Josie Moore was surrounded by a dozen handsome halfnaked
men, and not a single one of them was hers. Story of
my life. When it came to the opposite sex, she didn’t have
any luck at all. Which was why, yet again, she was available
on a weekend to do this favor for the mayor.
At least, thanks to this video-shooting gig, instead of sitting at home alone she was filming the behind-the-scenes look at the firefighter calendar shoot.
She’d joked with Mayor Bridges that watching hot guys strip down was going to be a sweet job, and it would have been had she not been so crazy worried about the Big Fat Lie she’d told her mother.
She didn’t like lying. But “Josie-you’re-so-deficient”
remark #109 had pushed her over the edge of truth into the
murky waters of half truths, which then so easily slid into
the BFL. There was a way out of it…she just hadn’t found
Her mother was still angry with her for giving up her
counseling practice to start the video business. But Josie
didn’t care. That life had never fit her. It had been the one her
parents had wanted for her. She loved the creative freedom
she had now, but it wasn’t what her mother considered a
“real” job, which made their phone calls a little…heated
They were usually filled with her constant
disappointment about how Josie was never enough. She was
too picky, too curvy, too strong. She threw away a perfectly
good career. She wouldn’t ever be in a serious relationship.
Which is how, after a few too many glasses of wine and
a lot of frustration and hurt, Josie had ended up telling her
mother that actually she wasn’t hopelessly single—she was
dating a firefighter.
It had seemed like a good idea at the time, likely due to the aforementioned alcohol. She’d done damage control a few days later by revealing they’d “broken up,” but by the end of the call, she’d somehow told her mother they were trying to work things out.
Telling herself it was okay, she’d fix it in time, she’d put
it out of her mind. Her parents hadn’t lived in Morganville
in years, so what were the odds that they’d suddenly decide
to move back? Apparently, pretty high.
Now they were rolling into town in a matter of days and
she was going to have to tell Lincoln Bradford, her once
upon a time crush, what she’d done. Preferably before he
heard it through the gossip grapevine. But how did one tell
a man that he was supposed to be her breakup boyfriend?
She glanced at the front of the fire station where the
object of her thoughts stood. She’d grown up idolizing her
best friend Casey’s older brother. The first piece of her Star
Trek memorabilia collection had come from Lincoln. It was
on her eleventh birthday and it had only been a keychain
with a replica of the Enterprise on it, but she had treasured
Birthdays weren’t celebrated at her house with gifts or
cake. Instead, her parents deposited money into her college
savings fund every year and had done so from the time she
was five. While she appreciated that, her young heart had
always longed to have the experiences and celebrations that
other kids did.
Josie brought her thoughts back into focus when Judge
Doyle’s son, who owned a photography shop in town, called
out instructions for Lincoln to turn and flex that hard body
Lincoln did, directing those dark eyes of his her way.
Josie coughed to keep a breath mint from going down
the wrong way. “I’m fine,” she said in a strangled voice when
Mayor Bridges thumped her on the back. She peered into
the lens again and Lincoln filled the view.
He wore his yellow turnout pants hooked to red
suspenders on either side of his impressive chest. In the
crook of his arm, he cradled a small brown mutt that
wouldn’t stop wriggling. Lincoln spoke quietly to the dog,
then flicked his gaze to her again.
Her heart sped up. Turning her back to the group of
men, Josie pretended her video camera stabilizer needed
her immediate attention. She was doing great getting the
pitter-patter of her heart under control when someone
tapped her arm.
Beside her, Warren Doyle looked up at the bright blue
October sky. He squinted, turned to Josie, then pointed at
Lincoln. “The makeup girl seems to have disappeared, and
Lincoln has a shine on his chest that’s giving off a glare. Can
you take care of that?”
“You want me to…”
“Put some anti-shine here”—Warren patted his own
chest impatiently—“on Mr. Muscles.”
Josie looked at Lincoln. Despite having crushed on
him for years, he’d never seemed to see her as more than
his little sister’s best friend until recently. After Casey had
gotten engaged, Josie and Lincoln had been thrown together
to help with the planning and they’d grown closer. Then,
suddenly, Lincoln had started pulling away.
If they were still friendly, she’d be able to laugh with
him and even tell him about her lie and it probably wouldn’t
be a big deal. But she wasn’t so sure now. Straightening
her shoulders, she nodded at the photographer. “Not a
She picked up the sponge and the tube of makeup and
marched toward Lincoln, the guilt of her lie pecking at
her subconscious like a flock of annoyed birds. When she
reached him, she cleared her throat. “You have a glare,”
she said in what she thought was a great nothing’s-going-on
She unscrewed the makeup lid, squeezed a little onto
the sponge, and then dabbed it against his chest, careful not
to let her fingers come into contact with his skin.
“I heard about your date,” he said. “Are you okay?”
She frowned, wondering at the concern in his voice
after he’d been so distant lately. “I’m fine,” she said, even
though the date had been anything but. She’d been shocked
when Lex Burton had continued to consume drinks until
he’d reached the point of falling out of his chair.
She’d called a friend of his to give him a ride home, then she’d left. Lex had been her third miserable date of the month and that fact
wasn’t a secret.
Living in a small town like Morganville, Georgia meant
her entire pitiful dating life was on display.
“Are you sure?”
“What’d you hear? That I ducked out halfway through?”
Come on, sponge, cover this glare so I can move away from
“No, I heard Lex showed up at your house at three in
the morning to drunkenly serenade you.”
If that was all he’d heard, that wasn’t so bad. “I handled
He flashed a smile that transformed his serious
expression into one of teasing, and for a second, the Lincoln
she knew was back. “You locked yourself out of your house.”
She had, while wearing a long-sleeved shirt and her
underwear. But in her defense, she’d only caught the first
few strains of the serenade and thought her neighbor’s not too-
bright cat had his head stuck in the opening of her gutter
Feeling sorry for him, she’d rushed out only to
find a barely able to stand Lex. She’d waved her hands in a
shooing motion, trying to get him to go home, just as Mr.
Williams had driven by her house on his way to work. The
older man had gaped at her and then accidentally plowed
his pickup into the mailbox next door. It wasn’t one of her
“Mr. Williams is telling anyone who’ll listen that you
Josie searched his face. After months of speaking to
her as little as possible, he was awfully chatty now. “I was
wearing flesh-colored underwear. I did not moon him.”
“I also heard you ended up with a warning ticket for
Josie lowered the sponge, exasperated at the town
gossips. “That’s not true, either.” Steeling herself, she took
a deep breath and looked into Lincoln’s eyes. “So…I kind
Warren called out Josie’s name, giving her the what
gives? palms-up gesture at the same time.
“Sorry!” Josie acknowledged, turning and giving him
a nod, not sure if she was thankful for the interruption or
not. She glanced back at Lincoln. “I should go. I need to get
home and edit the footage. It was…good to see you.”
She spun on her heel and managed to calmly walk back to her
equipment. There had to be a way for her to fix things that
didn’t include completely humiliating herself—she’d done
enough of that already.
I still have some time…everything will be fine.
Lincoln watched Josie’s long brown hair bounce lightly
against her back as her hips swayed. Look away. He
swallowed and redirected his gaze. His sister’s best friend
was off-limits, and even if she weren’t, after one too many
painful breakups, Lincoln had sworn off love. Nothing good
ever came from it.
His last girlfriend, Savannah, had been the closest thing
he’d had to a long-term relationship. Then she’d broken up
with him via text message less than a week after a terrible
fire at work had left his best friend Kent horribly scarred,
and another firefighter, Aiden, dead.
Her reasoning had been that Lincoln wasn’t the guy “you spent forever with.” He’d locked away the sting, and just when his heart had stopped aching, he’d noticed Josie, as if seeing her for the
Standing in her ripped jeans, with curves that would
make any man have trouble concentrating, it was like
lightning had struck when he’d looked at her that night at
Casey’s, months after his breakup. It was an awareness that
had led him to take drastic measures.
He’d made a plan.
His perfect, no failure, no heartbreak plan for his life
meant no relationships and absolutely no falling in love.