Home > Hot for You (Turn Up the Heat #3)

Hot for You (Turn Up the Heat #3)
Author: Marie Harte

 

Chapter One


   July in Seattle

   “I hate these things,” Reggie Morgan muttered to his partner as they readied to give a presentation to a full crowd of eager firefighting enthusiasts.

   “Relax. You’ll do fine.” Mack ran a hand through his always perfect hair, the guy vain enough to constantly wear it styled. Then again, the new fire station had used Mack’s chiseled chin, golden tan, and laughing, bright-blue eyes on a lot of the promotional material for Station 44.

   “Why aren’t you giving this ridiculous speech? You’re on all the posters.”

   “You could have been.” Mack grinned. “Your sister said you’re no Idris Elba, but I disagree.”

   “Shut up.”

   “Well, maybe Morris Chestnut but with hair.”

   “Mack, come on. You’re good at talking.” He added under his breath, “You never shut up.” When Mack frowned, he hurriedly tacked on, “You really represent Station 44.”

   “So do you and the rest of C shift. What’s your point?”

   Reggie had been stress sweating for the past half hour, thankful his dark-blue service uniform hid any unfortunate pit stains. Hell, put him in the middle of a roaring fire, in a submarine having technical difficulties eight hundred feet below the surface, or at a family dinner with his father and sisters giving him dating advice. All traumatic experiences.

   But none of them could beat a Monday afternoon lecture at the local library in front of a ton of people, the majority under the age of ten.

   Reggie tried again. “You’re the station’s wonder boy.”

   Mack smirked. “That’s true. I am the most talented, best-looking, and—”

   “Have the biggest mouth.”

   Mack shrugged. “And yet, the lieutenant wanted you to give the class. Go figure.”

   Reggie wished he’d never confessed to the LT how much he hated public speaking. Now the guy made it his mission in life to get Reggie over that nagging fear. “Yes, but he never said you couldn’t help.”

   “And take any attention away from the great Reggie Morgan? No thanks. I’ll just stand by, clicking slides and looking pretty while the brains of the operation—that’s what you’re always calling yourself, isn’t it?—takes center stage.”

   Reggie did like to remind the rest of his four-man crew that he was the brains of their unit. And the brawn, come to think of it. Sure, the other two on duty had some muscle, but none of them could out-bench him. Mack might be faster on a distance run, but Reggie could break him in half without much effort. Of course, since his free time nowadays consisted of lifting weights when not hanging with the guys, that did explain—

   “Quit stalling. You’re up.” Mack shoved him from behind the stacks where he’d been hiding, exposing him to a bazillion stares.

   Reggie caught his balance, glared over his shoulder at Mack, then plastered a smile on his face and walked toward the large screen, which would display the slideshow presentation the station had put together for events such as these.

   He looked out over the crowd of close to fifty—hell—children and a few parents, all waiting expectantly for Reggie to regale them with stories about firefighting and life in the station.

   He cleared his throat and said, “Hello there,” at the same time the librarian in charge of public events introduced him. Reggie ignored Mack’s chuckle and watched his future ex-friend walk to the other side of the screen, pick up a remote for the slideshow, and wait.

   The librarian was saying, “Reggie Morgan, one of our wonderful firefighters from the new station serving the Beacon Hill, New Holly, and South Beacon Hill neighborhoods. Reggie’s here today to tell us what it’s like to be a firefighter. He’s got pictures too.”

   Mack waved at the crowd, at ease with being in front of people the way Reggie would never be.

   “And I see that Firefighter Morgan’s brought along an assistant,” the librarian, old enough to be Reggie’s grandmother, said with a smile.

   “A handsome, single assistant,” Mack said with a huge grin. “I’m Mack.”

   “Mack,” Reggie said under his breath. “Behave.”

   Several of the parents with their children gave Mack a second look.

   “I’ll give you my number when we’re through,” the librarian teased and continued when the laughter had died down. “Welcome all, and let’s get this show on the road.” She turned to Reggie. “And thank you for agreeing to do this.”

   The lieutenant had carved out an hour for the lecture, part of the fire department’s public relations and a way to engage the community. Reggie loved the idea of the station getting to know their neighbors, but not if he had to be the one doing the talking.

   He gave Mack another look.

   The bastard ignored him.

   Reggie turned back to the crowd of eager faces and knew he might as well get started. “Hi, everyone. Thanks for coming out on a sunny summer day. I know you’d probably rather be swimming or playing than hearing me talk.”

   “Not me,” one little girl said. “I have a lot of questions.”

   “Me too,” a young boy agreed.

   “Okay. Great.” Reggie cleared his throat, not comfortable with such scrutiny. The little girl had dark eyes that seemed to look through him, not at him. She couldn’t be more than five or six, dressed to look adorable in matching pink shorts and a T-shirt showing off her tan, holding a fuzzy grizzly bear.

   But that cuteness packaged a small, intense, and scary kid.

   He swallowed and pointed to the screen, now showing a picture of a fire truck and the number “44” emblazoned over it. “I’m Reggie. This is Mack.” Mack nodded. “We’re with Station 44, and we work C shift. Our station has four eight-person shifts—A, B, C, and D. And we have two lieutenants, who are our bosses. We—”

   The little girl cut in, “How come you only have two lieutenants but you have four shifts? I know my math, and I think you’re missing two.”

   Reggie contained a sigh. “Our lieutenants cover two shifts each.”

   “Oh.” The little girl nodded.

   “We have pretty much the best job in the world, because we get to help people when we can, and we get to meet new people all the time.”

   “But what if they’re burned? That’s not great.” The little girl frowned.

   Behind her, a well-dressed man, in slacks and a polo, rolled his eyes.

   “That’s a good point,” Reggie agreed. “And maybe this job wouldn’t be good for someone who hates fire or is afraid of blood. But we—”

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