Rescue Squad #1
By: Kimberly Kincaid
Releasing January 26, 2016
SOMEONE’S BOUND TO GET BURNED…
Zoe Westin may be a fire captain’s daughter, but feeding the people in her hometown of Fairview is her number one priority. Running a soup kitchen is also the perfect way to prove to her dad that helping people doesn’t always mean risking life and limb.
But when she's saddled with a gorgeous firefighter doing community service after yet another daredevil stunt, the kitchen has never been so hot.
Alex Donovan thrives on adrenaline, and stirring a pot of soup doesn’t exactly qualify. He’s not an expert at following the rules either, not even when they come from the stubborn, sexy daughter of the man who's not only his boss, but his mentor.
Determined to show Zoe that not every risk ends in catastrophe, Alex challenges her both in the kitchen and out.
One reckless step leads to another, but will falling for each other be a risk worth taking, or will it just get them burned?
Recalibrating her thoughts back to the task at hand, she pushed past the twin swinging doors leading from the back of the kitchen into the bare-bones dining room. Pale, earlymorning daylight filtered in through the oversized windows at the front of the long, rectangular space, offering just enough visibility for her to make her way behind the dinged up cafeteria-style counter set up along the rear wall. Not wanting to add injury to the insult she’d already racked up this morning, Zoe hit the panel of light switches by the commercial grade coffeemaker. She turned to grab the filters from the adjacent storage drawer and let the rhythm and the smells and the simplicity of the food soothe her like they always did.
But she wasn’t alone in the dining room.
Zoe’s heartbeat locked in her throat as she registered the man sitting at one of the tables closest to the counter, although sitting was actually pretty generous. His long, jeans-clad legs were kicked out in front of him, crossed one over the other at the ankles of his heavy-soled brown leather work boots. His chin lay tucked against the chest of his navy blue jacket, just enough for his fashionably tousled blond hair to obscure his face, and the soft sound rising up from his chest doubled the shock pumping through her veins.
Her party crasher was snoring.
“Okay, Sleeping Beauty. Time to rise and shine.” Zoe barked the words in her best drill-sergeant voice, although she kept her Danskos planted firmly on the business side of the counter. This guy was pretty horizontal for someone with bad intentions—not to mention far more well-kept than their average residents—but she was still on this side of the shelter all by herself. Looks could be deceptive as hell, and despite the security measures she and Tina had been scraping to put into place, Hope House wasn’t exactly in a pristine neighborhood. No way was she taking any chances by sounding too mousy or getting too close. “I don’t know how you got in here, but breakfast doesn’t start until seven. You’ll have to wait back in the residence until then.”
He woke up all at once, perfectly upright and focused with just two blinks, and holy cheese on a cracker, he was gorgeous. “I’m not here for breakfast. I’m—”
“Alex?” Recognition slammed into her senses, working on a five-second delay with her mouth. But this had to be a mistake. No way could Alex Donovan, the cockiest and most reckless firefighter in her father’s entire house, be standing here in front of her with shoulders twice as broad as the last time she’d seen him and a smile so sexy, the damn thing should come with a sternly worded warning label.
“I’m sorry,” he said, his Caribbean blue eyes tapering in confusion as they took a slow trip from her face to her feet and then back up again. “Do I know you?”
Zoe’s cheeks went hot, although whether it was from the way Alex was focused on her so intently or the fact that she was forgettable enough to go unrecognized, she couldn’t be sure.
“Zoe.” She paused, waiting out his continued lack of a light bulb moment for another few seconds before adding, “Westin.”
Alex’s eyes went as round and dark as ripe blueberries in August, and ding, ding, ding. They had a winner. “Holy shit. I mean—” He straightened, tugging a hand through his sun-kissed hair as his grin turned decidedly sheepish. “Your father mentioned you’d moved back to town, but I didn’t realize you were . . . jeez, didn’t you just graduate from college?”
Zoe’s defenses prickled to life. “Five years ago.” Two months before the last time she’d seen him, to be exact. Come to think of it, Alex had treated her like a little girl that day, too.
Right. Because just what her blush needed was more fuel.
“Oh. I guess time really flies, huh?” He tried on another smile, this one all sweet talk, and God, some things never changed. “Anyway, you might be able to help me out. I guess I’m looking for your boss.”
Alex pointed toward the painted cinder block wall that the soup kitchen shared with the shelter. “The only door that was open when I got here was the one to the shelter. The lady behind the desk walked me through the security doors and told me to wait here for the director of the soup kitchen. It’s kind of a long story, but I got stuck with this stupid community service assignment because of an even
more stupid work thing, and this was the first available placement. To be honest, I just want to get it over with.” He tipped his head at her, sliding his hands into the pockets of his jeans like no great shakes. “What’d you do to land here, anyway?”
Oh, you’ve got to be kidding me. Of all the possible community service assignments in the galaxy, this one took the freaking crown. She might not have clapped eyes on Alex Donovan since she’d made a colossal idiot out of herself in front of him at the Fairview Fire Department annual barbecue five years ago, but clearly, he hadn’t broken the firefighter mold, and she’d been around Station Eight enough to know his reputation by heart. Alex flew by the seat of his bunker pants twenty-four/seven, taking unnecessary risks the way most people took Motrin.
Not happening in her soup kitchen. She might be understaffed, but she wasn’t overstupid.
“The way I landed here was simple, actually,” Zoe said, knotting her arms over her chest tight enough to test the seams of her T-shirt. “I interviewed for the position as director and I got the job.”
The silence extended between them for a beat, then two, before . . . “Wait. You’re the director of the soup kitchen? As in, you run the whole program? I thought you went to some five-star culinary school.” Alex stared at her over the glass and stainless steel food service counter, and at least she’d found the antidote to his smirk.
“Surprise. But don’t worry. You won’t be stuck with this stupid community service assignment for long.”
Her pulse kicked into motion along with her feet, and she angled herself toward the darkly shadowed hallway leading to the pass-through to the shelter. With any luck, Tina would get to work early and could send his arrogant ass packing before Zoe served her first cup of coffee.
“Zoe, wait.” Alex’s long legs ate up the space between them before she could even make it halfway to the dining room door. “I think we got off on the wrong foot here.”
She gave him a tight smile without breaking stride. “At least being a firefighter has kept your observational skills sharp.”
His shoulders snapped into an unyielding knot, his stare flashing cool blue as he kept up with her, step for step. “You want to know what else I picked up with my keen observational skills? You’re in here by yourself, Gorgeous. And that tells me that like it or not, you need all the help you can get to run this place.”
Zoe’s gut took a downhill slide toward her hips, and she froze mid-pace on the threshold of the shadow-lined hallway. “Help from someone who isn’t serious about being here isn’t going to help at all.”
“Oh, I’m absolutely serious,” Alex said, triggering a borderline unladylike snort from her lips.
“You fell asleep on the job before you even started, then you called your assignment in the program I started from scratch ‘stupid.’ As far as I’m concerned, that makes you about as serious as a tabloid headline, no matter how shortstaffed I happen to be.”
One corner of his mouth lifted upward, disappearing briefly beneath his golden brown stubble before he folded his lips back to neutral-expression territory. “Look, you and I might not see eye to eye on the value of community service, but I can promise you this. I’m as determined to do my job as you are to do yours. The city sent me here for a reason. I can’t go back to Station Eight until I do my time, and you need a volunteer. So are we going to help each other out here, or what?”
Zoe opened her mouth, her own personal version of or what preloaded and ready to launch from her tongue. But if there was one rule she lived by above everything else, it was not putting what mattered most at risk, and what mattered most was feeding the residents at Hope House. As much as she knew firefighters—especially ones like Alex Donovan—were nothing but a great, big recipe for disaster, Zoe needed him.
And that meant she had no choice but to spend the next four weeks with the arrogant, impulsive firefighter in her kitchen and under her skin.
This story is on fire! Sorry the pun, but couldn't help. The connection between Zoe and Alex is smoldering, as they explore the attraction between them, while working on the kitchen.
There are so many things I loved in this story. First, the characters, the similarities between chefs and firefighters was eye opening, in a way. The search for adrenaline, the self assured personality one must have to survive the environment, always ready for action, always prepared. Top of that Alex's cocky attitude, and winning smile, Zoe's stubbornness, and the sparks fly. But as they get to know each other, and the outer layers are peeled off, it's not just about attraction and heat, they found true soul mates inside, someone they can share a future with.
Zoe, like all of us, seeks approval of her parents. Alex tries to keep his job, despite his impulse behavior. Zoe's father being Alex's boss, makes the fragile situation even more difficult. Working side by side in the kitchen, they share their dreams, and set goals, and challenge each other for new adventures, they would have never even thought of without each other's influence.
The story just pulled me in from the start, and it was a late night, until I could pull myself away from it. The environment, the characters, the events of the story with adrenaline spikes of danger, swoon worthy moments of bursting passion, the 'I got your back' motto the firefighters, and not only saying it, but living it through in everyday life, all of it made the story engaging, captivating, and lovable.
I enjoyed how the story flew off the pages, and invited me into the world the author had created, filled with dedication and devotion to the characters chosen careers and paths in life. This is the one book in the series, I can't wait to see, what more's to come, an intense start, for sure!
~ Five Spoons
Kimberly Kincaid writes contemporary romance that splits the difference between sexy and sweet.
When she's not sitting crosslegged in an ancient desk chair known as “The Pleather Bomber,” she can be found practicing obscene amounts of yoga, whipping up anything from enchiladas to éclairs in her kitchen, or curled up with her nose in a book.
Kimberly is a 2011 RWA Golden Heart® finalist who lives (and writes!) by the mantra that food is love.
She resides in northern Virginia with her wildly patient husband and their three daughters.
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