On Fire - Sylvia Day

Chapter one

Darcy Michaels adjusted her gloved grip on her toolbox and picked her way carefully over the charred remains of her favorite candy store. Around her, firefighters moved through the smoldering ruins, checking every crevice and corner to be certain the fire was completely extinguished. Water dripped from the blackened walls and ceiling to puddle on the floor below, and the smell of smoke and burned sugar clung to her nostrils and skin, sinking into the very fiber of her uniform.

“Third one in as many weeks,” James Ralston muttered behind her. “I’m sorry, Darcy. I know you loved this place.”

She stopped and faced her mentor, her chest gripped in a vise of pain. Like the two previous fires, this blaze had destroyed a location that was dear to her and had held precious memories. She’d celebrated her twelfth birthday at the Sweet Spot candy shop, and she stopped by every Friday to stock up on the sour lemonade straws her sister had turned her on to.

Focus on the details, Darcy. Don’t lose it now.

“Whoever the arsonist is,” she said, “he’s not going to quit. He’s been doing this too long. It’s in his blood.”

The frequency of the acts and the terrible brilliance of the timed-delay incendiary devices being used spoke of someone who’d had time to perfect his madness.

She couldn’t help feeling violated, despite knowing how irrational that response was. As much as she’d wanted to leave Lion’s Bay as a kid, she couldn’t even contemplate abandoning the sleepy seaside town now. The same memories that had driven her parents to move away kept her bound to the area.

“I don’t know what to make of it.” Jim’s forest green eyes were warm with compassion and intent on her face. “We don’t have any new residents and it’s the off-season. Tourism is down. Anyone not from around here sticks out like a sore thumb.”

She turned in a slow circle, her trained gaze following the burn patterns he’d taught her to read.

“This guy didn’t just crawl out of the w-woodwork,” she said, startled to hear her voice cracking. She cleared her dry throat. “I think we need to bring the big guns in on this.”

“Miller’s doing a good job. He’s meticulous and thorough.” He touched her elbow lightly. “You don’t want to be the one who steps on his toes.”

Darcy nodded, acknowledging the sensitive nature of her relationship with the town’s sheriff. “I know, but I think he needs more resources, and I think he’s too stubborn to ask for help.”

The last time the Feds had come in, they’d run roughshod over Chris Miller and his deputies, cutting him out of the loop while draining his limited resources. She remembered that tense time all too well, because the murder they’d been investigating had been the tragedy that brought her home. “And frankly, Chris’s ego is the least of our problems.”

“Let’s gather the evidence, then we’ll discuss the next best steps.” Setting his hand on her shoulder, Jim gave her a reassuring squeeze. “Maybe you should stay with someone tonight?”

Reaching up, she set her hand over his. He knew her so well.

She wanted a particular kind of support, the kind where someone was nearby if she needed them but out of her way if she wanted time to just retreat with her thoughts.

Her gaze met Jim’s and he read her mind. “My couch is always open to you, Darcy. You know that.”

She nodded. “Thank you.”


Turning away, Darcy looked for a place to set down her kit and begin.

ROLLING OVER WITH a sigh, Darcy looked at the clock over Jim’s fireplace mantel and noted the time: quarter after five. It was still dark outside and she’d been tossing and turning all night, too wired by her restless thoughts to catch the sleep she desperately needed. There was something about the fires that was niggling at her, but she just couldn’t place it. Turning it over and over in her mind wasn’t bringing the answer she was looking for to mind.

Sitting up, she rolled her shoulders back, knowing what had to be done. She wanted her treasured equanimity back, and the only way to make that happen was to find the psycho who was stealing it from her and see him in a cage. The sooner, the better. A possible pissing match between authorities wasn’t going to be enough to hold her back. So far no one had been hurt, but their torch was barely catching his breath between fires. If he kept to his established