Synopsis from Goodreads: You can't fight what you can't see. And Gabriel Raines can't be sure just who's setting the fires in his new real-estate development. When two fires hit back-to-back, he knows it's personal, but any number of competitors or ex-employees could be the arsonist.
The police suspect Angel Ramirez, a local teen who's been in trouble before. But Mattie Baker, a volunteer at the Family Abuse center, just can't believe the kid she's been working with would go back to his delinquent ways.
Determined to convince Gabe that she's right, Mattie must get close to him and find out who's putting their neighborhood in jeopardy. And just as the arsonist's flames continue to burn, they find a heat developing between them. It might just turn into a full-fledged fire if they can survive long enough.
Stats for my copy: Mass market paperback, published by Mira Books, 2011.
How acquired: Through BookCrossing.
First line: The screech of the siren didn't reach him at first.
My thoughts: Gabriel Raines, the middle Raines brother, has a successful construction/remodeling business in Dallas. He buys old properties and restores them, and current projects underway when the book opens include an historic theater and an apartment building that had been condemned. Mattie Baker is a successful, award winning architect, who puts in lots of hours at the office, but also finds time to volunteer at a local family resource center, working with families who are putting their lives back together after domestic abuse/violence. Like Jackson in the first RAINES OF WIND CANYON book, Gabe is not necessarily looking for a wife or a relationship and seems pretty content with his life. Mattie was raised by a single mother after her father died when she was young, and after seeing how her mother struggled, and after a bad experience with an ex, she is determined to never put her trust and reliance in another man. Like Sarah in the first book, she is fiercely independent.
I liked Gabe, though not quite as much as Jackson. Maybe because, even though Gabe has a ranch, he doesn't actually spend much time at it, and so he isn't really a rancher like Jackson. He is, however, former military. I also liked Mattie, and felt like I could relate to her a little more than I had to Sarah.
Gabe and Mattie meet at a police station, when a teenager is arrested for setting a fire in one of Gabe's buildings. Mattie, who knows Angel from her volunteer work, is convinced that Angel is innocent, and she intends to prove it. So even though Gabe is the kind of man she'd prefer to avoid being around, she inserts herself into the investigation, insisting that he help her find the real arsonist. Gabe is willing to give Angel the benefit of doubt, plus Mattie intrigues him and he isn't averse to spending some time in her company.
The suspense in this second book was amped up a little more, and the plot felt more tightly drawn and not quite as far fetched as the first book. As the fires continue, Gabe and younger brother Dev compile a suspect list, investigate or question suspects, cross them off, come up with more suspects...I was never sure what direction the story would take next, and had no clue who the real arsonist was until the author actually introduced him to us, the reader, while still leaving Gabe and everyone else in the dark.
And of course amidst all the fires and investigating, Gabe and Mattie get to know each other and get closer. Mattie, being afraid of falling for someone, anyone, runs a little hot and cold, but when she realizes she may have pushed Gabe away one too many times, she bucks up and sets out to rectify that, rather than being all wishy washy. Gabe accepts his growing feelings quicker than Mattie does, but is plagued by doubts of whether she wants him or just wants him in bed. They are very well suited to each other, and the culmination of their relationship was quite satisfying.
Meanwhile, there's a side plot with Gabe's best friend, Sam, courting Mattie's best friend, Tracy, that was very sweet, but which left me asking why they couldn't have had their own book instead of being secondary characters here.
Very enjoyable story, with some great characters and a suspenseful plot.