By: Gem Sivad


This book is dedicated to firefighters, smoke jumpers, and hotshot crews from all over the world. To all the men and women battling the deadly wildfires currently raging up the US Pacific Coast Line, thank you all for your courage and strength. God Bless!

Find the beat…

Chapter One

Marty Jones

When I boarded on the twentieth floor, a steady beat of pain danced above my right eyebrow, a thumping ache filling my head. At least today I had the elevator to myself.

After I’d begun getting weird looks over my obsessive rides, I’d announced I was evaluating the building’s security system. Not that its anyone’s fucking business. So, okay, sometimes I need a little self-therapy. Make that, often. I don’t know shit about running a big company. But, dammit, I’m running a big company.

So, lots of times I board the elevator for a little sanity time. Smoke, Inc. is twenty floors up and if I push multiple buttons to slow the ride, I usually have a grip on my senses by the time the doors open on ground level. As for the elevator itself, there aren’t any real problems other than, in my opinion, the doors are open too long when the car stops on each floor, and the piped-in music must go.

I had a pile of paperwork waiting on my desk, Elaine, my office assistant, threatening to stay after clock-out-time to help me with it, and Noah March, a friend in hell, on his way to my office to make my life more miserable.

Shit. I had to get my paperwork done because I live in my office and no way do I want to entertain Elaine in my after-work hours. But my administrative assistant, secretary, or old harridan, whatever name fits her, knows I don’t want her hanging around and uses it to get work out of me.

Jesus, I’m such a fucking pussy. Resentment rose inside of me. I did not ask for any of this.

Unpleasant realities and my own short-comings had me grinding my teeth when I arrived on ground level. I braced myself for the inevitable company, and when the doors opened, I automatically stepped back, making room for incoming. Instead of entering the car and moving aside, the passenger stood between me and the buttons on the wall. I liked to look at the buttons. It helped me calm down.

Without shoving the body sideways, I couldn’t see squat. That, plus the insipid piano music droning from the hidden speakers, made the vein in my forehead pulse even harder.

“Twenty,” I growled and got nothing more than a nod. So much for reminding my fellow passenger he wasn’t riding alone. Denied the control panel, my interest switched to the person standing in front of it.

Maybe not a he. The knit cap pulled low left no clue about whether the wearer was man or woman. He/she fidgeted in front of me, as if feeling my stare. Tough shit, you should have moved. I leaned on the back wall and crossed my arms over my chest, analyzing the intruder.

There was a time when men wore the jeans and women wore… womanly stuff. I pondered that. A lot of things had changed and most of the time I felt like a whale beached in the middle of a four-lane highway.

I could feel my blood pressure rising and stared harder at the passenger. Denim jacket and jeans offered the same gender anonymity. Thick wool socks pulled high under laced-up work-boots completed the unisex outfit.

Male or female? And why do I care? Nevertheless, my gaze trailed upward, stopping when I reached hip high. Long legs ended where a nicely rounded ass began. Woman.

Who the hell is she? I hadn’t seen her during my recent elevator escapes. She was either a new hire in one of the offices or a visitor/client just here for the day. I leaned against the back wall speculating about the newbie. Probably heading up to one of the insurance offices.

Since she didn’t move, I continued my inspection.

Nice coat. Though it had spots worn shiny with age, it still looked good, fitting her shoulders and tapering in enough to hint at a narrow waist beneath, before it eased out again. I approved the sheepskin lining as I pondered her identity. When the doors opened on the fourth floor, she stepped from the elevator.

Huh. Didn’t see that coming. Surprised, I gazed at her as her long strides carried her toward Baby Dolls Escort Service. While I watched, her feet did a little skip as her shoulders swayed to a private beat. For once I didn’t mind the extended length the doors stayed open.

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