After The Fire – First Responders Book 4 by Jen Talty

After the Fire
First Responders Book 4
By
USA Today Bestselling Author
Jen Talty

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Starting over isn’t easy,
but sometimes
you have to walk through fire
to find your hero.

Emergency Medical Technician, Renee Nash finally said I do, only to have all her dreams destroyed when her firefighter husband is killed on their wedding night and now she’s forced to rebuild her entire world from scratch. Months later, she still struggles to set foot in Station 29 where she worked side-by-side with her late husband, especially when the new fireman is a cocky son-of-bitch with an attitude problem.

No one could ever describe Fletcher Cain as anything other than rough around the edges and he would prefer to keep it that way. He’d spent his entire life protecting his heart and soul from the brutality the love and loss. He was damn good at his job. He always had the respect of his team, no matter what station house he ended up at, but he could never quite make them family and that made him an outcast wherever he went. The beautiful and feisty Renee Nash not only can’t stand him, but she’s made his life a living hell and will stop at nothing to have him fired. He’s bound and determined to show her he’s not the enemy, however, he never thought she’d be the one helping to open his heart, and he’d be the one teaching her how to love again.

First Responder books are some of my favorites and Jen Talty is now one of my go to authors for them.

In this book, Renee has returned to work after losing her husband Devon on their wedding night. It was difficult coming back to Station 29 where they’d worked together and it’s also filled with her family. Now they’ve hired Fletcher Cain, she believes he’s the reason Devon died in the fire that night. Although she doesn’t remember it she was unconscious when they got her out of the blazing hotel. She’s only read the reports on the fire.

Fletcher Cain was hired full time at Station 29 because he’s well rounded with his training, EMT, Paramedic, and Ladder. They can put him where he’s needed on any given shift. Unfortunately for him they’ve put him on the Ambulance with Renee and she has been particularly rude and harsh.

Now it’s been decided that they would go to the fire expo and do a class as well as run the booth. Before that happens Fletcher is determined to clear the air between them.

This is a favorite scene.

He stared out at the moonlight dancing across the water. In the distance, a motorboat hummed across the lake. “I had just put on my tank when I saw Devon. I started yelling at him, but he didn’t listen. I took off running, but you know how hard it is to keep up with someone who isn’t carrying an extra hundred pounds of equipment. There was also a ton of noise between the roar of the fire, crew members barking orders, the sound of water hitting flames, and the chaos of the crowd. Not to mention I had on my face mask. I wasn’t sure he heard me at all. Once he ducked inside the lobby, I lost sight of him in the smoke. From there, I had to go to where I knew there were potential survivors. I had to assume he was headed to the same rooms I was.”

“But he didn’t make it.”

“No. He didn’t.” Fletcher dropped his chin to Renee’s head, focusing on the freeze-frame he created in his mind. He raced through that lobby just as the roof caved in, making it harder for him to get to the far end of the hotel to save Renee, he saw out of the corner of his eye, a fiery beam drop. It forced him to skid to an abrupt halt. The bag with a teddy bear burned at his feet. He squeezed his eyes shut. He’d seen that image a million times, but it never registered that a stuffed animal had been what Devon had been carrying.

“If I could have stopped Devon, I would have, and I know this won’t make you feel better or bring him back, but I’ve thought about that night every day and wondered if there was something I could have done differently.”

“And is there?”

“The only thing I can think of would have been to take off my tank and gear so I could run faster. Then maybe I might have caught him. But then you’d be dead, and Devon would be blaming me for that.”

“I need another swig.”

“That’s not a good idea.”

“I honestly don’t care what you think.” She leaned over, snagging a bag off the table. Sitting up between his legs, she shoved it in his chest, then leaned over and grabbed the bottle. “I know I’m self-medicating. self-medicating. I know I shouldn’t. But I also have an understanding of where my limits are, and I don’t ever exceed them.”

He bit back a chuckle. Little Miss Rules and Regulations had managed to create some for getting hammered while dealing with tragedy. It wasn’t funny, not at all, but he couldn’t help but find the humor in her rigidness. “What’s this?” He held up the plastic bag.

“That was in Devon’s truck.” She swiped at her lips but missed some of the liquid dribbling down her chin.

He reached out and caught it with his thumb and brought it to his mouth. From the second he’d stepped foot in the 29, he’d noticed the beautiful Renee Nash. Actually, he’d noticed her years ago when he’d come to visit his grandparents.

He’d be lying if he said he hadn’t a bit of a crush on her, but he lived in Texas and that was a long way from New York, which he only visited like every other year, so Renee was someone he admired from afar when he’d been a teenager and a young adult. But once his parents died, he flew his grandparents to him on a regular basis. When he did come to New York, he didn’t pay much attention to Renee or anyone else, either because he’d found who he thought would be his one and only, or he was too busy spending every second with his family.

Life was too short to waste it on anything else.

He had to admit he had feelings for Renee, but they were totally inappropriate, and he shouldn’t act on them, not even in the name of comforting her during a time of need.

He peeked into the opening and gasped.

Baby clothes.

“You’ve known all along why he left in the middle of the night,” Fletcher whispered. A million questions raced through his mind, but he couldn’t grab one to ask.

“If I hadn’t been pregnant. Or if I hadn’t told him that night and waited until the next day. He wouldn’t have raced in. He would have let you come in and find me.”

Shit. He rubbed his temples. “Is that what you really think?”

“It’s what I know.”

He took her chin with his thumb and forefinger. “When did you lose the baby?”

“Three weeks later,” she said with a quivering lower lip.

“You never told anyone, did you?”

She shook her head.

It all made so much sense to him now. She had to blame someone else. She had to outwardly push her pain and suffering onto another person because deep down she truly believed that it was their child that caused Devon to risk his life in a way he knew to be deadly.

While Fletcher was no therapist, he’d been to enough to make an educated guess that Renee used the loss of her baby as some sort of torture of letting her late husband down. He lost his life trying to save hers.

And she couldn’t save their baby.

So, what does she do in return?

Blame Fletcher.

Made perfect sense to him.

But he also had to consider the fact that she could also be thinking that if she hadn’t told him, he would have never left her in the first place, and they all could have been saved together.

He held her gaze while she took another swig.

“I don’t know why I told you all that, but I’d appreciate it if you didn’t tell my family.”

“Your secrets are safe with me.” He took the bottle and once again put a plug in it. “But I think you should tell them. I also believe your thought process is really screwed up. Devon was a firefighter. It was in his blood.”
Jen Talty. After The Fire: the First Responders Series (Kindle Locations 447-493).

Renee wasn’t sure why she told Fletcher the things she hadn’t even told her family, perhaps it was the alcohol. At least he told her everything about the night of the fire and now maybe they can move forward at least as friends.

Things do start to heat up between these two, but neither wants to commit. There’s more to Renee’s story than she’s told so far. I loved seeing Gavin and Charlotte again and for me meeting some of the other folks.
Plenty of ambulance action in this one, and a few more surprises. I laughed, cried and fanned myself to cool from the heat in this one.

I’ve read but have yet to review the other books in this series so I’ll get that done real soon. Just know I can’t wait to see what’s next!

5 Contented Purrs for Jen!

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Jen Talty

Welcome to my World! I’m a USA Today Bestseller of Romantic Suspense, Contemporary Romance, and Paranormal Romance.

I first started writing while carting my kids to one hockey rink after the other, averaging 170 games per year between 3 kids in 2 countries and 5 states. My first book, IN TWO WEEKS was originally published in 2007. In 2010 I helped form a publishing company (Cool Gus Publishing) with NY Times Bestselling Author Bob Mayer where I ran the technical side of the business through 2016.

I’m currently enjoying the next phase of my life…the empty NESTER! My husband and I spend our winters in Jupiter, Florida and our summers in Rochester, NY. We have three amazing children who have all gone off to carve out their places in the world, while I continue to craft stories that I hope will make you readers feel good and put a smile on your face.


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