Was it wrong to tell Beau’s mother he’s my boyfriend?

Yes.
Would I do it again?
In a heartbeat.
The smokin’ hot fireman isn’t exactly in the closet, but he’s been keeping things quiet for years.
I don’t do quiet.
All the guys in Hell’s Ankhor know I have to be true to myself. That’s why they call me Tru.
Beau and I are nothing alike. Doesn’t matter.
The attraction between me and the fire chief is hot enough to burn.
But there’s danger in town, too much for us to get hung up on each other.
Yeah, too late for that.

Do I want to kill Tru for lying to my mom?
A little.
But the look on her face was worth the fallout.
The easy-going biker is nothing like me. He’s impulsive. Brash. Happy.
I’ve never dated another guy before, and I should probably walk away. Too bad I can’t.
When we get wrapped up in an arsonist’s plot, I have to wonder if Tru wants me or an open flame.
My doubts are nearly enough to smother any ember of love, but I need to be stronger than that.
Can we still make things work after all the flames are doused?

Tru has bad boys, bikers, and a fire chief finally ready to step all the way out of the closet and into the arms of his not-so-fake boyfriend.

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Chapter 1 - Tru

“Ugh, come on!” Heath complained with a broad smile on his face. “I don’t have time to shower before class.”

Dare responded by drawing his flour-dusted finger down the bridge of Heath’s nose again, leaving behind a white powdery smudge [M1] on his pale skin. “You sure?” he asked coyly. “I can’t convince you to be a few minutes late?”

Heath laughed and swatted at Dare’s arm. “Stop it, you’ve made me late too many times!”

Gross,” I said, purposefully walking between them to get to the coffeemaker. “Are you washing your hands after doing that?”

“These are for the club, not customers,” Dare said. He wrapped one big arm around Heath’s narrow waist and tugged him out of the way so I could pour a cup of coffee unimpeded. “I think the club will survive.”

“And if not?” I asked as I poured my coffee. “Then what? Who will pay for the funeral costs? You know my will requires my funeral to be at least $50,000.”

“You already have a will? Aren’t you, like, thirty?” Heath asked, still grinning. Since he had met Dare and gotten their shit together, Heath had brightened a lot. And he had a quicker wit than I expected, returning my digs the way a tennis player returns a serve.

“He does not,” Dare said, rolling his eyes at me. “He’s just being difficult, and for that reason, I won’t be allowing him to taste test these scones.”

“No!” I exclaimed. “After everything I’ve done for you and the Crew?”

Dare laughed and rolled his eyes again. “Scones’ll be done in ten.”

I nodded, appeased, and sipped my coffee then slunk to the other side of the kitchen island so I wasn’t in Dare’s way. I felt a little strange about calling us the Crew—force of habit, it’d just slipped out—but Dare hadn’t corrected me. Would our moniker eventually have to change, now that we were a charter of Hell’s Ankhor?

I wasn’t unhappy with the fact that the clubs had combined. Actually, I thought it was a great idea—navigating our autonomy as a club living and working within Hell’s Ankhor’s territory was exhausting. Patching in to their club was better for the safety of both clubs in the long-term, and being able to call on Hell’s Ankhor enforcers for backup was going to make my job a hell of a lot easier.

And through Heath, I’d gotten to know a lot of the Hell’s Ankhor guys a little better. I liked them, and respected them a whole hell of a lot. But I was a member of the Liberty Crew, and I had been for years now. I couldn’t just switch to calling myself a Hell’s Ankhor member overnight. Would we have to eventually? I didn’t love the thought of doing so, but I’d have to cross that bridge when I came to it.

“Are you testing new recipes?” I asked. “Or just goofing off?”

“Goofing off,” Dare said. He wiped his hands on a dish towel tucked into his back pocket. “No use in recipe testing yet—there are bigger things to focus on.”

“How’s the construction going?” I asked, leaning both elbows on the kitchen island.

“It’s about to finally start,” Dare grumbled.

“Because you couldn’t stop making tweaks with the architect,” Heath said fondly.

“Well, if we’re gonna have to do it, might as well get it the way we want,” Dare said with a shrug. “But yeah, the construction crew’s arriving in a few days. I met their lead guy recently—he’s young but he seems to have a good head on his shoulders.”

“He’s up for the challenge of working with you?” I asked.

Dare chucked his dish towel at me. “I’m not that bad.”

“You’re a little difficult,” Heath said.

“See? He’s on my side!” I exclaimed.

Dare groaned. “Ugh, I regret introducing you two.”

“It’ll be worth the trouble,” I said. “I’m just glad the exterior was able to be saved.”

Dare shook his head. “I know. I can’t imagine what it’d be like to have to build an entirely new building. Brennan, the construction guy, says it’d be easier to start from nothing from a construction standpoint… But like hell I’d let them tear the brick down.”

“Lucky the building is sturdy,” Heath agreed. “And lucky the firefighters arrived when they did.”

I nodded. “Beau said if they’d gotten there just a few minutes later, it would’ve been too late to save it. We got lucky.”

I’d spent a lot of time in those first few days after the fire talking to Beau. He was the lead fire investigator, but he hadn’t taken a backseat to the actual work of the fire control, either. He’d been in the forefront when the building was actually burning, and then was on-scene every time the department was there to investigate the arson, too.

And I couldn’t deny that I was a little thrilled every time he showed up. I loved a competent man, and watching Beau run the scene got me a little fired up, so to speak, which I still felt a little bad about. It was definitely inappropriate for me to be checking out Beau when he was in the middle of investigating my own club’s bakery burning the fuck down. But how could I not?

He was a little taller than me—and I was tall—and his sandy blond hair was long enough that it stuck to his temples when he was sweaty with exertion and curled a little in the humidity. Definitely the right length for me to run my fingers through and maybe pull a little bit. He had this awful habit of wearing a skin-tight fire department t-shirt with his work cargo pants, and it looked painted onto his muscles.

He was built. And it wasn’t gym rat built, either—it was functional muscle from, I assumed, all the sexy firefighter things he did like dragging hoses around and rescuing dogs and babies.

So I, being myself, couldn’t help but flirt a little when I saw him. What could I say? He checked all the boxes, and I liked to go for what I wanted. I’d seen those slate gray eyes flicker over me more than once—I knew he liked what he saw, even if he wasn’t admitting it. Probably it was the job that kept him leashed—not exactly super professional to hit on the guy whose burned-down bakery you’re investigating.

Or maybe he had an issue with clubs, like some of the people in and around Junee did. We had a pretty good reputation, but that didn’t mean everyone liked us. And people who worked with cops—like firefighters and investigators—often didn’t have the greatest view of club guys.

I wasn’t one to jump to conclusions, though, and I really didn’t want that to be the case. So I’d decided I’d just keep sniffing around. Trying to figure out who Beau was behind those chunky firefighter pants.

“What do you think, Tru?” Heath raised his eyebrows knowingly at me.

“Uh—sounds good,” I said, having absolutely no idea what the hell they’d been talking about.

“See?” Heath elbowed Dare. “He wasn’t listening at all.”

Dare shook his head. “You are ridiculous. One mention of Beau, and you’re off in your own world.”

“I was not,” I said with a pout. “I was listening.”

“‘Sounds good’ was your response to Dante asking if you wanted to quit being sergeant-at-arms in order to start a baking apprenticeship,” Heath said with a laugh. “You sure about that?”

I grimaced. “Okay, so maybe I wasn’t listening.”

“Morning, guys,” Mal said as he descended the clubhouse stairs. “Smells good, Dante, what’s baking?”

“Is it for us?” Nix asked as he hurried down on Mal’s heels, his square glasses falling down his broad nose in his haste.

Dante rolled his eyes. “Maybe, but now I’m not so sure.”

“Aw, come on.” Nix shot Heath a friendly smile as he wormed his way to the coffeemaker and fixed cups for both him and Mal. “What are we interrupting?”

“Tru was just ignoring us to daydream about Beau again,” Heath said.

“What?” I protested. “I was not daydreaming.”

“All right,” Dare said, “You were deeply lost in thought about Beau and completely stopped listening to us.”

“Ugh. I’m being ganged up on. This isn’t fair.” I sipped my coffee.

“Beau’s done some good work for us, though,” Mal said, easily ignoring the ribbing, as he was extremely used to it. “And Tru’s been handling a lot of the logistics.”

“Yeah, I wonder why,” Dare said sarcastically.

“Dante,” Mal said in a teasing, warning tone.

“Mal’s right,” I said. “Beau’s been out at the site pretty much every time I’ve been there. I’m sure he could’ve pawned some of that work off on someone else. Nice that he’s invested.”

“It’s his job,” Heath said.

“No, I think Tru is right,” Nix said.

I fist-pumped.

Nix ignored me. “Now that the investigation’s finally over, and construction is starting, maybe we should say thanks to the guys at the fire station? Send them some scones or something?”

“I did make a lot,” Dare said.

Mal nodded. “Not a bad idea. It’s good for us to keep a positive relationship with the first responders, too. What do you think, Dante?”

Dare nodded. “I don’t see any reason why not.” The timer went off, and Dare pulled a baking sheet of scones out of the oven. They looked amazing, golden-brown and dotted with fat blackberries. “I can pack up some of these once they’re cool.”

“Oh, no,” Nix lamented as he stared at the scones. “That’s not what I wanted.”

“Spoke too soon, Nix,” I said through a laugh. Mornings like this always made me happy—the brotherhood and camaraderie of the Crew was the reason I’d stuck around so long, and the reason the club was still going strong despite its small numbers. We were a family.

Heath laughed and moved a few scones from the baking sheet to the plate, touching them swiftly as to not burn his fingers. “Here, I’ll set a few aside for us.”

“It’s not enough,” Nix said despairingly.

I propped my chin in my hand where I was leaning my elbow on the kitchen island. No matter how many of Dare’s baked goods Nix tried, he acted like he’d never tasted one in his life and he’d never get another one. Dare’s baking was just that good.

But it was also a good idea—the fire department had done a lot for us, and a little show of goodwill could go a long way. Especially now that we’d patched into Hell’s Ankhor. Would that change our reputation in Junee? We were known for being the established, small, local club. What if people were less accepting of us with a bigger club’s name on our back?

“You gonna take them over there, Dante?” Mal asked.

Dare caught my eye and grinned. “Nah, my schedule’s busy today.” He swung his arm around Heath’s waist again. “Tru, do you have time to drop some scones off at the fire station?”

I grinned and stood up from the kitchen island. “Yeah, I think I can make that work.”

“Don’t look too eager,” Mal said warmly.

I shrugged. “What? I’m off duty today. Seems like a good use of my time to go see what our buddy Beau is up to.”

“That is not the reason you’re going,” Nix said as he pilfered one of the still-cooling scones off the plate. “Don’t annoy him too much, we need him to like us.”

“Sorry, when have I ever annoyed anyone?” I asked.

Everyone began talking at once, a cacophony of voices that all blended together as they answered that absolutely rhetorical question. I cackled and waved them all off in order to rush up the stairs to my room. If I was going to show my face at the firehouse, I needed to make sure I looked good.

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