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Ashes To Flames (Book 4)

Ashes To Flames (Book 4)

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Learning to trust is something Reese can’t seem to get a grasp on. Every time he tries, he gets burned. When sexy Brooke walks back into his life, the firefighter puts up a wall of resistance that will keep him from making the same mistake twice. Problem is he loved her once, and she walked away. Now she’s asking for forgiveness and he’s not sure he can give it. Being a mix of dragon and human presents its challenges.

Even more demanding is Brooke’s shifter father who she can’t seem to say no to. When an unforeseen event forces her to run away from love, and back home to daddy, she doesn’t think she will ever see Reese again. Coming back to Kirkwood means facing what she left behind and questioning what her future holds.

Old emotions threaten to resurface, but things are more complicated than before. Reese can’t forgive and Brooke’s father demands she marries someone else. Trust and loyalty rip these two apart, but sometimes it only takes a spark to create a flame from ash and change destiny forever.

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Main Tropes

  • Second Chances
  • Social Class
  • Divorced Dad


Reese is a firefighter who has struggled with trust issues. Every time he's tried to open up, he's been hurt in the past. When Brooke, a woman from his past, reenters his life, Reese is determined to keep his distance and avoid making the same mistake again. Despite his efforts, he can't deny the feelings he once had for her, even though she walked away from their relationship. Complicating matters.

Brooke, on the other hand, has a shifter father whom she finds it difficult to say no to. When unexpected circumstances force her to leave her love behind and return home to her father, she believes she may never see Reese again. Returning to Kirkwood means facing her past and questioning her future.

As old emotions resurface, their situation becomes more complex. Reese struggles to forgive Brooke for leaving, while Brooke's father insists that she marry someone else. Trust and loyalty pull them apart, but sometimes all it takes is a spark to ignite a flame from the ashes and change their destinies forever.

Intro Into Chapter One

“That will be sixty dollars and fifty-three cents,” the cashier replied to Mrs. Klein who had made the poor boy repeat it three times.

“Oh dear. I’m afraid some things will have to go back.” She fumbled through her wallet and pulled out a few tattered bills.

Reese touched the sleeve of her blouse. “Mrs. Klein, allow me.” He handed the cashier his card. “Pay for these along with my stuff.”

The rosy color on the elderly woman’s cheeks deepened, making her appear even more pale. “Reese Durham, I cannot allow you to pay for my groceries.”

He realized the moment he offered that the frail woman would decline. She had pride if nothing else and he respected that. However, he wasn’t about to let her go without. “Tell you what, you bake some of those famous chocolate chip cookies for the station and consider this payment.” He offered his best smile.

“I would be delighted to bake for you and your crew. Very well and thank you, dear boy.” She patted his arm.

He chuckled to himself. Mrs. Klein had been his teacher in the first grade and if she wanted to remember him as such then he wasn’t about to correct her. 

“Let me carry your bags to the bus stop.” He didn’t even wait for her to reply. Instead, he scooped up the two canvas bags that were as tattered as the bills she’d stuffed back into her wallet. Managed them along with his one bag while he offered his arm to help her out the door.

“You are a good man, Reese Durham. Don’t think I haven’t heard about the gifts you give to others.” She smiled at him. The blue in her eyes much lighter than he remembered as a child. Her posture nowhere near the tall, elegant teacher that stood at the head of his class each morning.

“You taught us to be kind. I guess I paid attention.” He helped her to the bench and set her bags beside her.

“You always were a good student. And look at you now. All grown and one of our town’s finest. Why don’t you find a nice girl to settle down with?”

He’d done that once or so he thought. “Maybe one day. I’d better get back to the station. You okay here?”

“I’m perfectly fine,” she scolded. “You get back to your duties of keeping this town safe.”

As he walked away, his phone rang, the screen showing Megan––his ex-wife––was calling. He swiped. “Yeah?”

“Reese, Emma will not be spending the summer with you.”

“What do you mean?” What kind of bullshit was she pulling this time?

“I’m taking her to Europe.” The coldness of Megan’s voice did little to ease the heat boiling up inside him.

“Let me talk to her.” He slid into the seat of the squad and waited. When his daughter's excited voice came on the line, he melted.

“Dad. Did you hear? Mom’s taking me on a trip!”

“I did. That sounds exciting.”

“I can’t wait to go, but I will miss you.”

“I’ll miss you too, Princess. Don’t worry though, we’ll talk while you’re away. You just have a good time and take lots of pictures.” His heart couldn’t break further. “Can you put your mother back on the phone?”

“Okay. Love you, Dad!”

“Love you too.”

“What do you want now?” she hissed with exasperation.

“Seriously? You take my summer away from me with my daughter and you have to fucking ask?” Megan always had a way of grating on him like sandpaper.

“This is a great opportunity for her. For both of us.”

He scrubbed his face and took a deep breath. “I would never deny her this. You know that, but it’s the only time I get.”

“Maybe you should have thought about that when we were still married,” she snapped back.

He lost his shit. “Maybe you should have considered it before you fucked my brother. Don’t pin this on me, Megan. I didn’t have the affair.”

“Go to hell,” she shouted before ending the call in typical Megan style. Reese threw his phone across the seat and growled. Three years ago, he’d contemplated filing for full custody, but didn’t want to rip Emma from her mother. Right now, he was a bundle of pissed off energy ready to snap. 

The passenger door opened. “Duuuude. I think you have steam rolling out your ears,” Chance commented as he hopped in. “What happened? Were they out of your favorite cereal?”

“Megan happened,” he snarled. Starting the engine, he rolled his shoulders and took several deep breaths. Last thing he needed was his head up his ass if a call came in. His team relied on him and he’d be damned if he ever let them down. 

Chance narrowed his gaze. “That bitch? What now? You know my dragon could eat her.”

Reese snorted at the thought of Chance shifting and biting Megan’s head off. “It’s not important.” Somehow, he would ease the ache in his heart. He always did when Megan pulled her shit.

* * *

When the wheels of the small plane touched the ground, it only jarred Brooke’s nerves further. She was half tempted to keep her phone in plane mode so she didn’t have to listen to the ping of the numerous messages she was certain would come through. Life was much simpler when she ignored it. However, that was quickly becoming impossible. Changes in her body dictated changes in her life.

It sucked.

She sucked.

If only she could stand up to her demanding family, but that inner child still wanted her father to be proud of her. His halfling daughter. He had been too when the changes inside her took place. Except his pride was going to cost her a huge price. Her freedom. Her right to choose and love.

As she exited the plane and walked the short distance across the blacktop, she took a moment to breathe in the rich woody-pine scent and study the surrounding forest. She liked the small town of Kirkwood, Minnesota. It was a place she might even consider settling down in if not for her father. It wasn’t hard to picture a cabin tucked into the woods with a lakeside view, and it was the perfect setting for her muse. She hoped while here, she might at least get her new novel started. Her plan––after a short visit with her cousin Halee––was to head into the boundary waters for a stint of me time.

After twenty minutes at the rental counter, she had her SUV and was finally pulling onto the highway. The closer she got to town, the more her heart beat faster. Would she see Reese again? They’d had a brief––albeit intense––fling. The simple act of bringing back those delicious memories caused her skin to heat. The sex had been hot and satisfying. Something she’d been lacking since she had returned home to Ireland. But there had been more. She’d really liked Reese. Too much actually.

Pulling into Station 3, there was no missing that body. The bunch of his bicep as he rubbed the fire engine with a fury that made regions of her body jealous. She licked her lips, wondering what she might say to him. She’d played this out several times on her flight and thought she had a handle on it. Seeing Reese however, it all came back like a biblical flood and punched her in the stomach. It was a reminder of what she wasn’t allowed to have.

A normal life.

She was a halfling. Half human, half dragon. A woman destined to be torn between two worlds like so many of her halfling sisters. The difference between her and all the others was they would be allowed to choose the man they married. Human or full male shifter, those women had the choice. Brooke was special though, and her father was making that decision for her.

* * *

The sun warmed Reese’s face, causing a bead of sweat to roll along his temple which did nothing to improve his mood. The phone conversation from earlier replayed in his mind even though he tried to shove it away. Instead, he forced his anger into the chamois, pushing harder as he polished the fire engine to a spit shine. Megan had done it to him again.

Through his haze of emotions, the smell of the forest after a spring rain––clean and fresh––reached him.

“Are you trying to rub the paint off? Cuz you’re doing a good job of it,” came a voice that soothed him almost as much as it stirred his carnal desires. 

Reese would know it in a crowd. How could he ever forget the woman who had rocked his world then ripped it apart? The one who had wrapped her silky thighs around him and taken him for one hell of a ride, night after night. His dick remembered too, because it was coming to attention.

Down, boy. Remember what she did to us?

She’d vanished without a word, causing a flood of worry. When she finally contacted him, it was to say she had gone back home. Back to her family in Ireland. That was it, no other explanation. He swore women were the most wicked creatures to walk the face of the earth. Finally, he tore his gaze away from the spot he was polishing. There was no stopping as it roamed upward. Across the best damn legs he’d ever had wrapped around him. Didn’t help she wore a short denim skirt which only made those legs go on forever. He continued, lingered for a moment on her breasts before meeting her gaze. She was as beautiful as the day he had met her. Her hazel eyes warmed as she smiled at him.

“How are you, Reese?”

“Great.” Brooke was a distraction he didn’t want right now as he’d much rather wallow in his cesspool of resentment.

Her smile widened. “Like what you see?”

He only grunted and went back to polishing his rig.

“I deserve that. I know I left rather suddenly, but I had good reason.”

“You don’t owe me any explanation. We were a short time fling, nothing more.” He wasn’t able to stop the punch to those words.

“Moved on with your life yet? Or still pining over your ex?” 

That stung. He’d long ago gotten over the fact his wife had left. It was the affair she’d had that he was having an issue with. Never mind the fact she continually used their daughter to hurt him. Brooke might have been there to help him forget, but he had grown fond of her. Too fond when he took a minute to think about it.

He only offered her a glance.

“I’m sorry. That was uncalled for.”

Finally, he straightened. Looking at her brought back a lot of memories. Many were filled with wonderful nights fucking in every room in his house. But then his chest tightened because he had cared way too much for her and she had proved he couldn’t trust her either. He tilted his head.

“No, you’re right, but I’m over her. Over all relationships unless it’s wetting my dick.”

She chewed her bottom lip and nearly sent him back to his knees. Why the hell was he so weak around her?

“I really am sorry. I’m your friend, albeit bad one and I want to explain why I left.”

“I told you, you don’t––”

She held up her hand to stop him. “I do owe you, but I’m also being selfish and hoping once you hear what happened, you might forgive me.”

“You okay?” He suddenly worried something terrible had happened, and he hadn’t been there to protect her. He understood being a halfling might produce its own set of problems.

“I will be.” Her smile was forced and her body language showed she was not fine at all and that pissed him off. “Any of my cousins here?” Quick change of subject meant Brooke wasn’t ready to fill him in on her story. It was her usual evasion tactic when she didn’t want to discuss herself.

“Halee’s inside. Come on, I’ll walk you.” He waited for her to step forward before he led her into the firehouse and to the kitchen where Halee was washing the breakfast dishes. They’d been called out right after finishing their meal, and Halee had been kind enough to clean up the pan of dried eggs. His lieutenant would remind all of them later when it came time for her to do the shopping. Halee despised grocery shopping.

“Halee, you have company.”

She turned then dropped the towel and rushed forward. “Oh my god, Brooke!” She pulled the woman into a bear hug. When she finally let go, she pushed Brooke back to arm’s length.

“I had no idea you were coming.”

“I know. I should have called, but I wanted to surprise you.”

“Reese, you remember my cousin from Ireland?”

“I sorta recall the last visit.” None of the family had known about the brief affair between Brooke and himself. They had kept it quiet, not wanting any interference in what they both considered nothing more than scratching an itch. Besides, nothing worse than an upset dragon shifter. They were a moody lot as it was. He tipped his head. “It was nice to see you again. I better get back to my duties.” He needed to finish venting his anger.

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