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Her Reluctant Firefighter

Her Reluctant Firefighter

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He's not interested in a relationship. She's just begun to think she’s ready to move on after losing the love of her life.

Mario Davis knows exactly how dangerous his job is since he lost his father in a fire, but that didn’t stop him from becoming a firefighter. While Mario is willing to give it his all, he is not willing to let a family suffer like he did when his dad died. He’s kept his distance from any kind of romantic entanglements, but when his co-worker convinces him to work with Celeste in order to sell his fixer-upper house, Mario finds himself struggling to keep his promise to himself.

Celeste Nelson is a single mom, raising her daughter alone after her police officer husband died in an accident. She’s finally come to terms with it and is ready to move on, especially as she gets to know Mario more. He’s exactly what she needs in her life and would be the perfect father figure for her daughter. When Mario tells her their relationship has to remain strictly business, she pushes down her feelings in order to make things work well between them.

The more time he spends with Celeste, the more he wonders if giving love a chance would be worth it. But he can’t stand the thought of leaving a family behind if he were to pay the ultimate price for the work he feels called to do. As their feelings for each other change and grow, can he overcome his reluctance and become a family man, or will they be destined to remain alone?

Intro into Chapter One

Mario wiped his arm across his forehead, glad the last bit of drywall was finally hung. He’d convinced Ray to come help with the ceiling yesterday but had done the walls on his own today. All he had to do now was tape and mud it, then paint it and this room was done. Well, except for replacing the light switches and outlet plates. Oh, and the baseboards. He turned and surveyed the open floor plan that revealed the front room near the kitchen and dining room, pleased with what he’d accomplished in the last six weeks. At least his job with the fire department was two days on, four days off. He made lots of progress when he had the funds to buy the materials.
Once he sold this house, he’d pay off the loan and still have enough surplus to put a hefty chunk away for his own life. Of course, some of it he would use to buy materials for the next house he bought as a fixer upper. Emerald Cove had a few houses that were just wasting away, waiting for someone to either restore them to their former glory, or remodel them enough to entice young families to buy and move in. This place would be just right for a family. Definitely not something he would need in his life.
Mario didn’t have to worry about getting home to a wife and kids and he could work as late into the night as he wanted. It didn’t bother him to sleep on a cot or live out of a suitcase. All his belongings would be easy to pack up and go when the house was done. A fold-up table and chair along with a few plastic totes containing his kitchen gear for when he wasn’t in the mood for take-out or delivery and a small fridge just large enough to hold the bare minimum would take up less room than his tools.
As he looked at the kitchen, he could almost picture a family sitting at the bar, enjoying a few laughs and for a moment, Mario felt a bit of longing.
That was immediately pushed out of the way.
No time or energy for a family life.
He was devoted to his job, and the health and safety of others. He couldn’t give up fighting fires, and he could never ask a woman to endure the uncertainty that it brought.
Bachelorhood was perfect for him. Eventually Mom would come to understand that he could never do what his father had done. At least not the family part since he had already followed in father’s boot-steps.
He picked up his drywall tape and the mud compound and began to cover the seams between the sheets. He was more than halfway done with the wide-open main section of the house when the old doorbell rang and fuzzed out. One more thing to add to his to do list.
Mario answered the door and smiled at his fellow firefighter, Ray.
“You still working on this place?” Ray asked.
“I’m almost done,” Mario said. “A couple more weeks till I can list it.”
“You should give me a tour,” Ray said. “Then the two of us can head to Zoey’s and get some dinner. You need a break.”
“Zoey’s sounds good,” Mario said. “Who are we meeting there?”
“No one,” Ray said, not pulling off his attempt at innocence.
“Yeah, right,” Mario turned back toward his work. “So, you’ve got time to help me start mudding?”
“All right,” Ray said. “You got me. I’ve got my eye on the newest waitress there.”
“Hasn’t anyone warned her about you?”
“Hey,” Ray said. “I’m not that bad.”
“You’ve tried to date everyone there.” Mario gathered his tools and unplugged the tools he’d no longer need and put his battery packs into their charging bases, so they’d be ready for tomorrow. One more day till he had to be back on his shift. He could get some of the mudding done tonight then the rest tomorrow, giving it time to dry and cure before he’d need to do the second coat and any touch ups.
“Not everyone.”
“Those you aren’t related to,” Mario said. “Why hasn’t Celeste told you to knock it off?”
Ray grinned. “Because all of them ask her about me so she knows it’s just better to introduce us. I’m the hot firefighter that they all want to get to know.”
Mario rolled his eyes. “Then they all regret it once they do know you.”
“They don’t regret it. They just want to keep hold of me longer than I’m willing to hang around. I’m just a two dates kind of guy. Nothing more. They all know that, and it hasn’t caused me any headaches yet.”
“And that,” Mario said, “is something I’ll never understand.”
“You ever think of hiring some of this out?” Ray asked whether as an attempt to change the subject or because he was in a hurry to go.
“No,” Mario said. “I’m in no rush. Besides, I enjoy this.”
“To each their own,” Ray said. “Too much of a pain if you ask me.”
“That’s why I’m doing it and not you,” Mario said.
“You have time for a quick shower if you stop now. I’ll see you at Zoey’s in thirty minutes.” Ray left without taking the tour he didn’t really want in the first place and Mario shook his head. Ever since Paul and Elliot had both gotten married, Ray seemed a little bummed that his hang out buddies were busy. That meant he came around to pester Mario more than usual. If Ray could find himself a woman, then Mario could be left to his own plans and not have to go play wingman to the guy.
Ray liked the women, but with his rules preventing him from getting serious, Mario knew he wouldn’t be the only one single on their crew for the foreseeable future. Mario was not in the market for a wife.


Celeste greeted the new arrivals then checked the list to see which section would be open. Her cousin, Ray, had wanted her to save him a seat in Trina’s area, but if he didn’t show up soon, she’d have to assign it elsewhere. Ray was a sweetheart, and never treated any of his many dates in a way that made them hate the guy. In fact, she still couldn’t figure out what it was about him that allowed him to get away with what he did. He dated more than anyone she knew, yet he never got to the point of settling down. Never got serious with anyone, just dated and flirted and made each girl feel special without breaking any hearts or making them jealous toward another girl.
He was just fun. Always had been and always would be. If he ever got to the point where he decided to get serious with a woman, Celeste would be watching for signs of the end of the world.
As she returned from the middle of the diner after showing the couple to their seats, she saw Ray standing there with Mario. She’d met him a few times but didn’t know him very well.
“There you are,” Ray said, giving her a quick squeeze. “I believe I have a reservation?” He winked at her, and she rolled her eyes.
“Fifteen minutes ago,” Celeste said. “I almost gave it away.”
“It’s Mario’s fault,” Ray said. “Took him too long to get cleaned up after working on his house.”
Celeste looked at Mario, appreciating the way he looked but was almost certain he’d still look devastatingly handsome no matter if he was dirty from working or freshly cleaned like he was now.
“You really do reservations here?” Mario asked.
Ray patted his friend’s back. “Only for me, buddy. But maybe I could put in a good word for you.”
Celeste smiled but managed to keep her comment to herself. If Mario asked for a reservation, she’d probably give him one too. As she led them toward their table with the menus in hand, she ran through half a dozen scenarios. All of them resulted in him bringing a date and for some reason, that bothered her. She hadn’t dated in years. Not since she’d married Sam. Now that he’d been gone three years, she wasn’t sure if her heart was telling her it was time to move on or what. She’d never had these kinds of intrusive thoughts of another man.
What the heck was wrong with her? No man would ever replace Sam in her heart, or in the life of their daughter. She needed to push that unwelcome flash of attraction away. It was safer that way for her hesitant heart.
“Are you building a house?” Celeste asked, hoping to redirect her thoughts to a safer topic as they reached the table.
“Remodeling,” Mario said.
“Dude’s got plans to buy and flip houses.” Ray looked at Mario, then back at Celeste. “Oh hey, Celeste is working on getting her real estate license. Maybe she could help you when it’s time to sell. I’ll bet she’d give you a friends and family discount.”
Celeste tried not to glare at her cousin. It would be a couple of months before she could actually help anyone buy or sell, but if he was going to be flipping lots of houses, it would be awesome to be his agent. And working with him as a client would help her keep things strictly professional and keep that other crazy thought far away.
“We should talk,” Mario said.
“I’d love to,” Celeste said, meeting his eyes and taking a moment to study his Mediterranean features. After a glance at Ray, who was looking over Trina’s section as if searching for her, Celeste placed the menus on the table. “I’ll let Trina know you’re here.”
“What time do you get off?” Ray asked.
“Closing,” Celeste said.
Ray nodded. “If it’s not too busy tonight, and you don’t have to shoo us out, we’ll stay here so you and Mario can talk sales.”
Mario looked at Ray as if he wasn’t sure he agreed with the plan so Celeste spoke. “It’s up to you, Mario. I’m open other times if tonight’s not good. Just let me know. I’ve still got another month before I can take my exam, so I can’t help you sell it yet.”
Mario nodded. “I’ve got more than a month’s worth of work on it anyway. Inside’s close to done but will need some fixing and painting on the outside. Get the curb appeal ready.”
“Ray can give you my number if you want it, but no pressure. I know there are a lot of other agents already licensed. It’s up to you.”
Trina came out of the kitchen area and spotted Ray. Knowing she didn’t want to watch the gushing of her coworker toward her cousin, Celeste gave them a parting smile, letting her gaze linger a little longer on Mario before returning to the front.
When she glanced back, she was happy to see that she had a clear view of the two firefighters, and with Mario looking down at the menu she was able to admire his strong profile and the trim lines of his neck and shoulders. He wasn’t overly muscled to the point it looked fake. No, all his muscles were from honest work with construction and firefighting. Trina glanced at him now and again, but with Ray putting out all his charm, there was no chance Trina would flirt with Mario, which left him free for her to enjoy.
Luckily, a family of four entered the diner and Celeste was able to tear her eyes from the man who’d completely unsettled her. She had to get her ridiculous sudden interest under control. She wanted to work with him so she could help him sell the houses. There was a lot of money to be made in real estate and if she did things right, she could save up enough for the future. She couldn’t let infatuation interfere with common sense.
Of course, it really wouldn’t hurt to admire him today in between her hostess duties as the evening wore on. Besides, she was a young, widowed mother and he was a friend of her cousin, so he was off limits. But eye candy was all right to look at.
The evening got busier than normal, and she didn’t have a chance to slip back over and talk with Mario about his plans for selling houses. When they got up to leave, she was busy helping cover one of the tables for Jenny and didn’t have a chance to say goodbye. Not like she wouldn’t see them again. Ray could help her out by setting up a time to talk with Mario about his house plans.

He's not interested in a relationship. She's just begun to think she’s ready to move on after losing the love of her life.

Main Tropes

  • Co-Workers
  • Second Chances
  • Fear of Commitment
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