Addie Manzella does her best to keep her complicated personal life separate from work. But after the funeral of a colleague who died in an arson fire, things come to a head. She goes tequila shot for tequila shot with fellow firefighter Eli Grant—a contest that ends in the bedroom.
Sure, the sex is great—okay, it’s the best of her life—but Eli clearly isn’t a long-term kind of guy. Though his post-divorce antics read more goofball than player, he’s a complication she doesn’t need.
Bold, brassy Addie is a serious threat to Eli’s determination to hide a dark history. Not even his ex-wife knows the whole story behind the burn scars on his body. Yet he can’t resist the challenge of pursuing Addie—especially since she clearly likes being chased.
The fire that took their friend, though, isn’t the last. As more buildings—and more lives—go up in flames, Eli’s past comes roiling to the present. Threatening to send their fledgling romance up in smoke.
Warning: This book contains two wicked-hot firefighters, a dark secret, sex in semi-public places, and a smidge of Catholic guilt.
SINGE is out July 1, but you can preorder here and read a sneak peek below in the meantime...
“Want to get out of here?”
Eli’s drunk enough that when Addie Manzella says Amen, for a whole two seconds he thinks it’s in response to his question. He catches up quick.
“Seriously?” she demands, swiveling to face him on her bar stool. She overshoots and her heels knock up against his pant leg, smearing dust from the gravesite. “Are you for real?”
Eli has had enough women ask him that in the past few months to know it isn’t necessarily a bad sign. “I’m for real,” he confirms. And he is. It’s the damp curls at the back of her neck, the faded black dress that’s a touch too tight around the hips for a funeral, like she bought it five years ago and keeps forgetting to replace it between deaths. Eli knows, because he’s been doing the same with his suit—he picked it up for a funeral in ’08, Dave Vidal’s off-duty heart attack, and hasn’t set foot in a store that sells dress pants since. There’s a safety pin holding the third button on.
Addie raises her eyebrows. She’s got a lot of eyebrow, dark and straight and boyish. They’re a surprise in an otherwise feminine face. “You’re drunk,” she accuses.
“Only a little,” Eli tells her, opting for the truth or a version of it. He’s done this enough to know that that’s not always a bad thing either. She’s pretty. Christ, all that hair and her olive skin, the freckles on her shoulders. He doesn’t think he’s ever been this close to her shoulders before. “Come on, let’s make like a tree, et cetera.”
“Make like a tree and—no,” she says immediately, laughing. “You’re ridiculous.” Then, though, “Why?”
Eli shrugs. “S’hot in here.”
Addie rolls her eyes. “S’hotter out there, don’t you think?” When he only grins at her, “So what, then, we work together for three years but today you had a hundred beers and I’ve got a strapless bra on and you suddenly just noticed I’m a girl?”
She’s wrong about that part actually. ’Course he’s noticed her, her rowdy laugh and her curvy little body, how she’s a good fireman who keeps her head down even though her pops is who he is. But regardless of what Eli’s been getting up to the last six months or so in regards to the fairer sex, he isn’t stupid, and until now he’s been real careful not to shit where he eats.
David Manzella’s twenty-four-year-old daughter? She’s pretty much the Thanksgiving dinner table. Eli’s an idiot even for bringing it up.
Still, though. Still.
“I mean, I didn’t know about the bra,” he tells her, downing the last of his beer and setting it down on the bar. He hasn’t quite had a hundred, but he lost track a while ago. It’s the arson is what it is—he fucking hates arsons. There hasn’t been one for years in the County, and the last sent him on an all-night bender. This time around, he’d prefer to work through his shit in a different way.
When he glances over, Addie’s watching him with that same incredulous expression. She doesn’t seem particularly put out.
“Strapless, huh?” he asks, pulling on a grin. “I’m thinking about it now, I can tell you that much.”
Addie laughs again, loud and honest. “Shut up.” She kicks him under the bar like they’re teenagers in a lunchroom, her knee brushing his for a moment before she pulls it away. Now that Eli’s got it in his head, he can’t un-want it, can’t help imagining what it would be like to lay her out on his mattress and peel that sober dress off. She looks like she’d be soft underneath.
He’s also fundamentally not a predatory piece of shit though, so he grins at her one more time and pulls out some cash to pay their tab.
“Okay,” he says, settling up with the bartender. No matter what happens or doesn’t, Eli never minds paying for women’s drinks. “I hear you. I’m sorry. I’m being an asshole. I’m gonna go home and sleep it off. I’ll see you at the station tomorrow, yeah? You’ll know me because I’ll be the one with the raging hangover.”
“Hey, we’ll be twins.” Addie smiles, kicking at him one more time, but friendly. “You gonna cab it?”
Eli nods. “Sure thing,” he promises, ducking his head to kiss her on the cheek before he makes his way through the crowd to say his goodbyes. The heat outside hits him like a wall of sand. It’s still completely light out, that weird underwater feeling of having spent all day in the dark, disconcerting. He thinks of Drew, the suffocating heat and the chemical smell of the accelerant. There’s a dive down the block that serves until three a.m.
He’s just starting to move when the door to the Pint opens and there’s Addie on the sidewalk, her hair slipping out of its knot.
“So here’s the thing,” she says, squinting in the harsh, sudden sunlight. “My place is walkable.”
Eli stops. His hands are balled up into fists, the resolve of what he was going to do. He makes himself unclench them. “That a fact?”
Addie brings one arm up to shade her eyes like a girl on a beach. “That is a fact,” she enunciates, careful to fit her tongue around the words. It makes Eli want to kiss her. She’s got a wide, pale mouth that he’s always liked, hanging there like a promise at the bottom of her heart-shaped face.
“Show me,” he commands.
Which is how he ends up hoofing it two blocks down and three blocks over to Addie Manzella’s shitty second-story instead of drinking his brains out, the humidity so thick he sweats through his starchy dress shirt in about ten steps. It’s better. It’s a relief. Eli pushes the thought of Drew aside, concentrates on Addie’s swaying hips instead. She can’t really walk in her heels, unpracticed or drunk or both. Eli wants to put his hands around her waist and feel the bones shift.
“It’s a walkup,” Addie announces finally, stopping in front of a dingy club to pull off her pumps. It takes Eli a second to realize they’ve arrived, his focus still one-hundred-percent on her ass. He looks between her dangling cross and the unlit neon sign reading LOOKOUT, a collection of sad flyers advertising a Saturday night drag show. Come out of the closet and cum in LOOKOUT, the chalkboard sidewalk sign reads.
Addie catches him staring. “That one’s new,” she says. “Last week was Come analyze our anal, although I think it’s mostly a lesbian bar.”
Eli blinks. “You live above this?”
“Uh-huh.” Addie grins at him, wide and delighted. Her temples are soaked from the walk, the dip of her collarbone bathed in sweat. “Look, you coming or what?”
Which—yeah. Eli is.
She unlocks a side door and leads him up a narrow staircase, stepping aside to let a mangy-looking cat scurry out the door onto the sidewalk. “That’s Chicken Cat,” Addie tells him as the thing darts by. “He’s part mine, I guess? He lived here before I did.”
Eli edges out of her way on the tiny landing so she can open the door to her apartment, close enough that he can smell the faint floral scent of her perfume. It’s very, very hot. “How long’s that?” he asks.
“Not long,” Addie says, though her voice is nearly drowned out by the wheezy hum of the ancient-looking window unit in her living room. Eli peers over her shoulder at a good-sized space jammed full with a crazy hodgepodge of furniture, a futon and a beat-up IKEA coffee table alongside an antique wingback chair. There’s a huge photo collage of Addie with a bunch of other girls hanging on one wall, from back in high school maybe, plus one of those ornate carved medallions on the ceiling, like possibly a chandelier used to hang there in the days before the building was carved up into starter apartments and a sad-looking nightclub. There’s clothes and magazines and assorted detritus heaped on pretty much every available surface. Eli’s skin prickles in the suddenly chilly air.
“Ignore the mess,” Addie tells him, dropping her heels on a denim-covered beanbag chair and padding over to the kitchen in her stocking feet, opening the Reagan-era freezer and cracking some ice out of a tray. “Here.” She fills two glasses from the tap and hands him one of them, hopping up on the Formica countertop. Eli watches her throat work as he gulps, not entirely able to help it.
“Hi,” Addie says when she’s finished, looking at him expectantly. Her mouth is very wet.
“Hi,” Eli echoes. Slowly, he puts both hands on her thighs. The fabric of her dress is like an oven, all this heat radiating off her like she’s a human hot water bottle. Her hair would be warm to the touch too, he bets, inky-brown and sun baked.
“Hi,” Addie repeats, quieter now that he’s close. She’s looking for a kiss, Eli can tell. It’s a way girls have of holding their faces.
Shit where you eat, he thinks. David Manzella’s daughter.
“We all good here?” he asks, leaning forward into her neck so he won’t be tempted by that wide mouth. He has to clear his throat twice to speak.
Addie laughs, loud and jangly in his ear. “I’m good,” she declares, legs opening. She’s fidgety, wiggling on the Formica. “I should probably go re-apply deodorant before I let you any closer though.”
Eli shakes his head, feeling the beer swim along with him. “No fair.” She smells good actually, that rosy perfume sweating off her and getting mixed up in the salt. He wants to strip her down and investigate all the damp places. “If I can’t, you can’t.”
“Mmm.” Addie turns, nose smushing up against his cheekbone. Her breath is just slightly stuttery. “Okay then,” she says, soft. Eli is rubbing higher and higher up her thighs with each pass. “S’a deal.”
Oh, fuck it. Fuck the arson, fuck the bad memories. Eli has both hands underneath her dress. “Deal,” he agrees and turns his head to kiss her.