Burning Up, the first standalone novel in Jennifer Blackwood's Flirting with Fire Series, is LIVE! Read on for an exclusive excerpt and make sure to enter the giveaway for a $25 Amazon gift card and an e-book copy of Burning Up!!!
Unemployed schoolteacher Erin Jenkins is back in Portland, the town she hasn’t called home for more than a decade. It’s not the way she wants to spend her last days of summer: in between jobs and avoiding her mother’s snooping by escaping to the ice-cream aisle. But when the opportunity arises for her to accompany her brother’s best friend—her lifetime crush—to a wedding, summer gets a whole lot more interesting.
Firefighter and single dad Jake Bennett has built a nice, safe wall around his heart—no romance, no getting burned. That doesn’t mean he’s ruling out a fling. Considering Erin’s visit is temporary, they’re the perfect fit for a scorching no-strings one-night stand. Or two. Or five. Until the worst thing happens: Erin and Jake are feeling more. Damn that four-letter word.
Now their hearts are on the line, and when their smoldering summer comes to a close, it’s going to be harder than ever to put out the fire.
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Jennifer Blackwood is an English teacher and contemporary romance author. She lives in Oregon with her husband, son, and poorly behaved black lab puppy. When not chasing after her toddler, you can find her binging on episodes of Gilmore Girls and Supernatural, and locking herself in her office to write.
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Erin’s heart picked up to a gallop when Jake opened the door to the fire engine. He was covered in soot, sweat paving a path of tan skin over his cheeks and forehead. And he was limping. Why was he limping?
She clutched the tray of cookies to her chest, the lip of the metal digging into her stomach.
“Bad call?” The words barely made it past her tight throat. Seeing him like this reminded her that Jake wasn’t bulletproof. Or fireproof.
“Could have been.”
“What happened to your leg?” She noted the tear in his turnouts and the blood speckling the material.
Jake shrugged. “Just a little cut. Nothing to worry about.”
She eyed him. It looked like more than that, but if he wanted to play it off like it was nothing, then so be it. She wasn’t going to mom him.
Honestly, though, it was freaking her out a little bit that he was hurt. Jake and her brother were invincible as kids, impervious to injury. It seemed like they always got themselves into sticky situations, jumping off roofs, nearly getting trampled by horses, and yet they’d always managed to come out unscathed. She swallowed back the thick lump in her throat. How much luck could two guys have?
“If you were a steak, you’d be well done,” she said, trying to keep her tone light, even if she felt anything but.
“Comparing me to a piece of meat. A little cliché there, Heron, don’t you think?”
At least he was in good spirits. That was one thing she could always count on with Jake. The apocalypse could descend upon them, and he’d still crack a joke. The yin to her neurotic yang.
Her gaze wandered over his sooty clothes again.
Okay, it should be a sin to look this gorgeous when he looked like a toasted marshmallow. She didn’t even know how she’d ended up here. One minute she was banging her head on her desk filling out yet another job application, the next she was stress baking, and then her car magically made its way across town. She could play it off like she wanted to see her brother, but she was never good at lying.
“What’s up?” he asked. “Everything okay?”
He’d just gotten back from a gruesome fire. By comparison, her day was cake.
She couldn’t help it, though. Ever since the night of their date, that kiss replayed over. And over. And over in her head.
“I needed to see you.” Why was her heart beating so fast? And why was it so important that she see him right now, while he was on his shift?
Those were two questions she couldn’t answer. Or wouldn’t let herself answer.
“Give me a second.” He peeled off his turnout gear and placed it at the passenger’s side of the fire engine. Sweat soaked through his navy shirt and his basketball shorts. A bandage was wrapped around his right leg, blood already soaking through the gauze.
“Hello, Erin Jenkins, wonderful human being.” Cole walked around the truck and leaned against the side, looking like he was ready for a photo shoot.
“Just give him the cookies and he’ll leave you alone,” Jake said.
“Hi, Cole.” She handed him the tray, and he gave her a smile that would make most women drop to the floor.
“Goodbye, Cole,” Jake said, his voice strained.
Reece gave her a cool nod before heading into the station with Cole.
“I thought you guys might like some treats.” She couldn’t stop staring at the sweat, the smoky skin. How hot did it get in those suits?
She’d always thought firefighting was a safe profession. Sure, there were issues with getting hurt by lifting heavy objects—at least according to Reece—but she never really thought her brother’s life, or Jake’s, would be on the line. But one look at his ash-covered face said otherwise.
“Buttering me up with sweets. I like this deal. Listen, I’m sorry I haven’t called. It’s been a little hectic.” He rubbed the back of his neck and frowned.
“It’s okay. I’ve been dealing with family stuff.” Or figuring out how to. Interactions with her sister had been icy at best this morning. “I came because I have news.”
He lifted a brow.
“I made it to the second round of interviews with the middle school.”
A smile spread across his face. “That’s awesome.”
His sincerity and support eased the tightness in her chest a fraction. Her teeth raked against her bottom lip as she regarded him. So damn sexy. He saved a human life. The thought sent need rushing through her.
He backed her up against the wall until his chest was pressed against hers. His hands slid down her waist, hoisting her up until she wrapped her legs around him.
“We should go out and celebrate,” he murmured against her lips.
His pulse ticked in the vein in his neck, and Erin wanted to run her tongue along it. His lips moved from hers to her cheek to the curve of her neck, gently nipping at her sensitive flesh. Her eyes fluttered shut, and a groan slipped past her lips.
If someone would have told her two months ago that she’d be spending her summer in Oregon, jobless, with her mouth on Jake Bennett, she didn’t know which part she’d find most unbelievable. They all were, to some degree, she supposed.
“I can’t think when you do that,” she said.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” His lips ghosted over the shell of her ear, and a shiver worked from the top of her spine to her toes.
“Yeah, that. I won’t get a word edgewise if you keep doing that,” she said.
“Good. Then you’ll hear out my proposition.”
“Yes?” Please let it involve a hot tub, a can of whipped cream, and Jason Momoa as a tap-in alternate. A girl could dream, right?
“The crew is going to the lake on Friday. I know it’s last minute, but the guys wanted you to come along.”
“They want me to come along, or you do?”
“Yes, I do.” He smoothed his thumb down her cheek, and she leaned into his touch. “So what do you say? Come with me?”
She’d agree to just about anything when he used his lips. “See you on Friday.”
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