Life isn’t fair. I know that lesson well.
I said goodbye to Caleb ten years ago.
The boy I once loved is man now—a rugged, s*xy as h*ll man.
As a hotshot firefighter, he’s all about saving others.
Life ripped us apart, stealing more than I could’ve imagined.
Time didn’t heal all of my wounds, and time never let me forget what we once had.
Once again, he comes to my rescue.
This time, I’m running from a different set of demons.
Maybe this time we have a second chance.
Fire burns hot and bright. It can destroy everything.
Just like it destroyed what I had with Ella.
What comes out of the ashes is stronger than ever.
Ella meant everything to me once upon a time.
We were young and foolish when tragedy tore us apart.
She went running, and I was too torn up to chase after her and make it right.
They say time heals all wounds.
Some things never die, and the fire between us burns hotter than ever.
I’ll do anything to keep her safe, to make her mine.
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My heart kicked up a notch just being close to her. It had been five years since I’d seen Ella. She looked up at me through the rain, her green eyes bright in the gray light. I felt as if I was spinning back in time—emotions jostling against each other in the process. I’d loved Ella fiercely once upon a time.
“I think so. Dana said I just need a few stitches, right?” she asked, her gaze swinging to Dana Halloran, one of the EMT’s on the scene.
Dana nodded from where she stood, turning back to Ella, her eyes bouncing between us briefly. She squirted disinfectant on a cotton ball, carefully dabbing at the cut on the side of Ella’s forehead. “That looks like all you’ll need. I’ll just clean this up and we’ll get going. They’ll take care of the stitches at the hospital.”
Ella looked back at me. “See, just a few stitches.”
“I’ll meet you at the hospital,” I said as Dana carefully taped a piece of gauze over the cut.
“You don’t need to do that,” Ella replied.
Dana stepped away and spoke to the ambulance driver. I focused on Ella. “I’ll meet you there,” I repeated.
“Caleb, you don’t have to take care of me. I’m…”
A flash of anger rose inside. I might not have been thinking too clearly, but for God’s sake. Ella had once meant everything to me. Then, everything went to hell.
“Ella, you just had a car accident. Is it absolutely necessary to act like we mean nothing to each other?”
We stared at each other again. Oh God. It felt so good to be close to him. For the first time in years, I felt like I could relax. I wanted to wrap myself in Caleb and stay there forever.
My next words startled me. “I miss you.” The moment those words escaped, I wanted to grab them and stuff them back inside. I didn’t need to blurt out all kinds of crazy, emotional stuff. This wasn’t supposed to happen this way.
Caleb stared at me, the hand circling on my back finally pausing. He swallowed, the sound audible in the room. My awareness of him was so heightened the hair on the back of my neck stood up. “You have no idea how much I’ve missed you,” he nearly growled.
Emotion was rushing through me, mingling with desire that should’ve seemed out of place given everything that had happened, but it didn’t. Wanting Caleb came as easily as breathing to me. It always had. I’d forgotten how powerful the draw was. Raw joy rose through the scrum of tattered regret and lingering pain, striking against that desire like flint to stone.
This was me, this was Caleb. Us. There had never been anyone but him in my heart, and my body knew it. He strummed every chord of my being simply by existing in space and time near me.
With a muttered imprecation, he dipped his head, kissing one corner of my mouth and then the other. Oh geez. I was a sucker for corner kisses, at least when it came to him. Two more kisses dusted at the corners of my mouth and then I sighed. His tongue swiped along the seam of my lips, and I let go with a low moan.
USA Today Bestselling Author J. H. Croix lives in a small town in the historical farmlands of Maine with her husband and two spoiled dogs. Croix writes steamy contemporary romance with strong independent women and rugged alpha men who aren’t afraid to show some emotion. Her love for quirky small-towns and the characters that inhabit them shines through in her writing. Take a walk on the wild side of romance with her bestselling novels!