Flames of Passion

By: Kayla Perrin

Chapter 1

 Nya Lowe gazed across the lavish hotel reception hall and nearly choked on the shrimp appetizer she had just plopped into her mouth. Her heart began to beat rapidly, and a chill slid down her spine.

 Oh, God, tell me that is not Russell!

 As she watched that familiar swagger and saw that overly cheerful smile, Nya’s stomach sank.

 Russell Ewing.

 Russell Ewing, the man who had taken her to a restaurant to publicly dump her, when she’d been fool enough to believe he was going to propose.

 The man she couldn’t get over, no matter how many bad dates she went on.

 Turning abruptly, Nya hurried the few steps over to the bar, where she squeezed herself between the wall of men gathered there. Hopefully, Russell hadn’t seen her.

 “What can I get you?” the bartender asked her almost immediately.

 “Um...” Nya reached into her purse. “I’ve got this drink ticket.” Each attendee at the gala to celebrate the launch of the Ocean City Firefighters’ Calendar had received two drink tickets. “Can it get me a White Zinfandel?”

 “Of course.”

 As Nya watched the bartender pour her drink, she became aware of the fact that her breathing was all but nonexistent. It was as though Russell had sucked all the air out of the room.

 She glanced over her shoulder and felt a spurt of panic. Russell was heading in her direction.

 Even worse, there was a stunning, curvaceous woman on his arm. A woman Nya recognized. Topaz Gem—clearly a pseudonym—was the lead actress whom Russell had cast in his independent film.

 Were they a couple?

 “There you go,” the bartender said, and Nya was grateful that she needed to turn her attention back to him.

 Nya was tempted to down the wine and promptly purchase another one. Then she asked herself, Why are you letting Russell get to you?

 It was likely that she could go the whole evening without even running into him. There were enough attendees at the gala that two people could never even cross paths.

 She glanced over her shoulder again. And her heart just about imploded. Not only was Russell heading in her direction, his eyes connected with hers.

 He smiled.

 Nya took a liberal sip of her drink as her brain scrambled to figure out what to do. Should she simply walk away?

 Walk? Heck, she wanted to run as fast and far as her four-inch heels would take her.

 But running would make her look like a coward. Or worse, it would make her look like she was still hung up on Russell.

 Russell waved, making it clear that she’d lost her chance to flee. There went her plan of pretending that she hadn’t seen him.

 Nya swallowed. Darn it, she wasn’t prepared to talk to him. She wasn’t prepared to make nice with Topaz Gem, either, who was clinging to him as if he were Denzel Washington. She had never liked Topaz, who had overtly flirted with Russell after she was cast in the film. Nya had feared that Russell had crossed the line with her but had never had any proof. Now, however, she had to wonder if Topaz had been the reason behind their breakup...

 Oh, God. He’s getting closer! What was she going to do?

 No particular plan in mind, Nya found herself trailing her fingers down the arm of the man beside her. Stunned, his gaze whipped to hers.

 Nya looped her arm through his. “Just go with it,” she whispered.

 The man, whom she now recognized as one of the firefighters featured in the calendar, narrowed his eyes in confusion.

 “Baby,” Nya purred moments before Russell reached her. “It’s not polite to ignore me for so long.”

 “I’m sorry?”

 “It’s okay, I forgive you.” And before he could say another word, Nya eased up on her toes, snaked a hand around his neck and pulled his head down. And then she kissed him.

 She kissed him brazenly, despite the fact that they were in public. Her tongue forced his lips open, then slipped into his mouth. As she made out with this stranger, Nya was aware of just how delectable his lips were. Not to mention how amazing his muscular body felt pressed against hers.

 Kissing him with the kind of passion reserved for the bedroom, Nya strummed her fingers along his neck. She could feel the man’s surprise in the way his athletic body had tensed, but soon, he gave in and kissed her back.

 Breaking free of him with an exaggerated moan of desire, Nya eased back. She shot a glance to her right, and yes! Russell was standing right there, staring at her with an unguarded look of surprise.

 “Oh, hi,” Nya said breathlessly. She placed her hand on the firefighter’s chest, whom she now recognized to be Tyler Something-Or-Other. When he’d come into the studio where Nya worked to be photographed, she’d thought he was especially attractive.

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