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His Best Friend's Girl

His Best Friend's Girl

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Paul and Cassie were best friends all through high school and though there was never any romance there, both of them knew, no matter what, they could count on each other through thick and thin. When Chad joined their group, Paul had no idea how much it would affect the way he felt about Cassie. By the time he realized he had feelings for her, it was too late, she had started dating the other guy with plans to move away, go to college and marry him.

Now, years later, she’s back in Emerald Cove very much single and there to stay. When Paul rescues her from a tree after a failed attempt to coax a neighbors cat out of the branches, Paul is reminded immediately of why he’d never been able to get over her.

Cassie is happy to be back home, even with all the sad memories she had tried to leave behind years ago. Seeing Paul makes healing her heart and soul a little difficult. Can she get past the abandonment she’d felt from him during her most trying time, or will they be destined to only remain distant friends?

Intro into Chapter One

The familiar tone of an emergency call made everyone on his crew at the fire station freeze and listen. Once the amused announcement from Becky about Mrs. William’s escapist cat was heard, they all relaxed and Paul rolled his eyes.
“Glad you’re the captain,” Ray hollered.
As the captain of the A crew, Paul had been informed by the Emerald Cove city officials that he had to stop taking the fire truck out to do things like rescue cats from trees. He’d told Mrs. Williams more than once that they wouldn’t be able to come again to help her and that she needed to get her cat de-clawed so he’d stop climbing the tree. Not wanting to lose his job, Paul picked up his radio and connected with dispatch. “You still on the line with her?”
“Yes,” Becky replied. “I tried to tell her, but she insisted I inform you anyway.”
“Can you put me on with her?” Paul asked. He’d known Mrs. Williams since he was a kid, and while she had been a nice lady to all the neighborhood, she’d gotten a little lonely after the passing of her husband.
“Hello?” Mrs. William’s voice spoke. “Are you there, Paul?”
“Yes, Mrs. Williams,” Paul said. “It’s me.”
“Oh good. The general just won’t listen to me. I can’t get him to come down no matter what I do.”
“And you’ve tried putting out his food?”
“Yes,” Mrs. Williams said. “That favorite tuna flavored one he loves. I even brought out the pot of catnip. He’s just too afraid to come back down on his own.”
“Why don’t you give it a few more minutes? I’m sure he’ll come down when he’s ready.” Paul doubted he’d be able to convince her to listen, since according to her, this cat was so different than any other cat in existence. “Oh, Paul. Are you sure you can’t come help? I worry so much about him falling. He’s getting old you know. What if he hurts his hip or something when he jumps from the branches?”
“Cats are really good jumpers, Mrs. Williams.” Paul tried his best to sound encouraging, but he had to get her to understand he couldn’t come help this time. “Besides, most cats can run down the tree just as easily as they can run up it. Don’t you worry about him. I’ll check in with you when my shift is done tomorrow morning. Then we’ll figure out something to help make things easier for him. For now, though. You’ve got to just let him decide there are consequences for him climbing up there.” Paul doubted that line of thinking would help her ease any worries. Sometimes, talk of consequences worked on the teens he coached and sometimes it didn’t.
“Oh, wait,” Mrs. Williams said. “I just saw my new neighbor pull up. I’ll go see if they can help me with the general. Gotta go.” She hung up the phone and Paul breathed a sigh of relief. At least he wouldn’t have to flat out tell her no again.
He wondered what he might say to convince her to do something about that cat. Maybe he’d have to see if she’d let him cut the tree down. Paul shook his head. When he’d joined the fire department, he didn’t ever think he’d deal with this kind of call. Hurting the poor woman’s feelings was almost worse than the thought of getting fired over using the engine for the wrong reasons. He turned his attention back to the inventory of their emergency supplies. They didn’t carry as much as the ambulance did, but they always made sure to have a well-stocked first aid kit in addition to everything they’d need to fight any type of fire they encountered. So far, this shift had been nice and easy, giving them time to clean up the station and do the scheduled maintenance on the engine. Next week, his crew would need to run through some training exercises and he made some notes on his clipboard. Thank heavens for easy shifts.


Cassie had just managed to get out of her car and into her new house when her front doorbell rang. She hadn’t seen anyone outside when she’d pulled into her garage so she peeked out the window to see who it was. At the sight of her neighbor, Cassie smiled and opened the door. “Hi, Mrs. Williams. What can I do for you?”
“The general has gone and got himself stuck in the tree again.” Mrs. Williams stepped back just a little in order to point at the large tree in her front yard.
“Does he do that a lot?” Cassie asked.
“Yes,” the older woman said. “Too often. Usually, I would get the fire department to come help me get him down. But they say they can’t do it anymore. The mayor thinks it’s wasting taxpayer money. I don’t know why he cares about that. I’ve been paying taxes here for fifty years. Longer than he’s been alive, you know. So my taxes are paying for it, but he just won’t see it that way.”
Cassie chuckled. She didn’t want to go into all the details about why using a city fire truck to get a cat out of a tree was more than a waste of tax money. She doubted explaining that the firefighters needed to be ready for a real emergency would help Mrs. Williams calm down.
“Since they won’t come, will you see if you can help me?”
“Sure,” Cassie said. Though she had no idea what she might do to get the cat down. She took a step out of the front door and Mrs. Williams carefully worked her way down the stairs, holding onto the hand rail for support. Cassie followed after her and searched through the leaves in the tree trying to find the cat.
When they got into the shade of the tree, Mrs. Williams pointed to the left. “See him?”
“I think so,” Cassie said. “He’s a tabby?”
“Yes, prettiest fur you’ve ever seen.”
“How long have you had him?” Cassie asked. “He’s been with me for three years.”
“Has he been climbing this tree this whole time?”
“No.” Mrs. Williams put her hands on her hips. “He started doing it last spring. There was a bird’s nest up there that he took an interest in. Luckily there were no baby birds and the nest was abandoned. But ever since then, he’s been going up there every month or so.”
“Has he ever come down on his own?” Cassie asked.
“No,” Mrs. Williams said. “Because the fire truck has always come with their ladder. I’m too old to carry the ladder that was my husband’s. But now, apparently, they don’t care if I fall or hurt myself trying to save my poor general.”
“Don’t worry,” Cassie said. “I’m sure we can get the general down.” She looked over at Mrs. William’s house. “Let’s go see how sturdy your ladder is, and I’ll climb up there to help the general.”


Paul and the rest of the crew paused again when the alert from dispatch came over the speakers. “There is a woman stuck in a tree at 185 Walnut Drive.”
“Did she go up after the cat herself?” Elliot, one of the crew asked.
“I sure hope not,” Paul said, hurrying over to the fire engine and their gear hanging on the wall to the side of it. “She’s in her seventies for sure. If she falls out of that tree, we’re going to have a lawsuit on our hands.”
“Not us,” Ray hollered. “The mayor told you we couldn’t do it. If Mrs. Williams sues, it will be the city.” Paul stepped into his gear. They wouldn’t need it for the tree rescue, but they always made sure they were dressed and prepared for a fire any time they left the station with the engine in case a second call came in while they were out. In record time, they were in the engine and Mario got on the radio to inform dispatch they were departing the station.
“Give us the details,” Mario said to Becky at dispatch. “Is it Mrs. Williams in the tree?”
“No,” Becky said. “She’s the one who called. The woman is her neighbor. She thinks she’s in her twenties but isn’t sure.”
Paul looked over at Mario for a moment as he drove toward Mrs. Williams’ house and that blasted tree and cat.
“What kind of neighbor woman would get herself stuck in a tree for a cat?” Mario shook his head.
“I don’t know. But we both know how insistent Mrs. Williams can be. Maybe she had no choice.” Paul sighed. He had to agree with that, but it didn’t make him any more disposed to appreciate the interference of this neighbor woman. Now they were out rescuing a person instead of a cat that could have just as easily gotten down from the tree as it had gotten up.
When the engine pulled up to the house, Paul did a quick visual assessment. An old A-frame ladder lay on the ground near the tree, and Mrs. Williams was standing under the tree, looking up into its branches while a few young neighbor children were scattered under the tree in the shade pointing up as well.
When he got out of the truck and moved over to see what he needed to do first, he caught sight of two dangling legs in skinny jeans with some bright pink shoes on the feet. The shape and size of the woman indicated she was youthful, but he had to walk around and closer to Mrs. Williams to manage to see the face. When he looked up and saw her looking down at him, Paul couldn’t help the laugh that bubbled up. “Cassie James?”
“Hi, Paul.” Her face took on a mix of expressions ranging from relief at seeing them here to rescue her to embarrassment at being caught up in a tree.
“I didn’t know you’d come back home.” He couldn’t see a ring or anything. What had happened with her and Chad?
“Yeah, well, surprise.” She rolled her eyes quickly and only managed a little movement of one hand since she was still tightly gripping the tree branch she was folded over. “Think you might help me get down? None of these kids here could help get that traitorous ladder back up.”
Paul looked at the ladder and knew it would be too heavy for Mrs. Williams and the kids here. He was actually surprised Cassie had managed to bring it over to the tree in the first place. “Sure thing,” Paul said, motioning for Elliot who was still by the engine. “Get the truck in place, then we’ll need to bring the extension part over.”
Paul looked back up at Cassie, his secret crush and his best friend’s girlfriend that he hadn’t seen since graduation nine years ago. Seeing her here again did all kinds of crazy things to his mind and heart. He forced those thoughts out of his mind and instead focused on the tree and her location in it.
“How did you get all the way out on this branch?”
“I was trying to get the general to come down.”
“Is he still up there?” Paul peered through the leaves, but could see no sign of the orange tabby.
“No.” Cassie’s response wasn’t quite a growl, but he knew she was rather annoyed. “The stubborn general was highly offended I came up here to interfere with his personal space, clawed me enough I lost my balance and then I knocked the ladder over while trying to get a hold of the branch to stabilize myself.”
Paul kept one eye on her while still managing to help guide the ladder over to the right position underneath Cassie. When it was close enough, Paul said. “Do you need help getting onto the ladder? Should I send one of the men up?”
“No,” Cassie said, looking over her shoulder to spot the ladder. “I think I can find footing if you just tell me from there if I’m close enough.”
Paul moved to the side to get a better view and little by little they raised the ladder until it was directly under her. With only minimal coaching, Cassie managed to get off the tree. She climbed down the ladder a little until her head was out of the way of the branches and Paul told Elliot to lower the ladder back to the engine itself. When her rescue looked as if it was a success, the kids who’d gathered around under the tree all stood and clapped and cheered, making Paul smile at their enthusiasm.
“Oh thank goodness,” Mrs. Williams said. “I’m glad you came to get her. Poor girl. Don’t know if she’ll ever want to visit me again now that this happened.”
“She’s a nice girl,” Paul said. “And if she’s the neighbor you were talking about, I’m sure she’ll visit you. Just doubt she’ll go chasing after the general.”
“I should say not,” Mrs. Williams said, fisting her hands then putting them on her hips as she looked over toward her house. After a moment, she looked up at him with a chagrined look. “And you were right. The general is able to get out of the tree on his own. I watched that cat run back down the trunk of the tree like nothing else after he clawed at her.”
“Did she get hurt?” Paul asked, turning his attention back to Cassie who was being helped to the ground by one of his crew members. He didn’t wait for Mrs. William’s reply, just moved over to meet Cassie. “Are you all right?” he asked. “Yes,” Cassie said. “Thanks. Sorry about this whole mess. I was trying to help her avoid needing to call you guys again. But looks like I failed in that.” She chuckled and
Paul smiled. “Did you get hurt at all?” Paul asked. “You said you were clawed up by the general.”
“He got me pretty good on the arm and shoulder as he ran across my back. Nothing serious though.”
“You should let us look at it,” Elliot said. “I’ll go get the first aid kit.”
“It’s really nothing,” Cassie said. She held up her arm then frowned. “Guess it’s a little longer than I thought.” Paul took her hand in his then tilted her arm to the side a little to get a good look at it.
Paul took her hand in his then tilted her arm to the side a little to get a good look at it. “You won’t need stitches or anything, but you should wash it good and disinfect it. We’ve got some things to take care of it here.” Cassie looked like she was going to decline, then he caught sight of her other arm. “What about that?” he asked.
She turned her arm outward, revealing a rather nasty scratch from the branches and bark on the limb she’d been hanging on. “Stings a bit,” Cassie said.
“Here,” Paul said, leading her over to the edge of the engine where he could get her to sit on one of the step up platforms. “Let us clean it up and put on the antiseptic and things. Since we’re here to serve, we may as well do a good job of it.”
“Well, they do say firefighters are some of the best superheroes.” He smiled, put his hands on his hips and puffed up his chest to give the superhero effect. “You know it.”
“All right,” Cassie said. “Show all these kids here what it means to be a hero.” He got her to sit down and she placed her hands on her lap. He was sure now that there was no ring. What had happened with her and Chad? Did he dare ask?


Cassie watched with fascination and even a little nostalgia as the same guy who’d helped her home after she’d crashed her bike when she was nine — then made sure she got all cleaned up and bandaged since her mom hadn’t been home when they arrived — now took care of her simple injuries.
“You sure are good at this,” Cassie said.
Paul looked up and met her eyes, the surprise at her comment evident. “This isn’t hard.” Cassie smiled and continued.
“Oh, I know. It’s just that it reminded me of when we were little. You seemed to always be bandaging me up.”
“Well, considering you were one of the tomboyest girls I knew, you kept getting into a lot of scrapes.”
“Have you been here in Emerald Cove all this time?” Cassie asked.
“Yeah. I never left.” Cassie wasn’t sure if that was an admission of defeat, or if he was proud of the fact he’d stayed here all along. When she’d lived here before, she couldn’t wait to move on and get away from all the painful memories. As soon as graduation happened, she’d moved to the college town she’d gotten a scholarship with and found a job right away so she could pay for her apartment. She’d also thought she’d be married within a year of leaving Emerald Cove, but that hadn’t turned out like she’d planned.
Now, nine years later, she was back and actually happy to be here. “Emerald Cove is just as beautiful as it ever was,” Cassie said.
“Are you here to stay?” Paul asked as he dabbed some of the disinfectant solution on her arm that had been roughed up by the tree.
“I hope so,” Cassie said.
“Then welcome home,” Paul said. He looked up and met her eyes and Cassie once again remembered how good of friends they had been. She just wished she knew why he’d stopped coming around and basically ghosted her during their senior year.
“Thanks.” Cassie smiled and then looked down at her arms. “And for this too. I really could have taken care of it in the house.” She looked back at her house then to him again. “Though I’m not all the way unpacked, so I don’t know if I’d have found my first aid kit very easily.”
“Happy to help,” Paul said. He cleaned up the medical supplies he’d used to treat her, then closed the kit and set it on the seat of the fire truck.
“It’s nice to see you,” Cassie said.
“I’m only sorry I ended up stuck in a tree in place of the cat I was trying to prevent you from needing to rescue.” Paul’s laugh made her smile wider.
It really was good to see him again and she hoped they’d be able to catch up a little. Before she could mention it, Paul spoke to his crew members who were answering questions from the kids standing by the truck and pointing at all the gadgets on it. “We should get headed out. Things to do still.”
“You heard the captain,” one of the guys Cassie didn’t know said. “If you want to see more about the fire trucks, you can get your parents to bring you to the station and if we’re not out on a call, we’ll give you a tour.”
“Awesome,” one of the little boys said. Cassie smiled at the fire fighters who passed her then climbed into the engine. “Thanks so much, guys.”
“Happy to help,” a dark haired one said. “Try to stay off rickety old ladders from now on, will ya?” He gave her a wink to let her know he was teasing and she nodded solemnly.
“I promise.” She looked at the ground where the ladder had been then asked, “Where’d it go?”
“Ray took it to Mrs. Williams’ garage,” the dark haired one said.
“Oh, good,” Cassie said. “Didn’t want to have to lug that thing again.”
The kids around her shouted at Paul who sat in the driver’s seat. “Do the siren!” Paul smiled brightly, causing an unexpected burst of attraction to hit Cassie, then he flipped the switch that turned on some lights. A quick burst of sound from the siren went off for a moment before he turned it off and waved to the kids. “See you later.”
“Hope not!” Mrs. Williams said and Cassie laughed. Though she hoped to not see them in an emergency situation, she wouldn’t mind seeing Paul again. Cassie waved and maintained eye contact with Paul while he began moving the fire Cassie waved and maintained eye contact with Paul while he began moving the fire truck forward, then when he turned away to focus on the road, she continued to watch him, wishing she would have thought to get his number. Calling 911 would not be an option.

By the time Paul realized he had feelings for Cassie, it was too late, she had started dating the other guy with plans to move away, go to college, and marry him.
Now, years later, she’s back in Emerald Cove very much single and there to stay.

Main Tropes

  • Long Time Crush
  • Boy Next Door
  • Friends to Lovers
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