A Firefighter Romance (Six-Alarm Sexy, Book 3)
- Lover on Top
*** LOVER ON TOP IS A STANDALONE NOVEL IN THE SIX-ALARM SEXY SERIES ***
A straight firefighter discovers an irresistible attraction for his best friend’s younger brother—one that could lead to complete disaster.
A perpetual bachelor, firefighter lieutenant Hollywood Wright hops from one woman’s bed to another, searching for something he never finds. Has his father’s emotional and physical abuse somehow damaged him? Or is something else going on, something that involves the intense and uncomfortable feelings aroused by his best friend’s little brother?
Sexy-as-sin paramedic Chad Caldwell has always been out and proud. Sure, some gay-bashers are harassing him, but he’s determined to be true to himself. There’s just one problem: he’s hung up on Hollywood, his older brother’s straight best friend. When Hollywood’s apartment is damaged by fire, Chad reluctantly takes him in. Will Chad’s heart survive such close proximity to a man who’s both unattainable and everything Chad wants?
To their mutual surprise, Hollywood finds Chad and his world fascinating—and much hotter than anything he’s ever experienced. But with a rabidly homophobic father, is Hollywood doomed to die in the closet? Chad won’t accept anything less than a public relationship, no matter how amazing the sex is. Can Hollywood ever accept the man he has always kept buried deep inside?
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Publisher: Independently Published
Ending: Click here to reveal
Character Identities: Bisexual, Gay
Protagonist 1 Age: 18-25
Protagonist 2 Age: 36-45
Tropes: Age Difference, Best Friend’s Sibling, Coming Out / Closeted, First Time, Forbidden Love, Gay for You / Straight to Gay, In Uniform, May/December
Word Count: 112000
Setting: Seattle, WA
Languages Available: English
Series Type: Same Universe / Various Characters
Nathanial “Hollywood” Wright surveyed the slim offerings in his fridge. It was his turn to host poker night, and the guys would be expecting food, not just chips and beer. Especially not after he’d ragged on the quality of Damian’s food last week. He should have kept his fucking mouth shut. But no, he’d had to tease the guy about his wife being out of town. Now the joke was on Hollywood.READ MORE
Rummaging in the freezer, he spotted a package of drumsticks. Fried chicken would be perfect. He’d watched a date make it for him a few years back, and it hadn’t looked all that difficult. Some breading, some oil, and voilà, it was done. Besides, Google was a single man’s best friend. A few minutes later, he’d found an easy-looking recipe online and began assembling the necessary ingredients. Once the drumsticks were seasoned and rolled in flour, he put oil in a heavy skillet and set it on the stove to heat, then glanced at the clock on the microwave to see how he was doing time-wise.
Shit. The guys would be arriving any minute. Racing, he got the vegetables out of the fridge and began rinsing some mini cucumbers and carrots. When the smell of heated oil tickled his nose, he dropped in the drumsticks, the oil popping and crackling around them, and then went back to preparing the veggies. Maybe he should have started a little fucking earlier. Whatever. Beer. That’s what he needed. What was the big deal anyway? It was just poker night.
He cracked open a can of Bud Light—if it wasn’t vodka, he didn’t care about the brand—and took a huge gulp, grimacing when the cold liquid hit his empty stomach. Yeah, he probably should have eaten something before he began drinking. How many times was he going to learn that lesson?
As he cut the last piece of red pepper, the doorbell rang. Shit. After tossing the peels into the garbage bin under the sink and wiping off his hands, he downed the rest of his beer and took a deep breath. No big deal. He had everything under control.
He opened the door to a grinning Jamie Caldwell. “Honey, I’m home!”
“Asshole.” Hollywood laughed and grabbed the twelve-pack of Redhook from his best friend’s hands. Rules were: host provided the food and guests brought the booze. “Come in.”
Jamie thumped him on the back. “Something sure smells good,” he said, heading into the kitchen.
Hollywood snorted and pushed Jamie toward the living room. “You’ll get some when everyone else does.”
“Some friend you are,” Jamie grumbled as he swiped a carrot and slathered it in dip.
Hollywood playfully punched Jamie in the stomach, swallowing a wince when his knuckles met the wall of steel that was Jamie’s abs. “Only looking out for you, buddy.”
“Yeah, right. At least give me a beer.”
Hollywood grabbed one from Jamie’s pack and used it and the vegetable platter to coax him into the living room. With a beer in hand, Jamie’s mood was much improved.
“How’s Erica?” Hollywood took advantage of their few moments alone to ask Jamie about his wife. She was expecting, and there’d been complications.
Jamie shot him a shit-eating grin and plopped down on the couch.
“That good, huh?”
“That good.” Jamie’s eyes gleamed. He was in rare form tonight, and Hollywood couldn’t be happier for him, even if he was slightly jealous. They’d been in the fire academy together and both were now lieutenants in Seattle’s Technical Rescue Team, but that’s where the similarities ended.
Jamie had met Erica, gotten married, and had Chloe. Sure, Jamie and Erica had gone through some rough times—they’d even almost gotten divorced—but they’d come out of them stronger and happier than ever.
As for Hollywood? He had a bit more money, a few more pounds of muscle, and a tougher attitude, but that was it. He was still alone.
“What about you?” Jamie asked, crunching on a piece of green pepper. “How are things with Jessica?”
“They’re not.” They never were. Hollywood had no problem getting dates, or bed partners for that matter, but things always fizzled after a few weeks. Jamie peered at him with an intensity that made Hollywood squirm. “What?”
“Nothing.” Jamie shrugged. “It’s none of my business anyway.”
“Come on, man. You can’t start something like that then clam up.”
“Fine. I’m just wondering if this is enough for you?”
Hollywood grinned and waved his arms expansively. “I’m the all-American bachelor living the all-American dream.”
“A girl of the week, random hookups with fire bunnies, parties, and poker nights?”
Hollywood frowned. Jamie made it sound like his life sucked. “I like poker nights.”
“I do too. And I like them a lot more now that I get to go home to Rickie when they’re over.”
Hollywood smiled. No one else was allowed to call Erica “Rickie.” Hollywood had learned that the hard way. “If I need companionship, I know who to call.”
Jamie quirked a brow.
Hollywood sighed. “I’m not saying I don’t want what you and Erica have. Hell, I’d love to have a kid or two. But I’m thirty-six. That ship has sailed.”
“Why, though? You’d think, given all the women you’ve been with, one of them should have worked out.”
Hollywood stared out his living room window, taking in the view of Puget Sound. “Don’t know. Since Isabel, there’s always something… missing.”
“Maybe you’re too—”
The ringing of the doorbell cut Jamie off. Hollywood jumped to go answer it, the excuse allowing him to get away from Jamie’s analysis of his pathetic existence. Fuck him, anyway. Jamie thought he had it all figured out, but who really did?
Throwing open the door, Hollywood greeted Gabe, one of Jamie’s platoon members, and the rest of the guys who completed their poker group. Classy as always, Gabe thrust a bottle of Southern Comfort at Hollywood and barged in, his nose twitching like a rabbit’s. “Something’s burning.”
“What?” Hollywood said, catching a whiff of charred chicken. “Oh shit!” He tossed the bottle back at Gabe and ran to the kitchen. As soon as he crossed the threshold, there was a loud whomp, and the skillet of too-hot oil reached its flashpoint and went up in flames.
Heart hammering in his chest, Hollywood took in the fire curling up the sides of his cabinets, igniting the red curtains a previous girlfriend had installed above the sink. Black soot was already marking the walls and ceiling, and smoke danced in the lights over the counter.
Holy fuck. He’d set his apartment on fire!
The blare of the smoke alarm jolted him into action. Grabbing the lid, he angled it upward and placed it over the skillet. Without oxygen, the fire would die out. That taken care of, he reached over to turn off the burner. Flames from the burning cabinet licked at his skin. He swore and yanked his arm back. Goddamn, that hurt.
“Where’s the extinguisher, Mr. Firefighter?” Jamie yelled.
“Fuck you!” Hollywood flipped him the bird without turning around. But Jamie was right. He had to put out the fire before it engulfed the entire kitchen and spread to the rest of the apartment. Reaching under the sink, he yanked out the general-purpose fire extinguisher he kept there for emergencies.
Muscle memory took over. Calmness coated his mind as he aimed the extinguisher above the flames. He was a firefighter, had been for years, and no kitchen mishap was going to get the better of him. As the last flame went out, he looked up at the ceiling, closed his eyes in thanks, and received a shower of icy water on his face. What the hell?
Blinking to clear his vision, he realized that the building’s sprinkler system had gone off. “Jesus fucking Christ.”
Laughter and applause erupted behind him. He turned to find his so-called friends all looking like half-drowned rats, except for their red faces and dancing eyes.
“Thanks for the help, assholes.”
Damian, who worked on his platoon, smirked and used his hands to squeegee the water out of his hair. “Looked like you had it handled, LT.”
Hollywood swiped a hand over his face to rid himself of some water. “Can someone find the super and get him to turn off the fucking sprinklers before all my shit is ruined?”
Jamie was the first to recover, the smile slipping from his face as he took in the mess of Hollywood’s apartment. “I’ll go.”
In the distance, a fire truck siren wailed. By the snickers the others made, they’d heard it too.
Hollywood swore again. He was never going to live this down.COLLAPSE
Lover on Top is my first exposure to Kristine Cayne, which is fitting since this is also her first M/M novel, though it’s not her first romance novel by any means. This is the fifth book (third full-length novel) of her “Six Alarm Sexy” series, so her setting and many of the characters are already well established. While this can be problematic for those, like me, who are jumping into the series to read this as a standalone, have no fear because there was no confusion for me in reading it. In fact, having the history already there made this novel feel even richer than I could have hoped.
Nathanial “Hollywood” Wright is a lieutenant in the Seattle Fire Department and is known for being a ladies’ man, but his relationships never last long since the death of his only real love. Chad Caldwell is a paramedic with the SFD and has always been proudly out of the closet with the full support of his family. Hollywood, as Chad’s eldest brother’s best friend, has also been a part of the family since before Chad entered his teens, though they have never gotten along very well. Despite this, Chad has always had it bad for Hollywood’s hot bod, so when his brother talks him into allowing Hollywood to stay with him after a fire makes Hollywood’s apartment uninhabitable, it’s a difficult challenge for Chad to keep himself in check. As if Chad’s feelings weren’t bad enough, Hollywood discovers that he too has an intense attraction to Chad, but after growing up with an intensely homophobic and abusive father, who also happens to be both his and Chad’s big boss, there’s no way he could ever be gay, let alone be out, even though he knows Chad would never accept hiding what they could have together.
In case you haven’t figured it out yet, this is quite an angsty story, primarily surrounding Hollywood’s internal struggle not only to accept the fact that he isn’t as straight as he always believed but to deal with his fear over the ramifications of such an admission, primarily what his father’s reaction would be. From start to finish, this single aspect makes this story worth reading. But it isn’t just Hollywood’s issues that are so compelling. Chad has a history of being harassed for his sexuality, and though everyone believes it has stopped, Chad has once again become a victim of it. Putting all of this together yields some of the most intense and, quite frankly, delicious sexual tension between a pair of main characters that I have read in the recent past. As a result, when things do finally get sexual between them, the author goes all out to make sure it’s as explosive as it ought to be. Even outside the bedroom (and the other places these two get busy), you can’t help but like these two, even if you want to knock them silly for being stupid every now and then. Though to be honest, it’s during one of these times, though, that I wanted to smack the author for being silly—I’m not going to say what scene it is because it would be a bit of a spoiler, but I just didn’t buy what it is they were fighting about. I freely admit that I have a bad habit of wanting to scream at authors at least a handful of times when I’m reading a book, so the fact that this only happened once is a good thing.
The strong character development isn’t limited to just the two mains. Several of the other members of the Caldwell family read like fully fleshed-out characters, even though I had no prior experience with them. The author chose well on how much information to give about those who appeared earlier in the series and when in this story to give it. The result was a set of secondary characters that felt integral to the development of this story line with none of them stealing the spotlight from Chad and Hollywood nor feeling like throwaway characters.
The same can be said about the plot development itself. I honestly cannot think of a single scene throughout that felt like wasted pages. Even the scene I complained about earlier was important to the overall plot. Considering that this is on the longish side for a romance novel, that’s quite an accomplishment. There’s nothing particularly complicated nor shocking about the plot itself, but it’s woven together in a way that is satisfying, and even if you can’t figure out exactly what’s going to happen, you know there’s some nasty shit that’s gonna happen by the time it’s done. But there’s also a good bit of humor to be found scattered throughout the novel, including some that pokes fun at a few of the common tropes found within romance novels. It’s always fun when we can get a chuckle at our own expense. It's just one example of the smart writing to be found here.
The year still has a long way to go, but I wouldn’t be surprised to find Lover on Top on my list of favorites when all is said and done. It’s too bad the rest of her books are M/F, as I would like to read more of Ms. Cayne’s work. Maybe I will at some point, but for now, I hope she chooses to take another dip in the M/M pond. She’s got a knack for it.