Excerpt from Mr. June
Book #6 of the Heroes of Rogue Valley: Calendar Guys Series
The final day of Career Day week had never been like this.
In Megan Spenser's ten years as a third-grade elementary-education teacher at Guff's Lake School, she'd met accountants, doctors, dentists, insurance agents, police officers, and a host of other professionals.
But until today she'd never met a firefighter, let alone a local celebrity of sorts. Max Meier, aka Mr. June on the fire department calendar, here in her classroom!
Proceeds from sales of the calendar went to the benefit fund, established to help victims of fires. Such a good cause, and with a different attractive male featured each month, no woman in town could resist owning a copy.
In person, Max was even more striking. With his impressive size, muscled body, and chiseled face—yes, he had the requisite lean cheeks, classic Greek nose, and strong jaw— Wow. Just wow.
Dreamy looks aside, the biggest tug at Megan's heartstrings came from the way the big man clasped the little hand of his niece, Ava Josephs, a towhead cutie in Megan's class.
Megan was aware that the girl's father had died when she was a toddler and that her uncle was a firefighter, but she hadn't known his name.
As the children and a parent or stand-in entered the classroom, Megan offered each guest a smile and handshake. No reason not to greet Max the same way. Even if she did tremble a little inside.
She extended her arm. "I'm Miss Spenser—Megan."
Dressed in turnout gear, aka his firefighter uniform, yet another cause for heart palpitations, Max passed his helmet to his niece. "Max Meier."
His warm hand dwarfed Megan's. His eyes, an unusual whiskey brown, flitted over her before he released his grasp.
She suffered a moment of acute fandom. Wait till Ingrid heard about this. Then again, her best friend, who taught fourth grade across the hall, had likely already noticed him.
As flummoxed as Megan felt, she wasn't about to do anything silly like fawn over him or blush. Why was she thinking about that here in the classroom?
She turned to Ava. "Please take your seat, and Max, you'll sit with today's other guests." Megan gestured at the eight folding chairs in front of the giant map of the world against the wall. "I see a place next to Cody's dad."
"Max isn't my daddy, he's my uncle," Ava reminded her.
For a split second Megan's gaze collided with the firefighter's. Losing her father at such a young age had to have affected the little girl. Megan had certainly been traumatized when she'd lost hers. Although she'd been twelve, years older. A loss like that stayed with a person.
She nodded. "I remember. I'm very glad you brought him with you today."
The loving grin Max showered on Ava melted Megan. While he joined the other guests, his niece took her seat at the table she shared with three other boys and girls.
The bell rang, and Megan started the school day, taking attendance and setting the morning. "As you know, this is our last day of Career Day. Remember to be respectful."
She directed her next comments to the adults. "Because there are eight of you and we have limited time, I'll be using a five-minute timer so that everyone has a chance to speak. When you finish, the students will have five minutes to ask questions. Halfway through, we'll break for recess.
"We'll finish shortly after lunch. Those who can't stay will go first. If you have the time and would like to join us for the meal, you're welcome, but I need to let the cafeteria know. How many of you are planning to stay?"
A man and a woman raised their hands. After glancing at her uncle, Ava's brow furrowed and her hand shot up.
"Yes, Ava?" Megan asked.
"Is it okay if I ask Uncle Max something?" Megan nodded, and her student gave her uncle a wide-eyed look. "Will you eat with me?"
Max scratched his neck. "I wasn't planning to."
"Please, Uncle Max? Can't you work on the cabinet later?"
Everyone looked confused at that.
"When I'm off-duty, I make custom furniture," Max explained.
Interesting. Megan raised her eyebrow. "Will you be talking about that today?"
"Not enough time. Sure it's okay if I stick around for lunch?"
"Then yeah, I'll eat with you, Ava." He shrugged and smiled at his niece.
Oh, to be the beneficiary of that gorgeous grin. Megan's heart did a cartwheel in her chest. "We'll start with those who aren't able to stay. Cody, please come to the front of the room and introduce your father."
As speakers talked about their jobs and answered questions, Max's mind wandered. He hadn't intended to stay for lunch, but he never had been able to resist his niece.
He wouldn't mind getting to know her teacher, either. Early thirties, golden shoulder-length hair anchored back with clips, and a great mouth…
Ava chattered nonstop about Megan Spenser, but Max had never imagined she was such a looker. He could do without the modest, knee-length dress and tights, but her calves and ankles were slender and shapely. A leg man, he appreciated that.
Was she single? Couldn't hurt to find out.
He wasn't seeing anyone right now. Didn't want a girlfriend—he didn't do serious—but he enjoyed dating.
By the time the recess bell rang, the kids were antsy to get up and move. The guests who had already spoken had left.
"It's time for recess," Megan said. "Class, please get your coats, then line up against the wall. For those guests still here, we'll be back in approximately twenty minutes. Take this time to relax."
The kids stood and in an orderly fashion filed out of the room to their lockers. Max was impressed. Megan had a solid hold on the kids and they seemed eager to obey. Like Ava, they appeared to like their teacher a lot.
After recess Career Day continued, with adults leaving as they finished. By lunch all but Max and the two others who had opted in for lunch remained to speak. Ready to eat, he accompanied his niece to the cafeteria.
To his disappointment, Megan had disappeared. Too bad—he wanted to talk to her and get to know more about her.
One of the lunch attendants gave him a folding chair to sit on, and a good thing. He wouldn't have fit on the bench at the table. Hunched over his plate, he ate the same standard school fare, which was so-so and not nearly enough to fill his empty belly. Several adults policed the cafeteria, making sure there were no food fights or other disruptions.
A second recess followed lunch, then back to class to finish up Career Day. Max was last up. Everyone seemed interested, including Megan. She sat forward in her seat at the desk with a rapt expression on her face. He liked that.
With only five minutes to speak, he stuck with a few basics. "Any questions?" he asked when he finished.
Half a dozen kids raised their hands. A boy bouncing in his seat went first. "How come you call your uniform 'turnout clothes'?"
"Great question," Max said. "First, this is more than a uniform. These clothes are made of special material that protects us from heat and flames. The name comes from our practice of 'turning out' our pants over the tops of our boots, which allows us to step directly into the boots and pull the pants and suspenders up in one move. That saves time, and when we're called to a fire, getting there fast can mean the difference between success and failure. We aim for success—keeping people safe and saving buildings."
He fielded several more questions before Megan signaled "time out" and joined him up front. She wasn't tall, about level with his Adam's apple.
"Thank you, Mr. Meier. Class, let's show our appreciation." She led the applause with a whole lot of enthusiasm. "Please pull out your books and read while I speak with Mr. Meier outside," she instructed when the kids settled down.
She and Max stepped into the hall. "You made a big hit. The entire class hung onto your every word."
From what he'd observed, so had she. "They were an easy group to please." Her eyes were a startling blue green. And that mouth… The plump bottom lip snagged his attention and held it.
Megan touched her lips. "Do I have something on my mouth?"
Realizing he was staring, he jerked his gaze up. "No. What did you want to talk about? Is Ava doing okay? Her mom hasn't said anything."
"Your niece is wonderful. Here's what I'm thinking—my students would really benefit from a full class about safety. Do you think you could come again?"
Max didn't see why not. "Sure. I'll need an okay from Captain Comings. I'll talk to him Monday."
"Thanks. I'm still blown away by the two, back-to-back, twenty-four shifts you work each week—with limited sleep during that time."
He shrugged. "After thirteen years, I'm used to it."
"And I thought teaching was exhausting. Do you think you can come back before the end of the month? Thursdays or Fridays work best for us."
With only two weeks left in January, that didn't leave much time. "That shouldn't be a problem. Here's my card. If you'll give me your email address and phone number, I'll get back to you so we can coordinate."
Megan supplied the information, and he added it to his address book. He liked her and appreciated having her contact info.
She glanced at the closed door. "My students are waiting. Thanks again. It's obvious Ava is very proud of you."
Max wasn't good with compliments, but knowing his niece was proud of him felt good. As did having her teacher's contact info.
Ready to eat again, he exited the school lot and drove to the nearest fast-food place.