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Authors: Ashley Suzanne,Tiffany Fox,Melissa Gill

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BOOK: Rekindle
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Taking a slight break, I pull out my phone and text the chief with the news, then run to the bathroom to wash my hands and face.  I had no idea how disgusting I look until I see myself in the mirror.  Dirt and soot are caked onto my hands and face.  The moment I get home, I’m soaking in the bathtub for days, if that’s even possible.

“Are you here for Nicholas Conrad?” a young woman in scrubs asks the moment I walk out of the bathroom.

“Yes.”

“Come with me, please.”  I follow her into the elevator, to the fourth floor, and down a few long and winding hallways until we reach Nicks’ room.

Stepping inside, the low hum of running machines are the first things I hear, and then I see Nick.  Resting under a dimmed light, the love of my life’s lying in what looks like a full body cast, every inch of him covered except for the tips of his toes, hands and his face.  Everything else is wrapped in a cast or bandages.  Taking the chair next to the bed, I put my hand inside his and rest my forehead on the edge of the bed, careful not to make him any more uncomfortable than he already is.

“I love you so much.  I was so worried.  I swear I’ll never go another day without letting you know how much you mean to me and how much I care about you.  I’ll never make you question anything ever again.  You’re it for me.  Don’t ever leave me again.”  My tears hit the thin mattress and I don’t bother wiping them away.  Every ounce of emotion I held back during the course of today’s events pours out of me now that I know for a fact he’s going to be okay … that I’ve seen him with my own eyes.

“Baby,” Nick’s voice rings in my ears.  I angle my head to look him in the eyes and all I see shining back at me is unconditional love.  “Don’t cry.”  He moves his hand to wipe away the tears, but because of the casts, he’s unable, and he growls. 

“I’m fine.  I was just worried,” I say, choking back more emotion that wants nothing more than to fight its way out of my eyeballs.

“I love you,” he whispers.

“Not as much as I love you,” I return.

“Had I known this was all I had to do to make you see the light, I would have done it a while ago,” he jokes through his pain.  His crooked, doped up grin melts my heart.  Through everything he’s been through, all he cares about is me.

“Stop it.”

“I’m serious.  Lying underneath all that rubble, praying someone would find me was so much easier than thinking I’d never have another shot with you again.  Never again will I allow you to walk away from me, Tina.”

“Never again will I want to.  Now, get some sleep.”

He smiles briefly and a nurse distracts me as she walks through the door and to Nick’s bedside.  Taking his IV in one hand, she cleans one area and inserts a syringe, pushing what I assume to be pain medication through.

“I’ll see you in my dreams,” Nick whispers before his eyes flutter closed.

“Ditto.”

EPIL
OGUE

Frankie

Tina warned me before I ever started the fire academy. 
“If you think being a woman paramedic in a firehouse is hell, just wait until you’re playing on their team.  They’re a good group of guys, the best actually, but it’s gonna take a whole lot for you to prove you’re one of them.”
  I didn’t heed that warning very well.

“I passed!” I excitedly yell, running through the open bay door of the firehouse.

Chief Masterson is the first one, the only one really, who meets me with a quick hug and a pat on the back.  “Welcome to 22, probe,” he says in his gruff voice.

I’m lucky in the sense of I had my chief pulling for me and requesting me assigned to the house where I’ve worked for the past year.  Most new firefighters have to wait a few weeks for an assignment.

“I’ve been a part of 22 for almost a year, Chief,” I joke, walking through the garage into the dining hall.  Assuming since I’m low man on the totem pole, dinner will be on my shoulders. 

I never gave much thought to becoming a firefighter.  I was more than satisfied with being an EMT, but after watching those men so fearlessly bust their asses to save lives, the dream ignited and never let me go.  I immediately enrolled in the academy, and even with everything working against me, I succeeded.  All I want to do now was get out there and help as many people as I can. 

I have no preconceived notions about being some kind of hero, especially while I’m in training, but after watching these guys carry victims out of fully engulfed houses and seeing the cards from families who might have lost everything except their lives … I want to know how that feels.  I can only imagine it feels like walking on water.

Stepping behind the counter, I pull some ingredients from the refrigerator and a large pot from the cupboard.  “What are you doing, Frankie?” Jones asks, scaring the shit out of me and causing me to nearly drop everything from my arms.

“Dammit, Tony.  Don’t sneak up on me like that.  I could have died.”  Smiling in his direction, his lips remain tight as he surveys the counter.  “I’m making dinner.  Figure chili would be good.”

“That’s a probe’s job,” he stoically states.

“I passed.”

“This your house?”

“Yep,” I respond, grinning ear to ear.

“Then you should probably start with the bathrooms.  Mack’s out back grilling up dinner.  Don’t forget to put those cake things in the bottom of the urinals.”  Without another word, he turns his back and walks out the side door to where I assume the rest of the guys are.

Standing in the empty kitchen, I bite back the tears.  I’m not really an overly emotional person, but the cool indifference already shown to me makes me worry.  I’ve been friends with these guys for a while now and if they’re already being cold to me, what more do I have to look forward to? 

I knew there would be an adjustment period, but I didn’t expect the banter we’d shared while I was an EMT to go away.  I figured, above anything else, they’d be happy to have a probe they already knew … someone they wouldn’t have to question whether or not they had their back.  I’d been on the front lines with them.  They know my work ethic.  They know I put this house above anything else.

And Jones.  Tony and I had been friends long before either of us were firefighters.  We’d grown up down the street from one another.  Shit, he was my date for prom, way back when. 

Now …

I’m nothing more to him, or anyone else in this house, than a probe who has to prove herself all over again.

With Nick finally back to work and Tina getting a new partner, I thought my first day would be like getting the band back together.  I’d spent countless hours with Tina, making sure Nick was comfortable and could get back and forth to physical therapy when she worked.  We’d become close.  All of us.  Now that Nick’s cleared for duty, I know I’ll have one person on my side, but that’s not really enough.  In order to survive, I need them all.  Even Tony.

God, I wish I would have listened to Tina.  Maybe it would have been easier for me to start fresh at a new house—a place with guys who didn’t know me.  At least my feelings wouldn’t be getting hurt.  Who am I kidding?  They probably would be anyway. 

Slapping my hands on the counter, I open the closet and pull out the mop and cleaning supplies.  If all they think I’m good for is tidying up after them and making sure they can piss in a clean bathroom, I’ll just have to prove them otherwise.

It’s high time these brutes learn exactly what a woman can
really
do when she puts her mind to it. 

Even after a fire is out, it can continue to smolder.  The smoke will rise from the ashes and the embers can reignite if not carefully cared for.  And right now, I’m that fire, smoldering away.  Hell hath no fury and all that good stuff.

Watch out, 22.  Francesca Martinez isn’t here to play games.  I’m about to stake my claim and make a name for myself as the best female firefighter this city has ever seen.

 

The End …

Click here to add SMOLDER, Frankie’s story to your TBR.

 

Smolder (Book 2) coming Summer 2015

Abo
ut the Author

Ashley Suzanne has been writing as long as she can remember. As a youngster, she was always creating stories and talking to her imaginary friends. Thankfully, her parents also carried this love of fiction, and helped her grow into the writer she is today.

Ashley is a bestselling author and spends equal amounts of time writing and reading. Being the true book whore she is, Ashley would rather dive into a good book before going out of her house. Giving up her career in Real Estate, Ashley has officially moved to hermit status.

When Ashley isn't coming up with her next story, you'll most likely find her on the couch with a kindle in her hand (probably watching some crappy reality show while annoying her husband by telling him all about her new book boyfriend or spending quality time with her two gremlins ... Sorry, I mean adorable children.)

OTHER WORKS BY ASHLEY SUZANNE

THE DESTINED SERIES
Mirage (book 1)
Inception (book 1.5)
Awakening (book 2)
Façade (book 3)
Epiphany (book 4)
Inescapable (book 5) – COMING SOON

RAVEN (stand alone)
CALLING CARD (stand alone)
RESTRICTED Part 1 (a 3 part serial co-authored with Pamela Ann)
CLAIM Volume 1
CLAIM Volume 2
CLAIM Volume 3
CLAIM Serial Box Set
BREAKING NOAH (Coming 5/26/15 with Random House Publishing)

MOMENTS IN TIME – A short story charity anthology featuring Sapphire by Ashley Suzanne

Ashley’s Facebook
Ashley’s Website
Sign up for Ashley’s Mailing List

Ashley Suzanne is represented by Marisa Corvisiero with Corvisiero Literary Agency.

Acknow
ledgements

To every reader, blogger, book club and book whore that picked up and read Rekindle … THANK YOU!!!  Thank you for allowing Nick and Tina’s voice to be heard.  Thank you for contributing to a wonderful cause.  Thank you for supporting something so close to my heart.  Thank you for lending a hand to a group of people that won’t ask for help.

Ray … you’re my rock.  My best friend.  My partner in crime.  My favorite support system.  Without you, none of this would be possible.  One day, I hope I get the courage to write our love story … it’s one the world needs to hear.  How two people who are complete opposites can make it against all odds.  Shove aside the angst and drama, we’re perfect for each other.  Thank you for always sticking by my side, giving me two fantastic children and loving me more than I ever imagined being loved.  Until the wheels fall off.

My boys, Ty and Bray … THANK YOU and I LOVE YOU MORE THAN ANYTHING.  Writing is such a wonderful job, a way for me to get everything in my heart and soul on paper, but none of it would be possible without you guys.  And writing will never be a better job than being your mommy.  A five star review is so amazing, but will never compare to how I feel when you come and lie next to me, if only to tell me you love me.  You make living worth it.

Mommy … without you, I’d be nothing.  You’ve given me everything to be the woman I am today—a strong faith, a sense of independence and a love I’ll never get from anywhere else.  You make me want to be better and make me want to prove everyone wrong.  There will be a day where I need a live-in assistant, and when that day comes, you’re hired.  I know I’ll be fighting off Angela and Stephanie, maybe even Tiffany, but for YOU I’ll fight until the day I die.

Pops … yeah… you know … we don’t do that sappy shit.  It’s just not our game, but *shrugs* you get me.  Thanks for passing me around … again.  That sounds so wrong, and only a few people will understand what I’m talking about LOL.  And knowing you’re proud of me, I turn back into that little girl who only wants to make her daddy happy.  You’re a dick, but I love you, old man.  It’s not every day that forgiveness is offered, but for you, today’s that day.  You are.  For everything. 

Maddy … you’re my person.  Everyone has one and you happen to be mine.  All bullshit aside, you’re the greatest friend a girl could ever ask for.  You’re someone I hope is in my life for as long as I live … if only to give it to me straight.  Your words, advice, encouragement and friendship have changed my life for the better.  As crazy as this world is at times, because I met you, I’ll never wish to take anything back.  Toxic raisins until the day I die.

Nicky … the raddest hipster I know … in the past … Thank you for being you.  For talking to me through everything.  For keeping me level.  For making sure I know you’re tired of waiting.  For introducing me to Zulilly.  And mostly for enjoying long phone calls … spending a few hours on the phone, dishing about everything from kids to books at least once a month rejuvenates me like you wouldn’t believe.  You’re kind of amazing and I adore the hell out of you.  I’ll always choose to run through wildflowers with you.

Steph … you already know.  Thick and thin … up and down … right or wrong … it’s you and me until the cold, bitter end.  If you continuously find me offensive, I suggest you stop finding me.  I know, no matter what, there’s a place for me next to you in the garage.  I’ll be on the mission to find Kaylee until we find that whore.

Marisa … you changed my life.  You gave me hope.  You’re a miracle.  My blessing.  What I’d always prayed for and when I finally needed you, God plopped you in my lap and restored my faith in this industry.  I’d truly be lost without you.  Not only are you the best agent a writer can ask for, you’re an amazing friend.  Rules are meant to be broken.

Lacy … the sweetest angel I’ve ever met in my entire life.  You amaze me each and every day and I’m so lucky our paths crossed.  Without you, I’d be lost.  For everything … thank you.  And we all know … Garrett’s yours.

Meli … because you’re always there.  I’m so happy we reconnected after so long.  Business decisions are just that, but I had missed you as my friend so much.  Now that we’re on the same team, I hope you understand why some of the things I did were for nothing other than my business.  And I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for being such a great friend, an amazing graphic designer, and giving me my brand.  You’re one of a kind and you should be celebrated always!

Tiffany … you push me for greatness … you refuse to let me slack and call me out where I need it … that’s something I can’t buy.  It’s not a service you offer because it’s your job; it’s given to me because you actually care about me and my work.  Each project you edit, you remind me of where I started and where I am now … I’ll never find another gem like you, so don’t leave me.  And my couch is your couch.  Spending time with you is always bittersweet because you eventually have to leave.  I wish you never left so we could stay up until 4am talking, hitting the karaoke bar every weekend and making friends wherever we go.  And you and I, dear, host one hell of a signing.  Next year, it’s on!!  Son of a bitch.

My Aces … you amazingly wonderful group of women.  You’re mine and I don’t wanna share you … ever.  Thank you for loving me unconditionally and loving my characters even more.  You’ll never know how much you mean to me. 

My Hemingway Family … Madeline, Nicole, Joanne, Amber, Tracey, Brian, Daryl, Kathryn and Rachel … Thank you for always being there … for reminding me it’s not just me ... for commiserating and encouraging … for pushing me further than I’ve ever dreamed … and being the best group of friends ever … one day I hope I have enough money to fly you to my island for cocktails and pin the tail on the haters. 

Gitte and Jenny from Totally Booked Blog for hosting my cover reveal.  Our relationship might have started out unconventional, and I think that’s only because we didn’t know each other.  Now that we’ve gone beyond that point, I’m so happy to have you amazing girls in my corner.  Thanks for the support and giving me the push I need and the critiques I need even more.  You, Jenny, have turned me into such a better writer.  For that, I’ll always be grateful.  #ThanksJenny

And just a few honorable mentions … Carrie Richardson-Horton, Tracie Short, Toski Covey, Sommer Stein, Nicole Kelsey, Kahlen Aymes, Cami Hesnault, Pamela Ann, Heather Mullins, Angela Graham, the GDRWA girls, Sue Grimshaw, Tricia Daniels, The Book Grind, Ashley Jasper, Erin Noelle, Ryan Guzman (don’t judge me), Riley Rhea, and Scott Michael … thank you for all of your love, support and kindness … you all push me without even knowing it.

BOOK: Rekindle
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ads

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