Wait . . . was she really thinking that if that wasn’t the case, she might sleep with him?

She glanced over. Danny’s expression was grim, his brows down, his jaw locked. And as they left the Cat’s Meow in the dust, an image from the week before barged into her brain.

The crew had just come back from a box alarm. It had been a no-BFD, only a minor kitchen fire, hamburger patties cooked past well-done and into incineration. Deshaun had backed the engine into the bay and they had all gotten off.

It was the kind of thing that they did over two hundred times in a month, nothing unusual or remarkable. But it had been at sundown, and the golden rays penetrating the firehouse’s vehicle floor had bathed Danny in a glow that was unreal. Anne had ducked her head and watched him as he’d shucked his turnouts, peeling off the heavy flame-retardant jacket and hanging it in his locker, then shucking his suspenders and stepping out of his boots and pants.

His shoulder muscles had flexed as he’d twisted and turned, his biceps stretching his T-shirt sleeves thin, his pecs bulking and then releasing. He’d been laughing at something Deshaun had said, that smile cocky and sure, those Irish eyes flashing blue.

And then he’d caught her staring.

An expression similar to the one he had now had overtaken his face, and that big body had stopped in mid-motion.

As Anne refocused on the sidewalk ahead, she thought of When Harry Met Sally—the part where Harry tells Sally that men and women can never be friends.

Funny, she had been alone with Danny so many times at work. Whether they were going into a burning building together, or playing pong in the rec area, or working out in the bays, there had been countless incidences of them isolated from the rest of the crew.

Tonight, it was different.

Then again, she had never hung out with him by herself on her off time. Tonight . . . things felt date-ish.

“My SCBA still needs a new mask,” she said. “Do you know whether Captain Baker’s submitted the equipment order for this month yet?”

When in doubt, talk shop, she thought.

“Yeah, he has. But I’ll find you another medium. The lens get scratched again?”

“Remember the three-alarm on Monday at that dry cleaning store?”

“The one where you busted that window out with your body?” He glanced over and smiled. “You were like a stuntman going through that pane of glass. You blew that shit up.”

She laughed. “It was so much fun. But Captain Baker was not happy.”

“In his defense, the front door was about three feet over.”

“Dead-bolt required a key. I tried that exit first.”

“Really? I wondered what was going on. I was charging another line from the hydrant, and I looked up to see this explosion. I thought the contents fire had gone flash point, but nope. It was just Ashburn, using herself to vent the flames.”

“I didn’t have any other tools with me, and we needed to get that temperature down before the damn thing went structural. What was I supposed to do?”

As Danny chuckled, she tried to claw her way back to normal, to the way it had always been between them, with her just one of the guys. She was on a slippery slope, however, and she felt like she was falling into a destination she didn’t want to put a name to.

To distract herself, she looked around. They were passing by another strip club, the sound of pumping music vibrating through its walls. A wait line had formed to the left of the entrance, three bouncers checking IDs before they let groups of partially dressed women and tattooed men inside.

“If Moose had picked here, would you have gone?” she asked. “I’ve never heard of any problems here.”

“Only if I could pay the dancers to put their clothes back on.”

“I never pictured you as a prude.”

“I’m not. I just don’t like that scene.”

No, he liked full-on naked, from what she’d heard.

As a spike of lust shot through her, she wanted to kick her own ass. Just friends, damn it, they were just friends—no, they weren’t even that. They worked together.

Colleagues was the word.

“Let’s walk faster,” she muttered as they crossed the head of an alley. “It’s cold out.”

“You want my coat?”

Sure, that was exactly what she needed. More of his aftershave in her nose. “Nah, I’m good—”

“Help! Oh, God, help! He’s been stabbed!”

Stopping short, Anne looked at Danny and then zeroed in on a disembodied female voice emerging from the shadows down the alleyway.

“Come on!” Anne said, grabbing his arm.

* * *

Danny took off behind Anne as she fell into a run toward the commotion, the pair of them tearing down a narrow lane created by a boarding house on one side and the blood donation clinic on the other. Halfway down, in the dim glow from a security light six stories up, a man was circling someone who was sprawled on the pavement. Another person, a woman, had thrown herself over the injured, putting her body in the way.

“—fucking asshole! You fucker!” The knife in the aggressor’s hand flashed. There was blood on it. “I’ma fucking kill you!”

“Leave him alone!” the woman yelled.

As the attacker noticed Anne, he tucked the blade behind his back. “Walk away, bitch. Just walk away.”

“I’m an EMT.” She put her palms up. “If he’s hurt, let me treat him—”

“Get the fuck out of here!”

“Help us!” the woman begged as she reached out with a bloody hand. “He’s bleeding bad.”

“Shut up.” The attacker outted the knife again and pointed it at the woman. “You fucking shut your mouth—this is your fault—”

Danny lunged forward into the hazy circle of light, battling for control of the weapon, locking a hold on a thick wrist. The attacker torqued and threw a punch that landed on the side of Danny’s head, but Danny knew that he couldn’t let go or he was going to be stabbed next. Grunting, he put all his weight and strength into a pivot that swung the man in a circle and slammed him face-first into the boarding house’s brick walling.

But the guy was a fighter—and strung out on something. Even as his nose exploded with blood, he yanked and shoved against Danny’s grip, trying to pry the knife loose. And then Danny tripped, his hold slipping free.

The blade slashed in an arc, and Danny ducked just in time, the whistling sound so close to his ear, he put a hand up to make sure he wasn’t cut. But then the knife was coming at him again, the stabbing, sharp tip aimed at his gut. Jumping back, he bent at the waist and was missed by a millimeter.

Given that the attacker’s weight had shifted forward, Danny jerked to the side, clasped his hands together, and brought them down on the nape of the other man’s neck. The force was so great, it drove the aggressor to the pavement, and Danny jumped on top, digging one of his knees into the small of the back as he grabbed onto the wrist controlling the weapon again. With his other hand, he palmed that skull and pushed the man’s face into the asphalt.

“Drop the knife,” Danny growled. “Or I’ll break your fucking arm.”

“Fuck you!”

“Drop the knife!”

The bastard tried to get up, and Danny looked over at Anne. She was bent over the downed man, and her face was composed as she opened a Red Sox parka to inspect the injuries. But as she put her cell phone up to her ear and glanced at Danny, her eyes were dilated with adrenaline.

I am not going to die in front of that woman, Danny thought.

The man underneath him bucked hard and almost got free, but it was time to end this. Danny cranked that hand with the knife around and twisted, twisted . . . twisted.

“I’m gonna break your fucking arm,” Danny gritted out. “Drop the knife!”

Anne started talking into her phone. “I am a trained EMT. I am in an alley at Harbor and Fifteenth with a stabbing victim. I need an ambulance and a police unit—my partner is subduing the assailant. I suspect we have an internal bleed in the gut, pulse is weak, and victim is in shock—”


The attacker let out a howl of pain as his arm dislocated from its shoulder socket—and that meant the knife was no longer a threat. As everything went limp, Danny tossed the weapon across the alley.