Under Fire (Blue Collar Alphas), page 1
Table of Contents
Blue Collar Alphas
Modern Fairy Tale Collection
About the Author
Also by Aria Cole
Copyright © 2017 by Aria Cole
Cover Design: Sybil at PopKitty Design
Editing: Silently Correcting Your Grammar
No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system without the written permission of the author, except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
Created with Vellum
This is for the Aria’s Assassins. Thank you for being there.
Blaise Michaels has never met a fire he couldn't tame—or a woman who could cause a five-alarm blaze in his heart. But the night he meets Brianna Foster is a night that will leave permanent marks on them both.
Brianna Foster wasn't looking for love—in fact, all she was looking for was her grumpy old cat before the building dissolved into ash around them. But when tall, dark, and heroic bursts through her apartment door to save her—and her pussy—from the flames, she never dreams he would light a fire that could incinerate her soul.
Warning: Blaise is a big, growly, alpha male with a hero complex. Saving Brianna isn't enough for him. He wants more than just in her bed. He wants her tied to him for life.
“Here, kitty, kitty, kitty,” I cooed, tossing another treat his way.
A low growl vibrated from somewhere by the bed.
“Don’t be a bad boy. Come to Mommy.” I tried my best to stay calm as fire alarms rang around my head. “Jinx…”
I heard the bang of footsteps up the old stairwell.
“Jinx! For God’s sake, come to Mommy!” I inched closer, the fire alarms wearing on my last fucking nerve. “Jinx, come here, boy. Please come here.”
The old cat crouched farther under the bed.
I could hear more footsteps pounding down the hallway now, doors banging, people running.
There’d been half a dozen false alarms in the last year I’d been living here, but this time, I’d heard the sirens outside. There were a lot of emergency vehicles currently parked in front of my small apartment complex, and something told me this wasn’t a false alarm.
“Jinx, goddammit, get your grouchy little ass over here.” I lunged under the bed, the edge of the cheap metal frame cutting into my upper thigh. “Fuck!”
I kept stretching, trying desperately to dig my fingers into his soft fur so I could haul him out of here with me.
No way could I leave my sweet kitty in a building that was going up in flames.
It was probably just Mrs. Avery on the third floor, blind as an old bat and cooking soup. The flames had crawled all the way up the wall and left a trail of soot the last time this had happened, and the super still hadn’t replaced her range hood. She complained about it to me every time I went upstairs for cookies and tea. I hated the tea, she put way more lemon in it than I liked, but I choked it down for her.
I hoped she was safe. I hoped everyone, as motley a crew as they may be, was already out on the lawn. I’d grown attached to everyone here, and in a way, we’d banded together over the complete lack of upkeep on the part of our landlord.
If it wasn’t peeling paint or heaved sidewalks, it was a leaking pipe or a burned-out air conditioner.
I hated this fucking building.
Part of me hoped it would go up in flames, but I knew it was the cheapest rent I could find in this city. Rents were climbing higher and higher every year, and I was barely making it as is. If I didn’t have an apartment to live in, where the hell would I go?
“Jinx…” I tossed him another treat, begging him to inch just a little closer. “Please, boy?”
A half a dozen loud bangs rattled the door of my apartment. Jinx chose that moment to swipe at my hand, slicing my finger ruthlessly and causing blood to pool between my fingers.
“Fuck!” I recoiled, not bothering to check the gash on my thigh that was now throbbing, and launched down the short hallway to my front door.
Just as I reached the kitchen, the door burst open and a firefighter, complete with breathing mask, barged in.
A pair of intense dark eyes was all I could see of the stranger, his hand waving me to him rapidly.
I shook my head, stubborn tenacity and adrenaline charging through my veins as I turned back down the hallway. I didn’t even give a shit that I was seriously undressed. I had to get Jinx.
“Ma’am!” The firefighter pounded down the hall after me.
I slid beneath the bed again, stretching to reach Jinx.
“Ma’am, I’ve got to get you out of here.” His hand rested at my back. Gentler than I would have expected considering the layers of fireproof gear he wore.
I shook my head, glancing over my shoulder to find he’d taken off his mask.
And then the air was sucked straight out of my lungs.
Warm, honeyed skin stretched across a dark, stubbled jaw. The angles of his face inviting, the dark slash of his eyebrows and empathy radiating from his eyes making me weak in the knees. His full lips parted with each breath, the reckless, unkempt dark hair…he was the walking embodiment of a firefighter’s calendar I’d seen a while back. Except this guy was better, features so chiseled I was pretty sure I would spontaneously combust if I stared at him for too long. Why did it feel like something was twisting down deep in my belly with just one look?
Wait, what is going on again?
Why is there a gorgeous, rugged fireman in my bedroom?
“My cat,” I breathed, pointing under the bed, shaking the fireman-induced haze from my brain.
“Your cat is under the bed?” His throaty voice curled my toes.
I gulped. “I can’t leave him.”
His eyes heated with understanding. “I’ll get him.”
He stood, walking around the bed, his gait slow and confident. I would have killed to see what he was packing under that fireman’s getup, if the place wasn’t burning down around us, that is.
“Wait—” I interjected. “He’s been a moody bastard. He might bite you.”
A crooked smile that made my stomach turn somersaults cracked his lips. “I’ve encountered a lot of mean kitties. That’s why they give me the gloves.” He held up one gloved hand and winked.
He fucking winked at me.
I nodded, unable to form a syllable before tall, rugged, and dangerously sexy leaned beneath the bed and swiped up my ornery old cat in one hand. He cradled Jinx in the crook of his elbow, covering his eyes
“Let’s go.” He held out a hand.
My lips slid open, the way his eyes held mine leaving me completely transfixed. His dominant presence ate up the energy between us and made me a slave to his scrutiny. I couldn’t think straight, could hardly take a breath without feeling his gaze prickle my skin. I felt completely immobile. As cheesy as it might sound, I was a deer in the headlights, those headlights being his intense eyes. I could swear my heart was beating a hundred miles an hour, and at that moment, I was thankful for the fire and the search for Jinx because it hid my embarrassing reaction to this stranger.
“You gonna make me carry you?” He did that crooked grin thing again that I’m pretty sure had the ability to get me pregnant. I pondered asking him to carry me just because I wanted the feel of his hard, firm body pressed against mine, but my leg chose that moment to throb fiercely, reminding me of the wound I’d gotten earlier. I glanced down, seeing rivers of red streak down my leg. Well, if I pass out from his heat, at least I can pretend it’s from the gallons of blood I am losing from my leg.
“Shit.” He bent over for a closer look. “Let’s get you safe.”
He pulled me against him in one arm, sliding Jinx into my hands before swooping his other under me and carrying me out of my bedroom. My heart thundered in erratic beats as I felt every inch of him pressed to me, his hands cupping my body, cradling me tight in his rugged arms. My insides churned like butter, my palms prickling with newfound desire. It was not the appropriate moment to feel any of those things, but there was something about the way he handled me, something about the way his eyes had held mine from across the room that caused sensation to flutter through every nerve of my body. He left a lasting impression, like a tattoo on my flaming skin.
His eyes caught mine then as we walked through my kitchen. “Doin’ okay, sweetheart?”
I felt a blush crawl up my chest and heat my neck.
“I—” I paused, struggling to form words when he was looking at me like that—like he could see straight into my soul. “I’m just shocked there’s a real fire.”
The excuse was lame even as it fell on my ears, but in all fairness, I did not expect to find myself in the arms of a fireman today either.
“’Course there’s a real fire. Why do you think I’m saving you?” He glanced down to the cat in my arms. “And your kitty.”
Heat flamed between my thighs. Did he have this power over all the women he carried out of burning buildings? I frowned, the idea that he’d made anyone other than me feel this way not sitting well in my stomach.
We burst into the hall where we joined more firefighters rushing into the building, long hoses clutched in powerful hands.
They shouted orders, made hand gestures, then shot up the stairs to the third floor.
“Jesus.” My heart cracked open as I prayed everyone else was okay.
As if reading my mind, he spoke. “You’re the last one, sweetheart. Guys said they pounded on your door once already, assumed no one was home.”
I withered at his words. “But, Jinx…”
“Right. The cat.” He took the stairs two at a time, cradling me in his firm embrace. An odd sense of relief washed over me for the first time in my life. I was so strong and resilient on my own, but giving up the reins and being taken care of felt surprisingly good, even if it was by a stranger for exactly two point five minutes while he whisked me away from a fire.
“You’re lucky I saved your cute little ass.” He pushed through the creaky front doors of the apartment complex, the night air crisp on my bare skin. A shiver pulsed through me, one he must have felt. “We need to get you covered up. Have that gash looked at. You may need stitches.”
I groaned, shuttering my eyes closed, thinking that was exactly the kind of luck I had.
Rescued by a hot firefighter, check. Scarred by an angry cat while trying to save the little bastard’s life? Check.
And then it dawned on me that I’d have no bed to sleep in tonight.
No money to rent a hotel room.
No family or friends to crash with. Maybe I could call one of the girls at the coffee shop where I worked, sleep on someone’s couch for a few days… And then what?
I groaned again, louder.
“You don’t sound like a girl whose life was just saved from a blazing inferno.”
I frowned. Was sarcasm a trait among firefighters? I glanced up at him, too weak and suddenly too exhausted for anything but honesty. “I don’t have anywhere to stay tonight.”
His eyes narrowed as we reached the nearest ambulance. He shifted me out of his arms, sitting me on the edge. He took the cat from my hands while a paramedic wrapped me in a blanket. His eyes tore up and down my body, as if searching for more wounds that might need tending. I didn’t know if it was the heat of his gaze on my skin, or the black smoke clogging the parking lot, but something about the way he tended to me made something sweet and comforting unfurl deep inside me.
I’d never been tended to in my life, but all of a sudden, the idea of being without his attention felt like more than I was willing to bear.
“Check her leg. She’s got a deep cut.” His voice was authoritative and throaty, sending new waves of arousal spinning through me. He stood at my side, watching with a close eye as the paramedic inspected the gash, cleaned it with antiseptic, and then bandaged it tightly. I’d never felt more loved.
I was so consumed with the feelings waging a cage fight behind my ribs that I hardly felt her fingers on me.
A tall, broad, sinfully sexy firefighter dominated my thoughts.
The one holding my kitty.
She didn’t have a place to go.
I’d seen a lot in my twenty years fighting fires but never a situation like this. Everyone had family that came rushing to their side. Usually, there were too many damn people gathered on the lawn and mingling at the street, watching and praying and getting in the way.
Of everyone in that crowd, no one had run up and screamed to find their friend, their daughter, their anything.
No one would have missed this girl had she disappeared tonight.
I’d seen it happen far too often, a life snuffed out.
I pushed a hand through my hair, cradling the cat in my arm as my heart thundered with one word.
Help. Help. Help.
I couldn’t just leave her, couldn't just walk away tonight knowing she had nowhere to sleep and probably not a dime to spare on a hotel room for one night, much less very many. And I had more than enough rooms at my place.
There was no way in hell this was the professional thing, but I was a saver. When I saw something broken and needing tending, I liked to take care of it. That’s what had driven me to put on the turnout gear to begin with, and hell if I would stop now. Save this girl’s life and then send her on her merry, destitute way.
“You’re all set, dear. Don’t hesitate to go to the emergency room if you feel any signs of smoke inhalation. Wheezing, coughing, shortness of breath, that sort of thing. But I think you'll be fine, you were on the second floor, right?”
“Yes.” She nodded, head hanging low.
“Fire started on the third from the looks of it.” The paramedic’s eyes swung to the third-floor window that still billowed dark smoke.
“You got someone to stay with?” The woman turned back to my girl.
What the hell was I thinking?
I didn’t give a fuck, that’s what I was thinking.
She needed to be someone’s girl, and I was happy to volunteer.
Her mouth popped open to reply before I interjected, “I’ve got her.”
My girl’s eyes turned up, riveted on mine. I snuck her cat back into her arms then pulled her to her feet, one protective arm at her back.
“You sure? I can call a few shelters, see if they have a bed
“No thanks. I’ve got it.” I pulled my girl away, cuddling her close under my arm. “You doin’ okay?”
She nodded, and I could see the rapid pulse of her heartbeat thrumming wildly at her throat. It took everything in me to resist the urge to lick it with my tongue.
“Good.” I glanced at my crew, floating in and out of the building, hose strung through the front door and up the stairs. This fire was under control. There was no more need for me here.
Being chief gave you some kind of pull, and for the first time in the history of my career, I was going to use it.
“Taylor!” I called over my deputy chief. “I’m going to get her a warm bed, change of clothes. You take the lead from here. I’ll take the work truck back to my place, bring it back in the morning.”
“’Kay, boss.” Taylor nodded then turned, heading back to the water pump control on the side of the truck.
“Let’s get you home.” I curled her under my shoulder, tossing my helmet in the back of the firehouse pickup and opening the passenger door. I pressed a hand at her waist, eyes focused on her and only her.
“Home?” She peered up at me as she slid into the seat.
“My place. Only place I can think of where I’ll know you’re safe and taken care of.”
“Your place?” Her cat growled with irritation, and she shifted him in the crook of her elbow. “I don’t even know your name!”
“Name’s Blaise Michaels, Chief of the Raven County Fire Department.”
“Chief?” Her lips parted sweetly. Damn, I wanted to cover them with my lips. I sure as hell hoped she was feeling this thing beating between us too. It sure felt like she did the way her pretty eyes widened every time I so much as smiled at her.
ARIA COLE SERIES:
Other author's books:
- His GirlUnder Her Hood (Blue Collar Alphas #2)BlackUnder Pressure (Blue Collar Alphas)Right for LoveUnder Fire (Blue Collar Alphas)Riding Rough (Rough Rider #2)Rough Rider
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