Let the fever burn
Fashion blogger Carly Pendleton figured the "Sexiest Average Joe" cruise winner would be, well, sexy. But up close, fireman Joe Tedesco is insanely good-looking. Still, with exactly one chance to prove herself to the cutthroat fashion industry, not even the hottest hot dude will make this frosty fashionista break a sweat .
Until she wakes in the middle of the night to discover Joe in her bed.
They have nothing in common except for a combustible chemistry that quickly turns delectable kisses into even more wicked nights. And when the cruise ends, so does the fling. But a fireman never runs from the heateven if it means getting burned.
About the Author
Jillian lives in Texas with her supportive husband, three kids, and a sweet Golden Retriever. She thinks her emotional naturesometimes referred to as moodiness by those closest to herhas found the perfect outlet in writing stories filled with passion and romance. Jillian loves reading romance novels and believes they have the power to change lives with their message of eternal love and hope. She loves to hear from readers. Please visit her website www.jillianburns.com
Read an Excerpt
"You're lying, Tedesco."
Joe narrowed his eyes at his accuser, brought the can of root beer to his lips and took a long sip. "You'll have to play to find out, Wakowski."
Wakowski snarled and studied his dwindling pile of chips on the table in the fire station's kitchen.
Joe tapped his fingers on his thigh. With his luck they'd get a call before he could lay down his cards.
"Come on, Wakowski," Everman urged. "In this century." Everman had already folded, as had Miller and Stockton. Joe maintained his poker face.
Wakowski narrowed his eyes. "You're bluffing." He shoved all his remaining chips into the center of the table.
Joe grinned and revealed his Queen-high heart flush. "Read 'em and weep."
The guys whooped and hollered and thudded Joe on the back. Wakowski cursed and pitched his cards down. "You're a real scootch, you know dat?"
Joe grinned and began gathering up his winnings. His cell buzzed and he grabbed it off the table. At two on a Saturday afternoon it was probably his mother calling to make sure he was coming to the family dinner tomorrow. He checked the caller ID, but he didn't recognize the number. He hesitated answering. If one of his sisters had set him up with one of their friends again
Knowing he'd regret it, he punched the answer button. "Tedesco."
"Mr. Joe Tedesco, of Brooklyn, New York?"
Great. Were telemarketers allowed to call cell phones now? "Uh yeah?"
"This is Carly's Couture calling about your entry in The Sexiest Average Joe contest and I'm thrilled to tell you that you are our winner!"
Joe blinked. Contest? Sexiest what? Wait a minute He grinned at his fellow firemen sitting around the station house table. "Good one, guys." He spoke into the phone. "So, I won, huh? What'd I win? A hot and heavy night with you, sweetheart?"
Joe winced. The sleet falling outside was no match for the ice in this woman's voice. If this was a prank, she was really good. "Uh, hold on a sec." He held the phone to his chest. "Okay, you guys, you might as well fess up. I'm not falling for it."
All four of his buddies gave him a confused look. Not good. He put the phone back to his ear. "Who'd you say you were again?"
"Carly Pendleton, with Carly's Couture. I have a fashion blog for the average man and woman, and Mo- diste magazine cosponsored the national contest searching for the Sexiest Average Joe."
Fashion blog? Wait. Modiste? Wasn't that the fancy magazine his sisters were always reading, with all the makeover contests and quizzes on how to please a guy in bed? Alarm bells clanged and they weren't coming from the firehouse. Joe stood and paced from the kitchen into the common area.
"Mr. Tedesco? Are you there?"
He barely heard her voice. Her previous words kept echoing in his mind. Contest. Modiste magazine. What had his sisters done now?
He cleared his throat. "Yeah, I'm here." Maybe he should think positive. Maybe he'd won a big-screen TV or a year's supply of beer.
"and the cruise leaves on Monday. I'll have your boarding pass and a car will pick you up at your residence at 7:00 a.m. The flight to Miami departs at ten. The ship sails at four. Now, your entry form said you already have a passport?"
"Wait a minute. I won a cruise?" That could be fun.
"Five days and four nights to the Caribbean. Of course, that's where we'll be doing the photo shoot."
The woman mumbled a request to save her from idiots. "You did read all the details of the contest before entering, didn't you, Mr. Tedesco?"
He clenched his teeth. "It's Joe. Mr. Tedesco is my father."
"Okay. In case you need reminding, Joe, the photo shoot is the reason for the cruise. My blog will feature the Sexiest Average Joe wearing Carly's Couture clothing choices and posing with a beautiful supermodel in exotic locales. You could end up with a lucrative modeling career, Mr. Tedesco. Maybe even become famous."
Famous? If he'd wanted money and fame he would've signed the contract offer his sophomore year. He sure as hell wasn't posing for some magazine like one of those pretty boys strutting around in their underwear. No, thanks. "Look, lady, I can't just take off work at a moment's notice."
"Mr. TeJoe. I promise the shoot won't take all your time. There'll be excursions and nightlife and we even provide you fifty dollars' worth of chips at the ship's casino."
"You could offer me a thousand dollars in chips and I still wouldn't be posing for some women's magazine, especially not for some sexiest-man photos."
"Oh, ho! Sexiest man?" called Everman.
Joe swiveled to find his fellow firemen gathered around him.
"Whoa, Mr. Sexy, huh?" Miller mocked.
Wakowski locked his hands behind his head and wiggled his hips. "Oooh, Sexy Joey."
Joe shut them down with a scowl and an obscene hand gesture.
A split second of silence on the other end of the line suggested that the lady had heard the background commotion. "Look, Mr. Tedesco. When you signed the entry form you agreed to all the terms and conditions of the contest."
Joe balled his free hand into a fist. "I didn't sign anything. I don't even know what you're talking about."
"Really? Then, whoever did sign your name on the entry forms could be prosecuted for forgery."
"Now hold on a minute." His sisters were going to pay for this. The entry had to be their doing. He couldn't see any of the guys here at the station risking his wrath. Or ever reading Modiste magazine for that matter. But he couldn't let Donna-Marie and Rosalie be brought up on charges. He sighed. The chief had been nagging him to take some of his vacation .
"I'll talk to my boss about the time off. If I'm able, I'll be ready at 7:00 a.m. Monday."
"Oh, that's wonderful, Mr.Joe. I promise you're going to have a wonderful week in the Caribbean."
Joe clicked off, ignored his buddies' questions and stalked toward the chief's office. A wonderful week? He seriously doubted that.
Carly stood fuming in Miami's cruise terminal, slapping her clipboard against her linen skirt-covered thigh. For five long years she'd slaved away as a seamstress in the garment district learning everything she could about the fashion industry. Her interactive blog had only allowed her to quit her day job just last year. It was doing well, but this was her shot to hit the big time.
And the supermodel was late.
Unfortunately, she'd sent the same limo this morning to pick up her Average Joe. She'd had to scramble at the last minute to book them the next flight to Miami and hope they made that one. Then arrange for the Florida limo to return for them once they reached Miami International Airport.
After arriving at the cruise terminal, Carly had successfully directed the photographer and his crew, the hair and makeup teams, the Modiste liaison and the clothing handlers from the major department stores on Fifth Avenue onto the ship. All of the top stores had agreed, thanks to the editor at Modiste, to lend couture for the shoots. But the clothes would do no good if the ship took off without her models.
She pulled her cell out and called the limo service one more time. They'd already contacted the driver once and confirmed the limo was waiting for the plane to land. Piperthe supermodel with one name, had kept the limo waiting to take her to JFK airport for over three hours. She'd barely made the following flight out.
And if they didn't get to the cruise terminal in the next thirty minutes, the ship would sail without them.
"Ms. Pendleton, the driver reported he's five blocks from the pier."
"Thank you!" She touched End Call on her screen, stuck her phone back in her jacket pocket, and ran as fast as her Louboutins would carry her to the terminal entrance.
Within a few minutes she saw the limo pull up and the driver get out and open the back door. Out stepped the most exotically beautiful woman Carly had ever seen. Straight black hair fell to her waist and her soft caramel complexion showed off luminous light green eyes that looked around her with distaste. The woman carried an enormous handbag and a tiny yappy dog.
Beside her was a shorter woman holding a diamond-studded leash. Piper's assistant. Carly had spoken with her on the phone. She had the same exotic features as Piper. Beautiful, even with the left side of her face marred by a long, jagged scar.
When the assistant turned her left side away, Carly could've kicked herself for staring, and searched behind the two women for her Average Joe.
Where was he?
The driver was at the trunk unloading six, no, seven pieces of designer luggage. And helping him while they talked as if they'd been good friends for years was her contest winner.
Her breath caught as Joe smiled at something the driver said. Carly usually detested the scruffy, unshaved look that was popular right now, wishing she could take a razor to their jaw. But on her Average Joe, it worked, befitting his blue-collar status and accenting his white teeth.
"Hello?" The supermodel snapped her fingers in front of Carly's face.
Annoyed at herself, Carly stepped forward and extended her right hand. "Piper, so nice to meet you." The dog snapped at her fingers and Carly jerked her hand back just in time to prevent getting bit. The dog's high-pitched yapping made her ears ring.
"Oh, poor Pootsie! You've upset him." Piper's low, smoky voice still managed to sound whiny, even with the British accent.
Carly bit the inside of her cheek and directed porters to rush the baggage to the ship and tipped them extra to make sure it got to the correct cabin.
Piper was still comforting her dog in a pouty baby language.
"I'm sorry. But if we don't hurry, we won't make it onto the ship." Carly gestured toward the customs desk.
"Oh, but I have to say goodbye to my little Pootsie darling." She held the dog up and nuzzled her face into the dog's neck. "Bye-bye, baby," she crooned. "Mommy has to go now. These mean ol' cruise people won't let me bring you. I'm going to miss you, yes I am." She smooched on the dog a couple more times, and hugged it to her breasts.
"I'm sorry, Piper, but they still need to check your passport, and if we don't hurry the ship will sail without us."
The tall, slim model gave a disgusted huff, gently handed the yapping dog to the assistant and stalked away.
With a barely aborted eye roll, Carly turned to greet her Average Joe. She blinked at the impossibly sculpted chest and massive biceps outlined by a tight black T-shirt. Average? There was nothing average about this man. His entry photo should've prepared her. But a five-by-seven glossy was no match for the living, breathing man in front of her.
In her stocking feet she was five-nine. With her heels, she reached six feet. And she still had to look up to meet his gaze. Warm brown eyes and shaggy black hair and that scruffy beard. She detested facial hair on a man. But standing this close to all that heat and muscle brought out something in her so raw, so primal that she had to catch her breath.
He cleared his throat and hefted a duffel bag higher on his broad shoulder. "Hiya."
"Mr. TeJoe, I'm Carly Pendleton." She offered her right hand and he grabbed it hard, as if he didn't realize his own strength. "We spoke on the phone Saturday."
He nodded, stilled, and frowned. "Pendleton?"
"Yes." Resentment smoldered in her veins as it always did at this point in an introduction. "I'm his daughter. Does it matter?"
Holding on to her hand, his gaze scanned her bodydown her legs and back up to meet her eyes. Then he flashed white teeth in a salacious smile. "Not a bit."
The smile hit her like a gale-force wind. His palm was rough and hot. Yes, she'd been right about the heat.
Pushing away the thought, she dropped her hand and stepped back, half turning away from him. "If you'll follow Piper to the customs desk, please?" She gestured toward the uniformed guards and the metal detector.
"Yes, ma'am." As he moved past her, a subtle scent wafted by. She closed her eyes and inhaled. Mmm. She had a nose for colognes and his was not by any designer she recognized. The fragrance was something old-fashioned. Uniquely masculine. And incredibly attractive.
"You all right?"
Joe's deep rumble startled her. Carly opened her eyes and met his gaze. He stared at her, the intensity in his dark brown eyes making her flinch. Her face warmed. Her throat tightened.
Great. Did she have no control over her body? She pasted on a smile and nodded. "Just dandy." She brought her clipboard up and pretended to scrutinize page after page until Average Joe stepped up to hand his passport to the customs agent.
Dandy? She could kick herself. She'd graduated summa cum laude, for Pete's sake. And all she could come up with was dandy? Geez. This was going to be a long five days.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
When carly a fashion blogger has a contest for a cruise. And the cruise winner is a firefighter joe. And he thinks carly is cold fish. But when joe goes to the wrong room, where carly is sleeping. And they have nothing in common but the sex. But when the cruise end joe wants to see carly after.