Growing up as the privileged daughter of two doctors, Jasmine Kingford always thought the housekeeper's son was hot-and the feeling was mutual. But back then there were lines they couldn't cross. Good thing they're all grown up now-and in the same wedding party . . .
As best man for a fellow firefighter, Leo Trask is floored to discover the maid-of-honor is a blast from his past. One that ignites fireworks that have been brewing for years. Soon enough, he and Jasmine are having a very private, all-night-long celebration of their own-and it's clear neither wants it to end there . . .
Jasmine's all too happy to finally shed her pampered princess demeanor with Leo. What she finds is a connection-and a complication-she didn't expect. Leo's the opposite of the nine-to-five guy she planned on. She wants a nursing career, kids, and a man who's home by dinnertime. Leo's an irresistible bad boy with a dangerous, unpredictable job. And he's everything she never knew she wanted, and more . . .
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|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.42(d)|
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"I'm so sorry," Jasmine repeated for what seemed like the hundredth time in the last few minutes. Grateful for her car's Bluetooth, she kept her eyes locked on the traffic she was trying to navigate through on the turnpike.
"I tried to get away, but they wouldn't let me leave! Nothing short of a knock over the head would make my mom let go of my arm."
"I didn't expect you to take out your parents just to be able to leave the reception." Her best friend, Winter, chuckled on the other end of the call. "I know how they guilt- tripped you into going in the first place so don't worry."
"Are you sure? I feel like I should be fired or something. ..." Jasmine pressed down harder on the gas pedal of her small Honda. Making sure nobody was in her blind spot, she moved to pass a slow-moving cattle truck.
"I'm not firing you as maid of honor just because you're a little late to my engagement party, you big weirdo."
"Then make me wear a really ugly dress or something, I feel like I've really dropped the ball on all of my best friend duties lately," Jasmine offered as she passed yet another slow-moving truck. "Why is everyone driving like they're ninety-fucking- five?" she yelled to no one in particular.
"I'm not gonna make you wear an ugly dress in my own wedding, but now you are going to need to help with the cake tasting. Will has to cover training the new guy at the station so his shifts got changed at the last minute," Winter said before whispering to someone on her end of the call. "I gotta go, my Uncle Al is trying to smoke a stogie in the lobby, and he's pretending not to hear the manager."
"Okay, I'm only about five minutes away —" Jasmine stopped talking when she realized that Winter had already hung up.
Exiting the turnpike, Jasmine flipped down the visor when she hit a red light. She might as well use the spare minute to make sure that her makeup wasn't ruined during her escape from the convention center and her parents.
Longwear eyeliner was a lie. A big fat lie. Jasmine grimaced as she looked for a tissue in her glove box to wipe some of the renegade liner beneath her eyes. Her grey eyes showed how tired she was, something that she hoped Winter didn't notice. After cleaning up, so she didn't look like she was imitating a raccoon, she patted down her hair. The long curls were on the wrong side of frizzy, but would hopefully still look somewhat smooth in the pictures taken tonight. At least she had some natural highlights going on after being outside most of the summer. The normally dull brown now was weaved with differing tones of honey.
Everything would have been perfect if she had just said no to her parents at the start. She was an adult, so why the hell was it so hard? She had even practiced her speech in the mirror last week and again this morning, and still had been unable to stick to her guns.
So where did that leave her?
Almost an hour late to her best friend's engagement party with frizzy hair and running makeup. That's what happened when you were in Kansas City in the middle of August running through a parking garage while it was a million degrees outside.
Jasmine whipped her car into the closest parking spot she saw and swung her legs out of the car. Hurrying as much as possible in high heels, she practically ran into the lobby looking for the reception area where Winter's party was at.
"Excuse me, miss?"
Jasmine turned to see a hotel employee moving toward her at a fast pace.
"Yes?" Jasmine frowned at the man making her even more late than she already was.
"Are you with the Snow party this evening?"
"Yes, I am. Is there a problem?" Jasmine had set up a majority of the party plans up online or on the phone so she was wondering if they had run into a snag with the catering or bar.
"One of the hotel shuttles clipped a motorcycle in the parking lot that we believe belongs to someone attending your event. Do you happen to know who owns the large black bike with silver flames?" The man looked incredibly nervous as he relayed the information to Jasmine.
"I believe that some of the groom's party owns the cycles parked out front. Let me find the groom and I'm sure he can point us in the right direction. Could you wait here for a few minutes while I track him down?" Jasmine smiled reassuringly at the man, and without waiting for an answer she quickly moved toward the large doors leading to the engagement party.
Opening it a sliver, Jasmine peeked inside to see what she was going to be walking into. Noticing that everyone was still mingling and the tables were lacking food meant that she hadn't missed the toasts for the night which was slightly redeeming as the maid of honor. Slipping past the doors and into the room, Jasmine automatically started searching for a familiar face when Will, her best friend's fiancé, spoke from directly beside her.
"You're late again." The deep voice was heavy with amusement.
Jasmine turned around and made a face at the gorgeous man who had won the heart of one of her favorite people in the world. "It's not my fault," she said quickly. "Victoria and Reginald had a death grip, and didn't even want to let go when I threatened to pee in the middle of the convention center. Victoria barely even acknowledged I was speaking English."
Will tried to hide a smile, but was unable to completely smother it. "I still think it is weird that you call your parents by their first names. Why can't it be mom and dad or at the very least Vickie and Reggie?"
Jasmine stared at him for a second in complete silence before letting out a loud and definitely unladylike laugh. "Vickie and Reggie?" Repeating the names again out loud caused her to cackle even louder. She was able to calm herself down after a couple more snorts, but she had already gotten the attention of half of the party with her uncontrollable laughter.
"You are wound tight tonight, aren't you?" Will observed before leaning forward for his customary hug.
"Wouldn't you be if you just had to spend the last couple hours sandwiched between my parents at some awards ceremony?" Jasmine took a calming breath trying to remember tonight's schedule.
Will turned her toward the party and nodded to the far corner. "Winter is over there with her mom and some of her family that came up from Texas. Her dad already came by and left with his new girlfriend, and we've had to keep tabs on one of her elderly uncles who's trying to smoke without anyone yelling at him."
"Thanks for the rundown." Jasmine took a deep breath and straightened her black pencil skirt. "I'm going to go save her from her mom before the stupid woman mentions the word 'diet' and make sure that the band knows to avoid Cotton-Eyed Joe."
"Already spoke with the band, her mom was warned already but you may need to run interference, and you're missing an earring," Will remarked just as Jasmine was about to walk away.
Her hands shooting to her earlobes confirmed that she was missing one of her gold hoops. "That figures ...hey, there was a black cycle with silver flames that the hotel shuttle bumped. Management is looking for the owner. It one of your guys?"
Will was nodding before she even finished talking. "Sounds like Leo's bike. I'll find him and we'll get it taken care of. Dinner is scheduled in thirty minutes, so you may want to start having folks move toward the tables, if you can."
"On it!" Jasmine said loudly as she moved across the large area. Tucking her lone earring into her bag, she made a mental note to look in her car for the other before she reached Winter and the laughing women surrounding her.
Noting the crazed look in her friend's eyes, Jasmine was happy that she showed up when she did. It was soon apparent that the women had been teasing Winter about snagging a hot firefighter and had speculated on Winter trapping him with a pregnancy to get him to the altar so quickly.
After a few well-placed elbows, Jasmine was moving Winter toward the bar leaving the vultures that she called cousins behind.
"What the hell?" Jasmine breathed out, trying to clear her nostrils of whatever rose perfume that the group had overdosed on.
"I knew there was a reason why I never visited them," Winter remarked dryly.
"Did the one in blue seriously ask if you poked holes in the condoms?" she asked, still unable to believe what she had witnessed.
"Yep, that's Erma. She obviously thinks that this is a love match," Winter deadpanned before both woman started laughing hysterically.
"You should have seen your face!" Jasmine gasped, trying to calm her laughing down a bit.
"I wanted to pick up that centerpiece and hit her with it!" Winter giggled, wiping tears from her eyes.
"Your family is crazy."
"So is yours," Winter shot back quickly. "Did they have a doctor for you to marry at this ceremony you just had to go to tonight?"
"How did you know?" Jasmine rolled her eyes before letting out a tired sigh. "This one has been divorced three times, but has his own practice. Oh, and he wants kids, but doesn't really want to raise them so that's nice."
"Victoria and Reginald are predictable." Winter tipped her champagne glass to Will when he blew her a kiss from across the room where he was surrounded by his coworkers.
"They're something all right. ..." Jasmine put her glass on a tray as a waiter walked by. "I didn't have a chance to tell them that I'm taking that job at Fulton Pediatrics."
"It's been a month already!" Winter gasped. "You have to say something soon before they set up an interview for you with one of their friends."
"I know, I know." Jasmine ran her fingers through her curls. "Every time I go to bring it up I just freeze; it's uncontrollable."
"Jazz, you have to tell them," Winter stated with a weary voice, her tone vocalizing the tiredness that Jasmine felt.
"I will. I promise," Jasmine repeated the mantra for what seemed like the millionth time not only to Winter but also to herself.
"Before or after you start at Fulton?" Winter teased, knowing that her friend was a pushover when it came to her parents.
"Before?" Jasmine said in the form of a question. When Winter nudged her with her hip, Jasmine smiled. Her friend knew her better than anyone else and that was saying a lot. Jasmine still battled with her parents who were trying to push her in a direction she didn't want to go. "I just know that they will be disappointed once they find out about the job and it makes my heart hurt. I can already picture their faces when I tell them that it's a small pediatrics office that doesn't specialize in anything other than helping sick kids feel better and school physicals. That is exactly the opposite of what they wanted for me. They even offered to foot the entire bill plus my expenses if I stayed in school."
Winter passed off her champagne glass to a passing waiter and took the opportunity of free hands to grasp Jasmine by the shoulders. Jasmine knew what was coming before Winter even opened her mouth.
"Do you want to be a doctor?" Winter asked bluntly.
"No," Jasmine whispered.
"Do you want to work as a nurse in the pediatrician's office?"
"More than anything." Jasmine straightened her spine and replied with her voice sounding firm.
Letting go of her shoulders, Winter rolled her eyes at Jasmine. "Then tell Victoria and Reginald that. They love you and just want you to be happy. It's just their version of happy also includes you being a doctor and marrying a doctor."
Jasmine couldn't help the snort that escaped her. "God, that sounds awful."
"Speaking of marriage, can you believe we set a date for October?" Winter sounded excited yet still amazed at her own engagement.
"It's going to be beautiful. The park is going to be so pretty with the leaves turning." Jasmine couldn't keep the yearning out of her own voice. "I'm so jealous. I've always wanted an October wedding."
"Can you believe it's actually happening?" Winter asked, her voice filled with awe. "I still feel like I need to pinch myself sometimes to make sure this isn't all a dream."
Jasmine gave in to her mushy side and hugged Winter hard. "You deserve this and more. Will is a lucky guy and he better never forget it."
"I'm the lucky one." Winter's eyes teared up as they let go of each other. "This is all happening so fast. Does it seem too fast to you?"
"The two of you were made for each other. Time doesn't matter when it's right," Jasmine reassured her friend. "Now I just need to figure out how to get my own knight in shining armor."
"So, Paul was a dud?" Winter asked, referring to the online match she had gone on a date with.
"So. Freaking. Boring." Jasmine breathed out, her disappointment evident. "He talked about his cat and his mom the entire time. Which would have been slightly okay if his cat wasn't named after his mom. Half the time I didn't know which one he was talking about which was not only confusing but super creepy. Oh, and he wore socks with sandals. Socks with sandals, Winnie! What kind of monster does that?"
Winter visibly tried to hold back her laughter. "He couldn't be that bad."
"Well, I'm not going to be seeing him again so it doesn't matter." Jasmine shrugged, looking across the ballroom at Will and his friends. Jasmine had become used to the looks that the men drew from women as they walked by, and she also knew the way they looked at her. She knew she wasn't the norm for the groupies that surrounded the fire station. Her height had always worked against her at five-foot- two, and add the generous curves that her love of baking kept soft, and she was far from the tall, thin model types that generally graced the arms of the men she considered friends. Even her hair seemed to scoff at her when she tried to make it behave. The long brown curls often went between silky and manageable to frizzy and feral looking at the drop of a hat. That wasn't going to stop her from enjoying the view that the men provided. It was just too bad that she was looking for something else in the long run.
Almost all of the groomsmen were firefighters that worked at the same station as Winter's fiancé and were all amazing eye candy. The group certainly managed to live up to the stereotypical firefighter fantasy with bulging muscles from their forearms all the way down to their calves. Jasmine never complained when the guys happened to crash their ladies' nights, either at the house or at the bar, but so far, she hadn't had the guts to snag one of them for herself. With their beards, cycles and overwhelming testosterone, the men caused Jasmine's mouth to go dry without even saying "hello."
"I need to get laid," Jasmine admitted to the silence that had fallen between her and Winter.
"I've been telling you that ever since you bought us matching vibrators," Winter joked, referring to the last Christmas present that Jasmine had given her. Was it her fault that the adult store had been having a buy one get one sale?
"They were on sale," Jasmine snapped.
"You always say —" Winter started but stopped abruptly when a muscled arm was tossed across her shoulders.
"Hello, ladies." The voice came from a face that Jasmine had not seen before yet seemed familiar for some reason.
"Leo!" Winter turned and hugged the new arrival. Swinging back toward Jasmine, she smiled big. "Jazz this is Leo, Will's best man."
"Nice to meet you ...." Jasmine's voice trailed off as she stared at the man in front of her.
And boy was he something to look at. His thick dark hair was short on the sides, almost shaved completely off, but the top was long and groomed to give him an appearance reminiscent of a greaser from the fifties. Jasmine knew that some ladies preferred their men clean shaven, but the specimen in front of her was the perfect example of why some men needed to have beards. Leo's strong jaw was covered in one of the most spectacular beards that Jasmine had seen outside of a romance novel cover, and his blue eyes were icing on the proverbial man-cake standing before her.
Jasmine couldn't help the smile that tipped her lips when she took in his well-fitting jeans, button-down white shirt with the cuffs rolled up and black boots.
Where had this man been all her life?
"We've already met," Leo drawled in a deep voice, flashing a white straight smile.
Jasmine's mouth dropped open, ready to argue with the beautiful lumberjack in front of her.
"I don't think —" Jasmine started but stopped when he flashed her a full smile, recognition starting to take hold of her brain.
"I know you as Jazz and you used to call me Leonard, ring any bells?" Leo folded his strong arms across his chest, waiting for her to catch up.
No. There was no way. She had only ever known one Leonard and he was someone she hadn't seen since high school.
Excerpted from "Simmering Heat"
Copyright © 2018 Leora Gonzales.
Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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