Victoria Sue has a new release, In Safe Keeping (Heroes & Babies #2) out on September 3. I hope you enjoy this excerpt!
Blurb: Firefighter Lucas Attiker is mired in guilt by his inability to save his young son, who perished in a fire three years ago. When he rescues a troubled young man and his baby daughter from a Colorado forest fire, Lucas finally begins to forgive himself. But the wildfire is only the beginning of the dangers facing them.
Hell-bent on saving his daughter from his crime boss ex, Owen Michaels is on the run with the baby in tow—fleeing both the killers who are after him and the US Marshals Service deputies assigned to protect him. When his desperate flight lands them in the midst of an inferno, the man who saves them offers hope for more than just survival.
They might have escaped a blazing forest and a hail of bullets, but both men will need to risk their lives—and their hearts—to give a little girl a loving family… if they can make it out alive.
“Shall I tell you how I knew what you were thinking about doing?” Lucas’s hands closed over Owen’s arms, and he felt his warmth seep into his skin. Owen shook his head, trying to pull back, and Lucas chuckled, ignoring him. “Because you didn’t react when I said I would be okay to drive tomorrow.”
“Exactly,” Owen said weakly, very aware of how close Lucas was standing. “That’s the reason why I need to go, and why you need to stay here.”
He knew he wasn’t making much sense, but it was hard to reason when he was scared all the time. “You make me forget,” Owen tried to explain. “You make me feel like I could have a normal life, and that’s really dangerous.”
“We will have a normal life,” Lucas soothed. “We just need to put a psychopath behind bars first. You’ll see.”
We. Lucas had said we. Did that mean he saw a future involving them both, or was Owen hearing what he wanted to hear? He paused. When had he made that decision? That he wanted a future involving Lucas?
“It’s not safe. I can’t put you at risk.” Owen tried to reason with him. “I’ve already gotten you hurt once.” He looked down to Lucas’s side as if to prove his point, but Lucas gently put two fingers under his chin and tilted Owen’s face up. Lucas’s warm breath ghosted over his skin.
“You didn’t get me hurt. Your finger wasn’t on the trigger, and you didn’t take bribes.” He was so close. Owen really ought to step back, but then Lucas’s hand slid from his chin around the back of his neck to hold him still. The only thing in danger of giving way were his knees.
“But…,” Owen protested, but Lucas’s tongue flicked out and licked his lips. That small action seemed to drive all thought from his brain, and suddenly, Owen couldn’t remember what he was objecting to.
“You kissed me before,” Lucas said.
Yes. Yes, he had.
“I really enjoyed it.”
Owen’s mouth went dry.
“It feels right. You feel right.” That hadn’t sounded like a question. It had sounded more like an answer.
“I have people after me. Bad people,” Owen replied, wondering why he was trying to think of objections when all he wanted was to wrap his arms around Lucas and kiss him until he forgot why he should think it was a problem in the first place. Then, of course, because he was trying to forget his problems, everything came rushing back. “I have a daughter.”
Lucas nodded. “Really? About two feet tall? Throws veggies at the dog? Poops nuclear waste? That daughter?”
Owen couldn’t help a smile.
“And a dog,” Lucas added.
Owen frowned. “No, it’s you who has the dog.”
“Nope, you can’t possibly separate them.”
Owen sagged. “I may have to,” he whispered.
“Then think of it this way. If they knew where you were, they know you were with me. At least if I’m with you, I get protection.” He huffed. “It makes absolutely no sense whatsoever for us to be apart.”
Owen searched Lucas’s expression for any hint that he wasn’t 100 percent set on this, or that he wasn’t completely suicidal even, but Lucas just stayed still and let him look. Owen took a step to close the distance, as if making a decision, and Lucas opened his arms as if agreeing with it.
“You feel good.”
Owen rested his head on Lucas’s shoulder. It hadn’t been what he’d expected Lucas to say, but he wasn’t complaining. “So do you.”
“I can’t call Jacko until the morning because he’s on his twenty-four,” Lucas murmured.
Owen gazed at him. “So we can’t go anywhere tonight.” He said it like he hoped for it. So Lucas would know it wasn’t a question or just a compromise, but maybe even a promise. Lucas smiled, murmured something that sounded an awful lot like “exactly,” and then he cupped Owen’s chin and tilted his head up to angle it with his own. They had a second. A second of complete awareness that felt more right than anything Owen had felt in a really long time. And then, just as quickly, it was gone because Lucas’s lips were on his, and the ability to be aware of anything except what Lucas tasted like was beyond him. Owen moaned into the kiss and felt Lucas let go of his chin and slide his arms around Owen’s back.
Muscles strained under his hands even through the jacket, and for a brief second, he let go so he could slide his arms underneath all Lucas’s layers and feel skin. So good. Heat surrounded him. Prickles of desire danced on his skin and rushed through his veins, and he stood on tiptoes, wanting more.
Lucas moaned, and need overwhelmed Owen. “Lucas,” he pleaded and buried his head in the crook of Lucas’s neck. Lucas just stood and rubbed lazy circles on his back while their breathing calmed.
Owen eventually stepped back, and Lucas took both his hands and placed one over his heart. Owen could imagine the steady thud. He had lain next to it. He didn’t want to be a replacement for Niall. He didn’t want to be someone Lucas rescued. He wanted to be wanted for himself.
“I know what you’re thinking,” Lucas said, almost reading his mind. “I know you’re not Niall. And it’s true I may have a—” He paused and blushed. “—a hero complex, I think they call it. But….” He brushed a thumb along Owen’s jaw. “I rescue people a lot. Maybe not quite as dramatically as the way we met,” he admitted, “but I’ve had to get animals out of storm drains, trees, and abandoned buildings. I’ve pulled people out of wrecks, fires, and broken elevators.” He chuckled. “Even a boat once, but it was being towed by a car at the time.”
“I thought you fought forest fires?” Owen asked.
Lucas shook his head and pulled Owen back into him. “Not exclusively. We respond first. There are different rules depending on whether the fire is on state or federal land. If we can’t handle it, we need to know where to get help—from federal resources for funding or for manpower. First and foremost, though, we are a local fire service. But that changes, depending on the time of year and on whatever else happens to be on fire at the time.”
Owen luxuriated in the feel of Lucas’s warm body and the heart thudding steadily next to his. For a few seconds, he dreamed of always having this. “How did you come across the boat?”
Lucas chuckled and dropped a kiss onto Owen’s hair, his hands running up and down Owen’s back. “Last summer, we had to evacuate a campground that was right in the path of a fire. This older couple were already leaving and had their boat hitched behind them. The road to get into the campground has a hell of a steep drop on the right and this idiot in an Audi decided they weren’t driving fast enough, so he decided to pass them, just as a truck was coming in the opposite direction.” Lucas shook his head. “We were literally five minutes behind them, and nearly saw it happen. The car pulling the boat skidded and tipped. The lady did her best, but the boat stopped just short of going over the cliff. It was just seconds away from dragging the car over with it. We couldn’t get close enough to the back to unhitch it. Peters managed to get the other door open and pulled out the guy, but the driver couldn’t get her door open.”
Owen’s heart thudded anxiously, even though Lucas was safe now.
“They were trying to stabilize the car with chains, but the front end was a mess. There was nothing to hook the chains to. Cassidy ordered me off. The car was slipping, and there was nothing we could do.”
“Oh God,” Owen said. “What did you do?”
“They had the sunroof open. It was one of those huge panoramic ones.” Lucas grinned. “I just reached down and pulled her out.”
“I mean she stood, and Martin helped, but yeah, we got her out and down seconds before the whole thing slid over the edge.”
“It’s like something out of a movie.” Owen was astounded. “I can’t believe it.”
He tightened his arms around Owen. “Yeah. But my point is, not once was I tempted to bring any of them home.”
“You didn’t exactly bring me home. I ambushed you,” Owen murmured and snuggled into Lucas’s warmth.
“There you go, then. This is all your fault.”
And Owen smiled, despite everything.
He can’t save everyone…