Ignited by Kimberly Van Meter
What do you do when a sexy, naked fireman gets into your bed? If you're Alexis Matheson, you freak out. But now she's snowed in with Layton Davis, and suddenly Alexis's best intentions to behave seem to have disappeared up the chimney. Because a hot 'n' naughty firefighter in her bed might be the best Christmas surprise ever
Where There's Smoke by Liz Talley
Emma Rose Brent is sure she's dreaming when Erik Matheson, her bestie's überhot older brotherwho she's been crushing on for yearsmistakenly slips into her bed, all gloriously naked. But Emma must have been a very good girl this year, because she's been given the best gift of all: the chance to be really, really bad
About the Author
Kimberly and her three children make their home in the Central Valley of California.
Liz Talley writes romance because falling in love is the best feeling a person can experience. A 2015 RITA finalist for long contemporary romance, Liz has found her niche writing sassy contemporaries with down-home warmth and Southern charm. She lives in North Louisiana surrounded by a loving family, three dogs, a mean kitty and towering loads of laundry.
Read an Excerpt
Alexis Matheson was dreaming of Christmas cookies and homemade candies and stressing over how her candy thermometer was not working properlywhen the scenario changed abruptly.
Suddenly, she was wrapped in a shadow lover's arms, enjoying a sizzling kiss that was hotter than baking peanut brittle and she hazily wondered who her dream lover was and why she was torturing herself with a sex dream when she'd sternly declared a moratorium on sex until she got her head on straight.
Ugh. Plainly her brain thought that might take forever.
Ah, dream lover was pretty good with his tongue and hands! Now, why had she determined sex was a bad idea for the time being?
She moaned, wrapping her arms around her lover, sighing with pleasure as his mouth blazed a trail down the column of her neck, nipping and nibbling and sending goose bumps tripping down her skin.
Everything felt so real and yet dreamy at the same time. Hell, if dream lovers were this entertaining, maybe she could give up wide-awake sex for good. Ha! Very funny.
She groaned again as a strong hand found her breast and squeezed and suddenly her eyes fluttered open at the realization that something didn't feel rightno, it felt fabulous, but that's not what she meantshe no longer knew if what was happening was only in her mind.
Before her sleep-fuzzed brain could fully react, she was being kissed again and, damn, it was good.
But wait a minute she'd gone to bed alone!
An instant shot of adrenaline chased away her sleepy enjoyment of Mr. Talented Stranger and replaced it with a holy-shit-I'm-about-to-become-a-statistic jolt of awareness and she shoved at the big body covering her, landing a strategic hit to his groin area as she kicked.
He grunted in pain and rolled to his side, doubled over.
Every serial-killer book and movie she'd ever happened to read or see jumped to mind as she used her feet to shove the stranger's massive body right off the edge of her bed and onto the floor.
"This bed is already occupadoV
Once she heard the thump of his body landing on her carpet, she sprang from the bed and flicked on the light, snatching the first thing she could grab, and hurled it at the stranger when he stumbled to his feet. Oh, good Lord, he was naked.
He dodged the shoe, yelling, "What are you doing? Stop throwing shit! You've already mashed my nuts, lady!" as he shielded his frank and beans and blinked against the light like a mole squinting at the sun.
"No, you watch it, this is my room and, more important, my bed. You have ten seconds to tell me who you are before you get a Martha Stewart smackdown." She hefted the book in her hands with the smiling domestic goddess gracing the hardcover to show she meant business, but the sturdy, dark-haired guy looked strong enough to take a hit without breaking a sweat. Even under the circumstances, Alexis would've had to have been blind to miss the fact that her intruder had a body that was worth taking a second look at. Go figure. A sexy intruder. Why did she have the worst luck with men?
"Calm down," he grumbled. "Put the damn book down, you crazy lunatic."
"Wrong answer," Alexis retorted and heaved the book straight at his head.
He tried to evade the projectile, but it caught him on the shoulder. "Holy hell! That hurt!" he yelled and then snatched up his jeans and jerked them on even as he stumbled/ran from her room, but not before she caught a quick glimpse of a near-perfect ass. What a tragedy, she thought before leaping after him, determined to find out who'd had the gall to climb into her bed, but her foot caught on her suitcase and she went hard to the floor, twisting her ankle in the process.
She'd once been accused of having an obsessive type of laser focus when it suited her, which was why instead of babying her foot, she continued to run after the stranger with the hot ass as he skidded into her brother, Erik's, room.
"Your sister's crazy, man," the guy said, glowering in Alexis's direction just as Alexis realized that Erik was home and she'd offered her best friend, Emma, her brother's bed. Oh crud. Stopping short, Alexis registered confusion all around, which under different circumstances might've been funny as hell, but there was nothing funny about the way her ankle was beginning to throb.
"What the hell, Erik? Who is this?" she asked, wincing as her abused ankle started to really protest. What the hell had she done to her foot?
Alexis shot a brief, apologetic look to Emma who was watching the situation unfold with wide eyes, the blankets tucked tightly beneath her arms as if trying to superglue the cloth to her body. Egad. Poor Emma. Alexis was going to have to bake an extra batch of lemon bars for this little snafu.
Erik, ever the peacemaker, stepped between Alexis and the man scowling hard enough to freeze his face that way, trying to be the voice of reason in this awkward situation. "Hey, hey," he said when Alexis didn't immediately back down.
"Jesus, woman," the man beside Erik said to Alexis, still miffed that she'd tried to neuter him with a donkey kick to the jewels. "I didn't know you were in there. Give me a freakin' break."
"What are you still doing here?" Erik said, gently pushing Alexis back to protect his friend.
Alexis stepped back and winced as a jolt of fresh pain took her breath away. "Ow," she gasped, immediately lifting her foot to relieve the pressure. "I think I hurt my ankle," she admitted with an irritated glower when Erik frowned with concern. "And we're here because my memory sucks. I drove to pick up Em, but we decided to take her SUV from her place. Then just as we headed down I-25, I realized I left my laptop charger and we swung back because there wasn't going to be time to get a new one once we got to Emma's parents' place. By the time we could leave again, they had closed parts of the interstate. We figured we'd wait until midmorning to leave. Roads should be clear then."
"So that's why your car wasn't in the driveway," Erik surmised.
"Yeah. I thought you were working," Alexis huffed, moving past Erik to sit on the bed next to Emma so she could get a better look at her ankle.
It was then that Emma whispered, "Lex, you don't have any pants on."
Oh yeah, there was that. She hadn't exactly been planning to entertain and most times she slept naked, so the fact that she had a shirt and underwear on was a bonus. She shrugged, more interested in the state of her ankle than anything else at the moment. "How different is this from my bathing suit? Crap, my ankle is really swelling," she muttered, momentarily forgetting about the guy, her brother and the whole shebang because holy hell, that smarts!
But apparently someone else was still holding a grudge because Stranger with the Sexy Ass piped in with, "She punched me and then threw a shoe at me."
"You scared the crap out of me," Alexis said with a glare. As if he had any room to bitchif he hadn't been in her bed, she wouldn't have had to defend herself. And she wasn't even going to mention how Grabby McGrabbyhands had been all over hershe wasn't in the mood to clean up a massacre. As even-headed as Erik was, he might take exception to the fact that his friend had been touchy-feely in his supposed sleep.
"Okay, okay." Erik held his hands up, obviously bone tired and not in the mood to deal with this nonsense all night. "Let's all just calm down. This was a big misunderstanding. No harm, no foul."
But Alexis was feeling more petulant by the moment as her ankle ramped up in pain. "Speak for yourself," Alexis muttered, rubbing her ankle. "I tripped over my suitcase when I was chasing that pervert out of my room."
"Pervert?" the guy said. "I'm not a"
Erik looked aggrieved and shook his head. "He's not a pervert. Well, not usually. This is Layton Davis," Erik said by way of introduction. "He drove me home after we worked a blaze. I told him to take the spare room. I thought you were gone. You were supposed to be gone."
Oh sure, blame it on Alexis's inability to keep details straight. She shot a withering look Layton's way. Was she being irrational? Possibly. Sure, they could chalk it all up to a weird, unfortunate coincidence that would make really funny sitcom fodder, but pain made Alexis ill-tempered and she'd never been much of a good sport when it came to being on the losing end of an argument.
"Well, we weren't gone," Alexis said, unable to keep the grumpiness from her tone. "And who doesn't check where he's going to sleep before plopping down on top of someone?"
"Someone who's tired as shit and unaware someone's friend's sister is occupying the bed he was given," Layton said, clearly just as annoyed and as ready to put the argument to bed as she was.
Erik shrugged, rubbing his eyes. "Like I knew. Let's shelve the accusations and take a page from Emma's book and not freak out."
Everyone looked at Emma. Oops. Alexis had forgotten about Emma again. Emma managed an awkward smile and Alexis wanted to say, I feel ya, sisterthis bites, but didn't because she didn't want to embarrass Emma any more than she already had. And Alexis held no illusions that Emma wasn't mortified to her dainty toes over this mishap. Of the two, Emma was the more reserved, more conservative and least likely to be voted Most Outrageous in a peer poll.
Awkward silence followed as they each came to the conclusion that no further beating could be done on this particular horse and it was time to lay it to rest.
"Okay, good. Now, since it's cold as frick outside and the roads are too dangerous, let's bunk up and get through the night," Erik said.
"Your sister probably needs an ice pack or something," Layton said with a reluctant sigh as if he hated to be helpful in this regard because he was still holding a grudge, and gestured to Alexis's swollen ankle. "How about I grab some ice while you figure out the sleeping arrangements."
It was on the tip of her tongue to tell him not to worry about it, that she could tend to her own injuries, but Layton had already split. Maybe he needed ice for his nuts, too.
It was then that she realized her brother was swaddled in a blanket like a Scottish laird.
"Why are you wearing a quilt?" Alexis asked.
"'Cause I'm naked under here," he said, tugging the quilt up higher.
Ah. Yeah, good idea. Therapy for getting an eyeful of her brother's junk was not in her budget. But wait a minute if he was naked under there her gaze swung to her friend.
"Wait, did you climb into bed with Emma while you were naked?" Alexis asked, grossed out for Emma. Not that Erik wasn't good-looking, but, eww, Erik was like a big brother to Emma, too. He used to torment Emma just as enthusiastically as he'd tormented Alexis. He'd been an equal-opportunity torturer.
"Yeah," Erik admitted, and color climbed Emma's cheeks. Was Emma embarrassed because she'd seen Erik in his birthday suit or, worse, because she'd liked what she'd seen? Ugh. The very idea Alexis couldn't handle it.
"Well, how come you didn't scream?"
"I rarely scream," Emma said, as if that made perfect sense.
"Well, if a big bozo sat on you, you would," Alexis countered, not quite buying Emma's explanation.
But there wasn't time to push the argument because Layton reappeared with a bag of frozen broccoli wrapped in a dish towel. "Here. I'm happy to take the couch," he said.
"And I'll give you your bed back and sleep with Alexis," Emma said to Erik. "I feel so bad about being here when you"
"I told you to,' Alexis interrupted, still thinking about Emma's reaction. "He was at work."
A beat of awkward silence made ten times weirder because of the questions popping around in Alexis's head followed, until finally, Emma said, "I'm not exactly dressed. And neither is Erik. So."
"Right," Alexis said, grabbing the frozen-broccoli bag and sliding from the bed, only to gasp at the sudden and unforgiving pain. Erik started as if he wanted to help her but couldn't without dropping the quilt and risking a full-frontal show.
"Well, hell," Layton said with a low grumble before sweeping Alexis into his arms.
"Hey! Put me down," Alexis said, mortified that a) he'd picked her up as if she weighed nothing and b) there was no mistaking the delightfully solid muscle lifting up her backside.
"I will. In your room." Layton strode to the door, ignoring her protests. Alexis shot Emma a pleading glanceas if her friend was going to jump to her rescue when all Layton was doing was being mildly chivalrousand suffered the knowledge that she was just going to have to suck it up and deal with the fact that this situation couldn't get any more uncomfortable.
But then Alexis knew full well that tempting fate with a thought like that never ended well.