Into The Fire
November 13, 2012 ASIN B0083WTX5U
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The heat is on...
First Responders, Book 3
The last person firefighter Chris Jackson expects to rescue from a burning animal shelter is Ally Gallant - his ex-fiancee. Even though three years have passed since she gave him back his ring, one look at her frightened face in the haze of a smoky building is all it takes for him to realize he'll still do anything to protect her.
Ally's put her heart and soul into the shelter, and she's devastated when it's destroyed. What's more, Chris is suddenly there for her in ways she doesn't expect - ways she's sure she doesn't deserve - as she makes decisions about her future. Then there's the not-so-small matter of the blazing passion between them that refuses to be extinguished.
But when Chris is injured while on a call, Ally's reminded of all the reasons she walked away. Now she must look deep within herself to find the courage to put fear on the back burner and step into the fire - into love.
Warning: Adorable dogs, a hot firefighter and five-alarm passion. Fire extinguisher (or cold shower) highly recommended.
The sound of barking warred with the dull roar of flames. Chris Jackson tapped the shoulder of the firefighter in front of him and they moved forward slowly. Two staff members were already out of the animal shelter, but Ally remained inside. With the way the smoke was increasing in the old building, Chris knew they'd better find her quick. His heart pounded and fear came knocking. Ally. And yet he took careful, deliberate steps, knowing that rushing would be his biggest mistake.
"Nothing here," his partner said. The barking got louder. They entered the main kennel area. So far, the fire had stayed on the other side of the structure, near the storage and kitchen area. Worst thing here was the acrid smoke filling the air. But then he saw her. Shit. Even though she had a towel over her face, Chris heard her cough as she opened a cage and moved to a table, shoving the animal inside a crate.
"It's the fire department," he identified, not like it could be anyone else. "Come on, we've got to go," he shouted above the noise.
She spun around and faced them. "Just a few more." She coughed and gasped. "Take this crate and I'll let out the dogs--"
"Are you crazy? You've got to come out now or I'll have to carry you out."
"I can't leave the animals!" she shouted back. "They're going to die in here! You can either help me or not, but I'm not leaving until they're out!"
For God's sake. Chris swore and looked at his partner.
"We've gotta go," Mark verified.
Chris paused for a moment, just a heartbeat, and then turned to Mark. "Open the damn kennels. We can't carry them out. We'll have to set them free and hope they follow us."
Mark hesitated. "All of them? Are you nuts?"
But Chris shook his head. "Ally's not going to leave without a fight. It'll take just as much time prying her out of here. Let 'em loose. I'm not coming back in."
Mark started flicking cages open and coaxing dogs out of their kennels. Chris turned to Ally and gave an order that he would force her to obey if necessary. "We're opening the cages, but that's all. No one is coming back in here, understand?"
"Ally!" he shouted at her, and in the haze of smoke realized that she'd just now recognized who he was. For a split second the last three years evaporated, and he felt a real sense of fear and urgency. This was no time to mess around. No matter what had gone wrong between them before, he couldn't let anything happen to her.
"There's no time. That's the deal, or I carry you out and they get left behind. I will do it," he promised.
She rushed along a final row of smaller crates and flicked the doors open, then hefted the crate - how many cats had she stuffed in there?
"Okay!" she shouted, and Chris sighed with relief that she was going to go without more of a fight.
'Stay low!" he commanded, as they made their way out of the kennel and back to the reception area.
It was hotter out here. The fire was getting close to the main part of the building. As they moved along, Ally called for the dogs between coughing fits, shouting their names and encouraging them on. Once outside, she pulled down the towel, put the crate on the ground and dropped to her knees. Chris pulled her up, supporting her weight. "Let's get you away from here and looked at."
"I've got to go back. Chester's so timid, he'll never come out. And there are kittens I couldn't fit in the crate..." She started to push him away but he caught her neatly around the waist.
"You are going to see the paramedics, and you are not going to go near that building again, you understand?" He still had his mask on but his voice was clear.
"But...but..." She turned back, anguish marking her face. "They'll die in there, Chris!"
He wished he could say yes, but he couldn't. Not the way the fire was spreading. "I'm sorry, Ally. It's too dangerous, and I won't risk your life or any of ours either."
He looked at the shelter. Another minute or two and it would be fully involved. She pulled on his grip but he didn't let her go. "I swear to God, you're staying out here if I have to tie you to the ambulance."
He lifted the crate, grabbed her arm with his gloved hand and saw her wince at the force of his grip. Okay, so she got his point. But there was no way he was letting her risk her life and the lives of the other firemen. As much as he loved animals, he...
Hmm. In his head he'd nearly said he loved her more, hadn't he? Except he couldn't. Didn't.
He led her away from the building and towards the ambulance that was waiting.
Barking increased as dogs ran everywhere. There had to be at least five cats crammed into the dog crate she'd carried out - a good seventy-five pounds. And she'd lifted it as if it were nothing. He couldn't help feeling a grudging admiration for her tenacity. He'd underestimated her grit.
She was still coughing when they reached Gabe Brenner. Chris took off his mask and helmet and nodded at the paramedic. "Smoke inhalation," he said, putting down the crate.
"Chris..." Her voice was raspy from the smoke.
He turned to face her again. The woman who had handed him back her engagement ring and told him she'd changed her mind. The woman who'd broken his heart three years ago. It bugged the hell out of him that he still had a weak spot for her.
"Thank you," she said, her watery eyes filled with gratitude.
"I've got to get back to work." He turned away, needing to keep perspective and not doing a great job of it. "Someone round up these dogs!" he yelled, crossing the grass.
He was going to catch hell later. Mark hadn't looked too impressed, but Chris hadn't wanted to leave the animals trapped inside either. He wished he could have gone back in to get the last of the shelter animals. They'd done the right thing by setting them free.
No, the person Chris was really angry at was himself. For three long years he'd convinced himself that Ally Gallant didn't matter.
Today the cold fear in his heart had told him she still did.
"...another fantastic read from Donna Alward." SingleTitles.com
"...this is a book that
shows Donna Alward's true talent regarding romance,
patience and the art of trust." Fallen Angels Reviews
From In The Line of Duty by Donna Alward
Copyright 2012 by Donna Alward
Cover art used with permission