Tag: Tule Publishing

Guest Review: The Jingle Bell Bride by Scarlet Wilson

Posted October 11, 2017 by Tracy in Reviews | 3 Comments

Guest Review: The Jingle Bell Bride by Scarlet WilsonReviewer: Tracy
The Jingle Bell Bride by Scarlet Wilson
Series: Christmas Brides #2
Published by Tule Publishing
Publication Date: October 3rd 2017
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Buy on Amazon | Barnes & Noble

New York wedding planner Jessica Christie always goes above and beyond for her clients. So, stopping in Alaska to pick up the famed Jingle Bell flower for her famous client's bouquet doesn't seem too outrageous–until she ends up stranded there.

Matt Holden has spent the last five years since his fiancée died, living in a virtual bubble in Alaska. His research work as a botanist and assistant at the local reindeer farm keep him busy during the holidays.

But when Jessica Christie bursts into his life, all bets are off. Her stay is definitely temporary, but the feelings she ignites aren't. Could Ms. Oh-So-Wrong actually be Mrs. Right?

Jessica is a New York wedding planner and does a lot of celebrity weddings.  She has an amazing attention to detail and likes what she does.  She doesn’t absolutely love it though, and her true dream is to open a bookstore, maybe multiple bookstores, that are focused on literacy for both children and adults.  She’s never told anyone about her dream and she’s not sure it will ever come true.

Jessica is currently working for an incredibly demanding pop star, Renee, and will head over to England right before Christmas to make sure that the wedding goes off without a hitch.  Six days before the wedding Jessica is set to leave for the UK when Renee calls and says that she’s heard that there is a flower called the Jingle Bell Flower and she wants it in her wedding bouquet. (Insert whining and foot stomping.) Jessica doesn’t have a problem with that news until Renee tells her that the flower is only available in Alaska and that Jessica must go personally get it.  What????

Being the great wedding planner she is, Jessica heads to Corona Creek, Alaska to get the flower.  Unfortunately for her she flies in right before a snow storm hits and she has no way of flying back out.  The botanist who is to give her the flower reluctantly lets her stay at his house until she can leave.

Matt has been in Alaska for three years…hiding.  He was engaged and his fiancé died.  The place he was living in Montana had too many memories so he took a job in Alaska and has been hiding from his previous life and feelings ever since.  When Jessica arrives he has no plans to break the ice around his heart but she ends up getting to him in ways he didn’t think possible.  He soon finds himself in love but how can he make it work when he’s in Alaska and she’s from New York?

The Jingle Bell Bride was a cute story.  Jessica was a great character and I liked her devotion to her clients.  She was a strong woman for the most part and that played well with Matt and his equally strong personality.

Matt could have easily been dismissed as meek in the story because of his emotionally charged state of mind due to the death of his fiancé.  Despite that he didn’t let the past dictate his future and when he found himself in love with Jessica he went for it.  I loved that!  Good for him.  He did do something a bit sneaky that I didn’t agree with and of course Jessica hated. It was done from a place of love, however, and I hated that Jessica blew it out of proportion.  Despite that the two got their HEA and I had a smile on my face by the end of the book.

Oh, and this book is clean.  When I say clean I mean that they only kissed and that’s it.  They didn’t ever even kiss in a bedroom.  No clothing came off but fit the story and timeline so it was all good.

This is a cute, sweet romance that was a fun holiday read.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5


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Review: Tanner by Sarah Mayberry

Posted May 30, 2017 by Holly in Reviews | 0 Comments

Review: Tanner by Sarah MayberryReviewer: Holly
Tanner (American Extreme Bull Riders Tour Book 1) by Sarah Mayberry
Series: American Extreme Bull Riders Tour #1
Published by Tule Publishing
Publication Date: May 9th 2017
Pages: 217
Buy on Amazon | Barnes & Noble

He’s used to risking it all in the ring, but nothing prepared him for love…

After flying half-way around the world to surprise her boyfriend, Evie Forrester finds herself heartbroken and stranded in a strange city. What could be a total disaster becomes something else when a tall, dark bull rider turns out to be a white knight in disguise. Evie isn’t sure she needs saving, but Tanner Harding is a difficult man to deny.

He’s even harder to resist…

Tanner Harding can tame a monster bull with ease, but he never expected to be floored by someone like Evie. Sparks fly between them until injury threatens to end Tanner’s career –and suddenly he’s the one in need of a rescue.

Evie can’t turn her back on her wounded hero and, as Tanner struggles with his recovery, she’s not sure she can guard her heart against him either. Tanner knows Evie has slipped under his skin, but she lives in Australia and his future is under a cloud. Can two people with too many reasons to walk away make the bold decision to stay?

Mayberry always delivers sweet, lovely contemporary romances. Tanner was no exception.

Evie Forrester grew up with Troy, a foster kid her family took in when he was a teenager. She’s been in love with him most of her life, but he doesn’t know she exists…until he comes home for a wedding and they hook up. For months they’ve been video chatting and emailing. She decides to fly to the states to surprise him with a two week stay. She wants to cement their relationship and move on to the next step now that they’re together.

Only it turns out Evie was the only one feeling that way. When she arrives it’s to discover that Troy doesn’t share her vision of a future together. Stranded in the States with little available cash and a non-refundable plane ticket, she has two weeks to kill. Tanner Harding, another bullrider and friend of Troy’s, comes to Evie’s rescue. He lets her stay with him and helps her get back on her feet.

When Tanner is injured, Evie decides to repay the favor by helping him out until he’s back on his feet. They have chemistry in spades, but can they make something more lasting out of two weeks together?

Tanner was such a sweetheart. I really liked how sweet he was to Evie, and what an all-around stand-up guy he was. He did what needed to be done and didn’t complain about it. It was great how he rescued her, but then needed to be rescued in return. It made for a well balanced romance.

Evie was great, too. She was practical and down-to-earth. I really liked that she took responsibility for her part in the Troy fiasco, but she didn’t completely let him off the hook, either.

Though they didn’t have a lot of time together, their romance was believable. I enjoyed watching them take care of each other and fall in love. My only complaint is the story ended too soon.

4.25 out of 5


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Series Spotlight: The Irish Witch Series by Leigh Ann Edwards

Posted August 10, 2016 by Rowena in Promotions | 2 Comments

The Farriers Daughter

The Witch’s Daughter is the second book in the Irish Witch Series by Leigh Ann Edwards and it is being released by Tule Publishing tomorrow. The series follows a young healer and witch as she battles the forces of evil at the same time that she battles her growing feelings for the forbidden nephew of the Chieftain of her clan. There promises to be lots of magic, dark powers and a steamy romance to fill up the pages.

The Farrier’s Daughter by Leigh Ann Edwards
Book #1 of The Irish Witch Series
Released on July 7, 2016 by Tule Publishing

In 16th Century Ireland. Young and beautiful Alainn McCreary, healer in training to the powerful O’Brien Clan, is on the cusp of discovering she possesses vast and unusual supernatural powers, which she hopes will help her unlock the secrets of her past and break the curse on the O’Brien Clan.

Alainn is counseled to hide her magical abilities, but how can she when dark forces rise up to threaten not only the O’Brien Clan, but Alainn and the life of the Chieftain’s beloved, but forbidden nephew, Killian O’Brien, a man Alainn has loved as long as she can remember?

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The Witch's Daughter

The Witch’s Daughter by Leigh Ann Edwards
Book #2 of The Irish Witch Series
Releases on August 11, 2016 by Tule Publishing

Healer, witch, and commoner Alainn McCreary battles valiantly to control her growing magical powers and to ignore her doomed yearning for noble Killian O’Brien, a man who is far above her station and betrothed to a noble, dark-eyed Scottish beauty. Alone, she continues her quest to break the bitter curse that dooms not only the powerful O’Brien Clan but also Alainn and Killian’s future happiness.

Threatened by dark forces, a powerful chieftain, and a suspicious priest, loyal, valiant and handsomely virile Killian vows to fight at his beloved Alainn’s side even as he realizes time is running out for both of them. The Witch’s Daughter, set in the mystical landscape of ancient Ireland, weaves romance, adventure and the supernatural into a sensual tale of love and longing that darkly whispers “What wouldn’t you do for love?”

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We’ve got an excerpt for The Witch’s Daughter to share and it’s a really good one. Go on and check it out for yourself.

Excerpt from The Witch’s Daughter

Ireland 1536

In a state nearing exhaustion, Alainn dodged the horse and cart trundling into her path and hurried along the crowded street. Her feet throbbed painfully in her thin slippers, already bruised from the uneven cobblestones. Weaving in and out of the scattered vendor stalls, pushing through the crowds, she paused but a moment to catch her breath and inhaled deeply. The fetid scents of the city swamped her senses, and she felt her stomach lurch queasily. She set off once more on aching feet.

Hoping to find somewhere to hide for a time, Alainn rounded the corner of a narrow alleyway only to pull up short. Pierce stood before her, exasperation clear on his young face. She met his stare with disdain.

“Pierce MacArthur, my patience wears thin!” she rasped angrily. “I’ve told you no less than a dozen times. I’ve absolutely no intention of returning to Castle O’Brien!”

“Aye, ’tis true, you’ve told me,” he protested with ever-thinning lips, “but I cannot in good conscience leave you here alone in this city. I have promised Killian I will watch over you in his stead, and I intend to keep my word on that count. I am here to protect you!”

“I do not desire your presence nor require your protection, so be gone with you. Sure, Cookson must be nearly ready to set off for the castle. Join him now and be off!”

Pierce narrowed his eyes, crossed his arms, and set his jaw in defiance. In a flash, she turned and sprang away from him, but his strong hand reached out and clamped on her arm. He began dragging her toward the din of the market and, though she struggled, she was no match for his strength.

“Sorry I am, Pierce, but ’tis you who have forced my hand.” He looked back sharply, eyebrows knitting in question. “Truly,” she spat out, trying to wrench free her arm, “you would have been wise to respect my decision and heed my words!”

Pierce glanced up as a tall stack of crates came loose from their ropes and flew at him erratically. He jumped back in alarm, though each crate seemed to pass narrowly by without hitting him. They crashed at his feet, smashing open, spewing their contents before him and capably blocking his path. Alainn ran. She thought she felt his accusing glare on her back long after he was lost from sight.

After a fair distance, Alainn darted through the back doorway of a building. She found herself in a crowded ale-house surrounded by a rowdy crowd of bleary-eyed men. They had obviously been partaking of the wares for a goodly while. Hoping not to have been noticed, she turned back to the door when a patron lurched in front of her, blocking her exit. He eyed her up and down.

“You can’t simply turn up here givin’ us a wee glimpse of yer beauty and then expect to leave without even an introduction,” he slurred, his breath sour. Alainn crossed her arms with impatience as he continued to speak. “But you don’t seem so very friendly. Why’d you even bother comin’ in here then?”

Trying to ignore the foul odor permeating the air around him, Alainn looked up at the huge man who dwarfed her. Never gifted in deception, she struggled to come up with a response until he leaned in, his lips pursing.

She backed up and stammered, “I-I beg your pardon, sir, I seem to have made a grave error. I’d thought this was the alchemist’s shop. I’m in need… I’m in need of an elixir, yes…an elixir to aid my family for I fear they may, they may…be stricken with the pox!”

He stopped advancing, his face uncertain, then his eyes grew wide with obvious fear.

“The pox,” he hissed. He slowly backed away as did the men nearby. “Two doors down,” he managed, covering his nose and mouth with his hands. Alainn turned and made haste.

Relieved, she fled back down the alleyway, nearly smacking into two sailors on the verge of a confrontation involving knives.

“Give it back!” the taller man demanded, a knife fisted in his hand.

“I don’t have yer damn coin! I’ve told you before and I will tell ye again! I did not take it!”

“I saw ye eyeing it last night after we were handed our pay!”

The men started to circle each other, knives gripped and ready for slashing, knees bent, ready to spring. Alainn moved into the shadows, hoping to remain invisible as she inched her way along the stone building. When the first blade swept through the air she was certain they would be too intent on their quarrel to pay attention to her. However, when she narrowly missed stepping upon a huge rat as it scurried before her, she could not stop the startled shriek that escaped her lips.

Momentarily distracted, they looked at Alainn. She could see thoughts of lascivious activities with a young maiden replacing their current feud. They lunged toward her.

“ ’Twas Conelly!” she blurted, dancing away from their hands.

“What?” they asked in unison, trying to grab for her.

“Fergal Conelly, he stole your coin.”

This brought them up short. They looked first at each other and then at the golden-haired girl who stood before them, the sheer picture of innocence.

“He has it in his boot,” she insisted, “but sure he’ll be spendin’ it this night if you don’t get to him straightaway!”

“How can she know?” one man hissed, the forgotten knife now slack in his hand.

“She’s got the gift,” whispered the other, crossing himself. The men stood unsure, assessing the situation and the possibility that this odd young woman might possess the gift of second sight. They stepped carefully away from her, and the one who had lost his coin turned and ran to find the accused Conelly. The other stared at her with some doubt, but soon followed his mate.

Alainn made her way back to the safety of the crowded street, shaking her head. The sights and sounds of the city surrounded her, and affronted her senses. She had read of cities before, had tried to imagine them. But, imagining and actually being there were vastly different things. She was beginning to regret her hasty decision to escape Castle O’Brien, even though it had seemed her only option.

Trying to form a plan, she walked on, deep in thought.

“I want your hair.”

A man walked just behind her, so close she could feel his hot breath upon the nape of her neck. He snarled, his lips curling back to reveal a mouth nearly black with rotted teeth.

“I want your hair,” he repeated.

“My hair?”

“Aye, ’tis a most unusual shade, a lovely golden color. The tresses would be much in demand.”

The man was by no means destitute. His garment suggested he was a merchant of sorts, though a dirty one. There was a large broadsword in his scabbard, and she reasoned, by the size of his upper arms, that he had the strength to wield it well.

“What would you do with my hair?” she quizzed as he began fingering the ends of her locks.

“Ah,” he leaned in and sniffed her hair. “There are men and women alike who would be most pleased to have your locks made into a fine wig.”

The man unsheathed a small knife from his belt. It glinted in the sunlight.

“Shall I see you parted from your golden tresses?” he murmured almost lovingly.

Whether he intended to reward her in coin for her locks or simply meant to shear them and be done with it, she did not fancy either option, though losing hair would clearly be preferential to losing her life.

“I am rather fond of it, myself,” she protested trying to calmly release her hair from his possessive grip. He grinned once more, and Alainn caught the repugnant stench of his foul breath.

“I’ll be takin’ more than your hair should you cause me any hardship,” he drawled.

Her eyes skirted the area in an attempt to find help.

“You’d be wise to think twice about disturbing my hair or any part of me,” she cautioned.

“Do you have a man about somewhere nearby?” he sneered. “I wouldn’t have left someone so lovely alone in a city, myself. Something most unfortunate could happen to her.”

“Not a man. I have something far more powerful and effective than a mere man.” She added in a whisper, “I am protected by fairies.”

He smirked and guffawed.

“You should not take this lightly, good sir,” she chided, her face solemn. “Interfering with anyone under fairy protection is a most grievous matter.”

“Are you addle-minded, woman?” he muttered impatiently, but nonetheless looking nervously around.

“Do not rile them,” she warned. She, too, glanced around as though she saw fairies surrounding her. Smiling wickedly, she concentrated on the knife and willed it from his hand. It flew free, whizzing through the air, and lodged itself in a nearby signpost.

He reached for his sword, but it too was torn from his grasp. It clanged to the cobblestone street, echoing unnaturally. His face paled, and he bent to retrieve it. Alainn took advantage of the moment and jumped behind a nearby cart. Sword in hand, the man stood up uncertainly, obviously deeply confused. He scanned the area, trying to locate the woman who had only now stood before him. When he turned his back, Alainn set off in the opposite direction, her feet fairly flying on the cobblestones.

Certain she had surely given the man the slip, she dared cast a glance back. Her heart lurched in fear to see he still followed. She set out running at full speed, blocking his path with whatever objects she passed, Killian’s voice fresh in her mind. “You may not look for trouble, Alainn, but it seems to find you nonetheless.”

The loud footsteps seemed too close. The man was gaining ground. Her burning lungs felt as though they would surely burst. Her stomach reminded her it was still queasy. She searched for a doorway through which to escape but could see no place to hide. Cursing under her breath, she wondered how she always managed to find herself in such dire circumstances.

As she rounded a corner, she heard the clomping of a horse nearby. Carefully envisioning the face of the man, she called upon her magic. It happened all at once. She heard the horse neigh and rear, the man cry as he leapt out of the way, and his curses as he slipped on a fresh pile of horse dung and fell face first into another.

“Protected by fairies,” she softly whispered and sent the message off on the wind.

The Irish Witch Series

About the Author

Leigh Ann Edwards


Since she was a child, Leigh Ann Edwards has always had a vivid imagination and lots of stories to tell. An enthusiastic traveler and author for over twenty years, her adventures in Massachusetts, Ireland, and the UK inspired The Farrier’s Daughter and its sequel novels in the Irish Witch series. Edwards adores animals, history, genealogy, and magical places—and Ireland is filled with many magical places. She lives with her husband and two cats in the lovely city of Edmonton, Alberta.

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Guest Blog: Flame by Victoria Purman

Posted June 23, 2016 by Rowena in Promotions | 1 Comment

Victoria Purman is here today to wrap up our Firefighters of Montana series feature and she’ll be talking about the fires in her homeland of Australia. She wrote Flame, Book 5 in the Firefighters of Montana series and seriously, who can say no to hot firefighters or really, hot reluctant smoke jumpers? Not us!

Flame by Victoria Purman
Firefighters of Montana #5
Releases on July 5, 2016 by Tule Publishing

Cady Adams has had a crush on Dex McCoy since high school, but her ambitions were always bigger than the small Montana town they grew up in. In the years after, Cady headed to California and Dex ended up drifting from one job to another all over the US.

But when the rug is pulled from under her feet, Cady comes home to establish her business, Cady’s Cakes. What she doesn’t know is a family tragedy has pulled Dex home, too, and he’s taken a new job as a smokejumper.

Will they finally give in to what’s been burning between them for so long? Is the timing right to find out the dreamer and the drifter are really perfect for each other?

FlamI’ve had such fun writing for Tule Publishing (if you’re read my Millionaire Malones series you’ll know why) so when I was asked if I wanted to be part of a series writing about Montana smokejumpers, I replied to that email so fast I almost melted my keyboard.

I might not be from Montana, but down here in Australia, we know all too well the harsh reality of fires and the damage they can wreak.

Just this past summer, a terrible bushfire in my home state of South Australia caused so much destruction and heartache. The Pinery bushfire, as it became known, killed two people, destroyed 91 homes and burnt through more than 85,000 hectares of land (that’s about 210,000 acres). Tens of thousands of livestock were also killed.

Just as you do in the States, we have amazing and heroic firefighters, men and women, who drop everything – often leaving their own farms and businesses – to stop fires from spreading and doing even more damage.

We don’t have smokejumpers in Australia – our mountain ranges come nowhere near the size of the Rocky Mountains – so most of our firefighters drive in with trucks, and are assisted by water bombing helicopters. A famous chopper in south-eastern Australia has been nicknamed “Elvis” and can drop 9,000 litres of fire retardant foam on a fire.

All these tools are crucial in my State – the driest state in the driest continent on earth – when temperatures often reach 44 degrees Celsius (111 Farenheit) celsius for weeks on end.

I so enjoyed writing Dex McCoy, something or a reluctant smokejumper, and imagining what it might be like for the woman who loves him – Cady Adams – as she waited for him to come home from the mountain.

I hope you like “Flame”, too!

Photo: Sam the koala became famous around the world after this photo was taken during an Australian bushfire a few years ago. (Reuters) (Source: abc.net.au)

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About the Author


I write for Harlequin MIRA and Tule Publishing. If you want to know more about me and my books, swing on by to www.victoriapurman.com or follow me on facebook at Victoria Purman Author or on twitter @VictoriaPurman.

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Guest Blog: A Fresh Start with Nicole Helm (+ Excerpt)

Posted June 22, 2016 by Rowena in Promotions | 0 Comments

Today on the blog, Nicole Helm will be talking about fresh starts and starting over new. She’s also sharing an excerpt from her book Ignite from the Firefighters of Montana series published by Tule Publishing. Check it out!

Ignite by Nicole Helm
Firefighters of Montana #3
Releases on June 21, 2016 by Tule Publishing

Lina McArthur has spent her life in Marietta, Montana, in the shadow of her doctor father. But now that she’s finally broken free and moved away, she is determined to figure out who she is out of her scrubs. Then she meets the first man to ever tempt her to let him take them off…

Dean “Ace” Clark has been on the run from a troubled and tragic past. When a work-related injury sends the smoke jumper to the hospital, his wounds are tended by the beautiful Dr. McArthur. Just one problem. He knows the McArthur name, and she’s connected to the past he desperately wants to stay one step ahead of.

Ace has never been afraid to jump into a dangerous situation, but falling for Lina might just be the biggest leap of courage he’s ever faced..

Have you ever dreamed about starting completely over? New life. New name. Whole new identity. Growing up, I moved a lot, and got somewhat obsessed with the idea of fresh starts. A haircut to start the new year, a fresh notebook for every new story idea. I was always certain that a new thing could possibly change my life. I didn’t go so far as to create a whole new identity, but that idea of a fresh start was one I held onto a long time.

On top of that, I always loved stories where people assumed different identities, or police detectives went undercover as someone else, or soap opera villains who turned out to be some long lost other character. It’s a fascinating prospect becoming someone else.

While I was writing IGNITE, I finally got to explore what it might be like to have a completely new identity. And what better identity could a man trying to get away from his past choose than a smoke jumper who fights fire that destroys and makes new all at the same time?

My hero ran away as a teen and started over with a new name, a made up life story, and for a while it works out just great, but nothing is ever as easy or simple as we think it’ll be. Because that thing I learned was there are no fresh starts, and you always have to face the things you thought you’d left behind.

Have you ever dreamed about becoming someone else? Starting completely over? Did you have a new identity plan?

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Lina McArthur studied the screen of her rolling computer station, noting the patient’s information before entering the exam room. It hadn’t been a particularly busy day in the ER—late afternoon rarely was, here. Considering she’d come from the tiny town of Marietta, Montana, Kalispell was something of a change. Sure it wasn’t New York City, but it was still busier than she had been used to during her residency with Marietta Regional.

Possible concussion wasn’t exactly a gunshot wound, but it was nice to be here, to work somewhere outside the sphere of her father’s influence. She’d only been with Kalispell Regional for a month now, but living on her own, being out of the McArthur spotlight in Marietta, it was everything she’d dreamed it could be.

She stepped fully into the exam room to find a large man sprawled out on the exam table. He was wearing pants that had large tear down the side, which revealed a long if not terribly deep scratch. The pants and the loose-fitting T-shirt he wore were covered in a streaky black substance that appeared to be smoke or soot of some kind.

He had black smudges on his face as well, though mostly at his hairline and under his stubbled jaw. Someone had cleaned and bandaged the scrapes across his cheek, but the nurse had informed her that he didn’t need any stitches.

“Mr.…” She wasn’t sure why she paused over the last name. It was a very common one and just because it happened to be the last name of her best friend didn’t mean anything. She’d just been thinking about home and Marietta, and Jess was one of the few things she missed.

Besides, the brother Jess was looking for might have the last name Clark, but his first name was not Ace like this gentleman’s. It was a coincidence and silly to think otherwise.

If there was one thing Lina McArthur was not, it was silly. “Mr. Clark. I see you took a little bit of a tumble. Can you tell me what happened?”

“You mean the same story I already told the nurses? Each and everyone who came in and asked me the same damn question?” His voice was deep and edged with total irritation.

“It’s important we all get our story straight,” Lina replied, doing her best to keep her tone equitable. The hardest part of being a doctor for her was bedside manner. Especially being in the ER where people tended to take out their fear and nervousness on her. But she hadn’t made it through med school and residency in a hospital dominated by her larger-than-life father without learning how to plaster on a fake smile. “If you could just explain to me what happened and where you’re hurt.”

“This is so unbelievable,” he grumbled, sitting up straighter in the bed and glaring at her with a sharp, blue gaze.

Blue eyes, just like Jess. And half the rest of the population, idiot. “Mr—”

“Listen, lady, I have better things to do than sit in the ER telling a million people the same story. I was hurt. As I can walk, see, and think, I’ve deduced that I’m fine. No medical degree needed.”

Surly, her absolute least favorite type of patient to deal with. Probably because she’d be the same if the situations were reversed. She hated repeating herself, hated waiting. Patience was not her virtue.

It didn’t appear to be this man’s either. Though he didn’t fidget, his blue eyes were nearly vibrating with a kind of restless irritation. His jet black hair was unruly, though not too terribly long.

He didn’t even look a thing like Jess, why did she keep wondering over his last name? It would be too crazy of a coincidence.

Besides, he’s hot.

Neither here nor there, brain.

“I’m sorry you’re frustrated, Mr. Clark,” she said in the most cheerful voice she could muster. “But this is procedure, and the sooner you cooperate the sooner we can release you. Now, please explain to me what happened.”

“I’m a smoke jumper,” he grumbled, crossing his arms over his chest.

His arms were also streaked with black—smoke apparently. They were also…yum.

Argh. No. No thinking patients were hot.

“Small fire and I got caught up in the wrong wind. My chute got twisted and I landed hard, hitting my head on a tree. I’m a little banged up and apparently I lost consciousness for a second or two, but obviously I’m fine.” He swept a hand down the front of himself.

She didn’t allow herself to peruse. Oh, yes, he is fine. “How long were you out?”

“I’m not sure. The guys said a couple seconds. But the medic checked—”

“Obviously, the medic thought you should come to the ER. Have you had vomiting, nausea, change in vision?”

“Why don’t you ask the eight hundred people who came before who’ve already asked me that, lady?”

“Doctor. I am a doctor. Right now I am your doctor. So, stop calling me lady.” Once she said the words, she winced. She wasn’t supposed to snap but, oh, how she hated to be called lady or girlie.

His gaze sharpened, but his mouth, which had been screwed into a scowl since she walked in, curved upward. It was surprisingly potent, his smile. She didn’t trust it all.

“Pack a little bit of a punch for such a tiny package, don’t you, doc?”

“I’m not a package,” she replied, curling her fingers around the edges of her computer cart. “And I don’t pack any punch. I am a doctor.”

He sat up on the exam table, looking her over with a certain kind of…interest. Interest that made her feel very nearly jittery. Nervous. She’d never cared to feel either. Especially in the presence of a man who clearly thought she was something he could play with.

Lina McArthur was not toyed with. She scowled as she realized the voice in her head sounded far too much like her own father to make her comfortable.

Of course, that had always been because of who her father was, who her family was—the not being toyed with. While some people at this hospital knew of her father’s stellar medical reputation, his influence didn’t quite reach here. She’d been treated differently since moving here in that she hadn’t been treated differently at all, and it was nice to blend in. To not feel like she had to live up to the McArthur name.

That didn’t make men any easier. They were still as baffling as they always were. She slumped a little behind her cart, typing his explanation into the computer. “I’m going to examine the bump.”

“Are you now?”

She wanted to stutter at the lazy way he drawled that, but she schooled her tongue to behave as she stepped toward him. “Did you come into contact with any fire?” she asked, unable to stop looking at him. Which was…ridiculous. So, he was hot? She’d seen attractive men as patients before. But…there was something different about him. Something affecting. And pretty. And muscles.

“No, where I jumped, the fire’d already been put out. This is all old ash.”

“Ah.” Her hands wanted to shake, but she focused on the task at hand. Bump. Concussion symptoms. Deciding if she’d recommend a CAT scan.

“Ever jumped into a fire, doc?”

“No, my job is to heal fools who think they’re immortal.” Oh, that was not bedside manner.

But he laughed and something about that sexy rumble while she was gently parting his hair made her brain malfunction. Completely. She didn’t even remember what she was doing.

Focus. You’re a doctor. You’re a McArthur. The bump wasn’t alarming, and the placement on his skull made it unlikely he had internal bleeding, with no ill-effects this far after the original accident.

“So, what’s the verdict, doc?” he asked, his voice a low, silky murmur. “Do I have a week to live?”

She dropped her hands and took a few steps away from him. Okay, maybe she scurried away from him. “You probably suffered from a concussion. Over the next few days you may get a nasty headache. You’ll want to avoid any screen time—TV, phones, computers. No contact sports, or, I assume, jumping out of planes.”

That knocked all the silky ease out of him and he sat up straight. “Fire season starts this week, aside from training I have to be ready to—”

“You’ll have to miss it. For a week.”

He scowled and jumped off the bed. “Like hell.”

She shrugged, making sure to keep the computer cart between them as she typed her recommendation into his chart. “Sorry, buddy. That’s how this works.”

“I don’t think you’re sorry at all, Dr…” His gaze trailed down to her name tag, and she was sure it was her imagination his eyes took a little detour over her breasts because not only were they the opposite of impressive, but her coat covered them up fairly well.

“Dr. McArthur,” he said, as though…stunned. As though he didn’t just know of the name, as though he knew the name. Intimately.

Then his gaze returned to hers and she knew… He knew her name. He knew her family. And his last name was Clark.

It couldn’t be, but it had to be. “Your name isn’t Ace at all, is it? It’s Dean. Dean Clark.”
Ace held himself very still. There’d been a few times in the past few years someone had been looking for Dean, and he’d managed to throw them off the scent. It helped that most of the people who looked for him had a picture from when he’d been sixteen. Tall and wiry, a sneering, angry, gangly thing.

He hadn’t been Dean Clark in ten years and he didn’t plan on going back now. Ace Clark was charming, fun-loving, and an integral part of his smokejumping crew, even if he could read the suspicion in his new captain’s eyes. The rest of the guys liked him, trusted him. Mostly.

He’d embraced the life he’d made up. Even rented a place in Kalispell and stayed year-round. He’d given up Dean, and he hadn’t looked back.

Damn McArthurs, always sticking their noses where they didn’t belong. How had he run into one here? And a doctor to boot. A doctor telling him he couldn’t work for a week? The season was just starting.

He wasn’t going to sit around twiddling his thumbs if there was a fire. It had taken him twenty years to find a purpose, the past seven to work his way up to jumper.

A McArthur, of all people, wouldn’t muck up his plans. “I don’t know a Dean, lady.” It wasn’t as easy to lie to this woman as the people who’d come before. Who the hell knew why? Maybe because the McArthur name had thrown him for a loop, a painful reminder of the sister who he’d had to leave to save, or maybe it was because this woman’s dark blue eyes were sharp and intelligent.

He didn’t know what kind of relationship she had with his sister, but considering the McArthurs had taken Jess in once he’d finally smartened up and hightailed it out of Marietta, he figured this woman knew his sister well enough.

Which meant he had to get away from her ASAP. Jess couldn’t know he was here. He might have gotten his life together, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t always two steps away from blowing it all to hell again.
Jess deserved better. That was why he’d left her. So she’d stop hurting herself over the likes of him.

“Yes, you do,” she said, her voice steady and sure.

He needed to make her scramble again, so he forced himself to smile, to admire the shape of her because it made her cheeks turn pink and the otherwise solid, capable doctor demeanor fade into someone shifty and nervous.

He had no idea why the nerves were attractive on her. Usually, he liked a woman with a little more experience and a lot more overt interest in him. Easy women who knew what they were getting into. Temporary fun.

She was none of those things. And she’s a McArthur. Keep your head together. “I got a…second cousin or something named Dean, I think.” He shrugged, offering his mastered empty-headed smile. “Wouldn’t know him if I saw him though. It’s been ages.”

She frowned at that and he didn’t think she believed it without reservation, but it hopefully put enough doubt in her head she wouldn’t go spouting his whereabouts to her family.

Please, fate, be on my side for once. “Now, can I go?”

“I’ll have to print out your release papers, and the patient tech will come in and have you sign a few things.” She watched him with a brow furrowed, an intense, considering expression on her face. It did nothing to quell his interest in the sharp-mouthed doctor.

The name McArthur should.

Yeah, it should.

“A second cousin named Dean?”

“Yes. Somewhere in Montana, though I don’t know if it’s anywhere around here. My parents weren’t particularly close with his. I grew up in Oregon.” The lies were always easy, if only because, as a kid, he’d pictured a life as someone else. Anyone else. Ace Clark, smokejumper and not a total life failure, worked for him.

It damn well wasn’t going to come to an end because of a McArthur. Even if she was too attractive for his own good.

He and Jess had been with a foster home outside of Marietta when Jess had started dating one of the McArthur kids. Dean had only ever met one of the McArthurs, and only once. He’d broken his wrist trying to sneak out of the foster house, and the formidable Dr. McArthur had treated him, asking if he knew Jess.

Dean had lied, because Dr. McArthur had made it abundantly clear he would view Jess’s relation to him as a mark against her.

So, Dean had done his level best to get kicked out of another foster home, get his ass on the road, and leave Jess to a life that gave her a chance at something more than they’d ever had. More than he ever thought he’d be able to have.

He didn’t know much about this McArthur woman except she was one of them, and a doctor.

And hopefully at least a tiny bit gullible.

She studied him for the longest time and he pretended like he was the man he’d invented. Carefree, life-of-the-party Ace Clark. Lazy smiles, relaxed demeanor. None of the go-to-hell tenseness that had made up his life for the first twenty-some years.

He locked away all the irritation, the disgust at being in room with a McArthur—especially a pretty one—forced away any softening memories of his sister who’d been the only one in his life who’d ever tried to do right by him.

Much like fighting a fire, he couldn’t worry about more than the moment. More than the challenge in front of him. First, the jump. Then the landing. So, right now, all he could focus on was being unaffected.

“Well, print those papers, doc. I’ve got work to get back to.”

Her considering look sharpened into disgust. “If you care about the health of your brain, you won’t jump or do anything with high impact for a week, Mr. Clark.”

He grinned, couldn’t help it, and she must have read at least a portion of his thoughts because she blushed. Damn if he didn’t want to stick around and make her blush a few more times.
Not in the cards. Right. “I’ll see what I can manage.”

She rolled her eyes, but she clicked something on her computer than pushed the whole cart to the door. She looked back once, giving him a once-over that wasn’t nearly as interested as he’d like it to be. No, it was dissection. It was could you be Dean Clark?

“Why’d you say McArthur like it meant something to you?” she finally asked.

“You ever heard of Colin McArthur?”

Her eyebrows furrowed. “No.”

“He was a famous college football player who became a smokejumper. He’s a legend—big story in some big magazine years ago. There was a documentary about him. Thought you might be related.” He’d always thought quickly on his feet, thanks to dear, old dad’s equally quick fists and threats.

She didn’t say anything after that, simply wheeled out of the room. Ace allowed the easy smile to leave his face, to acknowledge some of that riotous fury inside of him, the tense fear she might say something to Jess. That this might be over.

“No, it isn’t over.” He’d finally built himself a life. He wasn’t going to upend this one—not because of anyone else.

Surely, since she’d left, she’d let it go, and if she didn’t… Well, he’d figured out how to deal. He’d roll with the punches. He always had.

He waited around for the interminable time it took the patient tech to go over the insurance and billing paperwork. Finally, they released him and he was allowed to walk down the corridor and out into the waiting room.

That’s the last time I set foot in the Kalispell Hospital. He’d find a way to make sure if anything happened on a jump again, they’d take him somewhere else once they got him out. Anywhere else.

“Hey, Ace, what’s the verdict?”

Ace stopped short, not realizing Sam had stayed. It had been hours now, and as much as it had surprised him the new captain he didn’t particularly care for had driven him here, he was downright shocked Sam had stayed. “You didn’t have to stay, captain.”

Sam shrugged. “You were out cold for a good minute. Wasn’t sure they’d let you drive out of here.”

“She didn’t say anything about driving.” He scowled at his discharge papers. He could refuse to give them to Sam, he could lie, it wouldn’t be the first or last time, but he found he kind of did care about the health of his brain. “But I can’t jump for the next week.”

“Sucks, man.” Sam commiserated, walking out of the hospital next to him. “We’ll keep you busy.”

Ace eyed Sam. It was hard to trust people, always had been, and losing Russ last year… Well, Russ was the first person who had trusted Ace with something. Who’d believed in him. It had been a blow and Ace had been unfair to his replacement in the interim. Maybe not consciously, but this kind gesture meant he saw it pretty glaringly now.

Maybe he should rethink that strategy. Sam had changed things up, but he was a good guy. Someone to trust. “Thanks. For staying.”

“Anytime.” They climbed into Sam’s truck, but he didn’t start the engine right away. “I mean that seriously, Clark. Anytime.”

Ace wanted to laugh. Sure, bury the hatchet with the new boss when a woman who threatened his real identity had just called him on it.

But he’d come too far, built too much. He had a place to belong, so he just had to come up with a plan. A plan no big-nosed McArthur could ruin, no matter what she told Jess.

Ace didn’t allow himself to think of his sister. Not as anything other than a problem to avoid. He watched the highway pass and focused on his lies instead.


About the Author

Nicole Helm

Nicole Helm grew up with her nose in a book and a dream of becoming a writer. Luckily, after a few failed career choices, a husband, and two kids, she gets to pursue that dream.

Nicole lives in Missouri with her husband and two sons, and writes her novels one baby’s nap at a time. She’s slightly (okay, totally) addicted to Twitter, loves watching the St. Louis Cardinals, and her dream is to someday own a barn.

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