Book four in the Texas Firefighters series
Captain Joe Mendoza has wanted to be fire chief since he was four years old. And now he's one step away from making assistant chief. But that's proving to be one big step now that the chief's daughter has joined his crew. He's promised he'll keep her safe — and promised himself to keep things strictly business.
Faith Peligni has battled her way back from an on-the-job injury in San Antonio, and she's stronger than ever. Even if as the first female firefighter on the San Amaro Island crew — and the chief's daughter — she's expecting some heat. But with the impossibly distracting Joe Mendoza as her captain, who knew it could get this hot?
“BURNING AMBITION is the 4th book in the Texas Firefighter series and just as flaming hot as the previous books, with sizzling chemistry between the characters and obstacles a reader can relate to. Awesome read!”
--Mandy Burns, Fresh Fiction
"This is a very heart warming romance, with the right amount of sizzle, fantastic characters and issues that we can all relate to. I definitely recommend it."
“What can I do for you?” he asked in a relaxed tone that said he had no idea how ticked she was. He walked around his desk and faced her without sitting.
“That scene with Nate,” she began.
“I’m sorry, Faith. He crossed the line-”
“He’s an idiot,” she interrupted. “But that’s not what I wanted to talk about.”
She clamped her jaw for a moment to let out some of her frustration in a way that wouldn’t get her in trouble. Meeting his gaze across the desk, she swallowed. “With all due respect, please don’t do that again.”
“Do what?” Joe asked, narrowing his eyes.
“Don’t stick up for me. Don’t jump to my rescue when a coworker acts like a pig. Just...don’t. Please.”
One brow flickered, hinting at his surprise. “It’s my responsibility. I don’t take that lightly.”
“This is different.”
“You think you should receive special treatment?” he challenged, crossing his arms.
“No! That’s just it. I don’t want any special treatment. I want you to go out of your way to avoid giving me special treatment.” Clenching her fists, she paced in the small space, doing her best to remain calm, professional.
He stared at her, eyebrows raised.
Faith glanced at the door to reassure herself it was latched. “Can I be frank?”
She barely registered she was picking at the cuticle of her thumb with her index finger. “In San Antonio, there were other females in the department. Even though a few of them had been there for years, we still weren’t respected as equals by some of the men.”
Joe nodded, acknowledging that the problem wasn’t unique to San Antonio or even Texas, unfortunately.
“Here, I’ve got two strikes against me – my gender and my dad’s position. I’m going to have to work three times as hard as the others to receive half the respect. And I plan to do exactly that. It’s not right but I knew the situation coming into it.”
“I have no doubt you’ll succeed.”
Faith shook her head resolutely. “Don’t you see? If you or anyone else – officer or not – smooths things over for me, I’ll never be seen as just another firefighter.”
“We haven’t worked together for long, Faith, but I’m certain you’re not just another firefighter.”
Was that to be taken as a compliment? She was momentarily surprised into silence, trying to read his intent. His face gave nothing away so she continued. “I know the culture here. I grew up on the island. Practically grew up in the station. You may mean well, but I can’t have you interfering.”
Joe didn’t immediately answer. He just watched her. Made her nervous. Antsy.
“I appreciate your dilemma,” he said at last, in that low semidrawl of his. “But as a captain I can’t allow certain things to go on in the station when I’m on duty.”
“I understand that, Joe. I’m not asking you to bend any rules or allow blatant harassment or anything like that. But harmless comments from people like him.... If I can ignore it, why can’t you?”
“You know what your dad would say if he heard I let somebody treat you like that?”
She shuddered to think of it. “My dad doesn’t have to know everything that goes on. He wouldn’t want to.”
“Everything, no. But I get the impression that when it comes to his daughter, he wants details.”
“So you’re going to tell him a bully picked on me at recess today?”
Joe shook his head. “I hadn’t planned on it, no. All I’m saying is that I’m going to do what I need to do when I’m the captain on duty.”
“When rules are broken, that’s fine. When people are jerks, could you try to rein yourself in? Please?”
Something in his jaw ticked as he studied her again. Seconds dragged on, and at last he spoke. “I’ll see what I can do. But I make no promises. Those men need to learn how to act.”
“If their mothers couldn’t teach them, no offense, but I doubt you can, either.”
“You might be right.”
“I have four older brothers. Three of them are decent human beings. The fourth, there’s no hope.”
“If neither the chief nor your mom could straighten him out, I might have to concede.” Joe’s mouth curved in a half smile but his stance remained tense. Serious. “Anything else you need?”
Faith shook her head. “Thank you, sir.”
She’d called him goddamn sir.
As Faith left his office, Joe pressed his knuckles on his desk hard enough to crack them.
He didn’t mind being called sir, and received it plenty from the rest of the men. In theory, he should be fine with Faith calling him sir as well.
But he wasn’t.
Because it made him feel like an old man to a young, attractive woman.
He supported having women in the station, provided they could pass all the tests, physical and otherwise. Faith could. He was okay having her here.
He’d be more okay with it if she didn’t look so good, and frankly, that wasn’t acceptable.
Joe grabbed his radio and headed outside to work off some serious steam. It was a pity he was on a short leash to the station because he could run all the way to the north end of the island right now...and back. Twice.
He’d left the exercise room instead of using the treadmill because watching Faith run had his mind going in all kinds of places it had no right to. Twenty minutes was not a workout but he’d been entranced by her long, muscular legs, tanned and smooth. Her perfect breasts and slender waist, the slight curve of her hips that moved just so with every step on the treadmill.
It’d been raining all day but Joe took no heed of the steady downpour. In fact, he welcomed it. Maybe he could drown his thoughts.
Faith had been upset by him “defending” her, but if she had any notion of the things that had gone through his mind in the past forty-five minutes....
He shook his head and picked up his already-burning pace.
It wasn’t just her beauty and her fit body that got to him. It was her sheer competence. Her confidence. Drive. The way she didn’t let nay-sayers get in her way. He admired her determination to earn the respect of her new colleagues.
He appreciated her desire to do it on her own. Totally understood her stance. However, as he’d told her, he couldn’t promise he wouldn’t interfere again. When he’d heard Nate’s veiled chauvinistic comment, he’d jumped in involuntarily.
He couldn’t do that again. He’d meant what he’d told her about adhering to his duties, but defending her earlier had come as naturally as scratching to a dog. There hadn’t been any thought involved. His reaction had been on a basic, elemental, man-looking-after-woman level.
There was nothing to do but admit it – and only to himself. Faith Peligni was one of the sexiest, most intriguing women he’d ever met. And he was in a position where nothing could ever happen between them.
Not after her father had asked him to look out for her.
Not if he had any hope of retaining the fire chief’s trust – and having a chance in hell at a promotion.