Read Hope Falls: Hearts Afire (Kindle Worlds Novella) Online

Authors: Julie Prestsater

Tags: #Romance, #Romantic Comedy, #Literature & Fiction, #Contemporary Fiction

Hope Falls: Hearts Afire (Kindle Worlds Novella)

BOOK: Hope Falls: Hearts Afire (Kindle Worlds Novella)
4.75Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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Text copyright ©2016 by the Author.

This work was made possible by a special license through the Kindle Worlds publishing program and has not necessarily been reviewed by Melanie Shawn. All characters, scenes, events, plots and related elements appearing in the original Hope Falls remain the exclusive copyrighted and/or trademarked property of Melanie Shawn, or their affiliates or licensors.

For more information on Kindle Worlds: http://www.amazon.com/kindleworlds

Hearts Afire

By Julie Prestsater

DEDICATION

 

For my awesome cousin, Kim.

Thank you for introducing me to Hope Falls.

And thank you so much for always being there for me.

This book would have never happened without you.

Love you so much!

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

 

 

First, I must give a huge shout-out to Melanie and Shawna—the most awesome sisters I’ve ever met. They can write. They can dance. They can make me laugh like no others. I am so very honored to be part of their world, in fiction and in real life! Thank you, ladies!

Cassie Mae: I love you. I love your books and I love your editing. Thank you so much for making me laugh with your comments and for bringing out the best in Hearts Afire. I can’t wait to work with you again.

Holly Malgieri: you rock, mama! Thank you for working with me on my tight-ass deadline and using your microscopic eye to find all my typos. Get ready for the next one!

Tony Roza: Thank you so much for creating my awesome cover. You’re such a sweetheart for taking on this enormous project for all of us.

I have to give a very special thank you to those involved with my cover photo. When I started looking for stock photos to send to Tony, I could NOT find anything I liked. My best friend sent me a photo from Pinterest to help me get an idea of what I was looking for. This snowballed into hours of me looking at pin after pin, which then led me to my Google search of “Firefighter Engagement photos.” On page 7 or so of my search, I came across an image from Dziekonski Photography. There it was. That was the image I had to have on my cover. It was beautiful. It was fun. It was sexy, but not provocative. It was exactly what I was looking for. But…it wasn’t a stock photo. That didn’t deter me. I used my super, go-go Gadget detective skills to research the photographer and find the gorgeous couple in the photo. I emailed Marek Dziekonski and I sent a private message to the couple on Facebook. Marek was the first to respond and then got in touch with Mary Toohey and Dan AuBuchon on my behalf. Mary & Dan agreed to let me to use their real-life engagement photo on the cover of my book. Yay for these awesome people. Thank you so much for allowing me to have something so personal and so treasured to you. I will forever be grateful. And, Marek, I look forward to working with you in the future. Your work is extraordinary!

Finally, there is no way to adequately express my gratitude to my family for supporting me while I wrote this book. They did everything short of using the potty for me. Seriously, they are the freaking best and I would just hug all over them for days if they wouldn’t shoo me away. Sara, Samantha, & James…I love you!

 

KATIE

 

“You can look all you want, honey,” Shelby told Katie, “but that piece of Grade A sexiness right there is my husband.” Katie had yet to meet Shelby’s other half—Mr. Levi Dorsey—until now. And she had a battle going on inside her overworked brain over who was the better half, because, let’s face it, the Dorseys were red-carpet, Hollywood celebrity stunning. Not only were they the gorgeous bartenders at JT’s Roadhouse, they owned the place. The couple also owned Mountain Meadows Bed & Breakfast, where Katie was staying while she visited Hope Falls. It was a good thing she hadn’t seen Levi until then or she might have gotten back into her car and kept driving far beyond the little town. She didn’t need to get herself caught up in any more wild fantasies of happily ever afters. And seeing a man like him would have had her daydreaming of fairytales that only happened on the Hallmark Channel at Christmas. You sure didn’t see men who looked like
him
in real life.

Recently, Katie’s visions of sugar plum fairies and heroic men on white stallions had turned into the harsh reality that dreams did not come true. No matter how many movies she had seen, no matter how many books she’d read that depicted the contrary, she had come to grips with the fact that finding true love is so rare that— statistically speaking—she might never find hers.

There may have been a moment of weakness when Katie believed she would get her happily ever after, but that was short-lived. Brendan had burst that bubble with a pitchfork when he left her.

Levi welcomed a group of older women to the bar, his booming voice echoing in her chest, making her forget Brendan ever existed.
Stop ogling the bartender, Katie. He’s married, remember?

“Oh, sorry,” she told Shelby, feeling her cheeks heat up at the memory of what she had mentioned just a moment earlier. “It’s not often you see a guy who looks like…that.”

Shelby leaned against the counter and eyed her husband. “True. Very true.” Then, she laughed lightly. “I think I’ll keep him around.” Both women gazed longingly in the direction of Levi before Shelby cracked the top off a bottle of beer and slid it Katie’s way. “I can’t promise you his level of perfection, but Hope Falls sure isn’t lacking in the eye candy department. There are plenty of single men around here to keep your mind busy and your fingers tapping across your keyboard.”

Katie may regret telling Shelby about her plans to complete a book while she was in town, but she gave her that trusting vibe when she checked in at the B&B. She reminded Katie of her sister-in-law, Lizzy, and the rest of the girls back home. From the moment she met Shelby, she felt like she had known her forever and could tell her anything.

While eye candy sounded divine, Katie couldn’t have cared less about the hot men of Hope Falls. Looking for a man ranked right up there with getting a root canal, or finding a red spot on your panties when you drop your drawers to tinkle. Yes, both dental work and Mother Nature’s monthly visitor equally sucked. If she wanted to check out the scenery, she’d buy a postcard. She didn’t need anyone thinking they could hook her up with one of the townies, no matter how cute he was.

“No, thank you!” Katie called out to her as she made her way down the bar to help other customers. When Shelby looked her way again with a questioning eyebrow, Katie said, “I’m swearing off men for a while.”
Or indefinitely,
she thought. Every relationship she’d been in had failed. She’d been dumped flat on her face three times—once in high school, then in college, and again just recently. And that was just counting the biggies. She wasn’t counting all the first dates and all the times she never got a call back. If she had to hear “it’s not you, it’s me” one more time, she was going to shoot someone. Statistically speaking—again—Katie had to be the common variable, right?
She
was the problem.

It didn’t matter where she had gone wrong in the past. There was no sense in dwelling on it. If she didn’t take a chance, she didn’t have to worry about getting her heart broken again. She was not destined to find true love. It pained her to consider that she would never find the kind of love her brother shared with his wife. Or the kind of love she could see mirrored in the eyes of Levi and Shelby every time they stole a glance at each other—which was often. A soul mate just wasn’t in the cards for her. And she was okay with that. She had to be.

Even if Hope Falls was swarming with enough hot, available men to fill a 53-man roster.

The boisterous sound of chatter filled the room again as the door to the bar swung open. It seemed to do that, coming in waves as people came and went.

“You might think twice about that hiatus when you see the guys who just walked in.” Shelby fluttered her brows at Katie, a wicked grin spreading across her face.

Leaning to the side to get a good look, Katie almost fell off her barstool as she eyeballed three good reasons to throw in the towel on her suspension from all male-related activities. Maybe she had made that decision a little too hastily, a little too prematurely. Shelby was one hundred percent correct—Hope Falls was not suffering from a shortage of sexy men.

“Holy shit,” Katie said as she tried to sit up straight and not slide off her seat into a puddle of girl goo. “What do you guys put in the water here?”

Shelby’s laughter filled the room, causing a few heads to turn her way. “I told ya.”

Katie tried hard and fast to muster up some composure as Tall, Dark, and Handsome sauntered their way through the bar toward Shelby and her.

“Shelbs,” hot guy #1 said, “How’s it going today?”

“Couldn’t be better, Chris.” She smiled, while Katie wondered if she could ever be as happy as her new friend seemed to be. Every time she spoke, she exuded this contagious feeling of joy and Katie couldn’t help but smile right along with her. “How about you guys?”

“I’d be better if you were ready to trade in the big guy,” hot guy #2 told her. His tone was all work and no play. Katie would have taken him seriously if he hadn’t started chuckling.

“Eli, if hell freezes over and things don’t work out, you’ll be the first guy I call.” Shelby patted him on the cheek as he batted his lashes at her. The whole exchange was quite the comedy show.

Levi, who was tending bar at the other end of the counter, called out, “I can hear you, Eli.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about. Just harmless conversation over here,” Eli shouted back at him. To Shelby, he whispered, “It’ll be our little secret.”

“What’s up, Casey?” Shelby said to hot guy #3. “Does this beautiful woman have you stunned speechless?”

Katie’s eyes grew wide with embarrassment. A second ago she was enjoying the playful banter. Now that the attention had shifted her way…not so much. Didn’t she just tell Shelby that she was swearing off men? She knew it was all harmless fun, but it didn’t stop her insides from fluttering like a schoolgirl when she noticed the blush on Casey’s face matched her own.

As if her cheeks weren’t hot enough from humiliation earlier, now they were blazing in flames.
Awkward
.

The only thing that gave her comfort was seeing how affected Casey was too. His neck was all shades of pink. It was cute watching it creep up his throat and straight to his face.

Without warning, Casey raised a brow at Katie. “Now, Shelby, is that how we welcome newcomers to Hope Falls? By embarrassing them?”

Katie swiveled her barstool toward the buffet of tall, masculine hotness to the third power. “Who says I’m a newcomer?”

Casey chuckled at her question, the deep, husky rumbling rattling her core. “Honey, this is a small town. We can spot a newb a mile away. Welcome to Hope Falls.” He held out his hand to her. “I’m Casey Palmer.”

Hesitantly, she reached out, took his hand and gave it a firm shake, trying her damnedest to ignore the heat conducting between them. “Hi, Casey. Nice to meet you. I don’t know who Honey is, but I’m Katherine.”

One of other guys let out a “d’oh,” a la Homer Simpson.

Casey didn’t stop there though. He planted himself on the stool next to her and said, “Okay, Katherine.”

Shelby wasn’t kidding when she said Katie might want to change her mind about the whole swearing off men thing. Casey’s smile alone could make her forget all about her plan. Her resolve was lessening by the minute with each breath she inhaled. The man smelled positively delicious.

“Does everyone call you Katherine? You strike me as more a Kate or Katie.” Then, he had the audacity to ruffle the messy bun that sat on the top of her head.

She had spent all morning and afternoon writing in her room, only stopping to get a drink or go to the bathroom. It never occurred to her to eat something until her stomach growled like a Rottweiler squared up to attack. When she got to a stopping point she was satisfied with, she threw on a pair of jeans, a hoodie, and scooped up her hair into a bun. Then she headed to Sue Ann’s Cafe for a club sandwich and fries before stopping at the bar. Now that she considered it, she wasn’t even sure if she had brushed her teeth today. That made her take a long pull of her beer, trying inconspicuously to swish the brew around in her mouth.

What she really wanted to do was shrink in her seat and fade into the background, but she knew better. Growing up with her brother, Ryan, and being around a crew of firemen had taught her a lot over the years. A shrinking violet she was not, even if that meant she had to tip up her chin to the handsome man who sat dangerously close to her.

“Only my friends and family call me Katie.” She shook her head at him. “We’re not friends.”

“Yet.”

It amazed her that you couldn’t hear the crash of her jaw on the floor, because it for sure, just dropped, leaving her mouth wide open.
Trying to catch flies, Katie?
That’s what her brother would always say when he did something that equally surprised and pissed her off. Damn it, this guy was setting off warning signs all over the place. Casey winked again and dammit if her ovaries didn’t just twerk a little when his sparkling blue eyes met hers.

“Leave the poor girl alone, you knuckleheads,” Levi said, strutting over with three beers in his hand. He popped the top off of them and put one in front of each of the men. “Go grab a table.”

Eli tipped his ball cap at Katie, before saying, “It was nice to meet you, Katherine.”

“Welcome to Hope Falls,” Chris said, offering his hand.

She accepted his offer, telling him, “Thank you.”

Casey stood, flashing her a panty-dropping grin. “See you around, Katie.”

Ugh. The nerve of that guy.
Katie’s eyes narrowed at his back as he walked away, and what a mighty nice back that was.
Easy, Katie. Down, girl.

When the fuzzy cloud of lust lifted, Katie turned to Shelby and rolled her eyes. “Hot doesn’t trump cocky bastard, so I don’t see myself falling into his bed any time soon.”
But if he happened to show up in my mine, I wouldn’t kick him out
. Dammit, she wasn’t supposed to be having thoughts like that. She hadn’t been in Hope Falls long and already she was straying from her plan. She couldn’t allow that to happen.

“He’s harmless. He was just having fun, Katherine.”


You
can call me Katie if you want.”

Shelby gave her a nod with a pleased grin. “I don’t know what that was all about, but he’s a really good guy. I think you made him nervous. He was definitely checking you out when they came in.”

Katie waved her hand in the air as she shook her head from side to side. “No thank you,” she said. “He’s way too cocky for my taste. There’s only one thing worse than cockiness in my book.”

Shelby’s eyes grew as wide as her smile. “What’s that?” she asked.

“Firefighters.” Katie feigned a shiver, her shoulders wiggling a bit.

As if waiting to see if Katie was serious, Shelby stared at her in disbelief until she nodded. Yes. It was true. Firefighters were the worst kind of man. Well, except for her brother, but even he had his moments.

Shelby let out a total belly laugh, startling her. She looked around the bar, wondering what had set her off. Other patrons glanced in her direction as well.

“What’s so funny?” Katie asked her.

When Shelby finally stopped chuckling, she pointed at Casey and his friends. “Meet Hope Falls’ very own fire department.”

“They’re firefighters?” she said, hoping to hide the disappointment in her tone.

Shelby shrugged. “Sorry, Katie, but they sure are.”

Katie took that as another opportunity to once again shake her head and roll her eyes. “I should’ve known.”

 

BOOK: Hope Falls: Hearts Afire (Kindle Worlds Novella)
4.75Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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