Sparked by Deception by Isabella Laase

It’s the Ladder 54 countdown! One more day until this brand-new box set is released!! The preorder has just gone live, which means the sale price of $2.99 is in effect! Get your copy now, because when Ladder 54 publishes on Friday, the price will jump back to $4.95!

Is it hot in here, or is it just this guy?

ladder54

What do you get when five smokin’ hot firemen put themselves up for auction to help with a charitable cause? How about anything a lady could want.

Five brand-new stories. Five weekends their ladies will never forget. These Doms have set the thermostat to ‘Panty Melting’… that is, if they’d let you wear them.

How about a sneak peek at the second story in the set?

Blurb:

For years, Claire Siracusa had allowed her twin sister Claudia the lead in planning their identical lives, but when she agrees to pool their resources and bid for the sexy Declan Kennedy in the kinky charity auction, the covert weekend quickly grows out of control. Attracted to the powerful dom, Claire must negotiate her emotional response to his firm hand while keeping her sister out of his bedroom.

Chapter One

Rushing adrenaline combined with an ominous silence as the crew of Ladder 54 approached the flames creeping out of the dark shadows. The three a.m. call had come during that window of uncertainty where night had not quite ceded to day, and the ensuing tension tied the team toward a common goal without the need for words.

Tucked into the corner of a cookie cutter neighborhood, the job was located among almost identical dwellings identifiable only through the color of their shutters or the above-ground pools and playsets peeking from the backyards. Despite the fast response from the county fire department, the single-story home was fully engulfed in a river of cinders and orange. Smoke poured out of the opened doors and windows, and a small, frightened family huddled under a gnarly, shadowed tree.

The entire firehouse had been dispatched on this one, and Declan Kennedy turned to see the smaller rescue vehicle, ambulance, and Walt Lassiter’s shiny red SUV pulling in behind the big truck. The deputy fire chief, Blake Anderson, was barking sharp orders before the trucks were at a complete stop. With Walt still fighting his battle against cancer, Blake was a well-respected substitute among their crew.

A sobbing woman broke from the clustered family. “Paul’s still in there… he… my son… he was sleeping in the basement, and the steps were on fire. My husband went back for him. He’s…” Without warning, her edgy calmness gave way to unrestrained hysteria, and it took both paramedics to block her from entering the house.

Declan cursed softly while Blake changed their strategy without missing a breath. “Get the line in the side door. Theo, get on the roof and cut the vents. Walker… you and Troy find the husband. Declan… survey the exterior and see what you can do with the basement windows until the crew gets to the kid.”

Already fully dressed in his bunker gear, Declan ran his hand through his short black hair before slipping on his helmet and grabbing an ax from the rig to begin his search. Large windows in the living areas were smoldering, a thick black ugliness framed by the peaceful night sky, but flames were licking at the melted vinyl siding near the garage. In the backyard, a wooden deck held a beat-up barbeque grill, folding porch furniture, and a few children’s toys, fiery cinders falling on the whole suburban picture like rain.

The tiny casement windows revealed nothing except more smoke and flames, but they were broken from the inside, most likely from the kid’s futile attempt to escape through the too-small exit. The third window, however, provided the necessary details. The teenaged boy was huddled in the corner, surrounded by smoldering blankets that covered the cinderblock walls of his makeshift bedroom. Coughing dramatically, his distress was apparent and the burning staircase made clear the extent of their challenge. Their gaze met briefly as the boy’s unchecked terror fought to defeat Declan’s stoic resolve.

Given the extent of the flames, the safest window for the victim was under the wooden deck, and Declan shouted an update into his radio as he maneuvered his six-foot-one frame under the tiny structure. “I’m going under the deck. I’ve got eyes on the kid, but you’ll have to cut through south of the stairs as far away from the wall as you can get.

Forced to keep his head low, Declan crawled on his belly through the dirt to reach the exterior wall of the house when Blake gave another update. “I don’t have a spare hose to put on the deck, Kennedy. I’ll give you five minutes before you have to get the hell out of there.”

He motioned for the kid to move away, but for several long, lost seconds the frightened teen clawed at the fixed window before he reluctantly obeyed. The glass broke with a crash under the force of the ax, and Declan grabbed the thin t-shirt. Like he’d anticipated, however, there was no way the boy could fit through the tiny egress. “Just relax, Paul…” shouted Declan. “I’m not going to let you go. Do you hear that? They’re cutting into the floor right over there, and they’ll be through in a minute.”

“My… mom… dad… they are…” coughed the boy, smudges of dirt and soot covering his tear-stained face.

“Your mom is safe with the other kids… they’re fine. Just relax.”

As he spoke, the update came through the radio. “I’ve got the father. He’s unconscious, but breathing. I’m bringing him out.”

“They’ve got your dad, too, Paul. Stay with me.” Even through his gear, the heat under the deck grew stronger, but that wasn’t his biggest concern. The unchecked fire in the basement crept closer and several sparks flew around the boy’s body. One ignited the t-shirt, but Declan patted it out quickly with his thick gloves.

Heavy saws finished the makeshift entrance to the basement with a loud roar as the joists fell to the floor, but before a rescue team could appear, the basement stairs gave way to the inevitable and crashed into a fiery pile of embers just a few yards away. With a mind of its own, the flames caught the blankets on the walls to bring the inferno closer, the screaming boy struggling to kick out of his arms.

“Relax, Paul…” He willed his voice to remain calm. “I’ve got you. This is the safest place until they get through. You don’t want to let go. The guys will be here in an instant and…”

It was a huge relief to see two of his fellow firefighters and a two-inch line lowered to the basement floor. Troy Channing grabbed the boy when Declan heard his chief. “Get out… now… Kennedy. The deck is fully engaged.” He didn’t have to be told twice and rolled until he cleared the burning structure.

The call came quickly. “The boy’s out. He’s good.” Freed from the fire, he took off his mask and helmet, staring at the darkened sky. Bright glimmers of stars provided a much needed focus for his racing heart, and he offered a small prayer of thanks to whatever deity might have been listening.

With a deep breath, he returned to the front of the house where paramedics were settling the kid on a stretcher. Alert and responsive, Paul held tightly to his mother’s arms as the orange glow was defeated by the crew of Ladder 54, the small house left in ruins, but mere possessions were clearly no longer the family’s priority.

Declan stopped to rest his hand on the kid’s shoulder. “I’m glad you’re looking so good, Paul.”

The teen’s eyes brightened at the sound of his voice. “This is the guy who held me, Mom. He said he wouldn’t let me go, and he didn’t. I… he saved my life.”

Without speaking, she nodded numbly. Her arms were wrapped so tightly around her small family that Declan wondered if they could breathe, but her lack of an accolade was irrelevant. Real satisfaction in life came from personal reflection and a consistent integrity, and Declan had spent a lifetime practicing both. “Just take care of yourself, Paul. And no more bedrooms in the basement without an egress. They have fire codes for a reason, buddy.”

“Yeah… it’s just… I was tired of sharing a room with my brothers. They’re really annoying. I just thought, well, you know… I just like to be alone sometimes.”

“Actually,” said Declan with a laugh, “I do understand that one. That’s what a boy from Buffalo likes best about Montana. There’s a whole lot of space to just be alone… when you aren’t in a firehouse with a bunch of other guys, that is.”

“We should head out now, Declan,” interrupted the dark-haired paramedic from the next county. “His dad’s already been taken to the burn unit in Missoula. Paul’s going to be fine, but we’re going to head to the hospital to get him checked out.”

He moved back with a final nod, but Walker Daniels approached him with a grin before he could get his helmet back on. “Too late now, Dec. We got this one under control while you were taking a nap under the deck back there. Besides, you need to be careful. We don’t want to damage you before your date this weekend.”

Declan’s ominous scowl had absolutely no impact on his friend. He liked listening to Walker’s quips and generally gave as good as he got, but the shift was coming to an end in just a few hours. Walker’s bantering reminded him of his less than perfect weekend plans, and he needed to keep this date in perspective for everybody’s sake, but most especially his own.

“Give it up, Daniels,” he grumbled as they headed into the smoldering house. “It’s just a little babysitting for a good cause. I’m not coming home with a permanent roommate like you guys did.”

Walker patted him on the back with a laugh. “Sure, that’s what we’ve all said, until you get lost up there in the cabin. So when do we get to meet your new girlfriend?”

Declan’s normally sparkly eyes turned to a shade of blue ice that matched his tone. “Let’s get something straight, buddy. I’m doing this auction to support Walt and Sophie. I’ll go out there and fulfill some woman’s fantasy with a quick trip or two over my knee, but that’s all this is going to be. I pick my own submissives. I’m not taking on some lost soul who thinks they know all about BDSM because they saw some lousy Tinseltown flick.”

While his stern response always had a dramatic effect on his submissives, the dominant stand was clearly lost on Walker, whose easy laugh remained annoying as the two men walked through the house, tearing down smoldering curtains and other hotspots to bring the last measure of security to what was left of the family’s home.

“Hey, Declan,” added Troy, running his hand through his dark blond hair, dirt and sweat creased in his brow. “Are you ready for your weekend at the cabin? It’s a whole lot of fun to have that place to yourself. I don’t know why Sophie and Walt let others use it. If I owned the deed, it would be my personal retreat.”

Walker patted Declan on the shoulder in a frustratingly condescending manner. “Declan thinks he’s going to continue his bachelor ways after this weekend, but he’s holding out on us. Our conservative little friend here had a hell of a lot more fun at the auction than he’s ever admitted. He’ll—”

Declan interrupted with a snarl. “You guys talked me into a simple spanking weekend to raise money to support the Lassiters… that’s it. My leave starts at the end of the shift today, and I’ll be fishing out at my place by Monday morning… alone.”

“Whatever you say, dear,” mocked Troy. “But you were the one who talked all of us into this.”

“Me?” exploded Declan incredulously. “This was all your idea… and Walker’s. I’d have stayed home and eaten a pizza or something just fine.”

“I was innocently minding my own business when you guys dragged me off to that first BDSM event when I moved to Big Banks. This whole auction was all your idea, Declan,” said Walker with a laugh.

Blake spoke dryly from other side of the room. “If you hadn’t implied you had some kinky experience, Walker, we’d have left you at the kennel with the Lassiters’ golden retriever. But who are we kidding? Not one of us could have said no to Sophie… or Walt. Stop acting like a bunch of schoolgirls and clear out the furniture in the back den.”

“Okay, fine. But I’m still not coming home with a girlfriend,” grumbled Declan toward his boss. “Wait until your weekend comes up. You can listen to these idiots.”

They were right about one thing. Gruff Walt Lassiter had been an excellent mentor, and Declan was more than willing to support him. Delivering a good spanking to a willing bottom was no hardship either, but any expectations for a total BDSM experience with an untrained stranger, or worse, somebody like skanky Tammi Lou what’s-her-name who relied on her daddy’s checkbook for fun, was unrealistic at best, disastrous at worst.

The fundraiser itself hadn’t been as bad as he’d expected. Held at the cabin, the two-hundred-dollar-a-plate dinner alone had raised a lot of money for their cause. With the crystal-clear lake providing an elegant backdrop across the expansive lawn of the property, the party atmosphere was heightened by a full moon, clear skies, twinkling lights, a ten-piece orchestra, and a full dinner buffet with a mouthwatering prime rib. The whole setup was a carefully constructed, sophisticated evening of high-class entertainment for some of the community’s most respected citizens.

Sharp tuxedos and chic ball gowns had showcased the formality of the event, but when the five firefighters had arrived on stage, the kinky side of the Crystal Cabin crept happily into the evening. Wearing their gear and framed by big screen images brandishing fifty thousand pounds of shiny red firefighting equipment, their muscled, toned bodies had become the highlight of the auction. He and his four buddies had played along, dancing and posing with their rock-hard, shirtless bodies on full display. The catcalling and whistles from a roomful of elegantly dressed women had been a fun contrast to the formal event, but the fifty-something-year-old stranger with the expensive jewelry, flashing her paddle for him over and over had kept his weekend goals in perspective.

She didn’t win, but the bright lights from the makeshift stage blocked his view of the back of the room, and he never did get a good glimpse of his ‘date.’ As soon as it was over, he’d said goodbye to Walt and Sophie and left without meeting the woman who’d bid for him. His commitment was for a short weekend, not days of inane texts and shared donuts at the local coffee shop. There was no reason to make this a bigger deal than it needed to be.

Declan grabbed an end of a still-smoking couch while Walker continued, “I’ve got to admit, though, I never imagined someone into BDSM when I first met Sophie. I mean, she showed up with homemade chocolate chip cookies on my first shift. I’d pictured her as the grandmotherly type, then you tell me all about her kinky dungeon. It took me weeks to get past that mental picture.”

“Yeah, well…” admitted Declan. “I guess it would have been easier to see her at the cabin before you knew her as one of the town’s most influential citizens. My first trip out there was with my roommate when I was a college freshman, and I never knew either one of the Lassiters outside of the club until I graduated and was looking for a permanent job. But I mean it, this whole auction was just to support Sophie and Walt. I’m leaving town on Sunday afternoon, and I’ll be back to work after my two-week leave.”

Just like every promise he’d ever made, he’d fulfill this commitment and provide some woman a little fantasy that she’d probably dreamt about for years. He’d have a few casual meals, give a clothing-clad bottom a spank or two, and by Sunday afternoon, he’d be off on his two-week vacation on the Gallatin River a few hours outside of Bozeman. The cozy one-room fishing cabin was a few miles off the grid and had taken his entire life savings, well worth the tiny efficiency apartment he kept in Big Banks.

He might invite Walker and Rylee to come for the second week, but the first week would be complete with just him, his cabin, and the best fly fishing in North America… just the way he liked it.

* * *

“I don’t know how the hell I ever let you talk me into this.” Claire Siracusa spoke dryly to her twin sister. “This is probably the worst idea you’ve ever had, and you’ve had a lot of really awful ideas.”

Claudia’s muffled response came from deep inside their walk-in closet. “Stop whining, Claire. You thought this was a great idea when you found that flyer in the trash, but that place was harder to sneak into than Fort Knox. I really thought that old woman was going to outbid me at the auction, but the last few hundred dollars we weaseled out of Mom and Dad pushed it over, and we got the hottest firefighter in the whole place. I’m telling you, you are going to die when you see him in person.”

Claire continued her scowl as a red sundress flew from the closet and joined the growing pile at her feet. “This isn’t going to work,” she mumbled. “We haven’t pulled off a real switch in years.”

“Switching back and forth will be lot easier if we pack clothes we have in common.” The voice from inside the closet remained annoying. “You told Dad we needed to borrow the camper, didn’t you? Nobody can see inside, and it’s the perfect place for one of us to hide.”

“I did.” Claudia wasn’t much of a listener, so there was no reason to waste a lot of words. Besides, after twenty-two years, the identical twins had remained as close as they had for the nine inseparable months they’d spent waiting to join their large family. Her parents still talked about how thrilled they were to discover they were having twin girls to join the four active sons who’d already trampled through their house.

As annoying as she was, Claire could not imagine her world without Claudia. From the first visit to the toddler playground, mastering a two-wheeler, surviving middle school drama, and negotiating the early adult world, Claudia was always the leader, her counselor, and her soulmate. Claudia’s innate sense of style had created a dramatic flair every time the five-foot-ten, curvy identical twins walked into a room in their matching outfits and perfect accessories. Claire always blushed a little under the weight of so much attention, but Claudia’s powerful confidence made the scrutiny almost easy. Even the four years of college in Missoula had been planned by Claudia, and the identical business degrees had been granted just a few weeks earlier.

All of this auction stuff, however, was moving way too fast, and Claire curled her legs to her chest before wrapping her arms around her knees. With a pout, she said, “Seriously, I don’t think I can go through with this. You should just go by yourself. I…”

Claudia emerged from the closet with a frown, pulling her long, wavy brown hair into a ponytail. “You aren’t backing out now. You promised that you would do this. We put everything we had into that auction and even lied about the car needing a new alternator to get the money out of Mom and Dad. I mean it, you and I are both going to have fun this weekend.”

“This is crazy.” At a higher pitch than she normally used, her voice sounded as though it belonged to somebody else. “We don’t have any experience in this stuff. They… they’re all part of that sex club out in Big Banks, and we’ve never even been on a kinky date. I… I don’t think I can pull this off.”

“I know, honey. It’s scary, but we’ve talked this to death. It’s time we broke out of the Siracusa nunnery. We’re twenty-two years old, and we’re still sharing a room with twin beds at Mommy and Daddy’s house, for God’s sake. It’s time we get out there and get on with our lives, and we aren’t going to do anything kinky in Missoula. I think Alex and Greg are connected to every BDSM player in town, and I’m sure as hell not going to a sex club with my brothers.”

Claire shuddered. “Are you sure they don’t belong to the Crystal Cabin Club, too? The last thing I need is to run into one of them.”

“I really don’t think they do,” said Claudia with a shrug. “Obviously, I’ve never asked, but they’ve never talked about Big Banks, and they were both in Seattle the night of the auction, so I’m guessing they’ve never been out there. It would have been a lot easier if we could have afforded to bid on two doms, but with the camper in the parking lot, we can switch off as easily as we did in high school when you took my geometry tests for me.”

Being identical twins did have its advantages, but Claire had ended up with a C in third quarter Spanish while taking her second geometry test of the day for Claudia. As with all of Claudia’s schemes, there was always that tiny negative consequence, usually affecting Claire.

“Stop worrying.” Claudia moved on to her dismissive tone to signal the end of the conversation. “We’ve read a ton of books on BDSM, and it will be plenty to get us started. They advertised a spanking weekend, but any dom worth his salt will want to do more. They just can’t put it in writing because it would be… like… illegal. After we get our foot in the door, we can apply for one membership at the Crystal Cabin, and I bet we’ll get in. It’s only twenty miles away, an easy drive. Nobody will know our family. Nobody will know we’re sharing a membership. I’m just sorry we had the graduation ceremony, and then we both got sick, otherwise we’d probably already be members by now.”

That was the caveat, and Claudia knew it. Since they’d blissfully discovered the genre, the girls had spent a lot of money on erotic novels with wonderful descriptions of tingling bottoms and powerfully attractive men. Mental images of biting clamps and thick wooden paddles combined with writhing bodies cuffed to deliciously frightening, almost undefinable equipment. The whole idea appealed to her so strongly that even the publicity pictures of the five firefighters had ignited an ache between her legs that refused to be pacified. Finding the money and sending Claudia to the auction, however, had been easy compared to packing the suitcase and actually showing up for the weekend. “It’s going to be great, honey. I promise,” her sister continued, offering a distracted hug. “Where are your diamond earrings that Mom and Dad gave us? They’ll match everything we’ve packed. The simpler we keep this, the easier it will be.”

“In the jewelry box where they belong. I don’t leave my stuff lying all over the place like you do. But, you should at least go first. I… I’ll go second. Maybe just for an hour or so?”

“Stop whining, already,” mumbled Claudia, impatiently rummaging through Claire’s carefully organized dresser. “We’ve got the schedule all worked out, and the club organizer even agreed to an extra night since we’re getting there so late. Six four-hour shifts equal the first twenty-four hours, but we’ll adjust for sleeping. I went to the auction, so you’re going first, and I’ll be last.”

“But—”

“We’re identical twins, for God’s sake, Claire,” snapped Claudia. “Nobody except our family and close friends have ever been able to tell us apart, and they struggle if we don’t give up mannerisms and personality hints. The photographers even threw away your first-grade picture because they thought they’d taken the same kid twice.”

Claire had to grin. A twin was literally half of a whole other person. Almost every gift she’d ever received had a match given to Claudia. Sometimes the dresses were different colors or the dolls were two different characters from the same popular movie, but her world had revolved around Claudia since the day their mother’s egg had mysteriously split into two.

“You’ve got to have some trust in me, little sister,” added Claudia, shooting off her matching grin. “I’ve got this.”

There was no reason to remind Claudia that Claire was actually two minutes older. Claudia had always acted in the role of the big sister, and Claire was more than willing to play second chair. The last twenty-two years had taught her that life was a lot less stressful when she just followed Claudia. Besides, a spanking weekend with a hot firefighter was more than she could walk away from, and this might clearly be Claudia’s most brilliant idea to date.

With a shy smile, Claire picked up her suitcase with firm resolve. “Fine. Let’s get going before I start having a panic attack.”

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Sparked by Deception by Isabella Laase is available only in the Ladder 54 box set, scheduled to be published tomorrow, 8/31 and on SALE NOW!!

About Isabella Laase:

Cursed by a sarcastic sense of humor, Isabella works to blend her history loving, feminist side with the fantasy world of hot romance defined by the firm hand of a strong alpha male. Given choice within the confines of history and genre, strong women find balance in their lives while fulfilling their deepest sexual desires.

Isabella lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with her very patient husband. Two tiny dogs complete the family and have learned to sleep under a laptop to gain any comfort from her side while she balances a job, political activism, and steamy spanking novels in the course of a single day.

“Writing is like playing in a virtual reality dollhouse. You can create any character you want within any world, time period, lifestyle, and personality. You can dress them, undress them, build conversations, relationships, heartbreak and romance.

You are only limited by your personal imagination.”

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