Trust fund lost, debutante Taffy Darling sees her life go up in smoke when the building where she got her first job is torched. If not for photographer Paco Jones, she would be dead. Paco is a successful advertising photographer, yet makes powerful statements about social problems through his personal photography. Drawn together by their search for the arsonist, they fall in love. Because her family has always made Taffy feel like she couldn’t do anything right, she fears their relationship will implode like the rest of her life. Excerpt: …he stepped into the raging inferno and went for the woman’s body. Covered with soot, she lay still as death. The tongues of fire surrounding her keened as if in mourning. It was alive and growing in strength. Paco didn’t bother to check for vital signs, merely covered the woman’s head and torso with the protective leather, then lifted the slight figure and anchored his bundle against his chest. Hunching into her, feeling as if he were being set on fire himself, he left the way he’d come. Once free of the inferno, Paco ran for the other side of the street, wheezing and coughing all the way. “Good God!” Bill shouted as he ran toward Paco. “Someone was inside?” Paco gasped in the fresh air. “She was lying near the door as if she were trying to get out.” And from the fresh blood smearing his sleeve as he gently set her down on the sidewalk, Paco figured someone had deliberately prevented her from achieving that objective. He placed his face next to her mouth, hoping to feel her breath against his cheek. “Is she alive?” Bill asked anxiously. “She’s not breathing.” “Can’t you do something? The fire department will be here any minute.” Sirens were already wailing in the distance as Paco tilted her head back to open her airway, pinched her nose and covered her mouth with his own. She smelled like burning wood, tasted like charcoal. A few more moments and she would have been kindling. But she wasn’t. She was a human being. One he’d rescued. She had to live. He forced his own oxygen deep down into her lungs. “Come on, breathe!” he muttered as he came up for air. She looked so young, so delicate, so helpless lying there in his arms, her lush ponytail streaked with soot. He couldn’t actually make out the features beneath the grime, but even in her stillness, he got the impression of an impudently tilted nose and a determined chin. He covered her mouth and tried again — and again felt no response. “I risked my life to get you out of that building, lady! The least you could do is breathe, dammit!” As if responding to his demand, she coughed in his face. Paco went limp with relief. “Thank God!” “You did it!” Bill shouted. “Paco, in addition to being one damned fine artist you’re a real-life hero!” The woman he saved continued to cough as the fire engines pulled up to the building and the melee began. Firefighters jumped from their trucks and threw hoses down to the street. Her eyes fluttered open. Rather than thanking Paco for saving her hide, the blonde struggled, hoarsely shouting, “Let go of me, you bastard!” Surprised, Paco loosened his grip only to have a fist land right in the middle of his throat.
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