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Excerpt: Spark

Excerpt: Spark

Book 3: Burns Brothers Series

Prologue

Sabrina Wagner

Iron Horse Tavern

Sacramento, CA

“You look gorgeous tonight, Sabrina.”

Logan’s voice washed over me. Mellow and smooth, just like him. I pushed my pale blonde hair—except for the dyed pink tips—out of my eyes and refused to be charmed. Mostly. “I don’t know if that’s a compliment or not. It’s kinda dark out here.”

We sat at one of the outdoor tables at the Tavern. Kinda on the sidewalk but still tucked back against the building in the corner. Logan had already paid the check since it was close to closing time. With no one else at the nearby tables and the street quiet, it felt like our own private outdoor restaurant.

Logan wrapped his arm around me and pulled me tight to his side. When he spoke, his voice was husky and goosebumps spread all over my body. “I know somewhere we can go that’s a whole helluva lot darker than this. Christ, do you know what you do to me, angel?”

I shivered and leaned into him. The need in his voice had me wondering if he meant his apartment. I wouldn’t be opposed to the alley we’d walked through to get here tonight, to take the as soon as possible route. Being around Logan did that to me. I wasn’t usually a horny, desperate woman, but something about this man broke down all my inhibitions.

And it sounded like it was mutual.

I couldn’t stop the naughty smile curving my lips when I replied. “Maybe we should find that dark place you were talking about, and you can show me what I do to you.”

His large body curled into mine, shielding me, protecting me. Logan was such a big guy; I always felt like a delicate waif around him. His lips cruised down my neck as he rasped his teeth against my skin. “Fuck finding someplace else. How does here and now sound? Think the staff would mind if we put on a little floor show?”

I groaned as my head fell back, giving him better access to that spot on my neck that he loved. And to be honest, I loved too. I was seriously debating his teasing words when the scrape of a chair across the table had me jumping.

My shoulder nailed Logan under his jaw and his teeth snapped audibly. His muttered curse was drowned out by his two friends.

“Are we interrupting?” Travis asked with a laugh as he took a seat across from us.

“Yes.” Logan bit out with a glare. “Go away.”

“Holy shit, Lo.” Jay laughed. “Were you gonna whip it out right here?”

I muffled my laugh in Logan’s shirt. I know I should’ve been embarrassed, but I was used to being teased by my family, and Logan’s friends reminded me of them. Besides Jay was right. My shoulders shook with my suppressed laughter.

“Not cool, bro. Apologize to Sabrina,” Logan replied, wrapping an arm around my huddled form. “Now.”

Jay rolled his eyes. “Sorry, Sabrina.”

“I’m not crying; I’m laughing.” I bit my lip and smiled up at Logan. “You had threatened to put on a floor show. It’s a good thing your friends arrived when they did.”

“Says you.” Logan ducked his head and kissed the tip of my nose before turning back to glare at his friends. “We’re busy. Get lost.”

“I take it you’re not up for hitting Public School like we’d planned?” Jay tilted his head as an angry spark lit his eyes. “It’s our last night, remember?”

Last night?

Logan sat back with a sigh. “Right. Where’s Vanessa?”

“She’s sitting this one out. Morning sickness.” Jay smirked.

“What?” Logan shouted. “Congrats, man. Wait, we’re happy about this, right?”

Jay shrugged. “I guess. The timing’s not great, since we’re leaving tomorrow, but like you said, it’s only for the summer, right? We’ll be home way before the baby comes. She’ll barely even be showing by the time we get back.”

“You’re leaving tomorrow?” I repeated with a frown. “I thought you had another week before you shipped out?”

“Fuck,” Travis muttered, shoving Jay in the shoulder. “I think that’s our cue to leave, Jay.”

“You haven’t told her?” Jay frowned.

Logan sighed. “No, dipshit. Clearly.”

“Right.” Jay jumped up from his chair with a grimace. “Hey, you know me. Share the love. If I’m not getting any tonight, you shouldn’t either.”

“That’s called cockblocking, not sharing the love.” Travis stood and shoved Jay playfully. “Dipshit. Sorry, Lo. We’ll get out of your hair. Have a nice night, Sabrina.”

“Thanks,” I mumbled in confusion and embarrassment.

“Fuck.” Logan scrubbed a hand over his brow.

“You’re leaving a week early?” I knew they’d signed on to join a wildfire fighting crew for the summer, but I thought we still had another week together. I hated the thought of him doing such a dangerous job, and now he was leaving early to do it?

Why hadn’t he told me about it?

“I was going to tell you before dinner, but then you were looking so gorgeous, and I just didn’t want to ruin the night.” He dropped his hand and gave me an apologetic look. “Travis, Jay, and I got called up early. There’s a raging fire in Washington State they need us on. We’re heading off tomorrow. I can’t fucking wait. Should be epic.”

“Epic,” I repeated weakly. Right. Here I thought we were building to an actual relationship, and he was leaving early to go wherever the wind blew—literally. “How long have you known?”

He shrugged. “We got our new orders Monday. We ship out tomorrow.”

“Tomorrow,” I repeated numbly.

Logan’s lips curved in that smile that always made me feel like I was the most important girl in the world. Although with this news, it certainly didn’t feel that way now. “Hey, don’t look at me like that. This isn’t goodbye. I’m just not gonna be around the next few months. And when I get back, we can pick up right where we left off.”

I couldn’t help but feel like a hell of a lot was wrong when he had almost a whole week to tell me he was leaving, and he’d waited until the eleventh hour to do it. After his friends had backed him into a corner.

“Right.” I whispered.

Logan bent forward and kissed the tip of my nose. “I’ll be back before you know it, angel. You ready to get out of here and find that dark spot?”

I nodded with a wobbly smile and stood.

As we wove through the tangle of tables and chairs, I clung to his hand because despite his pretty words, it felt like a goodbye.

 

 

Chapter One

Sabrina

Two years later

Badass Builds

I never had been one to believe that ghosts were real, but one was clearly walking across our parking lot. Although Ryan had told me he was coming today, I still hadn’t believed it. There had to be countless Logan Carters in the world. What were the chances that my Logan Carter was the same one who was coming to quote a new fire system?

I had maybe thirty seconds to steel my pounding heart, and then he was pulling the front door open.

Logan’s large body took up more of the shop’s lobby than any man I’d ever seen before.

He still smelled the same. My heart fluttered in my chest as memories swamped me.

He whipped off his sunglasses, clipping them on his shirt collar and gave me a vacant smile. “Hi, I have an appointment with Austin Burns.”

I stared stupidly at him.

After a beat, he pulled his phone out of his back pocket and thumbed through the screen. “Yeah, Austin Burns. I’m here to quote a new fire suppression system for the workshop, offices, and paint shed.”

I blinked. “Logan? Are you seriously going to pretend that you don’t know me?”

“Have we met?” His eyes flicked from mine to the wall behind me to the floor.

A wave of heat swept over my body, and not the sexy kind of heat. Embarrassment. Betrayal. Sadness.

Wow. I’d never been ghosted live and in person before. Was that even the right phrase for this situation?

I didn’t know what to say. Hi, yeah. We slept together for two months before you were injured in that fire and never called me back. Was I just one in a crowd of too many women to remember? He hadn’t struck me as the man-whore type.

Had I ever really known this man?

“Is Austin in?” He tried to give me that same vacant smile, but this time it came across as more of a sneer—something about it just looked angry. And he still avoided my eyes as he asked for my brother.

I wanted to be pissed, but then he turned to shove his phone back in his pocket, revealing the huge scar of melted skin that his new, heavy scruff couldn’t conceal since no hair grew on his scarred skin. It ran from his left ear down his neck, disappearing under his shirt.

I couldn’t hide my gasp.

I’d read all about the horrific accident that summer that took the lives of seven members of a local hotshot crew. I’d called and called and called Logan, but he’d never answered. And the hospital in Washington refused to tell me anything due to HIPAA laws. Stupid privacy regulations. I’d watched the news, desperate for information on the deceased victims and was relieved when I didn’t recognize any of the names posted.

But Logan had clearly been in that accident.

With that bitter smile still curving his lips—probably because of my less than smooth reaction to his scars—he raised his eyebrows. “Should I come back another time?”

“No, sorry. The guys aren’t in today—they’re shooting a bike reveal with Cole Jackson.” I replied, referring to the rock star we’d built two bikes for now. My brothers—technically cousins by blood, but we’d been raised together, and I considered them my brothers—and I ran a motorcycle shop where the guys built custom bikes for clients while filming a reality show all about our dysfunctional relationships. My brothers liked to argue and occasionally got physical, and I was the boring accountant who was rarely on camera.

I liked it that way.

“Uh…” Logan’s gaze darted to mine for the first time in minutes but quickly fell away again.

“But they asked me to stay and show you around.”

“Right.” He sighed like that was the most annoying news ever.

My heart shriveled. I’d been so torn about this meeting, not wanting to see him but aching to find out what had happened. Two years ago, he’d made it sound like we’d be back together the minute he got back to town, but I’d never heard from him. He went so far as to delete all his social media. Hell, he’d never returned a single call from me. I guess that in and of itself was all the answer I really needed.

I gave him a sad smile. “Let’s start in the workshop.”

He grunted in agreement. “Lead the way.”

My smile felt tight on my lips as I turned on my heel and all but stomped into the workshop. Pointing out the parts of the existing system that I knew of, I watched as he took notes. Occasionally he asked a few questions that I didn’t have answers to, but mostly he avoided looking at me or even talking to me as he took copious notes and measured a few distances.

After a few minutes he turned and gave me another one of his grunts. “I need to see the paint shed next.”

It felt like my heart was breaking in my chest. I didn’t know who this angry stranger in front of me was. This wasn’t the smooth, charming man I’d started falling for two years ago. Now he was a grunting, kinda bitter stranger with physical scars to match the ones he no doubt had running inside as well.

And from the way he was acting, he didn’t know me. He didn’t remember me. I was a stranger to him. There was no spark of recognition. No flirty banter. Nothing.

I robotically took him through the rest of the tour while I tried not to fall to pieces in front of him.

It was a relief when we finished even as we stood awkwardly in the reception area.

“I think that’s it.” Logan set his clipboard down on the table and pulled his wallet out. A second later he held a business card between two fingers. “Please pass this onto Austin. I’ll have a detailed quote for him by Monday, and if he approves, we could start work as soon as a week from now. I appreciate you taking the time to show me around.”

Something about the way he held that business card out, like I was a little peon to do his bidding, had me seeing red.

I lost it.

I’d carried around all this pain for two years, and he had the nerve to hold his business card out like that? “What the hell?”

He blinked but didn’t say anything.

I shook my head in frustration. “Why did I ever waste my time on you?”

Logan’s eyes widened slightly, but other than that he didn’t react to my little outburst.

Or say anything.

“I never thought you were this much of a bastard. I guess my asshole radar could use a little work, huh?” I snatched the business card out of his hand and held it up between my two fingers like he’d done to me. “I’ll be sure to give this to Austin. Have a nice life.”

Logan didn’t look at me as he turned and left the building.

Shaking my head, I tore around the shop in a haze of anger, turning off all the lights, dropping Logan’s card on Austin’s desk (when all I really wanted to do was rip it up into tiny shreds), and locking all the exterior doors.

When I knew enough time had passed for the asshole to leave, I was behind the wheel of my purple “plum crazy” Dodge Charger that my new bestie had convinced me to buy—much to my family’s chagrin. My baby squealed out of the lot as the tires left a burnout streak in my wake.

I drove on autopilot while my mind churned the past hour over and over again. Freaking asshat. Did he seriously want me to believe that he didn’t remember me? That the two months we’d spent together meant nothing to him?

Blinking, I took in my surroundings. Somehow I’d ended up at my mom’s restaurant—Bette’s Diner, named for the last owner and not my mom, Wendy. The lot was mostly empty, but I recognized her decrepit Toyota Camry parked in the far corner. No matter how much my brothers threatened and cajoled, she refused to part with the P.O.S.

I sighed and let my head thunk back onto the headrest. I loved my mom, but I couldn’t talk to her about Logan. She didn’t know any of the important details, and I sure as hell wasn’t going to spill the beans now, two years later.

Instead, I put my baby into gear and much more slowly this time, pulled out of the parking lot, and headed to see my oldest and dearest friend. Of anyone, Madison would understand how I was feeling. She’d been the only one I let in during that dark time.

Half an hour later, I could feel the tension leaving my body as I stared at the familiar brick building. There was just something about this place that filled me with peace. The small 1930s building was quaint and cute and kinda like home now.

Or maybe it was the knowledge that Maddie was inside.

I found her in the farthest corner of the second story stacks, sitting next to her book cart, thumbing through a hardback book. Shaking my head, I snuck up behind her. When I was a few feet away, I cleared my throat.

Maddie let out a muffled shriek and jumped six inches into the air. Clutching the book to her chest, she spun around and glared at me. “I should’ve known it was you.” Her voice was a harsh whisper in the still room. “Only someone who grew up with four older brothers could be so mean.”

I snorted. She was right.

I nodded to the book she still clutched. “Anything good there?”

“Of course. It’s La Nora. I’d read her grocery lists.” Maddie rolled her eyes and shoved the book onto the shelf. “What are you doing here? I thought we weren’t meeting for book club till next week. Did you come to scope out your next pick?”

“No. I don’t… I can’t…” I raked a jittery hand through my hair. The long drive didn’t do anything to calm me down. “Can you take a break?”

Maddie stood up with wide eyes. “Yeah, of course. What’s going on? Are you okay? Is your mom okay?”

“Yeah, no. We’re fine. It’s not…” I shook my head as a croaking sob sound lurched out of me.

Sabrina.” My friend grabbed my shoulders and pulled me in for a tight hug. And I just lost it. I shuddered as tears burned my eyes and sobs shook my body. Maddie held tight and gently rubbed my back through it all. She didn’t try to talk me out of crying—she just held on and let me fall to pieces.

After what felt like ages, I finally calmed down and pulled away from my friend with a wry smile. “Thanks.”

Maddie pulled a pack of tissues from her back pocket. “Always. Are you feeling up to talking about it?”

I took a second and wiped my eyes—thank god for smudge proof mascara—then blew my nose. “Logan is back.”

Logan, Logan?” Maddie’s eyes all but swallowed her face.

“Yes, that Logan.”

“Did he explain why he never called you again?”

“No. I couldn’t tell if he honestly couldn’t remember me or if he turned into an asshole. Either way, he was practically unrecognizable. He was all blunt and abrasive and dismissive. Then, at the end, he held his business card up to me like I was a total stranger, and I just lost it. I tore into him until he ran out of the shop like his pants were on fire.”

Maddie grunted much like Logan had a little bit ago. The sound gave me a pang. “Good. Sounds like he deserved it. What was he even doing at Badass Builds?”

I tried not to notice the way my bestie whispered the shop’s name almost reverently. I knew she had a crush on one of my brothers, but I never teased her about it. I knew nothing would ever come of it. Maddie wasn’t the kinda girl they went for. She was too nice and smart and just…normal for lack of a better word. She was my bestie, and I’d neuter any of them who’d dare to touch her. Because they’d break her heart and she wouldn’t want to hang out anymore. It wouldn’t be the first time I lost a friend over them. They knew better now.

“We’re getting quotes for a new sprinkler system because we got that notice from the city.”

“Are you going to let the guys hire him? Can you imagine having him hanging around for god knows how long to install it?”

I sighed. “I don’t know. I guess I’ll have to wait and see his quote. Hopefully he’s more expensive than the other firm.”

“Have you told your brothers about him? About…” She tilted her head, letting the thing go unspoken.

I shook my head. “Ryan knows some but not everything. He’s the only one.”

“They’re your family, Sabrina. If anyone would understand, it’s them. They’ll back you one hundred percent.”

“I don’t want to answer their questions. I don’t want to dig that up all over again. Hey, if he can pretend he doesn’t know me, I can pretend to forget him too. Girls can be assholes too.”

“Sure, sure.” Maddie gave me a disbelieving look. “If you say so. How’d he look? Still as yummy as ever?”

I knew what she was trying to get me to say, but I wasn’t gonna. “He’s uh, still tall, muscular.” I closed my eyes as I briefly remembered that feeling when he first came into the shop and how he’d still smelled the same. Shaking my head, I opened my eyes and shrugged. “He had some scars that made me think maybe he was injured worse than I thought from that fire.”

Maddie’s eyes widened. “Maybe it’s not an act. Could be he has amnesia.”

“Amnesia? Really? I think you’ve been reading too many romance novels.”

Maddie laughed. “You might have a point there.”

My lips twitched at the sound of her laughter.

“Do you still have feelings for him?”

“No, of course not.” I scoffed weakly.

“Sabrina.”

“I don’t, okay? I learned my lesson. I don’t do smooth bad boys anymore. Not that Logan is a smooth bad boy now, but that’s not the point. Hopefully none of that matters, and I won’t have to see him again.”

“Right.” Maddie bit her lip.

“What?”

“Nothing.”

“Just say it.”

Maddie sighed. “Fine. If I know anything about you, and I think after almost two decades of friendship I do, it’s that this is not over.”

“Maddie.” It was my turn to sigh.

“You have acres of unfinished business, and you’ll never be able to move on until you sort your shit out.”

I had to laugh at that. You’d think she was a therapist and not a librarian. “You made me sound like a ghost haunting him or something.”

“No, he’s the spirit who’s been haunting you for the past two years.”

“I think you’re mistaking him for the baby I miscarried.”

Maddie winced. “Sabrina, I’m sorry. That was a poor choice of words. I didn’t mean to make light of—”

“No, I’m sorry.” I’d lashed out without thought. Maddie had been there for me then and always. I couldn’t take out my horrible feelings on her of all people. “I was the one to say it first. But let’s just drop it, okay? I don’t have feelings or unfinished business with Logan. I’d be ecstatic if I never saw him or heard from him ever again.”

“Okay. If you say so…” Maddie’s disbelieving tone said it all.

“I do.” I gave my friend a sad smile. “But thanks for letting me unload all over you.”

“What are best friends for? You know I love you.”

“Ditto, chica. You’re my soul sister. Well, you and Hope.”

“Agreed. We good for dinner tonight?”

I sighed. I wanted to postpone, but that would only prove Maddie’s point about Logan, and I’d be damned if I did that. “You know it. See you.”

“Later.”

I gave her another hug then headed for the front door before she could pry any further into my brain. I was done with Logan no matter what she said. The past was best left in the past, and that was where Logan belonged.

In the past.

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