Smoke and ...Spots? PG-13 excerpt
SMOKE AND…SPOTS? by DEIRDRE O’DARE; Copyright © 2012 by Deirdre O’Dare
ISBN 978-1-61124-236-2 Cover Art © 2012 Trace Edward Zaber
Here is the blurb:
When fire fighter Grady Ashcroft adopts his deceased sister’s son, he knows his life is going to change. Although he never expected to be a dad, he resolves to give young Jamie his best, even if it means a celibate life in a new home, far from all he’s known before. He does not expect to find the man of his dreams in the Colorado village where he takes a new job, a man who seems to hate his guts.
Sullivan Parker wanted to be chief of the Valle Vista fire department when the worthless former chief was forced to leave. Instead, the town council hires a stranger from a distant city. In spite of his resentment, Sully finds himself drawn to the new comer. Then he discovers a need to take little Jamie and the speckled pup the former chief left behind under his wing.
The brotherhood born of battling dangerous blazes soon turns to stronger feelings for both men. Then a scare involving the boy and the dog creates a final catalyst to break Grady and Sully out of their tense and conflicting interface. Can resentment and distrust turn to love?
And an excerpt:
Sullivan “Sully” Parker kept an anxious eye on the fire station all day. It wasn’t hard. His combined home and business were only two doors down and across the laughable excuse for a main street of Valle Vista, Colorado, a small agricultural and tourist haven community snuggled between two ridges of towering mountains.
Once again he cursed the contrary nature of the region’s residents who had readily gone along with his effort to get rid of the former fire chief. Hell, the man was a liar, a thief and a drunkard! However, when it came to approving Sully’s appointment to the post, the powers that be had balked. So he had to continue to fix cars, pump gas and operate the only tow truck within about fifty miles. And be a key volunteer firefighter on the side.
Why the town council had up and hired some guy from a big department in the Midwest, he could not guess. How could such a man fit in or work with a severely limited budget and a department consisting mainly of volunteers? What would a city man know about fighting fires in sub-zero temperatures when the truck-carried water froze almost as it blasted from the hose, when those trucks might not start, and you had to wear so many layers of clothes you looked like the Michelin Man? Or in the summer when lightning-sparked blazes ravaged the steep terrain above the valley?
Sully had a lot more questions than he had answers. He suspected only time would cover most of them and some maybe not even then. With a huff of disgust, he went inside the gas station to answer his phone. Probably some out-of-state doofus broke down up on one of the old mining or logging roads, expecting me to come to the rescue. What a great life…
These days, if it wasn’t for bad luck, seemed he wouldn’t have any at all. Because of that call, which turned out to be a sales pitch, he almost missed seeing the faded blue Dodge pickup pull up in front of the fire station and discharge two passengers, a man and a tow-headed kid.
He skidded to a halt as he emerged from the office of his garage, eyes slewing to the wide drive in front of the fire station and the truck, one that would fit in on most of the small local ranches and farms. Lord knew almost no one around here could afford a new one.
Could it be the new chief? But a man with a kid? He couldn’t recall anything in Ashcroft’s application about a child, but maybe he’d missed it. He wasn’t sure if that put things in a different perspective or not. Well, whether or not it was the new chief, Sully figured it fell to the interim one to check matters out. Squaring his shoulders, he strode off across the street.
Missouri plate on the truck. Too strong a clue to be a coincidence.
The man must have heard Sully’s approach. The stranger turned to look Sully’s way. He wore a Kansas City Chiefs sweatshirt and a matching ball cap, pulled low over his eyes. What little the dimming light revealed of his face looked strong, rough-hewn and almost movie-star handsome. Eyes seemed very dark, as did the longish hair below the cap. Of course, a firefighter would be fit—but the snug sweatshirt and well-worn jeans revealed a lean, ripped physique. Sully’s gut clenched.
Aw shit, he has to be good-looking and probably my age or younger. That’s going to make this even harder to deal with.
Sully didn’t exactly hide his lifestyle and sexual preference, but he didn’t advertise it, either. As far as he knew, Valle Vista currently had only one other gay man in residence. Homer Jenson was at least sixty-five, claimed to be an artist and had lost his partner a few months ago. Everyone whispered it must have been AIDS, and some even hinted the illness was probably God’s punishment for a life of depravity, a comment that rubbed Sully very much the wrong way.
With only a moment’s hesitation, the stranger stuck out his hand. “Howdy. I’m Grady Ashcroft.” His eyes met Sully’s for a moment and then he looked down at the little boy, something in his expression that caused another sharp twist in Sully’s gut. “And this is my son, Ja—er—Jim.”
The child, blue eyes wide and guileless, grinned. “You remembered,” he said as he flicked a swift look at his dad. “Thanks.” Then he shifted his attention to Sully and offered a small hand along with a bright smile, dominated by teeth too large for his narrow face. “Do you have any kids?”
Sully accepted the boy’s shake, then lifted his hand to meet Ashcroft’s firm handshake, but felt no excess pressure. A trickle of warmth made its way from his palm to his upper arm, shoulder and settled somewhere inside. “Sullivan Parker. Folks around here call me Sully.” He turned his attention back to the boy. “And no, I don’t have kids. Sorry.”
An instant later, he found the way to reverse the boy’s crestfallen look. “But I do have something for you. How does a Dalmatian puppy sound? Every boy needs a dog.”
Young Jim beamed before casting an anxious look up at his father. Ashcroft’s expression was a study, almost making the moment Sully’s triumph.
“Somebody gave it to the former chief,” he continued. “He didn’t take Spots when he left, so I’ve been keeping the pup. Damn dog’s in that chewing stage, gnaws on everything, but now he’s all yours.” Seeing Grady’s frown, he backtracked fast. “Oh, I’m sure he’ll outgrow this quirk and be a great dog. Just needs some time and training, you know.”
He fumbled a heavy ring of keys off his belt and handed it to Ashcroft. “These go to just about everything here. The mobile in back of the station’s vacant—the last chief chose not to live in it, but you’re welcome to, at least for a while. Nothing fancy, but it’s livable. The rest are for the station and the vehicles, the lock on the fuel tank and gates to some ponds where we draft water at times. I’ll come back tomorrow and walk you through everything. I expect you need to get some chow and bedtime this evening.”
Ashcroft took the ring and jingled it for a moment. “Yeah, we’re a little road-weary, J-Jim and me. Been a long trip. We’ve got some household goods coming in a day or two—shipped stuff in one of those containers. But we’ve got bedrolls and a few essentials in the truck. Where’s a good place to get some supper?”
Sully shrugged. “Not a lot of choices. The Grub Box, three doors down, is about the closest and probably the best. Dorothy runs a good little joint and she’s a great cook. Oh yeah, I’ll bring Spots over when I come tomorrow. There’s a fenced yard around part of the mobile where you can keep him.”
With that, he turned away, wanting to say more and yet reluctant to give in to the niggling urge to try to make the new man welcome, even to be friendly and nice. Maybe even more than nice; he’d felt a strong tug of attraction in those few moments.
Not good, not good at all.
Hell, Ashcroft was taking the job that should have been Sully’s and dragging a kid along, too. He’d had to bite his tongue to keep from asking about the boy’s mother—maybe they’d split up. Lots of women could not handle the firefighter’s lifestyle. But how come he had the kid? The boy looked young enough to be with his mother for a while longer.
Still too fuckin’ many questions, including a raft of new ones. But be cool, ole bud, you need to mind your own business.