With September literally around the corner, I thought it about time to release CHAPTER ONE of ASH, because this beautiful, bad boy with a heart of gold deserves all the limelight he can get. This is a tough read. Very angsty, sexy and completely compelling. It will tug at those heartstrings, leave you shouting “no”, and more often than not, you will want to step in and tell him to “calm those tits”, because whether he likes it or not, he’s not always on top form when it comes to making good choices.

So, without further ado, I give you Ash xoxox

 

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Chapter One

“The human heart has hidden treasures, In secret kept, in silence sealed; The thoughts, the hopes, the dreams, the pleasures, Whose charms were broken if revealed.” ~ Charlotte Bronte

 

The fire burned around us not giving us a moment to catch our breaths. The sweat dripped down my forehead as the heat penetrated through the visor. I blinked a few times, following Joe as he pushed a mattress from the doorway. We had already bust down doors and checked for any remaining trapped tenants.

Whole floors crumbled fast. It was a disaster zone.

Thick black smoke surrounded us. The temperature became so intense it was about to overwhelm our protective clothing. We could see no more than a few feet in front of us and that’s when we heard the muffled cries of a small child.

“We need to get through there,” Joe shouted, pointing at the door.

Nodding, I helped move debris and furniture as the flames billowed. I knew that the possibility of finding the child was getting slim. The longer it took us to locate her, the less chance she’d survived. That much I knew. No fire was ever predictable. However, regardless of my own thoughts, we had a job to do and I wasn’t about to backtrack on everything I stood for.

Crawling through the dense smoke, my captain led the way into a small annex at the back of the seventh-floor apartment. The cries got louder.

“She’s in here,” I muttered.

Through rugged breaths, I continued moving slow and cautiously, not once breaking momentum, not until I saw the small eyes of the child. Her tear-stained cheeks were blackened from the smoke.

As I reached for her, she mumbled, “Mama… Mama,” as she struggled to stay awake.

In desperation, I took her into my arms, shielding her small body from the flames and made my way back through the building, until we were outside, clear from the smoke and fire.

A small crowd outside broke into cheers when they saw me emerge from the structure with the child. The entire apartment block had been vacated. Looking up the street, I could see the line of spectators double as they observed the fire. I turned my face away and continued walking.

The little girl held onto me, afraid for her life. I couldn’t help but hold her tighter as the paramedic checked her over, making sure she was okay.

“She’s a clinger,” Marco said as he listened to her chest.

“He’s a real ladies man,” Tyler remarked, nodding his head at me as he walked past the bus.

“I can’t help it that I know how to handle kids,” I declared in my defense.

I smiled and gazed down at her. She couldn’t have been older than my own little boy, Jake, and for the briefest moment, panic set it. In the far reaches of my mind, I wondered how Jake would cope if he’d been where the little girl was. Would he have known to do what I’ve always told him? Imagining all the what ifs and terrible outcomes left me craving home more than ever.

After five minutes, the little girl was reunited with her crying mother.

“Thank you so much… thank you so much,” she cried as she cradled her little girl in her arms. She closed her eyes and held a hand out to me. “Thank you from the bottom of my heart.”

“You’re welcome, Ma’am. I’m just doing my job.”

I smiled and turned to walk away when I heard her say, “God bless you.”

Just hearing those words brought it all back to me.

Connie’s lifeless face.

The looks of sympathy.

Jake in my mother’s arms.

The constant words “God bless you”, the warm handshakes, and a headache that seemed to never end.

I closed my eyes, willing the memory to go, and I couldn’t have been more thankful when Joe patted me on the shoulder.

“You did good in there, Ash,” he said.

“I did what any of us would do.”

Joe glared at me. “You good?”

“Of course,” I lied.

“You make sure Marco checks you over,” he warned me, pointing a finger at me as if I were a bad child.

“I’m good, Joe,” I complained.

“No choice, you were in there, you risked your life, you get the full works, and then the first rounds on me.”

“Aye aye, captain.”

This was typical of Joe Cornell, our captain. The hero of the hour, but he was also a stickler for protocol.  Who was I to argue with him? Like an obedient pup, I made my way back to Marco and sat on the bus having my obs taken.

“I don’t know how you boys do it,” Marco said as he checked my chest.

“We do it because it’s our job.”

“Yeah, I get it, but to have the balls to run into a blazing building, man, I’m not sure I could do it.”

I looked up at him and saw how serious he was. It was odd seeing Marco like this. We’d worked together many times, but not once had he ever remarked on the dangers of what we did. It made him vulnerable.

“I don’t think about it. I just know that people depend on me and if I don’t step up, then someone dies. I don’t want that on my conscious.”

Marco nodded and then smiled. “We can’t save them all, Ash.”

“No, but if I can save a few then I’ll die a happy bastard.”

We both laughed and the mood lightened.

“You’re good to go,” he said as he held the stethoscope in his hand.

I bounced down from the back of the bus and ran a hand through my hair, “Cheers man. Are you heading to The Grafton later?”

“Damned right. I need to loosen up,” Marco replied, smiling. “I’ve the next two days off, so I’m going to relax in style.”

In Marco’s case, that meant boozed up and with the flavor of the month.

“I’ll catch you later,” I replied, and shook his hand.

I walked back to the truck, going through the motions. It was always like this for me. Hero of the hour or not, it always took me a while to digest everything. Under normal circumstances, I would have been euphoric about saving the kid, but things had changed and my perspective was contemplative these days.

The ride back to the station was filled with jokes and being the man of the moment left me open to a few digs. I smiled, nodded my head, and kept thinking about getting home to Jake.

“You see, the thing with Ash,” Danny continued. “Is that he is a giver.”

The guys erupted in laughter. I, on the other hand rolled my eyes and just went with it.

“Giving to those who need a good seeing to,” Danny announced as he burst into laughter.

This was all I needed. I knew Danny was doing everything in his power to help me “move on”, but it was pointless. I wasn’t ready. He knew that, hell, most of the guys knew it, he just refused to let me sit and wallow.

I gave him the look. He shook his head and changed the subject. “Will your mom sit a little longer with Jake?”

“I’m pretty sure she will, but I’m thinking about bailing on drinks and just heading home.”

Danny gave me his infamous wounded look and shook his head. “Not on my watch. You’ve earned those shots.”

In that moment I knew he’d never back down and drinks it was.

 

~

 

“Are you sure?” I asked my mom as I walked up Lincoln Avenue. “I promise I won’t be too late.”

“Oh honey, stay out as late as you want. I can sleep in the den,” my mother replied.

I was half wishing she’d beg me to come home, getting me off the hook. Yet, like always, my mother wanted me to be happy, and she thought me going out with the boys was the way forward. Little did she know how much I craved being holed up in my apartment with my son.

“Okay, I’ll see you soon.”

I took a huge breath as I opened the door to the bar and stepped inside.

The Grafton was booming. The guys were in fine form. The drink was flowing and Danny had a line of drinks waiting for me.

“My boy,” he shouted as he greeted me. “Bottoms up!” He handed me a drink and I shot back the Jameson.

“You are a hard man to say no to,” I muttered.

“That’s because you know I don’t play those games,” Danny smirked at me, and shook his head.

Danny had been my best friend from day one. I’d known him all my life. The two of us had been rookies together. All the fuck-ups, the crazy nights, the eventual double dates––he’d been there through it all. He served as best man at my wedding and gave the dumbest speech known to man, and he’d been there for me throughout Connie’s illness. His friendship was priceless and I’d always found it hard to say no to him. Given everything that had happened, he was the only person who truly got me, understood the dark places my mind took me and never once judged me.

As the drink flowed, the more relaxed I became. The music vibrated through my skull as I sank another shot of whiskey. That’s when I saw Tracey. She looked good but she always did. She saw me gazing at her and she approached me.

“Hey,” she greeted me.

“Tracey.” I nodded at her.

“I didn’t expect to see you here. It’s not usually your scene.”

She took a sip of her drink and kept her eyes on mine.

“Yeah, Danny wasn’t taking no for an answer,” I chortled.

“I heard about the kid you saved, well done,” she said, moving in a little too close for comfort. She brushed her leg against mine.

I shifted my position and moved back against the bar and smiled, “Thanks, I was only doing my job.”

“Isn’t that all any of us do?” she raised an eyebrow.

“Sure, I guess.” I sipped at my whiskey. I hated having her attention.

“So, do you wanna get out of here?”

She took me by surprise. I wasn’t expecting her to be so up front.

“What? Like now?” I sounded like a complete novice.

“Well, sure, right now,” she replied, taking the whiskey glass from my hand and setting in on the bar behind me.

Tracey took a hold of my hand, “Come on, you can walk me home.”

I grabbed my jacket from the barstool. Danny smirked at me as I walked past him. I knew exactly what he was thinking as I followed Tracey out of the busy bar.

Once outside, she linked arms with me and giggled.

“What’s so funny?”

She cocked her head to the side and gazed up at me. “You’re so uptight, Ash. Has anyone ever told you that?”

Again, she caught me off guard. I didn’t reply, I stared at the ground as we headed up the street.

“Don’t tell me cats got your tongue,” she nudged me in the arm.

I looked at her and shrugged. “I don’t do these things often.”

“I’ve noticed.”

Tracey had been working at the station about five months. She’d transferred from Detroit and had become a valued member of the team. But, just sometimes she was very outspoken and took me by surprise. From everything I’d heard, she wasn’t shy about being forward and always seemed to get her way.

“Well with a kid at home, I’ve other priorities.” I sounded like an ass.

“That doesn’t mean you have to forget about your needs.”

I laughed. “And what would they be?”

“Good plain old fashioned fucking.”

And there it was.

“Yeah,” I replied, running a hand over the back of my neck.

“You can’t deny there’s been something pulling us together, Ash.” Tracey continued her pursuit.

I let out a sigh. This wasn’t what I wanted. I knew she’d been on my tail for a few weeks, but the lust wasn’t mutual. I didn’t want this.

“I think all that booze has gone to your head.” I was awkward.

Before I had the chance to end things, Tracey went in for the kill. Taking me by the hand, she led me down a small entry and pushed me up against the wall.

“What are you…?” she cut me off.

Tracey pressed her lips against mine and I kissed her back. She slipped her tongue in my mouth and I could taste the rum. Tracey didn’t stop there. Her hands were soon unzipping the flies on my jeans, touching my cock. I couldn’t help the arousal as she released my erection and she began working my hardness, all the while kissing me.

Fuck, it was amazing to feel the touch of a woman again. That much I couldn’t deny. Yet, the broken part of me refused to allow myself the small pleasures in life.

“No,” I muttered as I broke our kiss.

I pushed her off me.

“What the fuck, Ash?” she shouted.

I fixed my jeans and refused to look at her.

“I’ll get you a cab home.”

“Seriously?”

I walked back up the small alley and back out onto the sidewalk, trying my best not to show her how embarrassed I was.

“You know what, Ash?” she said as she marched up behind me. “Your wife is a long time dead and you need to move the fuck on before you wind up a lonely old bastard.”

“I’ll take my chances,” I replied, eyeballing her.

“Fuck you!” she shouted at me and walked back down towards the bar.

Letting out a long exasperated breath, I brushed her words off and headed back to the only place I wanted to be.

Everything else could go to hell.

 

 

And there you have it.  I LOVE this book so much and can’t wait for you all to get your hands on September 27th 🙂