Fire and Love
Firefighters of Long Valley Romance Novel – Book 3
In every way that counts, Levi is the polar opposite of his best friend, Moose. Instead of coming from the richest family in Long Valley, Levi’s father is the town drunk, and his mother, sick of the beatings, took off when he was only two.
Over time, he’d found a bit of stability when Moose’s family took him in, but life is never easy, and Levi quickly finds that coming from the wrong side of the tracks causes more than one problem in this sleepy town…
Coming August 2018, Fire and Love is the third novel in the Firefighters of Long Valley series, although all books in the Long Valley world can be read as standalones. It has some strong language, and oh my, sexy times. Enjoy!
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“Yeah, I know it’s our tradition,” Moose Garrett said, his disgruntlement coming through loud and clear, “but…” He groaned in frustration. “I just don’t want to be away from Georgia for the entire weekend. C’mon, we’ve brought people along with us before.”
“Men,” Levi Scranton retorted pointedly, perusing his fridge as they talked, shoving his cell phone between his ear and shoulder so he could use both hands to pull out empty takeout containers and nearly empty jugs of milk. “Not people. It’s a guys’ weekend to go camping and fishing and sit around the campfire and drink beers, not listen to girls squeal about how gross it is to hook a worm and toss it into the water.”
“You really think Georgia is going to be squeamish about hooking a worm?” Moose asked, laughing. Levi ground his back teeth together. That was not the point, and Moose knew it.
Levi wanted a weekend where he could wander around in his boxers and scratch his nuts and spit into the bushes. You know, things you just couldn’t do around a female of any kind, not even the Georgia kind.
“Oh hey, you should invite someone to come along with!” Moose said excitedly, clearly thrilled by the genius of his own idea. “Then you won’t feel like such a third wheel.”
Even as Levi was rolling his eyes at his best friend’s obtuseness, he could hear Moose and Levi’s former girlfriend mumbling to each other, the microphone apparently covered up by someone’s hand, and felt a bolt of jealousy shoot through him. Georgia was there with him, just hanging out. Of course she was there with him. They’d just kissed and made up – quite literally – a few days ago.
And Levi was happy for them. Obviously.
It was just hard to hear them coo nonsense at each other, was all. He wouldn’t want to listen to anyone coo nonsense. The fact that it was his best friend and his former girlfriend? That didn’t enter into the equation.
Finally, Georgia’s voice came on the line. “I think you should invite Tennessee,” she announced without preamble. Shocked, Levi straightened up so fast from his inspection of his mostly empty fridge that he whacked his head on the freezer door.
“Shit!” he mumbled, rubbing the back of his head while shutting the fridge and leaning up against it.
“What? What’s wrong?”
“Nothing,” he grumbled. He touched the tender spot carefully. Dammit, he was gonna get a goose egg from that one. “But c’mon, Tennessee?! I can’t ask her to go on a camping and fishing trip with me. With us. Even if you’re her cousin. I mean, have you looked at your cousin lately? She’d freak the hell out as soon as she figured out that the tent didn’t come equipped with electrical outlets for her curling iron.”
Tennessee Rowland was Georgia’s cousin, but God had never created two people more different than those two. While Georgia was a real fitness buff, ran the local credit union as the youngest branch manager in history, and wouldn’t wear nail polish if her life depended on it, Tennessee…well, Levi wasn’t quite sure what she did all day. Get her hair highlighted? Practice the piano? Go clothes shopping for shoes that cost more than Levi made in a month?
Yeah, Tennessee’s manicured, perfect body didn’t belong anywhere near a fishing pole.
“She’d kill me if she knew I was saying this,” Georgia said quietly, “but honestly, Tennessee is struggling right now. She may not have loved Moose the way that I do, but their relationship had been a huge part of her life practically since she was born. Now, all of that’s gone, and she really doesn’t know what to do with herself. She’d love to go camping, I promise. But, if I ask her, then it’ll seem like I’m trying to set you two up on a date or something. If you ask her as just friends, then it won’t be weird.”
Sometimes, he hated talking to Georgia. She made so much damn sense and honestly, it was a little annoying. Did she always have to be so rational? Somehow, Georgia had twisted it around so that asking Tennessee – one of the most gorgeous women Levi had ever clapped eyes on – to go camping with them had become something that a good guy would do, instead of being something that a creeper would do because he couldn’t keep his tongue in his head while he was around her.
Not that Levi had any experience with that, of course. He knew better than that. Sure, Tennessee and he had flirted a little at the firefighter fundraiser a couple of months ago, but c’mon. There was no way she actually liked him. She should be dating Justin Bieber or some superstar, for hell’s sake.
Levi Scranton, local hick and son of the town drunk? He didn’t even register on her radar.
And that was how it should be.
“Just ask her and let’s go have some fun,” Georgia said firmly, obviously not budging. “Here’s Moose back,” and with that, Levi’s conversation with Georgia was over. She’d decided, so it should be done.
“You there?” Moose asked, his voice coming back on the line.
“Your girlfriend is real stubborn, you know that?” Levi asked dryly.
“You dated her for three years and you’re just now starting to figure that out?” Moose asked, laughing again. Levi ground his back teeth together. Again. When, exactly, had Moose started laughing every other sentence? Was he always this cheerful? Between that and the cooing of nonsense to Georgia, he sure was stretching Levi’s patience. “But the problem is,” Moose continued dryly, “she’s almost always right. Sucks, that.”
Levi heard Georgia whisper something to Moose and he may not have understood the words but he sure as hell understood the meaning. Sure enough, the sounds of spit swapping commenced. Levi gripped his phone harder. Were they trying to torture him?
All right, fine, even Levi thought that Georgia and Moose made a better couple than he and Georgia had, but that didn’t mean that he enjoyed that fact.
“I’ll think about it,” he said loudly, and then hung up before he could be forced to listen to any more spit-swapping sounds.
For years, it had been he and Moose against the world. Now, it was him, Moose, and Georgia against the world. It was starting to feel a little crowded.
With a sigh, he turned around and reopened the fridge door, hoping that the food leprechauns had somehow delivered food while he wasn’t looking. Alas, it was just as empty as it ever was: A moldy loaf of bread that he’d somehow missed during his first round of cleaning, a half-empty bottle of ketchup, and some generic soy sauce were the only food-like items to be found.
Levi wasn’t half bad in the kitchen, but even he couldn’t create something edible out of that. He grabbed the loaf of bread, chucked it into the trash can along with the rest of the empty and moldy containers, and headed for the front door.
He didn’t much cotton to the idea of going to Boise that evening, not when he had to be at work bright and early the next morning, so he decided to feel rich for the day and shop at the local grocery store – the Shop ‘N Go – instead. Some people called it the Shop ‘N Blow, because shopping there meant blowing through your whole paycheck, but hell, beggars couldn’t be choosers.
He pulled into the grocery store parking lot and swung out of his truck, focused on his mission. He’d get the essentials, plus pick up some stuff for the camping trip this weekend, and hopefully be able to escape with most of his bank account intact.
“I gotta go! Bye!”
He heard the whispered farewell as he walked through the sliding front doors and into the cool of the air-conditioned store. Suspicious, he looked up to find Tennessee hurriedly shoving her cell phone into her jewel-encrusted purse as she sent him a brilliant smile. “Hi, Levi,” she called out, pushing her cart over to him. “How’s it going?”
He couldn’t shake the feeling that she’d just gotten off the phone with Georgia for two reasons:
a) It was just like Georgia to meddle so much that she wouldn’t believe simply telling Levi what to do would be enough. No, she’d want to tell Tennessee what to do, too.
b) Tenny’s smile was weirdly bright and her hands were fluttering everywhere, like butterflies unsure of where to land. In other words, she looked guilty as hell.
He couldn’t help it. His eyes dropped and he studied her from head to toe.
He started with her brightly painted toenails in strappy sandals that probably cost more than his truck payment, up her gloriously long and gloriously tanned legs, to her short shorts that were just barely cupping her ass, to her pink t-shirt that said Princesses need love too in sparkly letters over a sparkly crown, all the way up to her face – her gloriously perfect face. She had these blue-green eyes that changed depending on the light and her mood and the clothes she was wearing, all framed by the longest eyelashes God had ever graced a human with.
Oh yeah, and don’t forget her long, blonde hair or perfectly straight, white teeth.
Tennessee Rowland, daughter and heir to one of the richest farmers in western Idaho, was so far out of Levi’s league, he couldn’t even see the baseball field she was playing in.
But dammit all, despite what Georgia thought, the truth was…Levi didn’t want Tenny to come along as “just a friend” on this camping trip. Looking at her, he wanted so much more than that. Any man with two working eyeballs would want more than that.
Well, okay, other than Moose, who’d thrown it all away, but as best as Levi could figure, Moose was just a blithering idiot. Levi was Moose’s best friend, so he could totally say that about him. Georgia was amazing, and Levi had spent his fair share of his life in love with the woman, but clearly, she wasn’t Tennessee.
No one was Tennessee.
He propped his shoulder up against the cinder-block wall right inside of the front doors, and crossed one booted foot over the other. “Good,” he finally grunted in response to her question.
Yeah, Tennessee would be at home around a campfire like she’d be at home running a chainsaw. Just this once, Georgia was flat-out wrong.