Note to Reader: My formatting of this chapter would not transfer over. I apologize in advance. Don't forget there is a sample of The Beloved Fire you can download to your e-reader through Amazon Kindle. 


01: Dazed


Mikayla Renifum looked at herself in the mirror and sighed. Her hair was curled, and she had more than her normal amount of makeup on, highlighting her brown eyes. For as good as she looked it sucked that her efforts would be wasted around old people.

“Hell.” She muttered feeling the irritation set in.


The blonde lady leaning up against the sink next to her, glanced over, but Mikayla ignored her. Doing a quick dress check to make sure her tight number hadn’t slid up too far and spinning, all was in place. She sucked in another annoyed breath before snatching her clutch off the counter. A cough which sounded very much like the word slut, floated up from the blonde.


Really lady?


Slut, how?


This lady wore a pound of makeup and looked way too old to be in a dress that tight. A million insults laid on her tongue, but she held them back. Whatever, probably a gold digger anyways. Mikayla looked back one last time to flip the lady off, then headed for the party. 

Her mom had set up this so-called meeting with the director of the Kansas City Art Publishing House before Mikayla could even argue about going. Honestly, with how sick her mom was, she wouldn’t argue anyways. Living out in the middle of BFE or what she liked to call, Bum Fuck Egypt, Kansas City was a bit of a drive that she had never taken by herself. Normally her way over-protective best friend Ander would be by her side. She was glad he wasn’t along this time though, it gave her a moment to breath, and him being away for his duties in the military gave her an excuse to finally start acting like the adult she was. To have someone over your shoulder all the time could be a bit suffocating, even if he was her best friend.


The hotel was easy enough to find via her GPS but navigating a big city when she was so used to growing up in a small town was a bit of a hassle. After finding no one at valet parking, she drove around and found a spot in a parking garage across from the hotel, then huffed it inside following signs to the venue. She was terrified of heights, and low and behold this damn party just happened to be on a roof. Go figure. The meeting was to get a job, which she pretty much had already, but had to seal the deal or so her mom said.


            Stepping out through the double glass doors the sound of music, soft conversations and laughter came to life. Paintings, sculptures and other oddly shaped things she would never consider art were sprawled around the space in between beautiful gardens. Everyone was dressed in extreme formal wear which made her glad her mom was accustomed to this life and had set her up in advance with appropriate dress and shoes. Yoga pants would have had her sticking out like a sore thumb.


She brought her clutch up to her stomach fighting the urge to pull out her phone. Her crutch for escaping socially awkward situations, that and well not going into socially awkward situations. She stopped herself though, being a young adult with her face stuck in her phone wouldn’t look very professional. The only take away to her nerves was that the night air didn’t feel so stifling even for being in the dead heat of summer. She was a nervous sweater. Sweat and satin was not a good look. 

Looking around she wasn’t sure where to find this guy. There wasn’t exactly a set time they were supposed to meet, just that they were supposed to meet here during this function to get better acquainted. She didn’t even know what the hell he looked like, just his name. Darious… Michaels, no Michaels wasn’t right, maybe Saunders? Well she knew his first name anyway. A couple people noticing her stiff stance stared at her now. She brought her clutch back to her side before hesitantly walking further into the party, and out of the entry way like some weirdo. 


            “Excuse me Miss?” A guy in a tuxedo holding a platter of champagne flutes asked walking over.

“May I interest you in some champagne?”


She took a glass, nodding thankfully, before heading to the farthest corner of the roof to sit in peace. She would need some liquid courage to BS her way through this and a quiet place to think of a plan. She wasn’t even qualified for this job, but since her mom worked here the past 20 years, she had an in.


Just as she spotted an empty bench surrounded by art and luscious red flowered plants, a strong attractive voice gave her pause.


            “You look a bit too young to be accepting that.”


She turned to see a gorgeous guy in a black on black suit and tie. She continued ogling him un-ashamed as she lifted an eyebrow and took a slow drink appreciating the site. Maybe this night wouldn’t be such a waste after all? Styled back golden hair with piercing green eyes, lips you could drown in, and even through his suit she could tell he had a hard body. Damn. She was so glad Ander hadn’t come along.


He literally cocked blocked her, no joke, her whole life. 


            “I just turned twenty-one last month, so I am of age actually.” She looked up through her lashes putting on her charm full blast. “What about you?”


            He sucked in a breath, giving her an intense look as he stepped closer. “What about me?”


            She looked down her nose at him, which was hard since he was taller, but she still pulled it off. “Well you don’t look much older than me.” He did, actually, but not by much. Mid-20’s if she had to guess.


            “I’m stuck here either way sunflower, so liquor is a must.” She forced herself to ignore the nickname as well as take a step back. He had the most luscious looking lips she’d ever seen but handsome would have to wait, she had a job to do first, then maybe random stranger sex. Just as she was about to excuse herself to go find this director, he walked over looping his free arm with hers and started to walk, tugging her along as he sipped his champagne. A light breeze caught the scent of his cologne, which tickled her hair along her shoulders. He smelled like an open breeze off the shore of an ocean.  


“Umm, what do you think you’re doing?” She asked, trying to hide her amusement.


He pulled her arm closer to his side giving her a sexy smile. “Walking you to a place more secluded.”



 “I’m not planning on taking your innocents away if that’s what you’re worried about, unless you want me to?” His deep chuckle sent thrills through her and she knew she was so screwed. Hopefully, literally.


“But that doesn’t mean I don’t want your full attention.” He said before winking at her.  


            “For what?” No answer.


            She looked over to read his face before she sat on the stone bench they had walked to. There was nothing she could read from him other than mystery, and maybe a bit of over confidence. He looked like someone in charge, and there was an air about him that said he got what he wanted, making her wonder why he was here at this party. He sat down beside her, leaning forward on his legs as he sipped his champagne and watched the party goers. An older couple that had a little bit too much to drink walked by, or rather stumbled by, swinging champagne glasses in hand laughing and talking about an elephant sculpture that they should have bought for someone named Gerald. James and she watched them pass, both giving a light chuckle before silence fell back over them in their small corner of the roof and she was glad for the quite. Even sitting next to a more than usually attractive man, she felt an odd calm in his presence.


After it was clear they were just going to sit there, she sighed, looking up at the stars. They were her favorite thing to look at. You would think she was a bit of a nut with all the star shaped stuff she’d collected over the years, but they reminded her that there was more out there than what surrounded her. It gave her hope in her hard times, and although the star shaped items were a reminder, she could only get the full appreciation of them by looking at the night sky.  


Closing her eyes and taking in the moment, she felt him shift closer to her, but didn’t peek. Yeah maybe shutting her eyes around a complete stranger over in the corner of the party probably wasn’t the smartest idea, but for some reason she felt safe around him. Plus, it wasn’t like there weren’t people close enough to hear, if she did have to scream. Her usually non cautionary actions to situations were part of the reason Ander was always so protective of her, or so he said. He called her reckless and off the chain, but half the time his claims were unfounded. He was really just a fun hater.


            When the man next to her was silent for a bit too long, she finally opened her eyes turning to see if maybe he gave up and left. She gasped, his face was only a hands length away from hers. His eyes staring deeply into hers, that had turned from their first bright green impression to a darker green, almost like moss covered stones in a forest. Something stirred in her and she couldn’t help but feel like she knew him from somewhere, but that would be too weird. Shifting back from what shouldn’t be a comfortable space between two strangers, he stopped her by putting a hand on her shoulder.


“Don’t.” His voice was commanding but yet held a gentleness that almost made her listen, almost.


            She shook his hand from her shoulder.


“I don’t even know you.” She whispered feeling dazed from his powerful eyes before scooting away, just as a waiter came over replenishing their champagne.


            He cleared his throat and sat back.


“Fair enough. Just couldn’t help getting close to you. It feels like…”


He paused giving her enough time to wonder if that was all he was going to say, “Like you and I were meant for each other.”

Yeah whatever. She scoffed. Taking a drink and refusing to play into that. He had to know she was interested in him so there was no reason for the cheesy pick-up lines.


“I’m James, by the way.” He didn’t attempt to shake her hand, just looked forward at the party goers, now apparently more interesting than her.



            “Mikayla.” She said starting to put her hand out hesitantly before putting it back down. He wasn’t even looking at her. “Nice to meet you…”


He still managed not to look her way. His jaw clenching every so often made it seem like he was mad about something.


“I guess.” She mumbled. Bipolar much?


She took another drink, taking stock of how she almost needed a third glass, at this rate talking to her soon be boss was a loss. The champagne was going down way too smooth tonight and she was starting to think that it was her freedom more than being nervous. She wasn’t much of a drinker, partyer or really anything social, but that mainly stemmed from Ander. He was her best friend and that was fine but growing up he refused to partake in any of those rights of passage a teen likes to indulge in and downright hindered her in partaking either. He literally was more of a bodyguard than a friend at times.


Focusing on the party she noticed they were the only younger people there and she knew finding an old man amongst a sea of other old men would be hard. Maybe he would stand out? Looking around, there did seem to be a lot of people gravitating towards one man. She focused leaning to the right to get a better look. Damn, they weren’t the only young people there. The guy that everyone surrounded had brown slicked back hair. She couldn’t see his face but judging by how the guy’s hair wasn’t salt and pepper, he had to be younger. He had a built body and seeing how the females twirled their fingers around their hair, and laughing obnoxiously, he was either super rich or super good looking. She snorted seeing the blonde gold digger that had called her a slut in the bathroom, vying for the man’s attention. Seeing James give her a funny look she cleared her throat, taking a drink, trying to hide her smile that crept up.


She looked back to the man everyone surrounded. Maybe that’s who she was supposed to talk to? Or she could just ask the next waiter that comes by, either way. Glancing at James she watched his pink lips take a drink before running his tongue over his bottom lip. She wondered how it would feel to kiss him. Hearing him chuckle she looked up, catching his eyes. She quickly looked away embarrassed by getting caught staring. Flames licking her cheeks.  


            “He’s not here.” Before she could ask, James continued. “The director.” He now gave her his full attention. “You’re here for a job. He’s not here.” Then who was that guy people were surrounding?


            “How did you…” Her clutch vibrating against the stone bench stopped her before she could continue. “Hold on.” She said, throwing up a hand pausing his answer as she turned to get her phone. It was Ander.




            “Baby girl, where are you?” Ander sounded a little more than irritated at her sneaky success, but he couldn’t be too upset if he was using the normal term of endearment, he used for her. She snickered as she stood, putting her back to James.


            “I’m at the art gallery for that job mom set up…remember?” She heard rustling and figured he was changing out of his uniform. This event being on a Saturday night he worked on base; it was perfect time to sneak away. Normally he wouldn’t get back until Sunday.


“Wait. Why are you home so soon?”


            He grunted. “Damn it Kayla, don’t tell me you drove all the way to KC alone?” She rolled her eyes glancing back at the bench. James had his elbows on his knees leaning forward holding his champagne glass, his posture relaxed, but his stare implied something different. He stared her down like a lion tracking its prey. She shivered tuning back into the conversation.


“KAYLA?” Ander yelled. He’d obviously been trying to get her attention.


            “Huh?” She turned back around ignoring the sexy male causing her legs to feel like jelly and her heartbeat to flutter. “Oh, umm yeah. It’s no big.” She responded, remembering where they were in their conversation. She felt James at her back now and she tensed as her heartbeat picked up, not in fear but with attraction. She knew this night was lost.


            “I’m on my way.” What?


            “Ander, no! Listen…” She turned around to realize James was only inches away from her. His stare deep and sexy. He reached out trailing the back of his hand along her arm. Goosebumps covered her flesh and she bit back a moan trying to control herself. How could one simple act make her want to undress so fast? The dominance, lethal danger, and sexiness this man projected could have a crowd of women wet in seconds. Why the hell did he want her? Ander and his anger now completely forgotten.


“I have to go.” She whispered into the phone before ending the call and taking a step back.


            “Who was that?” His face flashing with annoyance. She scoffed. Where the hell did he get off thinking he could ask that? It was clear that he was pure alpha, but she wasn’t going to let him boss her around, no matter how bad she wanted him.


            “None of your business.” She challenged as he took a step forward keeping up with her slow retreat. Not that she wanted to get away from him, more like jump him where he stood. She licked her lips clutching her phone harder than she needed to. Looking around she could see they were slowly backing away to the point she couldn’t see anyone else. The seclusion filled the air, making lust fill her veins and caused her imagination to flare.


            He growled as his eyes seem to darken again. Actually freaking growled, and damn if it didn’t turn her completely on. She felt a thrill run through her making her breast perk up. She looked down seeing her nipples through the silk that pressed tightly against the fabric begging to be touched. Damn she knew silk would come back to bite her one way or another. He looked down a second later catching what she saw and peered back up through hooded eyes that almost appeared black, grunting in what sounded like frustration. She gasped when she tried to take another step back, only to hit into some type of plant terrace thing and his arms immediately came up caging her in before slamming his body into hers, making them flush.  


Here’s the thing, was he frightening? Yeah. But that shit turned her on something fierce and the idea of hooking up with a stranger, not that she was a slut, only added to the flames. She had played the virgin good girl for too long. She was feeling sexy, wonton and every bit of woman no other man had ever made her feel. She wanted James more than the breath she needed to breathe, the idea of being touched by the powerful male in front of her almost had her begging.  


            “What do you want Mikayla?” He leaned his face forward so close all she’d have to do was tip up her chin and they would lock lips.

His breath was cool and smelled of alcohol mixed with mint. She breathed in his ocean scent, the crazy fragrances wreaking havoc on her nerves and the need to devour his mouth pulsed somewhere deeper than she ever knew existed. How long could she bare this? What did he want?


Did she care?


Almost like he could hear her inner conflict, the corner of his mouth came up in a sexy smile and all questions fled. Fuck it. Why deny what they clearly both wanted.


Just as she tipped her chin up to connect with his soft lips, her eyes fluttering closed, an all too familiar voice broke through.




Her eye’s snapped open.   


            No. Freaking. Way.


Ander was here?


She glanced over seeing Ander walking up angrily pushing party goers out of his way. Her nerves skyrocketed, how in the hell was he here? She just talked to him on the phone. She tried to push James away, but he reached down grabbing her chin lightly bringing her face back to his, while holding her body in place.


“Ignore him.” James whispered, his lower half rocking into her and she all but cried with the need to take him right there, feeling a trance like state blanket her nerves. She brought her hands up to his face, maybe if Ander saw she was busy he would go away. It was like James had her in a spell, one she couldn’t shake out of. She leaned in to kiss him again, she wanted, needed to taste his lips. All she wanted was to continue what they stared. Her veins thrummed and her body tightened with excitement. Ander completely forgotten.


            For a second anyways.


            “Back the fuck up now.” Ander’s voice was low and dangerous, and right by her ear. She shook out of her bliss dropping her hands from James’ face before pushing him lightly away.


            “What the hell Ander!?” She shouted.


Ander looked pissed. Well he could just be pissed. She was pissed! Her one night to get laid and yet again, like he had some secret Mikayla is going to get laid bat signal go off, he appears and ruins it.


Ander just stared James down like he was going to kill him, completely ignoring her pissed off stance and shout.

Mikayla got in his face, pissed for the interruption. If she wanted to hook up with some random guy, what gave him the right to stop her?


“Fuck! Why are you here Ander?” She’d never really cussed at her Ander, hell, ever really protested to him interrupting in the past, and maybe it was the alcohol but enough was enough! Damn, when was it okay for her to live her life?


            And how the hell was he here so fast?


            James sighed in frustration running a hand through his hair disrupting his previously perfect gelled back hair, before turning to Ander with a murderous stare. You would think James would be terrified of what stood before him.

Ander was what she called, Army-Navy-Super-Strong, and he constantly told her not to call him that. So, naturally that’s all she called him when she wanted to be silly. Technically he was a Marine, but whatever. He was 6ft, huge, strong and deadly with a weapon. His beautiful dark chocolate skin wrapped around the biggest muscles known to man and yet she’d never actually seen him work out. Now sneering at James she realized they were the same height and with James just as lethal looking maybe Ander had finally met his match?


“We’ve been here before old man.” James said with a smirk, sauntering back to sit on the bench they were once at. Wait, what?


            “Ander how the hell did you get here so fast? And do you know him?” She pointed at James, who looked totally unfazed if not a bit annoyed.


Ander opened his mouth to speak, but not before James blurted out, “Oh yeah we go way back don’t we Army-Navy?”

Holy shit. That was her name for Ander, how had James known that?


“Enough James. You’ve already started things in motion that can’t be undone.” Ander took a step towards James lifting his chest. Good lord. Why did men have to be so alpha all the time?


            “Like that little sentence wasn’t cryptic and will have her guessing what it means.” James paused to scoff. “You’re the one putting things into motion.” James said, before draining his glass tossing it on the ground with a shatter as he stood again.

Well that was rude. She looked around to see if a waiter would appear or anyone to notice the broken glass, but they didn’t. She saved that annoyance for another time, people who littered were the worst. Shifting to the side wondering if this was going to be some stupid male testosterone fueled fight, or maybe just some big joke. Not to mention Ander still hadn’t answered her.


Ander took a step closer towards Mikayla smiling softly, “Yeah I know him, he’s bad news and not someone you want to hang around.” He paused looking around, “And you were never alone. I tried to give you a little space, but your parents were worried about you coming alone, so I followed. I called because I meant where in the party you were. I was going to leave you be, so I made it sound like I wasn’t here, but then I saw this sleaze on you.” Her mouth dropped open as she stepped away from him.



            “You are a complete asshole Ander! What the hell!? I’m not some child that needs to be babysat!” She poked her finger into his chest driving home how mad she was, it was either that or stomp her foot and she didn’t think her heels would appreciate that. Now getting a good look at Ander, she noticed he had normal clothes on. Jeans and a tight fitted grey shirt with boots. So, he planned to follow her here but didn’t dress the part? That didn’t make sense.


“I can’t believe you!” She turned glancing at James who looked way too amused with her and Anders fight. “And what the hell is so funny? I was actually thinking about sleeping with you, but apparently this is all some joke. Fuck you!” At hearing her confession James dropped his amusement. Next, she looked at Ander, “and fuck you too!”


            “Mikayla stop, calm down.” Ander said reaching for her arm that she shrugged out of. She felt hotter than normal.


            “Listen, let’s just find this guy and leave. You’ve been drinking anyways, how were you planning on driving home?” Ander’s voice was calm and gentle. She watched as he reached up clutching the necklace around his neck distracting her enough for her anger to fade. She had made it for him when they were in the second grade and he never once took it off; well other than when she had to lengthen it in high school. He grabbed at it when he was nervous, she found. It always clenched her heart and sometimes she wondered if he didn’t pull the necklace thing on purpose. 


            “Whatever.” Turning away and leaving these two was her best plan yet. After grabbing her clutch, and not uttering a single word to the pair, she stomped off towards a penguin carrying liquid happiness. Stupid Ander and his stupid timing.

Just as she reached for a flute on the tray, she felt a rumble and watched as the liquid in the flutes sloshed slightly, stopping as soon as it started. What the?


“Did you feel that?” She asked the orange haired waiter as he now held the platter with both hands. Just as he started to open his mouth a larger rumble, along with more shaking started again and she stumbled back grabbing a side table trying to keep her balance. The waiter was not as lucky as he and flutes crashed to the floor. Glancing back towards where James and Ander had been, she couldn’t see them. The shaking only increased and realization that she was on-top of a damn skyscraper in what was most likely an earthquake took over. But they were in Kansas and they didn’t have earthquakes. Or did they?


People screamed rushing inside to get down the elevator or stairs, while knocking down the priceless sculptures in their attempt to escape. She knew she needed to follow but as hard as she tried, she couldn’t get up from the last rumble knocking her down; the shoving of people rushing past her didn’t help. She looked around again for Ander, not being able to see him drove her heart further in her throat about being trampled. 


“ANDER!” She shouted out as the crowd thinned and she finally was able to get on her feet as an earth-shattering boom echoed causing her hearing to evaporate temporarily, coming back with a loud pitched whine. The boom was followed by a blast of heat, and the sound of glass like all windows below them shattered, but she couldn’t be sure. The blast threw her down so hard it knocked the air out of her at the same time her head slammed into what felt like concrete. She was sure the building was coming down with how badly it swayed and buckled. When she tried to call for Ander again no sound came from her mouth, and she could feel a weird numbness start to take over her body.

She slowly felt her senses dimming and giving out as the chaos continued around her. It almost felt like she was falling. The last thing she saw was James bright green eyes and then she surrendered to darkness.