All Fired Up
Chapter One
     
     
    Cindy walked confidently into the day room of Hillwood Fire Station, her heavy, blue backpack slung across one shoulder. She scanned the room, noting the long lunch table surrounded by metal framed chairs. At one end was a dish sink and microwave. Crumpled, limp linen dish towels covered the surfaces of the bench space. A refrigerator hummed in the corner, its door and sides plastered in magazine clippings and photos, held on with magnets. Newspapers and magazines, scattered across the table in an untidy fashion, partially covered sticky coffee stains and grains of sugar.
    Screwing up her nose at the mess, she decided that stowing her neatly packed lunch in the dirty-looking refrigerator would be a stupid thing to do. Instead, she decided to leave it where it was, in her backpack. Pulling out a vacant chair, she plonked her bag down on it, and put her hand to her hair. That morning she’d taken extra care to rein in her mop of unruly locks, severely pulling it back into a ponytail at the nape of her neck. The officer at reception had told her to come in here, make herself at home, and grab a coffee. Dirty, stained mugs—some still with brown sludge sitting inside—perched uninvitingly on the stainless steel draining board. Humph, she thought, fat chance of me using one of those.
    She opened her backpack and pulled out a stainless steel water bottle. The engraving caught her eye— Cindy ‘Cinders’ — Emergency Water Supply. She smiled. It was a gift from one of her brothers on her graduation from the Firefighter Academy. She opened the lid and took a long drink, then stuffed the bottle back in her bag. She screwed up her nose as she surveyed the uninviting table. From beneath one of the newspapers, bright green eyes peered at her from a glossy photo. Casually reaching over, she flicked the paper aside, revealing more of the face. A small laugh escaped her lips. A calendar. A fireman calendar. What a joke. She would have thought it more appropriate for them to have the female firefighter calendar there in that all-male bastion. Then again, considering she worked there, perhaps it was just as well they didn’t.
    She picked it up to take a closer look at the firefighter for the month of April. His oiled and fake-tanned torso was sculpted like a Greek Adonis, six pack bulging. Red braces, holding up his bright yellow, fire resistant trousers, hid his nipples. The veins in his biceps stood out, tracing lines across his smooth, flawless skin. Below his navel, the baggy waistband hid God-knew-what. The trousers, voluminous and unflattering, looked incongruous around his incredible body. She forced her eyes to move back up to his face. A square, chiseled chin framed sultry, sensuous lips that seemed to mock her. An aquiline nose, strong and aristocratic, lay beneath those green, green eyes. They locked onto hers as though he was really seeing her. Surprisingly, her heartbeat got faster as she stared at those eyes. The calendar in her hands began shaking as she ogled the picture. A strange sensation stirred deep inside her.
    A loud guffaw made her jump. Dropping the calendar, she looked up to see four men clearly checking her out. Heat infused her face.
    “So, which one’s given ya the hots, darlin’?”
    She came back to earth, trying desperately to regain her normal composure. Before her stood four men with torsos like tree trunks—strong and thick. White T-shirts hugged their muscles, bulging even under no duress. They each wore navy blue work trousers and big, black boots.
    Laughter filled the room. But not hers. Her heartbeat was still up, and a trickle of sweat ran down the back of her head onto her neck. Words stuck in her throat as embarrassment turned to anger.
    The man who had spoken stepped forward, his red buzz cut glistening as he bent down and retrieved the calendar from the floor.
    “Ah, it’s Dave. Mr. April himself.” More laughter burst from the trio of buffoons still gawking at

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