Wildfire’s Heart

Hot Shot Saif al Nar is a natural when it comes to fighting fires. As an Ifrit—a fire djinn—there’s no one better. But he doesn’t anticipate the local residents being suspicious and afraid of his ethnicity when his crew comes into town from the fire line for some R&R. Add some unexpected backup in the form of a lovely djinn and Saif is ready to set the town on fire.

Raihana Nejem retired from being a genie in a lamp centuries ago and now works for the U.S. Forest Service. Fires are devastating her field area, but the sexy firefighter djinn might just be more dangerous. Her people believe Ifrits to be evil demons and Raihana can’t be sure Saif isn’t responsible for the arson fires cropping up in town.

Is Saif behind the arson or is something darker and more dangerous going on? With hearts and lives on the line, Raihana must decide if she can stand the heat that comes with loving a man like Saif.

“What’s fresh for today?” Saif straightened his shoulders as he looked over the fillets lying in ice.

“We have steelhead in and trout. We also have Tilapia fillets, but they are frozen.” The young man bit his lip. “I’m really sorry about those assholes. Most of us here aren’t like that. Firefighters are honored in our town. Seriously.”

Saif’s initial response urged him to say it was all right, but it wasn’t. Instead he shrugged. “Thanks for your appreciation. Do you have any smoked salmon?”

“Only the packaged stuff in the cooler, there.” He pointed to an open cold bin.

Saif looked it over, but shook his head. “I think I’d like to see the trout.”

“Buy the steelhead, it’s better this time around.” A new voice intruded on Saif’s awareness and he focused his attention on the owner. “And thank you so much for saving the town and the forest. I appreciate it.”

Fire licked up his arms and legs to pool in the center of his chest around his heart as he took in the glorious vision standing beside him. Rich, dark hair bordering on black flowed down the woman’s back in a thick tail. Emerald green eyes looked out over a hooked nose and elegant lips. She wore a dry-wicking field shirt and olive green cargo pants, but he could see the lush curves and nipped-in waist through them.

“You’re welcome. The team is grateful for the support.” Saif smiled at his female companion. “Thank you for the suggestion on the trout. My name’s Saif al Nar.” He held out his hand.

“Raihana Nejem. Nice to meet you.” She grasped his hand and the world tilted.

Pleasure and excitement built into a crescendo as light and fire exploded inside him. A triumphant roar ricocheted inside his head and he wanted to give into the inferno and dance. Instead he locked his knees and held on, hoping he wouldn’t crush her hand in the meantime.

What in the ninth hell is going on? He hadn’t experienced such a surge of internal power since he first reached his Ifrit majority well over a millennium ago. His eyes widened as he took in the essence of the woman he touched. Instead of field clothing, she wore a choli and a pair of gauzy harem pants with slits from ankles to hip. Magnificent waves of her hair flowed and danced in unseen winds, only held back from her face by a jeweled headband holding a large fire opal cabochon.

Funnel-shaped winds spun around her and her eyes glowed with golden light as lightning flashed. Bangles adorned both wrists and jeweled rings covered three out of ten fingers, but her feet remained jewel-free.

A whispered prayer, old as time, echoed in the back of his head. The words didn’t make sense to him, but their meaning and connotation came through clearly. He needed more time with this woman. She was one of his kind and a rare gift in the world.

I need her.

The thought surprised him so much he gasped and let go of Raihana, blinking as the world went back to ‘normal’. She stared just as surprised at him and blinked a few times before finding her smile somewhere. It looked a little tentative while she curled her hand around her palm as if to capture some of the energy they’d shared.

Saif cleared his throat and remembered his manners. “The pleasure is mine.” He returned his attention to the counter attendant, who waited with raised eyebrows. “I’ll take three fillets of steelhead, please.”

“All right.”

The attendant bent to grab the fish, but Saif’s attention returned to Raihana.

“Thank you for the recommendation.”

“You’re welcome. The fish is kinda hit or miss depending on which week it is here.” She nodded and focused on the other selections in the case. “I was hoping they’d have some black cod, but it’s rare to get some this far inland.”

“You must live here in town then?” He hoped she wouldn’t notice his attempt to get to know her better. He wanted to keep it casual even if his inner Ifrit demanded he take her to his hotel and make her his.

“Just for the summer. I’m studying the Lewis’s Woodpecker nesting habits here on the Western Slope.” She grimaced. “Well, I was until the fire swept through my field site.”

Saif rarely paid attention to the wildlife in a burned area, but his heart ached for the loss of her field season. “I’m sorry. Does that mean you’re out of a job?” Please don’t say you’re leaving.

She smiled briefly as if she’d heard his internal thought. “No, this was just one of the field sites that I’ve been contracted through Fish & Wildlife to monitor. I have two other target areas and two more alternates to get an accurate bird count.”

“Oh, that’s good to hear.”

“Here’s your fish, sir. Can I get you anything else?”

Saif shook his head. “No, thanks.” He took the fish while the attendant turned to Raihana and asked if she needed anything.

“Yes, I’d like a pound of sea scallops and a half pound of snow crab.”

“You understand they’ve been frozen, right?”

“Yes, thanks.”

“What are you making? It sounds good.” Saif braced his legs apart in parade rest, hoping he didn’t fall over before he got his shopping done.

“Crab and scallops in a cream sauce over pasta.”

His mouth watered, but not just for her dinner idea. “That sounds delicious. Much more exciting than what I have planned.”

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