Home > Deadly Heat (Deadly #2)

Deadly Heat (Deadly #2)
Author: Cynthia Eden

Prologue

The fire came at him, fast and hot. The orange flames licked across the floor, climbed the walls, and rolled in hungry waves.

The screams filled his ears. His mother’s cries. She called for him, over and over, but he didn’t answer her. Couldn’t. The flames and smoke had stolen his breath, and all he could do was watch.

So beautiful. The flames danced for him. Danced and whispered. Crackled and rose. He couldn’t look away. Didn’t want to.

Smoke billowed around him, trapping him in a fog. His fingers curled tight over his precious prize. Won’t let go. Won’t ever let go.

The fire touched him, biting his arm, but he didn’t cry out.

He just watched.

And his mother stopped screaming. Just like his dad had stopped. He’d stopped long ago…

The flames were bigger. Rolling toward him now. Faster, faster. So hot. His lips began to curl.

Then the monsters came. Giant beasts with long noses, robot eyes, and tubes shooting from their mouths.

One grabbed him, slapping at his left arm, and he screamed.

But the monster didn’t let him go.

Water shot at the flames. Cold, icy water that hit his skin.

The monster’s arms were tight around him. And then the monster ran, taking him right through the thick smoke and letting him see those dancing flames again.

Again. More.

The fresh air hit him. He choked at the first taste and the monster was there, always there, but yanking off a mask and it was—

A man. “The kid’s alive! Get me some oxygen! Get the damn EMTs over here!”

More hands. Touching. Stroking. Hurting. Another man shoved a mask over his face. No, don’t want it, don’t want—

The mask pressed too hard against his nose and mouth.

The same man rubbed something ice-cold on his arm right over the fire’s kiss. Then the guy wrapped bandages around him and slapped tape around the edges.

They put him on a stretcher. As they hauled him toward an ambulance, he saw his house. Firefighters stood on the roof, swinging with their axes, sending fire and smoke billowing into the sky.

The windows at the front of his home exploded, and giant shards of glass flew onto the porch.

Firefighters ran out of the doorway, yelling. One had his mother in his arms.

She wasn’t moving, and her body…

He glanced down at his hand, still clenched so tight around his prize.

“It’s gonna be okay, boy. You’re gonna be fine…” This came from the man who’d pulled him out. A big guy, with red cheeks and dark green eyes. “You’re safe now.”

But his mom wasn’t. Neither was his dad.

A shout came, an order for backup, and the man turned away.

His fingers uncurled.

The match lay in his hand. The red tip was black now.

“Got to be arson, sir… the way the fire is spreading… accelerant…” Another firefighter, talking fast to a guy with a big radio.

He let the match slide from his fingers. It fell to the ground and sank into the grass.

“All right, kid.” The EMT was back. Looking pale, tense. “It’s time to get you to the hos—”

“My mom’s dead.”

The man swallowed. “I’m sorry.”

He looked at that fire. So bright now. “My dad, too?” He already knew.

“We got a call in to your grandparents—”

He didn’t cry. Didn’t blink.

“We’re gettin’ you to the hospital.” A woman appeared at his side. They lifted him up and put him in the back of the ambulance. The doors slammed closed, shutting out the fire.

But I wanted to watch. His lips tightened.

He looked at his palm. He could see the black marks from the match.

The siren screamed on.

And he smiled.

CHAPTER One

Choosing to run into a burning building probably wasn’t the smartest decision he’d ever made. Then again, sadly, it wasn’t his dumbest either.

Kenton Lake choked in a deep breath of air—already tasted the smoke—then lifted his arm over his mouth. Some jobs just sucked.

He went into the wall of smoke. Ah, hell.

His nostrils burned. Heat scored his flesh, but he heard the voice calling, the same voice that had lured him to the building, lured him across the street and into this inferno.

“H-help! Dammit, h-help me!”

His informer. Upstairs. In the middle of the flames and fury.

He jerked off his jacket, covered his mouth, and tried to stay as low to the floor as he could.

His eyes burned, and the ash and fire singed his nostrils. How the hell had this happened? He was investigating arson, not supposed to get drawn into—

Part of the ceiling fell behind him.

Kenton glared up at the long row of stairs. Ten-to-one odds they’d fall away before he got to the top.

Ten to one.

“H-help…”

Weaker.

He took the stairs. One. Two. Three.

And, yep, they gave way just when he reached stair number four. Kenton went down, hard. The broken wood bit into his arms and legs, and the fire flew toward him.

A blast of water shot out, hard and fast, slamming into the flames.

Someone grabbed him, hauled him up, and a hand locked tight around his arm. Kenton found himself staring right at a firefighter.

He caught a smoky glimpse of narrowed eyes behind a clear eye shield. Kenton had a fast impression of a thick, black helmet and a brown uniform—

The firefighter shoved him forward, obviously trying to send him toward the front of the building.

Hell, no.

More firefighters swarmed around him, battling the fire. Some struck out with axes, some scrambled into the rooms.

Couldn’t they hear the voice calling for help?

He tried to break free and jump for those stairs. There was a gap, he could make it, he might—

The firefighter who’d grabbed him before dragged him right back and gave a hard negative shake of that black helmet.

Screw that, he wasn’t leaving a victim behind—

He wrenched away.

Then the firefighter slugged him. Hard. Right in his jaw. Damn, one hell of a hit.

Kenton went down.

The firefighter’s arms wrapped around him. Another grabbed him. Another.

Then they dragged his ass out of the flames.

“Idiot!” The snarl came at him the minute the oxygen mask was shoved onto his face. Kenton looked up, gaze narrowed against the smoke that still burned his eyes, and saw the firefighter—the a**hole who’d slugged him—jerk off his helmet and mask—

Um, her helmet and mask. Not a man, there. No way.

He swallowed and choked a bit.

He could make out her eyes better now. Gorgeous, shimmering gold, so clear and deep and—

He threw the oxygen mask aside and leaped to his feet. “You left a man in there!”

Those golden eyes widened. Very slowly, she lifted her right hand, a fragile hand that had packed a whole lot of punch, and pointed to the left.

A fire truck ladder was lowering as it moved away from the building. And a man was on the ladder. Older, with stooped shoulders and a soot-stained face. A firefighter had him in a tight grip, and the guy appeared to be coughing up a lung.

“Got him,” she said sweetly, her voice a slow drawl of the South that reminded him of a teammate at the Bureau.

His gaze flew back to her. He looked now, really looked. Short blond hair, wet from sweat and the heat, was molded to her head. Her face was all strong angles, with a sharp, pointed chin. Wide, golden eyes. Cat eyes. Not conventionally pretty. Not really.

But with those full lips, those cheekbones and, damn, those eyes—sexy.

Definitely sexy.

Her hands were on her h*ps now. He couldn’t tell a thing about the shape of her body, not in that thick uniform, but she was tall, just a few inches shy of his own six foot three.

Probably long and lean, and he usually liked them a bit softer around the edges and—

“Wanna tell me why you’ve got a death wish, GQ?”

GQ? He glanced down at his ruined suit. Right. So she was funny. Or wanted to be. “I heard…” He coughed and had to pause to clear his throat and breathe. “I heard… him calling for help.” He wouldn’t tell her the guy was his informant, not yet. That was on a need-to-know basis. Bedroom eyes didn’t need to know that yet.

Those eyes. Impressive, really. They were so big that he was surprised she’d gotten them to go so mean and small, so fast. “Firefighters fight the flames.” Ice could have dripped from that drawl. Interesting. Ice in a fiery hell. “Not businessmen with a hero complex.”

He rubbed his jaw. It hurt. So did his ego. “You always punch out your victims? That part of your complex?”

She shook her head. “I only punch when the guys are dumb enough to fight help when it comes.”

Ah, now that was the second time she’d insulted his intelligence. He reached into his back pocket. Yanked out his wallet. The leather stuck a bit when he tried to open it, but he shoved his ID toward her. “FBI, sweetheart. I think I know how to handle a dangerous situation.”

She didn’t even glance down. “I think that’s debatable.”

A snicker came from behind him.

Great. An audience. He’d forgotten all about the EMTs.

His sexy savior—with the serious attitude—turned away. “Get him checked out, Harry,” she called out and marched away.

That was it?

His gaze dropped. Couldn’t help it. Even in that thick garb, she had a nice sway.

“You—you assaulted an officer!” It was all he could think of right then. She was heading for his informant, leaving him in her dust.

He didn’t want her to go. Not yet.

Her name was on the lower back of her uniform. Spelled out in big, reflective letters. L. SPADE.

She threw a vulgar gesture over her shoulder, but didn’t stop walking.

Well, well… He couldn’t fight the smile that lifted his lips.

“Dude, you better stop while you’re ahead.” From the EMT. What had she called him? Harvey? Harry?

Kenton tossed the oxygen mask at him. Spade was too close to his informant. No way was she getting first crack at him.

The guy was his. Once he stopped trying to cough up his lung, anyway.

“Hey—wait! You need to go to the ER. You can’t just—”

Kenton shoved his way through the crowd. There were gawkers lined up across the street, watching the fire begin to sputter. Smoke drifted lazily into the night air, the sirens wailed, and general chaos ensued.

Nice.

The informant reached the ground, and the paramedics immediately swarmed him.

“We need him taken to Langley General, stat!” Spade’s voice. “Sir, sir—you’re gonna be all right! You hear me? You’re safe!”

The guy coughed, shuddered, and seemed to pull in on himself. Then he broke free of the paramedics and ran right at L. Spade.

“Sir!”

Uh-oh, was she gonna punch him, too?

No, a coughing fit took him down.

Then it was a pile of bodies as the paramedics got to work. When the guy appeared again, he was strapped to a gurney, twitching, shouting, and spitting.

“You’re welcome.” Spade sighed, running a hand through her short hair. “Must be the night for a**holes,” she muttered.

Kenton came up close beside her. “Guess it must.”

Her head turned toward him. Those amazing eyes narrowed. Huh. Kinda like golden fire staring right back at him.

“Who the hell are you?” someone snarled.

Kenton glanced away from Spade, and up. Damn. A big guy, both in height and width, with a grizzled gray beard and beady moss-green eyes.

“Chief, this here’s an FBI agent…” Her drawl thickened, deliberately, he was sure.

A grunt. “You the fool Lora had to pull out of the building?”

What was with these people? Weren’t firefighters supposed to be helpful and kind?

“What were you doing here?” the chief demanded, jabbing a thick finger toward him. “This is a known drug area, and it’s—”

“That’s why I was here.” Ah, bullshit. He could do it so well. “Investigation, you know. Classified—can’t discuss it with you.” His prey was getting away. An EMT shoved the screaming man into the back of the ambulance. Great. He already knew the guy was a runner. If the fellow made it to the hospital, he’d vanish long before emergency personnel got hold of him.

The chief turned away. “Long, Suvalis—get those hoses over here! We still got flames…”

“You are so full of crap.” Ah, this from the sweet-tongued Lora Spade.

He blinked at her. “Sorry, I’m suddenly feeling… a little woozy.” He rubbed his jaw. “Could be from the blow I took. I think, I–I think I need to get to the hospital.”

Kenton took a step away, his eyes already on that ambulance.

She touched his arm. He felt the heat of that touch right through the sleeve of his dress shirt. “What’s your name, GQ?”

“Kenton. Special Agent Kenton Lake.” So she felt the connection, too, that hot zip of attraction.

“Thanks. I needed your name since I’ll be reporting your actions to your boss at the Bureau.”

What? She was reporting him? She was the one who should be—

A siren screamed on. No, no, it can’t get away. “Talk to you later, sweetheart.” He broke into a run. No, don’t shut that door—“Wait!” The EMT glanced back. “I’m coming with you.” He dug out his mangled ID, waved it at the guy, then jumped inside.

As the door slammed shut behind him, Kenton tossed a hard grin at the man he suspected to be Louis Jerome, informer extraordinaire. “You didn’t think I’d miss our meeting, did you?”

   
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