Fanning the Flames

"Fanning the Flames"
by Victoria Dahl
Short Story in the Jackson: Girls' Night Out series!



Fire fighters. The bane of her existence.

Shaded beneath the fading awning of the Jackson Town Library, Lauren Foster watched as fire captain Jake Davis jogged along the other side of the street, his eyes straight ahead, brow furrowed against the bright sun. It was one of the hottest days of August so far, so he’d shucked his shirt and wore only black shorts, the Jackson Fire Department logo bunching at his hip with every stride. His shoulders and chest were tanned from months of summer running.

The noise from the fire fighters annoyed her every day, but the most torturous thing about the library being attached to the fire station was this: being exposed to Jake Davis’s beautiful body.

He crossed the street and moved closer, and Lauren watched a trickle of sweat slip down his skin to tangle in the salt and pepper hair in the middle of his chest.

God, she loved a hairy male chest. If she wanted to feel soft and smooth, she had free dibs on her own chest. No one else was using it.

Sighing, she frowned at Jake’s wide, taut shoulders as he approached the building. He looked up then, of course. She imagined the picture she must make: the spinster town librarian sitting primly on a bench with a book, frowning her disapproval over a man’s sweaty public nudity.

Lauren looked back to the book in her hands and frowned harder. No, she couldn’t even claim the cliché of spinster. She was just an empty-nester divorcee, counting down the years to menopause. She was in the single digits now and could feel the hot flashes looming over her, strobing in the distance like approaching lightning. Every time she went to that cute little boutique in town, she was more and more attracted to the wildly painted reading glasses with the beaded chains that let them hang around your neck.

And she didn’t even need reading glasses. Yet.

But a pair of new shades might do her good. Then she could truly enjoy the sight of Jake’s glistening chest as he jogged toward the fire station. Sharing the building made for a nice summer view during her lunch hour, but it was bittersweet, looking at what she could never have.

Lauren didn’t realize he was moving straight toward her and not the door of the fire station until he stopped right in front of her. She sat up straighter.

“Lauren,” he said in that familiar gravelly voice. “You wanted to see me?”

She blinked in confusion before remembering that she’d sent him an email. “Oh. Yes, but…” But not half-naked, she wanted to say. As she hesitated, another little rivulet of sweat trickled down his neck and made its eager way toward his chest hair. “Uh.” Jesus. Lauren gave herself a mental shake. “Your guys are playing music again.”

His brow tightened with momentary irritation. “Loudly?” he asked.

His irritation fueled her own and helped her get over his glistening chest. “Yes. Loudly enough that I can hear the lyrics in the library.”

“They’re working out. Give ‘em a break. They only—”

“Earbuds. Check into them.”

Another twitch of his brow. Lauren stared him down.

“It’s a library, Jake. Come on. Our whole shtick is silent contemplation. When your sirens aren’t blaring, we need it to be quiet. Plus, your guys have terrible taste in music.”

His face finally relaxed into something that was almost a smile. “All right. I’ll give you that. Their music sucks.”

“Just remind them of the library’s hours, okay? They can blast music as loud as they want after closing.”

He ran a hand through his short hair, and another drop of sweat slipped down his neck. This time it curved over his shoulder and disappeared down his back. “They’ve got earbuds, but listening to music together is bonding. It’s good for team cohesion.”

Lauren took a deep breath and closed her eyes for a moment, hating the stereotype she was becoming. “Do you really think I want to be the uptight middle-aged librarian asking the young guys next door to turn down that terrible rap music?”

When she opened her eyes, she thought she saw his gaze rise, as if he’d been looking at her body, but maybe that was just her own wishful thinking.

“What?” he asked.

Lauren sighed and stood. “Take pity on me and don’t make me ask again, ok? I don’t enjoy being the nagging house mother.”

He was frowning again, but he at least offered an unenthusiastic “Sure,” as she turned to open the library door.

“Thank you, Jake.”

His hand appeared above hers to pull the door open, and there was no mistaking the scent of his clean sweat as the air moved around both of them. It hit her hard, drawing something tight deep in her belly, and Lauren considered it a triumph that she didn’t turn and lick him before moving inside. He smelled like a man should smell when he was in your bed and working hard for it.

The door finally whooshed shut behind her, and she breathed a sigh of relief that all she could smell now was paper and Windex.

Her thirties had been a fairly dry decade, what with her failing marriage and then her divorce. But her forties? God. Her body clearly wanted her to get busy humping any man that caught her eye before all her eggs dried up. What her body didn’t seem to understand was that there were plenty of healthy-egged young twenty-somethings who were attracted to men like Jake Davis, too. She couldn’t compete with them. But honestly, she wouldn’t mind a few hopeless tries.

Why had it taken four decades to realize how beautiful the male body was? And how very much she wanted more of it? She’d never once thought about tasting a sweaty male chest in her twenties. Now she wanted to lick Jake Davis clean.


* * *


Fanning the Flames is available as an e-book short story now!


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