NEVER TOO HOT
Deep in the cool green mountains of the Adirondacks, wounded firefighter Connor MacKenzie has come to rebuild the 100-year-old MacKenzie family cabin--and to be alone. A horrific blaze has left him scarred inside and out and certain of two things: He'll get back on his Hot Shot crew no matter what it takes, and any woman who ventures too close will not stay long.
Ginger Sinclair has been burned by a different kind of fire. Having just escaped from a bad marriage, she's retreated to the safety of the lakeside vacation town in upstate New York to start a new life. She's done with men, with relationships, with the danger of desires that can rage out of control--until she unexpectedly encounters Connor MacKenzie. As a hot summer on the lake grows ever hotter, they find themselves sharing a cabin and a romance that will swiftly engulf them both.
Ginger was wiping down the counter with more force than necessary when the bells on the diner's front door chimed. She put down her rag and her hand was half-way into the menu box when she looked up.
And saw him.
The immediate instinct to smooth down her hair and check her shirt for stains was so strong her hands were halfway to her head by the time she realized what she was doing.
What was she doing? Why was she worrying about impressing Connor?
That part of her life, the one where she made sure to be primped and polished in the fear of running into an acquaintance in an overpriced chi-chi grocery store was over and done with. She was simply going to show Connor to a seat, take his order and then deliver his food as she would any other customer.
And no matter what, she wasn't going to have any kind of hormonal reaction to his broad shoulders or chiseled jaw.
Cold as ice. That was her.
He sat down right in front of her, looking just as dangerous as he had on her porch.
“You're here. Ginger Sinclair.”
She'd never heard anyone say her name like that, almost like it was a curse, but with an almost sensual vibration beneath it.
Her heart jumped in response and she watched in horror as his eyes honed in on the pulse point at her neck. And then, as Elvis sang about how he couldn't help falling in love, she swore she could hear Connor's breathing speed up as he watched her body react to his close proximity.
She felt herself lean into him, saw him shift closer to her on the bar stool so that he could get closer even as her fingers were itching to reach out, to touch him and see if he would feel as hot as he looked.
The menu she'd been holding smacked into the underside of the counter and snapped her out of the crazy spell just in time. Connor looked a little stunned too.
What had just happened to her? To both of them? Had they both become unwilling participants in some sort of mad scientist's chemistry experiment to combine Man A with Woman B to see how quickly they'd combust?
Annoyed by her ridiculous lack of self-control, Ginger slapped a menu down on the gleaming Formica counter harder – and louder – than she planned.
“Tonight's special is meatloaf and mashed potatoes. I'll give you a few minutes to look at the menu and decide what you want.”
But instead of looking at the menu he said, “I know exactly what I want.”
She knew he had to be talking about food, and yet the way he said it felt like-
“I didn't know you worked here. I'm glad you do. Now I don't have to wait until morning to see you again.”
Oh. Oh my. A half dozen ceiling fans kept the diner cool. She shouldn't be feeling so warm.
“I've been wanting to tell you that I was a complete jerk this afternoon.”
She could feel herself softening, melting down from her core outward. But then she looked at him and realized her reaction was exactly what he'd been expecting.
This afternoon she could have sworn he wanted to throw her bodily off the porch. He had to have an ulterior motive. A second later it hit her.
“I take it you spoke with your grandparents?”
“I did. But my grandmother isn't the only one who thinks I misbehaved. Earlier today you asked if we could start over. Any chance that offer still stands?”
Her body screamed Yes! At the exact same time that her brain shouted Don't you dare, he's playing you!
Frankly, she had a hell of lot more faith in her brain to steer her right.
A gorgeous guy like him probably thought he could come in here smelling like fresh soap and pine needles and blink those shockingly blue eyes at her and get her to dumbly agree to whatever he wanted.
He might be saying all the right things, but she very much doubted his heart was into it. He wanted Poplar Cove. Period.
She narrowed her eyes, widened her stance behind the counter.
“Enough with the charm. Let's get down to it. What exactly do you want from me?”
A LITTLE ABOUT ME: I've been writing romance since 2003 and sold my first book to Ellora's Cave in 2004. Since then I've written for Pocket, Bantam, and most recently Grand Central. To say that I love my job would be a huge understatement! I spend all day making up super sexy stories about incredible men and women – and thanks to all of the lovely people who read my books, I get paid for it. Amazing. :)
With NEVER TOO HOT, in particular, I ended up falling really hard for my hero, Connor MacKenzie. Sigh. There's just something about writing a physically and emotionally wounded hero that brought out all of my “you're so hot and wounded and I'm here for you” instincts. My heroine's, too!
I'd love to know – what are your favorite kinds of heroes? Funny? Sarcastic? Angry alpha (but in a hot kind of way, lol)? Frankly, I like them all. But right now, I'm on a bit of a tortured kick.
Leah here: I love it when the author's title fits in to their name like that :D You can find Bella over on Twitter or Facebook as well, or read more about her on her website.