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Shelter for Aylin
Author: Reina Torres

Chapter 1



When Fire Chief Ethan Blaise walked into his own office, Aylin Blaise sat back in his chair and gave it a spin. “Welcome back!”

Setting his keys into the bronze tray at the corner of his desk, he shook his head. “You look good behind the desk. Maybe you should go into the family business.”

Laughing, she set a foot down to stop the spin completely and stood to give him a good solid hug.

It never failed to make her feel comforted and loved when Ethan hugged her. Even though he’d been married to her mother for only three months, she felt like it was a lifetime the way that he’d fit into their lives.

And... brought them into his. Ethan Blaise wasn’t just a well-respected leader in the First Responder community of San Antonio, he was a truly generous soul with seemingly endless love to give. It still amazed her that he’d chosen to give some of that affection to her.


She realized that she’d been caught ruminating again. It had become a habit since she’d become a part of the Station Seven family. Instead of just digging in and doing the work directly in front of her, she was starting to really consider what her future looked like.

“Sorry, I was thinking again.”

“Always a good thing.” He stepped back and touched her cheek for a moment before he pulled off his jacket and hung it up on the rack in the corner of his office. “Does this have anything to do with you starting classes next week?”

It shouldn’t be a surprise that Ethan knew what was going on in her life, that was just who he was.

“Guilty as charged.” She sat down on the edge of his desk, near the corner and watched as he sat down in his chair and started to unlace his boots. “It looks like you guys just got back from a fire.”

He looked up at her with a smile. “The house was condemned and boarded up, but someone must have broken in.”

“Squatters?” She’d seen news stories and knew the dangers they talked about. “Was there still power at the house, or was it some other source of heat?”

He set both boots off to the side and sat back in his chair. “Propane stove actually. We found the remnants of a unit in what was once the kitchen. There was a lot of accumulated paper in the home.”

“Was anyone hurt?” She winced at the thought and waited for his answer.

“There wasn’t anyone there when we arrived. The flames at that point were still in the back of the house so if someone was injured, I hope they got some medical attention.”

Aylin shook her head. “And all of the guys are okay, too?”

A look crossed his face at her question, but she pretended that she didn’t see it.

“Of course. They all handled the situation like the pros they are. We had the fire knocked down in short order. Overhaul took longer because we were just making sure there wasn’t going to be a flare up. With all that paper it gave us some pause. Cowboy called in a dump truck and they had the paper cleared before we left the site.”

Cowboy was Lieutenant Noah Sadler. Born and raised in Texas, he had never actually been on a horse. The irony of his name wasn’t lost on anyone in the station house family.

“That’s good to hear.” She gave Ethan an expectant look. “That’s all?”

He gave his chair a little scoot forward until he could set his arm on the desk. He looked up into her eyes and gave her a knowing look. “Is there anyone specific that you’re asking about?”

Okay, she was changing her mind. Ethan was still the most awesome Fire Chief ever, but as a dad, even an adopted one, he was far too perceptive for her peace of mind. Dads were supposed to be adorably out of tune with her life, right? It was crazy how easily he saw through her.

Or maybe it was that she wore her heart on her sleeve. Heavens, she hoped not. The last thing she wanted to do was make things awkward at the station.


The loud exclamation startled her, and she almost slid off Ethan’s desk.

“Come on in and say hello to Aylin!”

The smile Ethan gave her cut straight through like a knife. No wait, he was a fireman, so that would be an axe.

“Aylin, you remember, Rook, right?”

Oh yes, Ethan was much too perceptive about her life. She’d gone from having a father who didn’t care a bit about her to a dad who was happy to let her squirm in front of her crush.

Crush. She inwardly shook her head. That’s all it was going to be apparently.

Standing up, she did a quick mental inventory of what she was wearing, how she looked. Turning, just so, she tried to present her figure to its best advantage.

Just because Rook hadn’t asked her out, or even asked her to stop by the station to talk, wasn’t going to turn her into a weeping mess. Goodness knows she had more than enough to do to get ready for the start of classes.

She met his gaze with a straightforward one of her own. If she’d really misread his interest that was on her. It wasn’t his fault she wanted to step into his embrace and never let go. That pull wasn’t gone even though the two of them hardly saw each other at all.

When she was stuck in the fire that was started to ruin her mother’s business and probably end her life, when the walls and ceiling fell in and the only light she could see were flames and the air was being choked from her lungs, there was just one avenue of safety left to her.

That was Stillman Rook, reaching out his hand to take her to safety.

She owed him to make their odd moments in the same room to be cool. Natural. Aylin smiled and meant it and raised a hand for a little wave. “Hey, Rook! Wow,” she shook her head, completely stunned at just how much more gorgeous he looked than the last time she’d seen him, “you look great.”

She wasn’t sure exactly what stunned him more, but she couldn’t just leave not-so-well enough alone. And before she could stop herself, she’d walked across the room and wrapped her arms around his neck and pulled him in for a hug.

It was crazy.

It was stupid.

But did crazy and stupid have to feel so good?


And did he have to smell so good?

She felt his hand touch her back and suddenly, she felt live. No, not alive. Live, like a wire! Just a touch on her back was enough to make her feel incandescent.

Stepping back, she felt his hand fall away and she almost fell over the chair. Laughing, she stepped back and managed not to fall on her butt. “Look, I’m going to head down to the... the common room.” She peeled her gaze from Rook's face and looked at Ethan, seeing the questions in his eyes. “When you’re ready to go, Dad, I’ll be downstairs.”

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