Heart on Fire – Prologue

HoF Promo




Six years ago, Halloween night


Excitement danced through her veins as Mila attempted to tie the glittery scarlet mask’s ribbons under her hair.

Barb tapped her foot, taunting, “Come on, Mila. You don’t want to be late.” Mila’s best friend was ready for her boyfriend’s frat party across the street. They were in the apartment Anthony shared with a friend, but the guys were setting up, leaving them alone to costume themselves.

“Help me, please. I don’t want anyone to recognize me,” she pleaded. “I plan on getting drunk, really drunk, and going home with some hot superhero, or maybe another demon.” And she was, but she was also nervous as hell.

Barb shook her head as she turned toward her. “You’ll have your choice of men.”

“Whatever you do, don’t tell anyone. I’ll deny it until my dying day.”

For one night, and only one, she needed to be someone else. Five weeks since she had walked out on Paul, and Mila wanted to forget.

She’d thought she loved him, until he told her what she was going to do with her life. Mila refused to fall in line with his agenda. Paul laughed, and told her she would never amount to anything. She walked away.

Only took the prick a week to replace her with a woman she thought was her friend. If Leslie had been, that ended when she showed off her sparkly engagement ring, and proceeded to ask Mila to be her maid of honor. That was a big fat no.

Good riddance. Jerk could take his bimbo to New York, and start his life as a scum-sucking lawyer. Leslie was clearly thrilled to become his trophy wife.

Tonight, Mila wasn’t going to play sweet and innocent. With her inhibitions left at home, she was going to be bold and daring. She was going to have a great time with every intention of fucking that asshole, and his back-stabbing tramp, right out of her mind.

“Honey, we’re in another state.” Barb nudged her chin up until they made eye contact. “You only know one of Anthony’s friends. No one is going to recognize you. Not unless you count Anthony, and he won’t come on to you,” she wiggled her fingers, “unless he wants a castration via acrylics.”

Mila laughed. “Anthony loves you. I honestly doubt he has it in him to look at another woman.”

“I don’t know. Do you see yourself?” Barb fanned her face dramatically. “You are so damned hot, you have flames springing up with every step you take. I’d be surprised if you don’t land a man in under two seconds.”

“I hope so.”

“Don’t forget the condoms!”

She rolled her eyes. “Yes, mom.”

Smirking, Barb twirled her finger. “Turn around.”

Mila did and Barb worked her magic, hiding the ties in the fall of big dark chocolate curls that tumbled down Mila’s back. The jeweled mask was custom fitted to her face and covered from below her nose up to her hair. Projecting from the top edge of the mask, and encircled with curls, the horns appeared to spring from her head. She even wore a matching tail.

Mila walked to the bathroom with the full-length mirror and stared at herself. Her breasts nearly spilled out of the scarlet satin corset. Matching hot pants showed off her long, toned legs. Black knee high boots, and gloves topped off the ensemble.

Taking a deep breath, she reached for her makeup bag, and painted on shiny scarlet lipstick.

She hardly recognized herself. She generally chose clothes for comfort. Cute, not sexy.

I can do this. I want to do this, she reminded herself.

Mila turned to Barb. “I’ll meet you back here late tonight, or early tomorrow.”

Smiling, she pulled Mila into a hug.

There was a tremble to her voice. “This is a one-time thing. I need to do something crazy once in my life.”

“Doesn’t have to be one time. You need this. So let’s go have some fun.” Barb took her hand and pulled her out of the apartment, down to the frat house across the way. “Our first mission is to get some alcohol.”

“Yeah, I’ll find our drinks.” Mila flipped her hair over her shoulder. Every pair of eyes landed on her as she sashayed her way through the crowd. Her new-found seductive power was something she could get used to, if she wasn’t planning to be a high school teacher.

“Hello, devil,” a deep, velvety purr caught her attention as the owner stepped close enough to feel the heat of his skin.

She turned to fall deep into smoldering blue-grey eyes. Most of his face was hidden behind a Phantom of the Opera mask. His dark hair brushed the collar of a poet’s blouse tucked into tight black pants over incredibly powerful legs. A cape completed the costume, draped carelessly over impressive shoulders. Below the mask, his full, tempting smile, and accompanying dimple, drew her attention. Mila wanted a taste.

“Why hello, Phantom.” Her lips turned up in a coy smile as desire rushed through her. The Phantom of the Opera was her favorite musical. She could listen to it non-stop for days. “Can I tempt you with a drink?”

“You’re tempting me for something more than a drink.” He stepped into her body as his hands wrapped around her waist. “Want to dance?”

“Yes, I do,” she answered immediately.

He led her to the dance floor and encircled her in his arms. So warm, so strong, and it felt right.

His breath danced over her ear. “This too fast?”

“Not at all.” A combination of confidence and desire left her feeling frisky. She nipped his ear, and was rewarded with a deep moan. The music started and his body moved to the beat. His lips grazed her neck, sending a shiver down her spine.

Barb cleared her throat. Even in her tiny, sexy fairy princess dress, she had a maternal quality. The pointed look brought Mila back to reality.

Then a single brow arched in amusement. “Forget something?”

Mila giggled impishly. “I was distracted.”

Barb took an appreciative look at Phantom and one corner of her mouth lifted. “I can see that.”

Phantom grinned. “I couldn’t resist temptation, but will gladly burn in hell to steal another dance.”

“Who’s your friend?” Barb’s eyes sparkled.

“The Phantom of the Opera.” Mila quickly answered, not wanting his name. She didn’t need it. One hot night, that was all she could afford.

“Gonna play it that way?” Barb narrowed her eyes, but smiled back at the man. “Very well, Phantom, I’m Barb.”

“Good evening. I hope you don’t mind if I keep Devil to myself for as long as she’ll let me. I promise to treat her well.”

Mila had no doubt he would. Even if he only talked the whole night, she could listen to the seductive rumble without complaint.

Anthony joined them with a round of drinks. He wore his football uniform, minus the pads. Maybe it hadn’t occurred to him to shop for a real costume? In any case, it worked for him.

Once everyone had a cup, Mila chugged her beer.

Phantom licked his lips as he watched her like a predator.

That shouldn’t turn me on.

In three years, Paul never once looked at her like she was edible and he was starving.

He took a few long swallows from his cup, and offered the remainder. “More?”

“Mmm.” She nodded and took his to guzzle it down.

Anthony’s eyes widened as he shook his head. Barb grabbed the cups and dragged her man away, giving Mila a thumbs-up behind her boyfriend’s back.

Mila turned back to Phantom, and drowned in his smoldering eyes. Not allowing herself to think, she fisted his hair and dragged him down for a kiss. There was no hesitation as his mouth closed over hers. He took control immediately, his tongue sliding against hers. His taste was rich, heady, and she wanted more.

One hand squeezed her ass, pulling her tight against his straining length, his other turned her head enough for him to whisper in her ear, “Careful now, Devil. I’m trying to behave until I can get you alone, but you really,” he nipped the lobe of her ear, “truly, need to slow down, before I find a corner, and have you against the wall.”

Her mouth popped open to argue, but she couldn’t think of a single thing wrong with that plan. In fact, she no longer wanted to be drunk. She wanted to remember every last detail. Her voice was husky when she finally responded. “Then dance, before I go back to tempting you.”

He made the sexiest growling sound she’d ever heard. Her heart raced and her blood boiled. She knew slowing down was wise, but her body wanted everything he had to offer.

A sensual, slow song came on, and his arms wound around her, pulling her closer. His lips trailed up the column of her throat, leaving her breathless as their bodies moved together. One hand caressed up her side, grazing over the curve of her breast.

“Oh, Phantom. Now, you’re the one tempting me,” she moaned, urgently pressing her hips against him, feeling the evidence of his arousal trapped between their bodies.

Desire consumed every thought as he backed her up against the wall, slowly rocking himself against her. She hooked her leg around his hip as he ground into her heat.

He caught her wrists, pinning them to the wall. She trailed her tongue up his neck.

“Mmm, I need you so bad, Devil,” he groaned. “Come home with me.” The words bordered on being a command, one she wanted to follow.

Swallowing hard, she nodded.

He stepped back and threw her over his shoulder, striding for the front door. One arm banded around her thighs, the other caressing the bottom edge of her hot pants.

It took everything she had not to shift and urge his thumb under the scrap of material.

She panted, “I can walk.”

He chuckled, deep and masculine. “I like the feel of your body against mine.”

Her sass came back full-force. “I guarantee you’ll have a whole lot of skin-on-skin once we’re inside.”

Phantom slid her down his body. She could feel every defined muscle, and the heat of his skin, through their thin clothes. She needed his hands all over, his mouth on hers, as he thrust into her with force.

Reckless, definitely, but she wanted to lose herself with him. She had a feeling he would drive away every last doubt Paul left behind.

Dangerous because there was a very likely chance she would fall even harder for the man before her. If she let him, he would do real damage to her heart.

Our masks stay on, she vowed, hoping that would spare her any lasting feelings. This was a night of passion. No more.

His fingers entwined with hers as he smiled. A spark of electricity danced through her.

“This way, Devil.” He led her to another apartment a couple blocks over and up the stairs. Phantom had the door open in seconds.

His arm wound around her waist, lifting her off her feet as he brought her inside. Her breath caught as she stared down into his eyes. The ease with which he carried her around was seriously turning her on.

Once he set her on her feet, he reached up to remove her mask.

She tsked, and waved a finger. “Leave the mask.”

“All right, little Devil, but please tell me we can get rid of the clothes?”

The chances of him having a roommate were nil. They stood in a tidy studio apartment. The unlikely chance of interruption emboldened her further.

Answering with action, she pulled the zipper hidden in the side of her corset, and let it fall to the floor.

Phantom reached down, grabbing the white flowing shirt and pulled it from his pants, revealing rock hard abs. Mila watched as he drew the silk over his head, causing his stomach to ripple.

She wanted to touch. You’re doing everything you want tonight, she reminded herself. No regrets.

Moving closer, she trailed her fingers down the ridged muscle, stopping to open his pants.

He groaned as his hands wrapped around her waist, his fingers tracing the seam along the top of her shorts. After opening the fastening hook, he slid his fingers under the straps of her thong, pushing them down the same time she slid his pants off his hips.

“Leave the boots and gloves.” The husky request sent a thrill through her.

Her eyes trailed up his gorgeous physique. Phantom watched her, waiting for a response. Mila nodded, encouraged by the way he devoured her with his eyes.

Stepping out of his slacks, he closed the distance. She held her ground until his body pressed against hers, and then backed her into the wall. His lips descended, kissing her until she was dizzy.

Before she caught her breath, he lifted her off her feet and carried her back to his bed, where he effortlessly tossed her. Her lips curled into a grin as she bounced.

“Come here,” Mila beckoned, hoping he did before she lost her nerve. She wasn’t use to lying sprawled open as someone watched.

He loomed over her, staring down for a long moment before climbing between her legs.

“So beautiful,” he whispered before he slid one hand down her body, between her thighs, to cup her slick heat.

“I bet you taste like heaven.” He licked her nipple as his finger dipped inside. “Sure feels like heaven, little Devil. Are you sure you aren’t a fallen angel?”

Her need was so strong, she writhed beneath him, urging him to keep touching her. His mouth closed over her pearled tip, his tongue laving.

She panted, “Aren’t you a silver-tongued devil—saying all the right things?” Her words ended on a moan as he pressed a second finger in, and thumbed her clit. Sparks of pleasure surged through her body as he brought her over the edge, to fall into searing bliss. Her two previous lovers never made her come so hard or so fast.

His clever tongue swept over her bundle of nerves as his fingers worked in and out, finding the g-spot she honestly didn’t believe in until that moment when she rocketed back over the edge.

She was lost to his touch as he dragged out the pleasure until she was too boneless to move.

Phantom murmured, “Oh yeah, heaven all right.” He licked into her, his tongue replacing his fingers, driving her crazy, until she was begging, and clawing at the bed.

Even then, he didn’t relent until she came a third time, and she was certain she’d never come again. It wasn’t possible. Mila had thought her ex was good, but Phantom was proving her undeniably wrong.

Before she could get her eyes open he took her mouth in a kiss, her taste on his tongue. She needed more.

When he finally let her have some air, his fingers traced over her collar bone as he whispered, “Still want the masks on?”

“Yes,” she answered instantly, needing the anonymity, needing to not be herself for one night, knowing that when she went back home, she was a teacher again. When she left, she needed to be respectable, not the wanton harlot offering herself to the sex god above her.

He licked his lips as he watched her. Mila couldn’t read his expression through his mask, and for a moment she thought he might send her away. She almost ditched the plan to keep their identities secret.

Then he gave her a determined smile. “I’m going to get that mask off you sometime tonight or tomorrow. Don’t want to give you up. I want more of you—need all of you.”

“All right,” she whispered, terrified because she wasn’t sure she could walk away. Had he tried to remove the mask at that point, she wouldn’t have stopped him.

Honoring her request, he left them in place, instead reaching for a condom. He ripped it open with a wicked grin.

“Still on board, Devil?”

“Oh yeah.” She sat up, took the condom from him, rolling it on his long, thick length, wondering how that was fitting inside. Her two previous partners were nowhere near his size. Phantom was magnificent. All hard muscle and sinew, no fat, pure masculine brawn. “You are so damn big and completely gorgeous.” She couldn’t help the breathless quality in her voice as she stroked his length.

His eyes locked on hers, a moan escaping as he licked his lips. Watching his reaction to her touch was inspiring. She climbed into his lap, guiding his shaft, taking her time to accommodate his girth, while he sat on his knees.

His big hands caressed her back as they moved against each other, causing delicious friction. One of his hands drifted lower to palm her ass, his middle finger grazing over her rear passage with every movement, driving her crazy with the extra layer of sensation.

As her tempo built, he fisted her hair, pulling her head to the side to kiss and suck at her neck until she was right on the edge of another orgasm.

He was going to leave marks, and she didn’t care. For once in her life she abandoned inhibition to let him have her every way he wanted—as long as the masks stayed on.

“Slow down,” he pleaded. “I want this to last.”

“Why? You planning to kick me out before I get my fill of you?” she taunted, driving her pace harder, faster.

“No, want to keep you,” he roared as he came, bringing her along with him, which she believed impossible. When they collapsed on the bed, he whispered, “You’ve branded me.”

Mila wasn’t sure how to respond. If anything, he’d branded her. This big, gorgeous man was too much. Powerful, masculine, and irresistible. But she couldn’t keep him. She didn’t know him—wouldn’t know him. He lived in another state, and she didn’t want a man to take over her life like Paul tried to do.


* * * *


The warmth of the sun’s first rays woke Mila. She was still tangled in Phantom’s arms, his body warm and inviting, especially with his erection pressed against the crease of her ass. He held her like he never wanted to let her go.

Can I do this? Yes, I have to.

She gently lifted his arm and slipped from his embrace. He lay there, a temptation she needed to walk away from before she forgot to protect her heart.

They’d spent the night exploring each other. He made her feel things she hadn’t before—desired, cherished, wanted. She was in danger of falling for him if she gave in to her heart. The plan was no names, no faces, and no information. No regrets.

Sticking to her decision threatened to break her heart. She stood, watching as his arms curled around the pillow she had rested her head on. Steeling herself against unwanted emotions, she tracked down her costume, leaving the mask in place in case he woke up.

Before she could change her mind, Mila slipped through the door. She rushed back to Anthony’s place. It was too early to run into anyone on her walk of shame.

Truthfully, she didn’t feel shame. She felt sexy and powerful, with a thread of guilt for leaving without explanation. After a deep breath, she hurried up the stairs, and found the door unlocked.

Thank you, Barb.

Mila’s best friend sat on the couch, and probably hadn’t slept, waiting for her to show up. Barb could do carefree and reckless with the best of them. But after Mila left Paul, and tried to close everyone out, Barb pushed her way back in to make sure Mila didn’t shut down.

A relieved smile brightened Barb’s face. “How was Phantom?”

“Amazing, better than amazing. I think he ruined me for all other men. I’ve never had anyone that attentive. Oh my god, the man played my body like a concert pianist.”

Barb rolled her eyes. “You’ve only been with douchebag Paul, and dumbass Brad. Neither were good enough for you. I wish you’d figured out Paul’s game a lot sooner than you did. Then maybe you would have met Phantom years ago. He seems like a sweetheart.”

“I don’t know about that. He’s a sex god though, that’s for dang sure. He kept me up all night. Did things to me I hadn’t even imagined. I’m glad he was exhausted this morning, because he kept trying to convince me to remove my mask. I couldn’t do it,” she whispered the last as guilt pulled at her.

“Well, Anthony isn’t even sure who he is. Thought he was familiar. Still, he couldn’t give me a name. You’ll never know, unless you change your mind before we leave and go track him down.” She winked.

“No. Can’t. It was a one-time thing.” Mila sighed, finally taking the mask off. “Besides, I’m not like that normally. He’d get bored with me. It’s better this way.”

“Mila, that’s not true, not in the slightest.” Barb glared at her. “Being a teacher doesn’t mean you can’t have your fun.”

“Right, well, I can’t have a ton of these nights. So, let me take a shower, because I’m a mess, and sore in places I didn’t think I could be.” She grinned, remembering the way he filled her body. Those memories were going to last a lifetime.

“Are we in a rush to go home now?” Barb pouted.

“Yes. Besides, I need to be back for school tomorrow, and I have papers to grade.”

“You know I love you, but your alter ego is more fun.”


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