I’ve known brilliant Aussie romance author Amy Andrews for a long time and her books just keep getting better. I love everything she writes (hot! smart! sexy!) and I’m so happy to have her on my blog to introduce the brand new Tule series, Hot Aussie Knights.
The Knight family are Australian firefighting royalty, so when family patriarch Leonard Knight dies amidst suspicion of wrongdoing and scandal it’s up to his three firefighter grandsons—and one firefighting granddaughter!—to restore the family name. After years apart, four Knights reunite at their grandfather’s funeral—Logan, Dare, and twins Dylan and Caleb—and tattoo Bothers Forged in Fire to celebrate their grandfather’s life, legacy and commitment to family. The Knights are legends, and they work hard, and play even harder. What they aren’t expecting is that their family tragedy will lead them to love and a deeper understanding of what’s really important in life.
PROLOGUE – from Hot Mess
The cathedral was packed. Standing room only at the back, the mourners spilling out onto the wide, stone steps at the cathedral’s entrance and through its ornate side doors.
Leonard Knight would have hated it.
The old man hadn’t believed in pomp and ceremony. Or being the centre of attention. He’d believed in God and family and getting the job done – quietly, efficiently, and effectively.
He’d believed in hard work, in strategy, and he’d believed in his men.
Men who were, today, honouring him with the highest accolade that could be bestowed upon a fallen fire fighter of such distinction. A funeral with full honours for the man who was a legend in the ranks of Australian fire fighters.
The fire service was burying one of their own – their commissioner no less – and they could out pomp a royal wedding.
Rows and rows of bright-buttoned, shiny-shoed, uniformed men and women filled the pews of the cathedral, sitting stiffly erect, their dress hats on their laps.
Logan Knight was one of them but he had a front seat view.
He stuck his finger inside his collar and eased it off his neck for what felt like the hundredth time. It was a scorching January day outside and warmer still inside the packed cathedral. Plus, he was as uncomfortable wearing his formal uniform as his grandfather had been.
He hadn’t joined the fire department to don a suit and tie. Neither had Leonard; although, he’d spent the last decade of his life doing just that.
Logan’s gaze fixed on his grandfather’s polished cherrywood coffin, the brass trimmings shining as brightly as the buttons on Logan’s uniform. It was draped in the fire services flag and topped with enough flowers to open a garden shop. It was hard to believe that a wooden box – no matter how fancy – could hold the man who had always been larger than life.
He stuck his finger into his collar again.
“Stop fidgeting, for fuck’s sake,” his cousin Caleb muttered beside him as some dignitary droned on at the lectern. “You’re worse than a two-year-old with worms.”
“He’d have hated this,” Logan muttered back out the corner of his mouth.
“Funerals are for the living, not the dead,” chimed in Dylan, Caleb’s twin brother, from the other side.
Logan ran a belligerent eye over his cousin. “Thank you, Socrates.”
The sound of muted sobbing filled the sudden silence as the dignitary finished up and Logan glanced over to the row of pews to his right to see his father and Dylan and Caleb’s father comforting their mother. His other uncles – Leonard had seven sons – looked everything from stoic and stiff-upper-lipped to haggard. They all sat in the first row with their mother, their formal uniforms neat as pins, shouldering her through the shock of the sudden and unexpected death of her beloved husband of fifty years.
Logan had never seen his grandmother cry before – not once – and it pulled at his gut to see it now.
“Let us pray,” the minister announced from the pulpit indicating that everyone should rise.
“Christ,” Dylan muttered quietly as the congregation rose. “I could murder a beer.”
Logan bit the inside of his lip to stop from laughing. It was one of their grandfather’s favourite expressions.
“There’ll be plenty of that at the wake,” Logan murmured as he bowed his head. “Now shut up or Caleb’ll give you a wedgie.”
The minister’s, “Dear Lord,” drowned out the muffled chuckles from the Knight boys.
Several hours later, jackets discarded, ties loosened, sleeves rolled up, the cousins were on their fourth round of Rosie’s house beer. Rosie’s was an institution to Brisbane firefighters; a bar that had welcomed the city’s finest for over thirty years. Leonard Knight had spent a lot of hours after knock-off with his mates here back in the early days of his career.
Just two blocks from Logan’s station house, Rosie’s had closed its doors this afternoon to everyone but emergency services personnel as it, too, paid tribute to Leonard’s legacy.
And it was wall-to-wall uniforms.
Logan glanced around. It seemed like he was related to half the people in the room. His father and his uncles were scattered around, reminiscing about their old man, his three brothers were also drinking in a big group, all laughing loudly about some anecdote or other. Not to mention the thirty or forty cousins and seconds cousins and variety of prick relations—as his grandfather so colourfully called them—dotting the bar area.
Many of them had flown from interstate to attend. Caleb and Dylan had come from Adelaide. Even his cousin, Dare Knight, a smoke jumper from Montana, had flown in from the States with her father.
The Knights were about as much of an institution in firefighting circles as Rosie’s was.
“To the old man,” Dare said. Her American twang seemed even more accentuated surrounded as she was by a bunch of macho Aussie blokes.
She hadn’t seen her grandfather, or any of them except Logan, since her family’s last visit to Australia when she’d been fifteen, but her grief was as tangible as theirs. Thankfully she was staying on at his firehouse for a while as part of an exchange programme. Logan had done the same thing a few years back, joining Dare’s firehouse in Montana for a couple of years and he was looking forward to reconnecting with his kickass, GI Jane cousin.
Although, there was something new and edgy about her that worried him. Something that lay buried beneath the big smile and the electric blue dress that was turning heads left and right.
They drank to Leonard as they had the last three times. Normally, when Knight cousins got together, they smack talked relentlessly but the mood was distinctly sombre today.
“Do you think it was the investigation that killed him?”
Dare asked the question that had been bugging Logan since the news of their grandfather’s death broke a week ago.
She might live on the other side of the world but the Knight clan was tight and she knew all about the investigation into the multi-departmental mismanagement that had led to the disastrous outcomes from the massive bush fire that had ravaged vast tracts of land down south a few months ago.
One hundred and eight people dead, three of them firefighters. He and Caleb and Dylan had been there, along with half the guys in the room, travelling to help their interstate brothers fight the firestorm side-by-side.
The loss of life – particularly his comrades – had gutted Leonard. Then the blame game had started. The government was looking for a scapegoat to divert attention from decades of funding cuts.
“He was seventy,” Caleb said.
“Yeh, but he was fitter than a lot of men half his age,” Dylan countered.
“Apparently not,” Caleb shot back.
The twins glared at each other over their beers. Strikingly similar, they were both tall and broad and blond, which killed with the ladies. They played on their similarities too, often pretending to be the other to keep the women guessing.
Of course, their attitudes gave them away quickly. Dylan was relentlessly upbeat but Caleb, since his divorce, had turned into a cynic. His ex had accused him of being married to the job and hell if that wasn’t true.
Half the guys in this joint were divorced because fighting fires was like some kind of drug. It could be hard for partners to understand. God knew, the only woman who’d ever managed to capture Logan’s heart had struggled with it too. At the end anyway.
“What happened with those fires was not his fault,” Logan said, breaking the tension between the brothers stirred up by grief and booze.
“You think that matters?” Caleb snorted. “Shit moves uphill; you know that. The guy at the top always carries the can. That’s why they get paid the big bucks.”
“That’s crap,” Dylan said. “Those fires were a cock up because of chronic underfunding and mismanagement at the local and state levels.”
No one who had been on the ground had doubted that. It had been shocking. Logan had seen things he hadn’t seen during his nine years on the job. Things he couldn’t unsee. Things that still sometimes woke him in the middle of the night.
Property, livestock, people.
And his grandfather, who had felt every one of those deaths personally, had been hung out to dry. No wonder the old man’s heart had given way after fifty years of dedicated service to the job.
Caleb snorted. “You think the politicians give a shit about the facts? And now he’s gone that makes him an even easier target.”
Logan suspected Caleb was right but he didn’t want to think about it today. Today, they were supposed to be celebrating their grandfather’s life, not talking politics either national or departmental.
He was pretty sure Leonard Knight would kick their asses for not already being drunk and talking football and women.
“Dude.” Dare shook her head at Caleb then took a deep swallow of her cold beer. “You need to get laid.”
The change of subject worked as the guys laughed. “Just because I’m divorced doesn’t mean I’m not getting any.”
Logan kicked up an eyebrow. “Are you doing it wrong? ‘Cause Dare’s got a point, man. You are a little uptight. I could give you some pointers if you like.”
“Hey, if he wants pointers, he doesn’t have to go any further than his own brother.” Dylan puffed out his chest. “The ladies love them some of this.”
Caleb shook his head in disgust. “Get your hand off it.”
Logan laughed and raised his glass. “To getting laid and fighting fires.”
Glasses clinked and they drank. Then they drank some more. Then they all went and got tattoos…
BONUS SCENE –
Between the drinking of the beer and the leaving for the tattoo parlor there was much discussion about what type of tattoo the Knight cousins would get to honour their grandfather…
“Too easy,” said Logan. “You can’t go past – Save a fire truck, ride a fireman.”
“Nah.” Dylan shook his head. “I like – In case of emergency, pull hose”.
A round of boozy cheers ensued, in the midst of which Caleb stood and managed to settle the hub bub down. “My vote goes to – Stay safe. Sleep with a fireman.”
Dare snorted at the lot of them. “Because it’s all about men, right? What’s wrong with – Firefighter. Because badass isn’t an official job title?”
“Damn straight,” Dylan said, clinking his beer bottle against Dare’s and they all drank to that.
Several more inappropriate suggestions were put forward. Where my hose at and the hotter you get the faster we come caused much hilarity. But Logan finally found the right tone.
“Brothers Forged in Fire,” he suggested. “That’s how the old man talked about his firefighting family, right? That’s how we should honour him.”
And so they did.
If you read the books, you’ll find out just where exactly those tats ended up!
Meanwhile, we hope you love the Hot Aussie Knights!
Happy reading, from Amy
(and the rest of the Hot Aussie Knights authors, Sinclair, Victoria and Trish.)
Order your copy of Hot Mess here:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo
Multi-award winning and USA Today bestselling author Amy Andrews is an Aussie who has written fifty romances from novellas to category to single-title in both the traditional and digital markets for a variety of publishers. Her first love is steamy contemporary romance that makes her readers tingle, laugh and sigh. She lives on acreage on the outskirts of Brisbane with a gorgeous mountain view but secretly wishes it was the hillsides of Tuscany. Visit her website at AmyAndrews.com.au
Amy, thanks so much for sharing a glimpse of your exciting series with us!
Readers, Do you like tattoos? Do you like guys with tattoos? Would you ever get one? Leave your answers below for a chance to win a Hot Aussie Giveaway packed with books by your favorite Australian writers and lots of Tule reader swag! Contest ends Saturday with winner announced Sunday.