Authors: Jo Davis
“With her descriptive storytelling and sharp banter, Davis's way with words will keep the reader hooked. The passion between Taylor and Cara is hot, and their romance is sweet and sexy. Once again, Davis hits it out of the park.”
“Romance suspense at its bestÂ .Â .Â . a wonderful series that has it all: exciting stories, superhot couple, romance, danger, suspense, friendship from a great group of secondary characters, and hot hot hot sex.”
âThe Reading Cafe
“This exciting contemporary romantic suspense story continues the saga of the delicious detectives in the Sugarland Police Department.Â .Â .Â . This book can stand alone and provides a thrilling story with poignant interludes and will undoubtedly garner new fans to the series.”
âThe Reading Addict
“An adult romance tale which piles on the tension from the start and doesn't let up.”
“A roller coaster of emotion and action that will keep you gripped until the last pageÂ .Â .Â . with just the right combination of both romance and suspense.”
âCocktails and Books
Sworn to Protect
“[A] strong series launchÂ .Â .Â . a satisfying, fast-paced read.”
“What's not to love about sexy men in blue with fast hands,
true hearts, and the courage of their convictions? Davis certainly knows how to draw the perfect balance of vulnerability and strength.Â .Â .Â . She wraps it all up in an action novel that falls just shy of a police procedural, but with plenty of pure steamy romance and family drama. A great start to the Sugarland Blue series!”
RT Book Reviews
“Ms. Davis did a fabulous job.Â .Â .Â .
Sworn to Protect
is a wonderful start to the Sugarland Blue series.”
âUnder the Covers
“If you like romance, action, and mysteries, then you will love this book.”
âOnce Upon a Twilight
“Jo writes stories that keep you hooked until the very last page and clamoring for the next book to release.”
âBook Monster Reviews
“A smart, sexy, and fast-paced read.”
PRAISE FOR THE FIREFIGHTERS OF STATION FIVE NOVELS
Ride the Fire
“The perfect blend of romance and suspense. Neither element overshadows the other. Jo Davis creates a great combination of romance, steamy love scenes with mystery and suspense mixed in. I was pulled right into the book, and before I knew it, the last page was turned. I wasn't ready to let go.”
“Once again, Jo Davis has rocked it in this series!”
âNight Owl Reviews
“Jo Davis continues her steamy, heat-packed romantic suspense stories with
Ride the Fire
This book is a great blend of hot romance with suspenseful, well-plotted action.”
Line of Fire
“Grab a fan and settle in for one heck of a smoking-hot read.Â .Â .Â . Fiery-hot love scenes and a look inside the twisted mind of a killer make
Line of Fire
stand out. Add in the behind-the-scenes look at the other characters and I could read this book over and over!”
“Full of romance and steamy love scenes with a splash of mystery and suspense. This combination had me eager to turn the page and left me wanting more. The love scenes were scorching hot!”
“Surprisingly sweet and superhot.Â .Â .Â . One of the best heroes I've read in a long time. If you want a hot firefighter in your room for the night, grab a copy and tuck right in with no regrets. Four hearts.”
âThe Romance Reader
“A fast-paced romantic suspense thriller.”
âThe Best Reviews
“Four stars! A totally entertaining experience.”
“Scorching-hot kisses, smoldering sex, and explosive passion make
a must read! Experience the flames of
“Exhilarating [with] a two-hundred-proof heat duetÂ .Â .Â . a strong entry [and] a terrific, action-packed thriller.”
Midwest Book Review
Trial by Fire
“A five-alarm readÂ .Â .Â . riveting, sensual.”
âBeyond Her Book
“Jo Davis turns up the heat full-blast. Romantic suspense that has it all: a sizzling firefighter hero, a heroine you'll love, and a story that crackles and pops with sensuality and action. Keep the fire extinguisher handy or risk spontaneous combustion!”
âLinda Castillo, national bestselling author of
“Jo DavisÂ .Â .Â . completely reeled me in.Â .Â .Â . Heady sexual tension, heartwarming romance, and combustible love scenes.”
“One of the most exciting âband of brothers' series since J. R. Ward's Black Dagger Brotherhood. It's sweet and sexy, tense and suspenseful.”
“For a poignant and steamy romance with a great dose of suspense, be sure to pick up a copy of
Trial by Fire
as soon as it hits the bookstores! Five bookmarks!”
âWild on Books
“Hot, sizzling sex and edge-of-your-seat terror will have you glued to this fantastic romantic suspense story from the first page to the final word. Do not miss the heart-stopping, breath-stealing, incredibly well-written
Trial by Fire
âRomance Novel TV
Sugarland Blue Novels
Sworn to Protect
Armed and Dangerous
Firefighters of Station Five Novels
Ride the Fire
Line of Fire
Trial by Fire
Published by the Penguin Group
Penguin Group (USA) LLC, 375 Hudson Street,
New York, New York 10014
USA | Canada | UK | Ireland | Australia | New Zealand | India | South Africa | China
A Penguin Random House Company
First published by Signet Eclipse, an imprint of New American Library,
a division of Penguin Group (USA) LLC
Copyright Â© Jo Davis, 2014
Penguin supports copyright. Copyright fuels creativity, encourages diverse voices, promotes free speech, and creates a vibrant culture. Thank you for buying an authorized edition of this book and for complying with copyright laws by not reproducing, scanning, or distributing any part of it in any form without permission. You are supporting writers and allowing Penguin to continue to publish books for every reader.
SIGNET ECLIPSE and logo are trademarks of Penguin Group (USA) LLC.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
To my beautiful daughter, Kayla. You're everything a mother could wish for in a daughter, and so much more. You're a strong, smart, loving, and kind young woman. Completely individual. Trust in yourself and your gifts, and those strengths will carry you wherever you need to go for the rest of your life. You are my light and my joy.
Chris's story is for you. I love you so very much.
Special thanks to:
My wonderful daughter and son for being my strength and my purpose. For always supporting and encouraging me every step of the way in whatever I do. I love you both.
My dear friend Melody Walker for coming back into my life and bringing me such happiness just when I needed it most. Because of you, I'm finding my smile again.
My agent, Roberta Brown, for always being my cheerleader and my guide.
My editor, Tracy Bernstein, for endless support, patience, and words of wisdom.
All of the crew at NAL, including the art department, marketing team, and publicists. You guys are awesome!
And the readers. Your support for our boys in blue means the world to me. You
The urgent yell from the front of the emergency room near the foyer jerked Robyn Lassiter from her exhausted stupor and got her moving.
Jogging toward the front, she met the three nurses who'd rushed through the double doors pushing a gurney. The patient was an older woman, perhaps in her seventies; her eyes were closed, her pallor gray, her lined face covered with a sheen of sweat.
“Take her to ER Two,” the doctor said briskly. As they hurried down the hall, she asked, “Where are the paramedics?”
“Husband brought her in.” Shea Skyler, one of the nurses, gestured behind Robyn.
Whirling, Robyn found herself with an armful of distraught husband. Catching him by the shoulders, she looked into his panicked face. “I'm sorry, but you'll have to remain outside.”
“But my wife! Please, Peggy needs me!”
Robyn kept her tone firm but kind. “What Peggy
needs is for me to be in there helping her. I can't do that until you let me. Please, go to the waiting area and I'll get you as soon as possible.”
Another nurse appeared, gently taking his arm. “She's in good hands. Come with me, Mr. Fields.”
After a moment's hesitation, the man swallowed hard and said reluctantly, “All right. Take care of Peggy.” His eyes were watery, face etched with the miserable helplessness he surely felt.
“I'll do my best, Mr. Fields.” She never made promises. That was one of the first unwritten rules she'd learned as a doctor.
As soon as he turned to leave with the nurse, Robyn joined her team, taking in the unconscious woman on the table.
“Do we have her age? Medical history?” she asked, grabbing the ophthalmoscope and shining a beam of light into each of the woman's eyes.
Shea spoke up as she attached the monitors. “Seventy-one. Diabetes controlled by diet. No heart problems, no other significant health issues, according to her husband. Though he did say she'd been feeling poorly the last few weeks.”
Robyn frowned, then set about taking her pulse even as she noted her blood pressure. “Vitals are unstable. Pulse is thready, BP falling rapidly. Ready the crash cart.”
The woman was about to train wreck; they'd all seen the signs before. So it was no surprise when, despite their attempts to prevent disaster, the heart monitor flatlined. With fast, efficient movements, her team prepped the patient, injected the necessary meds into her IV. Robyn
attached the pads on the woman's chest and waited for the all clear.
The first jolt did nothing to restart Peggy's heart. Nor did the second, or the third. Numerous tries and almost half an hour later, Shea met her eyes and shook her head, expression sad.
She had no choice. Without a heartbeat, even life support wasn't a viable option. Robyn blew out a breath and stepped back, dejectedly checking the clock on the wall. “Time of death, seven twenty-three p.m. Shea, would you take her husband to the private family room to wait for me?”
“You bet,” the other woman said quietly.
A nurse named Barb spoke up, glancing at the woman's body. “Must be something in the water. That's the fourth one in the last couple of months, at least that I know of.”
Robyn gave the nurse her full attention. “What do you mean?”
“I've seen two other cases come in like this over the past few weeks,” Barb said. “Gray pallor, sweats, nausea. Both of those died, as well as two others I heard about from some other nurses.”
“Most likely heart attacks.” She paused, frowning. “Though so many that close together is pretty unusual.”
“The thing is, a couple of those were young. One of my patients was a man who was only twenty-two.”
Staring at Peggy Fields, Robyn felt something unpleasant coil in her stomach. “That
unusual. I may take a look into our records of those patients and then give the medical examiner a call, see what she has to say.”
“Wouldn't be a bad idea. I've just got this feelingÂ .Â .Â .” Barb shrugged. “But it's probably nothing.”
But even so, it wouldn't hurt to poke around a bit.
Heart heavy, Robyn walked from the room. Detouring, she took a moment in the restroom to wash her hands and to pull herself together in order to face the worst part of her job. Then she made her way to the private family room and, taking a deep breath, pushed inside.
The elderly man's expression as he stood, so hopeful and yet afraid, tore at her soul.
“Mr. Fields, I'm so sorry,” she said gently. “We did everything we could, but your wife has died.”
That night, after she'd let the sitter go and tucked Maddy into bed, the memory of the man's sobs invaded her dreams, refusing to allow her to rest. Why? Why did bad things happen to good people?
Uneasy, she replayed the conversation with Barb in her head.
Must be something in the water. That's the fourth one in the last couple of monthsÂ .Â .Â .
It was likely just a terrible coincidence, but now that the question had been raised, she couldn't let the matter go without an answer. It wouldn't help the dead, but if there was something else going on, maybe more grief could be spared.
Try as she might, she couldn't always save them. Not even the ones she loved most.
Rolling over, she hugged Greg's pillow and pretended she could still catch the beloved scent that was no longer there.
*Â Â Â *Â Â Â *
Christian Ford burrowed into the covers, savoring the warmth. He wasn't wild about leaving his comfortable nest at oh-dark-thirty to head to the gym and then on to the station.
But that was only because of the pert, naked bottom his groin was currently nestled against. There was nothing in the world like a woman's smooth body spooned with his, and his cock took a decided interest in gearing up for round three. Or was it four?
Cracking one eye open, he raised his head and peered over the sleeping blonde at the digital clock on the nightstand. “Ugh.”
Just enough time, if he hurried. With regret, he slid from the bed and padded quietly to the bathroom. He took a quick shower to wash off the pungent aroma of their sex-a-thon, even though he'd have to take another after his workout. He didn't need more ribbing from his cousin Shane, or any of the other cops, about his carousing.
Yeah, like the shower would stop them when they already knew he'd taken this one home last night. But at least he wouldn't stink.
After drying off, he dressed in warm-up pants, a T-shirt, and tennis shoes, and gathered a nice pair of dark pants, shoes, and a button-up shirt to wear to work. He folded the pants and shirt carefully, then placed them in his gym bag along with his shoes. Then he threw in his wallet and the badge he always clipped onto his belt, and headed for the safe in his closet.
Another peek showed that his one-night stand was still passed out. Satisfied, he spun the combination and
opened the heavy door, removing his holster and pistol. Normally, he'd just toss the holster and ammo onto his dresser and keep the gun close to his reachâbut never with a stranger in the house. He'd stashed them as soon as he'd brought her home.
Shutting the safe, he walked to the bed. Reached down and touched the woman's arm. “Hey, time to get up.” She stretched, then stilled again. What was her name? Damned if he could remember. “Wake up, gorgeous.”
Better to stick with something general, anyway.
This time, her eyes opened and she blinked. Looked around, and then scowled at him as she sat up. “What the hell? The sun's not even up!”
“Yeah, sorry about that. I
tell you I had to leave early.” She was clearly unhappy, a frown marring the expression on her narrow face. He realized that she wasn't nearly as attractive as she'd been last night after a few rounds of Cuervo. Now that common sense had returned, he wasn't
sorry about the hour or shoving her out the door. He guessed it showed.
With a huff, she rose and began to gather her clothes. She took her sweet time pulling on her panties and donning her bra, a smirk forming on her lips as she did.
“You sure you want me dressed?” Her attitude had gone from sulky to playful, as she obviously decided to try to persuade him to be late.
“Yep. Gotta go,” he said cheerfully, shoring up his willpower. Morning-after sex with this woman would definitely give her the wrong impression.
looking for foreverâbut not with the young
lady who'd fucked him only
propositioning his cousin and getting turned down flat. Even the fact that Shane was married hadn't been a deterrent to her. God, what had he been thinking? Chris forced back a shudder at the thought of how he'd allowed tequila shots and loneliness to cloud his judgment.
“Come on,” she purred, stepping up to trail a nail down his chest. “Fuck me against the wall again. Please?”
Any lingering trace of lust withered and died. Now he just wanted her gone.
He stepped back, still smiling, but letting his tone cool a bit. “Look, I'm running late, which means you have to leave. It's been fun, but the real world is calling.”
Snorting, she grabbed her jeans and yanked them on. “Whatever. Call me if you want another round tonight, or drinksâ”
“I won't, but thanks for a great time.” He cringed at the seemingly heartless, but necessary, brush-off.
Finally getting the message, she finished dressing, pulled on her spiky heels, grabbed her purse, and stormed out. Following, he winced as the front door slammed with no little force. He took a moment to be grateful she'd driven her own car, preventing the awkwardness from being any worse.
Shit, he hated hurting people's feelings. Even so, it never ceased to amaze him what some women expected from a man versus reality. Under the circumstances, was hooking up with her supposed to mean more to him than a great roll in bed? Especially when he'd been her second choice to begin with? Jesus.
With a sigh, he let himself out through the garage, where his Camaro waited. Climbing in, he stowed his bag next to him, hit the door opener, and then fired up the engine. Once he was on the road, he breathed a sigh of relief.
“Christ, that sucked. No more one-night stands.”
Until the next time he got so lonely his control vanished.
At the gym, he walked inside and immediately spied his new partner, Tonio Salvatore, jogging on one of the treadmills. Tonio had moved from Texas to Sugarland, Tennessee, the year before to be closer to his brother, Julian, a firefighter and medic at Station Five. Tonio was a good guy, if a little seriousâunlike his brother, who was a former womanizer of the first order.
Tonio avoided women like the plague. Badge bunnies in particular drove the guy nuts, and not in a good way. He was totally devoted to his siblings, his mother, and his job. And as far as Chris knew, he never took part in the off-color jokes other officers bandied about to blow off steam, didn't drink much, and rarely smiled. The man was an enigma, and Chris wished he'd open up some. The guy definitely had a story to tell.
But Tonio pulled his weight as a cop and had your back. That was what counted.
Leaving his partner to the treadmill, Chris did some stretches to warm up. Then he started with some easy curls, and worked up to crunches. Next came some weights to work his thighs. Last, he headed over to do some bench presses for his arms and chest. He never did
too many reps, not wanting to bulk up, just enough to keep fit and toned.
“Spot you?” Tonio asked, walking over as he wiped his face with a hand towel.
As Chris began, falling into a comfortable rhythm of lifting the heavy bar from his chest, he could feel Tonio's penetrating gaze. He figured the third degree wasn't far behind.
“You feeling okay today?”
“Come on, man.” He huffed, pushing the bar upward again. “You've asked me that every day since I came back to work.”
“It's only been three days, amigo. Just answer the question.”
“I'm fine.” Another rep.
“Your color still isn't good. You're too pale.”
“Everybody's pale next to you,” he joked. Tonio was half Hispanic and half Italian.
“Smart-ass. You know what I mean. First you've been sick, and then you got into a wreck during that stupid fucking chase, got yourself banged up.” Annoyance had crept into his tone, which Chris knew actually masked his worry. He'd heard his partner talk the same way to Julian. “You haven't even been out of the hospital a week, andâ”
“Tonio? Give it a rest, man. Seriously.”
“Fine. But if you so much as break a sweat, I'm going straight to Rainey.”
Austin Rainey was their captain, and he wouldn't hesitate to put Chris back on leave if he suspected he wasn't
up to par. The idea of being cooped up again, out of the loop at work, wasn't a fun one.
“Don't worry. I'm not going to fuck up and do anything to ruin your rep as the department superhero.” Heaving the bar back into the holder, he sat up and caught Tonio's fierce scowl. “What?”
“What the hell is that supposed to mean?”
Reaching for his own towel, Chris rolled his eyes, then wiped his face and neck. “Come on, everybody knows about the busload of kids in San Antonio. How you jumped onto a speeding bus and saved them all, like a regular Keanu Reeves or something.”
Crossing his arms over his chest, Tonio narrowed his dark eyes and ignored the repeat of the story. “I'd never put my reputation above my partner. And don't try to change the subject. I'm concerned about you.”
“I wasn't trying to change the subject. Just letting you know I'm fine, but thanks.” Wow, two lies in one shot.
He'd definitely been trying to steer the conversation away from himself, and the nausea he'd been striving to ignore since he'd started his workout was becoming worse. The headache was starting as well, building as an awful pressure in his skull that promised to be a screamer before long.