Good things come in forty-something firefighter packages
At thirty-eight years old, Dahlia is sure the hackneyed platitude is true: All the good men are either married or gay. Her best friend and her sisters dare her to put her fate where her mouth is. The terms of the challenge? During the month of October, she has to end her five-year-long 'man fast' and go on dates with men of their choosing. Oh, and she also has to go out with anyone else who asks. The blind dates end in disaster, but all isn't lost. Dahli's handsome new neighbor, a firefighter named Jackson Carmichael, might just throw a wrench into her plan to die lonely and single...that is if she doesn't scare him away first.
They made their way around amusements--the bumper cars, the carousel, and one called Stormy Seas that was shaped like a giant pirate ship and rocked back and forth, going higher each time until it was almost inverted. Jackson won her a bag of cotton candy at the ring toss and a giant stuffed panda. "What in the world am I going to do with this?" she teased.
"You could name him Mr. Snuggles and spoon him every night while you think of me."
"Not that you've given it much thought."
"Right?" He dipped his head to one side.
He carried Mr. Snuggles around the park for a while, but since the stuffed animal was an impediment to embarking on further rides, they decided to take him out to the truck.
Jackson trotted through the parking lot, the toy slung over one shoulder, chanting, "Mayday, mayday. Firefighter down, firefighter down." Dahlia didn't mind the stares from passersby. The man's sense of humor tickled her. There was something to be said for a man who didn't mind making a fool of himself in public.
He flopped Mr. Snuggles into the cab of his Ford and proceeded to perform CPR on him.
"You're certifiable, you know that?" She giggled.
"I do. I've been told it's part of my charm."
He feigned hurt and pouted as he pushed closed the truck door.
Giant panda secured, Jackson took her hands and asked, "You hungry? We can grab a corn dog or pizza here. Or we can go to a real restaurant. Choice is yours."
Looking up at him, Dahli couldn't focus on the thought of food. She saw only his face lit with the yellowish cast of the sodium lamps high above. The drama of his patrician nose against the cut-outs of high cheekbones, his angular mouth like that of a comic book superhero. In some ways, he was her superhero, saving her from yet another lonely night. It'd been too long since she'd had this much fun.
As if he sensed the discussion about dinner was over before it'd begun, he slipped a hand beneath her hair, cradling her face, and brushed his thumb along the edges of her eyelashes. She turned her cheek into the caress and pressed her lips against his palm. Drawing her closer, he closed his eyes and grazed her mouth with his. The din of the boardwalk faded away and Dahlia lost herself in the kiss. She parted her lips and he ran his tongue along hers. He tasted of cotton candy.
His free arm wrapped around her waist and pulled her against him. She ran her hands over his arms and shoulders, noting every firm ripple along the way as she worked her way up to his neck. Her fingers stroked along his collar and ran through his hair. It was just long enough to grasp a handful of.
When the kiss ended, he rested his forehead against hers.
"We shouldn’t be doing this," she said under her breath.
"Doing what?" Jackson kissed along her jaw.
"Making out in the parking lot like a couple of teenagers."
"You smell good," he whispered against her skin.
She closed her eyes again and relaxed into the heat building between her legs. His lips captured hers again, tongue still playful and sweet, but the kiss continued to deepen. Warm exhalations blew across her cheek from his nostrils pressed against it and she lost track of where her mouth stopped and his began.