Morgan Morris’s pulse was suddenly pounding as if she’d run to the North Pole and back. She gulped back the knot in her throat. Her instant awareness of this handsome firefighter disconcerted her, making her feel as if she needed to shield herself from the rush of unexpected emotions.
It had been almost two years since her husband Trey had died—her soul mate, who she’d met at nineteen. It had been a great love story. She just hadn’t expected it to end so soon.
But she tried not to give in to bitterness. A while back she’d made a promise to herself to count her blessings and be grateful for the time she’d had with him. Time that had given her Greyson, the most beautiful little boy to ever exist.
For the most part, she kept that promise, but there were days when the whys took over. Why had Trey been taken so young? Why had her son been left without a father? Why had she been given a taste of what true happiness was only to be left to spend the rest of her life with a heart only half full?
She never got any answers, but those days would pass, and she’d settle back into accepting her new normal.
She’d not vowed to remain single but had no interest in becoming involved with another man. What was the point when she’d already given her heart away and had nothing left to give?
Yet, when, with a grin on his handsome face, the firefighter had winked at her, it had been as if someone flipped a switch, lighting up her nervous system with millions of twinkling lights that cast a dazzling glow.
Seeming to be tongue-tied, Greyson smacked his hand against the firefighter’s.
“Good job,” the man praised him. He straightened and turned toward her. His gaze danced with interest, and no doubt hers shone with fear. Not for herself, but for the way her son was staring up at him with wide little eyes filled with adoration.
The life Greyson dreamed of was standing right there in front of him in full gear, and it was all she could do to not wrap her arms around her little boy and beg him to dream a different dream. One that didn’t involve running into burning buildings.
“Ahem.” The other firefighter cleared his throat, motioning for the man standing in front of her to join him.
He gave her a crooked little smile, then shrugged. “Duty calls.”
She and Greyson watched as the firefighters spoke to each other, then opened a bag to pull out plastic helmets and fire safety goodies to give the kids.
“Did you see that?” Greyson asked, looking up at her in awe.
Placing her hand on her son’s shoulder she smiled. “I sure did. You got to be the first one to meet one of the firefighters. He must have sensed that you want to be a firefighter, too.”
“You think so?” Greyson’s eyes were huge.
“It’s just a guess, but it would seem so since he came over to talk to you. That makes you special.” While she didn’t want to encourage firefighting dreams, she did want her son to feel appreciated and seen.
She’d been worried when he’d not rushed over to the firefighters along with the other kids. Was it because he still felt like an outsider to his new classmates and was struggling to fit in? He’d been through so much in his five years. She hadn’t wanted to uproot him from his home and bring him here, but when she’d lost her nursing job due to hospital budget cuts, she hadn’t had much choice. She’d hoped that a fresh start would be good for both of them—and in truth, she’d been feeling much better since leaving Georgia and their former life behind.
Her son’s gaze didn’t leave the firefighters, particularly the unsettling one in full firefighting gear, as he nodded.
“It’s awesome that our cousin Sophie’s firefighter friends are talking to your class today. And I know that her other firefighter friend, Cole, really liked meeting you at Grammy Claudia’s after church that Sunday afternoon.” She kept her voice chipper. “We’ll have to take him up on his offer to give us a tour of the fire hall.”
Greyson nodded. “We need to go.”
“I’m sorry we didn’t get to this past weekend, but my days off didn’t match up with when Cole would be there.” She didn’t have much control over her work schedule at the assisted living center. At her son’s disappointed nod, Morgan’s heart squeezed. “Maybe one of the firefighters here will know if Cole’s working this Saturday. If so, we can go by then.”
Although she was anti-anything that might someday put her son in a dangerous situation, currently, she’d encourage most anything that put a sparkle into her son’s eyes.
Besides, kids usually changed what they wanted to be when they grew up many times over the years. Hopefully, Greyson would settle on something Mom-approved. She couldn’t deal with living in constant fear due to a loved one’s reckless choices. Never again.
“That would be good. If the firemen don’t know, we could ask Santa,” Greyson suggested, staring up at her with big eyes that held her heart. “Santa knows everything, right?”
“Right, especially who’s been naughty or nice.” She bet this Santa really did know Cole’s schedule. Hopefully, Greyson wouldn’t recognize Sophie’s boyfriend in the Santa suit. After all, he’d only met Cole once at Grammy Claudia’s, just over a week ago. Morgan herself had barely recognized the fit former Marine beneath the padded red suit, white wig, mustache, beard, and makeup. If not for his pale blue eyes, she might not have figured it out. “Plus, you can let Santa know what you’d like for Christmas this year.”
“I’d like to meet the firefighters first, though.” Greyson looked toward the firefighter in full gear, the one who’d winked and completely discombobulated her. “Then I can ask Santa.”
Morgan’s chest tightened. Of course, Greyson would want to meet the firefighters first. She took his small hand into hers and gave a reassuring squeeze. “Absolutely. Come on, let’s get you back at your desk so Mrs. Winters can get you assigned to a group to meet them.”
Maybe, if she was lucky, she could avoid meeting them.
Well, at least the winking one.
Because she suspected that firefighter started more fires than he put out, and everything in her warned that if she didn’t stay away, she’d get burned.