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Colwood Firehouse: Zane (The Shifters of Colwood Firehouse Book 1) by Kim Fox (1)

Chapter 1

Gwen

“Excuse me!” Gwen barked as she burst out of her shop. “Do you mind?

The shirtless fireman shot her a lazy look over his broad shoulder as she stormed down the sidewalk, clenching her hands into angry fists.

This guy is the worst!

Zane had the fire truck out and was washing it—spraying the suds off with the hose on the warm summer day. The only problem was the water was leaking down the driveway onto Gwen’s rolled-up newspaper, soaking it into a clumpy unreadable mess.

I swear he does this on purpose.

She picked up the soggy, now useless paper with two fingers and glared at the muscular fireman who was looking at her like she was a crazy woman.

“Watch where your water is going!” she snapped at him. “You ruined my newspaper. Again.”

Zane just shrugged his round shoulders as he stepped to the side, spraying down the windshield of the bright red fire truck. “The water goes where it wants to go. That’s not my problem.”

“I’m going to make it your problem,” she barked as she marched to the side of her muffin shop and tossed the drenched newspaper into the recycling bin. “You’re the worst neighbor in the history of neighbors.”

Gwen shook her head, wondering how she could be so unlucky. Any straight girl in the world would be thrilled to have her shop and residence next to the town’s firehouse. Especially one that had five gorgeous firemen like the Colwood Firehouse did.

But this frustrating prick, Zane, made her want to put up a for sale sign and move across town.

I’m the worst neighbor?” he said with a chuckle. “I think that honor goes to you.”

“Me?” she shouted, jerking her head back in surprise. She was the best neighbor! She owned and ran a muffin shop, which meant that the delicious smell of baked goods was always in the air, and who didn’t love the smell of fresh muffins?!?

She would bring over freshly baked goods to the other four firefighters (the nice ones) on almost a daily basis. She kept her shop and property clean, and she was always smiling.

He was the asshole. He was the bad neighbor.

He was the problem here, not her.

“How am I a worse neighbor than you?” she asked, crossing her arms over her chest with a huff. She stared at him, waiting for an answer.

Zane sauntered over to the hose and turned the water off as he laughed. Gwen’s body stiffened as she tried not to look at his big toned arms, his massive chest, or his shredded abs. His gorgeous face and hot body just made him that much worse. His wavy brown hair was always in a perfect mess, and she loved his short-cropped beard and dark eyes. It was just too bad they were attached to a jerk like him.

She hated how her eyes sometimes had a mind of their own and roamed over his sculpted arms with his big triceps that always made her lightheaded.

She desperately wanted to hate everything about him, but as much as she hated to admit it, she loved looking at him when he had no shirt on.

“Seriously,” she said, tapping her foot in frustration when Zane didn’t answer. “How am I a worse neighbor than you? Today you ruined my newspaper. Yesterday you blasted rock music all afternoon. Last week you opened the back door of my shop and let three stray cats in. You’re the worst.”

He chuckled as he walked up to her, stopping at the line in the cement that separated their two properties. Gwen stood on her side and Zane stood on his, both staring each other down with their arms crossed over their chests.

“Well, for starters,” he said, “I have to stare at that ugly van all of the time. It’s always blocking our view of the street.”

Ugh,” Gwen snorted as she whipped her head around to the pink van that was parked in front of her shop. Why did he have a problem with her van? It was cute and cost her a small fortune to have it wrapped up like that. It was an adorable bright pink with a cartoon of her holding up a tray of steaming muffins. Muff Rules, the name of her shop, was sprawled across the sliding door in big bubbly letters.

“There’s nothing wrong with my van,” she said, frowning as she turned back to him. “It’s cute, cartoony, and classy.”

Zane pointed at the truck with a grin. “It’s inappropriate. You have a penis on your face.”

“What?” she snapped, whipping her head back around. “No, I don’t!”

What was he talking about? There was no graffiti on her van and if there was a penis drawn on her cartoon face, she would have known who did it immediately. The only person immature enough to do something like that was standing right in front of her.

“Look at your nose,” he said with a chuckle. “Don’t those nostrils look like balls? And that long-”

Gwen gasped, covering her shocked mouth with her hand. “Oh, my God!”

How did I not see that my nose is a penis?

“And the name of your muffin shop,” he said, pointing to the cute sign over her shop. “It sounds like a sex shop.”

“What’s wrong with the name?” she asked, scrunching her forehead up as she looked at the sign. Muff Rules. It was cute. She was going to go with Muffins Rule, but Muff Rules just sounded a little feistier.

“Muff Rules?” he asked, raising an eyebrow. “Are you running a lesbian bakery?”

Gwen jerked her head back in confusion. “What are you talking about?”

Zane laughed. Gwen ripped her eyes off him as her cheeks started to heat up. She hated how good looking he was when he laughed.

“Muff is slang.”

“For what?”

Zane raised an eyebrow as he looked down at her shorts. “For vagina.”

“What?” Gwen said, staring at him in shock.

“For pussy. Cunt. Hoo ha. Genitals. Fun tunnel.”

“I know what a vagina is,” she said, raising her hand to interrupt him. Hearing those dirty words slide out of his sexy lips was getting her own muff cooking.

“But muff is short for muffin not… vagina,” she said, turning red as she said the last word.

Zane just shrugged as he turned his big muscular back on her and walked back to the fire truck. “Do what you want,” he said as he reached down, grabbing the soapy rag in his strong hands. “But Colwood, Montana is already a small town to open a muffin shop in. You might have more luck if you appeal to everyone and not just muffin eating lesbians.”

Gwen was breathing noisily as she glared at him with her nostrils flaring. He was so frustrating! Why did she even bother talking to him? He always left her with her blood pressure smashing through the roof.

She spun around and stormed back into her shop, slamming the door closed when she was back inside of her air-conditioned shop.

He doesn’t know what he’s talking about. But after a quick Google search of the word ‘muff’ led her to several lesbian websites, she was ready to cry. So, that’s why all of those female tourists kept hitting on me.

It was the middle of a Tuesday afternoon on a beautiful summer day. The street was quiet and she probably wouldn’t get any more customers in her lesbian muffin shop before closing, so she decided to do one of the things that made her the most happy: fuck with Zane.

She grinned evilly as she pulled out a fresh tray of blueberry muffins, Zane’s favorite. Gwen placed the four largest and fluffiest ones on a tray and headed for the door.

She stopped at the mirror over the couch and checked herself, fixing her long brown hair, and wiping some flour off her cheek.

“Hmm,” she groaned when she stepped on her tippy toes to check out the rest of her. Gwen had a lot of curves and was packing her own muffin top but that didn’t seem to bother the hunky men of the town. There was no shortage of huge muscular men around the town of Colwood, and they all seemed to like her big curves.

I wonder what Zane likes in a woman?

She shook her head angrily, trying to get his frustrating face out of her mind. Who cares what he likes?

Not me.

But she still slid the tray of muffins onto the table and raced upstairs to her little apartment over the shop to change into something a little sexier.

“It’s for me. Not for him,” she muttered to herself as she ran back downstairs. She grabbed the tray of muffins and walked over to the firehouse with a mischievous grin on her face.

Zane was finishing up with the spotless fire truck, scrubbing the last tire. He turned his head as she approached, watching with a smirk on his face as she walked past him without saying a word.

Eat your heart out, you caveman. Gwen raised her chin, trying hard to keep her eyes off him.

“Smells good,” he said with a grin on his face. Gwen kept her eyes straight ahead but stared out of her peripheries at his flexed arm as he scrubbed the tire. “Are one of those for me?”

“Not the muffins,” she said with a tight voice. “But you can have the tray when I’m done. Served upside your head.”

He chuckled as she disappeared behind the truck on her way to the front door. Gwen took a deep breath to steady her nerves once Zane was out of sight. Her heart was pounding and she was a tad dizzy. How is he able to do that to me every time?

She shook the haze out of her head and walked into the firehouse with a big smile on her face. “Hey, guys!” she said, waving to the four hot guys who were playing cards around the circular table.

They all turned and welcomed her in with smiles and nice words. These four were nice guys, unlike the jerk outside.

“Pen-Gwen!” Axel said, throwing his cards onto the table as he stood up, eying the muffins on her tray. “Whatcha got there?”

She smiled as she plopped the tray down on their table. The four muscular men all lunged on the muffins at once, elbowing and pushing each other as they fought for the largest one.

“Mmmm,” Gunner said, licking his lips as he peeled off the wrapper. “You make the best damn muffins I’ve ever had. I’m glad I moved here.”

Gwen felt her cheeks going warm with the compliment. Gunner was the latest firefighter to join the firehouse. He was quiet and kept to himself, usually looking like he was in a sullen mood. She still wasn’t sure if he liked her, but she was slowly winning him over with her baking.

One enemy at the firehouse is enough for me.

The door opened behind her and Gwen kept her lips sealed, trying to hide the smirk on her face as Zane walked in.

“Only four muffins?” Zane asked, looking at the four firefighters as they devoured the freshly baked blueberry muffins.

Gwen smiled a fake sweet smile at him. “Oops. Must have counted wrong.”

“You do that a lot,” Zane said walking past her to the sink. There was a cute little kitchen in the corner where the fire-crew made dinner. All five of them lived in dorms upstairs, which Gwen had always wanted to see, but none of them ever offered her a tour, so she just had to wonder what they looked like.

She tried to keep her eyes off of Zane’s muscular back as he washed his hands, but it was hard since he wasn’t wearing a shirt. As hard as she tried, she still couldn’t help but steal a few glances.

“I just wanted to come and say hi,” she said, feeling awkward now that the muffins were gone. “I love showing my appreciation for good neighbors.”

Zane’s body shook with a chuckle. He knew that shot was directed at him.

“What are you doing tonight?” Draven asked as he shuffled the deck of cards.

Gwen swallowed hard when she looked into his bright orange eyes. He was the chief of the fire station and older than the other four. By how much she had no idea, but the guys were always joking about how old he was. She once heard him tell a story about World War One but he was telling it in the first person like he had been there.

“Tonight?” she asked. She looked up at the ceiling trying to appear like she might have plans other than watching reruns of Glee on Netflix. “I think I’m free.”

Zane turned to Draven with a fierce warning look but the fire chief just ignored him. “It’s my birthday today,” he said with a smile. “The boys are taking me out for drinks, aren’t you boys? Or did you all forget?”

Gunner, Axel, and Jax all looked at one another with wide panicked eyes.

“We didn’t forget, boss,” Jax said, rubbing his chin as he cringed. “Happy birthday!”

They all wished him a happy birthday pretending like they knew all along.

“How many is that now?” Axel asked, flipping a poker chip between his fingers. “A hundred?”

Draven chuckled. “I remember my hundredth birthday,” he said, staring at the wall with a warm vacant look on his face. “Oh, to be young again.”

Gwen laughed at his joke but nobody else did.

“Are you going to make this old man happy and join us?” Draven asked her.

Zane stepped forward with rigid shoulders. “I don’t think she wants to go out drinking with a bunch of guys,” he said, giving Gwen a warning look.

Gwen flinched, trying to hide her disappointment. It had been so long since she had gone out with friends but she wasn’t about to go if Zane didn’t want her to. He would just make her feel uncomfortable all night.

“I can’t,” she said, trying to force out a smile. “A baker always has to rise early to bake. I can’t be staying up late or I’ll sleep in and won’t have anything to sell.”

Not that anyone has been coming to the shop to buy anything lately.

“That’s too bad,” Draven said as he shuffled the cards. “Well at least come to the charity auction on Friday. You can’t say no to that.”

“Auction?” she asked with a tilt of her head. She hadn’t heard about any charity auction.

Jax, Gunner, Zane, and Axel all groaned.

“Don’t remind me,” Jax muttered.

Draven was clearly loving this. “These four guys are getting auctioned to the highest female bidder,” he said with a wide grin on his face. “Although, we may end up having to pay the ladies to take them out.”

“Or we can just not do it,” Gunner suggested.

“You’re doing it,” Draven said with a grin. “You’re all doing it.”

“What do the women get?” Gwen asked, her curiosity peaked.

“The night of their lives,” Axel said, grinding his hips on the chair.

Draven laughed. “At least one of you is excited about going on a date.”

“I’m not excited about the date,” Axel said with a grin. “I’m excited for after the date.”

“When the girl gets a restraining order on you?” Jax asked bluntly.

Axel huffed out a laugh. “Coming from you? Your date is going to end up fleeing to the airport and moving to another continent before the appetizers are even served.”

“I hope so,” Jax said. “That way I can eat her meal too.”

“You’re all going to be gentlemen,” Draven hissed. “You’re representing the firehouse. You’ll open doors, chew your food with your mouth closed, and keep your little bear in your pants,” he said, staring at Axel while he said the last part.

They all mumbled and muttered to themselves like this was the last thing in the world they wanted to do.

“So, you’re coming right?” Draven asked Gwen. “We need as many single ladies there as we can get.”

She was about to answer when the blaring of the fire alarm interrupted her, ripping through the fire station and burning her ears. The five men jumped out of their seats in a blur. Gwen stood there frozen, watching in shock as they flew around the station, grabbing gear, axes, and getting the firetruck ready at speeds that didn’t look human.

Before she could take a breath, the five of them were dressed and on the truck as it peeled out of the driveway. Her eyes never left the man with the sexy beard who was standing on the back bumper. Zane was holding onto the handle as the truck sped down the road with the siren blaring.

She kept her eyes on him until her pink truck blocked her view. “Damn,” she sighed as she stared at the penis on her cartoon face. “I can’t stop seeing it.”

One more reason to hate Zane.

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