Published by Montlake Romance
Exclusive Excerpt: Burning Up by Jennifer Blackwood
Jake scanned the contents of the Intimidator, checking that all the equipment was put back in its proper place from A shift.
Simple tasks. He liked those. They droned out the storm that had been pouring down on his thoughts ever since he’d taken Erin out.
He checked the chart on the wall by the door to the rec room. All the meds used last shift had been replaced. He double-checked. Never could be too sure.
His mind started to slip back to Friday. The softness of Erin’s lips. He fumbled with a vial of insulin.
Three days later and he still hadn’t texted her back. Didn’t know if he should text her back. He didn’t like this, the whole overthinking thing. That was why he’d sworn off dating in the first place. It was just too damn confusing.
He glanced at the med box one last time, silently inventorying everything.
A hand clapped on his shoulder, and Jake gritted his teeth, trying not to lose count with his task.
“Missed you the other night for burgers. Where were you? And don’t give that lame excuse that you were busy. We all know you just sit at home and watch your Matlock, old man,” Hollywood said.
“That’s Murder, She Wrote to you. And no, I was out with a friend.” So he didn’t actually watch the show, but if Hollywood was going to treat him like an old man, he’d play it up. Even if he was only a few years older than him.
“Your friend. She happen to have the same last name as another one of our firefighters?”
That title—friend—sounded so wrong to Jake’s ears. Sure, they’d kissed. And talked. Hell, he’d done more talking in one night than he had in an entire month.
Keep yourself guarded. You have more than yourself to think about.
“Bring her over,” Hollywood said.
“To the lake this Friday.” He huffed out a laugh. Erin at the lake with his men? This screamed bad idea. “And subject her to your heathen ways? Not happening.”
“What? You nervous we’ll steal her away?”
“More like scare her away.”
“Nobody but you would be stupid enough to mess with Reece’s sister,” Hollywood said.
Right. Jake had apparently been whacked over the head with a stupid stick.
His gut told him this would end badly, and his gut hadn’t been wrong yet. And yet he couldn’t get Erin off his mind. “We’re just keeping it casual. It’s not like that.” If he said it enough times, it’d be true.
“Who are you talking about?” Reece strode in from the kitchen, stopping to lean against the doorframe to the garage.
“Don’t you see how he’s going all googly-eyed? Who do you think?”
Reece cut his glance to Jake. He’d majorly messed up the bro code by not running this by Reece first, but Jake hadn’t been using much of his head lately.
“Who?” Reece asked again.
Jake cleared his throat. Damn. He really didn’t want to do this at work. It’d be much easier with a beer and a burger. “Erin.”
“My sister, Erin? Is that the one you’re referring to?”
“There’s a brownie in the kitchen with my name on it. I’ll just leave you two to work this out,” Hollywood said. He disappeared into the station, the metal door shutting with a loud clunk.
“Hey, man, I’m sorry—”
Reece put his hands up, stopping him. “You don’t need to explain anything to me. You’re a grown-ass man. It’s weird—I’ll admit that.”
“It’s weird for me, too,” Jake admitted. “We cool?”
“Always,” Reece said as he checked out the contents of the med kit, even though he’d just seen Jake do this. “Just remember she’s leaving.” He gave him a knowing look.
Yeah. Something that he knew but was choosing to ignore at the moment.