Page 23 of Burned (Ignite #1)

“Sorry, Captain. Was that too loud for you?” D.J. asks with an innocent look.

I should have known better than to drink the night before weekly drills at the station. As the captain of Franklin Ten House, I’m not required to run the drills with my men, but most of the time I do. Under normal circumstances, I’m out there with them in the bay running advancing hose drills, shoulder carries with two-hundred pound test dummies, cradle carries, ladder sprints and a multitude of other drills designed to keep the men in shape and provide a little healthy competition. Today, however, I’m perfectly fine holding the stopwatch and letting D.J., our Incident Commander, run things. If he blows that whistle anywhere near me again, though, I’m not going to be responsible for my actions.

“Alright, boys, that’s a wrap!” D.J. shouts to the group of guys bent over, gasping for air after the last timed run. “Martinez and Johnson, you guys had the slowest times tonight so you’re on kitchen duty. Get your asses inside and make me a pot pie!”

The two men groan and everyone else starts a little good-natured ribbing as they all make their way inside.

When it’s just the two of us left outside, D.J. turns to me, crossing his arms over his chest and staring me down. “Alright, out with it. You never drink the night before a shift and you sure as hell never give up a chance to whip everyone’s ass with your stellar ladder climbing skills. What’s been going on with you this week? I’m pretty sure you’ve been hung-over every f**king day since last Monday.”

As we slowly make our way back inside the station, I take a deep breath before coming clean with him.

“I slept with Finnley.”

He doesn’t even bat an eye at my breaking news. “Jesus, it’s about f**king time. Now that you’ve gotten THAT out of your system, can you stop being a pu**y and move on?”

I want to be pissed at him for his attitude where Finnley’s concerned, but I can’t. He knows how much I’ve thought about her over the years. It was basically his fault I broke up with her in the first place, a fact that I’ve never let him forget.

“Dude, we’re seniors. We’re the kings of this f**king school. Why the hell do you still want to be tied down with a girlfriend? Especially one who isn’t putting out?”

I’ve never wanted to punch my best friend before, but he’s seriously testing my patience right now. I should have just lied and told him we finally had sex after prom night. It’s not like I didn’t try to get laid, it was prom night for f**k’s sake. Everyone gets laid on prom night. But Finnley still wasn’t ready and I’m not the kind of ass**le who pushes his girlfriend to do something she’s not ready for. Even though I’ve been ready since the first time I saw her covered in gunpowder in her backyard when we were fifteen years old, I don’t want her to think that’s the only thing I want from her. I’m perfectly fine with all the other stuff we do and I’ll wait as long as she wants me to. I’m just getting sick and tired of being questioned about it from my best friend.

As the night wore on and I consumed a seriously unhealthy amount of beer, the things D.J. continued to spout off about started to sound pretty damn good. It didn’t help that Finnley wasn’t at the party with me. She had plans with her girlfriends to go to a movie. If she was here right now and I could kiss her and touch her and be physically reminded about all the reasons why I’m with her, I wouldn’t be having all of these stupid thoughts.

“Do you have any idea how much pu**y you could be getting right now if you were single? Think about it, are you really going to go off to separate colleges and plan on this working out? I’ve got news for you, that shit never works,” D.J. tells me, tossing me another beer.

Finnley and I only had one conversation about college and it didn’t go very well. She wants me to go to the fire academy that’s close to home and the art school she plans on attending and I want to get the f**k out of dodge. I’ve been in this town all of my life and I want to see new things and go to different places. I don’t understand why she can’t just go with me, but she’s adamant about staying close to her family.

“I love her though, man,” I slur drunkenly.

“You only think you love her. She was your first girlfriend. How the hell do you even know what love is? Stop being a pu**y and go out and GET some pu**y!” D.J. cheers before chugging an entire beer.

Shit, he’s totally right. I’m seventeen years old. I care about Finnley, but am I really in love with her? Sure, we’ve said the words to each other plenty of times. She’s sweet, smart, funny and sexy as hell. What’s not to love? Aside from D.J., she’s one of my best friends. My family loves her and they’ve pretty much already started planning our wedding. I suddenly feel slightly nauseous and I’m not sure whether it’s the cheap beer or the idea of marriage that has my guts churning.

I’m not ready for that shit.

Two years is a long time to have a girlfriend in high school. It’s almost unheard of. Why the hell shouldn’t I be single and finish off my senior year with a bang?

“Fuck, how the hell do I even break up with someone? Do I just call her and tell her it’s over?” I ask, popping the top on my can of beer and downing half of it in one swallow.

“No, man. You can write her a note. I’ll even hand deliver it at school tomorrow so you don’t have to deal with that shit. HEY! Someone get me a f**king pen and a piece of paper!” D.J. yells to no one in particular.