by Jessica Jayne
Publication Date: July 23, 2018
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Standalone
Gracelyn Riley married a firefighter and knew that came with risks. But she never imagined herself widowed in her early thirties with two children to care for on her own. Even though her marriage to Chad Riley had its difficulties, dealing with the last year without him has not been easy. Her brother-in-law, Matt, has been the rock that has kept her from collapsing or imploding.
As a fireman, Matt Riley had been at the scene when his brother, Chad, was killed. For the last year, Matt has suffered from survivor’s guilt and drank himself into oblivion. His sister-in-law, Gracelyn, supported him, lending him a shoulder to cry on. Her friendship has pulled him through time and time again until he finally sobered.
With the year anniversary of Chad’s death upon them, Gracelyn and Matt turn to each for support and comfort. What they didn’t expect was to realize that their feelings for each other go beyond the solid friendship they share. Can they overcome the guilt and the scrutiny of their family and friends to find love together?
The epiphany that had smacked Gracelyn on the forehead last night while sipping her wine and listening to Coldplay was what had brought her to the station this morning. Matt couldn’t just ignore her. They’d been through too much and had known each other for too long. He didn’t get to play decision-maker on this because how they handled the situation affected her, too. They were adults. It was about damn time they acted like grownups.
She inhaled a deep breath of crisp autumn air as she approached the entrance to the station house. Even though she’d convinced herself that this needed to be done, it didn’t make coming here any easier.
She heard the laughter of the guys from inside, and she smiled. This firehouse had its fill of shenanigans. The team had struggled greatly with the loss of Chad, so it was nice to hear the joviality behind the door. She used to stop in regularly during Chad’s shifts, but since his death, she’d only swung by a couple of times to drop things off. The building held many memories, too many. Facing them and the guys who had been like brothers to her husband had seemed like too much. Until now.
She knocked on the door, then twisted the handle and stuck her head around the corner. The smell of sausage, eggs, onions, and peppers assaulted her. Someone was cooking a hearty breakfast for the crew.
Four men stood in the kitchen. All eyes turned in her direction.
Matt leaned against the far countertop, holding a cup of coffee, his smile fading at the sight of her. He pursed his lips and tensed his jaw when his gaze met hers. Her skin tingled from his penetrating stare.
“Gracelyn,” Drew Anderson said with a smile. His voice broke the silence she’d dropped on the group.
Drew stood at the gas stove, flipping what appeared to be sausage patties. He’d been with the department for over ten years and had been one of Chad’s closest buddies. They’d played softball together and cards on some nights. As diehard Cleveland Browns fans, they’d commiserated every football season. He’d been a big part of Gracelyn’s and Matt’s support system after Chad’s death. For several months afterwards, he and his wife, Stacey, cooked meals and stopped by the house to visit, despite how hard Chad’s passing had been on Drew, as well.
“Come on in.” Drew waved her in with the spatula.
She stepped through the door and into the lounge area in front of the kitchen. On one side, a long, wooden table stretched with chairs haphazardly pushed in under it. Paper plates, napkins, and silverware sat in piles atop the table, waiting for the breakfast sizzling in the pans.
“Hey, Drew. Tim.” She nodded her head in Tim O’Leary’s direction before closing the door behind her.
“What brings you here on a Monday morning?” Tim asked. The toaster popped, and Tim plucked out two pieces of toast and set them on a plate.
“I need to see Matt.” She’d chosen her words carefully. If she’d said “wanted” instead of “needed” she feared Matt would find a way around it. Despite their current situation, he would never deny her what she needed.
“Lucky bastard,” the unfamiliar blond guy said. He must have been one of the new recruits or candidates, as they were often called. He was young, probably in his mid-twenties, with shaggy blond hair, blue eyes, and the hard body of someone who worked out daily. He’d fit in quite well with the crew at the Mason Ridge Fire Department.
“That’s his sister-in-law, you asshat.” Tim slapped the guy on the head. “Gracelyn, this is our new candidate, Kevin Thompson. He’s training with us. Maybe he’ll even get to stay if we can housebreak him and teach him some manners.”
Drew chuckled. Matt’s tense face even cracked with a smile at Tim’s comment. When an emergency broke, these men were serious and organized. However, during their downtime, horseplay and hazing ran rampant. Giving the candidates a hard time was a favorite pastime of the veterans. Appeared to be Kevin’s turn at the roasting spit.
“Hi, Kevin.” She walked over to him and held out her hand. “Nice to meet you.”
“The pleasure is all mine.” He grasped her outstretched hand and brought it to his lips, pressing a slight kiss to her fingers. “All mine.” He winked at her. His gaze roamed over her slowly while he kept her hand in his. A flush washed over her at being so intimately perused in front of the men that had considered her husband their brother. “It’s good to know you’re single.”
“Let her go,” Matt barked, setting his cup down hard on the counter. All eyes turned to him. He flexed his hands at his sides. A flush crept from his neck to his cheeks. He glared at the back of Kevin’s head before meeting Gracelyn’s gaze. Something flashed behind his eyes. Jealousy? Whatever it was, she’d never seen the emotion on his face in the past.
Kevin dropped Gracelyn’s hand. Then Tim popped him on the side of the head again. Everyone but Matt puffed out a laugh.
ABOUT JESSICA JAYNE
Jessica is a born and raised small town Ohio girl, who moved to the Sunshine State after graduating from college. She graduated from college with a bachelor’s degree in English. What college major could possibly be better than one that makes you read novels and write about them! Now she is thrilled to be able to share all the stories floating around in her head!
Jessica loves to travel and travel often! She’s a huge sports fan, especially college football and the Ohio State Buckeyes! She’s a wine-making (and wine-tasting) aficionado. She loves all music. And nothing is better than sunset at the beach!
In the journey of life, she also married a wonderful man and had three beautiful (and sometimes crazy) children. Life is always an adventure.