Rescue My Heart Sneak Peek!
Chapter 1 - Al
Al sighed as she pulled into the parking lot of Fire Dreams. It wasn’t that she wasn’t excited for Ginny’s party, though she didn’t know the woman well, but she was tired of attending these events alone.
For the longest time, it had been her partner Jordan attending everything with her. She’d convinced herself they belonged together and were more than partners, but that was before he’d found Cassidy. The beautiful female firefighter had stolen his interest faster than gasoline fueled a flame, and before she knew it, Al was left without her automatic plus one.
But she couldn’t fault Cassidy. Not only was the woman beautiful, but she was nice too. She was like that obnoxious girl in high school who won everything but you couldn’t hate her because she was so modest and kind. And if Al were honest, Jordan and Cassidy were good together. Better than she and Jordan would have been. Besides, knowing her luck, if they had dated, something would have happened to end the relationship. Then, Al would have been left without a boyfriend AND without a partner, and if she had to make a choice, she’d rather have Jordan by her side while on the job even if it meant she had to attend these events alone now.
It wouldn’t even be so bad if it were just Jordan and Cassidy together and everyone else was stag like she was, but that hadn’t happened either. Jordan and Cassidy had been like a romantic catalyst, setting off a chain reaction that sent Cupid flying through the air and shooting everyone in sight. After Jordan, it had been Brody and Tia, then Bubba and Makenna, Graham and Ginny, and most recently Cara and Cole. Half of those people hadn’t even lived in Fire Beach a year ago, so their small group of friends was quickly growing, making Al feel even more like a third wheel.
The crazy coupling phenomenon reminded her of a time in college when everyone around her had been getting married and having children. “Don’t drink the water,” her roommate had said, and Al had laughed and agreed at the time, but now she kind of wished she could drink the water. Or at least that she could taste the water, but the glasses coming her direction were all either empty or filled with sand.
It wasn’t that she hadn’t dated anyone in the recent past, but none of them had been the right one. Well, there had been one that Al had thought was the right one, but it had ended, and while he still made appearances in her dreams occasionally, he never made appearances at her door anymore, so it was obviously not meant to be. Regardless, while she could date, she wasn’t looking for Mr. Right Now, she was looking for Mr. Right, so she would just have to suck it up and be patient.
Her eyes flicked to her reflection in the visor mirror, and she attempted to give herself a peptalk. “You can do this.” Yes, she could do this. She could make it through another dinner alone, but she could not hide the trace of sadness that resided in her hazel eyes like a layer of dust on a long forgotten book. Too bad it was evening and she couldn’t keep a pair of sunglasses on. Still, this was Ginny’s night and no one was likely to notice Al’s eyes. Besides, she could fake a smile with the best of them. She was getting pretty good at that. Flipping up the visor, she pulled her keys from the ignition and exited the car.
The sun was just setting, sending lovely arcs of reds and pinks across the sky, and Al took a moment to enjoy the image as she approached the front door. This was her favorite time of year - the end of summer when the days were still longer but the air was just beginning to hint at the chill to come. Squaring her shoulders, she turned from the artistic sky painting behind her, took a deep breath, and placed her hand on the metal door handle.
Though the restaurant was closed to the public for the night, the jumbled noise of lively conversation met her ears as soon as she stepped inside. Jordan and his brother Graham, who owned the restaurant, had pulled together several tables to create one long table and most of their group of friends were already seated around it. Ginny and Graham sat at the head of the table. Jordan and Cassidy sat on Graham’s right and Tia and Brody sat across the table from them on Ginny’s left. Bubba and Makenna occupied the seats next to Cassidy and Nick and Ivy enjoyed the seats across. That left four open seats near the end of the table. Two were for Cara and Cole, who hadn’t arrived yet, and one of the other two was for Al. The remaining empty seat mocked her as a reminder that she was single, though in truth Nick and Ivy were also single - unless they’d started seeing each other, which Al couldn’t really fathom.
Al didn’t know Makenna or Ivy that well, but she chose the seat next to the peppy paramedic in hopes they could at least bond as the two single women at the table.
“They’re going to start needing more tables if we get much bigger,” Ivy whispered to Al as she sat down.
Al smiled and nodded, but she doubted she would be the one increasing the number anytime soon. Ivy was much more likely to snag a guy. Blonde, petite, and perky, her slight accent was as cute as her smile, and her job was less demanding than Al’s though not by much. It was possible that Nick might be the next to find love. He was also a doctor, but very different from the more serious Brody. In the short time Al had known him, she’d seen him with seven different women. She decided she had a slightly better chance of not being the final third wheel than Nick did.
The door opened behind her and Cara’s boisterous voice filled the room. “Happy belated birthday, friend.” Cara was former military, but she still carried herself as if she were active, and she had the voice of an instructor when she wanted to. With a wide smile, she threw her arms around Ginny. Of all of them, Cara knew Ginny the best; she’d offered the girl a room at her bed and breakfast and a new lease on life.
“Thank you, Cara. I’m so glad you guys could make it.” She turned to Cole. “I know I don’t know you well, but I hear that you’re staying in town, so hopefully we can remedy that.”
“Uh, yeah sure.”
Al barely knew Cole, but he appeared uncomfortable being in the spotlight even for just a moment. His hand tugged at his collar, and his weight shifted just slightly from one foot to the other.
After handing off the gift, Cara and Cole took their seats - Cole next to Makenna and Cara next to Al. Al wondered briefly why Cara had chosen to sit next to her instead of next to Cole, but before she could ask, her phone buzzed and danced on the table.
Flipping it over, she tapped the message to read it. Her mouth fell open as her eyes scanned the words. She’d expected it to be Captain Stone or someone else from the unit, but she hadn’t expected it to be her mother.
“Are you okay?”
Cara’s whisper pulled her back to the present, and Al shook her head. “That wa