Adrenaline Search & Rescue - 2
Special people helped guide this journey: Elle Kennedy, Dee Tenorio, Barb Hancock, and Nicole Synder. You tossed me lifelines when I needed them most. Thank you.
Bree and Donna—you’re my safe place during the storms. Thanks for being there.
And to my husband, who has always believed in me and is even now plotting new adventures for us to experience so I can have the perfect settings for more disasters.
Sweat slicked the curve of his biceps as his arms flexed above her. He hung there for a moment, beautifully suspended, before lowering an inch at a time, total control in his every move.
Alisha Bailey licked her suddenly dry lips. She attempted to tear her gaze away, but she’d been mesmerized. Spellbound by the pounding beat of the music surrounding them and the ambience—overwhelmingly masculine, perhaps, but as if she were going to complain. He exhaled, and she breathed with him. Unconsciously their bodies moved in sync.
A lock of blond hair fell over his forehead, and she was tempted to reach out and push it away. To drag her fingers over his shoulders and caress the ridges of muscle. To tug him closer until he wrapped all that leashed power and passion around her.
A metallic crash rang from their left and broke her fixation on Devon’s half-naked body.
Reality set in far too quickly. She was on the treadmill, the belt flying underfoot as she secretly ogled Devon. He hung from a horizontal bar not even five feet in front of her while he cranked out pull-ups one after the other.
People interrupted their workouts to eye the bodybuilder who’d lost his grip. Devon dropped lightly to his feet, pulled a towel from the crossbar, and wiped sweat from his face and neck as the weight lifter in question shrugged sheepishly and replaced the plate.
The low-level testosterone hovering in the air of the hard-core gym, a mix of dust and perspiration, made Alisha wrinkle her nose. With every gasp she took, the odor flooded her senses, and those breaths were coming far quicker than usual.
She wanted to blame her accelerated panting on the steep incline of the treadmill and her rate of turnover, but it probably had more to do with the eye candy than she wanted to admit. No matter how annoying Devon Leblanc was, how exasperating he was to work with, the entire aggravating package was a mighty fine one.
Not that she’d ever let him know. He had a big enough ego as it was. He didn’t need her stroking it. As much fun as stroking might seem some days.
The machine under her beeped a warning before powering up yet another notch. Alisha focused on keeping her balance at the near all-out sprint. After a full summer of climbing rescues and spending all her spare time off hiking in the Banff area, she was in peak condition. Working to stay that way was now a way of life.
When the treadmill finally shifted to a slower pace, she gulped a mouthful of water, forcing herself to finish the run strong. Follow through, all the way. No shortcuts, no sympathy.
As the smallest person in her business, and often the only woman, Alisha didn’t allow anyone to cut her slack, especially not herself. Her never give up attitude had gotten her through training that had left older and larger men in puddles on the search-and-rescue school floor. By graduation, her work ethic had sent her to the top of the list and earned her an invitation to join the most elite SAR team in the Canadian Rockies.
Maddening how her gaze automatically darted to Devon, who’d been her only real competition back in the day. The fact that the two of them had been hired straight out of school onto Lifeline still made a few tongues wag and bitter comments fly.
As if she cared what the gossips said.
She cleaned the treadmill before dragging herself to the stretching mats. The noise in the oversized area was a lovely distraction from the throbbing lactic acid in her limbs. One of the reasons she enjoyed using the local gym instead of the weight room at the Lifeline building or the school.
She enjoyed her job, but didn’t need to live in her teammates’ pockets 24/7.
Once again Devon came into view, and she debated throwing something at him. The one person she wouldn’t mind getting away from, and yet he constantly showed up. Damn him for being her tagalong shadow.
Probably did it to piss her off.
She scrambled to her feet, pulling her blond hair tighter into her ponytail in prep for hitting the weight room floor. The three guys headed in her direction might know her name, but she wasn’t sure who they were. “You looking for me?”
The two slightly behind their leader smirked and made some low comments, and Alisha’s heart fell.
Oh goody. Another muscle-bound Neanderthal looking to impress her. The signs were everywhere as the one in front swaggered his way into her personal space. “I hear you’re pretty good at climbing things.”
“You heard right.” She tilted her head to maintain eye contact, refusing to look away while he took a leisurely gawk down her body. It was like clockwork, in a way. The scum always appeared this time of year as new people filled the resort town in prep for the seasonal winter work.
This? This was the reason working out at the public gym wasn’t fun. What was it with guys thinking she’d make a good trophy?
Mr. Annoying leered. “You want to have something of substance to climb?”
Good grief. This one was stupider than usual. Alisha’s watch went off, reminding her she had two hours until her staff meeting. “You know, it’s been fun and all, but I have things I need to do. So, if you’ll excuse me.”
She shifted her body to one side, but he leaned with her, blocking her path. “We should get together. I want to find some of the tougher climbing routes in the area.”
“Buy a book.” Of all the things she hated, guys who acted as if they had some privileged right to access her time and knowledge pissed her off the most.
He didn’t take the hint, remaining in her path. “You’re not being very friendly.”
She glanced up to make sure she had the ceiling height to play with overhead. Other than that, Alisha didn’t bother to see who was around. None of the locals would condemn her for what she was about to do. She bent her knees slightly to get momentum, grabbed a handful of his shirt, and leapt upward.
He swore, scrambling backward as she basically walked over him. One foot landed on his thigh, one somewhere in his groin area—she didn’t worry about exact placement. She pushed her hands down on his head to get the final height needed to place one foot on his shoulder and dive for the chin-up bar Devon had been using moments earlier. A gentle swing turned her momentum and she landed on the path between the stretching area and the exercise machines, now on the opposite side of the guy who’d gotten in her way.
The asshole cursed, but she didn’t care, simply strode forward as if he wasn’t there.
Devon eyed her from where he’d been holding up the wall, sipping from his water bottle as if watching a circus performance. He straightened to vertical, clapping softly as he gestured her into the main weight room.
“Having a good day, Alisha?”
“Bloody idiot.” Wrapping her fingers around a set of dumbbells and heading for the mirrors gave her a physical outlet for her frustration.
Devon chuckled. “Him or me?”
She paused for a moment. If Devon insisted on hanging around and driving her crazy with unanswerable longings, maybe he could actually help her for once. She looked into his laughing eyes. “Do me a favour and keep him from bothering me?”
Devon raised a brow.
She paused. “Please?”
“This your boyfriend?”
Alisha tensed as she realized the brute squad had moved in behind Devon. Only he didn’t seem concerned. He winked, in fact, before he faced the jerk who’d interrupted her.
Devon checked out the three men. “I’m her friend.”
The ass in front shifted his weight. “You’re gonna keep me from bothering her?”
The last thing she expected was for Devon to burst out laughing. Full-out laughing. When he stopped, he was still shaking his head.
“You think this is funny?” The asshole stepped in closer.
“You have no idea how hysterical.” Devon moved aside, opening a path to Alisha. “You want to mess with her, go right ahead. I have a paramedic on speed dial. I’ll deal with your two friends if need be. She doesn’t need my help.”
Whoa. That was a vote of confidence she’d never expected to hear from Devon. Ever.
It was enough to make her grin.
Maybe she looked scarier than she thought, because Mr. Annoying faded away, his buddies with him.
“That simple, huh?” Alisha caught Devon by the arm and squeezed. “Wish they’d gone away the first time I told them to.”
“Yeah.” He glanced at his watch. “Finish your workout. We have a meeting to make.”
He turned his back, once again becoming a barrier between her and the rest of the room. For a moment she stood motionless, wondering at the compliment Devon had paid her.
Wondering why exactly he was there, again, underfoot.
She sat and struggled to focus on her arm workout. It was far too tempting to use the mirrors to track the location of Devon and the creep she’d crawled on instead of checking her form on each lift.
Maybe her response to the newcomer had been, well, over the top, but she was tired of having to fight for every damn inch of respect she got. She thought it would get easier over time, acting as if she didn’t care. Pulling on a screw it all attitude like armour.