Montana Fire

By: Vella Day
Montana Promises Book 3





Acknowledgments




Special thanks to Dawn Drollinger, Montana Deputy State Fire Marshal, and to Gordy Hughes, Fire Marshal of Missoula, Montana for answering all of my questions. You guys rock. And to Marla Monroe for all her medical advice.





Chapter One





“I heard you took a bullet for the bride.”

Even though the voice from behind sounded impressed, Jamie Henderson was determined to block out that nightmare. Forever. She softly let out a breath, willing herself to stay calm, and absently rubbed her arm where she’d been shot.

“That’s true.”

Why did Max Gruden, the man her best friend had paired her with to dance, have to bring up her past? Damn him. It was hard enough going through the motions, pretending to be happy, but it was Amber’s wedding day. For her, Jamie would try.

She pressed her palms down the overly big bridesmaid dress then smoothed her long hair, but the blonde wisps refused to stay down. She inhaled and turned around. There might be nearly two hundred people in the middle of a decorated barn, but her world seemed to have shrunk to just the two of them.

She’d never been this close to Max Gruden before. She couldn’t help but drag her gaze from his polished boots to the top of his head. His snug jeans and crisp white shirt with a bolo tie, spoke of a man who didn’t indulge in excesses. He wasn’t bad looking, either.

Who am I kidding?

His combed back brown hair that curled just at the collar, combined with the dark stubble and white smile made him very handsome. Then there were his eyes. She’d never seen anything like them before. The irises were a unique tint. Kind of caramel, like the color of those chewy candies that stuck to her teeth. Nicely spaced apart and set deep, his alluring eyes gave him a look of mystery—or were those etched lines shooting from the corners a result of worry? Upon further study, she’d have to say he looked close to forty.

He placed a hand on her shoulder. “Are you okay?”

She didn’t know if he said that because she’d been focusing on his face too long or because she hadn’t taken a breath in a few seconds. “Yes. I’ve been through a lot. I space out sometimes. Sorry.”

She inhaled, and his clean, spicy scent with a hint of mint caused more chaos inside her. That wouldn’t do. Max wasn’t her type at all. He carried himself with control and power. Jamie was used to a more quiet man.

The wedding party music struck up, and Max gazed down at her. “I get it, believe me. I know you’ve been through a recent trauma, but could I persuade you to have this dance with me?”

Max had experienced his share of woes, too. Having his wife and young child burn to death at home because of revenge would break the strongest of men. “I’ll dance, but I’m not ready to talk about what happened.” Not that he’d asked her to.

“Deal.”

He held out his hand. When their palms touched, his warmth spread up her arm, and her pulse raced. As they eased their way to the dance floor, Jamie fought his allure.

Amber Delacroix Carter, the new bride, had been in deep conversation with Max a half hour ago, no doubt filling his head about Jamie’s issues regarding her former boyfriend, Benny Ford. Amber had suspected Benny of killing hospice patients at the hospital then murdering Amber’s brother—which was why Benny had shot at Jamie’s best friend.

Just as he was about to pull the trigger, Jamie stepped in front of Amber to protect her. Even after six months, the emotional pain was only now beginning to diminish.

Jamie’s rational thought returned and she pursed her lips. She needed to make sure Max understood that she was only dancing with him because it was her obligation. “Just because I agreed to a dance, doesn’t mean I’m going to spill my guts,” she repeated. She hadn’t meant to sound so bitchy, but her stomach was swirling.

The lines around his eyes crinkled. Damn him. His whole face lit up when he smiled, creating a devilishly handsome appearance. “That’s fine, but if those guts happen to spill, I’m your man.”

“I’ll remember that.” She couldn’t afford to be tempted, especially by someone like him.

This was a wedding, not some therapy session. Jamie was tired of talking about her botched romance. Even if she got over Benny’s betrayal and violence, those poor victims would still be dead.