Authors: Sara York
“I’m leaving my marker in this tree so you can call me from here and I’ll come immediately. Only use it in an emergency,” Michael said before taking off.
As Michael flew into the sky, Lash chose to steer clear of both Rafe and the town, wanting to cool off before he ran into any humans. Michael’s visit had been a surprise. Lash hadn’t expected the Golden One to show up.
At least one good thing had happened—Rafe had shown his true self today. Why God continued with this sham of a punishment was anybody’s guess. The travesty of having to call the freaking demon Rafe, as close to Raphael as God would allow, riled Lash.
The body didn’t fit Lash, and the name people called him made him more uncomfortable each time he heard it. The fact that other angels saw him as a demon crushed his spirit.
Lash would befriend Alexandria, earn her trust and help her heal the rift between her and her brother, Rick. When he had saved Alexandria’s life four months ago, he’d interfered with God’s will and made life harder for Alexandria. Her older brother blamed her for her parents’ deaths. Anger and bitterness were her constant companions now. He’d studied all heaven could supply on Alexandria and the accidents that had taken her parents. Her brother was angry that she still went up on the mountain, and she was pissed off that he blamed her. Families could be so difficult.
Michael had given him a wonderful clue by telling him that her bitterness would prevent her from doing what she needed to do next. What the next thing in her life included, he didn’t know. Michael wouldn’t spill the tale. Somehow or other, Lash would figure out what God’s plans for Alexandria were, and help her achieve them.
Lash envisioned a time when he and Alexandria could be together. Sure, it would be difficult, but if he was good enough and fixed the situation, then maybe God would allow Alexandria to live in the world of the angels instead of dying and being lost to him forever. It was the best Lash could hope for.
Lash’s stomach rolled. Saving Alexandria had been selfish. He’d wanted a chance to spend time with her so he had forced the issue, keeping her alive when she should have died. He didn’t want her to go to the mortal Heaven where he was prohibited from being with her. The land of angels should be her final resting place so he could spend eternity with her. Selfish, yes, but he’d spent all of his time being good and following the rules. Now he wanted something more.
The full consequences of his actions were clearer now. If he was given a second chance, maybe he wouldn’t save Alexandria, but still, maybe he
do everything exactly the same for a chance to be with her. The love he felt for her ran all the way through him, right down to the foundation of his essence. No other human had ever affected him the way she did. Others had come close, but never like this.
The pure sweetness of Alexandria made him cherish every second he watched over her. By his judgement, she was the most wonderful human who had ever existed. When he’d saved her he’d only wanted a few days alone with her, but his designs had interfered with God’s plan and now here he was, trapped in the body of a demon, being punished for his transgressions. If he didn’t win this contest then the bastard demon would be given the chance to redeem his past and choose who to become.
Shit, I can’t let him win.
Alexandria pulled on her clothes, her muscles straining with each move. Almost every inch of her body was bruised. The trauma she’d suffered was minimal, considering she’d actually fallen into the crevasse, but the bruises still hurt. Somehow she’d wound up on a ledge only ten feet below the top of the ice. The new paramedic, Lash, had lowered himself from the helicopter to save her, risking his own life in the process.
She needed to meet him and thank him, maybe even buy him a beer. For the first time in history, the Columbia Falls fire department had loaned one of their guys, Adam, to some place out east, and they’d given the city Lash. The cross-training programme was the brainchild of the mayor, something to make the city better. It sounded to her like this Lash guy had got the bad end of the deal. One of the Columbia Falls guys was in New York and their guy was here. The local guys were great, but only a fool would willingly lower himself into an unstable crevasse. Lash must not have known any better. The ice could have fallen in at any moment, killing both of them in an instant and downing the rescue helicopter.
When the nurse came to get her, Alexandria obediently rode in the wheelchair to the exit, then hopped in Beth’s car, glad to be out of the hospital again.
“Lexi, I’m so glad you’re alive. I can’t tell you how scared I was when you fell into that hole. I thought for sure you were dead.”
Only Beth, her most trusted team member, was allowed to call her Lexi, her father’s pet name for her.
“I’m not sure what happened up there. There wasn’t any melting on the mountain. The glacier was growing.”
“I know. It’s weird.”
Alexandria chewed at her fingernails, an unattractive habit she’d picked up after her last stay in the hospital. When she thought about the mountain and what had happened, her dream seemed more real than the way they’d told her she’d been rescued. Meeting Lash would clear her mind and help her see the truth.
The dream man who’d saved her had been a total hottie. His scent had made her feel so protected. Then again, the nurse had sworn only Lash had been on the ice with her.
Since the accident, two days ago, the ice had stopped moving. The desire to see the damage weighed heavily on her mind, but going back up there now would be foolhardy. Plus, she had a ton of paperwork to turn in. The USGS wanted their information. Thank God they’d been at the end of their expedition instead of the beginning, and she now had everything she needed to turn in her report.
“Hey, drop me by the fire station.”
“Are you sure?” Beth asked.
Alexandria closed her eyes and shook her head. “No, but I need to see this Lash guy. Thank him for saving me. Mac should be there and he can drive me home.”
“Lash is the talk around town,” Beth said in a singsong voice.
“Really? That sexy?”
Beth shot her a look, raising one eyebrow then grinning like a fool. “Don’t know. You know something about him. Maybe you were conscious up there?”
Everyone, including Beth, thought she had been unconscious when Lash had rescued her, but she’d seen something up there. Maybe the mystery man had been Lash. “So, what’s he look like?”
“Good question. He’s kind of private, and you know how the firemen are in this city.”
“Not a gay one among them. Let me guess. No one knows what the dude looks like because the firemen all describe him as one of the guys.”
“You guessed it. Takes all his meals at the fire house. Eventually he’s going to have to show his face in public and not hide behind a fire helmet or mask.”
Alexandria knew nothing of the guy who had rescued her, and that sucked. If only he were the man in her dreams, the one from the mountaintop. That would be fantastic. But wouldn’t it have been better to have Scott rescue her instead of a stranger?
The large red brick structure loomed up ahead. Four years ago the county had received a huge influx of cash from the new resort on the other side of Lake McDonald. The county government had put the money towards building new facilities. They had built a new fire house, then started fixing other buildings. Now the area had a state-of-the-art fire station and a new sheriff’s office, and the county courts building would be next. Everyone joked that the firemen could live at the new fire house and never have to leave. Entertainment, food and comfortable beds kept the city’s finest operating at optimum level.
Two new, red fire trucks sat outside the station’s bay doors. Six more trucks, including two ambulances, sat inside the garage, filling the huge space. The county had outdone itself, building an impressive base station with two satellite stations near the resort.
Mac, Alexandria’s closest cousin on her mom’s side, climbed off one of the trucks. His brawny muscles attracted him plenty of attention. All the girls in the area were sad that Mac was a confirmed bachelor and never wanted the strings of attachment or relationships in his life. He and Scott, her best friend, had become Alexandria’s only champions after her last accident.
It pissed her off that her brother hadn’t bothered to check on her after this near-death experience. He had never understood her need to be on the mountain, closer to Heaven. Something called to her from the mountaintop, drawing her close.
“Hey, Mac. Is Lash here?” she called from across the parking lot.
Mac jogged over, a huge smile covering his face. “Hey, girl—when I heard you’d fallen into that hole I thought for sure you were dead.” He wrapped his arms around her, smothering her face against his smoke-scented shirt.
“You’ve been at a fire?” Alexandria asked.
“There’s always something nowadays. Grass fire off the highway. Some of those free-spending tourists at the resort threw a bottle of expensive mineral water out of the window. The rays of the sun on the glass caused a spark.”
“I didn’t think the grass was that dry near here.”
“Rain’s been patchy around the area. You never know when one spark will be enough to cause a blaze. Lash is inside, by the way.”
“Thanks. I’ll see you later.”
“If the alarms don’t sound we can eat lunch together,” he called out as he climbed up on to the back of a fire truck.
“Yum, firemen lunches. I love those.” Her mouth watered at the thought of one of Mac’s meals as she ambled back into the fire house, waving at the men as she went. Many of these guys knew her because of her cousin. They all treated her kindly, but every one of them was distant in some way—except Scott, but even he seemed shy at times.
She turned the corner into the kitchen and ran into Scott. Her face heated and her heart stalled when he grabbed on to her arms. They’d been friends forever, but recently she’d started to wonder if something more could develop between them. Scott had always treated her like a sister, so a relationship wasn’t likely to happen.
“Alexandria, I didn’t know you were out.” He pulled her into a crushing hug, and she returned it willingly.
Scott had always been there for her. When her brother had started blaming her for her father’s death, he’d supported her decision to keep climbing. This was exactly why she had thought something could one day happen between them. But that guy from the mountain… She needed to figure out if this Lash character was the hunky guy who’d rescued her.
“Thanks for coming out to get me.”
“Just doing my job.”
He wrapped his arms tighter around her. “I thought you were gone.” Scott held on for a long moment, then released her.
She stepped back, even more confused about Scott’s place in her life. “Hey, do you know where Lash is? I wanted to thank him.”
“No clue. Might want to check the movie room.” Scott kissed her on the forehead before continuing on his way.
Alexandria moved on, knowing Scott wasn’t really ready for a relationship with her. It was too confusing to think about. What if Lash was the muscular hunk who’d rescued her, and they started something? Hell, she didn’t know and almost didn’t care. Relationships were too time-consuming, but, still, she wanted someone special in her life and in her bed.
Lash wasn’t in the kitchen or the movie room. She decided against checking the bunks. Walking in on a hot fireman sleeping would get her blood pressure up, but would probably anger someone’s wife, too. Alexandria’s body heated as she thought of the guy she assumed had saved her from the mountain. Maybe she’d heard his name wrong. The names Lash and Rafe didn’t sound too much alike, but she’d been delirious after the fall.
Thanking her dream guy would be easy. She’d make sure her lips showed him how she felt. It had been so rude calling him stupid. But what if the events of her rescue had been a dream? Had she really insulted the man? And did he really have those amazing arm muscles and that wonderful scent?
Weights clinked inside the exercise room, increasing her anticipation. Images of the hot guy from the mountain filtered through her mind and she smiled. The rapid beat of her heart pounded in her ears and sweat broke out on her brow. Hope of finding the dream guy blossomed in her stomach, making her feel like she’d swallowed a swarm of butterflies.
With a shaky hand she reached for the doorknob. The door opened easily, and when she stepped into the room she saw one skinny guy with scrubby blond hair, a hook nose and thin lips. This wasn’t her dream saviour.
The guy stopped his weightlifting and glanced up at her. His eyes narrowed and his lips thinned even more. The gaze wasn’t menacing, but he wasn’t inviting her in, either.
“Oh, I’m sorry to disturb you. I’m looking for Lash.”
He stood slowly, wiping his hands on his pants. Pain darkened his face before he schooled his features. Reluctantly, he held out his hand. “I’m Lash.”
Before she thought through her actions she recoiled instinctively, disappointed that this wasn’t the guy she’d hoped he was. Remembering her manners, she held out her hand to shake his. The second her fingers touched his palm a charged bolt of electricity slid through her body, warming her from the tips of her toes to the top of her head.
His eyes smouldered with fire, burning away the doubts and revulsion she’d felt a few seconds before. No matter what he looked like, she experienced a strong desire for the man. Her nipples grew hard and her pussy gushed.
She jerked her hand away, shocked by the reaction he’d evoked in her. Lash’s eyes dimmed as his face fell.
What the hell was that?
Alexandria cleared her throat. “I guess I owe you my life.”
“Um, well, I wouldn’t go as far as to say that.” Lash shuffled his feet and wiped his hands on his pants again.
“From what the nurse said, it sure sounds that way.”
Lash blushed, turning his pale skin a deep red. The flush didn’t look good on him. Alexandria was disappointed that he wasn’t the hottie from the mountaintop. Anger flashed through her at her pettiness. Why was she being so shallow? The guy had saved her life. If he had been totally hot, she would have reached up and kissed him.