The Fireman's Secret (Goose Harbor)

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9780373879403: The Fireman's Secret (Goose Harbor)
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Rekindling Her Life 

After the fire that injured her and burned down Goose Harbor's only church fourteen years ago, Shelby Beck is planning to rebuild--the structure and her life. But her wounds have always caused her to keep men at a distance. When Joel Palermo returns to town as a fireman and is assigned to help Shelby raise funds for the new construction, she's surprised at how easy it is to get close to her brother's old friend. Could he be the man she'll finally trust enough to let in? Or will the bond they've built go up in flames, when Joel's own scars are revealed? 

Goose Harbor:  Love is in big supply on the  shores of Lake Michigan

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About the Author:

Jessica Keller has been known to belt out showtunes without invitation and dance in her car at stoplights. She writes Inspirational Romance and Young Adult Fiction. A Starbucks drinker, ice-cream enthusiast, and chocolate aficionado, Jessica enjoys the sweeter things in life. Married to the man of her dreams, Jessica and her family live in the Midwest. Find her on Twitter @AuthorKeller

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Moonli ght flashed like a strobe light through the dense canopy of trees lining the road just a mile away from the shores of Lake Michigan. Shelby rolled down her window to let the cool breeze kiss her skin, but the air hung thick with a strong after-rain worm smell and the wind caused the important deed papers sitting on her passenger seat to stir. She promptly rolled the window back up.

Dampness clung to her toes. The running shoes she wore might be ruined now, but dogs needed to be walked and let outside for a little bit, even when it rained.

Her one working headlight bounced off a green sign. Welcome to Goose Harbor. As she read those words, the muscles in her shoulders relaxed instantly. Home.

Perhaps she'd drive past the land she'd inherited. Until now, she'd avoided the street the old church had been on—not wanting to see the barren lot or be reminded of the day that had changed her life. The congregation had never rebuilt the church after it burned down, and somehow Shelby felt as if her life hadn't been able to move forward since then. Rebuilding the church wouldn't take away the scars she had received from being trapped in the burning structure all those years ago, but maybe seeing the church standing again would help her move on. It had to.

A hill came into view and she gunned the car's engine. Bad idea. The vehicle started to shake uncontrollably.

"Please don't die on me," she begged. She eased off the gas and watched the dials on the dashboard bounce. "Please, please, please."

She glanced back at the road and gasped.

A deer leaped onto the street no more than ten feet in front of her. In a split-second calculation, Shelby realized there was no time to move out of the way. She was going too fast. She jammed her foot on the brakes. The car's tires squealed, and like a madman on a warpath, her Volkswagen struck the deer.

Shelby's head lashed forward, slamming against the steering wheel. The car's one good headlight blinked out. The deer flew up onto the hood. White-knuckling the steering wheel, Shelby hung on as her car careered into the steep, wet ditch, tossing gravel and glass shards like candy from a parade float.

With a final death groan, the car came to a rest.

Headlights on the road pulled to a halt above her. A car door slammed.

A deep, male voice called out. "Hello? Are you hurt?" The man skidded down the ditch. He wrenched open her door. "Is it just you in here or are there others?"

"Only me." She coughed and turned a bit, catching a glimpse of his black leather coat.

He stayed her with a hand on her shoulder. "Maybe you shouldn't get up just yet."

The man crouched and his face came into view. Rich hazel eyes full of concern, jaw set, and spiked black hair—he looked as if he belonged on a motorcycle. He couldn't be from Goose Harbor, because she didn't know him—and she knew everyone in her small town.

His dark eyebrows scrunched. "I saw you swerve off the road. Looks like you've got a cut on your forehead. Does anything else hurt?" He tapped his left temple to show her where the cut was.

"I'm okay...I think." Shelby yanked a napkin from her purse and pressed it to her cut. "How's the deer?"

He kept his hand on her shoulder. "Let's worry about you right now. My name's Joel. I'm a fireman, so I'm a trained EMT. I'd like to make sure your head's okay before you get up." His forehead creased as he assessed her. Leaning close, Joel inspected the wound with his warm eyes.

"I'm okay." Shelby tugged at her sleeves, pulling them as low on her wrists as she could. Whoever he was, Joel didn't know about the burn marks on her arms and legs, and she'd like it to stay that way. The less he stared at her, the better.

But he didn't move. "Are you having any feelings of nausea or a quick onset headache?"

"Seriously, I'm fine." She glanced at the napkin she'd been holding to her head. It didn't look like she was bleeding that badly.

"Do me a favor and wait here for a second." The fireman turned and climbed back to his vehicle. A couple of minutes later, he carefully navigated his way back down the slippery slope with a tube of paste, a small flashlight and gauze in his hands.

"Humor me?" He clicked on the flashlight and bent to be eye-level with her. "Okay, I'm going to shine this in your eyes."

Shelby squinted and he told her to keep her eyes open.

"Great." He clicked off the flashlight and tucked it into one of his coat pockets. "Your eyes responded how they should, so that's good news."

"Well, that's a relief." She grinned at him.

"You have pretty eyes." He stopped what he was doing for a moment and his face relaxed—like how she imagined he would have looked at her if their eyes met across a coffee shop. The moment was over too soon. He immediately snapped back into EMT mode.

"Here." He unwrapped the gauze. "We need to put this on your head. It'll work a whole lot better than that napkin."

With two fingers, Joel gently moved her hair out of the way. "I'm going to put some of this ointment on your cut, okay? It'll probably tingle some." His steady fingers worked quickly, his touch considerate. "This might burn a little, but I'm going to need you to hold the gauze on there for me."

Shelby blew out a long stream of air but obeyed. Hopefully the deer had gotten up and continued into the forest. The image of an injured animal didn't sit well with her, especially when she felt fine.

"Good. Just like that," Joel coached. "Put pressure on it and hold it." He rocked back so he was sitting on his heels. "I should call for an ambulance."

"No." She grabbed his wrist as he reached for his pocket and probably his cell phone. An ambulance meant that her brother, Caleb, would be called and he'd overreact. A lecture from him was best saved until morning. "I'm good. I could drive home if my car wasn't in the ditch."

"Then let me call for a tow truck."

So this Joel was persistent. And cute. He wasn't built and overly muscled like her brother, but he had a quiet strength about him. She narrowed her eyes. He actually looked familiar.

Shelby shook her head. "I go to church with the local mechanic. He has two small kids and I don't want to wake them up by calling him right now. I'll get in touch with him tomorrow."

Joel looked back up to the road. "If the cops see your car here they might give you a ticket."

"My brother's best friend is on rotation for the night shift this week. I'll send him a text to let him know about my car." Good thing Miles had recently made the transfer from the police force in the big city of Brookside to the smaller Goose Harbor department. It came in handy being buddies with one of the seven officers in town.

A slow smile lit Joel's face. "Everyone still knows everyone around here, don't they? It sounds like Goose Harbor hasn't changed a bit since I left."

Since he left? Shelby leaned closer. He smelled like cinnamon gum. Joel. She knew a Joel once... The image of a wiry teenager with midnight black hair, a closed-lipped smile and deep hazel eyes popped into her mind.

"Are you...?" It had to be. "Joel Palermo, right?" Caught up in the excitement of seeing an old friend, she grabbed both his hands. He couldn't have been more than sixteen when he left town some fourteen years ago.

He nodded. "And if I'm not mistaken, you're Caleb's little sister. Shelby Beck." He glanced at her left hand. "It's still Beck, isn't it?"

Her? Married? Right, he'd left before the fire. He didn't know about the scars marring her skin.

"Still just a Beck."

As teenagers, Miles, Caleb and Joel had been inseparable for the few years Joel lived with a foster family in Goose Harbor.

"It's so good to see you." She squeezed his hand.

He looked at their hands for a moment. "That's nice to hear. I didn't know how people would feel about me coming back."

She let go of his hand. What had come over her to latch on to him like that? Besides, they'd forgotten something important while they'd been catching up and taking care of her cut. "Wait. What about the deer?"

"Deer?"

"When you went to get your flashlight did you check the deer? How is it?" She jammed the deed papers into her purse, slung the bag over her shoulder and locked the car door.

He scratched his chin. "Um, I didn't take a look at the deer. I was more worried about you."

"Well, I'm fine."

"You're sure?"

"Listen, my head hurts like there's a small child jumping on my brain, but I'll survive. Nothing's broken. Believe me, I've survived much worse than a small accident." Shelby pressed past him and stumbled up the incline.

He grabbed her elbow to steady her. "Whoa, there. Let's walk easy. Maybe I should call Caleb for you. Does he still live in town?"

Shelby swallowed. When Caleb proposed to Paige Windom, Shelby made a promise to herself to move out of her brother's home and begin making a life of her own apart from Caleb. She needed to learn to be independent and stop letting Caleb take care of everything.

She spun around too quickly. "No. I don't want that."

Feeling woozy from the fast movement, she grabbed on to the first thing she could find to steady herself. That ended up being the fabric of Joel's coat near his chest.

Joel's arms came around her. "Listen, Shelby, I don't think—"

She spotted the deer. It rested in the gravel on the edge of the street. Shelby let go of Joel's coat and inched toward the animal. She fell to her knees beside her. No breath. No movement.

"Oh, you poor thing. I'm so sorry." Tears welled in her eyes. Shelby turned to Joel. He stood behind her, working his jaw back and forth. Hands shoved deep in his pockets.

"I killed her." She got up. Why had they talked so long? She should have climbed out of the car the second it went into the ditch in order to help the deer.

Joel shrugged. "It was just a deer. The important thing is you're okay."

She scowled at him. "We should have at least tried to save her. If we hadn't talked so long we might have been able to do something."

"Listen." Joel placed a hand on Shelby's shoulder guiding her away from the deer. "Even if we'd come up here right away and it was still breathing, it had three broken legs. Not to mention plenty of internal damage. We would only have been extending its suffering by trying to help."

Shelby pulled away from him. "Just because something was wrong with her—something she didn't deserve—doesn't mean she wasn't worth saving. Her life still meant something." Shelby fisted her hands to hide that she was shaking. Why did people only want something or believe it had worth if it was perfect—unblemished. The deer might not have been able to live in the wild again, but they could have taken it somewhere to rehabilitate it. Some zoo or nature preserve.

"She probably died on impact, Shelby. Accidents happen. Let's just leave it be."

"I didn't mean for it to die," she whispered.

Joel blew out a long stream of air. "Yeah, well, if I've learned anything in life, it's that a lot of things happen that we don't mean for, and a lot of hurt tends to happen along the way." He offered his hand and his voice grew softer. "Come on, let's get you home."

Joel was right about the deer, but Shelby hated that the animal had died. She slipped her hand into his and her gaze darted to his eyes.

It would be nice to have someone around who could get to know her without viewing her as the guarded baby sister, the way the entire town did.

Perhaps this time Joel wouldn't be only Caleb's friend.

Maybe he'd be her friend, too.

Joel gulped. Man alive, Shelby was pretty.

Lights from his pickup splashed across the pavement, illuminating her. He marveled at her creamy skin. Red-brown hair cascaded just over her shoulders in waves, a couple of freckles dusted her nose and her eyes were as green as a summer meadow. The set of her regal little jaw told him she was trying her hardest not to cry about the deer.

If it was humanly possible, he'd kick himself. Dummy. He was so used to being around men at the firehouse; he needed to remember to phrase things more gently when talking to women. She probably thought he was some animal-hating brute, and for a reason he didn't want to think about, it bothered him that Shelby might peg him wrong on their first meeting as adults.

It felt more than nice, though, to have someone holding his hand like Shelby was. Tight—as if she trusted him already. No one had ever held on to him like that. Well, honestly, had he ever held someone's hand? Not counting the police officers who had pulled him away from his mother all those years ago. No.

He eyed the gash on her temple. "Are you dizzy at all?"

With her free hand, she hugged her stomach tightly. "I'm perfectly fine."

Joel glanced at her busted car. The rust bucket of a vehicle was a goner. He shrugged. A police report could wait until morning. "Come on. Let's grab your personal stuff from your car and get you into town."

"I have my purse. Everything else in there should be fine." She patted the small bag.

Good. At least she wasn't one of those women who toted around half of her belongings in a suitcase-sized bag.

He hesitated. "You're not afraid of dogs, are you?"

Shelby tipped back her head and laughed loudly. Joel scratched his chin. "Does that mean no?"

"I own a dog-walking business. I got in the wreck on my way home from a dog-sitting gig. What do you think?"

"Well, that's good, because my guy, Dante, is in the cab. He's harmless, though. I promise. Where am I taking you?"

"I live on the main square, above Gran's Candy Shoppe."

"Unreal. That place still exists?" Joel rounded the truck and opened the passenger door for her.

Dante yelped and lurched forward, his tongue going into full action mode as he soundly licked Shelby's cheek. Most women would have shrieked, but Shelby scratched Dante's head and kissed him right on the muzzle.

Joel let out the breath he hadn't realized he'd been holding. Accepting Dante was as good as accepting him, if not better. Shelby Beck had just passed the most important test to winning Joel's trust.

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Book Description Love Inspired, United States, 2015. Paperback. Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. Rekindling Her Life After the fire that injured her and burned down Goose Harbor s only church fourteen years ago, Shelby Beck is planning to rebuildthe structure and her life. But her wounds have always caused her to keep men at a distance. When Joel Palermo returns to town as a fireman and is assigned to help Shelby raise funds for the new construction, she s surprised at how easy it is to get close to her brother s old friend. Could he be the man she ll finally trust enough to let in? Or will the bond they ve built go up in flames, when Joel s own scars are revealed? Goose Harbor: Love is in big supply on the shores of Lake Michigan. Seller Inventory # BRD9780373879403

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Book Description Love Inspired, United States, 2015. Paperback. Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. Rekindling Her Life After the fire that injured her and burned down Goose Harbor s only church fourteen years ago, Shelby Beck is planning to rebuildthe structure and her life. But her wounds have always caused her to keep men at a distance. When Joel Palermo returns to town as a fireman and is assigned to help Shelby raise funds for the new construction, she s surprised at how easy it is to get close to her brother s old friend. Could he be the man she ll finally trust enough to let in? Or will the bond they ve built go up in flames, when Joel s own scars are revealed? Goose Harbor: Love is in big supply on the shores of Lake Michigan. Seller Inventory # BRD9780373879403

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