The Fireman Who Loved Me (The Bachelor Firemen Of San Gabriel #1)(49)

By: Jennifer Bernard

“Ryan, it’s Nelly McGuire. Can you put me on with Captain Brody?”

“Ms. McGuire, it sure is a treat to hear your voice again. What can the San Gabriel firefighters do for you?”

This was no time for flirting! Nelly anxiously watched the eager flames eat their way through the trash. “I need the captain.”

“Well, Cap’s off today, but I can get you Captain Kelly. Plus we’ve got a fire station full of guys who’d love to help you out.”

Brody was off? Her heart sped up, her breath came in pants. Why, oh why, hadn’t she specified which captain was coming in at nine? It wouldn’t do for Captain Kelly to come to Melissa’s rescue. No, no, no. It had to be Brody. Brody was supposed to rush over and rescue them. Only seeing Melissa in danger would make him see how much he loved her. “Page him!” she said desperately as the flames reached the porch railing. “Fire! Melissa’s trapped inside!”

Then pain squeezed a ruthless fist around her heart. She dropped the phone and fell to the ground.

At the same moment that Nelly was dreaming about a captain in firefighter gear, Brody was knocking on the door of Casa de Rebecca, as he now called it. No one answered his insistent knocking. Damn her, where had she disappeared to? And how had she managed to lock him out of his own house?

It had taken him long enough to figure out the answer to the Rebecca situation. The last thing he needed now was a delay.

He prowled around the house, peering in windows, until he spotted Rebecca in the spare bedroom. She bent, scowling, over her computer. It looked like she was hard at work—if someone could be hard at work while wearing a feathery, nearly transparent robe. Fortunately, he hadn’t installed the windows yet, and nothing but heavy plastic covered the empty gaps in the wall. He ripped away a corner of the plastic and hoisted himself through the empty frame.

Rebecca looked up with a startled frown. With a visible effort, she forced a smile. “What are you doing?”

“I’m calling your bluff.” He swung his body completely into the room, leaned back against the window frame, and crossed his arms.

“What bluff? I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Let’s get married. Right now. I called up a friend who has one of those online minister’s licenses, and he’s on his way over.”

“What?” She looked desperately at her computer as if the entire Internet had betrayed her.

“Aren’t you the one who said it could be like it almost was? We could be a family?”

“Yeeess. But—”

“But what? You’ve been living here like you intend to stay. You know I’m not the kind to live in sin.”

“But Harry . . .” He found her alarm almost comical. “We aren’t living in sin. We’re like roommates. We aren’t doing anything.”

“I am aware of that.”

“Are you saying you want to start having sex? But the baby . . .”

“Exactly, the baby. At some point the baby might want brothers and sisters.”

“We can worry about that when the time comes, can’t we?” Her eyes darted to the side, checking her computer once again.

“He’s not there,” said Brody.

“Who isn’t . . . what . . . what do you mean?”

With one part of his mind, he knew he shouldn’t be enjoying this quite so much. On the other hand, it felt too damn good to finally be free of Rebecca and his need to protect her. He knew the exact moment things had changed for him—when Melissa crouched over Rodrigo’s battered body, while Rebecca clung to him in fake terror. He’d known it was fake. He’d pulled enough people out of danger to know what real terror felt like when he held it in his arms. How dare she use a beaten boy to gain sympathy for herself?

At that moment, everything had looked very clear. It wasn’t the first time Rebecca had tried to manipulate him. The other times it had succeeded. Now he knew the truth.

Things hadn’t worked with Rebecca because she was utterly, completely selfish. Even if he never saw Melissa again, she’d shown him the truth. He could have a happy personal life—but not with Rebecca.

Now his ex-wife was looking everywhere but at him, like a child caught stealing candy, and he couldn’t help enjoying it.

“Thorval isn’t there. That’s why he isn’t e-mailing you, and why you aren’t having online sex with him at the moment.”

Rebecca’s jaw dropped open. “You heard us?”

“No windows,” he said apologetically, with a gesture at the open frame.

“It wasn’t anything . . . we just got carried away . . . It’s safer than actual sex . . . better for the baby. And you didn’t seem interested. If you are . . .” Rebecca let her feathery robe fall open just a bit.

“I’m not.”

“Then why . . . why are you doing this?” Rebecca snatched the robe closed, and a few feathers drifted into the air. With her eyes filled with tears, she looked like a lost duckling. In the old days, he would have been at her feet, petting her, comforting her, soothing her. But those days were over.

A knock at the front door made her jump. “Harry, I can’t . . . I can’t marry you.”

“Really? Why not?” he said, moving toward the front door. “The minister’s here, ready to go.”

“Because I don’t . . . because I love . . . Oh, you’re being horrible! I hate you! You have no compassion, no sensitivity, no . . .” Her voice followed him as he left the room. When he returned, followed by a giant man with bleached-tip hair and thick muscles bulging through his tank top, she broke off from her long list of his failings. “Thorval!”

She leaped to her feet and launched herself into the giant’s arms, with Brody stepping aside just in time. Did he feel a tiny pang at the joy in her face, and the way the two of them clung to each other? To be perfectly honest with himself, he did—a pang of regret that he and Rebecca had never been able to make each other happy like that.

“Lady B, boy did I miss you, baby.” The blond man covered her face with surprisingly delicate kisses.

“Me too, T, me too! But how did you know? Why’d you come here?”

“Your ex here called me up. Dude’s not such a bad guy, you know.”

“Thanks,” said Brody. They both ignored him.

“He found some little sayings for me. What’d you call ’em? Little quotes, you know, words of wisdom through olden times.”

“You mean like affirmations?” Rebecca wrapped her legs around his waist, like a feathery vine around an oak tree. She leaned back to peer at his face.

“Ding-ding! That’s the word, my petite. She’s a whiz with words,” he told Brody. “These affirmation thingies really did a number on me. Especially the one about the ocean, because of my expertise in water sports. Helped me work through some issues, you dig? I’m not scared about the baby anymore. Be as the wave, baby, be as the wave.”

“Oh T, I don’t know what you’re talking about, but I don’t care. I love you so!” She snuggled her head between his broad shoulder and his chin, and he nuzzled the top of her head.

“Me too, baby, me too. I’m never letting you scamper away from me again. Me and the baby are going to be tight as a couple of sand fleas. I already got a boogie board for the little guy. He’s going to be the Tiger Woods of surfing. That’s another thing your ex thought of.”

“Harry, you’re a genius! How can I ever thank you?”

“You don’t have to thank me.”

In Brody’s pocket, his pager jumped. He was off-shift, damn it. The station could survive for a few more minutes without him. He ignored the beeping.

“I know! T, why don’t we name the baby after Harry! I always liked the name Harry,” said Rebecca.

“Sure, babe, whatever you—”

“No, no,” said Brody hastily. “I absolutely refuse. Besides, what’s your last name, Thorval?”

“Mats. In Swedish, it means ‘gift of God.’ ”

“Harry Mats, Rebecca?”

“Okay, maybe that’s not such a great idea,” she said quickly. “We’ll find another way to thank you.” She slid down from Thorval’s chest, and held a hand out to Brody.

“There’s no need. I’m happy you’re happy.” But he took her hand anyway.

“No hard feelings?”

“No hard feelings.”

“Will you go to Melissa now?”

Brody pulled his hand away from hers. “Melissa’s with someone else now. An ex.”

“Oh Harry. Exes aren’t always what they seem, you know.” And with a last peck on his cheek, she danced back into Thorval’s arms. “Take me home, you big kahuna.”

As Thorval carried Rebecca over the threshold, like a wedding night in reverse, Brody heaved a sigh. Now he could get back to life as normal—or at least, normal before the appearance of Melissa. The station, his house, station, house.

Again, his pager beeped.

It had better be important. He pulled it out, and saw the flashing code that meant an emergency. Damn it! Running into the Airstream for his cell phone, he cursed himself every step of the way. The one time he ignored a page, of course it would be an emergency. What was he, some kind of rookie?