Lindsay crossed her arms under her head and stared up at the ceiling over her head as she lay back on her bed. It had only been a couple of days since the blaze and it was still fresh in her mind, plaguing her. She was off for five days and she figured that some relaxing would help get her mind off of everything, but having time to herself to think seemed to only be making things worse. If anything, she was feeling more affected by what had happened, not less. She knew that what she was experiencing would be classified as post traumatic stress, but she wasn’t going to admit that. It would pass with time, she figured.
Sighing softly, Linz sat up and reached for the cordless phone on the bedside table. Picking it up she dialed a familiar number automatically, not even having to think as her fingers sought out the digits. She needed a distraction and she knew that was something that Trish and Kyla could give her. As the phone rang on the other side, however, more thoughts began to swim around in her mind. This time they were thoughts of Jason. Maybe calling his sisters wasn’t the best idea. She was just about to hang up and call another one of her friends when she heard a clicking on the other end, signifying that someone had answered.
“Gardener residence, Trish here,” the woman on the other end said brightly.
“Hey you,” Lindsay said with a false enthusiasm.
“Linz!” Trish said warmly. “Long time no chat! I was going to call you later today! What have you been doing lately?”
“Oh, you know, the usual,” Linz replied. “Fighting fires, recovering from smoke inhalation.”
“That’s right!” Trish said pointedly. “Jase told us about that. Are you okay?!”
He’d told them about what had happened? Lindsay’s heart jumped into her throat as she thought about just what he’d told them and she swallowed thickly, her hand unconsciously tightening it’s grip on the phone. He couldn’t have said that much to the girls; Trish would have called her the second he’d told them about the kiss if he’d let it slip. God, she hated how jumpy and insecure the kiss had made her. She hated being suspicious. At the thought, Lindsay shook herself off and tried to soothe her frayed nerves, focusing back on the conversation.
“Yeah, I’m fine,” she said softly. “Don’t worry, I’m taking it easy.”
“I should hope so!” Trish exclaimed. “Anyway, I was going to ask you if you wanted to come to dinner with me and Kyla later tonight. Jason told us the whole story about the fire, he told us how you got caught in it with Faithie and we want to hear it from your perspective.”
Oh, great. Just what she needed: to retell the story again. With a light sigh, Lindsay brushed some hair away from her face and caved. Maybe she’d be able to get it over with quickly and then they could move on to other subject matter to take her mind off of things.
“Sure,” Linz replied. “Just tell me when and where.”
“The High Level Diner at seven,” Trish instructed.
“Sounds good,” Lindsay agreed.
“Great!” Trish squealed excitedly.
Jason couldn’t think straight. Every time he tried his mind would find some way to reference to Lindsay and that kiss they’d shared. It was beginning to really annoy him. He ran a hand through his dark hair and sighed, looking down to watch Faith as she played with Lydia; Kyla’s toy poodle. Until Millie returned to town, Jason had to leave Faith with his sisters when he worked. He’d found out from the police just earlier that morning that Marin had indeed perished in the fire and it had shaken him quite a bit.
Sighing softly he thought right back to Lindsay again. She’d saved his daughter’s life and, as compassionately as she could muster, told him that his nanny had been burnt to a crisp. She got brownie points for letting him down gently on that one. She’d been so good with Faith, so maternal and natural, that it boggled his mind as to why she was an ice queen every other waking moment. Well, not every moment. She’d been pretty damn hot when he’d kissed her.
No, Jason scolded himself mentally. Don’t go there.
Shaking himself off, Jase glanced at his watch. He had a good hour and a half before he had to be at work but he couldn’t just sit around. He could hear Trish on the phone in the kitchen and Kyla singing in the shower and he doubted that either of them would be done any time soon. That thought in mind, Jason decided he’d go and pay Lindsay a visit. He wanted to get her off of his mind and he was out of options. Maybe seeing her was the only way to accomplish that.
Standing up from the armchair in which he sat, Jason knelt beside Faith and Lydia, reaching out to scratch behind the pooch’s ears and leaning in to press a kiss to his baby girl’s forehead.
“Daddy has to go, sweetheart,” he said softly. “I’ll come get you as soon as I’m done work. You be good for your aunts.”
“I will daddy!” Faith said brightly. “I love you.”
“I love you too, precious,” he said with a smile.
With that, Jason stood and made his way toward the kitchen, straightening out some of the creases in his uniform. He waved a quick goodbye to Trish and got a bright smile in return. Picking up his car keys he headed out the door and climbed into the car, heading off toward Lindsay’s house in Glacier Crescent.
There wasn’t too much traffic on the roads and he reached the house not ten minutes later, pulling up in front and taking the key out of the ignition. He tried in vain for a few minutes to convince himself that he was only there to check on Lindsay, to make sure she was alright in a purely platonic and professional sense. Now if only he could really believe that.
Getting out of the car, Jason picked headed up toward the house, fiddling absent mindedly with the few accessories on his belt. He hooked his thumb through one of his belt loops as he reached out and rang the doorbell, taking a step back and waiting for an answer.
“She’s a brave little girl,” Lindsay commented in reply to Trish’s question about Faith. “Definitely takes on after her daddy.”
She could almost hear the smirk in Trish’s voice. She and Kyla had been trying to set her up with their brother for longer than she cared to remember and so far she hadn’t caved. She didn’t want Trish to think that the two of them had been in any way successful.
“So now you’re complimenting Jase? Well then, I take it you’re warming up to him, then?” Trish said with a chuckle.
Lindsay opened her mouth to say something but was saved the trouble of answering her friend’s question as the doorbell rang and echoed through the house. She furrowed her eyebrows; she wasn’t expecting anyone. Thanking God someone had showed up, however, she quickly brushed Trish off.
“Listen, the doorbell just rang,” Lindsay said lightly. “We’ll talk over dinner, alright?”
“Sure thing,” Trish said brightly. “I’m holding you to that.”
“Don’t I know it?” Linz said wryly. “See you later.”
“Bye now!” Trish chirped.
With that, Lindsay hung up and headed downstairs.
Saved by the bell, she thought.
Skipping down the last couple of steps, Lindsay set the phone down on a little table at the bottom of the stairs and turned the corner, heading for the front door. She didn’t even bother checking who was at the door before unlocking it and pulling it open, glancing out onto the front porch.
The sight of the person there made her breath catch in her throat. She gritted her teeth. Just what she needed; Jason. Sighing softly, Linz ran a hand through her hair and met his gaze, trying not to look too harassed.
“Jason,” she said lightly. “This certainly is a surprise. I wasn’t expecting you. I just got off the phone with Trish. Was there something you needed?”
“I just came to check on you,” he replied softly. “To make sure you were holding up your end of the bargain.”
When Lindsay raised an eyebrow, Jason chuckled. Linz inhaled sharply, cursing herself inwardly. She was not about to let it be known that his smile had made her heart skip.
“You promised me you’d rest and relax,” Jason explained. “I want to make sure that still stands. Now are you going to invite me in or are we going to have this conversation on the porch?”
Lindsay’s cheeks flushed a light pink at his inquisition and she stepped aside, giving him room to walk past her. She waited until he’d taken the initiative and done so before closing the door behind them, gesturing him into the living room. Watching him as he took a seat on the sofa, Lindsay headed toward the doorway at the other end of the room.
“Can I get you something to drink?” She asked.
“No thanks,” Jason replied. “Come and join me.”
Nodding, Linz headed back around the couch and took a seat at the opposite end of the sofa. Even though a few feet separated them, it was still close enough to make Lindsay’s lips tingle residually from the kiss they’d shared, from the memory of his body against hers. It was too close.
Kicking herself mentally, Linz looked over at Jason, sitting back as comfortably as she could, being as stiff as she was because of his proximity. She crossed her arms over her chest and regarded him closely, pursing her lips at the discrepancy in their wardrobe. He looked the part of the professional, dressed in his uniform with his stethoscope hung around his neck and his sunglasses resting atop his head, while she looked like some sort of a cheerleader in a velour tracksuit that left a small strip of skin bare between her pants and zip up sweater. She felt slightly self conscious letting him see her out of her usual work attire, but she wasn’t going to give him the satisfaction of seeing her disconcerted.
She was thinking of some way to break the silence, to take her mind off of her thoughts (though her reality wasn’t too much different) when Jason did it for her.
“How have you been feeling these past couple of days?” He asked.
“Fine,” Lindsay replied. “Never better.”
Jason raised an eyebrow and looked Linz over with a scrutinizing gaze. She shifted slightly uncomfortably at all of his undue attention. She could tell he wasn’t satisfied with her answer, but she really was pretty well fine. Physically, anyway. Emotionally, she’d definitely been better. Still, she definitely wasn’t going to admit it, especially to Jason.
“You’re going to have to be more convincing than that,” he said pointedly.
“Don’t go there,” Lindsay snapped.
“I’m concerned about you, Linz,” he said lightly. “You don’t have to bite my head off. Is it really such a crime for me to worry about you?”
“I can worry about myself, thanks,” she growled.
“You shouldn’t have to,” Jason said softly. “Everyone needs someone, Linz. The sooner you realize that, the sooner you’ll find happiness. You don’t always have to be alone. Letting people in doesn’t make you any less independent.”
Lindsay wanted to argue, she really did, but any argument she made would have been unfounded. He was right and she knew it, she just didn’t want to say it out loud. Sighing softly she ran a hand through her hair, brushing a few stray strands back behind her ear. She settled her hands in her lap and knotted them together awkwardly. She wasn’t looking at him; she couldn’t, but she could still feel his gaze on her, taking her in. She was forced to look up a moment later, though, as she felt the weight on the couch shifting. Glancing over she noticed that Jason had moved closer and was reaching out a hand to her, taking her wrist and bringing his other hand up, glancing down at his watch. He gestured to the hand of hers he was holding with his free hand.
“May I?” he asked.
It’s a little late to be asking, don’t you think? Lindsay thought wryly. She nodded slowly, giving up on being tense and letting him have his way. She glanced away as he checked her pulse, thinking back to the blaze, to the way the aftermath made her skin crawl. She’d seen a lot in her career and she’d heard it all before, too, but that still hadn’t prepared her for how terrifying and disastrous the blaze at the complex had been. Lives had been lost, a part of their history had been permanently destroyed. It was a loss that people were going to remember and mourn for years.
Her heart broke for those who had lost family members in the fire. There hadn’t been many casualties, but even one was one too many. Sure, the fire department, the brave men Lindsay worked with, had managed to get the blaze put out, but they’d been unable to save everyone. It was a pyrrhic victory. Too much had been lost for the containment of the blaze to really mean anything in the long run. Lives and history, that was what their small town boiled down to and that was what it had grown shorter of thanks to the fire.
Lindsay’s mind wandered and she’d become completely oblivious to Jason’s presence, his ministrations. She was snapped out of her reverie by the sound of his voice moments later, but she’d completely missed what he’d said.
“Huh?” She asked lightly.
“You know your attention span, or lack thereof, is getting really old, really fast,” Jason commented wryly. “I said your pulse is a little fast.”
“I’m fine,” Lindsay reiterated.
“I’m sure that’s true, but it’s always better safe than sorry,” Jason reasoned.
Lindsay pursed her lips and nodded, not really feeling up to arguing with him. There were too many thoughts distracting her. She felt the pain of those who’d lost family and friends, she felt the anxiety of those who’d spent hours unsure of whether they’d lost anyone, she felt the heartbreak of those who’d watched the old building burn, knowing that the town would never be the same. She’d felt it all and she was still feeling it.
Shivering slightly as the chill of Jason’s stethoscope against her chest startled her out of her reverie, Lindsay realized tears had welled up in her eyes. She reached up with a shaky hand to wipe them away before she could shed them, but by then Jason had seen them. His eyebrows furrowed in concern as he finished up checking her heart and breath sounds, hanging his stethoscope back up around his neck. He reached out to her, hesitating only a moment, and settled a hand gently on her cheek, stroking his thumb over his cheekbone to wipe away the first tear to fall.
“What is it, Linz?” Jason asked softly. “What’s bothering you so much, sweetie?”
He knew exactly what was bothering her. He worked with people like her. Hell, he was a lot like that himself at times, but he was asking her for her benefit. If she talked about it, told him about what was bothering her, it would be easier for her. If she just let him shoulder some of the burden of what she was feeling, let him help her, he was sure she would feel a lot better. He tipped her face up gently, just enough to be able to meet her eyes, and held her gaze.
Lindsay’s body shook as sobs began to wrack her frame. Jason’s touch had been the last straw. As much as she wanted to be independent, to handle things on her own, when he’d touched her she’d realized that she couldn’t do it by herself. She didn’t want Jason to be the person she ran to, but she couldn’t hide from him. Not after he’d seen her tears, felt her body tremble with ragged sobs as she recalled the fire.
She barely felt as Jason’s arms wrapped around her, as he pressed her to the strong plane of his body. All she could do was give in. Her eyes shut, Lindsay leaned into his embrace and buried her face in the crook of his neck, sobbing uncontrollably, tears cascading down her cheeks and staining the fabric of Jason’s collar. She clung to him, her hands balling in the stiff fabric of his shirt as she cried. She didn’t want to think about it anymore, didn’t want to feel what she was feeling, the tremendous loss, and so she gave herself over to Jason, to the sensation that his body against hers was causing in her.
He was warm and surprisingly gentle. Of course she’d known that he would be, men with daughters were never cold and harsh, but it had still come as a surprise. She’d never expected to feel the way she did because of him. She felt safe, cared for. It was something she hadn’t experienced in a long time. Not since before her mother’s death.
With that thought came a fresh batch of tears. If her mother had been there maybe it wouldn’t have been so bad. Sure, she had her father, but it wasn’t the same. They didn’t share that connection that she and her mother had. Then again, maybe it was better this way. Her mother had always had an incredible amount of pride in the town, she’d always boasted about it’s history, it’s past. Now there was that much less to be proud of, to boast about.
Taking a deep, shaky breath, Lindsay reached up and wiped away a few of her tears. She pulled slowly away from Jason, holding him at arm’s length, looking up to meet his eyes. She slowly loosened her grip on his shirt and settled her hands in her lap, twining them together slightly awkwardly.
“I’m sorry,” she said quietly.
“Don’t be,” Jason reassured. “You needed to let it out. I’m just glad you trusted me enough to let me be there for you. Coming from you, the gesture means a lot.”
Lindsay gave him a short, watery smile. She felt a cold dagger of fear prodding at her heart as she realized she’d really let him in. She hadn’t wanted to, but at the same time she didn’t wish she hadn’t. It scared her that she was beginning to think maybe he was right, maybe she needed to let someone, him, in. She didn’t want to change, she didn’t like change, but she was feeling slightly powerless to stop it.
Looking away from those intriguing blue eyes of his, Lindsay glanced at the clock on the wall. It was nearing the noon hour and she knew that he would be late for his shift if he hung around much longer. Jason seemed to sense her concern and he followed her gaze to the clock, the time taking him slightly by surprise. He’d been there longer than either of them had realized.
Turning his attention back to Lindsay, Jason reached out again, without hesitation this time, and took her hand, squeezing it gently. He stroked the back of her hand with his thumb, not wanting to leave her in such a state. He’d be sure to check on her later. In the meantime he’d call Trish and ask her to perhaps pop in on Lindsay later to keep her company.
“I’ve got to get going,” Jason said softly. “I’ll come by later. In the meantime I want you to rest, keep your mind off of things. If you need anything, you can always call me. It’ll be okay, Linz.”
“Thanks,” Lindsay said almost inaudibly.
“That’s what friends are for,” Jason said emphatically.
Lindsay swallowed thickly and nodded, slowly standing from the couch, letting go of Jason’s hand. He stood with her and she led him to the door, opening it for him and stepping aside. She shivered involuntarily as he brushed past her, stepping into the warm outside air. Clinging to the doorframe, Lindsay met his gaze one last time.
“Don’t get into too much trouble,” she chided softly.
“You too,” Jason replied. “I’ll see you later.”
Lindsay nodded and watched him as he turned and walked away. She waited until he’d driven off before closing the door and falling back against it, staring ahead at the wall at the end of the corridor. Sighing softly she wondered just what kinds of lines she’d crossed, what kinds of walls she’d let Jason tear down. She hoped it hadn’t changed things. Once she got over it all, she’d be right back to her old self again and she wasn’t particularly keen on the idea of hurting Jason when it came to that.
Wow, she thought. Now you care about hurting the guy? You need a serious reality check, sweetheart.
All she wanted was to be her old self again; independent and unbreakable. She didn’t like the new Lindsay and she definitely didn’t like the idea of shaking up her life by letting Jason into it. She already had his sisters to contend with. The last thing she needed was to get attached and to let him get attached. She couldn’t let it happen.
Shaking her head, Lindsay made her way toward the bedroom to get her jogging clothes. She needed to think.