When sparks flare, stop, drop and roll with it.
When Eric Layton lunges for his ringing cell phone in the middle of the night, he's halfway to the door before he realizes it's not his chief summoning him to an out-of-control fire. It's an out-of-control woman who's too tipsy to figure out she's dialed the wrong number. But the line goes dead before he can explain he's not her brother.
His conscience won't let him leave the woman to wait for a ride that's never going to come. Yet nothing prepares him for the chemistry when he helps Joanne into his truck. She's curvy, blonde, and vulnerable--a three-alarm warning to do the right thing and keep her at arm's length.
Still keeping watch over her through the night sounds reasonable. Until she awakens, and desire burns reason to a crisp...
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Samhain Publishing, LTD
March 26, 2012
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Excerpt from Last Call by Olivia Brynn
With the first shrill ring of his phone, Eric was wide awake. He was used to interruptions, but he didn't have to like them. He swore, rolled over, searched in the dark for the ringing phone, and knocked both the latest bestseller and his watch to the carpet. He cursed again. Phone calls at--he checked the clock--two twenty in the morning could only mean a fire, and one that's bad enough to call in off-duty firefighters. Why the hell did it always have to happen on his first night off?
The love to serve unselfishly whenever I am called.
He was out of bed before the third ring.
"Hello," he barked, hiking a pair of jeans over his hips and reaching for a shirt.
He expected a similar harsh response, but rather than his chief's gruff voice, he heard a feminine giggle. "You sound funny."
What the hell? Eric pulled the phone away to look at the readout. This wasn't his chief's number. It wasn't any number he recognized. Listening again to more giggles, he sat on the edge of the bed and tried again. "Hello?"
"Helloooo," the voice sang. "Your voice is weird. I guess I woke you up huh?"
"Who is this?"
"Thiss iss your sisser..." More musical words. "'Member how you said that what I needed was to get good and drunk? Well guess whaa-haat?"
Oh Jesus. A drunk. He didn't recognize the woman's voice, so his first impulse was to snap his phone shut. On the other hand, if it turned out to be someone he knew, he'd feel like shit for hanging up.
"Shh," she whispered. "Don't tell Mom. I got a drunk on."
He smiled, adrenaline slowing since he knew he wouldn't have to run into a burning building. "I won't tell."
"How come you sound funny? Did you get a drunk on too? Oh, my phone is blink-eting. Did you hear that? Was that your phone? Kevin, I'm drink. Drunk. Keeev-in! I'm drunk. I gotta tell you something too. I went to the Ranger for drinks, and you said not to go by myself, and I did anyway because I'm bad! I'm bad, Kevin. I'm a bad girl. Oh! You should see what I got...the bar had pens. For free! I got a blue one and a pink one and a...hey..." He heard rustling, and he imagined her digging through a purse. "Hey! Someone stole my yellow one! Kevin, someone stole my yellow pen!"
"It's okay." Eric tried not to laugh. "We'll get you another yellow--"
"Yeah but that's not right, taking someone's pen like that. I was drinking my--hey, did you know they have a drink called a slippery nipple? It's yummy." The music in the background switched from country and western to a news report and to rock and roll before settling on hip-hop; then the volume increased, and she started singing along.
Sort of. She didn't seem to know the words, and Eric couldn't get one in edgewise.
A male voice came through. "Come on, sweetheart. We can't wait out here all night. Let me just call you a cab."
"No way. Huh-uh. Cabs are icky." Her voice grew distant, and Eric imagined that she'd forgotten she had him on the line. Muffled sounds and a few tones as she pushed buttons. "...and that was the last time I rode in a taxi. Gross."
"Why don't you turn off your car and let Mac drive you home?" The guy's voice practically dripped through the phone with the amount of condescension he'd poured on. "I'm sure he won't mind."
"Huh-uh. You guys can go. I promise not to drive 'cause I called my big brother and he's--was that your phone, Kevin?" Her voice was clear, obviously speaking through the mouthpiece again. "It's beeping. My phone's beeping. I think the battery is pooping out. Can you come get me? Don't tell Mom, but come get me, 'kay? I'm waiting in my car, 'kay? And hurry 'cause some guys are watching. I think they don't want me to wreck, or they wanna drive me, but I said no, so no...because you know...and remember that document-chaly we saw about the girl who went home from the bar with...ah more beeps... Kevin, did you hear me?"
"I hear you, but--"
"'Kay, 'cause almost everyone went home already, except a couple'a guys and the bar twender are staring at me. Bar twender?" She laughed. "Twender. That's a funny word. And he looks grumpy." She lowered her voice to whisper again. "Maybe he needs a drunk on too. I'll ask."
Eric heard her ask, but he couldn't decipher the reply. "Kevin's coming, mister twender twinkle twonk...twonkley twonk... Oopsies. Blinkey beeps again. Phone's pooping, Kevin!" She sang, just before the phone went dead.
"Shit." Eric ended the call, then tried to redial. It went straight to voice mail, where the same voice--but this time level and succinct--explained that Joanne couldn't come to the phone. At least he had a name.
Lot of good that does. This Joanne would be at the Ranger bar, sitting in her car waiting for her brother Kevin who would never come. He stared at his phone until the keyboard dimmed.
He could call her a cab.
No, she'd refuse it, thinking Kevin was on his way. He could call the Ranger, and explain...
No, one of the "guys watching" would end up taking her home. For some reason, that bothered him. Eric didn't have a sister, but if he did, he wouldn't want her climbing into a car in her condition with whoever "Mac" was. A complete stranger taking a drunk woman home? That was asking for trouble.
He pulled on a T-shirt and was at the front door before he stopped to think. He'd be a complete stranger taking the drunk woman home.
He snorted and pulled the door shut behind him. I can trust me.
The Ranger wasn't in the best part of town, and it was notorious for being the place to pick up an easy lay. He could see why Joanne's brother didn't want her going out alone. The parking lot had three vehicles. A woman sat behind the wheel of one, dancing along with the music that shook her car. Three men stood by the door, their eyes on the woman, until he pulled in beside her; then they shifted their attention to him.
He left his truck running, closed his door behind him and greeted the men with a toss of his head.
"We're closed." The tallest one spoke, even tapping on the sign in the window.
"I'm here for Joanne."
"You her brother?" The stocky one crossed his arms and looked Eric over suspiciously.
Joanne would only prove him a liar, so Eric shook his head. "I just got a phone call to pick Joanne up at the Ranger." That was the truth.
"We've been keeping an eye on her. She's in no condition to drive."
No shit. The woman in the car was oblivious to the men outside. She tossed her head side to side and sang into an imaginary microphone. "Yeah, I gathered that." He walked around Joanne's thumping car and knocked on her window.
The first thing he saw was a big pink bubble. When it popped, she pulled the gum back into her mouth, smiled and waved.
Cute. A mass of blonde waves and a smattering of freckles across her nose. She looked like someone's baby sister, all right. Eric smiled and motioned for her to roll down the window.
She blinked a couple of times before she nodded, curls bouncing on her cheeks. She held up a finger while she fumbled on the door panel. Eric chuckled when she locked and unlocked the doors several times before the window came down, and hip-hop music blared through the opening.
"Well, hello there, cutie pie. What's your name? I'm Joanne, but you can call me...um...Joanne." She climbed up to kneel on the seat and lean out through the window, propping her generous breasts on one forearm and twisting a finger through her hair with the other hand in a drunken, flirtatious gesture. He amended his first impression. This was no little girl.