Check out this excerpt from #1 NY Times Bestselling Author Barbara Freethy's first book in the Callaway family series… Then read on for more information about this blog tour and all its great prizes!
Sara met the first firefighter as soon as his feet hit the sidewalk. "My father is trapped in the basement," she said. "The door is off the laundry room by the kitchen. Aiden Callaway went to get him, but they haven't come out yet."
"Aiden?" the guy echoed.
She nodded, not really surprised that the firefighter seemed to know Aiden since so many of the Callaways worked in the department.
"Wait here," he told her.
She crossed her arms in front of her waist as the firefighters entered the house. Everything would be okay, she told herself. Aiden was with her father, and they were both going to be fine.
Aiden must have seen the flames from next door and in typical Aiden fashion, he'd run straight into the house without waiting for backup. The Callaways had never been short on courage; sometimes on good sense, but not on guts. And Aiden didn't just end up in trouble; he often went looking for it. At least, he had when he'd been younger.
It had been more than ten years since she'd seen the very attractive guy-next-door, who had been the object of the most intense crush she had ever had in her life. Aiden had been a bad boy and she'd been a very good girl. But one reckless night had taken their relationship to a new level. Then Aiden had brought it all crashing down.
Her gut clenched at the memory of what had been the best and worst night of her life. She'd put Aiden out of her mind for a long time, but now he was back, and so was she.
Only temporarily, she reminded herself. This wasn't her home anymore and never would be.
She turned to see Lynda Callaway, Aiden's stepmother, crossing the lawn at a brisk pace. A tall, willowy blonde, Lynda Callaway moved gracefully, like the dancer she'd once been.
"Are you all right, Sara? I couldn't believe my eyes when I drove around the corner and saw the fire engines and the smoke. What happened? Where's your father?"
"He's inside. So is Aiden," she added.
Lynda paled at that piece of news, her gaze flying to the house. "Aiden? Aiden's here?"
"Yes. I guess he saw the smoke. He broke down the front door." She glanced back at the house. Smoke was pouring through the front door, flames still visible through the windows in the dining room. What was taking them so long? "Aiden went to get my father. He fell down the basement stairs. I didn't want to leave him, but I couldn't move him."
Lynda put a reassuring hand on her arm. "You did the right thing."
"I think he broke his leg."
"Your father is a strong man. He'll come through this.
She'd always thought he was strong, but when she'd seen him on the floor, he'd looked surprisingly fragile and suddenly very human.
"How did the fire start?" Lynda asked.
"He was cooking. I distracted him when I showed up. We were upstairs arguing, and we didn't smell the smoke right away. What is taking them so long?"
"They'll want to be careful moving him," Lynda said, putting her arm around Sara's shoulders.
It had been a long time since Sara had felt such a motherly touch, and the emotion of it brought tears to her eyes. She'd been a strong, independent woman for a long time, but right now she felt like an uncertain girl who was really, really happy not to be alone.
They stood in quiet for a few moments, watching firefighters attack the fire from both inside and outside of the house. She saw two men up on the roof, using axes to make some sort of a vent. Their work was efficient and apparently done without any sense of fear. She'd been inside that heat, and she couldn't imagine volunteering to go back in.
"How do they do it?" she muttered. "How do you do it, Lynda? The fire was so terrifying, so out of control, and it was only in the kitchen. How do you not worry every time your husband or sons leave the house?"
Lynda smiled. "I've had a lot of practice. I trust in my husband, my children, their fellow firefighters and their training. That gets me through." She paused, her smile fading away, her gaze turning back toward the house. "I can't believe Aiden is here. He's been impossible to reach the last few weeks. I wasn't sure when or if we'd see him again."
"He's had some trouble in his life."
"Isn't that usually the case with Aiden?"
"This time is different."
Before Lynda could explain, Aiden came out on the porch, carrying her father over his shoulders. They crossed the lawn and then, with the help of another firefighter, her dad was placed on the gurney and attended to by the waiting paramedics.
Sara moved as close as she could get, relieved to see that her father was awake and able to answer questions, but it was clear he was in a lot of pain. Once they had him stabilized on the stretcher, he was loaded into an ambulance.
"I'll meet you at the hospital," she told him.
"No, I need you to stay here, Sara. Keep an eye on my house."
"I'll take care of everything," she promised. "Then I'll come to see you."
The ambulance doors closed. A moment later, he was on his way to the hospital.
"Do you need a ride?" Lynda asked her.
"Uh, no," she said, trying to pull herself together. Everything was happening so fast her head was spinning. "I have a car. I'll wait until the fire is out, and then I'll go."
"You've grown up into a beautiful, capable woman, Sara," Lynda said with an approving gleam in her eyes. "Your mom would be proud."
"I hope so. I still miss her."
"So do I. And so does your father."
"That's not easy to believe."
Lynda gave her a knowing look. "Your father is a difficult, complicated man. I've lived next door to him for twenty years, and I don't feel like I know him any better now than when he first moved in. Since your mom died, he's become even more reclusive."
She nodded, her attention distracted by Aiden's approach. Now that they were outside, she could see him more clearly. As his gaze met hers, she felt a familiar rush of adrenaline. He'd always had the ability to unsettle her, to make her feel off balance, dizzy, her heart beating too fast, her words getting choked in her throat. It was silly to feel that way now. Her teenage crush had ended long ago. She certainly didn't intend to go back there.
Unfortunately, Aiden was still a very good-looking man, even with ash in his brown hair, sweat on his brow, a three-day growth of beard on his face and tired blue eyes. Add in the faded jeans with a rip at the knee and a T-shirt that clung to his broad chest and strong shoulders, and Aiden was still as hot and sexy as ever, maybe more so.
Sara drew in a breath, trying to dampen down her physical response. She could handle it now. She didn't need to get all worked up about a man who had only once seen her as more than his sister's best friend and the girl next door, and that one time had ended in regret on his part.
Fortunately, Lynda broke the awkward tension between them.
"Aiden," Lynda said. "I can't believe you're home. Why didn't you call me back?"
"I figured you'd see me soon enough." He paused. "Are you okay, Sara?"
"I'm fine. Thank you for saving my father."
He shrugged, as if what he had done had been of little consequence.
"I've been leaving messages for you for three weeks, Aiden," Lynda said.
"I needed some time to clear my head," he replied.
"Well, I'm glad you're finally home. I've been so worried about you since—"
"I'm fine," Aiden said, cutting Lynda off. "I'll be over to the house in a minute."
"All right," Lynda said, obviously sensing that this wasn't the time to grill her son. "Sara, please stop by later and let me know how your father is doing. In fact, come for dinner. We eat around seven, but any time you get back is fine. I'll save you a plate."
"That isn't necessary."
"You won't be cooking in that kitchen tonight. Just come by," Lynda insisted. "There's always room for one more at our house."
With Lynda gone, she shifted her weight, crossing her arms, then uncrossing them, wishing that Aiden would stop looking at her with those incredible blue eyes.
"So, is the fire almost out?" she asked.
"Looks that way, but you won't be able to go inside until the fire inspector signs off."
"When do you think that will be?"
"Depends," he said. "Could be an hour or more."
"I'm lucky my dad lives right next door to firefighters. Although it doesn't sound like you live at home anymore."
"Not in a long time," he said shortly, his gaze drifting toward his childhood home.
She stared at his profile. In his early thirties now, Aiden's features had become better defined, his jaw stronger, his blue eyes harder and more cynical than she remembered.
His gaze returned to hers, and she couldn't help wishing she looked a little better. She knew she was more attractive than she'd been in high school, because once she'd left her father's house, she'd discovered makeup and hair products, short skirts and high heels. Unfortunately, she'd dressed herself down to visit her father, pulling her hair back in a knot and wearing gray slacks and a button-down blouse that did little to show off her shape. The fire had made her sweat, and she could feel her hair falling out of her bun, so it wasn't her best moment.
Not that she cared, she reminded herself. There had been plenty of men in her life since high school, since Aiden. She was no longer his adoring fan.
She searched for something to say, something smart, witty, casual, but nothing seemed right. There had been a time in her life when she'd lived to catch a glimpse of Aiden, and another time when she'd hoped never to see him again, but now here he was, here they were, and she couldn't think of a damn thing to say.
She tucked her hair behind her ear. "So…"
"So," he echoed. "It's been a long time."
"Yes," she agreed, feeling irritated with her awkwardness.
"How did you set the kitchen on fire?"
"I wasn't the one who was cooking," she said.
Aiden gave her a doubtful look. "You're saying your father did that? Your father who lives by a rulebook and never ever takes a misstep? The man who can do no wrong and cannot tolerate failure in others?"
"Yes. Apparently, he is human," she replied, not surprised that Aiden's assessment of her dad was so spot on. He'd grown up next door, and her father had yelled at the Callaway boys on more than a few occasions.
"Are you living here now?" Aiden asked.
"No, just visiting. What about you?"
A shadow crossed his eyes. "I'm not sure of my plans."
Before she could press for more information, one of the firefighters joined them. "Callaway? What are you doing here?"
"Helping out," Aiden said shortly.
Something sparked between the two men, something intense and angry. Sara felt like she'd just landed back in the middle of another fire. Aiden had always had a million friends and he'd been a guy's guy. To see someone who obviously hated his guts was surprising.
"Quite the hero. You always land on your feet, don't you?" the other man sneered.
"If you say so," Aiden said evenly.
Fury burned in the other man's eyes a split second before he pulled back his arm and punched Aiden in the face.
Aiden stumbled backward, his hand flying to his right eye.
Sara gasped in surprise, startled by the unexpected attack. "What's happening?" she asked, but no one was listening to her.
"That was for Kyle," the man said. "And this—"
Before he could finish his statement, one of the other firefighters intervened, grabbing his pal's arm. "That's enough, Hawkins. Get in the truck."
Hawkins looked like he wanted to argue, but after giving Aiden another scathing look he reluctantly followed orders.
"What just happened?" Sara asked.
Neither man seemed inclined to answer her. After exchanging a long look with Aiden, the firefighter gave her his attention. "The inspector just arrived. He'll let you know the damage and when you can go inside."
"Thanks," she said.
The firefighter gave Aiden a hard look and then headed to the truck.
"Okay, what was that all about?" she asked Aiden.
He rubbed his rapidly swelling cheekbone. "Nothing."
"That man didn't hit you for nothing, Aiden. He said it was for Kyle. Was he talking about Kyle Dunne?"
"Leave it alone, Sara."
"What happened to Kyle?"
Aiden's jaw tightened. "He died, and it's my fault."
His blunt words shook her to the core. Kyle Dunne was the same age as Aiden. They'd been friends since kindergarten. Now he was dead? Why? How?
It was clear Aiden had no interest in giving her more details; he was already moving down the sidewalk.
"Aiden, wait," she called, but he didn't turn his head.
As he walked toward his truck, she noticed a limp in his stride. He'd suffered an injury of some sort. At the same time that Kyle had died?
Why would anyone blame Aiden for his best friend's death? There was no way Aiden would have let Kyle die without trying to save him. Aiden was a born protector. She'd just witnessed him in action when he'd rescued her father, a man he didn't even like. Aiden would have put his own life on the line for Kyle.
Memories of Aiden and Kyle together flashed through her mind. She could see them playing catch in the street until well after dark, hosting poker games in the room over the garage for all their high school friends, getting dressed up in suits for their senior prom. Kyle was dead? He'd always been so much fun, a joker and a prankster. Kyle and Aiden had caused a lot of trouble together, and they'd been closer than brothers. Aiden had to be reeling. No wonder there had been so much worry in Lynda's eyes when she'd mentioned Aiden.
As Aiden pulled his bags out of his truck, she was torn between wanting to ask him more questions and wanting to put some distance between them.
He was the one guy she'd never been able to forget, the one guy who still haunted her dreams. The last thing she needed to do was talk to him. She had enough problems to deal with. She turned her back on Aiden and headed across the lawn to talk to the fire inspector.
About the Callaway Blog Tour & All Its Great Prizes!
This is the week you finally meet the Callaways! Not only are they all over the web as part of their extraordinary blog tour, but they are also out and about in your neighborhood. That's right; we're celebrating the print launch with Ingram by throwing a party all over the world! Make sure to follow this tour closely for your chance to win gift cards, swag, autographed books, and other incredible prizes.
All the info you need to join the fun and enter to win amazing prizes is RIGHT HERE. Remember, winning is as easy as clicking a button or leaving a blog comment—easy to enter; easy to win!
To Win the Prizes:
- Purchase any of the Callaway novels by Barbara Freethy (optional)
- Enter the Rafflecopter contest on Novel Publicity (go here)
- Visit today’s featured social media event (that's where the HUGE prizes are)
About The Callaways: The Callaways were born to serve and protect! In Barbara’s new connected family series, each of the eight siblings in this blended Irish-American family find love, mystery and adventure, often where they least expect it! Each book stands alone, but for the full enjoyment of the series, you might want to start at the beginning with On A Night Like This! Get the eBooks via Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, or Kobo.
About the Author: Barbara Freethy has been making up stories most of her life. Growing up in a neighborhood with only boys and a big brother who was usually trying to ditch her, she spent a lot of time reading. When she wasn't reading, she was imagining her own books. After college and several years in the P.R. field, she decided to try her hand at a novel. Now Barbara is a #1 New York Times and USA Today bestselling author loved by readers all over the world. Her novels range from contemporary romance to romantic suspense and women's fiction. Learn more on her website, Facebook page, or in her Street Team.