Her Perfect Hero (Harlequin American Romance #1150)

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The firefighters of Firehouse 59 can't help but wonder when Brady's Tavern, the local hangout, will reopen after the owner passes away. Cute Julie Polk doesn't seem the type to run a bar, but hey, she's better looking than Brady ever was! Needless to say, they're stunned when Julie decides to convert the place into a…tearoom!

Determined not to let that happen, the firefighters elect Tony Veracruz, the resident Casanova, to sweet-talk the blonde into changing her mind. Brady's ...

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The firefighters of Firehouse 59 can't help but wonder when Brady's Tavern, the local hangout, will reopen after the owner passes away. Cute Julie Polk doesn't seem the type to run a bar, but hey, she's better looking than Brady ever was! Needless to say, they're stunned when Julie decides to convert the place into a…tearoom!

Determined not to let that happen, the firefighters elect Tony Veracruz, the resident Casanova, to sweet-talk the blonde into changing her mind. Brady's Tavern should be back in no time! But as Tony gets closer to Julie and realizes he wants more than just a fling, he's not sure where his loyalties lie.…

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780373751549
  • Publisher: Harlequin
  • Publication date: 2/13/2007
  • Series: Harlequin American Romance Series, #1150
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 4.20 (w) x 6.60 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Read an Excerpt

Tony Veracruz climbed off Engine 59 pumped full of adrenaline for which there was no outlet. Around midafternoon his crew had been called to a house fire in South Dallas. But by the time they'd arrived another company had had the small blaze under control and there'd really been nothing for him to do.

Back at the station, he halted traffic on busy Jefferson Street so Lt. McCrae could back the engine into the apparatus room. He willed the alarm to buzz again, but annoyingly it remained silent.

For the past ten or so hours in the August heat he'd gone on one call after another, including the rescue of a kid stuck in a drainage ditch. All of which had, thank God, distracted him from thoughts of Daralee.

Now, with nothing to keep his brain occupied, he could think of nothing else. He wished he could banish her from his head. She was finished with him, and nothing he could do would bring her back.

For the past week, ever since their breakup, the only thing that could wipe her from his mind was the sound of that alarm.

As he followed the engine into its bay and prepared to close the door, movement across the street caught his eye.

"Hey, Ethan," he called to his fellow firefighter and lifelong best friend. "The lights are on at Brady's."

His announcement got the attention of everyone within earshot. The guys who'd been on the engine joined him in the open doorway to gaze at the illuminated beer signs in the front window of Brady's Tavern. The signs had been dark for the past two weeks, ever since Brady Keller, third-generation owner of the best bar in Dallas's Oak Cliff neighborhood, had died peacefully in his sleep.

"Maybe it's openingback up," Ethan said. Tony shrugged. "We can only hope." Oak Cliff had once been its own town, but Dallas had swallowed it up more than a hundred years earlier. It comprised a large area across the Trinity River from downtown and came with a diverse population and plenty of character. Those who lived and worked there tended to think of themselves as different"outside the mainstream"from other Dallasites. In turn, Dallas proper didn't think all that much of Oak Cliff.

Brady's was an Oak Cliff institution, and Tony had frequented the bar since he'd acquired his first fake ID at age seventeen. Located just across the street from the fire station, it was a favorite hangout for cops and firefighters.

And good ole Brady Keller had been as familiar a fixture as his tavern's sticky wood floors and antique shuffleboard table. He'd always been there, ready to listen, commiserate and even serve up an occasional beer on the house, provided your tale of woe was sad enough. Whenever Tony broke up with a girl"which happened with alarming frequency"he'd headed straight for Brady's, where he could distract himself with a game of pool, a sporting event on TV and a cold one. Until the bar had closed its doors.

Fire Station 59 had gone into mourning at the news of Brady's death, especially when the For Sale sign had gone up.

"Did you see who's inside?" Ethan asked.

"I think I can see someone moving around," said Priscilla Garner, another of Tony's good friends. She, Ethan and Tony had gone through firefighter training together. Now they all lived on the same block, worked the same shifts and watched each other's backs.As the three greenest rookies, they took a lot of grief from the veterans. "Maybe someone bought the place."

"I saw who went inside," said Otis Granger, who'd had a stool with his name on it at the bar. Otis hadn't gone on the last call. "Two girls, and they didn't look like bar owners to me."

"Girls?" Tony's interest immediately picked up.

"Well, women, if you want to be politically correct," Otis explained. "But one of them was a teenager, I think."

They were all hoping someone would buy the place and open it up just as it had been. Brady's business had fallen off some in recent years as newer, trendier bars had opened in Oak Cliff, but none of his regular customers wanted to see the bar change.

"I think we should find out who they are," Ethan said. "Brady must have family"someone to inherit. He talked about a sister."

"Tony, go talk to them." Priscilla gave him a little shove.

"Why me?"

"Duh! They're female. I don't know if you've noticed, but you have a certain effect on women."

Otis and Ethan broke out laughing, but Tony didn't. Whatever effect he had, it never lasted. His longest romantic relationship had ended after only a couple of months.

"Just go find out who those women are," Priscilla urged. "They must be related to Brady somehow.Ask them what their plans are. Maybe you can impress on them how important it is to sell Brady's to someone who'll reopen it and keep things the same."

"Ethan, why don't you talk to them?" Tony argued. "You're the great persuader around here."

"Yeah, he managed to convince Kat to marry him," Otis said drily. "Like she couldn't have done a lot better."

Ethan puffed out his chest, as he did at any mention of his beautiful new bride. They'd been married less than a month. "Okay, I'll talk to the ladies."

Just then, the door to Brady's opened and one of the women emerged.

Even from a distance, Tony could see she was gorgeous"tall and sleek, with golden hair that blew in the breeze. She wore snug faded jeans that molded themselves to a body made for love and a clingy cropped shirt that showed off her trim waist and breasts that bounced slightly as she strode down the sidewalk.

She stopped in front of the For Sale sign attached to the front window, then reached behind the iron burglar bars and yanked on the paper until it came loose. She pulled it free and rolled it up, tucked it under her arm, then went back inside.

"Hold it," Tony said. "Changed my mind. I'll talk to her."

"Uh-oh," Priscilla said. "Watch out, Tony's on the prowl."

He gave Pris a disdainful look. "Daralee and I just broke up. You don't honestly think I'm ready to get involved with someone else, do you?"

Tony's fellow firefighters laughed so hard at this that Otis nearly fell onto the concrete floor and Ethan had to support himself against the truck.

"What? I can't believe you're laughing about my messed-up love life."

"Messed up," Ethan agreed, "until the next girl comes along. You've been mooning about Daralee for, what, a week?"

"We had a good thing going," Tony said more to himself than Ethan. "I really thought!" He stopped.

No time for regrets. That woman with the gold hair was undoubtedly the new owner of Brady's, and someone needed to talk to her before she changed anything. "Cover for me if Captain Campeon notices I'm gone." Without any further hesitation, Tony loped out of the station, darting between cars on busy Jefferson Street, toward the gorgeous goddess of a woman who"unknowingly"waited inside Brady's to meet him.

Brady's Tavern occupied a two-story building that must have been close to a hundred years old, and the brick looked as if it hadn't been cleaned since coal stoves went out of vogue. A flock of pigeons had taken up residence under the eaves and the evidence of their frequent presence covered the cracked sidewalk.

The bar's door wasn't locked, so Tony pushed it open. A wall of hot, stuffy air, heavy with the scent of stale beer, slapped him in the face. "Hello? Anyone home?"

A teenage girl bounded up to him like an eager puppy. "Hi. Who're you?"

"Tony. I work at the fire station across the street. Are you the new owner of Brady's?"

She nodded. "Well, my mom is. This place is so cool. Do you play shuffleboard?"

"Not only do I play, I was the Brady's Tavern shuffleboard champion two years running. Where's your mom?" Surely the woman he'd seen removing the For Sale sign wasn't this girl's mother.

"My mom is Brady's sister. Was. Whatever."

"Then Brady was your uncle. It must have been tough losing him so unexpectedly. He was a great guy."

"Not according to Mom. She said he was a drunkard black sheep who couldn't be trusted with a dime." The girl rocked back on her heels, apparently not realizing she'd insulted someone Tony had considered a friend. And her mother's information was outdated. Brady had quit drinking twenty years ago.

"Could I speak to your mom?" He looked around the bar, which seemed strangely empty without the usual smattering of cops, firefighters and "siren sisters"the female groupies who were turned on by any man who wore a badge or wielded a hose. But he didn't see the blond woman.

"My mom is at work. But if it's anything to do with Brady's, you'll want to talk to Julie."


"My sister."

Ah. That made a whole lot more sense.

"She's counting the glasses or something. Trying to decide what to keep and what to get rid of."

Then he'd better talk to her right away before she did something stupid"like throw away the Daryl Jones memorial ashtray.

Tony heard some clinking going on behind the long carved-wood bar and figured that had to be where Julie had disappeared to. He made his way to the bar, his feet schlup-schlupping with every step on the sticky floor.

Ah, it was good to be back here. Brady's was lit up like a Christmas tree, with its vintage signs. They covered almost every available bit of wall surface and illuminated the interior, which was crammed full of tables and chairs, pool tables, dartboards" guy heaven. Every corner had a TV, and when the place had been open all of them were always tuned in to a smorgasbord of sporting events.

A lonely silk ficus tree lurked forlornly in a corner, covered with dust. Supposedly one of Brady's girlfriends had put it there one time, trying in vain to class the place up.

"Excuse me, Julie?"

She popped up from behind the bar, a pair of yellow rubber gloves on her hands. Looking startled, she stared at Tony for several seconds of charged silence. She had the most amazing amber eyes. He'd never seen eyes that color before. She reminded him of a golden fawn or an unspoiled woodland nymph.

"Yes?" she finally said. Her low, sexy voice sent shivers down his spine and a rush of blood through his veins.

Tony shook himself out of his daze. How could he be attracted to this woman when his pain over losing Daralee was still so fresh? It was just hormones playing a nasty trick on him. "Hi, I'm Tony Veracruz. I work at the fire station across the street, and we were just wondering…are you going to keep Brady's? We saw that you removed the For Sale sign."

She cocked her head to one side. "Do you want to buy it?"

"Believe me, we've talked about it. But the price tag is a bit high for us working stiffs. We just really miss the place"and Brady. He was a great guy. It was terrible losing him so suddenly. You're his niece?"

"That's right. Julie Polk." She extended her hand across the bar's polished surface, realized she still had gloves on, removed the right one hurriedly and tried again.

Tony took her hand, and rather than shake it as he would a man's, he squeezed it. It was a lovely little hand, with perfectly manicured nails polished a pearly pink. Tony's stomach gave a peculiar swoop.

Julie's mask of detached politeness slipped and a flicker of awareness passed over her face. So she felt it, too?

The teenage girl, who'd come to lean against the bar resting her chin on her folded arms, cleared her throat.

Julie extracted her hand from Tony's. "This is my sister, Belinda. I heard her talking to someone, so I assume you've already met."

"I did have the pleasure, though she didn't volunteer her name. It's a beautiful name, too." He'd almost named his daughter Belinda, so he wasn't deliberately laying it on thick.

Belinda blushed furiously. Though her hair and eyes were darker, she looked much like her sister" which meant she was probably already breaking hearts in all directions.

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    A charmer

    South Dallas Firehouse 59 firefighters mourn the death of the owner of their favorite hangout Brady's Tavern, but also wonder if the place will ever reopen for business. However, the new owner Julie Polk plans to renovate the place before a grand opening to the elation of the firefighters until they learn it won¿t be a tavern but as a tearoom.--------------- The firefighting crew needs that bar to unwind so they decide to send an emissary to persuade Julie out of the conversion. They pick their top hunk the great womanizer Tony Veracruz to seduce her into running a bar not a teahouse. Though she cannot picture herself owning a tavern, Julie can see herself falling in love with dynamic Tony to everyone¿s shock he seems reciprocate.----------------- HER PERFECT HERO, the sequel to the warm (no pun intended) THE FAMILY RESCUE once again cherishes our heroic firefighters who risk their lives when they battle blazes. This time the relationship develops between a civilian who has not been rescued by a firefighter on duty, but ¿saved¿ from loneliness by a firefighting hunk. The story line is fun to follow as fans of Kara Lennox¿s series will enjoy seeing Tony ¿Casanova¿ Veracruz fall in love.--------------- Harriet Klausner

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