Former Marine Combat Firefighter Casey Spencer has had plenty of close calls. But after a factory fire results in the death of a dozen undocumented workers chained to their tables, he can’t sleep, barely eats, and snaps at everyone—including his fellow firefighters. On edge, he’s not ready to deal with Jane Harmon, a woman who arouses in him an inexplicable need to protect.
The daughter of a Marine and a sister to two more, Jane recognizes duty for what it is. Surviving a house fire was only her first challenge, recovering from the burns and the trauma was the second. Physical and mental therapy are supposed to get her the rest of the way—except she’s paired with the stubborn, irritating, and sexy as hell firefighter Casey Spencer. Being around him terrifies her, but worse, it awakens a wild passion which rages out of control.
She doesn’t want a man who runs into the fire, but can’t deny where there is smoke…there is her Marine.
Not only does Heather take us for a visit to Station 58, we also get to revisit one of my favorite places, Mike’s Place, from her Always a Marine series.
Dr. James Westwood is the head Psychologist at MIke’s Place and his treatments often are challenges. The one he assigns to both Casey and Jane is no exception. They both have issues they need to resolve but they are uniquely qualified to help each other.
I found myself crying, as I learn the reasons behind Casey’s PTSD and survivor guilt. I have a vivid imagination and the way it was described put me in his head.
Jane’s problems are both physical and mental. She is at Mike’s Place through the influence of her father, a Marine General. While her progress is slow she is improving here among the many veterans this facility was designed to treat.
This is a favorite scene when Casey and Jane meet.
The moment Casey strode toward her, all determination and grit, she’d known she wouldn’t turn him down. Maybe her weakness for Marines was genetic. A good chunk of her family tree was Marine green. The rest was Marine support—siblings, parents, and spouses. She might still have said no to his dinner invitation, except when he studied her—he didn’t try to be polite and avert his eyes where her scars were concerned.
More, not one ounce of pity filtered into the light hazel of his eyes. The hint of green in the swirl of brown gleamed in the sunlight. No, the way he studied her hadn’t involved sympathy. If she had to label the way he looked at her, it involved more of an assessment.
The sensation of being the subject of his consideration wasn’t unpleasant. “You don’t mind if I drive my car and follow you, do you?” They’d been acquainted for all of five minutes. No matter how grateful she was to be treated as normal and not as a freak for her scars didn’t excuse bad decisions.
“Not at all. Probably better for both of us that you have a safety net and can leave whenever. But here…” He paused and pulled out his wallet. Flipping it open, he tugged out his driver’s license. It detailed his name—Casey Spencer—his address, and veteran status.
His presence at the facility didn’t mean he had to be military. Holding his license with her right hand, she pulled her phone out with her left. The scar tissue along her right arm and elbow kept her from extending it fully. After snapping a photo of his, she flipped over the wallet on her phone case and held her ID out to him.
“Fair is fair.”
Amusement flared in his eyes and deepened the green shade. For a split second, she thought he might reject her offer but he sighed, then tugged his own phone out. “This is a good picture,” he commented. “Very non mug shot oriented.”
His dry wit combined amused her. “I was on my best behavior that day.”
Making a show of squinting, he studied her photo. “I don’t know that I believe that—I see a devilish gleam in your eyes.”
They traded their driver’s licenses back. A laugh escaped her. “Okay that was a little odd.”
“Nah, it’s about safety and personal security.” The ease of his acceptance assuaged her embarrassment. “You just met me, and I only heard about you ten minutes ago. Now we’ve both got photos of the other’s IDs, so if you turn out to be a maneater, the authorities will know where to look.”
Heat swept through her and her face warmed. “I promise not to bite.”
“On the first date only, right?” His eyebrows lifted as the corners of his mouth quirked. Flirtation, even mild teasing, felt alien after the last ten months. Most people had a hard time even meeting her gaze.
Testing the theory, she said, “I reserve the right to change my mind.”
“Excellent. Now that we’ve finished the security dance, do you have any preference for food?”
When Dr. Westwood mentioned his buddy program idea, and said she could help a Marine, she couldn’t fathom how. Yet, she found it thrilling he didn’t stare at her scars with disgust or withdraw from the monstrous effect. Jane held no illusions; the fire she’d survived seared away any chance of her being pretty again.
“I know this great Cajun place a couple of blocks from here. I’ve eaten lunch there a few times.” Not only was the menu good, but the staff treated her with care and respect.
“Really?” Intrigue filled his expression. “I know a similar place—a friend of mine runs it.”
Of course he did. “The one I’m thinking of is run by a former Marine.”
“Yes,” Casey exhaled the word then grinned. The excitement, at odds with the wide legged stance and stiff shoulders, relaxed him. “Let’s do this.”
Heather Long. Smoke-and-Marines (Kindle Locations 135-164). Kindle Edition.
I loved the way this relationship develops with trust and the heat building slowly but surely as they both come to terms with their issues. The ‘dates’ are perfect and the places visited make me want to head off to visit them too. Unfortunately one of them is only fiction.
Now I want to go back and read the whole Always a Marine Series again.
5 Contented Purrs for Heather!
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USA Today bestselling author, Heather Long, likes long walks in the park, science fiction, superheroes, Marines, and men who aren’t douche bags. Her books are filled with heroes and heroines tangled in romance as hot as Texas in the summertime.
From paranormal historical westerns to contemporary military romance, Heather might switch genres, but one thing is true in all of her stories–her characters drive the books.
When she’s not wrangling her menagerie of animals, she devotes her time to family and friends she considers family. She believes if you like your heroes so real you could lick the grit off their chest, and your heroines so likable, you’re sure you’ve been friends with women just like them, you’ll enjoy her worlds as much as she does.