My seventh book in the Texas Firefighters series came out June first. I never thought I’d write 7 books in this series, but the more characters I got to know from San Amaro Island, the more stories I wanted to tell. I love sequels and series, myself, and I know from reader emails that lots of readers do too.
Slow Burn is a short story, about 63 pages long, that continues the Texas Firefighters’ stories. It’s directly related to After the Storm, as it tells the story of Cooper and Zoe, secondaries in After the Storm. (Remember Penn’s roommate and his sister who seemed like total opposites but hit it off so well?) I loved telling their story and loved the challenge of doing it as a short story and yet hopefully making it feel “full.” Feedback from readers has been overwhelmingly positive so far! Thank you!
Today I thought I’d post an exclusive excerpt from it for anyone who hasn’t read it yet and is considering it. (Did I mention yet today that it’s only 99 cents? Instant download to your Kindle, Nook, tablet, or computer!)
Slow Burn takes place after Cooper and Zoe have gotten serious and then broken up because they live hundreds of miles apart and each is too involved in their current hometowns to make a permanent change. They come back into contact when Zoe returns to San Amaro Island for her brother’s big day—not only is Nadia throwing a huge birthday party for him, but he plans to propose to Nadia.
This excerpt takes place shortly after Cooper and Zoe see each other for the first time since they broke up:
Cooper’s dart hit the three, and the bitch of it was, the damn thing was right up against the outer bullseye ring. Touching it. So close in distance but so far from that twenty-five points. Just like he was with Zoe.
He went to the full-sized, bar-style dart cabinet that he’d splurged on right after he and Zoe had called it quits—now the centerpiece of the living room—and plucked out his darts. He set his feet behind the strip of duct tape they’d stuck down on the tile floor a precise seven feet and nine and a quarter inches away. Muttering a vulgar threat to the state-of-the-art board, he let another dart fly just as the front door opened behind him.
Like a dumb-ass, his heart sped up with hope that it was Zoe, even while his brain knew full well it was Penn. He grunted at his roommate and tossed another dart, nailing the three.
“Stiff competition?” Penn asked, tossing his keys on the end table and giving Cooper adequate space to finish his turn before going to the cabinet and retrieving his own set of darts.
“I’m off my game tonight. How was dinner?”
“As good as it can be with three gabby women.” Penn’s love-drunk grin contradicted the exasperation in his tone.
“You think Nadia has any idea you’re gonna pop the question?”
“She was so busy chattering about the details of my party I’m pretty sure she’s oblivious.”
“Excellent,” Cooper said. “Where’d you eat?”
“Went to Local Lou’s. My mom loves that place.”
“You mean Zoe loves it.” She’d insisted on eating there every single time she’d been in town. Cooper had always been happy to comply. It was decent food, especially for being “healthy,” but even better was making Zoe content. Nothing selfless about it on his part—he loved seeing her face light up, watching her enthusiasm over something as simple as a local-ingredient salad.
“Wasn’t sure I was allowed to mention her name around you.”
“Don’t be a jerk-off.” Cooper reset the game—not a sacrifice as crappy as he’d been doing—and pushed the two-player option.
“Heard you after we walked out the door earlier,” Penn said.
Shit. Watching Zoe and her family walk out without him, even though he wouldn’t have joined them if they’d asked, had pissed Cooper off irrationally. Like an overgrown four-year-old, he’d smacked the closed door behind them. And maybe yelled a couple of choice swear words to the empty condo.
He said nothing as Penn took his turn.
“This is why people don’t break up on the phone,” Penn said as he pulled the darts off the board.
“Wasn’t my doing.”
“You don’t have closure that way. Then the next time you run into each other…” Penn shook his head.
“Tell your sister that.”
“Tell her yourself.”
“She doesn’t want anything to do with me.” Cooper threw the first dart of his turn so hard it bounced off the board and skidded across the slick floor.
“Seems like you want something to do with her.”
Cooper gritted his jaw—hard—on the urge to tell off his roommate. Reining in the need to smash the darts into the board, he managed to toss the next one gently enough to stick in the triple one.
“You can tiptoe around each other all weekend, I guess,” Penn said at the exact moment Cooper threw his third dart, distracting him just enough that he hit the bullseye. Fucking figured.
Cooper walked to the board and slowly plucked out his darts. “You think I should get my ‘closure.’” He moved off to the side.
“What I really think you should do?” Penn tossed in a triple twenty. “Both of you should quit being so damn hard-headed.”
Coop let out a sardonic chuckle. “Good luck with that. Your sister is the most stubborn woman I’ve ever known.”
“Two peas in a pod.” Penn continued to nonchalantly kick Cooper’s ass with a bullseye.
Cooper told him where to go.
“What do you want from her, Coop? You wanna get back together?”
“Two people have to want that for it to happen, dude.”
“Answer the question.”
Cooper took his entire turn without saying a word. Did he want Zoe back? God, he’d loved her. More than he’d loved anyone in his thirty-five years. But it was past tense, love with an ed on the end. Getting back together? He wasn’t going there. Not an option.
“I want her to not hate me,” he said quietly. How the hell had it come to them not being able to say ‘hello, how are you’ to each other?
“So go do something about it. I’m destroying you so completely at darts it’s getting embarrassing anyway.”
Cooper narrowed his eyes at his roommate, not sure which of his statements pissed him off more. He shook his head. Penn was right about both.
He slammed his darts down on the table by Penn’s keys, felt for his own keys in his front pocket, and headed for the door. “Don’t wait up.”
If you’re intrigued, you can download the rest of Slow Burn right now and be reading it within seconds:
I hope you enjoy it!