A love that burns slowly burns longest, creating the greatest heat.
Though they haven’t seen each other for fifteen years, Duncan Yves has never forgotten Hilda Bennet, or the feelings of love and protection she engendered in him when they were kids. So when she becomes the target of a madman who kills with fire and calls his deadly work Art, it seems perfectly natural for Duncan to try to protect her. Unfortunately, he soon learns that protecting Hilda just might bring the past crashing back down on both of them.
Hilda was just a girl when she last saw Duncan, and her childish dreams of living with him behind a picket fence were squashed when he went away. But when they finally find each other again, the past that separated them all those years earlier still seems determined to keep them apart.
Can they nurture the embers of a love that was forged in childhood into the full-fledged inferno it seems destined to be? Or will the destruction of yesterday’s fire finally smother that blossoming flame, and leave their love in ashes?
Hilda Bennet swallowed down a cry of alarm, her hand tightening on the blanket she clutched against her chest.
The sexy fireman she’d been talking to raised his arm, waving a greeting to the man strolling toward them across the yard. The man’s serious green gaze was locked on hers, his square jaw flexed as the wide mouth tightened. A mouth she knew would have just the tiniest overbite, a sexy trait that made her want to nibble his upper lip.
She’d know that rolling gate anywhere. The broad shoulders, long, long legs, and fringe of dark brown hair across his forehead that always made him look like he’d just rolled out of bed.
She realized with a start that he probably had just climbed out of bed, and dueling sensations of lust and guilt formed a knot beneath her ribs.
“Here’s the fire investigator I told you about,” the fireman said. “He’ll get to the bottom of this, Miss. Don’t worry.”
She swallowed hard, her gaze skating guiltily away from the approaching man. Hilda clamped down on an irrational desire to make a run for it. Surely after all these years she had nothing to fear from Duncan Yves. Surely he’d lost his almost supernatural power over her.
But as he came within a few feet of where she stood, his sexy, green eyes narrowing slightly as if he’d just recognized her, Hilda realized the power he had over her hadn’t waned in the years since they’d last seen each other. In fact, she realized as he stopped in front of her, his delicious scent heating the air between them, that the years might as well have never happened.
Because she was still just as in love with him as she’d ever been.
“Ash.” Duncan’s deep voice rolled down her spine like hot oil, making her stomach clench with need.
“Dunc, this is Ms. Bennet. She was in the home when it went up in flames.”
Duncan smiled and her heart stopped beating. “Miss Bennet.” Her throat clamped down and she suddenly couldn’t swallow.
She waited for him to recognize her, torn between hoping he did and being mortified at the thought that he might. “Mr. Yves.”
He blinked. “You know me?”
Panic drew blood from her face and she felt momentarily faint. She’d screwed up…given too much away. He hadn’t given her his last name, yet she’d known it. Her thoughts flew, trying to come up with a plausible explanation. She shook her head, staring helplessly at him. If only he’d give some sign he knew her… Finally, his friend the fireman saved her.
“I told her I’d called the best fire investigator in the city.” The fireman clasped hands with Duncan. “Thanks for coming out at this ungodly hour on your day off, man.”
Duncan nodded, his gaze sliding over her. She could almost see his thoughts turning as he catalogued her condition… the soot covering her hair and skin…the skimpy nightgown beneath the borrowed blanket. “Is there someplace I can take you, Ms. Bennet? Family? Friends? We can talk about what happened along the way.”
She panicked at the thought of being alone with him in a car. Or anywhere. “Don’t you need to go over the scene?”
His smile was cool, detached. She realized with disappointment that he didn’t know who she was. “I’ll walk the perimeter before we go, but I can’t go inside until things have cooled down a bit.”
“Oh.” She cast around for an excuse not to go with him. “I…uh…”
He turned away and Hilda breathed a sigh of relief.
A beefy man in a police uniform strode toward them, his gaze sliding a little too comfortably over her. Duncan threw a set of keys toward Ash. “I have some clean sweats in my backseat. Can you make sure Ms. Bennet gets them? I’m sure she’s freezing.” He scoured a sizzling look over her bare feet and legs and the knot of need coiling in her lower belly tightened further.
She watched him move away, drawn toward her ravaged home by the other man, who was talking and gesticulating as they walked.
She was so caught up in watching his taut, round behind move away from her that the fact his friend was talking to her didn’t register until he placed a hand on her arm. Hilda jumped, blinking rapidly.
Ash lifted his hand, smiling at her like she was a terrified kitten in a tree. “Sorry to startle you. Let’s go get you some clothes. You’re starting to turn blue.”
She wanted to argue. The idea of wrapping herself in Duncan’s clothes…his scent…was almost more than she could bear on top of the night’s traumatic events. Unfortunately, Ash wasn’t wrong. She was so cold her skin had taken on a bluish hue and she knew all too well that shock was a danger. So she nodded and let herself be pulled toward the big, black truck on the street. But she couldn’t stop herself from glancing back in the direction Duncan had gone. Just to get one last look at him.