his job.  What had started out as concern for his safety, which he’d appreciated, had eventually deteriorated into constant nagging to quit the fire department, which he hadn’t appreciated.   And then Janna, who’d been Sandy’s complete opposite--she loved everything about the fire department.  Unfortunately she loved firefighters a little too much, as Brad learned when he caught her riding a guy from a neighboring town’s hook and ladder company like he was the winning horse in the Kentucky Derby.  A guy Brad had considered a friend.

     Ever since that unappetizing scene four months ago, he’d flown under the radar.  He supposed he should have jumped right back into the dating whirlpool, but his heart just hadn’t been in it.  He wanted another girlfriend like he wanted a gaping hole in his head.  But for reasons he couldn’t figure, even picking up one of the endless smorgasbord of bikini-clad babes who frequented the beach and local bars and engaging in a few hours of mindless, no-strings attached sex didn’t hold the allure it once had.  After Janna he’d indulged a couple of times, but both occasions had left him feeling empty and filled with an unsettling loneliness.

     Yet even before his last two breakups, he’d felt the stirrings of this weird discontent, one he finally traced back to last summer, when he’d served as best man at Greg and Tanya’s wedding.  He’d never seen his older brother so happy.  As they’d watched Tanya walk down the aisle, he’d said to Greg, “She’s beautiful.”  And Greg had nodded.  “Best thing that’s ever happened to me.”  And Brad had thought it was too bad Tanya didn’t have a sister.  A month later he’d seen Toni Rizzo and it was as if he’d been hooked up to a nuclear reactor.

     Even though she wasn’t available, he couldn’t stop thinking about her.  He kept comparing his reaction to other women to his reaction to her.  And every other woman came up short.  It had quickly turned into something of a quest--find a woman who turned him on and attracted him the way she had.  He hadn’t succeeded, and because he hadn’t, he’d spent a lot of nights alone in his bed, tossing and turning, frustrated, lonely, and wishing like hell he could forget her.     

     Unable to keep from doing so, he found himself frequently stopping by her shop with the hopes that she’d catch one of his opening conversational gambits, and that maybe he’d find her no longer “involved.”  No such luck.  Toni was unfailingly polite, but her “I’m not interested” vibe never wavered.  And after three months of buying flowers and plants he didn’t need, his small ranch house looked downright girly and his mother had received so many bouquets from him, she was convinced he was up to something.  Or that she’d contracted some dread disease and he wasn’t telling her.

     “What about Toni?” Brad asked, keeping his tone casual.

     “Good news and bad news.”  Jim grinned.  “And you’re gonna owe me.”

     “Fine.  Good news first.”

     “She doesn’t have a boyfriend.”

     Whoa.  That wasn’t good news--that was freakin’ excellent news. 

     “Not only that,” Jim continued, “but apparently she hasn’t had one for a while.  Like six months.”

     Brad’s eyes narrowed.  “She told me she was involved.”

     “Right.  Obviously to blow you off.  Which leads to the bad news.”

     “Which is...?”

     “She doesn’t like firefighters.”

     Brad frowned.  “What do you mean?”

“She.  Doesn’t.  Like.  Firefighters.  What part don’t you get?”

     Great.  Was she another woman who couldn’t handle the danger his job entailed?  As soon as the question entered his mind, something told him the answer was no.  Whereas Sandy had turned out to be a needy, clingy sort of woman, Toni struck him as very confident.  And far too independent and smart to be unreasonable about a man’s job involving some danger.  There had to be another reason.  “Why doesn’t she like firefighters?”

     “Don’t know.”  Jim shrugged.  “If I had to guess, I’d say she probably got her heart broken by one, but who knows?  Who can figure out women?”

     “How do you know all this?”

     Jim rolled his eyes.  “Because I’m thirty years old and in spite of knowing a lot of them, women are impossible to understand.”

     This time Brad rolled his eyes.  “I mean how do you know she doesn’t have a boyfriend or like firefighters?”

     “Oh.  Bobby T told me,” Jim said, referring to the bartender at Breezes, one of Santa Rey’s most popular beachfront bars.  Since Bobby’s last name contained about seventeen letters and was completely unpronounceable, especially after a couple of beers, he was simply Bobby T.  “Toni and that gal who works with her went to the bar last night and had one of those long, boring, involved chick chats.  Since business was slow, Bobby couldn’t help but overhear bits and pieces.  They even drew him into the convo a few times.  I saw him this morning before I came on duty and he told me.  And now I’m telling you.  Figured you’d want to know, especially if you plan to make a move.  Once word of this gets out, guys’ll be all over Toni like wet on water.”

     A sensation that felt exactly like jealousy rippled through Brad.  “Right.  Except in case it’s escaped your notice, I’m a firefighter.”

     “Uh huh.”  He pointed his spatula at the ladder truck.  “Yeah, the big shiny red truck kinda gave it away.  But I doubt that’s gonna stop you.  You’ve been panting after this woman for three months.  Keeping your distance because you thought she was involved.  Now you know she’s not.”

     “I haven’t been panting,” Brad felt compelled to object.  “Breathing heavy, maybe.”

     “Panting,” Jim insisted.  “Dude, I’ve known you since tenth grade and I’ve never seen you so...I don’t even know the word to describe it, about a woman.  Discombobulated.  Stupefied.  Like a deer in the headlights.”  Jim shook his head.  “Maybe I shouldn’t have told you.  I’m thinkin’ this could only lead to trouble.”

     Brad knew what Jim meant by trouble--a serious entanglement.  But who said anything had to be serious?  He grinned.  “Trouble is my middle name.”

     “Like hell.”  Jim’s smile turned downright evil.  “It’s Theodore.”

     Damn.  There were definitely disadvantages to having friends for years.  Brad shot Jim a glare meant to deep fry him on the spot.  “Those will be interesting last words, should you make the mistake of repeating them.”  His nickname at the station was already embarrassing enough.  He didn’t need some derivative of Teddy Bear or some such cutesy crap to live down.  “Don’t you have eggs and toast to burn?”

     Jim lifted his hands in an exaggerated backing off gesture.  “Yup.  You wanna stay for breakfast?”

     “Tempting as that sounds, I’m gonna blast outta here.”  He nodded toward the guys polishing the truck.  “Don’t poison those poor boys.”

     “Are you kidding?  They’d eat tire treads if I poured melted cheese on them.”

     “Do you know how to melt cheese?”

     “Sure.  That’s what blow torches are for.”

     Brad wasn’t sure Jim was kidding.  “Good thing we’re fully equipped with fire extinguishers.”  He clapped his hand on Jim’s shoulder.  “Hope your shift’s quieter than mine was.”

     “Enjoy your days off.  Got any plans?”

     “Since Christmas is next week, figured I’d better start shopping.”

     Jim laughed.  “Bet I know where you’re going first.”

     Brad chuckled.  “Oh, yeah.  Got me some flowers to buy.  Wish me luck.”

     “I wish you luck, dude.  I have a feeling you’re going to need it.”

     Maybe he would.  But he was determined.  He didn’t fear going after what he wanted--no one had ever given him anything so he’d been doing that his entire life.  And he wanted Toni Rizzo.  In a way he hadn’t wanted any woman in a long time.  Yeah, he wanted her naked.  In his bed.  Under him.  Over him.  Putting out the damn fire she’d lit in him the moment he’d seen her.

Yet he wanted something more.  Wanted to get to know her.  He didn’t have any doubt they’d get along in bed, but he also wanted to know if they’d get along outside the bedroom, something he hadn’t been interested in finding out for very long time.  He couldn’t explain it, it didn’t make sense, but there it was.  So in his face he couldn’t deny it.  She was at the top of his Christmas list.  At the bottom, too.  And everything in between.  And now that he knew she wasn’t taken, there was nothing to stop him.

     Well, except this crazy aversion to firefighters.  But he had every intention of changing her mind.

     After all, how difficult could that be?

 

 

Top of Page

Excerpt

Chapter One

Reviews

Reader Comments (coming soon)

Awards

Reviews

 


 

Top of Page

Excerpt

Chapter One

Reviews

Reader Comments (coming soon)

Awards

 

Reader Comments

 

Coming Soon

 

Top of Page

Excerpt

Chapter One

Reviews

Reader Comments (coming soon)

Awards


Awards

 

 

 

Top of Page

Excerpt

Chapter One

Reviews

Reader Comments (coming soon)

Awards

You can find me on Facebook, Twitter, and blogging with the Whine Sisters -- stop by and say hi!

         

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