Home > Fired Up (The Bayside Heroes)

Fired Up (The Bayside Heroes)
Author: K.K. Allen

 

PROLOGUE

 

 

ASHER

 

 

My chest feels like it’s going to explode. Heat ripples through me with each push as my shoulders and triceps take the brunt of the impact. Just a little higher. A little more. Beads of sweat slide down my neck as I grunt out the last few inches of my strain.

“This is what you get for skipping the gym for two weeks, Moore. Let’s go.”

I glare up at Aaron Jacobs, my best friend and co-worker who is spotting my bench press reps at the fire station’s in-house gym. He’s the worst kind of motivator—a tough love kind of guy—but he’s also providing the kick in my ass I know I need right now.

After regaining my focus, I use my last bit of strength to finish the press.

“Atta boy.”

I let the bar down, and he helps me rack it. All the muscle tension I’ve been holding releases in one big whoosh. The second I get my breath back, I tip my neck back to catch the smug look on Aaron’s face. “You don’t have to be such a condescending asshole.”

He chuckles. “Can’t help it. I never thought you of all people would let an ankle sprain take you out for two weeks.”

I sit up and shake my head. “It wasn’t just the sprain. It was the damn back spasms that killed me. Chief threatened probation if I so much as set foot back in a gym until the doc cleared me.”

I frown at the memory of the blast that forced me to jump from a second-story window. Not only did I land wrong on my feet, but I fell backward into a stack of rotting plywood. Everyone was too focused on the four kids my team had just rescued from the fire to poke fun at me then. But ever since, it’s been nonstop harassment from my crew.

“Heard you missed the ladder, Moore. Better luck next time.”

“I thought pussies always landed on their feet.”

They didn’t go easy. They never go easy.

Aaron chuckles. “Probably because your stubborn ass would have tried to hop straight into a fire on your one good foot. He knows you too well.”

I’m not going to argue there. Chief Boone has been in charge at Station 24 in Tampa, Florida, during the five years I’ve alternated duties as firefighter and EMT. A father-son type of bond exists between us, especially after my pops passed away last winter, but the man is never afraid to remind me that he’s my boss. If anything, he’s harder on me than on most of the other guys here.

I stretch out my right leg and rotate my ankle slowly, testing the motion as my foot makes several circles.

“Look at that,” Aaron says. “Now, you’re good as new.

I wink at him. “Just in time for your wedding this weekend.”

“That’s right. Wouldn’t want my best man limping down the aisle.”

I scrunch my face and wave away his comment. “Nah, who cares about that. In fact, the ladies would probably dig it. A wounded firefighter in a suit, in need of lots of tending to.” I wink and hop onto my feet. “I was thinking more about the after party.” I move my ass to the old Justin Bieber hit streaming through the gym speakers. Something about getting peaches out in Georgia. “Oh yeah. The ladies aren’t going to be able to resist these moves.”

Aaron tosses his workout towel at my face and takes a seat on the bench. “You sure it was the fall that gave you those back spasms?” He points to my ass that I haven’t stopped shaking. “Or was it the way you throw that thing around?”

I stop in mid move, make a face, and shrug. “No complaints yet.”

“No women either.”

The topic sours me instantly. I’m well aware of the drought that is my sex life, but after Sheena and I separated two years ago, I closed off the part of me that I’d given away too freely before. Now, even though the chains are broken, I can’t forget the hell I went through to get here. That’s one fire I can’t see myself ever jumping back into.

“I was still technically married. It didn’t feel right.”

Aaron wrinkles his forehead. “You have no excuses now.”

I shrug. “I’m not going to argue. I finally feel ready to get back out there, but I’m in no hurry to jump into another marriage.”

“You say that now, but you’re a commitment kind of man. You won’t be single for long. It will just take the right woman. Until then, there’s nothing wrong with a little casual sex.”

I cringe at the thought of sleeping around. I married Sheena straight out of high school. Casual sex is not a concept I grasp easily.

“You’ve been through a lot,” Aaron continues, “but it’s definitely time to get back out there. Sheena isn’t the only woman you’re ever going to love, but you’re going to have a hell of a time finding the next one if you don’t start looking. What’s it been, two years since you got laid?”

I open my mouth and then snap it shut as heat rushes up my neck. “Not exactly.”

Aaron’s eyes widen. “You just said you didn’t feel right…” I remain silent until Aaron connects the dots. “No fucking way. You slept with Sheena after you separated?”

I shake my head. “It didn’t mean anything. It was the night the divorce was finalized. Emotions were high, and she wanted closure.”

“Closure?” Aaron’s voice is high-pitched. It takes a lot to shock my best friend. “It’s not closure if the woman is still in love with you.”

“It doesn’t change the reality of our situation. You know I tried. Even after I found out about the infidelity, I tried. But at the end of the day, we both deserve to have the things we want in a relationship, and the two of us just aren’t right for each other anymore.”

Aaron sighs. “I’m with you, Ash. I’m just saying, Sheena already spent the last two years putting you through hell by stalling the divorce and then trying to get you to change your mind at the last minute. What makes you think she’ll stop now?”

“Because we’re divorced. It’s over. And I’m ready to move on.”

He studies me with worried eyes, like he fears I’ll get roped back into what turned into a toxic situation of lies, deceit, cheating, and manipulation. He’s not wrong to think the way he does. He was there for me through it all. What he doesn’t yet realize is that while I may not be eager to jump into another marriage, I’m eager to move forward. I learned a lot about love and relationships from what I had with Sheena. I know what I want, what I don’t want, and I know there’s no rush. This time, I’m going to do things right.

I plant myself behind him in an obvious attempt to change the subject. “Stop delaying, Jacobs. You have a wedding to get buff for.”

He gives me a cocky wink. “Becca knows what she’s getting herself into. Now, that stair climb in a few weeks is another matter.” He points at me as if remembering something. “Speaking of, have you secured a photographer for the calendar yet? They’ll need to be at the climb.”

I close my eyes and groan as dread fills me. “Shit. No, not yet. It completely slipped my mind with everything going on. I’ll get on it.”

Aaron and I have been talking about starting a charity together for years. We want to raise funds for burn victims and their families. One of our first ideas is to put together a firefighter calendar that we can sell at the end of the year. Our plan is rock solid, filled with the support of local radio stations that will give us free promotion as well as local businesses that will help with things like catering and securing venues for special events. The only thing missing is a photographer.

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