Fire & Icing
Chapter 2: A Matter of Taste

by Quinn D.K.

Wednesday, May 24. 4:10 pm.

Aiden Kashima's Temporary Place-to-Crash Wishlist:

  1. A kitchen that's at least big enough for me to comfortably lift both my arms
  2. Easy-going, laidback roommates who are either single or have silent lovers
  3. ...
  4. Yeah, that's pretty much it
I hope that list doesn't make me sound demanding or difficult. The only reason I'd like a decent-sized kitchen is so I can practice recipes for class, and the cook stations on campus get snatched up super quick this late in the semester. And I'm totally happy to crash on a couch.

The neighborhood community center set up a few dozen cots for those who were displaced by the fire, but I didn't feel comfortable taking one considering how many families and kids lived in my building. They deserved those beds more than I did.

I didn't have a ton of stuff in that apartment to begin with, though I did lose all the clothes I didn't have on my back that night. Double fun - I also have to re-buy the textbooks I lost. Triple fun - the pennies I make at my part-time job at Sweet Escape Bakery in the Distillery District wont really cover much.

I've had to remind myself a lot over the past several hours that I chose to be a student at 26.

This morning, still barefoot and half-asleep, I hunkered down in a Starbucks and emailed my culinary instructors about the fairytale night I had to explain my absence. Thankfully, they're not assholes and they understood completely.

I tackled my temporary housing situation next. That came together a little more quickly than I expected, actually. After few unanswered calls and several flat-out rejections ("I don't really have the room right now but it really sucks what happened! Keep calm and carry on!") I found myself in the crowded bachelorette pad of my two Sweet Escape coworkers, Lola and Lilah.

Yes, they're twin sisters. Yes, they live together in what is generously called a studio apartment. Yes, they were the only people who willingly took me in.

Beggars can't be choosers, right?

"This is going to be so much fun," Lola clapped her hands together as I took in the small, one-room space for the first time.

"So much fun!" Lilah agreed, her cherry lip gloss smile a mile wide.

While identical in their features, their hair made it easy to separate them. Lola's auburn locks were cut into a sharp Anna Wintour-like bob, while Lilah's was long, blonde and curled - and fixed together with a Coachella-ish flower crown. They were fun girls who I got along with at the bakery. I only needed to stay for a couple of weeks. What could go wrong?

Oh. I'm so glad I asked.

"We don't really have any furniture right now," Lilah started, "But if we push a few bankers boxes together, you can totally sleep on that."

"Totally!" Lola echoed. "And remember to keep your feet off the floor after 8 pm. That's when the rats kinda take over."

My eyebrows hit the ceiling. "When the what?"

"If you need to connect to WiFi, just try the Burger King downstairs. But it's not reliable."

"So not reliable! Do you have a pair of noise canceling headphones by the way?" Lola asked.

I was afraid to ask why.

"It's just for after midnight," Lilah explained, her tone light and casual. "That's usually when the couple next door has their screaming fights. The couple living above us save theirs for the morning. It's kinda like having an angry, muffled alarm clock."

Luckily, I wasn't near a reflective surface and thus I could not see own my skin turn grey. "How... nice."

The kitchen, they explained, was a communal space at the end of the hall that all their neighbors shared. I was right to dial my expectations down, as it wasn't so much a kitchen as a mini-fridge with a hot plate on top of it.

Lola hugged me tight, oblivious to the concern stretched tight across my face. "Oh, it's going to be like a sleepover every night! Like we're on Girls and you're Elijah. I'm Jessa."

"No, dipstick, I'm Jessa," Lilah tapped her chest with a rose gold fingernail.

"You're Marnie. We talked about this."

"Um, on what planet? We both took that Which Girls Character Are You? PopViral quiz at the same time."

"PopViral is bullshit, nobody even reads that site anymore!"

"You're just saying that because you don't want to be Marnie!"

You'd be surprised at how heated a conversation like this can get. Twenty minutes later, I certainly was.

Both girls had random pieces of clothing from their boyfriends lying around and they were nice enough to let me borrow a t-shirt, jeans and sneakers. I told them I only needed it for the afternoon, just so I could go clothes shopping.

Unfortunately, they wanted to come with.


5:44 pm.

I was holding a too-expensive long sleeved shirt in front of a mirror at H&M when Lilah appeared and took a long, scrutinizing look at me.

"I like this," she trilled. I thought she meant the shirt but she was tugging at the hem of my firefighter jacket. Hey, it was still a little cool out. And it was comfortable. Sue me! "It's so industrial chic. Is it like Backdraft cosplay for something?"

My face got warm. In the mirror it looked like I was wearing a beige tent. "It's from one of the firefighters last night. He let me have it."

Lilah pressed a hand against her heart. "Oh. My god. That is the most romantic thing. A firefighter? Tall, dark and handsome? Please say he was."

I fidgeted and tried to focus on how the new shirt would look on me. "It wasn't romantic. In fact, I'm pretty sure he was making fun of me."

"Aiden, he rescued you then gave you his jacket. That's like how all erotic novels start." She peered at the name tag stitched over the chest. "Logan O'Donoghue. Yum. Sounds like a sexy pirate."

"He's not a sexy pirate and I wasn't interested, alright?"

Lilah sighed and rearranged her bangs in the mirror. "I bet he was interested in you, though. Who wouldn't be?"

"You don't have to say that, Lilah."

"No, seriously! Do you know how many girls come into Sweet Escape to ask for the number of the hot baker?"

My face got even warmer. I looked at the floor. "I hope you've been telling them to get their gaydars tuned."

Lilah sighed again. "So beautiful and yet so unaware." She headed back to the women's department where her sister was driving a sales associate crazy.

I turned back to my reflection. Would Logan be interested? If he was actually gay I couldn't see myself being his type. Not that I thought I was an ogre or anything. My dad is Japanese Canadian and (everyone's always surprised when they hear this) a former male model. I inherited his high cheek bones, straight nose, midnight black hair and lightning fast metabolism. My mother is French Canadian, a sturdy farm-raised woman. I have her somewhat ruddy skin tone, full red lips and amber eyes. I've been told that my dimpled smile is all hers, while my frown is most definitely my father's.

I've had my share of dates but I never got much attention from the chest-beating alpha male segment of Toronto's gay community. I think they think I'm too delicate for them? Not burly or macho enough? Whatever. Never thought to ask, not interested in finding out.

Not long after I decided I wanted the shirt, I felt something buzz against the side of my chest. My cell? No, that was in my other hand. Confused, I zipped the jacket open and discovered an Android phone in the breast pocket. I brought the screen to life and immediately knew it was Logan's.

For one thing, his phone background was a picture of himself. Because of course it was.

Logan had a long list of unread text messages waiting, all male names. They were probably his fellow fire crew. I turned the screen off, not wanting to be nosy. I might not have been sold on Logan's personality but that didn't mean I wanted to be a jerk. And he did happen to save my life the other night - it was probably bad karma to snoop.

I looked at my shopping basket full of socks and underwear and sighed. Looks like I'd have to pay my savior a little visit.


8:56 pm.

Not to sound like a stalker, but it doesn't take much more than 30 seconds and a WiFi connection to find someone these days. Especially if your target - I mean, person - happens to work in public service.

I managed to shrug off Lola and Lilah for the evening and set forth toward Toronto Fire Station 426, which according to Google Maps is on the border of Roncesvalles and Parkdale. The twins were a little curious as to why I dressed like I was going on a date (Which I'm totally not! I just wanted to look nice after nearly dying from smoke inhalation last night, is that so wrong?). I managed to distract them by inciting another Girls argument and slipped out of their studio apartment, quiet as the mouse I saw burrowing into one of the floorboards.

Fire Station 426 didn't seem like much of a fire station at all. If anything it was like the largest house in a charming old time-y village, with old brick walls, a slanted roof and quaint round windows. If the exterior hadn't featured that bright red fire engine parked on a driveway the size of a small field, I'd have walked right passed it like an idiot.

I pushed through the front doors and... I guess I was expecting to see a reception desk or something, but instead I found myself in the station's garage, a mammoth open space that smelled faintly like gasoline. To my surprise, a couple of men were working on a red van. One of them was shirtless, his well-defined and tattooed chest streaked dark with motor oil. The second man wore a tight, grey undershirt that struggled to contain the rippled gym body and thick chest hair inside it.

Heat slid low into my body. God damn.

The tattooed man saw me first. He had a shock of silver hair - not naturally silver, but the trendier dyed version. I have to admit it suited his face, which was all brooding sharp angles like he'd just stepped out of a Calvin Klein ad. "Can we help you?"

"I'm looking for a... a... firefighter?" I knew it sounded stupid even as I was saying it.

The tattooed man chuckled and cleaned his hands on a rag. "Well, you just found a couple of 'em."

"You in trouble, son?" The man in the grey tank top closed the hood of the van and narrowed his eyes in concern. He was the older of the two, forty-ish, with a grizzled Hugh Jackman quality to him.

Shit. Was every firefighter in this station a hunk? They probably had one hell of a charity calendar.

"No, sir." The man in the tank top had the natural air of a leader and I didn't want to sound too informal around him. "Does a Logan O'Donoghue work here?"

Both men exchanged a knowing look.

"Logan works here alright." The tattooed man's lips creased into a grin. His eyes trailed down my body like I was up for auction. "Let me guess, he left something at your place the other night?"

My face flared with color.

"Silas," the man in the tank top said with a measure of command, "Why don't you get showered up? We'll finish the van tomorrow."

"Yes, chief."

Seriously? Grey tank top man was chief? I always imagined fire station chiefs as old, pot-bellied curmudgeons. The tattooed firefighter Silas headed for the exit and saluted us goodbye, his oily torso highlighted rather delectably in the garage light. My chin dipped and I forced myself to look away.

Do not eat the eye candy.

The chief reached for a work shirt hanging next to the van and pulled it on. "Sorry, what did you say your name was, son?"

"Oh, I didn't. I'm Aiden."

"Fire Chief Warren Redfield." He shook my hand and smiled, brief but genuine. "Nice to meet you, Aiden. Now, what's this business you have with O'Donoghue?"

I thought about what the EMT told me the other night, how the chief threatened Logan with suspension if he ever flirted on a call. Snitching on him would have been so damn easy. But - sigh - I made a promise that I wouldn't be a jerk. A loose promise, but a promise all the same.

"I just wanted to return this to him." I handed Warren the Android phone. "I made it out of the fire at 1678 Lansdowne Avenue last night. I was, um, a little shaken and Logan calmed me down by giving me his jacket." (I'm getting pretty good at those little half-lies, aren't I?) "His phone was still inside it."

Warren studied the device then looked back at me. His features were handsome but rather haunted. You could tell he'd seen his share of traumatic things during his career that left a permanent shadow across his face. A hard man, but strangely vulnerable too. I resisted the urge to give him a hug.

"That's awfully considerate of you, Aiden."

I shrugged. "Definitely not as considerate as what your crew did last night, honestly. I just wanted to be a good citizen."

"I know Logan will appreciate it. It's actually his day off today."

"Oh," I tried not to sound disappointed. Because... you know... I wasn't.

Warren finished buttoning up his work shirt. "I can let him know you dropped by."

"No, no. He probably wouldn't even remember me."

Was my face actually as red as I thought? Based on Warren's expression, I should have asked for a cold compress.

"Care to join me for a chat, son?" Warren gestured for me to join him at his desk in a small office off the garage. I suspected the chief was a modest man and his sparsely decorated office validated that. Other than a laptop and miniature Canadian flag, his desk was bare. A few impressive service medals hid on the lower rung of a small shelf.

"I'm very sorry about what happened to your building. My men did the best they could." Warren sat down and urged me to do the same. "Are you holding up okay at the community center?"

"I'm staying with a couple of coworkers, actually. I didn't want to take a cot away from one of the kids."

Warren nodded sadly. "That's always been one of the more difficult parts of this job, seeing so many people displaced by something that started as small as a kitchen fire."

I wondered if Mrs. Greenleaf from 5A was responsible. She'd fallen asleep with the iron on more than a dozen times since I started living above her.

Warren cleared his throat and leaned forward. "How are things working out at your coworkers' place? Comfortable there?"

"It's, uh. Um." I actually had to bite my lower lip to prevent my mouth from opening. Warren was a nice man and he didn't deserve the full brunt of my frustrations with Lilah and Lola's little studio from hell. I was wary, too, of sounding like some sort of high maintenance fop who couldn't function unless he was being pampered. That wasn't the case. Forget about the rats or the neighbors ripped from Jerry Springer. I just want a kitchen! I want to make a beautiful chocolate ganache cake with a mirror glaze! Or a nice, simple Swiss mousse. And I definitely need way more than a hot plate to whip up a batch of lemon coconut madeleines.

"It'll be an adjustment," I settled on telling him.

Warren's intelligent eyes searched my face. His phone rang before he could reply. "Excuse me." He took the call. "Chief here. Yeah? I- ah, Christ. I told you guys to clearly label the bags of your lunches and dinners. There's masking tape and a marker by the plastic wrap." He hung up. "Sorry, there was a squabble in the kitchen. Doesn't fill me with pride to say my crew operates like a daycare when it comes to their food."

I frowned. "Why are your guys bringing in their meals? I thought firefighters were these awesome cooks who made huge dinners together?"

Warren sighed wearily and crossed his arms. "We really only had one guy on the crew who could put together some decent chow. Donny. He retired earlier this year so we've all been brown bagging it for the most part. The odd day someone will try to make chili or stew but it usually ends with a half-melted pot and a group of really cranky guys." He shrugged his large shoulders. "Real shame, too. Donny's meals brought everyone together and made us feel like a family. The crew's been a little disconnected since he left."

Did it get brighter in here? Wait, that was just the light bulb that went off above my head. I knew an opportunity when I saw one, no matter how unorthodox.

"So you guys need a cook," I said.

Warren looked at me. "I don't know if we need one, but-"

Before I even knew what I was saying the words started to pour from my mouth. "But your guys feel more like a family when you have a nice big meal everyone can sit down to, right? I can bring that back! I could be your station's cook. I'm enrolled in culinary school with a focus on pastry and desserts but I can make anything because I've been cooking since I was a kid and I really need the kitchen space to study recipes for school and-"

"Whoa, whoa, whoa." Warren's fingers gently tented his desk surface. "Let's back up here, son. I'm not looking to hire."

"I'm not looking to be paid!" I said a little too eagerly. "The only thing I ask in return is use of your kitchen and..." I trailed off, thinking of the impromptu cardboard box mattress waiting for me at Lola and Lilah's. "...and possibly, maybe, a bed? If you guys have one to spare? Maybe?" I swallowed hard. I was asking a lot of this poor guy and I'd only just met him. "I'm at the top of my program and I can get my instructors to write a letter of recommendation-"

Warren held up his hand to put me on pause. "Listen, Aiden. I like you. You seem like a sweet kid and you're going through a pretty tough situation that's beyond your control. Based on what I've learned about you tonight, I think you've got a lot of character." He sounded like a wise coach giving his rookie a game-changing pep talk. I liked it.

"Well, thank you sir."

"Warren, please."

"Warren," I nodded.

"But you have to understand that our station's never- in fact, I don't think any station in any fire department has ever had a live-in cook."

"I'd be in classes most of the day and I work at the Sweet Escape Bakery on weekends. You won't even know I'm here when I'm not cooking. I really think this would be an ideal situation for both of us."

God, how did something as simple as returning a man's phone become a spontaneous job interview? Have I ever been this pushy in my entire life? Hrm. Maybe that time I thought I flubbed my yeast and fermentation exam and showed up at my instructor's front door with two baskets of freshly baked focaccia bread with garlic rosemary butter.

(Passed that course with flying colors, by the way.)

"In all honesty," Warren said, "I actually think it's an idea with a lot of potential. But this sort of thing is really up to the guys. If they're not comfortable with it then it's not gonna fly."

The guys. Which included Logan. My stomach twisted and I tried not to let my discomfort show. I'd just have to cross that bridge when I came to it. "That's totally fair. I mean, I want your crew to know I can actually cook."

Another light bulb went off. Damn, it was getting pretty bright in here.

"Hey, why don't I make a trial meal for everyone? I'll come up with a menu for dinner and dessert which I'll cook in your kitchen and serve to your crew. I'll buy all the ingredients myself. If they don't like it, I'll walk."

Warren leaned back on his chair, his face set in deep concentration. "And if they do like it?"

I smiled. "Then your men have a new cook."

The chief pondered this for several moments. "Is tomorrow okay?"

I nearly slid off my chair. "So that's a yes?"

"It's a yes if my crew says it's a yes," Warren corrected. "Come 'round after 5 tomorrow, I'll show you the kitchen and introduce you to some of the guys. Sound good?" Warren stood and offered his hand.

I eagerly shook it. "I won't let your men down."

Warren smiled that brief smile again, impressed. "That's the spirit. In fact, it might actually be in your best interest to start buttering them up yourself." He handed me back Logan's phone. "Why don't you start with O'Donoghue? You've met him already, he's a real friendly guy. He's probably over at Brew Radley's right now. It's a sports bar over in Parkdale."

"Ah. Is that right," I struggled. My tentative alliance with the fire chief was something I appreciated - but if it meant socializing with someone who actively annoyed me...

As my grip on the Android phone tightened, so did my resolve. No, there was no way in hell I was going to see Logan in some random sports bar. No. Nope.


9:27 pm.

Okay, I lied.

The thought of returning to Lola and Lilah's studio apartment from hell wasn't really as appealing as getting a drink.

Also, I decided that visiting Brew Radley's would function as a sort of test. If I could get through a drink with Logan and he wasn't a total ass then yeah, maybe I could actually deal with being in close quarters with him on a daily basis. I needed this to work because, well, I needed his fire station's kitchen.

I entered Brew Radley's expecting scores of raucous men in baseball jerseys chugging beers and singing obnoxious fight songs, but the atmosphere was actually more subdued than that. A couple dozen men drank, played pool, and talked leisurely. A TV above the bar played basketball highlights with the sound off. Pretty chill, really.

My eyes followed a trail of the bar's only female patrons to a tall, well-built man wearing a fire department t-shirt stretched tight over his meaty pecs. Logan. The enthralled women circled him like lovesick vultures, chatting enthusiastically and vying for his attention. Logan was clearly having the time of his life, letting the girls feel his five-o-clock shadow, buying them shots and draping his thick, hairy arms over their delicate shoulders.

I ignored what felt like a very real flare of lust and envy at the pit of my stomach. I retrieved Logan's phone from my back pocket and reminded myself why I came in the first place. Would he even remember me? The man probably went home with a different man or woman (who really knew at this point?) every night and couldn't keep track of every young face he unleashed his so-called charm on.

A man sitting nearby got up from his chair the moment I decided to step toward Logan. Either I was too slow or the man was too fast, but before I knew it, my foot hooked around one the chair's legs and I started tumbling to the floor. I swear I fell in slow motion. A startled cry from one of Logan's female adorers slashed the air and the floor just got closer and closer, and then-

Someone grabbed my arms. I stopped, seemingly in mid-air, as my hands anchored against a man's chest. Registering warm skin and hard muscle beneath my palms, I looked up into Logan's daredevil eyes.

"We've got to stop meeting like this, my boy," he said with a crooked grin.

So he did remember me.

I stuttered an apology and found my footing again. A few of the women tittered amongst themselves, they probably thought I was drunk. "You can let go now," I said sheepishly.

Logan cocked his scarred eyebrow and released me from his grip. "This is starting to become a habit. Don't tell me you came all the way down here just so I could save you again."

I straightened out my shirt and handed him his phone. "Actually, you left this in the jacket you gave me."

"Ah. Cheers, lad. Been wondering where it's been." Logan accepted it and gave me an unnecessarily hard clap on the back. Seriously, it nearly brought me to the floor again. "Buy you a pint?"

I hesitated, but remembered my hypothesis. If I can get through a drink with him, I'll be able to cook for him. Right? "Okay, sure."

A bartender brought me a pint of something really dark and thick. Logan cleared a couple of bar stools for us as his dispersed fangirls shot me dirty looks. The Canadian in me wanted to apologize for breaking up the party but one sip of that sludgy stout made it nearly impossible to speak. Blergh.

"Not much of a drinker, eh?" Logan held back a chuckle. "What's your name?"

"Aiden," I said, forcing the liquid down my throat.

"Aiden. Ah, lovely. You're not Irish, are you? You don't exactly look like you're from my side of the pond."

Urgh. Unnecessary comment about my ethnicity. Big pet peeve. But I had to keep playing along for the sake of my sanity. "My mom's French and my dad is Japanese."

Logan's grey eyes went wide. "No shit, that's quite a combination."

"A bad combination?" I lifted an eyebrow, challenging him.

Logan took a drink. "Looks pretty good from where I'm sitting."

Something brushed against my foot. I jerked away, spilling beer onto my fingers. Logan threw his head back and laughed. "Calm down. That was just my foot, it was an accident." He grabbed a wad of napkins and helped me clean up. "You really need to relax."

"I'm relaxed," I said in the most unrelaxed way a person could. "There's just... a lot on my mind right now."

Logan's grin shrank. "Yeah, I suppose there would be. How are you holding up from last night, by the way?"

"I'm doing okay."

"Just okay?"

My mouth parted slightly as I tried to figure out how to respond. Logan's attention went to my lips, caught in a semi-pout. I swear his face went flush with lust.


"Yes, lad?"

"Distracted by something?"

Logan's eyes dashed back to his beer. "Nope." Hah. It felt good to catch him. "But seriously, Aiden, how are you getting on?"

"I'm staying with a couple of coworkers but it doesn't really... seem great, if I'm being honest."

Logan took another drink. "Not an ideal living situation?"

"Not by a long shot. It's the three of us in a room the size of a closet. Plus rats. Plus very thin walls. I actually thought it would be a good idea if I-" I hesitated again. Did I want to tell Logan about my plan to be his station's cook so soon?

After taking a big, unpleasant gulp of beer I decided- hey, fuck it, might as well stop beating around the bush.

I told Logan everything: about being enrolled in culinary school, Chief Warren telling me about the void that their former cook/firefighter Donny had left, me offering my services in exchange for the kitchen space and a bed to crash on, the trial dinner I would be making tomorrow for his crew.

Logan listened without much emotion but when I finished, he burst into laughter. Right in my face! His laughs were just like him, booming and boisterous. I stared, wondering what the hell was so funny.

"Sorry," he finally said, his face red, his breathing fast, "Sorry, I just- a cook? You want to cook for us? For no money?"

My jaw closed and I found myself speaking through gritted teeth. "The money doesn't matter, I just need a place to sleep and study."

"Gotta tell ya, Aiden, we're some tough sons of bitches and I don't think someone like you would know the first thing about impressing us. Fancy frou-frou haute cuisine or whatever you're being taught is gonna get you laughed out the station."

Don't let him get to you, I told myself. Stick to your guns. "Considering what your chief said about everyone brown bagging their lunches, I think you guys will be more than happy with what I can do."

"Is that so?" Logan chuckled and finished off his pint. When he spoke again it was a little looser, a little tipsier. "You want to know what I think of this lil' plan of yours?"

"Oh good," I said flatly. "I was hoping you'd share."

Logan beckoned me to lean closer. Because I'm an idiot and he wasn't all that bad to look at, I did. His mouth moved dangerously close to my ear for the second time in less than 24 hours. I smelled cologne and Guinness on him.

"I think," he began, "that you're a wee bit lonely. Ain't ya?"

My face tightened. I pulled away, glaring. "Excuse me?"

"I'm real good at reading others. My mam says I have a talent for it. And I had you pegged the moment I first saw you."

"And you pegged me as lonely?" I was offended, but a distant pang in my heart agreed with his assessment.

Logan signaled the bartender for another pint, completely oblivious to the emotional sucker punch he just threw. "Either that or you've got a raging crush on me. You don't need to play pretend chef to steal my heart, Aiden. A good old fashioned blowjob would do the trick."

I rose from my bar stool. "You're a jerk, you know that?"

"Aw, come on, I'm just takin' the piss. No need to be so sensitive."

I didn't bother with a goodbye. I started toward the exit but felt Logan's beefy hand take my wrist.

"Lad, come on. You barely touched your drink."

You know that urban legend about the mother who could summon superhuman strength to lift the car off her trapped kid? What I did next was... not... anything... remotely like that.

"You want me to finish this?" I raised the disgusting glass of dark slop to the air with not a small amount of self-righteousness. "Fine. I'll finish it!"

Oh, you have no idea how much I wanted to pour that pint right into Logan's lap. The urge was clear and present, under the surface, clawing at my insides to unleash itself. But I didn't know. No, I did something that made much less sense.

I chugged the entire god damn pint. Right then and there in big sloppy gulps. Why? Was I making a point? Was I standing up for something I believed in?

No. Pretty sure I just wanted to be a jerk.

I'd been holding it back all night and now it was set free, my inner jerk for the entire world (or at least the entire bar) to gawk at, guzzling frothy stout like a wild-eyed animal.

My liver is going to kill me.


It might not surprise you to hear that I have the alcohol tolerance level of a malnourished pre-teen. The beer didn't hit me until I stepped out of Brew Radley's and into the cool night air of Queen Street West, and boy, did it hit me hard.

My sense of equilibrium blurred into a drowsy watercolor painting, the kind with too many smudges and broad strokes. I started to negotiate just how hard of a hit my pride would take if I unloaded the contents of my stomach onto the sidewalk when Logan came out of the bar.

"No," I said in his vague direction. "No more talking. I'm done talking to you."

"Aiden." His voice actually had a hint of concern. "Are you okay?"

"I am just dandy." I would have looked and sounded more convincing if I wasn't bent in a 90 degree angle while anchoring myself against a street lamp. I think.

Logan sighed and knelled next to me. Although the angle was awkward I could still clearly see his intense, rugged face. His expression was oddly solemn. "I'm gonna call you an Uber, alright?"

"No!" Being in a car while drunk always made me vomit. I stood, shakily. "I just gotta walk it off. I live..." I gestured around me in several directions at once. "...around... somewhere. I mean-" I laughed, in the broad and careless way that drunk people do when they catch themselves making a mistake. "-I mean I don't live around here. I don't have a home! I'm gonna sleep on cardboard with twins. Girl twins."

Logan stared at me like I was dancing along the edge of a very tall building. "You're not going on foot. That's not happening."

"Sure I am."

"No offense, but even before the drink you could barely walk in a straight line without tripping. I'd really feel more comfortable if I made sure you got home safe." Logan pulled on the jacket he'd been clutching at his side.

"Didn'tyouhearme?" I slurred. "Idonthaveahome."

"But you do have a temporary one, lad, and I'm making sure you get there. It's a rough neighborhood, you know."

Parkdale did get a little sketchy at night, I had to admit. I eased off the street lamp and took a few shaky steps on my own. Logan closed in and I instinctively leaned against him. We walked like this down the street. I'm sure I looked just as stupid as I felt.

Even for a late May night it was a little chilly. As I shivered, Logan wrapped an arm around my shoulder and warmed my cold skin beneath him. The weird thing? I don't think he was trying to be fresh. The weirder thing? I didn't mind it. I actually... really liked it. I found myself leaning into him and craving his closeness, his warmth.

His touch...

Lilah and Lola's studio was only a few blocks away. If I was in my right mind I'd have been able to get home in ten minutes. In reality, I swear it took a damn hour. The bachelorette studio was on the fourth floor of a crumbling building with no elevator. Thank god for Logan's firefighter training because I don't know how I'd have hauled my ass up those stairs otherwise.

By the time we reached the fourth floor I was no longer moving independently. It would be more accurate to say that Logan was dragging me along the floor like a toddler who stayed up way passed his bed time.

Did I mention I'm a total fucking lightweight?

"Alright my boy, what's your door number?" Logan asked. If he was at all bothered or annoyed by my slobbering state of being, he certainly didn't show it.

I raised a finger toward the door at the end of the hall. Logan and I reached it with some effort and, after several dozen tries, I managed to get the right key in the lock. "God," I groaned. "I don't want to go in."

"How come?"

I edged the door open a crack and a rat the size of a Yorkshire Terrier shot out from the studio and scampered down the hall. Logan gave a start.

"Jesus," he cried. "I guess that's why, huh?"

I laughed. I couldn't help it - this was all so ridiculous. "I know what you're thinking," I hiccuped, "What's a place like me doing in a boy like this?"

Logan, to his credit, didn't try to correct me. Even though the world spun around me at an alarming pace, I could still see him with perfect clarity. Up close, he was all jaw and stubble, a man carved from marble. His chocolate brown hair had been neatly combed at the beginning of the night, but with the strain of lugging me around, it now fell in a disheveled wave over his concerned eyes.

"Aiden, I can't lie to you, this place put the heart crossway in me. I'm going to propose something and you have every right to call me a gobshite for suggesting it."

"You're not getting that blowjob... pervert," I laughed, ignoring his serious tone.

Logan took a gander at the mold stains that decorated the corridor's crumbling walls. "Listen- if you want, you can crash at my place for the night. No funny business, you take my bed and I'll sleep on the couch."

Record scratch. (How do you put a record scratch noise in writing? Hell if I know.)

The earnestness of his suggestion was enough to sober me up a small amount. "Sleep on your bed?"

"I wouldn't be on it, if that's what you're worried about. It's not exactly a Hilton executive suite, but compared to this place-" He stopped himself, probably to spare my feelings. "It's up to you, lad."

God. How did my night turn into this?

"Logan," I started before I really knew what I wanted to say.


My voice dropped to a whisper. "I think you were right. I am lonely."

A hard lump formed at the base of my throat. Where the hell did that come from? I was never that nakedly honest with anyone, let alone someone like Logan who just an hour ago had laughed at my ambitions right to my face. But he was being so delicate with me now, so... protective... and it was opening up something inside me that I never knew existed.

I wasn't sure how Logan was reacting to my confession but I could tell a few emotions shuffled back and forth behind his fierce eyes.

My hands closed around his supporting arm. I needed to say something, anything, before he could respond. "Can we just get out of here, please?"


11 pm. Or midnight. I think?

Couldn't give you a description of Logan's apartment even if I tried. It was one muddy blur from the front door to his bedroom, where Logan gently laid me onto a fleece comforter and helped me out of my jacket and shoes. His bed smelled like fresh laundry. Mmm.

He set an empty trash bin lined with a plastic bag next to the bed and told me to aim in that direction if I needed to hurl. I murmured a thank you and felt his body leave the bed.

"I'll be on the couch if you need me," he said. "Just give a shout."

"Logan," I called into the darkness. He paused at the doorway. "Are you a jerk or not? I can't tell anymore."

He chuckled. "Maybe you'll get a chance to find out, lad."

I closed my eyes, praying the dizziness would stop soon. Logan padded into the living room. "Goodnight Aiden."


I turned on my side and wrapped the comforter around me. Before I surrendered to a long, drunken sleep, I thought of the meal I wanted to make for Logan and the rest of the fire crew tomorrow night. It didn't seem like such a daunting task anymore.

End of Chapter 2

To Be Continued

Was Aiden right to call Logan a jerk or should he just give the guy a chance? And most importantly, what should Aiden cook for the men of Station 426?

Thanks so much for reading. Send all comments and feedback to: or tweet me at @Quinn_DK