He can’t save everyone…
Firefighter Lucas Attiker is mired in guilt by his inability to save his young son, who perished in a fire three years ago. When he rescues a troubled young man and his baby daughter from a Colorado forest fire, Lucas finally begins to forgive himself. But the wildfire is only the beginning of the dangers facing them.
Hell-bent on saving his daughter from his crime boss ex, Owen Michaels is on the run with the baby in tow—fleeing both the killers who are after him and the US Marshals Service deputies assigned to protect him. When his desperate flight lands them in the midst of an inferno, the man who saves them offers hope for more than just survival.
They might have escaped a blazing forest and a hail of bullets, but both men will need to risk their lives—and their hearts—to give a little girl a loving family… if they can make it out alive.
Owen closed his eyes. Sometimes the fight was too hard. He felt a touch on his leg and opened his eyes to see Mia grabbing his sweatpants. Smiling. He smiled back. Or maybe, sometimes to protect those you loved, the fight wasn’t hard enough.
“I don’t know who to trust,” he admitted. “We were in an apartment—some kind of safe house they used—and Terry got a call. I didn’t even get a chance to ask who was on the line because I’ve never seen people move so fast in all my life. Terry grabbed the diaper bag, Barry lifted Mia from the small cot we had and handed her to me, and what seemed like only two minutes later, we were running from the building.” And being fired upon. He swallowed. “I’ve never been so scared in all my life. Barry got hit as we came out—”
“You were shot at?” Lucas interrupted, sounding shocked.
“Yes. There was more than one shooter. Terry bundled me between two cars. It was dark, around midnight, and pretty deserted.”
“Where were you?”
“Just north of Old Town in Fort Collins, but it was a Tuesday and really quiet.” Not like the weekends, which were kind of wild. “Mia woke up at the sound of gunfire. She started crying, so it was obvious where we were. There were footsteps, and Terry just stood up and started firing. He shouted for me to run. His truck was only a few feet away, but he was shot.” It hadn’t been the first time Owen had seen someone killed by a bullet, but he hoped to God it was the last.
Something told him that was unlikely.
“Terry must have shot them. I don’t know if they were killed, but they didn’t come after me.”
“Why are people shooting at you?”
And there it was—the question he had been expecting since yesterday and still didn’t know how to answer. “Are you sure you really want to know?”
Lucas didn’t reply, but then he didn’t have to. His confidence, some deep assurance on a different level screamed the answer to Owen. Trust me.
He glanced down at Mia, not only for the little bolt of courage he needed, but to remind himself of why he was here and why he would fight to his last breath to keep her safe. “Because I saw my ex-boyfriend kill her mother.” Lucas’s eyes widened a little, but he still kept silent. Waiting. Owen half smiled. “That’s a good interrogation technique you’ve got going on there.”
“Patience?” Lucas’s lips tilted upward at the corner, and from out of nowhere, Owen suddenly had the desperate urge to press his lips to that spot. Shocked, he jerked back a little.
“Did you know her?”
Owen refocused himself, pushing the inexplicable urge away. “She was my friend.” And he was the reason she was dead.
Lucas waited again, but Owen knew he had to answer. He would see the disappointment on Lucas’s face. Maybe even judgment. Disgust was a given, but he might as well get it over with. He shouldn’t forget that Lucas had saved his life yesterday, and even though Owen had sometimes been in that strange halfway place between fighting for your life and being ready to give up, he was the only thing keeping Mia from Damien. And if there was one thing he absolutely had to do for his best friend, it was to keep her daughter safe. Especially since he had failed so spectacularly at being a friend.
“I met Mary two days after I left home. A couple of guys followed me after I had used the cash machine.” He had been so clueless. “One pinned me, and the other took my cash and card. He wanted the PIN number, and I thought I’d be hard-core and refuse. Turned out they had a knife.” And really shaky hands. He would never forget the press of metal against his throat and the sheer terror he’d felt as it slid across his skin. “I thought they were gonna kill me, even after I told them, but Mary walked into the alley and called them by name. Told them to stop fucking with me.” And they laughed. He had thought he was going to die, and they had thought it was funny. “They took all the money I had left, but Mary stayed.” She’d even gotten him some water after he had puked his guts up. “That was four years ago.”
He glanced out the window, praying Lucas wasn’t going to want it all. He wasn’t ready for that.
“How did you get a car?”
Owen shot Lucas a grateful glance. Lucas could easily push, and Owen was in no position to say no, but as he focused on the deep understanding in Lucas’s gaze, he knew Lucas was giving him a breather. “I stole it.” He watched Lucas carefully, but again, there was no reaction. “I wish I’d gotten a better one, but it wasn’t even locked, and old cars are easier to hot-wire.”
Lucas’s eyes crinkled with sudden humor, and he laughed quietly. “I’m not surprised, if it was that blue Ford Taurus from the cabins. I think rust was holding it together.”
Owen stared. Lucas didn’t seem to be judging him. He’d done a lot of things over the years he wasn’t proud of.
“How long have you got to wait to give evidence?”
“I was supposed to give evidence to the grand jury three weeks ago so they could indict Damien, before we had to run. Now I’m not sure what will happen.” He didn’t know how he was going to last that long on his own. “I just want to disappear.”
“Not easy with a baby,” Lucas said doubtfully.
“I know.” Owen knew he was right. “But I don’t know who to trust.”
“Have you met Deputies DuPree and O’Connor? They’re the two who came to see me in the ER.”
“I like DuPree. She said her niece was called Mia.” He wasn’t sure about O’Connor, though. “I saw her with Terry a couple of times, once just after we left their offices the first time. I have absolutely no idea if I can trust either of them.”
“They can’t all be dirty. Jacko—remember him from the fire? African American? Big guy?”
Owen couldn’t help a short laugh. “You’re all big guys.”
“Well, Jacko comes from a family of cops. His dad and two brothers are on the force, and his uncle is a vice detective.” Lucas grinned. “It took months before his old man forgave him for becoming a firefighter. Anyway, we could ask Jacko to ask his uncle to check into the situation.”
That might work. It was just such a huge risk.
“You can’t run forever.” Lucas pointed to Mia, where she was chewing her fist. “Not with her, anyway.”
No. “So what? You’ll talk to Jacko?”
“How about this? You stay here with me while I sound things out. I don’t even have to mention your name—”
“No? How many witnesses running for their lives do you usually keep around—” Owen clamped his lips closed. He was joking, but his throat had suddenly gotten really tight.
Lucas’s face softened. He’d seen. Owen had a feeling Lucas didn’t miss much. “Why don’t you both plan to stay—at least for today. I don’t think you’re going to be any worse off, and you both need a rest.”
Owen nearly laughed. He possibly would have, if he hadn’t been keeping his lips clamped shut. A rest? When was the last time he’d had that? “I need some things for Mia.”
Lucas stood up. “Help yourself to anything in the fridge for her and make me a list.”
A loving home.
A father who knows what he’s doing.
But they’d start with diapers and milk.
Wow, what a ride!
Lucas is part of the wildfire first responders for the fire department. During a dangerous wildfire, he and his team are sent to check the area and make sure the park and cabins are cleared out of anyone who might be there and in the path of the fire. As I’ve realized over the last several years, and again with this story… the saying, “spread like wildfire” is faster and more dangerous than you realize.
When the team gives the all clear, Lucas chances a glance behind him and sees someone in a car, trying and failing to get it to start. He jumps into action, and that’s where he meets Owen and baby Mia.
Owen is on the run from a very powerful mob boss kind of guy with more power and more reach than any of them know what to do with. Inprisoned by Damien for far too long, he risks his life by running with the baby that was his best friends, who he saw murdered at the hand of the Damien, who happened to be his ex. The things that man put him through will turn your stomach. It was hard to read, at least for me, because I know that these things happen in real life and the police and judges and people of power who are in on it too, make it impossible to tell anyone or escape. So, he run… runs with the baby he considers his daughter, and luckily finds Lucas who isn’t willing to let them go without a fight.
Struggling to deal with his own demons from a life that got taken from him, he feels strongly for Owen and baby Mia. They kind of come in and bring him back to life, when he’d just been going from one day to the next, wallowing in guilt, shame and memories, both painful and beautiful.
Unfortunately, the guys don’t know who they can trust and are surprised a couple of times at who Damien has under his thumb, even someone close to Lucas…. That kind of sprung up out of nowhere, because it was either a small town or Damien’s reach was so long that he just had people sprinkled along everywhere. It seemed a little too convenient, but, whatever. I’d hoped we’d gotten closure from the man’s wife or at least an explanation, so that Lucas didn’t have to live with anymore guilt than he already had.
Being on the run together, trying to keep one another and the baby safe, and having to put all your trust into another person when it was proven that you literally couldn’t trust anyone… had brought these two together and thought was both insta-lovey and slow burny for me… I enjoyed them together. I loved Lucas and the way he was with both Owen and the baby, and I loved how Owen was with both Lucas and the baby… They made a cute little family that would do anything to protect one another and they proved it time and time again throughout this action packed story.
Fortunately, the bad guy doesn’t get away with being the bad guy and everything gets worked out. I won’t tell you how or what happens or why, but it’s a crazy ride and if you like suspenseful reads and don’t mind pricy ebooks, you’ll definitely enjoy this one.
4 pieces of eye candy
Victoria Sue fell in love with love stories as a child when she would hide away with her mom’s library books and dream of the dashing hero coming to rescue her from math homework. She never mastered math but never stopped loving her heroes and decided to give them the happy ever afters they fight so hard for.
She loves reading and writing about gorgeous boys loving each other the best—and creating a family for them to adore. Thrilled to hear from her readers, she can be found most days lurking on Facebook where she doesn’t need factor 1000 sun-cream to hide her freckles.
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