Hot Shot by Karina Halle
Release Date: January 9th, 2018
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Cover Design: Hang Le
Delilah Gordon has a secret.
She’s been in love with her best friend and the boy next door, Fox Nelson, since she was six years old.
And while most of her friends and family know about her unrequited crush, the one person who remains oblivious is Fox himself. To Delilah, it’s better this way. She’d rather pretend that they’re just friends, even though her feelings for the moody rugged mountain man are anything but tame.
Fox Nelson has a secret too.
As a wildland firefighter or “hot shot,” Fox parachutes into danger every day he’s on the job, risking all to fight wildfires that threaten ranches, forests and thousands of lives. But while Fox’s job is only for the brave, inside he feels anything but. The more he grapples with his raging demons, the more he realizes Delilah is the only one who can put out the flames.
As the two friends grow closer – and more intimate – than ever before, the more complicated their relationship becomes.
And Delilah has one more secret to reveal.
A secret that will change both their lives…forever.
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It’s dark now and quiet except for the crickets. In the distance, the town of North Ridge glows, the lights giving way to the dark mountain ranges behind it and beyond that, a clear, starry sky.
I immediately feel better but it’s not enough. I need to walk, to get my head on straight, to get my heart to stop caving in.
I head down the slope to the barn. It’s second nature to want to come here during hard times. Growing up, if anyone in the house was fighting—and it was usually Shane and Fox—this was where you’d find them afterwards, licking their wounds.
Right now the barn is empty, all the horses are either in their paddocks or the pastures. I glance up at the hayloft and contemplate going up there when I hear footsteps behind me.
I immediately stiffen. It’s funny how you can feel someone’s specific presence without seeing them.
“What’s wrong with you?” Fox asks gruffly from behind me. Typical. Even if he’s concerned, sometimes he comes across like it annoys him to be concerned.
I take in a deep breath and turn around. “I don’t know,” I say, my voice measured. “Just felt a bit nauseous.”
He studies my face intently, so intently that I look away, my eyes drifting over the empty stalls. “I thought maybe I’d pissed you off somehow,” he says.
Is he baiting me?
I meet his eyes. “Why would you think that?”
“You could barely look at me during dinner,” he says, taking a step toward me until he’s a foot away. “Was it something I did? Is this about Conan?”
He’s so damn earnest in that last question that I have to laugh. I fold my arms across my chest. “No, Fox. This isn’t about your squirrel. It’s not about anything. I’m just…tired.”
I can tell he doesn’t believe me and the intensity has changed in his eyes. They’ve become more focused on me, like he’s seeing me for the first time and nothing else around us matters.
“I like this,” he says, his voice sounding thick. He takes a strand of my hair between his fingers and runs them down. “Your hair is so long. You should wear it down more often.”
I roll my eyes and hope I’m not blushing. “You guys are all the same. A girl wears her hair down and puts on some makeup and suddenly you realize that she’s actually hot. It’s like She’s All That come to life.”
Oh shit. I probably shouldn’t have said that last bit out loud since it’s a whole bunch of assumptions and I’m not one to flatter myself like that.
But he just grins. One of those cheeky, warm smiles that makes his eyes crinkle at the corners, the dimples appear in his scruff. He doesn’t smile like that very often and every time he does for me, it makes me feel…invincible.
“Del, I’ve always thought you were hot,” he says, still smiling. No awkwardness or hesitation. He just comes out and says it.
And now I am blushing. “Yeah right.”
“What?” he asks, tucking my hair behind my ear and—hell—his touch causes warm shivers to wash down my back. “It’s true. I mean, look at you.”
Don’t read into it. Don’t read into it.
“Do you remember that birthday party where we played spin the bottle?” I ask him, my voice sounding broken.
He nods. “Kind of.” But he doesn’t remove his hand, keeps playing with my hair.
I don’t know why I’m feeling brave all of a sudden but I am. “Well you spun the bottle and it stopped right at me. No mistake about it. And you got up and said it was stupid and left. Fox, we were good friends and you acted like kissing me was the worst thing on earth.”
His dark brows knit together but his eyes stay warm. “You remember that?”
“Fox. I’m a woman. I’m always going to remember when a boy rejects me, especially my best friend and especially at a young age.”
“But we were young. And I was pretty stupid back then.”
“You thought I was gross.”
He lets out a soft laugh. “I can promise you I did not think you were gross.” His hand then leaves my hair and trails down my arm to my hand. Sometimes Fox holds it and I know I shouldn’t think anything of it but every time he does I wonder if he realizes what it does to me. Then again, I’m starting to think he’s oblivious to absolutely everything.
“I didn’t kiss you,” he goes on, “not because I didn’t want to. I did.” He swallows, shrugs. “I just didn’t want our first kiss to be from spin the bottle.”
“What do you mean? Our first kiss?” I repeat, my pulse quickening.
“I don’t know, Del. Back then, I kind of assumed that we would end up together at some point. You know all through high school I had just been waiting to make my move and ask you out. At least figure out if you liked me or not. But then you started going out with that guy with the big ears, what was his name, Ryan McGee? And that’s when I realized that it was probably all in my head. You were just a friend. A sister, even. And I was just a brother to you.”
Holy. Fucking. Shit.
This is way too much to process.
Fox thought we’d end up together.
He actually liked me back in high school!
“You look shocked,” he says, raising a brow. “I thought it was pretty obvious.”
“Obvious?” I blurt out. “No. No it wasn’t.”
He lets go of my hand and shrugs with one shoulder. “It’s funny how life goes, isn’t it? It was probably for the best anyway. Could you have imagined us dating? Being a couple.”
Yes, fucking yes.
Karina Halle is a former travel writer and music journalist and The New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today Bestselling author of The Pact, Love, in English, The Artists Trilogy, Dirty Angels and over 20 other wild and romantic reads. She lives on an island off the coast of British Columbia with her husband and her rescue pup, where she drinks a lot of wine, hikes a lot of trails and devours a lot of books.
Halle is represented by the Root Literary and is both self-published and published by Simon & Schuster and Hachette in North America and in the UK.
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So, I have a confession to make. I have actually read Karina Halle before. It was only until I started reading Hot Shot that I realized I had started reading Maverick, the second book in this series, but I put it down during the craziness that was this past semester of my grad school program. Details in the prologue of Hot Shot jogged my memory and it completely changed how I went into reading this book. I remember Delilah and Fox vaguely from Maverick and all I can remember is the overwhelming feeling of sexual tension. Expectations were formed from the jogging of my memory, and unfortunately the book did not entirely live up to what I had built up in my head.
Don’t get me wrong, this book is super emotional and full of angst. I surmised that purely from the prologue that reveals a terrible event that occurred in Fox’s life when he was just five years old. I instantly knew what lie ahead would possibly require a box of tissues. The trauma that Fox faces when he loses his mother and the blame that he puts on himself impacts who he is as a person for the rest of his life. He becomes broken inside, drawing in on himself and withdrawing from his friends and family around him at times. But, there is one person who has always been his light amongst the darkness that surrounds him and that is Delilah, his best friend since they were six.
Only Delilah has been harboring a secret for the last 27 years of their friendship, one that everyone around her has clued in on actually, that she has been in love with Fox all her life. I connected with Delilah almost instantly as she describes what it is like to go through life loving her best friend who she is pretty sure doesn’t love her back. She continues to be in Fox’s life even though certain things and moments between them hurt her immensely because she loves him so intensely. One of them being her concern for Fox’s wellbeing when he leaves for his job as a “hot shot”, or wildland firefighter risking his life every time trying to put out fires that break out in Canada and the US.
Delilah’s ability to hide her feelings towards Fox start to waver and soon their friendship turns intimate. This part of the story when Fox and Delilah start to become physical with one another was where I disconnected from the story at first. It just felt wrong how Fox essentially turned to Delilah for those intimate moments to help ease whatever pain he was going through while Delilah started feeling hopeful that this could be the beginning of them finally moving in the direction of being more than friends. I recognize that Fox has been in a lot of pain almost all his life but his actions and specifically his reaction after they are first together to just go back to being friends or instead become fuck buddies felt selfish and did not paint him in a good light for me.
As I have said, there are a lot of emotions that arise throughout this book which made it a bit difficult after I finished it to suss out how I truly felt about it. After a little time though I realized that while I loved Delilah, Fox was a whole different story. It took more than halfway through the book for me to start actually liking Fox. For the first half of the book, he started to annoy me because of how he was around Delilah. It honestly got to the point where Fox was going to have to not only prove to Delilah of his feelings towards her but he also had to prove something to me too as the reader which sounds ridiculous when you think about it.
But, I am happy to say that prove himself he did lol. The last 20% of the book really made up for most of what happened in the beginning half. The obstacles and demons that Fox had to overcome were, and Delilah finally got to hear the words she has been wanting to hear from Fox all her life. Overall, the ending was adorable and heartfelt and funny with the Nelson crew all around them. And, while I have finished either of the other books, I will say that the epilogue not only allowed us to see how happy Fox and Delilah are but also how the rest of the characters ended up which I believe for those who have read the rest of the books would very much enjoy.
Ok, that was a bit of a rant. Hot Shot may not have lived up to my expectations but Fox and Delilah’s love story did warm my heart in the end even if it took them a quite bit of time to get there. I will say that I am super excited to read the other two books, especially Maverick’s story as him and Riley are seem like a bundle of sexy fun lol.