Against The Fire

Once one of the “no-account Raines boys,” Gabriel Raines has pulled himself out of poverty by his bootstraps to become a successful businessman—one who has become the target of revenge…

You can’t fight what you can’t see. And Gabriel Raines can’t be sure just who’s setting the fires in his new real-estate development. When two fires hit back-to-back, he knows it’s personal, but any number of competitors or ex-employees could be the arsonist.

The police suspect Angel Ramirez, a local teen who’s been in trouble before. But Mattie Baker, a volunteer at the Family Abuse center, just can’t believe the kid she’s been working with would go back to his delinquent ways.

Determined to convince Gabe that she’s right, Mattie must get close to him and find out who’s putting their neighborhood in jeopardy. And just as the arsonist’s flames continue to burn, they find a heat developing between them. It might just turn into a full-fledged fire…if they can survive long enough.

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Excerpt From Against The Fire

Gabe watched as Mattie rested a gentle hand on the boy’s narrow shoulders.  The kid looked up at her touch.  “Are you taking me to jail?”Mattie shook her head.  “No, Enrique.  It was brave of you to tell the truth.  Angel is your friend and you stuck by him.  I’ll talk to Captain Daily, see what he can do.  But they’ll probably want to talk to you.”The boy nodded dully.

“You did the right thing, son,” Gabe said.

He walked Mattie back down the stairs and they left the run-down apartment building.  As they drove back downtown, Gabe flicked a glance at the woman in the passenger seat.  The lady was a looker.  The splash of freckles across her nose and the high bones in her cheeks only emphasized the fact.  And yet the clothes she wore and the way she had drawn all that glorious red hair into a tight knot at the nape of her neck made him wonder at the sort of woman she was.

“I think Enrique’s statement will help your case with Angel,” he said.  “I’m not sure it’ll be enough.”

“I know.”

“I want to talk to him,” Gabe said.  “I want to hear what he has to say about the night of the fire.”

“Sidney Weiss is acting as his attorney.  He’s arranging bail.  You can talk to Angel after he’s released–if Weiss says its okay.”

“I think Enrique was telling the truth.  But being downtown vandalizing property isn’t exactly a terrific alibi.  I thought you said Angel was turning over a new leaf.”

As the pickup wove through traffic, Mattie sighed.  “He’s been doing so well.  I don’t understand it.”

“You said he likes to help his friends.  Maybe Enrique pressed him and he caved.”

“I don’t know.  Angel is the kind of kid who thinks for himself.  He isn’t easily influenced by his peers.”

Gabe let the subject drop.  He was involved in this case to the tune of several thousands of dollars, the deductible on his insurance policy.  He wanted whoever set the fire to pay for what he’d done.

But he wanted to be sure the right person was paying.

“It’s early yet.  Why don’t we stop somewhere and have dinner?  You like steak?”

“I’m a vegetarian, mostly.  Besides I’ve already eaten.  Thanks anyway.”

Just his luck, a vegetarian.  A little too independent to suit him and probably a raging liberal.  He was a meat eater and more a conservative.  Still, politics and palates aside, the woman attracted him as no woman had in a very long time.

And he didn’t believe she’d had supper.  She wasn’t a very good liar–a point in her favor.  She just didn’t want to have supper with him.

“Maybe some other time,” he offered.

Mattie made no reply, which kind of unsettled him.  He couldn’t remember the last time a woman he was interested in hadn’t returned that interest.

They drove in silence the rest of the way downtown.

“Where do you want me to drop you off?”

She cast him a sideways glance.  “I live in the Elm Street Lofts.  You can drop me off in front.”

He grinned.  “Why’d you suddenly decide you could trust me with your address?”

“I Googled you.  You’ve been in Dallas for nearly ten years.  You’re quite a respected figure in the community.  You’ve even won awards for contributing to the beautification of the city.”  She looked up at him and smiled, the first relaxed smile he’d seen.  “Beside you were raised in Wyoming.”

He laughed at that.  “A good ol’ country boy, you figure?”

“Something like that.”

“If you’d known me back then, you wouldn’t be trusting me to take you home.”

She arched an auburn eyebrow.  “Why not?”

“I would have driven you to the nearest motel and tried to convince you to let me get us a room.”

Her cheeks colored beneath the scattering of freckles on the high bones in her cheeks.  “I assume those days are past.”

His allowed his gaze to roam over her, taking in the small waist and nicely curved breasts.  At the moment, the idea held an amazing amount of appeal.  “Mostly,” he said.

The soft flush deepened.  “This is it,” she said abruptly, and he wheeled the truck over to the curb.  Mattie opened the door and climbed down to the sidewalk.  “Thanks for your help.”

“I still want to talk to Angel.”

“I haven’t forgotten.  I’ll arrange a meeting once he’s released, assuming his attorney approves.”

Gabe nodded.  He watched her walk away, liking the fit of her jeans over her nicely rounded ass.  He found himself hoping he would see her again, even if she was a vegetarian.  He had her phone number, he reminded himself.  He could phone her any time he wanted.

He wondered if he’d ever make the call.

 

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Bestseller Listings
  • February 13, 2011 — #20
  • February 20, 2011 — #28
  • February 27, 2011 — #26

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Book Details

 

  • Series: Harlequin Bestselling Author Collection
  • Mass Market Paperback: 608 pages
  • Publisher: Harlequin Bestselling Author Collection (January 24, 2017)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0373284853
  • ISBN-13: 978-0373284856
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 1.3 x 6.6 inches

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