Here's your final peek at my upcoming release! THE QUIET DAY will be released tomorrow, but here's an exclusive look at Chapter 3!
As a female firefighter in a small town, Suzanne O’Connell knows that every day will go one of two ways: Either nothing happens, or she suddenly finds herself in over her head. Firefighters never, ever say the words “It’s a quiet day!”—because that’s when all hell breaks loose, and their peaceful, easy day suddenly turns into their worst nightmare. This is exactly what happens to Suzanne when she finds herself trapped with Harold Waters, local law enforcement officer and her old flame, and fellow fireman Toby Chandler, who, according to everyone, is the kind of guy you want watching your back.
In an unusual turn of events, the stakes turn deadly, and Suzanne discovers that trusting the wrong man could leave her life hanging in the balance.
Did you miss your sneak peek of Chapter 2? If so, click here.
She ran water in the sink, taking in her image in the mirror. The double sinks, walk-in shower and separate soaker bathtub, and even the matching towels were something she wouldn’t have expected from a guy. Toby really had a nice place, with three bedrooms, two bathrooms, and an open layout, with light and windows.
Where was he now but in his kitchen, cooking pasta on the gas stove? Yet another feature she was trying to wrap her head around, considering all she’d done was hand him the groceries after he answered the front door of his spacious house at the edge of town.
She was still trying to settle her thoughts after running into a man she hadn’t seen in years.
“Suzanne, dinner’s up!” Toby shouted from across the house.
She turned off the water, dried her hands, and took in her image as she pulled the hair tie from her long dark hair, which she usually kept pulled back in a ponytail, and let it fall past her shoulders. She rang her fingers through it. She hadn’t changed out of her dark uniform shirt, and she flicked the buttons one by one, seeing her practical sports bra underneath.
She stepped out into Toby’s extremely neat and tidy master bedroom, with its queen-size light wood bed and furniture set, and tossed her shirt on his fashionable beige comforter, which matched everything else. If she didn’t know better, she would’ve thought a woman had designed every part of this place.
She pulled open his chest of drawers, where she knew he kept his T-shirts, and lifted out a faded extra-large brown one to pull over her head before lifting her hair and striding out of the bedroom, down the hall to the kitchen, where Toby, who was dressed casually in blue jeans and a navy T-shirt, was draining the pasta into a large steel farmhouse sink.
He glanced over his shoulder as she stepped into his line of sight, and she wasn’t sure what expression was on his face as his gaze lingered on her average-size breasts. “You helped yourself to my shirt?” he said.
For a second, she wondered if he had a problem with it. “I didn’t change after my shift. Didn’t think you would mind, or is it an issue?”
He pulled back and made a face. What that meant, she didn’t know. “It’s fine,” he said, but she could hear the hesitation in his voice.
“Really? Because I’m getting the sense that maybe it isn’t. I have to wonder what’s going on with you, Toby.”
He set the pot back on the stove, lifted the strainer from the sink, and dumped all the pasta into a big skillet of simmering sauce. He turned off the burner before resting both his hands on the counter and giving her everything in that one look, unamused. There was something about dancing around whatever this was. She didn’t want to do it anymore.
“What is this, Suzanne? You’ve been off since you got here. I’m just making dinner for us, and then I want to chill after today. I have a lot on my mind and a lot of responsibility, too.”
She couldn’t shake the sense that he was keeping her at arm’s length, and that was where he needed her to stay. She wasn’t pushy, but she knew what she wanted.
“You know what, Toby? I’m not off, but I am wondering what this is. Can’t remember ever feeling as I did tonight with my family. I was at my brother’s place, texting you because I was expecting you to say where we should meet, and then I didn’t hear from you for a few hours, so I was thinking, okay, maybe you were blowing me off. We had plans, I thought. So where were you?”
Had she always been this forward? Yes, when she needed to be.
She didn’t pull her gaze from him as he stood there. It wasn’t anything he said, but something about the way he was staring back at her gave her the feeling that maybe she shouldn’t have asked.
He glanced away, and there it was, the difference between him and Harold. Maybe that was why she was so unsettled. Toby looked away far too often, she thought, when he should’ve been giving her everything.
“I have responsibilities, Suzanne. What is this?” Now he sounded defensive.
“So you were at the station? I left after you.” She was sitting on one of the stools at the island, not pulling her gaze from him.
“I had a meeting with the chief.”
She nodded. “So you were with the chief, then? Okay. The entire time?”
“Suzanne, why are you questioning me like this? I’m single, you’re single. I don’t answer to you, you don’t answer to me.” He gestured between them, and something about the energy left her feeling as if she had put her foot in her mouth. “I sense that you’re upset about something. You had a bad day? It was a quiet day, though, so don’t…”
Had he seriously just said that, a quiet day? She gave him a look, wondering what he was thinking, but he didn’t seem to notice what he’d said. “Whoa, you know better than to say that,” she snapped. “A quiet day…seriously, Toby?”
He seemed to shake her off. “A slip of the tongue is all, Suzanne. What I’m saying is you seem unsettled.”
She hadn’t expected this. “You know what, Toby? I guess I never really noticed it before, your unwillingness to answer me, how you so easily twist things, shining the situation back on me as if I’m the one with the issue. It’s something politicians master, but then, maybe that’s where you’re heading.”
Apparently, he got the zinger, as the laugh he let out was rough, jagged. “Wow, you really can be a piece of work sometimes.”
She shrugged. “No, it’s just that I asked you a question, and you deflected. You haven’t really answered me. You’re right that we’re both single, but we’re sleeping together, and I was under the impression that we were heading somewhere more serious. It didn’t help that my brother and Charlotte both insinuated that you’re playing me in some way. Are you playing me, Toby? Are you being straight with me? Come on, let’s put our cards on the table and stop dancing around this.”
“So now you’re listening to your brother about me? Never thought that would be something you’d do, Suzanne. You think I care what Marcus thinks of me? I’m very well aware he doesn’t like me and has no use for me. Just never expected that from you. Then there’s Charlotte. Everyone knows she always falls in line with how Marcus sees things.”
Just the way he said it had her sitting up straighter.
“Are you trying to imply something about Charlotte?” She lifted her hand before he could reply. “No, don’t, Toby, because that’s low, even for you. Don’t do that. Don’t try to taint Charlotte’s character to make yourself look good. She’s a good woman, and you don’t know her. Another thing is clear here, and maybe it’s taken me really long to figure it out, but I get it now. You don’t want to answer me. You have a way of deflecting that I never realized before. This thing here, Toby, what is it?” She gestured between them and didn’t miss how uncomfortable he was. “I really want an answer. I think I deserve that much.”
“Sounds to me like you’re holding a gun to my head, Suzanne. A commitment, is that what you’re looking for? Because we’re not there. I like you, and you like me…” He just shook his head.
She wasn’t a fool. She felt that sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach, sensing the brush-off that was coming, just as his cell phone started ringing. A second later, so did hers.
Of course, he didn’t hesitate to answer. “Fire at the box store,” he said. “We’re being called in.”
She reached for her phone, seeing the same message, and stood up, taking in the dinner they hadn’t eaten. Toby was already walking to the door. She grabbed her purse before hurrying to his bedroom and grabbing her shirt, then to the front door, where he was waiting to lock up.
She was already halfway to her car when he called out, “Suzanne…” and she stopped, pulling the door open as he walked toward her.
“Look, I didn’t mean to come down on you so hard or to sound like such a jerk,” he said, “but at the same time, this here, between us, I don’t know what to call it. I care about you. I really do…”
The way he was looking at her, the way he stepped toward her, the chemistry rocked, and she could feel the pull again, feel herself being reeled back into whatever this was.
“I sense a big ‘but’ coming.”
He glanced away, hurried, brushing her off. He shook his head. “I like things the way they are. You just need to calm down a bit, not be so rushed. Besides, don’t forget the little fact that I’m a lieutenant and you’re not, and if others in the department get word of what’s going on between us, things could become difficult, namely for me.”
“Oh, I see. This is about your image, about protocol?”
He just shook his head and took a step back. “No, it’s that everything isn’t always that simple, Suzanne. Look, this isn’t the time. We have a fire to get to, and I really want to talk to you about this when we’re calmer, more reasonable, and have time.”
He started over to his pickup, his new one, and she knew that was his way of shutting this down. There was just so much about Toby that she wasn’t able to grasp. He had a way of not answering, of evading, of deflecting, and for the first time since this thing between them had started, she wondered if this was something he’d always done or if she was finally seeing this relationship for what it really was.
Would they ever settle into anything? Because right now, she didn’t want to admit it, but there might be something to what her brother was saying. This could be going exactly nowhere.
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A hit and run. A deserted country road. A parent's worst nightmare.
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