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Need You for Mine(10)

By:Marina Adair

He was free to do what—and who—he wanted. Anytime, anywhere. No one to answer to—or disappoint. Adam had no limits on his life, a situation he’d worked hard to create.

One that worked for him just fine.

“Oh, and I wouldn’t cross her path for a few days,” Dax said. “She was sharpening her chef’s knives when she was telling me to steer clear of you, and I’m not sure whether those knives were for work or for the next time she saw you.”

“Great,” Adam said, wondering if he could skip Emi’s food cart for a few days and bring his own lunch.

His phone rang.

“Baudouin,” he answered.

“Yeah, um, hey Adam, it’s Seth.” Seth was a summer hire who was hoping to be brought on full time at the end of the season. He was crafty, well trained, determined, and as the house’s FNG—i.e., Fucking New Guy—a colossal pain in Adam’s ass.

“This had better be good,” Adam said. “Because if you’d taken the time to check the schedule before calling, you’d have seen I’m enjoying my day off.”

“Cap doesn’t come on until tomorrow. And, uh . . .” Adam could practically hear him crying through the phone. “I kind of have a problem.”

“Define problem,” Adam said, and FNG’s sheepish silence had Adam resting his head on the counter. Hard.

The kid had a major talent for screwing the pooch with the best of intentions. The last time he’d called Adam, he’d taken one of Adam’s pranks too far—an April Fool’s petition Adam had circulated to have a condom vending machine installed for “safety” reasons—and replaced all the candy in the machines with tropical-flavored condoms. It was also the day they’d had a scheduled visit from St. Vincent’s Academy. Sister Margaret was not happy when her students spent all their lunch money on Tropical Temptations.

“I kind of dinged the engine.”

Adam sat up. “Which engine?”

“The new one.”

Adam closed his eyes as the thoughts—all having to do with damage control—pinged around his head: Who’s gonna get pissed at who? How will this affect the FNG? Will it only be a letter in his file? Or a five percent dock in pay?

It was a ping, ping, ping that landed right back on him.

As an equipment apparatus engineer, it was Adam’s job to ensure all of the department’s equipment was in pristine condition. Especially the rigs. But their new rig? His battalion chief would rupture a nut if he heard it was dented.

Adam released a breath. “I’m on my way.”

Praying for a miracle, Adam headed toward the fire station. It was only six doors down from Stan’s, a two-minute walk, tops. He’d figure out the problem, implement a solution, and get back to business as usual.

He wasn’t sure what that was yet, but he hoped it involved a hot meal and an even hotter woman.

However, as his luck would have it, the only woman in sight was wearing bright orange shorts, sunglasses from I Love Lucy, and a denim smock tied at the waist with a dozen or more strips of tape stuck to the front. Unfortunately, it was not the getup Harper wore last night in his dreams, but weirdly it had its own appeal. The smock hid any kind of cleavage she might have going on under there, but those shorts were soft, snug, and showing off her assets.

And what a spectacular asset she had. That he hadn’t dreamed up.

Harper was fighting to hang a sign in the library window and the sign was winning. In her defense, it was pretty big. More like a banner and a two-person job. But since Little Miss Sunshine had made it clear the other night that she didn’t welcome his help, and Adam always listened when a lady spoke her mind, he leaned against a lamppost and watched for a good minute or so, enjoying the view.

A little amusing, a little odd, and fully entertaining.

Then the wind picked up, catching a corner of the banner, which smacked Harper in the forehead. Adam suppressed a laugh, barely, as she struggled to right it. Only it slowly folded over her until all that was visible were those bare legs.

“Need help?” Adam finally asked, and the struggling stopped. He was pretty sure her breathing stopped too. But her frustration—that seemed to grow thick in the air.

“I can’t afford your help,” she said from beneath the sign, which he could now see advertised the upcoming Beat the Heat Festival.

“Helping out with Beat the Heat, huh?” He crossed his arms and grinned. “Does that make you a fire bunny?”

Beat the Heat was an annual festival held at the start of every summer that brought in visitors from all around wine country and beyond. Locals came for the food and the fanfare, and tourists came to experience the beauty of the valley when covered with wild mustard and blooming vines. A fire bunny—well, those were ladies who offered up their services during the event in hopes of servicing one of the single St. Helena Fire Department firefighters.