Harlequin FREE Online Read: The Fireman’s Second Chance by Lisa Childs

You’re just in time! A brand new online read has just started on Harlequin.com–The Fireman’s Second Chance by Lisa Childs. The first chapter has already been released, with more coming ever Monday. So dive on in to this great new read!

During an arson case, fireman Heath is set on winning his detective wife, Molly, back after tragedy ruined their marriage.

***

Smoke billowed from the building, rising like a dark cloud into the sky, above the flames lapping through the roof. The structure was either about to collapse, or if there were any utilities still connected to the abandoned building, it might even explode.

Maybe that was why the other guys on firefighter Heath Reynolds’s crew had insisted on pulling out early, even before they’d finished the sweep for survivors. Or maybe they’d pulled out so soon because the rafters had already begun to fall.

“We need to back up,” his captain yelled as he gestured at his men to move the rigs. He wasn’t that big a man, but his voice boomed over the noise of the fire and the trucks and the hoses. “Work on containment so it doesn’t spread to any of the surrounding structures.”

Many of those buildings were abandoned, too, on this side of River City, Michigan. But was the burning structure really vacant?

Heath wasn’t convinced that it was. As the first engine to arrive at the scene, it was his and his crew’s job to check for anyone trapped inside the building. But he didn’t think the search had been thorough enough. The other crew members hadn’t seen anyone. And neither had he. But he’d thought he’d heard something: a weak cry. He would have investigated had they not pulled him out.

“I have to go back inside,” he told the captain. “I think I heard something.”

“You and the crew cleared the building,” Captain Stewart said. “It’s vacant anyway.”

Heath shook his head. “Somebody was living there.” Or at least partying there. There had been the usual beer cans, liquor bottles and drug paraphernalia lying around with abandoned restaurant equipment and furniture.

“They must have gotten out when the fire started,” the captain said dismissively. “And you’re not going back inside anyway. You barely made it out with the crew.”

Heath hadn’t been the only one those falling roof rafters had nearly hit. A couple other guys had almost been struck, too. Then there was the risk yet of an explosion—especially if it followed the pattern of the last few fires at abandoned buildings.

And it was beginning to feel as though there was a pattern to these fires. A signature. They hadn’t found anybody inside those other buildings. So there was no reason to think that someone was inside this one. But for that faint cry that only Heath had heard.

“I have to check…”

The captain repeated, “You’re not going back inside.”

“I think we missed someone,” Heath said. “I swear I heard a cry.” That cry would forever haunt him if someone died in the fire.

Hell, cries like that already haunted him.

He didn’t wait for his captain to agree. He rushed back toward the burning building. He knew—he just knew—that something or someone was inside the building. And this was his chance to search, while the rest of his crew was preoccupied with moving equipment.

There wasn’t much left of the building anymore. Would he be too late to save whoever had called out to him?

If not for the damn rafters falling…

He paused at the door only long enough to check his tanks and readjust his mask. He needed oxygen. And whomever he’d heard would need it, too. But before he headed into the flames, he paused and turned back. It was as if he’d been able to sense her arrival.

Or maybe he’d just known that she would show up eventually since this fire was bound to be another arson. And as a major case detective for the River City Police Department, she worked arsons with the fire department investigator. She stopped her black sedan just behind the perimeter the police department had set up to keep out curious onlookers. And maybe the potential arsonist…

The first thing she did as she exited her vehicle was to snap pictures of the crowd from every angle. She wouldn’t miss anyone—except Heath. Not that she was missing him.

But then she turned and looked fully at him. And his breath caught in his already burning lungs. She was so damn beautiful. Even in the smoke-filled air, her blond hair shimmered and her blue eyes sparkled. She looked more like a model than a major case detective.

Her beauty was her secret weapon. It disarmed people or made them underestimate her. Then they had no idea how smart and capable she was.

Or stubborn and proud.

Heath knew.

As her husband, he knew everything about Detective Molly Parks-Reynolds except how to make her love him again. It was always so painful to look at her and know that he would never again be able to touch her or hold her. His heart aching like his lungs were, he turned back to the building and headed into the fire.

He doubted it could burn him as badly as she had.

***

Molly’s heart slammed against her chest as she watched the firefighter stride into the burning building. Even if she hadn’t recognized Heath’s long, broad body, she would have known it was him. He was always the one who would rush headlong into danger despite his captain yelling at him.

“Damn it, Reynolds, don’t go in there!” Captain Stewart shouted. Curses followed as Heath disappeared into the smoke and flames.

“What’s he doing?” Molly asked. “Why’s he going back in?” She could see the rest of the unit was moving back, concentrating more on the surrounding structures than the one on fire.

“He thought he heard something when they swept the building earlier,” Stewart replied as he shook his head. “A cry or something…”

Molly gasped. Maybe the call hadn’t been a prank one. “Someone called 911 and said there is a baby inside this building,” she told the captain.

The color drained from the captain’s lightly lined face, leaving only a couple patches of soot. He’d been close to the fire, too. But he hadn’t been nearly as close as Heath was.

“I listened to the 911 recording on the way here,” she said. “It sounded like a kid called it in. I didn’t think it was legit.”

The captain nodded as if trying to convince himself that his crew hadn’t left a baby inside the building. “Yeah, yeah, the caller could have just been someone trying to lure a firefighter or police officer inside.”

But the call hadn’t been what had lured Heath. Had he heard something? Was there actually a baby trapped in the burning building?

Molly’s heart began to pound even more frantically. “I don’t think a kid would have called to do that.” The arsonist might have. If this was the same one who’d set the other fires, he hadn’t hurt anyone before. Not that he hadn’t tried.

It seemed like the fires always ended with an explosion, one probably strategically planned to destroy any evidence.

She clutched the captain’s arm. “Heath needs to get out of there.” She knew they had radios connecting them. His captain would be able to communicate with him.

“He heard you,” Stewart said. “He wants to know if the caller said where the baby was.”

And she remembered why she’d thought the report was a prank. “A walk-in freezer in the basement.”

The captain repeated what she said to Heath.

If a baby had been left in one of those, even if the cooler wasn’t operational, the child was probably already dead. And if Heath didn’t get out of there soon, he would be, too.

“Tell him to forget about the call. It must have been a prank,” she said. Then she implored him, “Tell him to come out.”

Stewart snorted. “You, better than anyone else, know how well Reynolds listens. You were married to him.”

She still was, since he hadn’t gotten around to signing the divorce papers yet. But if he stayed in there much longer, he wouldn’t need to. He was going to make her a widow.

Just as the thought entered her mind, the fire whooshed, blasting hot air, flames and debris, and the building exploded. The roar of the flames drowned out the sound of her screams. The blast propelled her to the pavement. But she wasn’t screaming out of her fear for herself. She was screaming for Heath.

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