It’s getting to be that time of year! You all know what we’re talking about … chilly weather, a great cup of hot chocolate (or coffee, or tea, or a hot toddy, maybe?), a warm blanket, and of course a good book! Since we can’t possibly wait any longer to snuggle up with the winter anthology BABY, IT’S COLD OUTSIDE by Jennifer Probst, Emma Chase, Kristen Proby, Melody Anne and Kate Meader, we’re offering all you XOXO’ers out there a chance to read excerpts from all five stories before the book is even on sale on October 28th! Last one on deck, and most certainly not least, an excerpt from Rekindle the Flame by Kate Meader.


Rekindle the Flame by Kate Meader in BABY, IT’S COLD OUTSIDE

Watching him walk ahead of her in his damp shorts and tee, his powerful legs making her light-headed with desire, she was reminded of the first time she had seen him in that dingy boxing gym nine years ago. The place had scared her breathless with its floor ossified with decades of loogies, its walls propping up granite-faced men who stared right through her. And the smell! Like someone had dipped sweaty sneakers in a fondue of sewage and offered them up for their dining pleasure.

She was only there because her best friend, Shaz, had it bad for Darcy’s brother and wanted to see him in shorts. At seventeen, Jack was almost as tall as Darcy’s dad, and had at least six inches on the other guy standing in the boxing ring, who hopped back and forth like a bunny playing with an invisible jump rope. Darcy found her gaze magnetized to those feet before it slid north over the rest of him. Strong, gleaming, cocoa-skinned legs maintained her interest on the upward journey until—

It was the first time she had noticed a guy’s butt.

Tight and trim, it filled out his shiny black shorts in a way that brought heat to her cheeks. Turn around, her blitzed brain urged. Turn. Ah. Round.

He obliged, fighting the air with jabbing punches as he went. Posturing, she would have assumed if it were anyone else, but this was different. He was different. This was a boy who played sports, not games. CFD was stamped in large letters on his broad chest. The Chicago Fire Department. The boy, his shock of black hair already damp with exertion, stared at Jack, his opponent for the upcoming bout. Barely leashed rage radiated from every dark pore.

Then he turned, his burning blue focus rewired on her.

The floor dropped beneath her feet, her heart plummeted into the void. Every moment in her sixteen years on Earth had been building to this. A malodorous gym and a serious boy’s blue gaze. He saw into her, through her, out the other side, and she felt like one world ended and another began. Teenage dramatics, she knew now, but at the time it had felt so important. So cell-shockingly real. On the germ-ridden chair where she had planted her butt, she squirmed, the chill of the metal a bite on the underside of her soft thigh, and all she could think was: I want him to win.

That’s when Jack coldcocked him with such force he dropped like a stone to the mat. 

Oh crap!

It took every inch of her willpower to hold on to the rim of the chair with her clawed fists. Shaz jumped to her feet, cheering her crushing heart out for Jack, who had taken a couple of proud steps back to assess the damage. A cocky smile spread over his reddening face. In that moment, Darcy hated her brother because he was so like their father. Sneakily striking at the good, reveling in the havoc he wreaked.

The boy stood while the referee checked his face, shaking his head somberly. Blood blanketed his mouth; the word broken filtered through to her consciousness. Disappointment rose up to freeze her chest. It was over. One strike and it was over.

An older man about her father’s age said something and threw a soaking rag into the ring. The boy picked it up, wiped his broken nose, and lobbed the rag over his shoulder, past the ropes. Pretty hard-core. Darcy’s heart pounded wildly as the referee stepped back, looking shocked, but his retreat an unspoken agreement that the fight would go on. For twenty-three seconds, the boy let loose on Jack, a whirl of flying fists and unmoored fury until the referee was forced to stop it. Her brother lay on the floor, stunned, grudging admiration for his conqueror in his eyes. Darcy had wished like hell she’d had her sketch pad.

“That guy’s an animal!” Shaz said, railing with indignation. Darcy wanted to sigh at that, but her skin felt too tight for something so casual.

The animal wiped his bloodied, smashed nose with the back of his glove and speared her with another unstinting stare. There was no pride on his face, no joy in his brutal achievement. She wondered why he bothered and hated that she cared. Then he hooked one corner of his bloodstained mouth up, sending her stomach into a wriggle. Lower, too.

Nine years on, and nothing had changed. Beck Rivera was still the boy who heated her from the inside out and forced her to hold on to a germ-ridden folding chair for the ride of her life. He excited her like no one else. 

Raise that sex point average, Darcy. Show him what he’s been missing, Darcy. 

You’re a grade A idiot, Darcy.

“Last stop,” he said, yanking her back to the present and Engine 6’s shower room. Over the door a sign proclaimed “Old firemen never die, their nozzles just rust away.” Cute.

She arced her gaze over the trio of single-use shower stalls. Not quite the stuff of her filthy fantasies, which were more on the level of communal showers with hordes of hot men soaping up and getting sexy-slick.

“Is this where a fireman keeps his etchings?” Darcy joked, nodding at the tattoo sketch he still held clenched in his fist.

Beck set the drawing on a side ledge. “Nah, it’s where this fireman learns about his girl’s.” 

His girl’s. Stepping in, he moved his palm over her collarbone, down over the crest of her breast to trace the cherry blossoms budding above her bustier. She quivered under his touch.

“I want in you, Darcy. I want to feel you tight and hot and wet around me. But first I want to know every one of these tattoos, all the stories. Where you’ve been. Where you’re going.”

And she wanted to tell him. Everything. She dropped her purse and shrugged off her jacket, the soft sounds of leather hitting the floor loudly resonant in the tiled shower room. Her bustier showcased her breasts to how ya doin’ levels, but the true beauty lay below the fold. His hands wandered to her back, seeking access.

“Here, let me,” she said, unzipping at the side with trembling fingers. Her breasts spilled free, revealing the vibrant blossoms painted down the left side of her body, each stem ending in flames.

With his lust-stoked gaze, Beck tracked the motions of his hands down her breasts to her hips. When his eyes fell on the stems, the licks of heat on her skin came alive under his laser-like scrutiny.

“Fire,” he said, one finger tracing the orange curls of flame on her hip. “Beautiful. Dangerous.”

He coasted his hands up her sides and rested a finger above her breastbone, the gentle motion enough to make the blossoms on her skin bloom brighter. Beck’s touch, the sun and the rain.

“Tell me about them.”

“This one I got in San Francisco about four years ago. In Chinese culture, cherry blossoms are a symbol of life and love, as well as sexual power.”

“Hmm.” Gently, he turned her and glanced his knuckles along her shoulder blades. “And the birds?”

“I know a guy in Madrid.”

“Sounds like you know guys everywhere.”

There was no snark in his tone. That wasn’t Beck’s style, but nonetheless Darcy imagined an undercurrent of jealousy. Reveled in it a little, if she was being honest.

“The birds represent freedom.”

He hooked a finger in the waistband of her leather pants and pulled her forward so her breasts grazed his chest. Her nipples tightened to pleasurably painful buds. Slowly—so damn slowly—he unsnapped the button and inched the zipper down, the scrape sending her pulse rate into overdrive and her core into a flood. Only when her bare skin met the tiled wall outside the shower stall did she realize he had walked her back.

“Did you ever think of me, Darcy? When you were traveling the world? When someone drew this on you?”

Her first tattoo at the age of nineteen was of a heart in flames, its trite symbolism cringe-worthy years later. Poor-grade artwork, it served as an introduction to a weird new world and sparked her interest in body art. Later she covered it up with the spectacular elaboration of blooms and fire along her torso—not for Beck, but for her. Still, he had always been there, a part of her she could never deny.

“No, I didn’t think of you.” Liar, liar, thong on fire.

He slipped a thick finger under her lacy underwear, through her damp curls, until he found what he needed. Right at the spot where she needed.

“Good,” he whispered. “I told you to forget and you did. That’s all I could have wished for, querida.”

Oh, Beck. Unbearably touched by the words that had once broken her heart, she gripped his shoulders and dug her nails into his skin, needing an anchor. The staccato of her beating heart thudded in her ears and telegraphed an unnamed need for more.

She moaned deep as his finger rubbed through her seam, every return hitting her clit with the perfect amount of pressure. Two fingers breached her body and found a hot, steamy haven. Heat coiled tight in her belly. He was watching her, waiting for her to go over, so she held on desperately because the longer he trapped her in his intense gaze, the better the release would be. His other hand curled around her neck in a possessive, wildly sensual spread.

“More, Beck. Please.”

A finger soaked in her slick heat circled the nervepacked nub of her clit, just like before, just how she liked it, and she shattered. His hand cupping her sex and the wall at her back were the only things keeping her upright.

And then his hand was gone.

Which left the cool tile. Slumped against it, she watched in a daze as he did that one-hand-over-the-head thing with his tee and reached in to turn on the shower. The tightly loomed muscles of his back moved like cogs under chocolate silk. Everything about him screamed pleasure.

Her spine had dissolved, leaving her useless, so thank God he took over. Holding her steady, he pulled off her boots and socks, divested her of her pants, sinking to his knees as he pulled them down. On the journey back up, he kissed the blue roses along her calf, languidly running his tongue over her damp, heated flesh.

“Where did you get this one?”


“The roses. Where?” He christened the cerulean flowers with scorching hot kisses.

“London,” she panted. “It was the first big piece I got. The first one I was brave enough to get.”

He rewarded her bravery with more brain-destroying flicks of his tongue.

“Beck,” she whispered into the vapor, feeling like she had entered a fevered dream. Feeling a reckless abandon she had never before experienced.

No, wait, she had. With him. Only with him.

Nudging her thighs apart, he splayed those blunt hands over her soft skin. Oh, God, oh, God. The throb built inexorably the closer he moved to the well of her sex.

“Just a little taste, Darcy. You always tasted so sweet.”

As if she could deny him a single thing.

Mouth set to torture, he tongued her blooming folds, scooping up the intimate moisture, creating more with every luxurious sweep. She was flagging, her legs weak as the steam, her body a quivering mess. Any moment now, she would be knocked out of time—

Damn. He stood, giving her a chance to catch her breath (not necessarily a good thing) and appreciate his glistening mahogany chest (most assuredly a good thing). Dark hair arrowed down to his groin, blazing a trail she yearned to follow with her fingers, her lips, her tongue. He was perfectly formed, all steel flesh, so beautiful that it simply hurt to look at him. But she suspected it would hurt more when she no longer could.

“I need a condom. I need to be inside you when you come again.” He stepped back with the intent to grab protection, leaving her boneless against the wall.

“My purse,” she pushed out. Now wasn’t the time for coy.

“Atta girl.” He handed over her purse and she rummaged for the three-pack among the rest of her crap. After what seemed like an eternity, not helped by Beck sucking the delicate juncture where her neck met her shoulder, she found the Trojans.

Within two seconds, he had shucked his shorts, smoothed the condom on, and lifted her off the floor with little effort apparent in his raw, fireman strength.

Then he dawdled.

Teased and rubbed.

Drove her mad with anticipation.

Only when she begged did he enter her slowly in one consuming thrust. Their united groan reverberated against the tile, such a satisfying sound.

Such a loud, satisfying sound.

Panic about how public this was warred with bone-melting desire. “Beck, someone might come.”

“I guarantee it.” He stroked her long and deep, massaging her swollen clit with every return of his thick, sleek length.

“I mean—”

His mouth fitted over hers, choking off her words. A brutal, uncivilized kiss. The steam from the shower—the one they were not taking—added a skin of moisture that made her hands slip off his shoulders. But she never doubted his ability to hold her safe as he took her higher and made good on that guarantee for both of them.