The Problem with Fire - M.E. Clayton Page 0,1

under my belt, and creeping up on forty. I should not be lusting after youngsters.

I wasn’t a pervert, for Christ’s sake.

But then, what was the age limit for pervertedness?

A three-year difference?




And did it depend on the age range? If a person was fifty but their partner was forty, that sounded more acceptable than if you were forty and your partner was only thirty, for goodness’ sake. And ten years might not seem like much to people, but if you were twenty-five and you were chasing a fifteen-year-old. They’d put you in prison for that shit.

So, what in the hell was age appropriate?

And if it was a forty-year-old man with a thirty-year-old woman, how did that stack up against a forty-year-old woman with a thirty-year-old man?

And if you were fifty and found yourself attracted to someone your children’s age, then what? Was that wrong? Was it okay as long as your children approved?

Since I needed to finish my coffee and start my day, I closed my eyes and turned away from my kitchen window before I gave myself a goddamn headache.

I knew my neighbor was only thirty-five. I knew he was a firefighter, and a grown ass man, living in his own home, paying his own bills, and was a full-fledge productive member of society. And how did I know all this? My neighbor to the left, Kerry Florence, was a fountain of neighborhood information. And when Mr. Sayer Hayes had moved into the house to the right of mine, Kerry had done her best to welcome him to the neighborhood. And in the two months that he’s lived there, I’ve only exchanged a couple of hellos with the man, and that’s been it.

Being a firefighter, he worked weird hours, but every now and again, I’d catch him coming home from work or leaving for work, and it was all I could do to keep my tongue from lolling out like a love-struck cartoon character.

Sayer Hayes was everything you’d imagine a hot, sexy firefighter to be. He was well over six-feet tall, with muscles that couldn’t be contained no matter how loosely he wore his shirts. He had dark brown hair and bright blue eyes (that bit I got from Kerry because I’ve yet to talk to the man beyond the mumbled hellos), and a face carved from perfection.

In short, the man was smokin’ hot. And, God bless his soul, he was a firefighter to boot. What was more sexier than that?

And here I was, a mousy thirty-nine-year-old, who was heading towards forty in a few months. I wasn’t a complete hag, but I wasn’t gravity-free either. And I had a child who’d left proof of her existence behind on my wide hips, stretch-marked tummy, and not-so-perky breasts. And even though I worked out and did my best to stay in shape, age was the motherfucker of all wars. You could fight it all you wanted, but age prevailed like a damn five-star general.

Of course, my uncontrollable drool could also be a result of my three-year penis hiatus. After Thomas had dropped the bomb that he had wanted a divorce, I had spent that first year putting all my efforts into making the change as painless as possible for Leta. I had totally failed, by the way, but that hadn’t stopped me from doing my best as her mother.

I had also spent that first year doing everything I could to get promoted at work. My personal life had been a disaster, but I had managed to work my way up from a county clerk to one of the three Silias County building inspectors. The pay increase had been a godsend, and it had allowed me support Leta without the benefit of child support or alimony.

Even though Thomas had turned out to be a jackass, he had always been a good father, so I hadn’t fought him when he had demanded fifty/fifty custody of Leta. And with fifty percent custody, he hadn’t been required to pay child support. He also had offered to let me keep the house, but pride had been my best friend during that first year, and we had ended up selling everything and splitting it all right down the middle. It was how I had been able to buy the house Leta and I lived in now.

The second year had been spent digging into my new role at work, and still working on getting Leta through the shitty thing her father had done. After months of crying, raging,