Melt For Him ONLY
a Fighting Fire novel by New York Times bestselling author Lauren Blakely
Fire captain and bar owner Becker Thomas usually spends his nights alone, trying to escape painful memories from his past. When he meets a sexy, free-spirited brunette outside his bar, he knows he’s found the perfect way to forget for one night. But when he discovers the woman he wants back in his bed is his best friend’s sister, everything comes to a halt.
Megan Jansen has one rule—no firemen. Just out of a toxic relationship, she’s only in Hidden Oaks long enough to visit her brother and photograph the local calendar before she slips off on another adventure. The brooding man who gave her the best sex ever is an unexpected surprise. The problem is, he’s her brother’s friend…and a fireman. She knows she’s going to get burned, but keeping their hands off each other is easier said than done.
Lauren Blakely donated half of her author proceeds from the pre-order and release week sales for MELT FOR HIM to the NVFC Firefighter support Fund which supports the nation’s volunteer fire and EMS departments.
Title: Melt For Him
Series: Fighting Fire, #2
Author: Lauren Blakely
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Length: 243 pages
Release Date: September 2014
Price listed is for the U.S. digital format. Please confirm pricing and availability with the retailer before downloading.
Praise for Melt for Him:
“Melt For Him is a sexy, fast paced read that’ll leave you hot, panting, and completely captivated! The chemistry between Becker & Megan is beyond combustible, and your fingers will literally feel the burn with every flip of the page.”
– Whitney G, NYT and USA Today Bestselling Author of Reasonable Doubt
An Excerpt from:
Melt For Him
by Lauren Blakely
Copyright © 2014 by Lauren Blakely. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce, distribute, or transmit in any form or by any means. For information regarding subsidiary rights, please contact the Publisher.
She had killer legs.
Strong, shapely—the kind that should never be covered up with pants or jeans. Yeah, the woman who’d just walked into the alley behind his bar, as if she were hunting for a bit of peace and quiet, too, should be legally required to wear short skirts and boots every single day.
He’d happily sign that edict.
She headed in his direction, tapping away on her phone, and Becker saw no reason not to check her out from his post at a table on the back porch of the Panting Dog, the microbrewery he owned and operated. Considering the way the crowds inside had felt constricting, wanting to toast him and his good buddy Travis for simply doing their job—as volunteer firemen, they’d answered the call and saved two kids from a fast-moving midnight fire a few weeks ago—he’d had to get away for a bit. The quiet porch had much more appeal than the scene inside, which threatened to bring other memories careening back, too—memories with different endings. But here in the dark of the warm May night that surrounded him, he was trained on the present, only the present—and on those legs.
He raked his eyes over the rest of the woman.
The gorgeous brunette looked like she put a premium on fitness—maybe woke up early for hikes or a five-mile run as the sun rose, just as he did. She was toned all over, and he offered a silent thanks to the genius who invented strappy little tanks, because they’d clearly been designed with this woman in mind. On her wrist she had a gray leather band, like a bracelet, and that, coupled with a small tattoo on her shoulder, seemed to scream “tough chick.” As she neared him, she stopped texting, tucked her phone into her purse, and tugged at the neckline of her shirt.
“Fuck it,” she said and looked to the left, then to the right. She hadn’t seen him. She reached a hand up the back of her shirt, and seconds later she’d unhooked a lacy white bra and was stuffing it into her purse alongside the phone.
The knowledge that her breasts were riding bareback against the tight tank made him instantly hard. The shadows were his friends, though, and the dark corner he’d set up camp in was far enough away from the nearby streetlamps, or she might have seen his jaw drop. She was an even greater sight to behold now, and he could barely take his eyes off the way the fabric hugged her breasts. A triple threat from the legs, to the breasts, to the face. He hoped to God she had all the other assets he liked, too, namely the ones upstairs.
He cycled through opening lines that wouldn’t earn a roll of the eyes. But he didn’t need lines, because she was making a beeline for the table, eyeing the chair across from him.
Maybe fate was in his favor tonight. Maybe she was what he needed to take his mind away from the noise and the chatter—both from inside his bar and from those damn memories that taunted him of all that had gone wrong in Chicago and sent him far away from the Windy City to set up a new home here in Hidden Oaks, California, deep in the heart of wine country. New life, new department, new friends. A new chance.
She was a few feet away from the table, and she must have caught a rock or a pebble, because she lunged unevenly, starting to reach for the back of a chair. Reflexes kicking in, he rose quickly and steadied her with a sure hand on her elbow. She looked straight at him. There was the slightest touch of embarrassment in her face, but then it was quickly replaced by an amused determination.
She gave a quick wave, then smoothed over her skirt. “Nice to meet you. I’m Megan. I’m kind of a klutz sometimes,” she said, owning it. She was both utterly adorable and unbelievably hot with the way she turned her stumble into a confident introduction.
“I’m Becker. I happen to be a big fan of klutzes.”
She gave him an appreciative nod, as if to say, Well played. He pulled out the chair for her, and she sat down, crossing the bare legs that he longed to touch. If she went commando on top, did she downstairs as well?
A man could dream. A man could hope. A man could thank the lucky stars a claustrophobic evening had just turned into a night of possibility. He sat down quickly, because it was already getting tighter inside his jeans.
Hidden Oaks was just as Megan remembered when she left more than a year ago. All the shops were the same, that statue of the guy on a horse in the town square was the same, even the window displays at the olive oil specialty shop were the same. The only thing different was the bar where she’d planned to meet her friend Jamie before she’d taken the detour to the alley. The Panting Dog wasn’t here a year ago, nor was this man.
She’d have noticed him. She’d have remembered him.
He wasn’t exactly forgettable, even with the shadows across his face.
“I’m actually forbidden by the Klutz Association from wearing these boots,” she said, picking up the thread of their banter and holding her leg out to show him the heel on her short red boots. “But I defied their orders.”
“I won’t tell them you’re a scofflaw then,” he said, in that warm and gravelly voice, the kind that could sell you whiskey or bourbon, or maybe even himself. Smooth but with a touch of something else—danger, perhaps. One faint streetlight shone across half his face, and the half she could see was hauntingly beautiful. Strong cheekbones, a touch of stubble, and dark eyes that looked as if they’d seen many things. Her eyes roamed to his arms, which seemed to be in a permanent state of flex. She bet he could lift a dresser and carry it easily, lay it in the bed of a truck with barely an effort. Because, yes, of course this man drove a truck. Probably red and scratched-up, the kind he’d drive to the end of a long dirt road with her, toss a blanket in the back, and then they’d get it on under the stars.
Hold on. They’d barely even exchanged words and she was already picturing tangoing with him in the back of a truck? That’s what a good pair of arms did to her. Made her mind tumble ten steps ahead. She’d always loved a well-built man. So sue her for staring.
But she needed to focus on why she’d taken this detour for the alley in the first place—to be alone. There was a reason she hadn’t stepped foot in the Panting Dog to hang out with Jamie, who managed the bar. When she’d peered through the window a few minutes ago, she had been met with the sight of a packed bar, patrons standing shoulder to shoulder, wedged inside. And after she’d spent most of her time in Los Angeles the last year trying to keep her ex away from that kind of scene, which had offered too many temptations to him, it was one of her least favorite sights. So she’d headed for the quiet of the back porch, hoping to read a book as she waited for Jamie to finish her shift.
But screw reading. As long as Becker wasn’t a fireman or a drunk, she’d be keen on chatting for a few minutes. Not that she lumped drunks with firemen. Not at all. But either type was a deal-breaker, though for different reasons. The bottom line was the same—they both could pulverize a heart.
“Anything else the Klutzes forbid you from wearing?” he asked in a teasing tone, continuing the thread of their shared joke.
Oh. Had he seen her starting to strip? Seemed a strong possibility. And so why the hell not run with it?
“Why would you ask?” she said, running a finger along the strap of her tank top, as if she simply had to adjust it right this second.
“No reason at all,” he said, trying to rein in a grin that threatened to curve up his lips. He tipped his forehead to Megan’s shoulder. “I completely didn’t notice that you were removing an article of clothing because I was trying to admire the ink on your skin. What’s your tattoo there?”
She laughed loudly. “Nicely done,” she said, her way of acknowledging that he hadn’t quite taken the easy road by asking directly about the lingerie she’d already ditched. That damn strapless bra had been bugging her. And he’d clearly seen her take it off. But then, he’d already seen her stumble, so on the scope of things in life she should care about, the prospect of a stranger having seen her go through the first level of solo strip poker didn’t bother her. Nor did it bug her that he was checking out the way her nipples were outlined against the cotton of her tank. Especially because she didn’t really want him to be a stranger right then.
“The thing you didn’t notice? I’m going to tell you a secret,” she said playfully, owning her moment of nearly eating the sidewalk, and owning her lack of a seat belt for her breasts. “Strapless bras suck.”
“I’m going to tell you a secret. You not wearing a bra right now? That doesn’t suck.”
She laughed, then patted her shoulder. “And to answer your question: that’s my owl.”
He leaned forward, the glow of the streetlamp illuminating him fully now, and holy smokes. He wasn’t just gorgeous. He was the very definition of smoldering. His eyes were the deepest of browns, his cheekbones were chiseled, and his hair was dark with the slightest wave. But those eyes—somehow they said he was more than just a fine specimen of muscle, and height, and beauty. There was something hidden, something dark in the past, and that lured her in like a magnet. Because it was familiar.
“An owl? Let me guess. Does it have to do with being wise?” But before she could answer, he shook his head and spoke again. “No. I don’t think it does. I bet there’s some deeper meaning.”
She tapped her finger to her nose. “Bingo.”
“I could ask what it is, but I have a feeling you don’t ink and tell.”
“You’re right. I don’t always,” she said. She hadn’t even told her brother Travis, and they’d nearly raised each other at times. He didn’t like that she’d gotten a tattoo. He was overprotective in every way, down to warning her not to ink her own body because he didn’t trust tattoo shops. That was par for the course with Travis; he was skeptical and suspicious by nature, but then, those traits had served them both well when they were growing up.
But she could toss Becker a bone. He’d earned that much with his directness, not to mention his fast reflexes. “I’ll tell you something else about my tattoo, though. I designed it myself,” Megan added.
“So are you a tattoo artist?”
She shook her head wistfully. “Not yet, but I will be soon. I’ve been learning the trade, working with some artists, and I have a gig lined up that I’m super excited about. I’ve always loved to draw, though, and have been lucky enough to work as a freelance artist,” she said. She’d been a freelance makeup artist in Los Angeles, and a freelance photographer, and a freelance illustrator. She was back in town on a freelance basis, too, since her brother had convinced her to hang out for a few weeks in Hidden Oaks to shoot the firemen’s calendar. The regular photographer had left town to tend to some family matters, and the firehouse was in a pinch to produce the calendar quickly. It was a best seller, and all the proceeds benefited the local hospital’s burn center, so Megan had agreed to donate her time and work for the cause.
The timing proved fortuitous. She wasn’t going to stay long—she had Portland on her travel itinerary next, since she’d found out earlier that week that she’d landed an apprenticeship at one of the city’s premier tattoo shops, where she’d be turning her designs into body art starting in June.
Hidden Oaks was a way station, then she’d head north. But she didn’t want to go into all the details of her job history or job future with Becker. The night she met her ex, she’d been patently open with him, sharing details of her life, and look where that had gotten her—straight into a damaging relationship she’d only recently been able to untangle herself from. She would try a different tactic with this man. She would hold herself back. Protect her secrets and herself. She was no longer an open book.
“Well, Ms. Soon-to-Be Tattoo Artist, I don’t believe we’ve had a proper handshake,” he said, giving her a small smile. His large hand wrapped around Megan’s, and she liked the way his skin felt against hers. She started wondering whether she’d like more skin-on-skin contact, and as she grew warmer between her thighs, she had her answer. Yes. She wanted to be closer to him. She leaned in, enjoying the heat that radiated from his body, too.
Maybe it was all physical. Or maybe it was more. Maybe it was because she didn’t know him, and he didn’t know her, and they could be anybody. They could be people without pasts, without stories, without baggage. A man, a woman, meeting by chance. A quick stumble, a brief catch, as if someone or something had wanted them to meet. The night was a blank slate full of possibility. She started picturing those warm, strong hands on her, on her hips, on her waist, touching her shoulders, and she shivered at the images flashing by.
“You’re new to town, aren’t you?” she asked.
“Moved here a year ago from Chicago. And you? You new, too?”
“I’m just passing through. Making my way up the coast,” she said, and she liked the feel of that answer, how it suited the mood she’d been in lately—a mood for change, for new beginnings.
“Ah, you’ve got wanderlust.”
“A traveling heart,” she said.
“I’m glad you traveled into this alley tonight.”
“Why are you hanging out in the dark by yourself?”
“I could ask you the same.”
“Sure. Might as well start there.”
“I don’t like parties,” she admitted.
“I don’t like crowds.”
“Ah, so we have that in common.”
“And that’s why we find ourselves here in an alley.”
“Besides hanging out solo in alleys on a Friday night, what is it that you do, Mr. Becker?” She was surprised at how incredibly flirtatious she sounded when she said his name, almost like Marilyn breathily whispering, “Mr. President.” But then Becker was the opposite of what she’d been used to for the last year. He seemed both straightforward and completely lacking in pretenses, and there was little more appealing to Megan than that. Well, except perhaps for his body, all carved and broad, and his eyes, so dark and penetrating. She imagined being underneath him, looking into their depths, feeling the intensity of his stare as he moved in her, the kind of gaze that could blot out all the bad memories.
He tipped his head to the back entrance of the Panting Dog. “I own this place,” he said, and that tripped a switch in her memory. Jamie had once said that she wanted to hook up Megan with her boss, who was super hot. Jamie was right—Becker was smoking. “Speaking of, can I interest you in a beer? All locally brewed and all named after dog breeds. In addition to klutzes, I happen to be a big fan of dogs.”
She laughed. “Dogs are cool. So’s beer.”
“We have wine, too, if that’s your thing.”
“And why on earth would I drink wine when you have microbrews named for dogs? How about a Chihuahua?” she said with a smile. “I’ll take my chances even though I have no idea what kind of beer the Chihuahua gave its name to, but those are some seriously fine-looking little dogs.”
“One raspberry ale coming up for the woman who doesn’t like crowds, who thinks bras suck, and who believes owls have deeper meanings.”
Whoa. In five minutes he already knew more about her than most people did. And she’d been trying so hard to keep everyone out.