Josephine Hannah, Hollywood's sparkling gem, might dazzle on screen, but off-camera? She's more tongue-tied damsel than daring diva, especially with those pesky paparazzi flashing in her face.
Enter Dan Rockwell: not an action star, but a real-life, pulse-pounding firefighter-paramedic. His world doesn't have room for scripts - every day is a high-stakes improv scene.
So, when a twist of fate (and an ankle) throws Josephine into Dan's dashing arms, both are left wondering if this unexpected pairing is the plot twist they've been waiting for.
Are they ready for a love story hotter than Hollywood's brightest spotlight?
Dive into this sparkling tale by New York Times bestselling author Melissa Storm and let the rom-com magic roll!
Josephine Hannah gathered her hair into a ponytail and tucked it into a plain black ski hat. After adding a thick scarf she’d picked up at Target and a pair of sport sunglasses, she was ready to hit the town.
Of course, the hat made her itch and the scarf felt way too warm around her neck, but that was the necessary price of fame. What had life even been like before she had to don a ridiculous disguise just to run out for a cup of coffee?
Josephine could scarcely remember.
Even worse than the costume was the jarring nickname the press had chosen for her—Jo-Han. It felt too cutesy, like she’d forever be relegated to romantic comedies and never even get the chance to be considered for a critical, dramatic role.
Romantic comedies were fine as far as movies went. She loved watching them, but the acting took some serious chops, which no one quite realized or appreciated. Especially since her most recent relationship had just gone up in flames for all the world to see.
She’d fallen hard and fast for the leading man in her last production, and while she was more of an up-and-coming Hollywood sensation, he was practically celebrity royalty. He never hid from the paparazzi. In fact, he took every opportunity to get both of them noticed.
The press pursued Josephine extra hard because of her good-girl image. It seemed as though nothing would give them greater pleasure than seeing her mess up and her reputation take a nosedive. And her ex John loved all the added attention.
“They need to see you constantly. Otherwise they’ll forget who you are, Jo-Han,” he’d explained with a hammy grin as they walked down the streets of L.A. hand in hand with a trail of mosquitos bobbing after them.
Yes, mosquitos with constantly flashing cameras and invasive, probing questions.
Paparazzi seemed too sophisticated a word for the crowd of gossip rag reporters who accosted her every chance they got. That’s why Jo had opted to take it out of the Italian and go with the English “mosquitos.” A more perfect metaphor had never been made, least of all by her.
Jo herself was perfect at reciting the words that had been written for her. She could add the exact blend of emotional intensity and strong diction that made casting directors fall all over themselves to land her. But in real life—if there even was still such a thing for Jo—she was terribly, terribly shy.
And it made all the attention that much harder.
Her current project had brought her out of Los Angeles, away from New York, and straight to the wilds of Anchorage. Maybe “wilds” wasn’t the right way to describe Alaska’s biggest city, but compared to her usual haunts, this sweet, snowy town felt like the boonies.
And she loved it already.
“One caramel macchiato please,” she told the barista at Starbucks, happily relieved when she wasn’t recognized by her now-famous voice. No one recognized her as she waited for her order to come up at the end counter, either.
Could this place actually be heaven?
She took her drink outside and walked through the streets downtown, stopping occasionally to window shop. As she glanced into the storefront of a little clothing boutique, the worker inside smile and waved.
Oh, no. I’ve been found out!
Josephine put her head down and rushed for the crosswalk so she could make her escape. She’d only parked a couple of blocks away. If she ran fast, she could make it before the swarm descended.
Before she could even reach the stoplight, however, her heel snagged on the sidewalk and she fell face forward to the ground. Worse than the pain that shot through her ankle was knowing that this little mishap would be all over the nightly news. How embarrassing!
The shopkeeper from the boutique raced her way. “Are you okay?” she cried. “That spill looked super painful.”
“I’m fine,” she sobbed, searching the ground for her sunglasses, which had skittered off during her fall. “But please leave me alone. I just want to enjoy a normal day about town.”
The woman’s brows knitted in confusion. “If that’s what you want, but can I help you back on your feet first?” She glanced down at Josephine curiously, then offered a hand.
“Don’t you want to take my picture?” Jo asked, astonished it hadn’t happened already.
“I want to help you. That’s all.”
Josephine reluctantly took the shopkeeper’s hand. Maybe she didn’t watch many movies, or read magazines, or…
Pain ripped through her and she fell back to the ground, almost bringing the other woman down with her.
“Oh, gosh!” the shopkeeper cried. “It might be broken. I’m calling an ambulance!”
“Please hurry,” Josephine urged. This woman might not recognize her, but it didn’t mean that others wouldn’t. The longer she sat crumpled on the ground, the more she had a chance to get discovered—and mocked.
Maybe she didn’t like Anchorage so much after all.
* * *
Dan Rockwell flipped on the siren and directed his ambulance toward the intersection at Minnesota and Northern Lights. Normally this time of year he stayed busy with hunting accidents and your run-of-the-mill medical emergencies. It was kind of unusual to get the first slip and fall of the season weeks before the first snow, but hey, any run beat waiting around at the station for something—anything—to happen.
As a firefighter-paramedic, Dan lived for the thrill and loved knowing he was not just making a difference in people’s lives, but literally saving them every time he signed in for a shift. And, oh, the stories he had to tell from his adventures!
He’d treated gun wounds, rescued cats from trees, and even helped to calm a blaze set at a dog-fighting ring hidden in plain sight within a Mountain View strip mall. Dan never knew what he was going to get each day, and he wouldn’t have it any other way.
Pulling up on W. 29th Street now, he had to do a double take. His slip and fall wasn’t some little old lady, but rather a gorgeous woman he guessed to be somewhere in her twenties. Even with the thick hat, scarf, and sunglasses hiding her features, he could still make out high cheekbones, a pert nose, full lips, and the graceful body of a ballet dancer.
Which made it all the more strange that she’d somehow managed to slip on pure concrete and now couldn’t get up without the aid of an ambulance.
“Thank goodness you’re here!” a middle-aged blonde woman shouted as Dan hopped down from his vehicle. “She’s been hysterical, and for some reason she’s quite afraid. I don’t know if someone is maybe chasing her or what, but she keeps looking over her shoulder like she expects something awful to happen.”
Dan stole another glance at the woman on the pavement. She didn’t look like a victim of domestic violence, but then again, looks could be deceiving. Whatever the reason behind her injuries, he’d be sure to treat her to the best of his ability and offer her a safe place if she needed it.
“You did the right thing by calling us,” he said. “We’ve got it from here.”
The caller nodded and backed away to watch from the shelter of an awning.
“Let’s go see what we’ve got.” He motioned for his partner, Ted, to follow him, and together the two tall uniformed men marched toward the slight woman crouched on the pavement and clutching at her ankle.
“Good afternoon, Miss,” Dan said, always minding his manners. “We’re here to help.”
“I didn’t want a scene,” she sobbed. Standing close to her now, Dan saw that a stubborn tear had fallen from beneath her glasses and onto her cheek. “Can we do this somewhere else?”
“Let’s get her into the back of the ambulance,” Ted said with a nod to Dan.
Dan reached down to offer his hands and help her up, and she accepted with only a brief moment’s hesitation. As she rose to her feet, her sunglasses clattered to the ground revealing sharp green eyes, the likes of which Dan had only seen one other time.
“I’ve got the glasses,” Ted said. “You get her inside.”
She kept her head angled down, refusing to make eye contact with Dan or anyone else who was watching the scene unfold before them.
“So, how long have you been in Anchorage, Josephine?” he whispered, keeping his face neutral so as not to notify others of the star among them.
Her head jerked up to reveal a face chock full of emotions—everything from embarrassment to fear and maybe even a little gratitude, too.
So this is why the much acclaimed Josephine Hannah was such a great actress—because she truly felt the full gamut of emotions and apparently knew how to call them on cue. He watched as she settled her features into a neutral mask once again, but it was too late.
He’d seen her vulnerability, the real person that lay hidden beneath designer labels, paid endorsements, and scripted performances. He saw Josephine Hannah, and she was far more beautiful than he ever could have imagined.