Hot Shots Men of Fire #1 - Wild Heat - Bella Andre Page 0,2

as it should be, and she didn't have it in her to work her wiles with a stranger.

“Are you going to let me in or not?”

The corner of his rugged mouth twisted up, whether in a grin or grimace she didn't know and didn't care.

He stepped aside and she pushed past him. “Whisky, straight.”

He wasn't much of a talker, thank God, not like some bartenders who would have already shot off five highly personal questions between the door and the bar stool. His hands were fast—sexy too, she was surprised to notice—as he made her drink.

He placed the glass on a napkin and before it hit the polished pine bar top, she grabbed it from his fingers, tilted her head back, and drank, shuddering as it burned going down her throat.

The first one would quench her thirst. The second might relax her tightly fisted stomach. All the rest would help her forget, if only for a few minutes.

Alcohol had never agreed with her and she knew she'd pay the price for this tomorrow. But all that mattered was making it through the next few minutes.

She put her empty on the bar and another appeared. “Thank you,” she whispered as she picked it up.

The bartender was staring at her, making her uncomfortable for all the wrong reasons. She closed her eyes as she swallowed. Ever since she'd picked up the phone three days earlier, Maya had felt dead inside. Sensation, taste, smell—it had all been wasted on her.

Until now.

Her limbs already felt loose from the whisky and she found that she could unclench her jaw for the first time in days.

“You live around here?”

She looked up at the bartender, into his dark eyes. Something about his smell was familiar to her, baking dirt in the sun, dry grass mixed with clean soap. Dark brown hair came just out from beneath his baseball cap and rough stubble covered the lower half of his face.

“No,” she finally replied, the word feeling strange as it crossed her tongue.

When was the last time she'd spoken to anyone? Yesterday? Or was it the day before?

Tony's fire chief had offered to take care of the funeral arrangements. All she had to do was pick up Tony's stuff from his cabin, and she couldn't even manage that.

“What brings you to Tahoe?”

“I've got to clean out my brother's apartment.”

“He's leaving town?”

She swallowed hard, staring into her glass. “He already left.”

The bartender leaned back against the stainless sink behind him. “That's too bad. I can't imagine ever leaving Tahoe.”

“He loved it here,” she said as a sob rose up in her throat.

Oh God, she couldn't cry here, in this bar, in front of a stranger. She immediately took another slug from her glass to keep everything from spilling out.

She held her glass out. “I'll have another, thanks.”

His eyes were on her and she didn't want to face the questions in them, but somehow she couldn't make herself look away.

“You sure about that?” he asked. “Maybe you should take a breather for a few minutes. Tell me more about yourself.”

She blinked at him as rage and frustration and misery swirled together in her gut. She hadn't come here for a therapy session. She'd come to get blasted.

She shook the glass at him and a couple of pieces of ice sloshed over the rim onto the bar top.

Her message came across loud and clear and as he shrugged and refilled her glass, the way his thin T-shirt rode up his thick biceps made her mouth water. She didn't have to see him naked to know that his abs would be ripped.

He looked hard and beautiful.

And then it hit her: This stranger was another sign. First the bar appearing at the end of the road, and now, a fallen angel sent to help her forget.

Please, God, let me forget.

He moved forward, close enough for her to reach out and touch his face. The impulse to touch him, to kiss him happened so fast that she didn't think—she couldn't, it would kill her if she did, she just pushed herself up on the bar stool and grabbed a handful of his T-shirt in her fist. His mouth hit hers a moment before she was ready for it, knocking the breath from her lungs.

His kiss consumed her, rough and sure. She hadn't caught her breath yet, could only steal air from his lungs. She'd never been kissed like this, with an intensity that made her forget where she was, who she was, that she didn't