Phina shrugs. “Well then, put on the hottest piece of lingerie you own, storm into the fire station and explain it to him. He’s a man, Finnley. Just show him your tits. That will distract him long enough for you to speak your piece.”

While I work out the details of the plan brewing in my head, Phina and I go into the kitchen, filling our arms with dishes, bowls, serving platters and coffee cups before making our way outside. In the middle of my driveway at ten o’clock on a Monday night, my best friend and I laugh and cheer as we break every single piece of wedding china I own. Sure, I’ve got a mess to clean up when we’re done, but I feel much better than I did an hour ago.

My heart is brimming with the need to discover everything there is to know about Collin and my body is burning with the desire to feel his hands on me again. I think about the black lace push-up bra, matching thong and garter belt with black lace thigh-highs that has been sitting in a Victoria’s Secret bag in the back of my closet for over a year

I think I finally found the perfect place to wear it. Hopefully, Collin lets me near him long enough to show it to him.

As I slam a salad bowl on the driveway and watch the pieces scatter, the anticipation of seeing him again, of having him inside me, is hard to ignore. I can already feel his hands sliding up my legs to unhook the garter belt and his face between my thighs, his warm breath seeping through the lace of my thong.

Please, God let this plan work.

I’ve already become addicted to him and I’m pretty sure there isn’t a rehab facility anywhere in this world that could cure me.

Chapter 12—Let the Sparks Fly

THE LOUD, EAR-PIERCING screech of a whistle next to my ear sends a bolt of pain straight to my temples. I turn to scowl at D.J. as he smirks at me, the whistle still dangling from his lips.

“Sorry, Captain. Was that too loud for you?” D.J. asks with an innocent look.

I should have known better than to drink the night before weekly drills at the station. As the captain of Franklin Ten House, I’m not required to run the drills with my men, but most of the time I do. Under normal circumstances, I’m out there with them in the bay running advancing hose drills, shoulder carries with two-hundred pound test dummies, cradle carries, ladder sprints and a multitude of other drills designed to keep the men in shape and provide a little healthy competition. Today, however, I’m perfectly fine holding the stopwatch and letting D.J., our Incident Commander, run things. If he blows that whistle anywhere near me again, though, I’m not going to be responsible for my actions.

“Alright, boys, that’s a wrap!” D.J. shouts to the group of guys bent over, gasping for air after the last timed run. “Martinez and Johnson, you guys had the slowest times tonight so you’re on kitchen duty. Get your asses inside and make me a pot pie!”

The two men groan and everyone else starts a little good-natured ribbing as they all make their way inside.

When it’s just the two of us left outside, D.J. turns to me, crossing his arms over his chest and staring me down. “Alright, out with it. You never drink the night before a shift and you sure as hell never give up a chance to whip everyone’s ass with your stellar ladder climbing skills. What’s been going on with you this week? I’m pretty sure you’ve been hung-over every fucking day since last Monday.”

As we slowly make our way back inside the station, I take a deep breath before coming clean with him.

“I slept with Finnley.”

He doesn’t even bat an eye at my breaking news. “Jesus, it’s about fucking time. Now that you’ve gotten THAT out of your system, can you stop being a pussy and move on?”

I want to be pissed at him for his attitude where Finnley’s concerned, but I can’t. He knows how much I’ve thought about her over the years. It was basically his fault I broke up with her in the first place, a fact that I’ve never let him forget.

“Dude, we’re seniors. We’re the kings of this fucking school. Why the hell do you still want to be tied down with a girlfriend? Especially one who isn’t putting out?”

I’ve never wanted to punch my best friend before, but he’s seriously testing my patience right now. I should have just lied and told him we finally had sex after prom night. It’s not like I didn’t try to get laid, it was prom night for fuck’s sake. Everyone gets laid on prom night. But Finnley still wasn’t ready and I’m not the kind of asshole who pushes his girlfriend to do something she’s not ready for. Even though I’ve been ready since the first time I saw her covered in gunpowder in her backyard when we were fifteen years old, I don’t want her to think that’s the only thing I want from her. I’m perfectly fine with all the other stuff we do and I’ll wait as long as she wants me to. I’m just getting sick and tired of being questioned about it from my best friend.

As the night wore on and I consumed a seriously unhealthy amount of beer, the things D.J. continued to spout off about started to sound pretty damn good. It didn’t help that Finnley wasn’t at the party with me. She had plans with her girlfriends to go to a movie. If she was here right now and I could kiss her and touch her and be physically reminded about all the reasons why I’m with her, I wouldn’t be having all of these stupid thoughts.

“Do you have any idea how much pussy you could be getting right now if you were single? Think about it, are you really going to go off to separate colleges and plan on this working out? I’ve got news for you, that shit never works,” D.J. tells me, tossing me another beer.

Finnley and I only had one conversation about college and it didn’t go very well. She wants me to go to the fire academy that’s close to home and the art school she plans on attending and I want to get the fuck out of dodge. I’ve been in this town all of my life and I want to see new things and go to different places. I don’t understand why she can’t just go with me, but she’s adamant about staying close to her family.

“I love her though, man,” I slur drunkenly.

“You only think you love her. She was your first girlfriend. How the hell do you even know what love is? Stop being a pussy and go out and GET some pussy!” D.J. cheers before chugging an entire beer.

Shit, he’s totally right. I’m seventeen years old. I care about Finnley, but am I really in love with her? Sure, we’ve said the words to each other plenty of times. She’s sweet, smart, funny and sexy as hell. What’s not to love? Aside from D.J., she’s one of my best friends. My family loves her and they’ve pretty much already started planning our wedding. I suddenly feel slightly nauseous and I’m not sure whether it’s the cheap beer or the idea of marriage that has my guts churning.

I’m not ready for that shit.

Two years is a long time to have a girlfriend in high school. It’s almost unheard of. Why the hell shouldn’t I be single and finish off my senior year with a bang?

“Fuck, how the hell do I even break up with someone? Do I just call her and tell her it’s over?” I ask, popping the top on my can of beer and downing half of it in one swallow.

“No, man. You can write her a note. I’ll even hand deliver it at school tomorrow so you don’t have to deal with that shit. HEY! Someone get me a fucking pen and a piece of paper!” D.J. yells to no one in particular.

“I’m pretty sure I don’t get the choice about whether or not I should move on. Her husband came home when I was there last week,” I tell D.J. as he holds the door open for me and we make our way to my office at the back of the first floor of the station.

D.J. whistles and shakes his head. “Damn, dude. Is she still married? I thought you said she was separated?”

When we get inside my office, I close the door behind us and take a seat at my desk while D.J. flops onto the folding chair in front of it.

“She told me she was separated. Hell, she fucking invited me over to her house for the sole purpose of having sex. I don’t know if it was some kind of game to her or what. I don’t have a fucking clue because she kicked me out.”

D.J. winces. “Ouch.”

“Yeah, right in front of that piece of shit Castillo. It was bad enough I walked in the room and he had his hands on her. I get him away from her, he calls her a bitch and a whore and I’m still the bad guy,” I complain angrily.

Shit. Even a week and a gallon of liquor later, I’m still just as pissed as I was when it happened.

“She’s had seventeen years with that guy. There’s a history there that you can’t erase even if you do have a bigger dick than that fucker,” D.J. tells me with a laugh.

“I’m not an idiot, I get that. I didn’t expect to just waltz back into her life and obliterate everything she’s been through since I last saw her. Fuck, I didn’t expect to walk back into her life, period,” I tell him. “Even though I hate everything that dick she’s married to stands for, being with him made her who she is today and that’s not something I want to fuck with.”

I know it’s asinine and everything I’m thinking right now is crazy. We spent a few hours together for the first time in seventeen years and after a week without her I already felt like I was going insane.

A loud tone suddenly sounds through the station’s alarm system. A few seconds later, the crackle of the speakers wired to every room of the house cuts off the tone and we listen to the voice of dispatch.

“10-41, Code 1. Engine 10. 5182 Butternut Road. I repeat, 10-41, Code 1.”

D.J. and I share an annoyed look when we hear the address.

“Sounds like old man Wilcox fell asleep in his barn again with a lit cigarette in his mouth and a bottle of homemade moonshine in his hand,” D.J. laughs with a shake of his head as he gets up from his chair.

“That dumbass is going to burn the entire county down one of these days. That’s the third call this month.”

I start to get up from my chair when D.J. holds up his hand. “Sit your ass back down, I can handle this one. You’ve got that meeting with the new fire chief in an hour to give him a tour of this place. You don’t want to piss him off by not being here.”

Staying seated, I watch as D.J. hustles out of the room and starts shouting orders to the rest of the men. A few minutes later, the rumble of the diesel engines along with their sirens fill my ears, fading in the distance as they head out to Wilcox Farms, where they’ll most likely drag a drunk Mr. Wilcox out of his barn and put out the bale of hay he accidentally set on fire.

I try to keep my mind occupied with the pile of evaluation paperwork on my desk, but after ten minutes, I realize nothing is going to take my mind off of Finnley, especially since I’m currently staring at a stack of phone messages with her name scrawled across the top. She’s called the station at least ten times since last Monday and I’ve refused her call each time. I’ve never been a coward, but I can’t stand the thought of calling her back and listening to her tell me what happened between us was a mistake.

Resting my elbows on top of my desk, I run my palms over my face and hold my head in my hands. I’m sitting here like an asshole thinking about a woman who might be, at this very minute, doing everything in her power to make up with her husband and apologize for her affair.

Goddammit, I hate that word. Affair, fling, quick fuck… no matter how I twist the words, they all mean the same thing—a moment in time where a lapse in judgment causes a lifetime of regret. No matter how angry I am that she dismissed me so easily, I will never regret it. I will never regret touching her body, making her come so hard she screamed or finally sating the need I’ve always had for her.

Too bad all I did by screwing her was royally screw myself in the process. Once wasn’t enough. Twice wasn’t sufficient. Every day until I die wouldn’t stop the burn. All I did by taking what I’ve always wanted is light a match to the pile of kindling and make it explode. Now I’m stuck here with nothing but memories to keep me warm while she lives the rest of her life with someone else. Spending the last seventeen years constantly thinking about her was bad enough. Having to go another seventeen now that I’ve been inside her will be damn near impossible.

“Yo, Captain, there’s someone here to see you.”

Pulling my head away from my hands, I see Martinez standing in the doorway.

“Go ahead and take him upstairs to the weight room. Might as well start the tour with the new treadmills we just got in,” I tell him, grabbing the phone messages and crumpling them into a ball.

“But it’s-”

“The weight room, Martinez,” I cut him off.

“I don’t think you-”

“Jesus Christ, just take him to the weight room!” I argue, glaring at the rookie.

The poor guy runs from the room like his ass is on fire and I toss the crumpled phone messages into the trashcan next to my desk. I’ll apologize to him later. Fuck, I’ll have to apologize to the entire house for my short fuse the past week.

Pushing aside all thoughts of the woman who fucked up my life, I storm out of my office and make my way upstairs to the weight room. A tour of the house and a meeting about protocol is just the distraction I need right now.

Chapter 13—Hearts on Fire

STARING AT MYSELF in the wall of mirrors in the dimly lit room, I nervously fuss with my long hair, smoothing the soft layers over my shoulders as I take in my outfit. I’d paired a short black miniskirt with a form fitting grey cotton shirt, an ensemble that hugs my curves and highlights my best assets. It’s what I have on underneath my clothes that has butterflies flapping around in my stomach, though. The lace at the tops of the black thigh-highs is just barely hidden under the hem of the skirt. If I sit down, cross my legs, bend over or shift more than an inch, the garters and lace will peek out and make themselves known.




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