Lucas Hartley grabbed his helmet and equipment and jumped out of the fire truck. The helmet wasn’t a requirement to go fit smoke detectors, but if the house had kids, it was pretty much a necessity. He’d yet to come across a rug-rat who didn’t ask Lucas to put his fireman’s helmet on, then take it off so theycould try it on. He quite liked kids, so it was nice to see their little grinning faces, to make their day. Plus, if they were a handful, he could use the helmet as bribery to make them behave while he fitted the detectors and ran through a comprehensive fire safety discussion with a responsible adult. It never failed.
The downside, however, was that the whole fireman-in-uniform thing often got the responsible adults of the female persuasion all hot under the collar. For most guys, this wouldn’t be a problem. After all, a little flirtation here and there was good for the ego. But for Lucas, it was a drag—why couldn’t there be a single dad somewhere who was gay and needed a smoke detector fitting? Sadly, it just never seemed to work out that way.
Sighing, Lucas slammed the door on the mocking comments of his colleagues, who’d opted to stay in the truck. It only took one person to do the job in question, and today Lucas had drawn the short straw—literally. The others would no doubt chill out, chat and use their phones to text and surf until he was done, or an emergency came in. Whatever was first.
Rolling his eyes, he let out another heavy breath, then rearranged his face into a smile. No point taking his grumpiness out on the home owner. Striding up to the door, he put his equipment down, then grasped the knocker and gave it a firm tap against the wood. After a short pause, he heard the unmistakable sound of a key turning in a lock, and the door was opened a little. A woman’s face appeared in the gap. She looked him up and down, then peered around him to the large red truck parked at the end of her driveway.
Apparently satisfied he wasn’t a cold caller, she opened the door wider. “Hello,” she said, smiling. “Come on in.”
“Thanks.” Lucas picked up his gear and moved into the hallway, waiting while the woman shut the door.
After doing so, she indicated he should head through an open doorway into the living room. Lucas entered the room, and was just about to ask the woman—Mrs. Judd, according to his paperwork—if she knew where she wanted the detectors fitting, when a man in a wheelchair appeared from another open doorway.
Opening his mouth to greet the man, Lucas then snapped it shut as his brain struggled to process what he was seeing. Trying again, he came out with, “Christ! What in God’s name happened to you?”