Meredith broke eye contact with the blank page on her computer screen. Running her hand through her shoulder-length blonde hair, she glanced around the coffee shop. She owed the first draft to her editor in four weeks and so far, she had nothing.
Her first romance novel had exceeded expectations, skyrocketing up the best-seller lists. But with that came pressure to make her next book just as good, or better. Her muses had abandoned her.
Maybe not all her muses. The bell over the door jingled as “the firefighter” walked in. Meredith had resorted to calling him that months ago. He never walked into the shop in full uniform. If he had, maybe she wouldn’t be so stuck in her new book. But his blue Phoenix Fire Department T-shirt clung to well-honed muscles, giving away his occupation.
Meredith’s gaze followed him as he strode purposefully to the register. Dark roast with a splash of cream. She wasn’t stalking him. In fact, she’d been coming to this coffee shop to work on her writing for years. A small smile played at the corner of her lips.
Maybe he’s the one stalking me.
Yeah right. He doesn’t even know I exist.
The coffee shop was busy today, with every table full as a steady rain drove people indoors. Meredith looked back at her work. She deleted the only line she’d written today one letter at a time, taking out her frustration on the backspace key.
“Is it okay if I sit for a minute? All the other tables are full.”
Meredith’s head jerked up to see the firefighter standing before her. Words left her, much like the stubborn novel she was working on.
He grinned and gestured toward the chair. “Is it okay? I promise I won’t be long. And I can see you’re working. I won’t bother you.”
You can bother me anytime you want to.
Meredith gathered her scattered senses. “Of course, stay as long as you’d like. I’m not getting much work done anyway.”
He lowered himself into the chair, holding out his hand. “I’m Jon.”
Reaching across the table, she put her hand in his. “Meredith. Nice to meet you.”
The firefighter had a name.
“This weather is unusual, huh? We usually don’t get rain this time of year.” He raised his hand before she had a chance to respond. “I said I wouldn’t bother you, and here I am making small talk about the weather.”
“No, it’s okay.” Meredith closed her computer. There was no way she was going to get any writing done with this sexy man sitting across from her. Actually, maybe that was the perfect way to write her next steamy romance. She pictured asking him to stay so she could weave tales of his romantic pursuits. She suppressed a grin at the thought, but obviously not well enough.
“What’s the smile for?” He leaned across the table, bringing his body close enough that she could smell the spicy soap from his shower.
Meredith’s cheeks warmed, and she knew from experience that they had turned a tell-tale shade of pink. “It’s nothing,” she deflected.
The look on Jon’s face let her know that he didn’t believe her for a second, but he didn’t push. Instead he tapped her computer. “I’ve seen you in here a lot over the last few months. Do you work from home?”
He’d noticed her? Meredith’s heart rate ticked up a notch. “I guess you could say I work from anywhere. I’m a writer.”
“A writer? Would I have read anything you wrote?”
Touched by his genuine interest, Meredith found herself wanting to open up to him. She chuckled. “I doubt it. Unless you like romance novels.”
Jon leaned back in his chair, his muscled chest pulling at the fabric of his T-shirt. He quirked an eyebrow playfully. “Maybe I do.”
“Is that what you read late at night at the firehouse?” she teased.
He leaned forward again as if preparing to share a secret with her. “I have to hide it from the guys, but what they don’t know won’t hurt them.”
A laugh burst from Meredith’s lips, and the tension she’d been carrying over not finishing her novel melted away.
Jon picked at the sticker on his coffee cup, looking nervous for the first time since he’d sat down. “I don’t have to be at work until later. It’s almost noon. Would you have lunch with me today?”
Meredith’s heart warmed, competing only with the butterflies dancing in her stomach for her attention. Her handsome firefighter not only had a name, but had just asked her on a date. “I’d love to have lunch with you.”
The romance on the page may have been struggling, but the real-life romance sitting in front of her was just heating up.