Read Flash and Fire Online

Authors: Marie Ferrarella

Flash and Fire

This novel is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are products of the writer’s imagination or have been used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, locales, or organizations is entirely coincidental. All rights are reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission from the author.

Copyright © 2014 Marie Ferarella

Cover images from Shutterstock.com

Flash and Fire

By Marie Ferrarella

Table of Contents

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty One

Chapter Twenty Two

Chapter Twenty Three

Chapter Twenty Four

Chapter Twenty Five

Chapter Twenty Six

Chapter Twenty Seven

Chapter Twenty Eight

Chapter Twenty Nine

Chapter Thirty

Chapter Thirty One

Chapter Thirty Two

Chapter Thirty Three

Chapter Thirty Four

Chapter Thirty Five

Chapter Thirty Six

Chapter Thirty Seven

Chapter Thirty Eight

Chapter Thirty Nine

Chapter Forty

Chapter Forty One

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Chapter One

The air on the playing field was stagnant and moist, like a sauna. Her eyelashes felt hot. Perspiration dripped down her back; her blue tank top stuck to her skin like a layer of cellophane.

It was definitely not a good day for playing baseball.

To Amanda Foster, no day was a good day for playing
baseball.

It was the kind of day to have her hands wrapped around a cold can of anything, silently toasting the man who invented air-conditioning while taking advantage of his brainchild.

Instead, in the name of charity and not a little publicity, Amanda Foster was sitting on a bench whose slates were digging into her bare legs, waiting for her ignoble turn at bat during what had to be one of the hottest days in Dallas history.

She shaded her green eyes, squinting involuntarily as she scanned the bleachers in William Masterson Park. The public never ceased to amaze her. You’d think that on a day like today, people would have the good sense to commune with their pools or at least find some shade, instead of coming to sit and roast at a baseball game. A rather ineptly played baseball game at that.

Granted, it was an exhibition game and the money was going to a good cause. And yes, there was the public’s never-ending curiosity to see television personalities up close. But common sense had to come into play somewhere, didn’t it?

Obviously not. But then common sense really wasn’t all that common. Amanda had learned that a long time ago.

The bleachers were filled to capacity. That meant a tidy profit for the fund-raiser they and the rival news station were sponsoring. That also, Amanda thought dourly, meant a large audience for her next fiasco at bat. She faced strikeout number three with resignation. Her original determination had long since wilted beneath the intense July sun. The only time she had touched a base was when she was accidentally walked.

You’ve done brighter things in your life than volunteer to make a fool of yourself in front of witnesses
, she thought.

She saw Paul wave at her from his front-row seat in the stands. The young Hispanic cameraman’s grin was lopsided as he shook his head, feigning disappointment in her.

She wondered how he had managed to get out of this when she hadn’t. God, how much longer would this game take? She wasn’t even sure what inning this was. She looked at the scoreboard. Bottom of the sixth. They were leading, but it didn’t matter. She wanted out of here. Badly. She didn’t like looking like a fool, even if it was all for charity.

Amanda moved her head from side to side. Her neck was stiff. Making a fool of herself always did that. The knots of tension along her shoulders were laced tighter than sailors’ knots. She was probably going to melt away before her next turn at bat.

It was actually a comforting thought. Death mercifully descending before dishonor.

Amanda shook her head. The heat was making her light-headed. Thank God she had had enough sense to tell Carla not to bring Christopher to the game. The poor woman wouldn’t have been able to handle both the heat and Christopher.

Lately, Amanda thought, a swat team would have had difficulty handling Christopher. Whoever coined the phrase “terrible twos” knew of what they spoke. Christopher could have been the poster child for that one.

Maybe, Amanda mused, a smile crossing her lips, the heat might have helped subdue him a little. Probably not. She’d come to the conclusion that nothing would subdue her son short of ropes and tethers—as had her housekeeper. But no matter what state the house was in at the end of the day, Christopher was still a precious miracle. He was the only good thing that had come out of her marriage to Jeff.

Pierce Alexander saw Amanda smiling from where he stood at the makeshift concession stand and wondered what she was thinking. Amanda didn’t smile often. Not like that, with her features relaxed. Her intelligent face was usually serious.

She was a beautiful woman when she smiled, he decided. And it was a beauty far more intriguing than the kind that came from flawless features or a clever, artistic hand.

Crossing the volunteer’s sweaty palm with a dollar, Pierce drank absently, his thirst forgotten for a moment as he thought about Amanda.

He was doing that a lot lately, he realized. Thinking about Amanda.

One would have assumed that after the ugly business with Marsha, he wouldn’t want to have anything to do with women. Marsha had soured him on relationships a lot more thoroughly than he would have been willing to admit. He had never been a great believer in undying love, but he had thought that fidelity within a marriage had its merits. At least, he had abided by it.

His wife, it had turned out, hadn’t.

His ex-wife, Pierce amended, taking a drag of the waning cigarette in his hand. Bitterness still welled up like a hot, jagged ball of fire within his chest whenever he thought of Marsha and the way he had found her. The way he had discovered that their marriage had become an annoying inconvenience to her.

Bringing his thumb and forefinger together, he pitched his cigarette onto the cement and ground it out. And with it, temporarily, all thoughts of Marsha. Because that created a black void he didn’t care for, Pierce filled it with thoughts of Amanda.

She fit the space better.

He had watched her all during the game. Amanda had long, lean limbs and a body a man could find comfort in, comfort and a few hours of merciful oblivion.

That was the best a man like him could hope for, Pierce thought philosophically. And it was enough.

Yes, he thought about her a lot. Amanda Foster was not the type of woman who was easily dislodged from a man’s mind once embedded. And she had been embedded from the first time he had seen her in action at the studio. There was something admirable about the way she went about her job. It was a refreshing change. The female newscasters he knew were more interested in the way they looked than in the copy they were reading.

A mirthless smile creased his generous mouth. That
was true of most male newscasters as well. The all-seeing
eye of the television monitor made people paranoid about their appearance. The high level of competition for each position had the newscasters looking over their shoulders and guarding their backs. There was always someone more commanding, more attractive in the wings, waiting to take over at the slightest falter. Like hungry vultures circling a dying man.

So far, Amanda hadn’t faltered. That was because she took her work so seriously. She didn’t seem susceptible to the vanities that beset their business. Instead, she appeared obsessed with doing a good job to the exclusion of all else. Pierce had only been at K-DAL for six months, but she had won his grudging admiration right from the beginning.

But not everyone saw it that way. Pierce was aware of the fact that she had her detractors. The copy editor disliked her. Amanda hounded him for her copy hours before the broadcast. She wanted to be familiar with her script. Often she’d edit out what she didn’t care for. And Pierce knew that the station manager hated her. Independent thinkers weren’t cherished, as a rule. Amanda wasn’t a team player, except for maybe today.

It made her different, interesting. And it didn’t hurt that she had the kind of body that just wouldn’t quit, he mused, mentally peeling off her clothing as he watched her on the bench.

A damn good body.

He suspected that was the reason the station manager disliked her so much. Because she wouldn’t share it with him. It was no secret that John Grimsley lusted after Amanda. He was in a position to make things easy for her as long as she assumed the position. Amanda, Pierce had heard, had politely, coldly, told Grimsley to go to hell.

A cry went up as the six o’clock weatherman, Sol
Webster, connected with a badly pitched ball. Scrambling,
the dark-skinned man stretched his long legs and raced for first base as the shortstop and the outfielder each decided to let the other catch the ball. It landed on the ground between them, untouched. Webster raced for second as both men hurried to rectify their error and smashed heads. Webster threw himself over second base as a precautionary measure. He was safe. And dirty.

Pierce gave an obligatory whistle and cheer.

He noticed Amanda shifting uncomfortably as she slid along the bench and closer to her turn at bat. Amanda was a puzzle with significant pieces missing. Pierce had a fondness for puzzles. All he had to work with in this case was studio hearsay. It was minimal at best. He knew where she had been, but not who she was. Her studio bio was brief. She was divorced, had a young son, and had come to K-DAL three months before he had. She had left a position as anchorwoman on the late-night news at a local station in Taos, New Mexico. Before then, she had been at a string of even smaller stations.

The words could have fit anyone. They didn’t begin to explain who and what Amanda Foster was. He took another pull of his bottle. Maybe it was better that way. Hell, if he didn’t know her as a person, there was less chance of getting involved. He had made a strict promise to himself not to get involved again. It wasn’t worth the trouble.

That didn’t mean, of course, that he had to remain celibate, although that state was a hell of a lot easier to maintain. Since Marsha had stripped him of the few illusions he had still harbored regarding the opposite sex, Pierce hadn’t met a woman who aroused his interest, only his appetite.

Amanda Foster might be the exception that proved the theory.

She had rebuffed his advances when he had asked her out nearly five months ago. There had been no reason attached to the rejection, just a polite, distant “No, thank you,” uttered in that sexy, contralto voice that reminded him of a black cat nibbing up against a velvet curtain.

Normally, that would have been enough to make Pierce forget about her entirely. It wasn’t as if Amanda was the world’s most ravishing beauty.

But she continued to linger in the back of his mind, like the refrain of a song that his brain wouldn’t let him forget.
No
, Pierce decided now, there was something more to Amanda than just looks, something far more attractive. There was an honesty to her, a spark of something that he didn’t quite know how to describe just yet, but that set her apart, made her interesting.

Made him want her.

He was patient when he had to be. And daring when the situation called for risks. His stint as foreign correspondent had demonstrated that. His job and an assorted number of wars and politely termed “conflicts” where just as many people died as in battles labeled “wars” had given him a blase attitude about life in general and sex in particular.

At the age of thirty-two, Pierce had few illusions about people. The ideals he vaguely thought he had once possessed had been completely reworked long before he had ventured into manhood. He could now accept reality as it was without being unduly bitter about it. Reality was harsh, and usually cruel, without any pretty ribbons to offset the picture. He survived it because he relied on a sense of humor—sometimes black, sometimes offbeat, but humor nonetheless. It was his saving grace and kept him sane and functioning.

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