Authors: Dee Ellis
Let It Burn
by Dee Ellis
© 2016 by Dee Ellis. All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced in any written, electronic, recording, or photocopying without written permission of the publisher or author. The exception would be in the case of brief quotations embodied in the critical articles or reviews and pages where permission is specifically granted by the publisher or author.
Cover Design: Dee Ellis.
Interior Design: Create Space
Publisher: Dee Ellis
ISBN 13: 978-1535273411 ISBN 10: 1535273410
1. Romance 2. New Adult 3. Erotica
Printed in The U.S.A.
Freckles. I think I like freckles okay. They sprinkle her face a little but her arms and shoulders are more freckle than creamy skin. I spot one large one, the size of a lady bug and I think it’s cute. Then I’m thinking about her laugh and how I hated it. Didn’t like her voice much either. Just when she was reduced to some moaning and mewling. Calling my name a few times, which she didn’t even have right.
Shit. I don’t remember hers either. Staci? Laci? Something like that. Doesn’t matter. The voice, her laugh, the porn star noises she made during our very brief time tonight is proof enough of that. I shift away from her, praying to the walk of shame gods she doesn’t wake up. Easier for us both if she doesn’t.
Not like Freckles doesn’t know the score, though. We’re both consenting adults who had a decent time together after a few drinks at O’Malley’s. The pub is where all the badge bunnies go because they know it’s full of men in uniform. They can take their pick and they do. I’d debate that the bunnies that come in there looking for a badge to snag are worse than the guys on the prowl at a regular bar.
Some of them are like groupies. Hoping to bag a badge man from every service, like some sort of sport. Others like the promise of no promises. A very few are drawn to the life for one reason or another. Those want to snag just one badge man and keep him. I keep my distance from the ones with stars in their eyes and futures on their minds.
Right now I’m carefully easing my way around Freckles’ tiny apartment, hoping to slip out and save us the conversation. The one where I lie and promise to call the number that might not even be real. Or worse, the one where she offers breakfast in hopes of it being the first of many domestic moments. No thank you.
Thankfully I was sober enough last night to toss all my shit on her couch as we made our way to her bedroom. I can’t remember getting here. I have a foggy memory of a cab so I know I’m hoofing it back to the station. It’s early still, with barely any light peeking through the windows. In one fluid motion I have my jeans on, shirt over my shoulders and I’m slipping on my boots. It’s quiet and I’m thankful because too much Bud Light and too little sleep make for a grumpy boy.
I make it outside into the cold air, my breath forming white puffs of air. My chest burns with something I think might be guilt. Really I don’t know, but I always get that pressure when I pull this shit. Has to be guilt. I like to think I’m a decent guy. I work hard; literally risk my life to save people I don’t even know. Good to my friends, great to my family. I pretend I feel okay doing the walk of shame at my age because I’m a guy. A single guy with little responsibility. It’s expected.
Doesn’t make that burn go away, though. I hail the first cab I see and know that part of the burn is sadness. I call out the address to my apartment as I slide in, glad the cab is warm. Not sure if I was even wearing a jacket last night. I sure as shit am not going back to Freckles’ to search for one. As the cab ride draws on and I realize how shitty of a neighborhood I was leaving behind me, I know something else.
Freckles was one of the bunnies with stars in her eyes. The burn fades slowly because I know we wanted different things. A different one replaces it once I tip the cabbie and head inside. To my empty apartment. Sadness and a rotten taste of loneliness fill my lungs. Nothing glamorous about taking a mildly hot chick home from a dirty pub then cutting out before the sun rises.
I don’t think I really like freckles though. Not sure about that one. I know what I do like and nothing Freckles had was enough to make me give her the future she was be hoping for. We were both better off not pretending. My key sticks in the lock like it always does. I have to shove to release it and I’m met with a mewl somewhere near my feet.
“Morning, Mr. Belvedere. You hungry buddy?” Dark orange fur weaves between my boots and I smiled, bending to pick him up.
Mr. Belvedere, the cat who was my almost constant companion since I was a teen, mewled and scented me. More dog than cat, he played with toys and thought he had to mark everything as his territory. The fur ball made me a little less lonely. A Scottish Fold, the first time his ears went back and he mewled at me at the pet store, I was done.
Flat faced and furry he was one of the first signs that I wasn’t all my tough exterior might lead you to believe. Carrying him into the kitchen, I set him atop the island reserved for his meals and pet him in greeting. I shared my nightly escapades with him and he made his reservations of my lifestyle well known. After cracking open a can of food for him, giving him a chin scratch and telling him gently to shove it, I headed down the hall for a shower.
“Got to do what I got to do, Mr. Belvedere.” I called over my shoulder, a hand already bent behind me to tug my shirt off.
It smelled like smoke, cheap perfume and stale beer and was smudged with soot. My hands were still a little dirty, but it was the kind of dirt you can never clean off. Rough and callused, they were the hands of someone who worked. I was proud of that. Turning on the shower, I realized I was exhausted.
The shower had been a selling point. The multiple heads and fancy tilework filled my head with visions of pinning some hot broad to that tile. Yet to fulfill that fantasy. I never brought women to my place. That was cardinal rule number one: don’t take them home if I don’t want them to stay.
There were lots of rules to how I handled my life, but that was an important one. I couldn’t consider bringing home a chick I didn’t want knowing shit about me. I thought someone’s place told a lot about them. From my fluffy cat that I treated like my child to the photos on the wall of my family, to what movies I watched and music I listened to. It all told a little bit about me and it was too easy to figure out if someone saw it all at once.
So far I hadn’t wanted to share that with any one of them. Instead I ducked out of their place if I went home with someone. If I was really desperate we didn’t even leave the pub. We took care of business right there or in their car. The ones I let give me head in the bathroom or that I fingered to orgasm in a dark corner did not have stars in their eyes or a future on their mind.
The hot water felt good on my tense muscles. I stayed under the multiple sprays until it ran cold. It was early morning still but the sun was out. It told a tale of a beautiful fall day but I knew it was cold by the grayness of the skies. I managed to survive the night without a hangover and was suddenly hungry.
After slipping on some shorts I padded into the kitchen and raided my fridge. Between my legs Mr. Belvedere was licking his chops as he begged for treats. Ruffling a hand through his thick fur, I scooped him up against my chest. I was still a little wet, rivulet of water dripping from my hair. Mr. Belvedere protested but not too hard. Instead he eyed the eggs and Canadian bacon I was pulling out. Setting him on the island again, I started on some breakfast.
“I didn’t mind the freckles,” I explained as if he could understand, “it was her laugh. Like...it was like a baby donkey. Not so obnoxious I didn’t bang her but enough that I didn’t love it. Don’t know if she was a cat person either.” I added for good measure and he seemed to approve at last.
“Have to love her laugh. Because I want to
her laugh, right, Bel? Besides Freckles,” Still couldn’t remember her name and I had given up trying, “failed the test they can’t fail. Let me bang her the first night? Guess I failed a test too, if I’m using that as a measure of character, huh Bel?” Frowning as I made my plate and grabbed the carton of orange juice, I sank into a stool at the bar.
Being a Fire Fighter in a city like Chicago took a certain personality type. Someone who enjoyed the risk, the adrenaline rush that came with risking your life on a regular basis. Running at the fire when your senses tell you to get the fuck out. There’s not a time I can clearly remember when I wasn’t that guy. One of the first photos my sister hung up when I got my place is a family favorite.
Five-year-old me riding around in a power wheel fire truck and wearing a helmet with a shit eating grin on my dimpled face. My father was fire chief and I always intended to walk in his shoes. There had never been another plan. This was it for me. With my diploma ink still drying, I signed up as a volunteer at Engine 71. Then EMT training and now I’m finishing up my degree in Fire Administration.
The thrill is what kept me loving the job. Nothing like hearing that siren and taking that pole to possible danger. It was a visceral assault when we pulled up on a raging fire and I knew it was up to us to contain it, to save lives. Fear and adrenaline pumped through me so powerfully it was like a natural narcotic. I loved it. Fed off it, craved it even.
After we battled a fire or saved a life from a wreck, there was this moment. I called it aftershock. Despite the heat and noise, the billowing smoke and acrid air, I would feel and hear nothing. Standing in the center of utter chaos, silence would flood my ears till they buzzed and I would be unable to move. Every possible emotion would course through me in a dizzying moment of clarity Fear, anticipation, pride, grief, joy; all at once, churning and roiling until just as quickly they stopped.
In that moment I knew I was doing the right thing because despite those feelings, I still wanted to do it. Wanted the chance to save a life, save a home if I could. The wind down after that moment of aftershock took hours, unfortunately. Once we were out of the shit and safe, whatever tragedy we had faced was handled, we were still amped. One beer turned into many at whatever bar we ended up at. Usually it was O’Malley’s.
Last night, like so many before, we had a few emergencies through the day. We came alive once that alert came in. Once our trucks were racing through the congested streets of Chicago, we became different men. Looking forward in a sick and twisted way to the danger we were racing towards. The adrenaline that pumped through us all was rarely used up by the time we made it to O’Malley’s. So often we were still searching for something.
Once we got liquor in us that something could change. Some of us might be looking to get laid, some of us might be looking for a fight. Some might be looking for some wind down time with his station brothers. Often we got all the above. Sometimes we might go in wanting to get laid and talk to the wrong woman and get the fight instead. Anything to work that adrenaline out of our system. Make us feel alive and remind us we were still in one piece.
Very rarely did I go into O’Malley’s looking to get laid. I just needed to work off that aftershock; a few drinks at one of the bars we frequented should be enough. We only really hit four or five bars and they also had rules. No hard rock, no country twang, a surplus of beer options on tap and plenty of pussy. Not sure who made those the rules, but that’s what they were. Pretty sure Byrne, our house captain, had these rules and a few others posted at the fire house.
“Bel,” I cleared away my plate and he followed, running a figure eight through my legs, “you know I try to be the good guy. I’m a leader, a persuasive guy, right? I try to let us tie one on in celebration that we made it out and then get them home. I don’t seek the women out. Not usually. Still, sometimes...I end up between some broad’s legs and I don’t even know why I’m there or who she is.” It was true and I knew my cat could hardly judge me; he’d bang anything he could if given the chance.
It was the truth though and I felt a little better reminding myself of it. I was young, working a risky job that didn’t allow for much of a social life. Sometimes I took the low hanging fruit, even though I knew better. I made bad choices. I let myself be seduced by easy women who I knew had little to nothing to offer me. Let the guys tell me it was what we men did.
Before I started at the station, I wasn’t that guy. I dated one girl through high school; Krista. Sweet girl; smoking hot and willing to drive out to the lake and let me get to second base. Really she was my first one and done. We dated for years, spent those nights at the lake but sealed the deal on prom night. Then it was over. I had been a fool to think we’d make it out of high school together.
At first the badge bunnies who threw themselves at anything in a uniform was an exciting perk of being a fire fighter. It took me almost six months before I went home with one, though. I had liked her, actually. Ariel. Saw her around O’Malley’s a lot; hot blond, tiny waist, bought and paid for curves. Became my first badge bunny and I had no idea what the fuck I was doing. Thought she liked me too.
Until a few nights later she went home with my best friend Finn. I wanted to kill them both. The next chick I took home was just to spite Ariel but she didn’t even bat an eye. When I was deep inside that poor girl, I knew it was wrong. I still fucked her until I couldn’t remember what Ariel or Krista even looked like.
It was the first empty fuck of my life and I hated every minute of it. When I crept out that first morning it literally was a walk of shame. I was disgusted and felt dirty and cheap even though we had both used each other. I had a mother who I adored. Two older sisters who taught me how to treat girls and a younger one that I’d commit murder for. Especially if a guy did that shit.
Since I had been at the station, my bed partner count had shot up to almost double digits. I was uneasy about it to say the least. I wasn’t raised that way and in fact, I didn’t even enjoy it anymore. I saw the same faces and knew most of them had gone around with one of us. It made me sick. Sometimes though, I was lonely and knew I was seeking