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Light My Fire

Light My Fire

4.0 13
by Jane Graves


Defense attorney Ethan Millner is paid handsomely for his ability to charm a jury while ruthlessly slashing the prosecution. He’s living life in the fast lane, until he’s slapped with a reckless-driving charge and sentenced to forty hours of community service on a crime-watch patrol. Now he’s under the



Defense attorney Ethan Millner is paid handsomely for his ability to charm a jury while ruthlessly slashing the prosecution. He’s living life in the fast lane, until he’s slapped with a reckless-driving charge and sentenced to forty hours of community service on a crime-watch patrol. Now he’s under the thumb of the chairperson of the city’s crime-watch council–a beautiful but no-nonsense woman determined to make him pay his debt to society.


Sandy DeMarco is familiar with Ethan’s cutthroat character in the courtroom, as well as his notorious bad-boy reputation with women. Still, when the quiet of Sandy’s neighborhood is shattered by a brutal murder and an employee of hers becomes the prime suspect, Sandy knows the accused’s only hope is the man who will win at any cost. Working alongside Sandy, Ethan begins to feel sparks of attraction that ignite into love–even as a killer burns to silence those who threaten to uncover his secrets. . . .

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Hidden motives lurk in a homey Texas neighborhood in Graves's deft novel of romantic suspense. Sentenced to 40 hours of community service after a DUI, slick defense attorney Ethan Millner is assigned to a neighborhood crime watch conducted by florist Sandy DeMarco. With her sympathetic heart and old-fashioned values, Sandy represents everything the cold and competitive Ethan claims to despise. Yet her warmth attracts him as much as his charged intensity does her. On patrol one night, the two discover the body of a savagely murdered woman. When a troubled young man Sandy employs is arrested for the murder and then abandoned by his only relative, Sandy persuades the reluctant Ethan to defend the teen pro bono. His investigation exposes the victim's tawdry past, but every new suspect he finds has a solid alibi; meanwhile, Sandy's home is the target of an arson attack that the couple barely escape alive. Graves (Flirting with Disaster, etc.) is a solid storyteller with a confident, convincing voice. Though the mystery is unremarkable and the idea that opposites attract is far from new, most fans of romantic suspense will find this an appealing read. Agent, Linda Krueger of the Fogelman Agency. (Nov.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
4.23(w) x 6.87(h) x 0.85(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter one

Ethan Millner hit the gas and sped his Porsche past the last traffic light in Tolosa, Texas, leaving the city behind. He raced down the deserted two-lane highway, accelerating until he’d blown past the fifty-mile-an-hour speed limit and was heading for sixty.

The faster he went, the faster he wanted to go.

Even though the sun had long since disappeared behind the towering pine trees that lined the road, still the choking heat of the Texas summer made it hard to catch a breath without searing a lung. Any sane man would have put up the top on the convertible and flicked on the air-conditioning, but Ethan didn’t want comfort right now. The landscape whizzing past him like a video on fast-forward suited his state of mind.

The blonde in the seat beside him ran her fingertips along the polished walnut of the passenger door, then turned to him with a satisfied smile. “Great car, baby. I do love convertibles.”

The scorching night air licked around the edges of the windshield, whisking the woman’s hair into a wild frenzy. She wore a too-tight dress, too much makeup, and an erotic, heavy-lidded expression that said she was ready to get horizontal as soon as he said the word. Ten minutes ago, as they were leaving Bernie’s Bar and Grille, he thought he remembered her saying her name was Sheila.

Almost immediately after the Randall verdict had been read, Ethan had left the courthouse, gone directly to Bernie’s, and ordered a scotch straight up. He’d downed it in a few gulps and ordered another one. Then he’d sat back to let the anesthesia take effect as he watched the Rangers game on the television above the bar.

Halfway through scotch number two, he’d answered a congratulatory cell call from his father, the one he always received whenever word got around to the old bastard that his son had put another check mark in the “win” column for Millner, Millner, Monroe, and Dade. Sometimes Ethan preferred the near-lethal dose of silence he got on the rare occasion when he lost.

During the third inning, the blonde slid onto the stool next to him. He knew within seconds what kind of woman she was, and that was fine by him. He was long past messing with young law clerks who gave him million-dollar smiles paid for by their rich daddies. Women with kids to support who had desperation in their eyes and his money on their minds. Forty-somethings who’d gotten dumped by husbands with midlife crises that only twenty-somethings could resolve. Every one of them was drowning in her own sea of problems that sooner or later became his problems.

No more.

At this point in his life, only one kind of woman interested him—the kind who was beyond flowers and promises, who could be bought for a drink or two and a spin in his Porsche, who lit a cigarette after sex and reached for the remote to catch the last of The Tonight Show as he made his way out the door.

The woman swiped her windblown hair out of her face and gave Ethan a big smile. “You told me you wanted to do a little celebrating tonight. So what exactly is it we’re gonna be celebrating?”

He stared at the road ahead. “Winning.”

“Oh, yeah? Tell me I picked the right man and you’re talking about the Texas state lottery.”

“I’m a lawyer. Just won a case.”

“So tell me about it.”

“Not much to tell. I won. Saved my client from a prison sentence. That’s all that matters.”

“That’s funny. I thought justice was all that mattered.”

“Justice?” Ethan gave her a sly smile. “Interesting concept. Please tell me you’re not going to sing ‘God Bless America.’ ”

The woman laughed. Even as Ethan smiled right along with her, his hand tightened against the gearshift. Justice? He wasn’t sure he even remembered the meaning of the word. He’d simply done his job as he always did, with a competency that made his clients thank God for the day they’d coughed up the extraordinary amount of money it took to retain his services. Ethan had been taught from his first breath what mattered in this game, and if money was a way of keeping score, he was clearly winning.

The woman leaned across the console and stroked her hand along his thigh. “Well, now. If I ever get into trouble with the law, it looks like you’re the man I need to call.”

“Sorry, sweetheart. You couldn’t afford me.”

“Oh, yeah? I’d say that’d depend on what you’d take instead of cash, now, wouldn’t it?” She inched her palm higher. “Maybe tonight I could give you a little advance payment against future services. How does that sound?”

The woman started talking trash to him, promising him sexual gymnastics guaranteed to take him straight to heaven. Ethan pictured himself peeling away her skimpy dress, stretching her out on a king-size bed, and sinking inside her to the hilt, letting her body take his mind to another place.

But no matter how much he tried to concentrate on her preview of coming attractions, her voice began to annoy him, like the drone of an insect he couldn’t swat away. In spite of the freedom of the road, the wind thrashing past, and the prospect of breathless sex with a woman who undoubtedly knew her way around a man’s body, he felt tense and confined.

He rubbed the back of his neck. It was slick with sweat.

Maybe the heat really was irritating him. August in Texas could be a real bitch, particularly when they were into their third week of hundred-degree heat with no end in sight. Or maybe it was the fact that the two scotches he’d tossed back hadn’t even begun to blur his senses. Or maybe it was the stranger in the seat next to him, a woman whose name he wouldn’t even remember in the morning.

Or maybe it was Thomas Randall.

A big shot at Bryan Industries, Randall had been accused of raping a young Mexican woman after hours who worked there as a cleaning woman. He said it was consensual; she said no way. Because the prosecution had little else, the he-said/she-said testimony had worked in Randall’s favor. It had been a slam dunk for Ethan to convince the jury that a man of his stature couldn’t possibly have committed an act of rape.

Of course, the fact that Ethan had rummaged through the woman’s background and unearthed a significant number of sex partners hadn’t hurt things, either. He’d danced around the rape shield laws with a creative interpretation of the Sixth Amendment, then hammered the plaintiff about those liaisons in excruciating detail, making her look more promiscuous than a two-bit hooker. The expressions on the faces of the jury members as they left for deliberation told Ethan he’d hit a home run and the verdict wouldn’t be long in coming.

Will the defendant please rise.

Randall had stood up and calmly folded his hands in front of him, wearing an eighty-dollar haircut and a thousand-dollar suit, keeping that poker face he’d honed during all those years as executive vice president of a multinational corporation. Ethan stood beside him, his own ability to keep a poker face stemming from something else entirely: He’d been there hundreds of times before.

In the matter of The State versus Thomas Randall . . .

Out of the corner of his eye, Ethan saw Randall’s chest expand as he drew a deep, silent breath.

We, the jury, find the defendant . . .

And then came the pause. Always the pause. Jurors watched too much television and had an overstated sense of the dramatic. Not guilty.

Randall faltered slightly, that momentary weak-kneed reaction that befell even the strongest man when he got the news that he’d escaped doing twenty years in Huntsville. Then he smiled broadly and hugged his wife, who was dressed as if she’d cut her Junior League meeting short to drop by the courthouse for the verdict.

On the other side of the aisle sat the plaintiff, a fragile-looking woman wearing an ill-fitting rummage sale dress. She began to sob, and Randall turned to look at her. When she stared back at him with a teary-eyed expression of utter despair, his victory smile faded. He swallowed hard and looked away. Body language didn’t lie.

Defendants did, though. All the time.

“So was your client really innocent?” the woman asked.

“Innocent?” Ethan said. “Of course he was. They all are.”

“All of them?”

“Sure. Just ask them. They’ll tell you.”

The woman laughed again, but it sounded hollow and unnatural. Dusk had transformed the pine trees along the road into huge, hulking shadows, and as Ethan pressed the accelerator down a few more millimeters, he felt as if he were speeding through a black hole.

The woman’s expression wavered. “Hey, you’re going a little fast, aren’t you?”

Her words seemed muffled and distant, like a radio station he couldn’t quite tune in. He took another curve, the Porsche’s tires squealing in an attempt to maintain their traction against the blacktop. For a split second Ethan imagined what would happen if he touched the accelerator a little harder and that traction disappeared. Knowing his reputation with the Tolosa PD, when the cops pulled his mangled body from the wreckage, the only thing they’d be lamenting would be the loss of a sixty-thousand-dollar sports car.

“Hey, baby,” the woman said, her voice shaky. “It’s time to slow down now.”

Ethan tightened his fist around the steering wheel, the leather hot beneath his hand. He pictured Randall doing a little celebrating of his own tonight. Friends and family surrounding him, glasses clinking, backslapping all around. He pictured the young Mexican woman, crying herself to sleep, then looking over her shoulder for the rest of her life.

Then, like a monster creeping to just within his line of sight, Ethan caught a glimpse of himself, a bleak mirror image of something he’d never intended to become.

“What the hell are you doing?” the woman shouted, clinging to the armrest. “For God’s sake, slow down!”

He hit the gas harder, his heart pounding, his mouth dry.

The woman gasped. “Look out!”

Ethan blinked, suddenly aware that a pickup truck had lumbered onto the highway from an intersecting gravel road. He slammed his foot down on the brake and swerved hard to the right, but still he clipped the rear bumper of the truck. The impact sent his Porsche sliding sideways, its tires striking a sheet of sand and loose rocks on the shoulder of the highway. The car skated along, turning ninety degrees before leaving the shoulder entirely, bumping down a low incline and smacking into a pine tree. The impact slung Ethan sideways, the seat belt biting into his neck and shoulder.

Then, silence.

Meet the Author

JANE GRAVES received a B.A. in professional writing in 1978, but several years passed before she pursued her dream of becoming a novelist. Now the author of nine contemporary romance novels, she is a three-time finalist for Romance Writers of America’s Rita Award, the industry’s highest honor, as well as a winner of the National Readers’ Choice Award, a four-time winner of the Aspen Gold, and a three-time winner of the Texas Gold. Her first book from Ballantine, I Got You, Babe, has been optioned by an independent film production company.

Jane lives in Texas with her husband of twenty-two years and is the proud mother of a daughter pursuing her college degree. You can visit Jane’s website at www.janegraves.com, or write to her at jane@janegraves.com.

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Light My Fire 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 13 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Swoops in and carries Alyssa off to blood res 12.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Alissa sat down and watched the sun set...
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Guest More than 1 year ago
Light My Fire by Jane Graves is a sensational story of opposites attracting. Ethan Millner has lived life on the edge, he uses his talents and charm in and out of the courtroom. When he has a brush with the law, his talents don¿t get him out of trouble. Instead his sentence is to do community service on the local crime watch. Ethan¿s supervisor is none other then the sister of one of his adversaries the DeMarco¿s. Sandy DeMarco is a kind and giving person. She has raised her younger brothers and now runs a successful florist shop. Sandy agrees to supervise Ethan but she didn¿t plan on the intense attraction with the one man her brothers cannot stand. When a brutal murder happens during one of their patrols and Sandy¿s employee is accused. She turns to Ethan for help. As Sandy and Ethan work to solve the murder, they realize they both have been searching for each other all along. Sandy and Ethan bring out the best in each other. They at first fight the attraction but when they give in all bets are off. This book is fun, sexy, and emotional from beginning to end. I loved the Demarco family from book one. Can¿t wait for the next book from Jane Graves.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Ethan Millner is a highly paid, ruthless defense attorney. In fact, he is the best money can buy. He can charm a jury at the same time he slashes the prosecution. He is living high until he is sentenced to do forty hours of community service due to reckless driving. ............................... The judge asks Sandy DeMarco to take charge of Ethan. Sandy comes from a family of cops. Her brothers have told her several stories about Ethan, but Sandy still tells the judge she'll do it. (Sandy believes in looking for the good in people.) Forewarned is forearmed, so she plans to keep the charmer at arms length. Sandy runs a florist shop during the day. At night she is the neighborhood crime watch. The first night they are together on a routine watch patrol ends up with a brutal murder and Sandy's employee, Josh, is the prime suspect. With Josh's background, Sandy knows that he could be put to death for a crime he did not commit unless Josh gets the best lawyer in the area. .......................... Ethan, drawn by his attraction to Sandy, agrees to help. They soon learn that the victim had a secret life. As they continue to investigate, the killer sets his sights on Sandy. Ethan could end up getting himself killed to protect Sandy. ........................... **** Sandy's character is a bit too naive for me to find believable, but otherwise she is a pillar of strength. The plot is sound and the story feels smooth as silk. Author Jane Graves did a wonderful job in showing Ethan's dawning guilt at the beginning of the book, as well as, the slow changes in his character there after. It is always a delight for me to see talent in an author and in this story Jane Graves proves that she has major writing talent! Wonderful romantic suspense novel. ****
Guest More than 1 year ago
Thanks to a judge's ironic sense of justice, hot shot defense attorney Ethan Millner is forced into extensive community service with the woman who is most likely to take issue with his methods of work. Sandy De Marco is not only the sister of several cops but head of the anti crime council. Yet, with equal irony, she is forced to rely on his most hated abilities to save an innocent from a false murder accusation. Working together ignites unwanted passions between the two, as well as drawing them into the line of danger from the true killer. ..................................... *** Easily blending humor and suspense with a sweet romance, the author has gifted readers with her best book to date. Ethan quickly attracts one's attention as a fascinating hero thrust into circumstances that have an almost parable like quality to them. ***
harstan More than 1 year ago
In Tolosa, Texas attorney Ethan Miller detests his father, who always insists money is the bottom line of their firm. Frank obtains an acquittal for Thomas Randall a big shot at Bryan Industries in a rape case but he feels no joy because the lawyer believes his client is guilty. A bit drunk Ethan picks up a blond in a bar, accelerates his car way beyond the speed limit and causes an accident. Judge Davis gives Ethan community service with Crime Watch patrol................................. Ethan joins florist Sandy DeMarco on her patrol although he knows her three police officer brothers hate him for enabling wealthy lowlifes to return to the street without punishment. However, when the police arrest Sandy¿s teenage worker John Newman for the murder of a neighbor Laura Williams, she pleads with Ethan to handle the case bono. Because of his attraction to her, he agrees although his father is irate for his son wasting time on a pro bono case. As the couple falls in love, the evidence mounts against his client in this capital case............................. This engaging legal thriller romance stars two fabulous protagonists and a host of secondary characters who either enhance the understanding of the lead duo or are involved ion the case. The story line moves forward at a rapid pace as the prosecution case seems unbeatable. Although the final twist seems too bizarre and simplistic, fans will appreciate this fabulous look at the American justice system, bushwhacked Texas style, in which a poor person has no chance...................... Harriet Klausner