When Ember’s apartment burns down, two firemen offer their guesthouse for her to rent out. Not able to sleep on her friend’s couch any longer, she takes them up on their offer. One night smoke pours from their house. She rushes in to help them and discovers their secret.
With her restaurant being bought out from under her, Ember’s life is unraveling. She doesn’t know if she can trust her landlords. Someone knows what they truly are and kidnaps her to pressure her for information about the firemen. When she doesn’t talk about her green-skinned firemen, the situation only gets worse. As love grows between Ember and her aliens, the world closes around them. She needs to get closer to them, but men invade their home. In order to save them, she will have to give up everything she knows.
The smell of smoke clung to her clothes even after washing. She stared at the remnants of what used to be her apartment. Everything she owned lay under the debris and waterlogged rubble.
The flames had started on the floor below her. She’d gotten out of there by the skin of her teeth — the firemen had woken her up. The fire alarms in the building hadn’t gone off nor had the sprinklers. After her complaints to the landlord, nothing had been done to get them fixed. Former tenants’ trash filled the basement — a fire hazard waiting to happen.
Ember, like the other tenants, needed to move forward with her life. She could sleep on Anne’s couch for as long as she wanted. However, Anne lived in a one-bedroom apartment. A set of sliding doors separated the living room from the bedroom. Ember’s mind raced all night to plan how she would get on with her life. Thankfully, Gus hadn’t been a dick and told her he would look after the restaurant until she got back on her feet.
“You shouldn’t be here. It’s very unsafe.”
Ember glanced up. Faded jeans hugged toned legs. He wore a white T-shirt with “1 F 7” on the upper left chest. Symbolic flames bracketed the numbers. Shaggy blond hair covered his ears. Intense blue eyes flecked with green stared at her. Something about those eyes looked familiar. Defined cheekbones carved a long line down to his strong jaw and a chin with a small cleft. His lopsided smile made her blush and pull her gaze from him.
“Everything I owned was in here.” She gestured to what used to be her home. “I thought I might be able to find something.” Ember didn’t recognize the total stranger because she knew all her neighbors by sight. “If it’s so unsafe, why are you here?”
“I’m the idiot who lost his extra pair of gloves. This was the last fire I worked, and they’re not on the truck. I’ve looked everywhere else, so this is the place they should be.”
“Wait. Fire? You’re one of the firemen who helped me out of my apartment.”
His neck turned pink. “Yeah, no big deal. Comes with the job.”
Emotion overwhelmed her. Ember launched herself into his arms and hugged him. The fireman stiffened. Waking up to the heat, with the smoke all around her, when strange men burst into her bedroom hit her once more. She tightened her arms around him as tears burned her eyes. She pressed her face into his shoulder.
“Hey, it’s okay.” He patted her back.
She wiped her eyes and turned away, embarrassed by the display. “Sorry. It’s a big deal. You and your partner got me out of there.”
“You should’ve heard your smoke alarms going off.”
“They didn’t go off, and I sleep like the dead.”
“The most important thing is you got out.”
Ember nodded. “Yeah. Guess so. Hey, is there some way I can thank you for what you did?”
“It’s part of the job. No thanks needed. I should really look for my gloves.”
Ember sighed as the man stepped away and focused on the burnt rubble. She scrutinized the pile to look for his gloves, but all she could make out were yellowed melted bits of plastic, the shapes of gutted furniture, and the demolished walls. Nothing of what he wanted was in the wreckage, and nothing remained of her life there either. All she had was the restaurant and her friend’s couch. The fireman poked at the debris with his boot.
“Isn’t it too dangerous for you to be rooting around?” Ember asked.
He picked up a piece of metal, examined it, and then threw it back into the pile. He ran his fingers along his face and streaked it black. She bit her lip and held in a laugh.
“You have a couple of stripes on your face.”
He gave her a lopsided smile. “Hazard of the job.”