Home > Hot Stuff(8)

Hot Stuff(8)
Author: Max Monroe

I chuckle a little. “I’m not sure, sir. But I think it might be how beautiful your daughter is.”

Cap laughs, and Lauren’s eyes widen as I smile.

It’s funny because it’s the truth. I said exactly what I was feeling, but I know my relationship with the Cap, and I knew he’d take what I said with enough innocence that I wouldn’t have to smooth anything over.

Though, deep down, there is nothing innocent about my words.

“Hands off, Alexander. Because, for as beautiful as my Laurie is, she’s twice as smart. And she sure as shit knows to stay away from a guy like you.”

I laugh.

Shit-talk is the love language of the firehouse. So, it might seem like I need to be offended, but I know better. If Cap really didn’t respect me, he wouldn’t bother going to the trouble of insulting me.

“Fair enough, sir.” I smirk. “I’ll count my lucky stars she’s letting me occupy the same room.”

Lauren’s eyes bug out again, and the Cap laughs.

“Damn straight.”

I really don’t know what it is about her that makes me act like this—bold, flirtatious, bordering on pushy. The last time I dated, I was eighteen, and even then, I wasn’t like this.

It’s like someone sticks a couple defibrillator paddles to my chest every time I’m in the same room with her.

“Come on, Alexander. Let’s get a seat at the table.” He turns me toward the dining room and glances back over his shoulder at his daughter to ask, “We about ready, Laurie?”

I’m not sure I like the idea of heading for the table and taking a seat while Lauren serves us like some sort of peasant maiden, but I’m equally sure I’ve shown enough interest in her for the time being. I’d prefer not to get shoved off the roof of our next fire by the Cap.

“It’s ready,” she responds, her voice devoid of irritation. “I’m just pulling the rolls out of the oven.”

“Great, baby,” Cap says. “If you need any help carrying stuff, let me know. I’ll send the shitheads in.”

The shitheads?

My eyebrows jump to my hairline in question, but Cap shakes his head. This is, apparently, not the time to ask. Or maybe it is, but he’s just tired of talking about it. Either way, I decide not to make waves in the family pool. I’m just a dinner guest. Not a family psychologist.

They’d never license me anyway. I have enough of my own family issues to last a lifetime.

“Did you see the Raiders game this morning?” Captain Carroll asks, apparently making small talk. It’s foreign to me because the captain is normally chewing us out or barking orders, as per his job description. The rest of us firemen joke among ourselves a lot, but we’re basically a bunch of testosterone-riddled children. No doubt, it’s a full-time job keeping us in line. Some of us more than others. And I am, believe it or not, one of the most mature of the bunch.

“I didn’t.” I shake my head. “I had my kids this morning, and I was busy getting them ready to go to their mom’s house.”

“Ah, well. It was a crap game anyway,” he says, trying to make me feel better. “You didn’t miss much.”

I laugh. “That’s good, I guess.”

“Good? Are you kidding me, Alexander? I lost two hundred bucks on it.”

“Sorry to hear that, sir,” I apologize, glancing over my shoulder to a barefoot, busy Dr. Lauren in the kitchen. She’s mashing potatoes, and as a side effect, her ass sways back and forth with every single motion of her arm.

Have mercy. This Thanksgiving dinner is going to be harder than I thought and not for any of the reasons I’d anticipated prior to arriving here.

I shut my eyes tightly for a brief moment, reining in the absolutely terrible thoughts of placing my big hands on her perfect ass just to see how fantastic I know it has to feel.

“You still hanging around that Jake fella?” the Cap asks, bringing my attention back to him.

“Jake?” I question, my brain still foggily begging my eyes to turn back to Lauren. “Oh yeah. He’s my best friend.”

Cap nods. “I saw his whole deal in the paper. Pretty crazy if you ask me.”

Instantly, I know he’s talking about the infamous Bachelor Anonymous contest in the San Diego Tribune. It was a whole ordeal that Jake’s daughter Chloe got him involved in, and to everyone’s surprise, it’s what led him to his wife, Holley.

Though, she wasn’t a contestant. She was the journalist who covered the contest.

I laugh. “Definitely crazy. But Holley is awesome, so it was worth it.”

So worth it that Jake and Holley are married with an adorable baby named Hadley.

“I guess I’m an old fart,” Cap comments. “I met my wife the old-fashioned way, through mutual friends at the movies. I’m not sure I get all the other garbage like contests and emails.”

I chuckle. “Don’t worry, Cap. I don’t think you have to worry about any of that.”

“What are you trying to say, Alexander? You don’t think I’m a catch?” he questions, and I chuckle, running my fingers over the beard I’ve let grow out during my off days.

“No, sir. I didn’t mean that at all.”

“Dad,” Lauren interjects, startling me with her close proximity. “Stop badgering your guest.”

“Who, him?” the Cap says with a jerk of his thumb.

Lauren smiles. “Uh, yeah. Unless you have some other guests you need to tell me about. In which case, you’re going to have to make another meal for yourself. I have enough for us, and that’s it.”

“Bullshit, baby. You’re a lover, not a fighter. If I told you I had someone else comin’, you’d jump in there and start scramblin’ to make it work.”

I watch Lauren’s face as she blushes.

“Shut up, Dad.”

I shove back from my chair as she heads back for the kitchen, and I follow her, Captain Carroll’s laughter trailing off the farther away we get.

Lauren picks up the pot of green beans from the stove and spins, almost smacking right into me.

“Oh!”

“Sorry,” I apologize. “I just thought I’d help you carry stuff.”

“Thanks,” she says with a soft smile. I nod and reach for the cookie sheet of rolls, tossing them into the basket she has waiting with cloth napkins lining it. Though, instead of heading for the table, she stands there, watching me avidly, and the scrutiny makes me break.

“I’m also sorry I acted like I didn’t know you,” I say quietly, for her ears only. “Call it panic or confusion or whatever, but I didn’t know what to say.”

She laughs. “Me too. I’ve never spent Thanksgiving with a patient before.”

“I, uh, also didn’t know you were related to the Cap. Obviously.”

“Ah, yes. Captain Jimmy,” she says with mock seriousness, and I laugh. But also, my eyes go wide.

“I feel like you just committed a crime,” I say. “I don’t know if I’ve ever heard anyone use his first name before.”

“What? Why?” she asks, and her nose scrunches up in the most adorable way. “Does he have a rule against it or something?”

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