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When Aaron "Smoke" Tompkins and Kara Matthews first meet sparks fly, but Kara isn’t looking for love having just ended things with her boyfriend. Aaron isn’t willing to give up, and their occasional casual hook-up quickly evolves. After a grave mistake that almost ends their relationship, he decides to fight for Kara. There’s no way he’s walking away now.

Aaron may not be the type of man Kara saw herself falling in love with—a tattooed, strong silent type who’s rough around the edges--but he proves himself to be the type of man she needs. Their steadfast commitment to each other gets them through life’s rough patches and takes them on a journey they never expected…

Where There is Smoke, There is Fire is a Black, contemporary take on the epic love story. Aaron and Kara’s journey is what happens after the “Happily Ever After.”




Seated on the edge of her bed, Kara shoves a foot into one of her Nike running shoes. She stands and looks at herself in the full length mirror. Her grey sweatpants hug her slim but curvy frame. Her naturally curly hair is pulled back into a ponytail without a hair out of place, her lips are glossy and full and her brown skin glistens thanks to her shea butter lotion. She’s so put together one wouldn’t think she’s going out for a jog.

Kara runs her fingers along the red letters of her white Lakeside High School t-shirt. The Fighting Rams. She stares at the illustration of the school mascot for so long it appears to be moving. The shirt takes her back in time to when things were simpler. It was only two years ago, but it feels like a thousand lifetimes. The plan to go cold turkey and throw out all traces of her high school track career hasn’t worked. Truth is Kara can’t bring herself to get rid of any of it. She rolls her eyes at her misplaced nostalgia. If her classmates could see her now they’d think she was one of those pathetic losers who can’t move past their high school glory days, but that wouldn’t be fair. Kara never even got to experience any glory days.

Her eyes travel to the framed photo booth pictures on her vanity table. The memory of the carnival years ago makes her smile. While taking silly pictures in the booth, Bryan told her he loved her for the first time and they had only been dating for a month. A warm feeling surges through Kara’s body. This warmth has been one of her main sources of strength lately. She picks up the picture and runs her fingers across Bryan’s handsome, silly face. The edges of the photos are getting worn. If she gets the good news she’s hoping for, she’ll ask Bryan if they can have some new pictures taken. The last time she mentioned it he rejected the idea, insisting that a camera could never fully capture her beauty.

“Why waste time with a picture when I can just stare at you all day?”

Dating in high school should have been a nightmare. Countless unsuspecting girls had their reputations sacrificed every other day, all so some average, mediocre guy—of which there were many--could feel like a man around his boys. Bryan wasn’t even close to being anything like those assholes. He was never average or mediocre. Nope! Her man has always been a rose amongst a shitload of thorns.

Junior year, the two of them found each other and fell in love. This was nothing short of a miracle as far as Kara was concerned. Her belief in miracles was shaken a year into their relationship but thanks to Bryan’s patience and love, it is now held firm.

They’re literally the only couple from Lakeside that is still together. That might not mean much in the grand scheme of things, but it means the world to Kara.

She kisses “photo booth” Bryan then gives herself a once over. Confidence exudes from her every pore. And she desperately needs it. Every day for the past three months she has repeated her old routine from when she ran track. Wake up, shower, get dressed, a quick jog, do affirmations with her mom, meditate, then have breakfast. Some may call it superstitious but this same routine resulted in her winning the majority of her races. She’s determined continue doing it until her bones are dust.

Back in February, Kara filled out her application to USC. Her old track coach, Mr. Lewis assured her that his contact at the school would personally take a look at her application and help her find an on-campus job. It’s a simple assistant job for the athletics department involving answering phones and responding to emails but it would be hers.

Kara is twenty and dying to have a life that doesn’t revolve around her parent’s split. Being Evelyn’s linchpin for the past two years has been a sacrifice Kara happily made but it has also came with a lot of stress. Being forced to become her mother’s caretaker at the age of eighteen is one of about a million reasons why Kara despises her father. Other reasons include him cheating on her mom for years, getting his mistress pregnant and abandoning them to be with her. Kara’s mother suffered greatly after learning about Stephen’s affair. Things only got worse when he left shortly thereafter. Evelyn was forced to hide to avoid the humiliation. Their neighbors would try to pry any info they could from her whenever she left the house. Finally it became too much of a hassle so Kara became in head of their household.

Growing up overnight was not fun. Bathing Evelyn and forcing her to eat became another part of her daily routine. As was comforting her mother nightly as she wept in Kara arms. This was all happening at the worst possible time. Kara’s senior year was right around the corner. It was supposed to be her year. She was popular, dating one of the finest guys in school and USC was well within her reach but thanks to her selfish asshole of a father, she was forced to put it all on hold. The scouts that were once vying for her quickly moved on after she had to turn them all down. Kara watched helplessly as her dreams were set aflame and turned ash.

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