Lindsay grumbled inwardly as another cough shook her body. She had to admit that since the adrenaline had worn off she felt the full effects of the smoke inhalation and carbon monoxide toxicity. As much as she didn’t want to give Jason any merit for his concern, she could appreciate where it stemmed from. That still didn’t mean she had to like the idea of him coming to check on her.
She moved about her cramped, curtained-off quarters and stripped off all of her gear, tossing it aside to drop in the wash later. She pulled the elastic out of her hair, letting her locks cascade down around her face, tickling her skin. It had taken her a long time to get used to being in such close quarters with the others, the men, but she’d done it. She and the other two female firefighters she shared the firehouse with on occasion. After her three and a half years at the station she felt just as comfortable stripping and changing as she did at home. She’d earned the respect of the men and she trusted them not to take advantage of the lack of complete privacy. Besides, she knew that they knew if they did play peeping tom, she could take them. At six feet tall and athletic, she rivaled the others pretty well.
Pulling on a clean pair of department standard issue black slacks and a white tank top, Lindsay sat back on her bed and collapsed against the pillows. She was too drained, physically and mentally, to even so much as shower and join the others for dinner. The day had been long, and for some it wasn’t over yet. With a sigh, Lindsay closed her eyes and felt herself slipping into a nice, dreamless sleep.
Jason wiped a weary hand over his tired eyes as he stepped through one of the open truck bay doors to fire station thirteen. He looked around and waved to a few of the firefighters as he headed further into the hall. He’d been in the firehouse before; the medics and the firefighters often had bets going and the losers made dinner on their turf. He kept an eye out for Lindsay but didn’t see her anywhere.
He smiled as he passed by the station chief, Scott Martelli, exchanging a few pleasantries with the other man. Upon inquiring about Lindsay, Jason found out that she’d taken to her bunk, undoubtedly exhausted after a long day. He nodded politely and moved on, heading toward where he knew the bunks to be; his kit in hand.
He glanced around the sleeping quarters and quickly found the only bed with the curtains drawn around it. Taking the chance, considering that he hadn’t seen Lindsay on the way and taking into account what Scott had said, Jason stepped forward and pushed aside the curtain, stepping into the space. A soft smile touched his lips at the scene before him. Lindsay was sprawled out on her back, lips slightly parted and snoring like a beast. He chuckled lightly and stepped closer, setting his kit down on the floor.
Sitting down at Lindsay’s side, Jason reached out and gently set a hand on her shoulder. He jumped back almost immediately when she sat bolt upright, undoubtedly startled by his arrival. Laughing softly, Jason reached out and brushed a stray strand of hair out of Lindsay’s eyes, meeting her shocked gaze.
“Good morning, sunshine,” he said warmly.
“Morning?!” Lindsay exclaimed in alarm.
“Actually, it’s evening,” Jason amended. “My bad.”
Lindsay took a moment to collect herself, acutely aware of the way Jason’s touch had left tingles in its wake when he’d brushed her hair back. She yawned widely and coughed a few times, wincing as her sore throat protested. She reluctantly met his gaze and inhaled sharply to steel herself, having been unprepared to find such a look of genuine concern there.
Her attention was completely diverted away from her surroundings as she thought back to earlier that day. Her heart constricted painfully as she remembered his words from that afternoon. Believe it or not, Doucette, I really am concerned about you. The words echoed in the hollows of her mind, her heart. Had he said it out of concern, completely platonically, or had he meant it as more?
Linz shook herself off. It didn’t matter. Whatever his intentions where, Lindsay was going to make it clear that she wasn’t interested. She wasn’t going to let any man, especially Jason Gardener, shake the foundation on which she’d laid down her heart. She wasn’t going to let herself be weak.
“You’re doing it again,” Jason’s voice permeated her thoughts.
“What?” Lindsay asked.
“Spacing out,” he said simply.
“Get used to it,” she hissed. “I only pay attention to the important things.”
“Oh, ouch,” Jason said sarcastically, rolling his eyes. “Come on; just let me get this over with.”
Pursing her lips, Lindsay complied. She watched as he filed through his kit for whatever he needed and started off by taking her wrist, feeling her pulse. She could feel it kick up a notch of it’s own accord and she grimaced. Looking up, she decided to cut Jason off before he could comment, speaking lightly.
“Don’t you have anything better to be doing than checking up on me?” She questioned.
Without glancing up, Jason shrugged.
“I’ve got some time to spare,” he replied.
A thought occurred to Lindsay before she could retort. She thought back to earlier that day, to Jason’s little girl. She frowned, hoping that everything was alright with her. Glancing over at Jason, Lindsay waited for him to finish up taking her blood pressure before speaking.
“How’s Faith?” She asked softly.
“She’s fine,” he answered. “They’re keeping her over night for observation; she got a pretty bad dose of monoxide and cracked four ribs, but they’re expecting her to make a full recovery.”
“Thank God,” Lindsay murmured.
“I don’t believe in God, I’ve got nothing to thank Him for,” Jason said lightly. “I’ve got you to thank. You saved her.”
Lindsay almost physically kicked herself as her body betrayed her and she felt a hot blush rising in her cheeks. Shaking her head she averted her gaze and tried to deny it.
“She would have been fine without me, one of the others would have saved her,” she argued weakly.
“But one of the others didn’t save her, you did,” Jase said while slipping on his stethoscope and snaking the disc up under Lindsay’s shirt, pressing it to her back. “Deep breaths.”
She complied with a shiver. She wanted to argue, but she knew her rebuttal was unfounded. Still, she didn’t want that kind of attention from him, from anyone. She was only doing her job and getting all the thanks was making things too personal. Besides, she was only one small part of a team. She hadn’t saved Faith single handedly; they all had.
Jason glanced at Lindsay as he stowed away all of his equipment. He could almost feel the discontent radiating off of her in waves. Sighing lightly, Jason zipped up his kit and straightened up, knotting his hands in his lap. He met Lindsay’s gaze and held it, as difficult as it was considering the way she was glaring at him.
If looks could kill.
Shaking off his straying thoughts, Jase focused on what was at hand again.
“Am I going to live?” Lindsay asked with a wry smile.
The fact that she wasn’t being completely cold and unfeeling like her usual self almost shocked Jason into silence. Besides that he was concerned. Was she feeling okay? Up until that moment he figured it would take an epiphany or some kind of a small miracle to change Lindsay’s attitude towards him. Apparently he’d been mistaken.
“You’ll be fine,” he replied. “I know you’re not going to listen to me, but I feel the need to say it anyway. Call it my fierce sense of duty. I suggest you take it easy for the next few days.”
Much to his surprise, Lindsay nodded.
“I plan on it,” she said lightly. “When six in the morning rolls around and the relief shift comes on, I’m out of here for my five days off. I plan on doing plenty of relaxing.”
“Good,” Jason said approvingly. “I hope you make your leisure time worthwhile.”
“I will,” Lindsay assured him. “And what about you? I’m sure you could use some down time after today’s events. Even more so I’m sure you could use some quality time with Faith. When are you off?”
“An hour ago,” Jason said wryly. “I just came to check on you before I went to visit Faith.”
Lindsay’s heart wrenched at his words. He’d taken the time, his free time, to come and check on her? It really boggled her mind as to why he would do that. After all, she was never all too pleasant to him. Was it professional, or was there more to it? Lindsay had never been the best at reading people. Was she missing something?
Shaking herself off, Lindsay tried to push the thoughts away, telling herself she was being foolish.
“I appreciate your concern,” she said quietly. “Thank you, but go on, be with your daughter. I’ll be fine.”
Jason nodded and stood, stooping to pick up his kit. Lindsay stood with him, awkwardly wiping her hands off on her pants, her arms hanging stiffly at her sides. She felt like a lovesick teenager all over again, reliving the feelings she would much rather just have left in the past where they belonged.
Looking down at her at that moment, Jason recognized how vulnerable Lindsay looked. At only five inches shorter than his own six foot five, vulnerable was a word Jase never thought he’d associate with Lindsay Doucette. Her green eyes stood out through a few stray strands of cinnamon red hair. She truly was a beautiful specimen and in that moment, Jason was powerless to hold back. Leaning in he pressed a deep, thorough kiss to her surprisingly soft lips.
Lindsay’s heart almost stopped when she felt Jason’s lips touch hers. She closed her eyes reflexively and made a soft noise of mingled pleasure and protest as her hands crept up to his chest. She balled the fabric of his shirt in her fists, clinging to some semblance of reality. Her heartbeat accelerated and her breathing became ragged as Jason’s hand came to settle on her cheek, pulling her closer. Despite how absorbed she was in the kiss, Linz was still acutely aware of how warm his body was against hers, of the smell of his cologne as it permeated her senses.
A sudden intense jolt of sensibility hit Lindsay like a freight train. Opening her eyes she pulled back with a gasp, her chest heaving. A thousand mingled emotions flashed in her eyes as she stepped back as if she’d been burned.
“What,” she began.
Jason held up a hand to cut her off before she could speak.
“I’m sorry,” he said quickly.
“Yeah, you should be,” Lindsay said breathlessly without too much conviction.
It was a weak comeback and Jason could see that the kiss had disheveled her.
“That was my way of showing you how grateful I am that you saved Faith,” he said quietly.
“You already thanked me for that,” Linz said pointedly.
“Well then consider it a get well soon gift,” he said softly.
With that he sidestepped Lindsay and swiftly made his way out of the station, all the while trying to banish the taste of her that clung stubbornly to his lips.
Lindsay was a dangerous woman and he was playing with fire. He couldn’t let it happen again.
In the meantime, as Jason made a hasty exit, Lindsay stood rooted to the floor, unblinking, completely reeling from what had just transpired. She reached up, brushing her fingertips lightly over her lips. It took her a good long moment for her to recover enough to move, let alone think straight.
Why the hell had Jason kissed her? She thought she’d made it perfectly clear that she wasn’t looking for anything. It was enough for her to offer him professional courtesy on the job and she was perfectly content with him offering her the same, she wasn’t looking for friendship. She especially wasn’t looking for companionship. She didn’t need anyone besides herself. Lindsay was perfectly content the way she was. Wasn’t she?
Shaking her head firmly she balled her hands into fists. No, she wasn’t going there. She was as sure of herself as she could be and she was absolutely positive she didn’t need him. That was the end of the story. Lindsay refused to let herself question what had happened and furthermore, she refused to let herself formulate answers to her own questions. She wasn’t in the mood for any revelations.
Sighing lightly, Lindsay picked up a clean uniform shirt, quickly slipping it on over her tank top and buttoning it up, tucking it in as per regulation. Smoothing out some of the creases in the top she swiftly made her way down from the bunks and into the kitchen, intent on getting something to eat. Maybe if she spent enough time around men that wanted nothing more from her than to pull her weight around the firehouse she’d be able to take her mind off of the one man that seemed to want anything but.
Reaching the galley, Lindsay picked up a plate and piled it with some leftover lasagna, coming to sit with the rest of the crew at the table. As usual there was plenty of chatter over the latest disaster and she quickly decided that it was something she would rather not have to think about again so soon. Eating swiftly she left her dishes in the dishwasher and headed out back of the station to the fitness complex.
As she came up to the track, Lindsay took off at a swift walk around the outside lane, her eyes focused on the ground. She wasn’t going to think about it, about him. She’d made a mantra of it. As she picked up speed, Lindsay focused on the physical exertion rather than the mental anguish of the thoughts plaguing her. The faster she ran, the faster her heart beat, the more quickly she breathed. The more quickly she breathed, Lindsay realized, the tighter her chest felt no thanks to the smoke inhalation.
At long last she was forced to stop. Moving into the middle of the track, Lindsay sprawled herself out in the grass, her chest heaving as she coughed. She stared up at the stars in the sky, the grass cool beneath her. It was so completely unlike being in a blaze, lying there. There was a pleasant chill seeping into her body instead of a blistering heat. Feeling that difference really made her appreciate the kinds of danger she put herself in each and every day at work.
Shifting her gaze up to the vast expanse of inky sky over her, Lindsay watched a shooting star streak by. She’d never been naïve enough to wish on stars; even as a child, but she figured that it couldn’t hurt. That thought in mind, Linz closed her eyes and wished to someone somewhere that when she woke up in the morning she would have forgotten all about Jason and his kiss.
Opening her eyes again, Lindsay realized she was breathing steadily enough to get going. Sighing lightly into the silence that surrounded her she sat up and brushed grass off of her back. Standing swiftly, Linz headed off toward the firehouse at a jog. By the time she got there, all of the other guys were already in their bunks. Calling out a quick goodnight to them she shut the curtain behind her and fell onto her bed, closing her eyes and falling asleep just like that; fully clothed with her mind still reeling over what had happened.