The Firefighter's Perfect Plan

By: Sonya Weiss
Chapter One

Josie Moore was surrounded by a dozen handsome half-naked men, and not a single one of them was hers. Story of my life. When it came to the opposite sex, she didn’t have any luck at all. Which was why, yet again, she was available on a weekend to do this favor for the mayor.

At least, thanks to this video-shooting gig, instead of sitting at home alone she was filming the behind-the-scenes look at the firefighter calendar shoot. She’d joked with Mayor Bridges that watching hot guys strip down was going to be a sweet job, and it would have been had she not been so crazy worried about the Big Fat Lie she’d told her mother.

She didn’t like lying. But “Josie-you’re-so-deficient” remark #109 had pushed her over the edge of truth into the murky waters of half truths, which then so easily slid into the BFL. There was a way out of it…she just hadn’t found it yet.

Her mother was still angry with her for giving up her counseling practice to start the video business. But Josie didn’t care. That life had never fit her. It had been the one her parents had wanted for her. She loved the creative freedom she had now, but it wasn’t what her mother considered a “real” job, which made their phone calls a little…heated lately.

They were usually filled with her constant disappointment about how Josie was never enough. She was too picky, too curvy, too strong. She threw away a perfectly good career. She wouldn’t ever be in a serious relationship.

Which is how, after a few too many glasses of wine and a lot of frustration and hurt, Josie had ended up telling her mother that actually she wasn’t hopelessly single—she was dating a firefighter. It had seemed like a good idea at the time, likely due to the aforementioned alcohol. She’d done damage control a few days later by revealing they’d “broken up,” but by the end of the call, she’d somehow told her mother they were trying to work things out.

Telling herself it was okay, she’d fix it in time, she’d put it out of her mind. Her parents hadn’t lived in Morganville in years, so what were the odds that they’d suddenly decide to move back? Apparently, pretty high.

Now they were rolling into town in a matter of days and she was going to have to tell Lincoln Bradford, her once upon a time crush, what she’d done. Preferably before he heard it through the gossip grapevine. But how did one tell a man that he was supposed to be her breakup boyfriend?

She glanced at the front of the fire station where the object of her thoughts stood. She’d grown up idolizing her best friend Casey’s older brother. The first piece of her Star Trek memorabilia collection had come from Lincoln. It was on her eleventh birthday and it had only been a keychain with a replica of the Enterprise on it, but she had treasured it.

Birthdays weren’t celebrated at her house with gifts or cake. Instead, her parents deposited money into her college savings fund every year and had done so from the time she was five. While she appreciated that, her young heart had always longed to have the experiences and celebrations that other kids did.

Josie brought her thoughts back into focus when Judge Doyle’s son, who owned a photography shop in town, called out instructions for Lincoln to turn and flex that hard body of his.

Lincoln did, directing those dark eyes of his her way.

Josie coughed to keep a breath mint from going down the wrong way. “I’m fine,” she said in a strangled voice when Mayor Bridges thumped her on the back. She peered into the lens again and Lincoln filled the view.

He wore his yellow turnout pants hooked to red suspenders on either side of his impressive chest. In the crook of his arm, he cradled a small brown mutt that wouldn’t stop wriggling. Lincoln spoke quietly to the dog, then flicked his gaze to her again.

Her heart sped up. Turning her back to the group of men, Josie pretended her video camera stabilizer needed her immediate attention. She was doing great getting the pitter-patter of her heart under control when someone tapped her arm.

Beside her, Warren Doyle looked up at the bright blue October sky. He squinted, turned to Josie, then pointed at Lincoln. “The makeup girl seems to have disappeared, and Lincoln has a shine on his chest that’s giving off a glare. Can you take care of that?”

“You want me to…”

“Put some anti-shine here”—Warren patted his own chest impatiently—“on Mr. Muscles.”

Josie looked at Lincoln. Despite having crushed on him for years, he’d never seemed to see her as more than his little sister’s best friend until recently. After Casey had gotten engaged, Josie and Lincoln had been thrown together to help with the planning and they’d grown closer. Then, suddenly, Lincoln had started pulling away.

If they were still friendly, she’d be able to laugh with him and even tell him about her lie and it probably wouldn’t be a big deal. But she wasn’t so sure now. Straightening her shoulders, she nodded at the photographer. “Not a problem.” Liar.

She picked up the sponge and the tube of makeup and marched toward Lincoln, the guilt of her lie pecking at her subconscious like a flock of annoyed birds. When she reached him, she cleared her throat. “You have a glare,” she said in what she thought was a great nothing’s-going-on voice. She unscrewed the makeup lid, squeezed a little onto the sponge, and then dabbed it against his chest, careful not to let her fingers come into contact with his skin.

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