Everyone in Washington, DC, knows that when the heat is on, you call Valerie Wainright. This brilliant, brassy PR maven can spin any hot scandal, and she's never let a client ruffle her feathers. Yet when she agrees to teach DC's bravest how to handle a media frenzy, she faces an entirely different kind of fire. Keeping things all business and no pleasure is far harder than she expected.After steamy photos ignite the Internet, firefighter Jason Moore instantly goes from hero to bad boy. While he couldn't care less about an online rep, he cares a lot about his job and saving lives. If Valerie can help clear his name, he'll do what she says-even if it means forcing himself to keep his hands off her. But beneath Valerie's cool cover, Jason feels a smoldering desire that lights his own. And this is one inferno he'll definitely want to stoke . .
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“I pulled your father out of the dining room, because it looked as though you and Jason wanted to be alone.”
“What makes you say that?” She toyed with the fabric of the comforter folding it this way, then that. “We were just studying.”
Her stepmother smiled. “Valerie, maybe you fooled your father, but it was perfectly obvious to me you and Jason were busy, and not with paperwork. In fact, I’m guessing our timing might have spoiled things.”
“No,” she said, then calmed her tone, realizing, she’d practically shouted. “Your timing was perfect. Impeccable. It was a mistake to have Jason over. One I won’t be making again.” She still couldn’t meet her stepmother’s steady gaze. She took a breath and tried. What she saw in the older woman’s knowing eyes tugged at her heart and sent her stomach churning.
“Honey, when’s the last time you dated anyone?”
“I went on a date about two months ago.”
Mom’s hand covered hers. “But it was just a date. Nothing serious. It’s been years since you’ve been in a serious relationship…It’s time to take a risk. The rewards are worth it.”
“It’s been a while,” she admitted. “But don’t get any ideas about Jason. We don’t fit together and make sense as a couple. I mean…passion fades right? Better to have lots in common. And Jason… he’s a firefighter. He’ll always be putting himself in danger. I don’t know if I could live with that or the memories his job brings up for me. Also, he’s a player. I only met him because he was caught online with a bunch of naked women.” She realized her response revealed more than she’d meant to give, but her stepmom didn’t say anything for a while.
Finally, Judy stood and took a few steps toward the door of Valerie’s room then turned back. “Val, I hesitate to bring this up, because I’ve tried to never interfere in your love life…” She paused and worried her hands in front of her belly. “You know I love your father, but I have to confess, when I married him, gaining a daughter was a big part of the deal for me. I was never able to have my own biological children, but honey, you are mine.”
A lump formed in her throat as she stood to go embrace her mother, the woman who’d come into a sad seven-year-old’s life and brought happiness. They hugged for a long time, and when Valerie made to let go and step back, Judy hung on. “You had a light in your eyes tonight, Val. One I haven’t seen on your face in a long time. Think about it. Is there anything so terrible about having a wild affair?” She gave a last squeeze and finally let go.
Val stood alone in her bedroom staring at the doorway. First Jason, now her mom. Was no one happy with her single status? The real question was, was she? She got ready for bed and sat amidst her pillows reading a book, but not really seeing the words.
The kisses with Jason kept playing in her mind and the walls of her childhood bedroom felt as if they were closing in on her. She’d been living in fear ever since college and there was no reason to, especially when she could do something about it. She could sleep with Jason. And maybe, if she played her cards right, she could hide her scarred legs.
No strings or emotional ties hot sex with Jason. She knew her friend Ari would tell her to go for it and act on the attraction. Her stepmother would tell her to follow her heart. She’d have to leave her heart out of it if she were to survive the experience with her heart intact. No strings sex, which was surely the only kind he wanted, despite his pretty words tonight.
She could handle it, and maybe he wouldn’t have to handle seeing her legs. She could turn the lights out or stay under blankets. Her feelings and thoughts were her only beacon to guide her. She knew what her body wanted. It wanted Jason.
Romance author, Lynne Silver, writes the popular Coded for Love series and other hot contemporary romance novels, such as Love, Technically. Before writing romance, she wrote fiction of a different sort, drafting press releases for technology corporations. Washington DC is her home (non) state, where she resides with her husband and two sons.