Scorched - Melissa Schroeder


Book 1 in the Texas Heat

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As a firefighter, Cooper Murray has had his share of close calls, both on and off the job. When he’s injured in a four-alarm fire, he’s left at the mercy of Misty, his soon to be ex-wife. They’ve been estranged almost since their whirlwind romance and Vegas wedding. No woman has ever made him so insanely crazy or tugged at his heartstrings the way she does. Still, being in the same room is always dangerous for both of them.

Misty is convinced she’ll pay for her mistake of a marriage for the rest of her life. Coop was the one man who had captured her heart, and then he stomped on it and went back to Dallas. She had just started to live her life again when she got the call about Coop and his injuries. Misty isn’t in the mood to play nursemaid, but since he has refused to sign their divorce papers for eight months, she plans on using his confinement to force him to do just that.

With his injuries forcing close quarters, both Coop and Misty discover they have more in common than just the passion they share. Little by little, the pain of their past fades. But when things get tough, will they be able to hold the fragile new relationship together, or are they doomed to commit the mistakes of their past?

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Book 1 in the Texas Heat

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Cooper Murray made his way through the apartment building, the heat of the fire lapping at his back. From the moment the call had gone out, he knew it was going to be a bitch of a fire. A three-alarm is bad enough, but by the time Station 58 had arrived, they had sent another call out, making it a four-alarm fire. The original fire had started in one building, but thanks to the weather, it hadn’t been contained. The cold January wind had whipped up the flames, helping them dance down the block of apartment buildings. Most of them were abandoned, but one had been renovated into lofts. A good number of the lofts were currently empty, but they had to make sure the few people who had bought apartments in this building were safe—not to mention any homeless people who needed shelter from the cold weather.

He passed Mike Anderson, who still had the bulk from his linebacker days at Texas Tech.

“Find anyone else?” Cooper asked.

The older fireman shook his head. “We need to get out of here. Word just went out that the structure isn’t stable now.”

“I’ve got one more apartment down this side,” he said motioning with his hand. “There’s another at the end of the hall. I’ll meet you back here in two.”

Mike nodded and headed down the hall in the opposite direction. Cooper fought his way through, the fire’s heat seemed to grow with each step that he took. Sweat trickled down his back, and he fought the need to scratch at it, wipe it away.  He checked two rooms and thankfully found them empty. There was one more room and he could head back to Mike. He stepped into the room and found it engulfed in flames. There was a bed, but not much else in the apartment. Seeing that there were no bodies, living or dead, he turned to make his way back down the hall.

The fire had grown more violent, and the temperature seemed to have increased tenfold. The walls were completely covered in flames. Carefully, he made his way down the hallway, gauging his footsteps cautiously. He didn’t want to fall through the floor. His forehead was covered in sweat, and a bit of it dripped into his eyes. He blinked it away, or tried to at least. He hadn’t thought it could get much hotter in the building, but he had been wrong.

Mike appeared at the end of the hall and started toward Cooper. Relief filtered through him as he continued on his way.  Three steps later, he heard what sounded like a crack behind him. He looked back over his shoulder and realized the wall was about to collapse on top of him. Turning back, he started to run. He made it three steps, but he wasn’t fast enough. The wall crashed down on him. Pain radiated from his leg, which took the brunt of the hit as Cooper lost his balance and fell to the ground. His head hit hard on the floor and left him dizzy.

For what seemed like an hour, he lay there, trying to assess his injuries. When he was no longer seeing stars, he lifted up, or tried too. He braced his weight on his hands, but only got the top half of his body.  His left leg wouldn’t move. He looked down his body. Damn, his left leg wouldn’t move. There was a good chance it was broken. He attempted to move again, but couldn’t. The effort and the heat of the fire left him breathless and dizzy, and his arms felt like rubber. After one more try, Cooper collapsed.

Mike called out and Cooper could hear his hurried footsteps. He opened his mouth and attempted to answer Mike, but his stomach rolled over, and his world started to spin out of control. He heard Mike talking to him, but he couldn’t seem to grasp what he was saying.

He was sure he was dying, and his only thought was that he should have called Misty. He should have made up with her before this.

Then, his world faded to black.

*  *  *

Cooper awoke with a rush. Panic hit first as his head tried to grasp where he was and what was going on. Sucking in huge gulps of air, he attempted to get his brain to function. Pain and confusion swamped him. The first thing he saw was green drapes.

Where the hell am I? He blinked, trying to focus on the green drapes. Mind-numbing pain filtered throughout his body. From a simple blink. What in all that was holy had he done to himself?

“Mr. Murray,” a soft female voice said.

He turned his head and instantly regretted it.  His brain rattled inside his skull, and an ache shivered down his spine. If he had anything left in his stomach, he would have thrown it up.

“Fuck,” he muttered.

“I think you need to watch your language, young man.”

He looked at the woman berating him. She was small in stature, had to be about fifty years old, and wore blue scrubs. She had a head full of curly brown hair and blue eyes.

“I’m sorry. Where am I?”

She softened a bit and gave him a small smile. “Baylor Medical Center.”

He looked down his body and saw the massive cast on his left leg. It covered his entire leg, from his toes to his hip. The memory of the night before came rushing back to him. The crack of the wood, the pain as the wall fell on him.

“The fire. The wall.”

“Yes. Collapsed right on you. Broke your leg in four places, and you have a concussion.”

“That’s why I feel like my head has been used for a bowling ball.”

She started to take his vitals. “There are a few friends of yours littering the halls.”


She smiled. “Firefighters. Several are here waiting on you. Unfortunately, we can’t let anyone back into ICU you aren’t related to.”

Well, that left him shit out of luck.  He didn’t have family outside of the firehouse.

“The doctor is going to be in here soon.  I have a feeling he’ll move you to a regular room so your friends will be able to see you then. You were put in here just as a precaution. He’s talking to your wife and then I’m sure he’ll be in.”

For a long moment, he thought he’d heard her wrong. He didn’t have a wife. He didn’t live with anyone either. “My…wife?”

“Yes. She arrived about ten minutes ago. The doctor is speaking to her about your recovery.”

“Recovery? My wife?” Then, it hit him in a rush who she was talking about. Oh, hell, things had just gone from bad to worse.

The nurse paused and studied him. “You do know your name and that you’ve been hurt, right?”

“Yes. Leg’s broken, concussion. But, who called my wife?”

“Hmm, someone at work, I suppose. Either way, she’s here and getting all the particulars. It isn’t going to be fun, but you’re young. You’ll have to rest for a few weeks and have a lot of PT, but you should be able to tough it out. Would you like some ice chips? You can’t eat or drink anything until the doc gives you permission, but ice chips are allowed.”

“Yeah,” he said absentmindedly.

“Be right back.”

When he was alone, he looked around the area. He knew there were other beds, mainly because he could hear the machines beeping, but he couldn’t see much since curtains shielded his view.  He couldn’t even fathom what lay ahead of him. Without being able to work, even if he would get disability pay, Coop was afraid he might just go crazy.

And his wife. Misty. The previous night was still a blur, but he knew his last thought before he had passed out was about her. The one woman who would always be the bane of his existence…and his reason to live.

“You low down, dirty mongrel,” a low, husky voice muttered. It was the voice that haunted his dreams and always sent his heart pounding. He turned and saw Misty standing at the opening in the curtain.

She had pulled the mass of golden brown curls that usually dripped over her shoulders into a loose bun on top of her head. She had no makeup on, and she looked like she’d dressed in a hurry. Hell, if she stepped outside of her house without makeup, he knew she had been rushed, let alone showing up in public with a pair of old jeans and a Dallas Cowboy t-shirt on.

Knowing her the way he did, Cooper knew she probably thought she looked like a mess. He thought she was beautiful.


She was frowning at him, and dammit, it made his heart sing. The woman had left him battered and bruised, without any hope for happiness, and she was standing there fuming at him—and all he wanted to do was kiss the bejesus out of her. He had the urge knowing full well she would probably break his nose if he tried.

He was one sick individual. Sad also. Sad and sick.

He cleared his throat, trying to come up with something to say. “So…they called you?”

She nodded without taking her gaze from his.

“And you came.”

Again, she nodded.

What did he say to the woman who had left his heart broken and bleeding on the floor?

“So…” he said, not knowing what else to say.

There was a long moment of silence, then she stepped closer to the bed, narrowed those gorgeous whiskey-colored eyes of hers, and said, “Give me one good reason not to kill you.”

End of Excerpt


by Melissa Schroeder

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