dream of attending culinary school goes up in flames when she
accidentally burns down her landlord’s shed while cooking ribs for a
contest. Winning the cook-off would have provided enough money for
tuition. Now she needs to win to replace the damaged building. Carlisle
resigns herself to putting her future on hold while dealing with the
problems of the present.
The hot fire chief who puts out the fire makes it clear she’s used up
precious resources with her carelessness. He’s furious that she’s wasted
his time when he needs every second to track down an arsonist who is
The far more serious problem is that Carlisle’s small fire draws the
attention of the arsonist who doesn't like anyone stealing the
limelight. He comes after her with a frightening single-minded focus.
Can Carlisle save herself and their budding romance from the flames of a
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“I’ll take the ribs instead. Whoa, that’s a big fire. Hey, I think your shed’s on fire.”
“No, I spread the coals out so the meat cooks more evenly. They should absorb the smoky flavor.”
took Carlisle by the shoulders and turned her around. The two girls
stood motionless for a moment. Flames danced across the shed,
threatening the overhanging oak tree. The walls of the wooden structure
glowed orange against the evening.
ribs are burning.” Carlisle lunged forward as a wall of the shed
collapsed. Kelly slung her arms around her friend’s waist and dug in her
substantial heels, hauling her friend back to safety.
“There’ll be other ribs. We should call 911.”
a fire extinguisher in the pantry. I think we can take care of this.”
Carlisle ran for the kitchen, her lungs screaming for air. The small red
can sported rust around the handle. Did they expire? She’d never
checked the label in the two years she’d rented. She promised to mend
her slacker ways. Please God, let the charge still work.
of those itty-bitty ones?” Kelly yelled after her. As Carlisle flung
open the flimsy door, she realized Kelly had her phone out. Carlisle
raced to the back yard with the small fire extinguisher.
Where to begin? The intense heat burned her face. Carlisle fumbled with the pin on the top. How did the darned thing work?
rush of air blasted her, throwing her body backwards a couple of steps.
Everything sounded muffled as if she had cotton in her ears. She walked
away from the mess, defeated. A round metal projectile whistled past
her ear—the lid of paint can?
Kelly came back
and pushed Carlisle ahead of her as they scuttled around the side of the
cottage to let the wall shield them. Kelly held the phone to her mouth,
but Carlisle’s ears were ringing too loud to hear what she said.
Carlisle gazed, fascinated as the ancient paint in front of her peel up
like ribbon on a present. She hadn’t liked yellow anyway. Where would
she live if the house went up?
of fading, the ringing became a siren. Kelly put an arm around her
shoulders and dragged her to the sidewalk. The fire truck pulled up at
the fire hydrant directly in front of her house. Carlisle never noticed
the large yellow plug before.
Carlisle grimaced in
misery as the men in their bright yellow suits piled out of the truck
and began assembling equipment. There were going to be nasty
repercussions from this night. Did God hate her so much? She closed her
eyes. Please let tonight be a dream instead of a nightmare.
huge man strode across the lawn, blocking out the light. The backlight
made his face invisible, but he walked angry. She stood up and squared
her shoulders. She deserved a tongue-lashing.
shouldn’t have lit the fire near the shed. She knew that now. The
entire night had been a terrible mistake. She hated getting yelled at.
came up and spoke. His lips mesmerized her but his voice sounded under
water. She wished she’d learned to lip read. Fire safety would have been
handy to know too. She wished she’d done her hair. If Kelly had started
a huge fire requiring trucks and a platoon of attractive men, she’d
have lipstick on. Carlisle sighed and shook her head. She couldn’t hear
him but she surmised he was asking her what happened.
He didn’t look angry, more concerned. Hard planes and strong angles made up his face.
She spoke and her own voice hardly registered in her ears.
in the backyard got out of hand. Things in the shed exploded whistling
and sparking. There must be paint in there. I never looked. I don’t know
for sure.” Ribs were history. She knew this guy didn’t care a rat’s
rear end for her dreams of glory. He shouted at the men dragging the
hose to the backyard.
lone tear slid out of her eye and tracked from her cheek to her chin.
He turned back and patted her shoulder and the small kindness almost
brought a flood of tears.
How come she never met men who could be on a calendar—tall, strong and in charge?