But Becca's not ready to forgive and forget. In fact, she seems determined to stoke his fire every chance she gets. She wants to avoid sexy distractions like him? Fine. Because what she doesn't know-yet-is that Jax isn't the kind of man to give up when he wants something. And he always gets what he wants.
|Product dimensions:||5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.50(d)|
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Seducing the Fireman
A Risky Business Novel
By Jennifer Bonds, Candace Havens
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2016 Jennifer Bonds
All rights reserved.
Jackson Hart had always wanted a brother. Now that he had a dozen? He was seriously reconsidering his position. He took a pull on his beer, letting the icy cold draft slide down his throat as he studied the rowdy, testosterone-fueled men encircling him. They'd been riding him hard about being the new guy on the job, but that was expected. Hell, it was nothing compared to his days as a probationary firefighter. No, the only thing that mattered now was watching his step. The last thing he needed was a god-awful nickname he couldn't shake. And firefighters loved nicknames almost as much as they loved the job.
So, yeah, he'd have to make sure he didn't go and do something stupid that would haunt him for eternity.
Transferring into the company, he'd known it would be an uphill battle to gain their acceptance. Most of these men had worked side by side for years, and they didn't know him from Adam. As far as they were concerned, he was probably only a half step above a probie. And that was only because he had actual experience.
It didn't matter. Given time, he'd prove himself. Not like he had any other distractions. His sole focus was the job. It was all he had.
"Hey, pretty boy."
The muscles in his back tensed instinctively at the challenge. Jax turned his head, finding O'Rourke staring straight at him, arms crossed over his puffed out chest, a bottle of Brooklyn Lager dangling from his meaty fist. The kid smirked, looking pleased with himself. Too bad he'd lost points for originality. It wasn't the first time in his career the name had been thrown at him. It wouldn't stick. He'd make sure of it.
Jax set his beer down and leaned forward, resting his elbows on the slick bar. All the guys were watching him now, waiting to see how he'd respond. This was the moment of truth. "Nobody prettier in this bar than you, O'Rourke. Just don't tell the ladies I said so."
The tips of O'Rourke's ears burned brighter than his hair, and the guys roared with laughter.
Anderson slapped him on the back. "Welcome to the family, Lieutenant."
Tipping his beer at O'Rourke, he signaled the kid there were no hard feelings. After all, they were brothers now. By blood, sweat, and tears, if not by birth. It was all he'd ever wanted. A family. A place to call home. Growing up he'd never really had either. Brooklyn had come the closest. That was why he'd returned after years of bouncing from city to city. It was time to put down roots, something his own broken family had never provided.
What a joke. If it weren't for the Mancinis he wouldn't even know the meaning of the word. Raised by a deadbeat father whose existence was predicated solely on staying one drunken step ahead of the bill collectors, Jax's childhood had been anything but stable. The two years he'd spent hanging out in the Mancinis's kitchen had been the best of his life. They'd been a real family. Talking, laughing, and even correcting his non-existent table manners. They'd taken him in when his own father hadn't cared enough to make sure there was food on the table. He'd never let on how bad things were at home, or that the meals the Mancinis provided were often the only ones he'd eaten. Ten years later, he still thought about them almost daily. He would never forget their kindness.
Just the thought of her had him grinning like a fool. The little pink valentine she'd tucked into his backpack had seemed harmless enough at the time. He'd had no idea it would change his life when he tore open the flap. Or that the girl who gave it to him would haunt his dreams for years to come, her shy smile the last thing he thought about each night before drifting off to sleep. Which was why he had every intention of looking her up. It was time to put the ghosts of the past to rest.
But first things first. Priority one had to be getting settled, at the station and in his apartment. Twenty-six years of living like a rolling stone had taught him to live sparsely. There hadn't been much to bring from Boston, and if he planned to make a life for himself in New York, something permanent, he was going to need some essentials. Like an actual bed. And maybe some dishes. A real couch. The basics. The prospect sent his blood pressure soaring. Shopping scared him more than a five-alarm blaze, but if that was the price of stability, he'd gladly pay it.
After? Well, that was a different story, wasn't it? He'd moved back to the city for the job, but that didn't mean he couldn't see about a girl. And he knew just the one.
He and Frankie had unfinished business.
* * *
Becca Mancini watched silently as Jax and his buddies celebrated, fist bumping one another and having a grand old boy's night out. When they'd first jostled their way up to Stout's seventy-five foot bar, she hadn't paid much attention. After all, a bunch of Hulk-sized hockey fans were nothing to get excited about.
No, what grabbed her attention was a familiar face. One she hadn't seen in damn near ten years. One she never expected to see again, never wanted to see again.
Oh, he'd grown up and filled out, but it was him all right. She'd know those baby blues anywhere. Couldn't forget them if she tried. After all, how many nights had she cried herself to sleep thinking about them?
One of the guys slapped him on the back and handed him a beer.
Figured. He was as popular with the men as he'd been with the ladies growing up. Not that she was surprised. He'd always had a certain charisma, that stupid Hart charm that drew people to him. Her included. As a kid, she'd fallen for him hook, line, and sinker.
Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.
She'd been so naive to think he'd ever be interested in her. That naïveté had come back to bite her in the ass when he stood her up on their first date. Talk about a wrecking ball. Her self-esteem had gone right to shit. But that was then and this was now. Guys like him hit on her all the time. Not that they ever made it past three dates. Yeah, she knew his type as surely as she knew her own name.
The familiar heat simmered in her belly, bubbling up from her gut with a thousand emotions she'd thought were long extinguished. Would he even remember her if she went over there? Probably not. She'd grown up and filled out, too. There was nothing left of the scrawny kid she'd been. Gone were the knobby knees and the ridiculous crimped hair. She cringed at the memory, taking a sip of her beer in a failed attempt to dull the ache in her chest.
No. Do not start feeling sorry for yourself. You are not that girl anymore.
New hair, new clothes, new attitude. Besides, her brother Christopher was still playing the field at the age of twenty-six. Jax was probably no different. Odds were good he was the same self-centered douchebag who stood her up on her very first date.
And that just wouldn't do. It was time Jackson Hart got a dose of his own medicine.
"You still with me?" Quinn asked, twisting in her seat, trying to see who or what Becca was staring at. Her eyes narrowed, and Becca could practically see the investigative wheels turning. An up and coming journalist, Quinn was too observant for her own good sometimes. "Or did you see someone more to your liking?"
"Hardly." Becca tore her gaze from Jax and raised a shoulder nonchalantly. Doing her best to downplay her interest, she scanned the last of the happy-hour crowd, noting the bar's cobblestone floor had disappeared under the crush of bodies pouring in from The Garden.
"Really?" Quinn challenged, a sly grin spreading across her face. "Because it sure looks like you were eye-fucking those Rangers fans over there. Want me to go over with you? There are plenty to go around."
"It's not like that," Becca reiterated, fighting to keep the defensive tone from her voice. The last thing she needed was for Quinn to march over there and blow her plan. She glanced at Quinn's stilettos. The woman was fiercely loyal, and if she knew what Jax had done, it would take him a week to count the heel marks on his back. "But I do have an early start tomorrow, so I'm going to call it a night."
"You suck. You know that, right?" Quinn's bottom lip jutted out, confirming she wasn't the least bit sympathetic to Becca's plight. "It's barely eleven."
"Which means it's almost midnight. And I don't know about you, but I'd like to get home before the magic of the city wears off, and my carriage turns into a pumpkin." Becca fished through her bag and pulled out her wallet, slipping three twenty-dollar bills on the table. The other woman stared at her, curiosity etched on her face. "Drinks are on me tonight. It's the least I can do."
"Damn straight." Quinn's pout gave way to a brilliant smile. She stood and smoothed her little black dress, and Becca followed suit. "Call me tomorrow, and I'll give you the deets on the calendar."
"Perfect," she agreed, pulling her friend close and giving her a tight squeeze. Quinn had hooked her up with the opportunity of a lifetime shooting the FDNY Calendar of Heroes. Her PR job at Garden of Dreams was rewarding, and she loved giving back to the local community, but photojournalism was her true passion. If she played her cards rights, the calendar would give her the street cred she needed to get her burgeoning photography career off the ground. Working as a freelance photographer gave her flexibility, but it didn't pay the bills. Yet. "It's a long ride back to Brooklyn. I'm going to hit the ladies before I head out. No need to wait."
"Are you sure?" Quinn asked, her brows creased with worry. Guilt tugged at Becca. She hated lying to her best friend, but the truth was ... complicated.
Shoving the guilt aside, she lied through her teeth.
"I'm good. Get out of here." She hugged her friend and slipped into the crowd, promising to say five Hail Marys when she got home. On second thought, better make it ten because she was up to no good tonight. No good at all.
When she was sure Quinn was gone, she made a beeline for the bar.
You're Brooklyn strong. You've got this.
Smiling seductively, Becca squared her shoulders and sauntered over to where Jax was positioned near the end of the bar. She needed to remain focused, drawing on every last drop of confidence she possessed to avoid making a colossal ass of herself. In her haste to get this little revenge game started, she hadn't exactly taken the time to think through her plan.
Scanning the bar for empty seats, she quickly decided the direct approach was best. She really did have an early start in the morning and didn't want to spend all night screwing around with a guy who wasn't even man enough to make the ex-hole list. Besides, revenge was a dish best served sizzling, and it was time to bring the heat.
Sidling up to the bar, Becca wedged herself between Jax and one of his cronies, which proved surprisingly easy. The men had parted like the Red Sea, no questions asked, when she smiled at them.
They probably wouldn't be so accommodating if they knew what she was up to. And if Jax was anything like his friends, this was going to be a cakewalk. He'd be eating from the palm of her hand in no time flat. Hell, when it came to scoring a date, she might even clock a personal best.
Shaking the thought from her brain — because she would never go on a real date with this jerk — she studied her unwitting target. She was acutely aware of his body just inches from her own. The guy really had filled out. He'd always been tall, but as a kid he'd been on the skinny side, always in a need of a good meal according to her mother. Not anymore. Much to her chagrin, his shoulders were broad and well muscled, stretching his worn Rangers T-shirt to the limit as it hugged the taut muscles of his back. She rolled her eyes. Sure, he looked good enough to eat, but he was probably one of those lunkheads who spent endless hours at the gym and whose biggest fear in life was running out of protein powder.
It's now or never.
Solidifying her resolve, she reached out, resting her palm on his bicep — his rather massive, rocklike bicep — and proceeded to curse herself for noticing. So not the point. Just because he could wrap her in that steely embrace, didn't mean she wanted him to. This was the same boy who'd broken her heart and left her crying into her pillow more nights than she cared to remember.
Looks changed, people didn't.
Jax shifted on his stool, turning his body toward her. He looked her up and down, his gaze lingering on the hand that rested on his arm. Their eyes met, and he smiled at her, a sexy grin that hooked up on the left playing across his full lips. And, oh sweet Jesus. When he turned those dimples on her, her panties nearly went up in flames.
Damn. She'd forgotten those dimples. How was that even possible? No matter. He was a player and she wasn't falling for it this time.
Fool me once.
"Can I help you?" he asked, the words smoother than a shot of Johnnie Walker Black.
Pretending to study him, she gave a coy smile in return. Then, tapping into her inner vixen, she stroked his bicep, relishing the way his muscles rippled at her touch. "That remains to be seen. I'm Becca."
"Jackson Hart," he said, offering his hand. First a smile and now a handshake? If she didn't know any better, she'd think he'd gone off and become a proper gentleman. With no choice but to accept his offer, she released his bicep and met him halfway, trying not to think about the way his calloused hand swallowed her own, wrapping it in warmth and sending a tingle racing up her arm. Or about the way her heartbeat accelerated at his touch. No way they had chemistry all these years later. No. Freaking. Way. "You can call me Jax."
"Because that's what all the ladies call you?" She leaned into his personal space, reminding herself it wasn't real. It was a set up. A role she played. Jax needed a hefty dose of karma, and she fully intended to deliver. Nothing more.
"The ladies?" He raked a hand through his dirty blond hair. Interesting. Jackson Hart was nervous. She was sure of it. After all, how many times had she watched him do the very same thing as a kid? His hair was shorter now, cropped close on the sides with an artfully messy spike on top, but that gesture? It hadn't changed at all. "I just moved back to town. So, yeah, no ladies."
"No ladies yet," she said, correcting him with a growing level of confidence. Pressing her body against his, she snaked a hand up his arm. "Which means you're all mine."
"These guys might have something to say about that," he teased, hooking a thumb over his shoulder at his buddies.
"I'm really not interested in what they think." Licking her lips suggestively, she kept her eyes fixed on him, pretending he was the only man she had eyes for in the crowded bar. Guys liked to feel important, too, right? And really, she didn't give a crap about his friends. They were definitely not part of the plan. "But I'll make this easy for you, Jax. Me and you. Saturday night. Eight o'clock. Co."CHAPTER 2
Jax studied the sexy brunette who'd come right at him, asking him out without knowing a damn thing about him. They'd only talked for what, five minutes? Were all women in New York this forward? He'd had his fair share of dates in Boston, but no woman had ever approached him so brazenly. It was kind of hot.
Fuck. It was hot.
Dressed in a thin white blouse and a tailored black leather jacket, she looked like she'd come from work. And while she'd come on strong, her confidence was a real turn-on. He was intrigued to say the least. But a date? When not twenty minutes ago he'd been thinking about Frankie?
It didn't feel right.
"Co.?" he asked, stalling for time to sort out his thoughts.
"Best pie in Manhattan," she said, arching her brow. "It's a few blocks over, on the corner of Ninth Avenue. You do like pizza, right?"
"Of course. What self-respecting New Yorker doesn't like pizza?" He took a pull on his beer. "Best pizza in Manhattan, huh? I thought Grimaldi's held that title."
"Grimaldi's is good," Becca agreed with a smirk, totally at ease and exuding confidence. "If you don't mind waiting in line with all the tourists for a couple of hours."
Excerpted from Seducing the Fireman by Jennifer Bonds, Candace Havens. Copyright © 2016 Jennifer Bonds. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
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