Hello again! I am back with some exciting news!! Last week, my first kindle world book was released! That’s right, the amazing Paige Tyler invited me, along with several other authors, to join the world she created. For my Fab Five readers who didn’t want the series to end, I wrote a bonus novella, crossing over some of my characters from the “Fabs” series with the characters in Paige’s world.
My title is “Dallas Hot” and I’m going to share a little bit of it with you today. If you followed the series, you’ll remember Shane and Chloe’s twin daughters, Mary Kate and Angie Beth. Well, in Dallas Hot, M.K. and Beth are all grown up. This story is about them; it’s mainly Mary Kate’s story, but in May, I’ll be writing another one, and it will be Beth’s story.
Here’s the blurb for Dallas Hot:
Mary Kate O’Grady is at loose ends, working in her family’s downtown restaurant while she figures out what she wants to do with her life. Until the night a sexy Dallas firefighter saved her life, then it all became crystal clear.
While her family is busy rebuilding, Mary Kate is pursuing her future. A new career was always the plan, but a romance with her rescuer, Braydon Butler, definitely was not.
As the two become closer, the investigator’s report comes back and the result is arson. Mary Kate discovers the culprit and his motive is shocking. She has the grim task of telling her family of her findings and it could ruin her relationship with her twin forever.
How can she find the happiness and fulfillment she has longed for if her sister isn’t there to share it with her?
See, all grown up…
Here is an excerpt from the beginning of the story:
Mary Kate O’Grady sighed as she stood up from her seat in the break room. She tossed her trash away and carried her dishes into the kitchen. Resigning herself to another boring evening working in her family’s downtown Dallas restaurant, she squared her shoulders and started to walk out into the dining room. She was on waitress duty that night, and the place was busy. Truth be known, she would like to be anywhere but here.
“Better put a smile on that mug before you go back out there,” her twin sister, Beth, said from her place in the kitchen, where she was putting the finishing touches on one of their mother’s famous desserts.
“Easy for you to say, you love this place,” she retorted.
“M.K., I know you don’t like working here, but it’s a darn good thing you have this to fall back on until something more to your liking comes along. Just try to go with the flow, what do you say?”
“You’re right; it’s just that I want so much more in my life. I crave excitement and adventure. You’ve always loved this place. Even when we were kids, you wanted to be here. It doesn’t matter if you are cooking, waitressing or hostessing, you thrive on it. I don’t, I just…don’t.”
“I get that. We may be twins, but we are nothing alike, that’s for sure. I see myself running the family business someday, with Alex. You can’t wait to get out of here.” Beth shook her head.
“I have to go. You and Alex make the perfect cousin team, and I’m sure that, one day, you really will be running this place with him, if not running one of the other restaurants in the chain. Hell, you’ll probably be running the whole chain. Later, sis,” she said as she headed toward the swinging door that separated the kitchen from the dining room.
Dark-haired, brown-eyed beauty, Mary Kate, made her way back to her cousin, Alex, to let him know that she was back from her break. Alex was the stepson of her Uncle Ryan and had been managing the restaurant in Dallas for several years. He and his wife, Chelsea, both worked there, as did Ryan, his wife, Katy, and Mary Kate’s parents, Shane and Chloe.
It was truly a family business, built from scratch by Ryan, Shane and Chloe, many years before. Chloe was an excellent cook, and when she and Shane decided to open the original restaurant, they invited Ryan to move out from Indianapolis to join them in the venture. Having just lost his first wife in an accident, he welcomed the change. The place was such a success that, a few years later, the trio decided to expand. The family now owned a chain of restaurants across the country. Of course, the fact that all three of the offspring were a part of the business thrilled the family. Mary Kate did not intend to make it a lifelong career, though. How her parents would react to that news when the time came for her to move on, she didn’t know. She only knew that she had to get out. She had to find something else or she would go crazy.
Alex smiled at his younger cousin. “I hope you had a nice break, because this place is hopping tonight. I have four tables ready to seat in your section.”
Pasting a fake smile on her pretty face, she replied, “Okay, let’s get going, cuz. You get them seated and I’ll be around to take drink orders.”
The rest of the night passed in a blur. After those four tables of patrons were gone, more arrived. At the end of the evening, while she was counting her tips, she decided it hadn’t been a wasted Saturday night after all. She had raked in quite a pocketful of cash. Of course, even though the patrons who frequented the establishment were known to tip well, it was always a shock to her when the actual totals were tallied at the end of a long and tiring night.
She walked into the kitchen, where her twin was finishing up. Beth looked exhausted.
“Sis, are you okay? You don’t look like you feel well.”
“I am just tired. I’ve worked seven days without a break. At least, I have the next two off. As soon as I finish cleaning up for the night, I am going home to a nice hot bath and bed.”
“Why don’t you go on and let me finish for you?”
“Are you sure? I would have thought you would be out the door by now.”
“I haven’t worked seven days in a row. Now, go on. You know I don’t offer often, so better take me up on it.”
“I think I will. Thanks, sis.” Beth untied her apron and tossed it into the laundry bin. She hugged her sister and whispered, “Love you; I’ll see you at home later.”
Both girls, although in their twenties, still lived at home. Neither of them was ready to move out. Beth was seeing someone, but it wasn’t serious. Mary Kate was about as picky about dates as she was about her job. Until the right one came along, she would continue to live at home and work in the family business.
She finished cleaning the grill and talked to the others who were still lingering in the kitchen as she worked. When the kitchen was once again spotless, she said goodbye to the other workers as they trickled out, one by one. The only person still in the building was Alex. As general manager, he always stayed until everyone else was gone.
“Hey, Mary Kate, you about ready to head out? It’s been one busy night, and I, for one, am ready to call it a day,” he said as he walked into the kitchen.
“Sure, I’ll walk out with you,” she said. “Just let me grab my things from my locker.” She went into the break room and grabbed her purse before joining her cousin, who was waiting by the back door.
Alex walked her to her car before he got into his own vehicle and pulled out of the lot. Mary Kate waved goodbye to him as she fumbled in her purse for her cell phone. She knew her friend, Julie, would still be up, and she wanted to make plans with her for the following week. Finding a mint in the jumbled contents, she unwrapped it and popped it into her mouth. Where was that darn phone?
She emptied out the contents of her leather bag onto the passenger seat. There was no phone. Putting everything back in, stopping to pitch some old receipts into the trash, she finally had her purse back in order. “Nothing like cleaning out my purse at midnight in the parking lot at work,” she grumbled aloud as she opened the console in her car to see if she had left her phone there before work. No such luck, she thought as she realized that she must have put the missing phone in her locker after she had last used it on her break. Damn! She was going to have to go back in and get it. She was off until tomorrow night, and she just couldn’t do without her phone until then.
Looking around to make sure no one was lurking in the lot or the area nearby, she carefully got out of the car and ran to the back door of the establishment. Fumbling with her key, she finally unlocked the door and went into the break room. It was eerie, being in here alone after hours, with no one bustling about. She walked into the break room, located just off the kitchen, and unlocked her locker. Sure enough, her cell phone was sitting on the shelf. She hadn’t noticed it when she had grabbed her purse in haste earlier. She sat down at the table and dialed Julie’s number. I might as well call her now, before I go back outside, she thought as she waited for her friend to answer.
“Hey, M.K., what’s up? Did you just get off work?” Julie asked when her voice came on the line.
“Yeah, a little bit ago. I had to come back in and get my phone. Dumb me, I forgot it in my locker.”
Julie laughed. “Sounds like a typical M.K. thing to me.”
“Very funny, Jules,” she retorted. “Sorry to call so late, but I figured you were still up.”
“You know it. I got in from a date a while ago. I don’t think I’ll be seeing this one again. Can you say boring with a capital B?”
“You seem to have a lot of those. You need to be more selective, like me.”
“If I was as choosy as you, I’d never go out,” her friend replied with a giggle.
“True, that may explain my lack of a social life these days,” Mary Kate agreed. “Anyway, all that aside, I am off Thursday and Friday this coming week. Think you could swing a few days off and join me for some fun?”
“I am off on Thursday every week, so I can use a vacation day for Friday. What did you have in mind?” her friend asked with interest.
“I thought maybe we could head down to San Antonio Wednesday, after work. I am on day shift that day. Head back Friday night. Just a short girls’ trip,” she said.
“Sounds like a plan to me. I haven’t been down there in ages. We can do some shopping, go to the Riverwalk, and relax.”
“Exactly what I was thinking.”
“Make the plans, I’ll put in for the day off on Monday morning,” Julie said with enthusiasm.
They chatted for several more minutes before Mary Kate announced that she had better head home before her family started to worry.
“I sent Beth home a while ago and she’ll be freaking out,” she explained to Julie.
“Tell her I said hey, I haven’t seen her in a while.”
“I will tell her. She’s always working or out with the new guy in her life. I don’t see much of her anymore, either, to be truthful.”
She ended the call soon after that and picked up her purse and keys. Glancing around, making sure she had everything this time, she went to the door of the break room.
“Ouch!” she exclaimed when she touched the doorknob. Why was it so hot? She quickly looked down and saw it. But not before the smell of the thick smoke assaulted her nostrils. Smoke! But how? She had just come in a few minutes ago, hadn’t she? Had she lost track of time while talking on the phone?
Frantically looking around the room, she spotted a blanket in the corner. Thank God, someone had left it there! She quickly ran to fetch it and carried it to the sink. Wetting it first, she placed it under the crack in the door to keep the smoke out. She felt the door. It was scorching hot! She dialed 911 and waited nervously for the dispatcher to answer.
“What is the nature of your emergency?” a voice asked after the second ring.
Mary Kate hurriedly told the voice on the other end of the line the nature of her dilemma and her location. “I-I had to come back in for something I forgot. I made a call, and I guess I lost track of time. I didn’t realize anything was wrong until I got ready to leave again.”
“You are alone?” the woman asked.
“Y-yes, I am trapped in the employee break room, off the kitchen. Apparently, the fire is in the kitchen. I can’t get out. Please…send someone. My parents and my aunt and uncle are the owners. The O’Gradys, you need to contact them. Please, help me!”
“A unit has already been notified. They are on their way. Is there a window in the break room?”
“Y-yes, but it’s a very small one. It’s up high; I don’t think I can climb up there.”
“Stay put, help is on the way. Stay on the line with me until they arrive, miss.”
“I need to call my dad,” she protested.
“No, I need for you to stay on the line with me, please, Miss O’Grady. Help is on the way. Someone is notifying your family as we speak. Please, remain on the phone with me.”
“Okay,” Mary Kate said in a low voice. She had never been so frightened in all her life.
“Now, I need for you to remain calm. Is smoke coming into the break room now?”
“N-no, I put a damp blanket under the door.”
“That’s good, quick thinking.”
“Shouldn’t I try to go out there? There is a fire extinguisher by the door. If I could get to it, I could…”
“Absolutely not, do not try to be a hero,” the dispatcher advised. “Stay where you are until help arrives.”
In the distance, Mary Kate heard sirens. She listened as they got closer and closer, screaming to other drivers to get out of their way. She said a silent prayer that they would get to her in time and that they would save her family’s business. She felt guilty about her lack of enthusiasm for her job earlier. Even if she wasn’t cut out for a life in the restaurant business, it meant everything to her family. Please, God, make them hurry.
“I-I can hear the sirens,” she said into the phone.
“Good, they should be there in another two minutes. Just try to remain calm.”
She got up and walked over to the door. Tripping over the legs of the chair in her haste, she went down. Hitting the floor with a thud, she groaned. The smoke was beginning to seep in, in spite of the blanket she had placed under the door. Her face was now parallel to the door…
“Who could be calling this late?” Chloe asked sleepily as she heard her husband, Shane, answer the phone. “Are the girls home?”
“I see. Thank you, we are on our way. Oh, have you notified my brother?”
Chloe sat up in bed, wide-awake now. When Shane hung up the phone and turned to her, she asked, “What is it? What’s happened?”
“We have to go, now! The restaurant is in flames, and Mary Kate is trapped.”
“What? How can she be trapped? What is she doing there alone? Where are Beth and Alex?”
“I don’t know. Ryan and Katy are on their way there and probably Alex. Get dressed and see if Beth is here. There is no time to waste.”
Chloe O’Grady hurriedly changed into a pair of jeans and threw on a sweatshirt. Running a brush through her short blonde hair, she joined her husband and daughter in the hallway, a few minutes later.
“Beth, thank God you are okay! Why was your sister still there?” she asked as she hugged her daughter.
“S-she offered to finish cleaning up for me. I was so tired, I didn’t argue with her. But I don’t understand how she is trapped. Alex always waits until the last worker leaves. I can’t imagine that he left her there.”
“We don’t have time to speculate about it. Come on, we have to get downtown,” Shane reminded them as he headed down the stairs.
When they arrived at the scene, the rescue squads were there. The firefighters were already dousing the flames, and an ambulance was waiting.
“What is going on?” Shane asked one of the rescue workers. “I am Shane O’Grady, one of the owners. I was told that one of my daughters is inside.”
As Shane spoke with the worker, Chloe spotted her sister-in-law, Katy, coming towards her. Katy hugged her and said, “Alex says that he walked Mary Kate to her car and made sure she was safely inside before he left. The only thing that makes any sense is that she must have gone back inside after he left.”
“Where are Alex and Ryan?” Chloe asked.
“They are up there, as close as the firefighters will let them stand. They are waiting for word. Come on, I will take you to them.” Katy turned to her niece. “Come with us, honey.” She pointed to where the men were standing.
Shane soon joined them as they waited for what seemed to be an eternity. Flames shot through the roof of their beloved business. None of that mattered to any of them right now. None of the O’Grady family would breathe easily until they saw Mary Kate exiting the building safely.
“Stand back, folks,” one of the firemen said. Chloe watched as the men did their jobs. Nervously, she glanced back to the entrance.
“If Mary Kate is in the break room, shouldn’t we be waiting around back?” she asked suddenly.
Shane spoke to one of the men in charge. He shook his head. Shane returned to the group and repeated what the man had said to him. In a solemn voice, he said, “They say we must stay here. It’s much too dangerous for us to be back there, since the kitchen is where they believe the fire originated. We have to do as they say. I’m sorry, baby, we have to wait here…and pray.”
The seconds slipped away, each one of them knowing that the longer they waited without seeing their beautiful daughter, the slimmer the chances became of her being rescued in time. Shane put his arms around his wife as she cried softly into his chest. Ryan pulled Beth close and comforted her as Katy went to other friends and employees who had arrived on the scene.
And then, Shane gave a shout as he saw a man, dressed in fire gear, walking around the side of the building. In his arms, he carried a woman, her long dark hair blowing in the breeze. Shane started to go towards them, but the workers held him back.
“Sir, please, let him get her to the ambulance. The rescue team will assess her condition.”
No one was stopping Chloe. She broke free from her husband’s grasp and ran to the ambulance to see her daughter.
The entire original Fab Five series of nine books is now available as a box set, too, so you can catch up, if you have yet to begin the journey. Here is the buy link.
And here is the buy link for Dallas Hot:
Check out the rest of Dallas Hot and the other books in the Dallas Fire & Rescue Kindle World here: