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Blessing Montana Book One

Monica Robinson moved to Blessing, Montana with hopes of adventure and escaping her small town life in South Dakota. A new job as a nanny seems like the perfect opportunity to strike out on her own. Little did she know she’d find danger in that mix, in the form of a crazy ex-roommate hell bent on her destruction.

Firefighter Smoke Wilson has never found a woman who could put up with his career or keep his attention long enough for him to try to balance the two. When he finds Monica stranded on a country road in the dead of night, his protective nature stirs.

As circumstances throw Monica and Smoke together, with danger at every turn, can they conquer the past in order to build a future neither knew they wanted?

Smoke was previously titled Through Smoke and was published as part of Paige Tyler’s Dallas Fire and Rescue Kindle Worlds. As much as I enjoyed being part of Paige’s world, I’ve decided to remove the Dallas Fire and Rescue world. Instead of taking place in Dallas, Smoke has been reworked to fit into one of my already existing series, Blessing, Montana.

The door exploded inward, sending chunks of wood in every direction. On hands and knees she inched closer to the door, desperate for fresh air. Through the smoke a figure emerged. From the light of the flames she could make out a firefighter, beyond that she didn’t care. A split second beyond, another firefighter entered, ax in hand. “Monica!”

Coughing, she crawled toward them, the heat intensifying around her. Just a little further…fresh air… Someone hauled her into his arms; through the gear and face mask she couldn’t see who it was.

“I got her.” It sounded like Smoke but the muffling from the face mask made it hard to hear him.

“Paramedics are standing by,” the other firefighter said as she was carried out.

“Wilson, get another line.” Through the smoke she couldn’t tell where the voice came from, but it sounded far enough away it must have been near the fire truck.

Wilson? Smoke are you here?

“Go on, brother, I’ve got it.” The second firefighter who rescued her jogged toward the fire engine.

Her thoughts circled those words. Wilson? Which one? Does that mean Smoke or Fire is the one carrying me? If it was Fire she was making a mighty fine first impression.

“Let me down…” A coughing fit overcame her again and he raised her in his arms slightly. “I can walk.”

“Not a chance, darling.” Ignoring her demands, he headed toward the ambulance.

So grateful to be alive, she hadn’t bothered to look closely at her rescuer. Now with the only light being the flames of her cabin, she tried to look through the gear, to the man behind the mask. “Smoke.” The single word brought tears to her eyes. He came for her.

“Shh darling, you’re safe now.” He eased her onto the gurney before he squatted down in front of her and took his breathing mask off.

“Is this the woman you were talking to Fire about earlier?”

“Shut up, Sam and help her.” Smoke eyed the paramedic for a moment before returning his gaze to her. “Blaze is on his way and I’ll be back soon. I’ve got to help the guys get the fire under control.”

“Go. I’m fine.” She put her hand up, stopping Sam from putting the oxygen mask over her face. “Thank you.”

“I’d always come for you.” He kissed her forehead, rose, and headed back to the other firefighters battling the blaze.

“My home…” she mumbled more to herself than anyone else as Sam placed the oxygen mask over her mouth. Sitting on the gurney, unable to do anything as her cabin turned into a pile of rubble, she was overcome by anger and sadness. Sheila. There might not be proof yet, but part of her knew they’d find it in the rubble.

“Things can be replaced. What matters is you’re alive. Now lie back and let me look at your hand. Are you burned anywhere else?”

“Don’t do this. Not now!” Monica Robinson slammed her hand down on the steering wheel, cursing her car. She looked down at the gauges, unable to believe what she was reading. Out of gas. She tapped the dashboard, as if that was going to send the needle away from the red E and start the car. I just filled up this morning on the way to work. She grabbed her purse and dug into the side pocket for her cell phone. Pulling it out, she hit the power button to wake it up but the screen remained black.

“Fuck.” She leaned forward, resting her head on the steering wheel. A dead cell phone battery was the last thing she needed right now. She just wanted to go home. It had been a long day and after dealing with three spoiled brats and then spending hours at the police station, she was dead on her feet. Her string of bad luck was growing worse with every second and her patience was gone. Between her asshole ex-roommate, Sheila Price, and her own bad luck, it was the makings of a disastrous combination.

Stranded on a dark road with little to no traffic during the day, let alone at nearly one in the morning, with no cell phone and a dead car, left her few options. She’d have to leave her car there and walk, otherwise she would be there until morning when someone might stumble upon her car on the side of the road. As tired as she was, walking sounded like a better idea than spending the night in her car. It was a safe area but with Sheila out for blood, she couldn’t take the chance. Renting a remote house near Blessing, Montana seemed like the perfect idea at the time. It would get her away from her lunatic ex-roommate and after growing up in the country this is where she felt at home. She needed peace and quiet. This place kept her close to town, without having to live in the mix of busybody neighbors. Doesn’t seem like such a great idea now.

She dropped the useless phone back into her purse and pulled the keys from the ignition. Two miles was nothing, but in the dead of night, it didn’t sound very appealing. She had no idea what might be lurking in the woods, but if her luck continued to run as it had, she wouldn’t be surprised to find Sheila waiting to attack her. Or even a bear. She had been doing her best to keep her new address quiet but news traveled fast in small towns like Blessing. She could only hope since Sheila lived in the next town over it hadn’t made it to her yet.

Opening her car door with the small flashlight she kept in the driver’s door compartment in hand, she stepped out into the humid air. Summer was in full swing but it wouldn’t be long until the chill of winter was in the air. An owl echoed in the distance and a longing to go home overwhelmed her. Maybe she had made the wrong decision moving away from everything she knew. A country girl from South Dakota who grew up on a farm her whole life, she had wanted something different. Blessing, Montana was supposed to be her chance to escape her small town and spread her wings, only it didn’t turn out like she planned.

Before she made the move, she accepted a job as a nanny for a well-to-do family just a short drive outside of Blessing. After years of helping her mother with her seven younger siblings, three children should have been a walk in the park for her, but she hated it. Spoiled rich kids whose parents were never around. Making up for their absence by lavishing them with gifts was just too much for her. When she accepted the job, she thought it would be like it had been with her siblings. She never expected to hate every minute she spent with her charges.

She could go back home to South Dakota; her family would welcome her with open arms, but it wasn’t what she wanted. Her parents respected her need to spread her wings, but at the same time urged her to come back home. She was the eldest of eight girls and her father was counting on her to meet a nice country boy, settle down, and take over the family farm. If she didn’t it would be up to her younger sisters to marry someone who could take over the farm, otherwise they’d lose it when Dad could no longer carry on doing the work himself. Her father was old fashioned and didn’t want his girls running the farm, their places were making a home for their husbands and raising the children, not out tending to the land and feeding the cattle each day.

“I want more than to just be a wife and mother.” She kicked the dirt road, sending dust through the air. Demanding careers like Mr. and Mrs. Day had wasn’t what she wanted either. Careers like that put too much strain on their marriage and took their time away from the kids. When she had children, she wanted to be there for them, just like her mother had been. Somewhere in the mess of her emotions, she knew there was a fine balance, one that would allow her to be more than just a wife and a mother but would still give her what she needed to be happy.

“Hey…” Jumping back in fear, she stumbled on a rock, nearly losing her balance. “Hey now, be careful.”

Getting her feet under her she looked at the man behind the wheel of the truck. She had been so lost in her thoughts she hadn’t heard the truck ramble up the dark road. The dangers of that weren’t something she wanted to consider, at least on the side of the road in the middle of the night. “Sorry, I didn’t…” She let the words die on her lips. How big of an idiot did she have to be to admit she didn’t hear the engine of his truck coming down the road?

“Was that your car about a half mile back?” He tipped his head toward the side, indicating the car somewhere lost in the sea of blackness.

Half mile? That’s how far I’ve gotten? “Yeah.”

“Want me to look at it?”

She shook her head and stepped closer to the passenger door of the truck so she didn’t have to holler over the engine. “Thanks, but it’s not worth it. It’s out of gas.”

“Well hop in and we’ll go get you some.”

“I really appreciate the offer but—”

He gripped the steering wheel and rose off the seat, pulling his wallet from the back pocket of his jeans. “Trust me. I’m a safer bet than walking alone out here at this time of night. I’m a firefighter with Blessing Fire and Rescue, and we’re neighbors. I saw you moving in last week as I was about to head out for my shift.” He held the identification card out to her.

She looked at the ID he held out to her and nodded. “No gas, but I’d appreciate the lift home. If we’re neighbors it shouldn’t be out of your way. By the way, I’m Monica Robinson. It’s nice to finally meet my only neighbor.”

“You too, now hop in and let’s get out of this heat.”

Opening the passenger door, the dome light illuminated him, giving her a better look at his features. Short brown hair, falling every which way, and amber brown eyes that held a hint of darkness as if he had seen too much. His handsome face was chiseled with details, and she had no doubt the body hidden behind the jeans and dark blue pullover would be toned to match. His dark tan reminded her of home and someone who worked outdoors.

“It’s really no problem to go get you gas.” He offered again as she stood holding the passenger door open.

“Actually it is.” Without taking her gaze from him she climbed into the passenger seat. “Someone cut my gas line.”

“Are you sure?” he asked, raising an eyebrow at her.

She kept her hand on the door, not sure if she should be insulted or not. Before her dad would even allow her to go for her permit to drive she had to pass his test. At the time she thought it was a lot of useless knowledge about cars that she’d never need, but over the years she realized what a valuable lesson he gave her. She wasn’t a mechanic by any means but she could diagnose the main issues with a car, as well as change her own oil and a flat tire.

“Yes, I’m sure. I might be a woman, but I know a thing or two about cars. I put gas in the tank this morning and now it’s empty.” Closing the door, she shook her head. She was in this mess because she was too trusting, but she didn’t need to take it out on him. “I’m sorry. It’s been a long day. I shouldn’t have snapped at you.”

“I have a buddy who can swing by in the morning with his tow truck and take it to his shop to fix it.”

“Thanks, but you’ve already gone out of your way to help me. I can call around in the morning and find someone.” He put the truck in drive and took his foot off the brake as she sat there wondering what she was going to do about Sheila. Would she get rid of her if she moved back to South Dakota? Or would she follow her? The idea of the lunatic following her home and endangering her parents and younger sisters terrified her. Going back home wouldn’t be an option until something stopped Sheila. “Who knows what else is wrong with it? That bitch probably did as much to it as she could.”

“Who?”

“Sheila Price. I rented a room from her before I found out that she’s certified insane. As in she deserves to be locked up. The cops know who she is and they’ve had run ins with her before, but there’s not much evidence. Maybe this was the break that we needed.” At the end of the road her small cabin came into view. A welcome sight after the day she’d been through. “She would have had to cut the gas line when I was at the police station. I parked a block away in the grocery store lot because I knew there’d be cameras and because I planned on picking up dinner on my way home. Instead, I was there for hours and now I just want to go to bed.”

“I’m sorry to ruin your plans, sleep needs to wait a bit longer; you need to give the police a call. Have them check the security cameras and I’ll get my friend out here because I suspect you’re right about the fuel line. There was a trail leading up the road, getting lighter the closer I got to your car and now there’s nothing. They might check the car for fingerprints. I don’t know. It’s not my line of work, but I know they’ll do whatever they can to get her behind bars if she’s terrorizing you.” He pulled up the driveway and right out front of her house. “Go on in. I’ll wait until the police arrive, just in case.”

“Could I…” She shifted uncomfortably in the seat and turned toward him. “You’ve already done so much for me, and I truly appreciate it, but I need one more thing. My cell’s dead and I never got a house phone.”

“Here.” With a grin he held out his phone.

“What a great impression I’m making.” She shook her head again, sending her dark brown hair flying into her face. “I swear I’m not some drama freak. I moved out here to get away from her. I knew staying in town would make it too easy for her to find me. Last thing I want to do is bring this insanity to my neighbors’ doorsteps.”

“You haven’t and neighbors help each other. If there’s anything I can do, I’m right over there.” He pointed to a large country home on the other side of the tree line separating their properties. “I’ll be off for the next forty-eight hours; if you need anything at all, come on over.”

“Forty-eight hours? That’s an odd way of putting it, isn’t it? I don’t know many who’d word it like that. Most would say two days.”

“Firefighters aren’t most people.” He gave her a quick, cocky grin. “Actually, it’s because we’re on for twenty-four hours and then off for forty-eight.”

“Oh and here I thought it might be a Montana thing.” She dug through her purse, looking for Detective Wilson’s business card. The name on the ID her rescuer had shown her earlier popped back into her thoughts. “Wilson?”

“Excuse me?”

“Smoke Wilson, are you related to Detective Wilson?” She pulled the card from the back of her wallet and looked down at the name. “Detective Blaze Wilson.”

“Well now. I know you’re in good hands if he’s the one assigned to your case.” He reached over, hit the contact button, and scrolled down to the name Blaze, bringing his number up on the screen. “My brother, the only one who didn’t follow in our father’s footsteps and become a firefighter. Give him a call.”

“It’s a different number.”

“Don’t worry. It’s his private cell phone, but he’s sure to answer that. Considering he’s been off duty for twenty minutes now, it’s the only chance you have of speaking with him tonight. Otherwise the number you have will go straight to voicemail.” He pushed Blaze’s number before she could argue, giving her no other option but to put the phone to her ear.

Please let him help…