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Authors: Ashley Suzanne,Tiffany Fox,Melissa Gill

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BOOK: Rekindle
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“Huh.  I think I like you, Mitchell,” he says, grinning as he pops the last bite of sandwich in his mouth. 

“I like you, too, Jones.”  I return his smile, but it’s cut short when Nick traipses back into the room, eyeing me like he just caught me in bed with his brother.

It’s going to be a long shift …

CHAP
TER TWO
TINA

It’s well into the night when I get my first call at the new house.  Thankful for the escape from Nick and his glaring eyes, the alarm only sounds for the ambulance.  Out of habit, I make my way to the driver’s seat of the ambo, only to be met with the scowling face of my new partner who I’ve yet to meet.

“Rookies ride passenger,” he barks, blocking my path.

“That’s fantastic.  Gary is it?  Well, I’ll have you know, I’m no rookie.  Been on the job for six years.  But I’ll let it slide.  This was your house first and this is your rig, but I won’t let it go again,” I firmly state.  One thing I’ve learned over the years … if you don’t call them out right away, they’ll walk all over you. 

Nodding his head with a shocked expression, he climbs into the driver’s seat and fires up the ambulance.  Chuckling to myself as I walk around the front, I open the passenger door and put my seatbelt on.

“May I?” I ask, pointing to the radio. 

“It’s all yours.”  The bay door opens, our lights turn on and as soon as we’re ready to pull onto the street, the siren blares. 

“Medic 30 responding,” I calmly say into the radio as Gary takes the turns effortlessly.

“Medic 30 received.  24592 West Seven Mile.  One gunshot victim on scene.”

“Just another night in the city,” I sigh, shaking my head.  As much as I hate the disaster Detroit’s turned into, I can’t help but love this city with everything I have in me.  Also, where else in the state would I be able to go and see as much action … help save as many lives? 

Gary hits the sirens again as we cross through intersections, having a few close calls.  It never fails, either.  I know, in Drivers Ed, we were all taught to move to the right and come to a stop until the emergency vehicle passes, but you’d be surprised how many people completely ignore that rule.  Maybe if they knew they could be costing someone their life, they’d get out of the way, but then again, probably not.  I guarantee, though, if it was their loved one in need of my help, they’d have their asses pulled over, letting us pass safely.

Arriving on scene, I page into Central, letting them know we’re here and are taking over on the scene.  The ambulance is barely in park before I’m flying out the door, walking to the back and grabbing the gurney.  Gary’s right behind me, making sure we have all the supplies we’ll need to stabilize our patient, whoever he or she may be.  As soon as I hit the sidewalk, an elderly woman rushes over to us, ushering us to where her grandson’s lying on the side of the house.

“Can you tell me what happened?” I ask, grabbing the backboard from the gurney and a C-collar from Gary’s bag.

“Kyle was outside, grabbing the cans to take them out front and one of those jerks came from around the block shooting out his car window,” she cries.  “Help him, please.  He’s only nineteen.  He’s a good boy.”  She crouches down beside me, elbowing my side in the process, as I slip the brace around Kyle’s neck

“I never doubted he was a good kid, ma’am.  Do you think you could step inside and grab me some water?” I ask, standing up to grab some gauze, glancing at Gary giving me a confused look.  I return his expression with one that says, “It’s good.  Watch.”

“Sure.  Sure.”  The woman rushes inside and I kneel on the ground next to her grandson.

“Hey, Kyle.  I’m Christina.  How ya doing?” I ask, pulling open his jacket to get a better look at the wound.  It doesn’t look too bad and the kid’ll probably be just fine when the hospital gets the bullet out.

“I mean, I got shot.  How do you think I’m feeling?” he responds sarcastically.  Excellent.  He’s talking, he’s aware of what’s going on and he’s got a hell of an attitude.  One less question to ask.

“Just think of the stories you’ll be able to tell the chicks when they see the scar,” Gary jumps in, catching me off guard.  I didn’t think he’d be able to play off me like my last partner did, based on our earlier conversation and all, but I’m pleasantly surprised.

Taping a few gauze strips over his wound, Gary and I get Kyle on the backboard, then on the gurney and begin pushing him toward the rig when his grandmother comes back outside.

“Here’s your water, girl,” she calls, running as quickly as she can with a glass of water, ice cubes and all.

“I’m not going to need it, after all.  Kyle’s looking good, but we’re going to take him to Receiving if you’d like to follow us.  Thanks so much for your help.”  I gently rest my hand on her shoulder, feeling the tension release from her body hearing my words.  Nodding her head, she heads to her car. 

I jump in the back with Kyle while Gary shuts the rear doors and returns to his rightful place in the driver’s seat, pulling out into traffic, aimed toward Detroit Receiving Hospital.

After a few minutes, I have the oxygen machine running, leads on Kyle’s chest, vitals written down on his file and some medication for pain flowing through his veins.  Resting my head against the cool metal behind me, I briefly close my eyes when Gary’s voice interrupts my peace.

“Why’d you ask that woman for water?  A little inconsiderate, wouldn’t you say?”  The condescending tone of his question irritates me, but I’d expect no less.  Unlike doctors and nurses, they don’t spend a whole lot of time on bedside manner during paramedic and EMT school.  Not many of us actually have people skills, but I’m a rare breed if you will.  Having been on the opposite end of the spectrum, I know how good it feels to have someone on your side, even when you’re not the patient.

“Well, if you were paying attention, she was hovering.  I wasn’t able to get to the patient and he needed my full attention.  So, if by asking his grandmother for some water removed her from the situation long enough for me to focus and examine our patient to the best of my ability, I’ll take inconsiderate over incompetent any day of the week.  Feel free to use it in the future if you’d like.”

“Oh.”  That’s his response.  Just, “Oh.”  He could have apologized, but I doubt he would have meant it anyway. 

Pushing aside my frustration with my new partner—and God is it already a bi-polar relationship—I radio into the hospital, alerting them to our arrival in a few minutes.  They confirm they have their staff on standby to accept Kyle from our care. 

The moment we pull into the ambulance bay, the doctors take over and I walk inside with them, giving them all the information we have on the patient, including his vitals and what appears to be his injury.  After ten minutes or so, I’ve given them everything they’ll need and have them sign off on our delivery. 

Making my way back to the rig, I pause and smile.  Regardless if there’s blood on my uniform and my partner can’t decide if he likes me or not, I helped someone tonight.  I kept a terrified grandmother calm and made sure our patient arrived to the hospital well cared for and alive.  I did my job and it feels excellent.

“You coming?” Gary yells out his window.  Again with the interrupting my personal moments.  We’re going to have to talk about that, just not right now.  I’m too busy riding the high to deal with him.

The ride back to the house is quiet, with the exception of minor chatter on the radio.  And as soon as the ambulance is through the bay doors, I don’t hesitate opening my door before Gary shifts into park.  With a little pep in my step, I walk through the mess hall and straight to the locker room. 

Grabbing an extra uniform from my locker, I take a towel from the rack.  Passing through the bunks, the guys appear to be sleeping and that’s pretty amazing because I’m due for a long hot shower.  Not many houses have separate bathroom facilities for men and women, and this is one of them.  However, there’s a private bathroom with a single shower stall just on the other side of the bunks.

Turning on the water, I pull my hair in a tight bun and strip out of my soiled uniform.  Stepping into the stall, I let the hot water run down my aching muscles and quickly wash my body.  As much as I’d like to enjoy my alone time and steam up the windows, I know all too well another call could ring through any minute. 

Wrapping the towel around myself, I step out of the stall and run straight into Nick. 
Fucking Nick.
 

“Can I help you?” I ask, holding the towel tightly at my breasts, praying none of me below the belt is exposed.

“How was your first call?”

“Um, it was good.  Why are you in here?”  And damn my body.  Not for one second have I ever stopped loving Nick and apparently my lady parts haven’t, either. 

“Just wanted to check on you.”  He raises his arms above his head to stretch and a sliver of his defined stomach peeks out from under his shirt.  My eyes automatically zero in on his exposed flesh and when I realize what I’m doing, I redirect my line of sight, but I wish I didn’t.  His lips curve up in his sexy little grin and I have to brace my knees so they don’t buckle.

“Thanks,” I mutter, all too breathy.  “If you’d excuse me so I can get changed,” I correct the octave in my voice to one more appropriate of one co-worker walking in on another. 

Perching himself on the edge of the counter, his smirk widens until I can see the one chipped tooth right in front.  “Go right ahead, I don’t mind.”  Nick crosses his arms over his chest and brings his hand up to cover his mouth, hiding the panty-melting smile, which I’m thankful for and it allows me a little time to recover and not drop my towel right here.

“Out, Nick,” I harshly whisper as to not wake up the other guys and point to the door.  “
Now
,” I drill the point home.  In true Nick fashion, he doesn’t budge, but starts softly laughing.

“This is sexual harassment, you know.  I could report you.”  Squaring my shoulders, I move to puff out my chest and quickly remember my towel isn’t the largest and that small surge of pride could cause a nip slip.

He judges me for a moment, most likely realizing I’m serious, and slides back to the floor.  As his hand grabs the handle, he turns back to me and places his free hand on my hip over the towel.  “Usually, sexual harassment is an unwanted sexual advance by a co-worker.  I’m just a fireman, no rocket scientist here, but I think it’d be fair to say that any sexual advance I make toward you would be wanted.”  His fingers creep inside the flap of the towel and graze the soft skin on my stomach.  “Yeah, I’m pretty sure this isn’t sexual harassment.  I know your tells, Tina, don’t you forget it.”  With that last statement, he opens the door just enough for him to slip through and closes it behind him. 

As it latches, I sit on the closed toilet lid and bring my head to my knees.  Sucking in deep breaths of air, I desperately try to calm my racing heart.  I hate that he’s so damn sexy.  With all that sleep-mussed dark hair, lust-filled brown eyes, two day—maybe more—of scruff and even that fucking chipped tooth, on the outside he’s still the man I fell in love with, but the man on the inside … I don’t know him.  And he sure as hell doesn’t know me.

Christ, I can’t deal with this.  Coming here, first shift and he doesn’t even acknowledge my existence, now I’m all he can see.  Is this some new kind of hazing I’m not aware of?  Does he miss me?  Is he thinking with his dick?  This is all too much to deal with in the middle of the night.  Hell, it’s too much to deal with at any time. 

Standing, I quickly run my toothbrush over my teeth and barely have the last button on my uniform done before the alarm sounds again.  With one last glance in the mirror, I remind myself to not let him get in my way.  I left him for a reason and that reason hasn’t changed.  He’s not changed.

He’ll keep me on the outside, but just close enough that I feel like my Nick’s still in there, but we’ll both know that guy’s long gone.

“Go save a life, Christina.  Do your job,” I whisper to my reflection and fly out of the bathroom.  At least I can lose myself in my work if I can’t lose myself in Nick.

CHAPTER THREE
T
INA

My first shift at 22 proved to be pretty busy.  On top of the two calls we already had, add on three more—a woman who thought she was having a heart attack, but it was really a panic attack, a car wreck on the highway and a homeless guy who wanted to get warm for the night. 

I’m not complaining, though.  This is the exact reason why I love Detroit like no other place around.  I’m able to validate my reason for choosing this job with every shift. 

Collecting my dirty uniform from earlier in the night and stuffing it in my bag, I’m out front at the exact moment Lacy arrives.

“Back in one piece, just how I like you,” she jokes, moving her purse off the passenger seat for me to get in.  I already wish I would have stuck with the bus idea, but calling Lacy was too easy.  Damn me for being lazy and hating public transportation. 

“Not for a lack of trying.”  Smiling at my best friend, I notice she hasn’t dropped Dakota, her four-year-old daughter and the coolest chick I know, off at pre-school yet.

“And good morning to you, Ms. Dakota.  Are you excited for school today?” I ask, ruffling her hair and blowing a kiss to the backseat.

“Yep.  Ms. Lily said we get to wear jammies today.”  Doing a double take, it would appear that sweet little Dakota is still in her Frozen jammies under her coat, Elsa’ed out for the world to see.

“You look absolutely stunning,” I respond in my best British accent.  I’m about to ask what the hell the teacher is thinking letting the kids wear PJs to school, but then I remember seeing something on the calendar last time I babysat.  “Are you excited to watch
Polar Express
?”

“Ehhh, I’m excited for snack.  We get to have candy canes.  I like candy canes, Auntie Tina.  They’re my favorite.”  Stifling my laugh, I wink at my gorgeous niece and lay my head back on the headrest.  Thankfully, I’m going to be able to sleep today with Lacy at work and Dakota at school.  After the night I had, I’m going to need it.

I make the quick trip with Lacy to drop off Dakota and then she drops me off at the shop before heading to work.  I can’t even begin to express how excited I am to have my own car back.  Not that I mind the extra time with my two favorite ladies, but it’s one of those security things that reminds me even though everything else got screwed up in my life, I didn’t lose everything.  To most, it’s just a car, but for me it’s proof I figured out how to live on my own.

The first time I moved out of my parents’ house was when I moved in with Nick.  Then after our divorce, I crashed on Lacy’s couch until we got a bigger place.  Now that she’s getting married, I’m going to have to find a new home.  She offered to find something else with Carl and Dakota, but Dakota’s settled.  I know she hasn’t started kindergarten yet, but I want her to be able to go with all her friends from pre-school.  Having been a kid that moved around a lot, it’s a big deal, even if you don’t get it when you’re little.  She’ll thank me when she can say she’s been friends with someone since kindergarten. 

Basically what I was getting at is I’ve never lived alone.  I didn’t have furniture, a car, a home or even a pet of my own.  Everything I had was with Nick, and when I walked out on our marriage after he disappeared from it long before, I took nothing with me.  I saved the money, bought a beat up old Ford and it’s been my sense of security ever since. 

I probably should take the day to go apartment hunting, and maybe I will, but after a very long hot shower where sexy ex-husband firemen won’t interrupt me and a nap.  A really long nap.

“You here for the Tempo?” a man the size of a giant asks from the doorway between the office and garage.

“Yep.  What’s the damage?”  I brace myself for his answer.  If it’s any more than five hundred dollars I’m screwed until payday.

“Ninety-five dollars out the door.  You just needed a new battery and some cables.”  Now I feel like a dumbass and there’s no way I can tell my over-protective father it was just a battery.  He’d kill me for taking it to a shop for that.


Christina, I coulda got you one for a lot cheaper and no labor
,” he’d tell me between coughs and sips of his coffee.

“Great, thanks,” I respond with a toothy smile.

Sitting on the cool plastic chairs, I glance around for a coffee pot or pop machine, but I’m out of luck.  I could probably ask, but hopefully, he’ll pull my car around in the next minute or two and I can pay and be out of his hair, headed straight for the Tim Horton’s across the street that’s been calling my name since I noticed it a few seconds ago.

True to my thoughts, I’m out of there in less than five and through the drive-thru, sipping my large triple-triple.  The ride back to the house is quick, and actually enjoyable, since it’s a little after rush hour.  Kicking off my shoes, I bee line for the bathroom and for the second time in twenty-four hours, I avoid the long shower and opt for a quick one without washing my hair.  I’ll do it later.  Or maybe tomorrow.  Maybe not.  Who knows anymore.

Flopping on the bed, my eyes close and I feel slumber pulling me toward it when the shrill ringing of my cell phone drags me away.  I pinch my eyes shut tighter, praying the noise will stop and when it does, I smile, high-fiving myself for getting one over on whoever called.  And before I can do my internal happy dance, the ringing starts again.

“You’ve got to be fucking kidding me,” I huff, pulling the pillow over my head.  After two rings, it stops and starts again.

Without removing the pillow from my head, I grab the phone and pull it under the covers with me.  Dragging the answer button across the screen, I place the receiver to my ear.  “Hello,” I bark, annoyed that whoever this is didn’t get the hint I wasn’t interested in chatting this early, or late in my case.

“Is that any way to answer your phone, Christina Michelle?”

“Ma?” I ask, really wanting to tell the woman who lacks any kind of phone etiquette that when you call three times back to back, it’s perfectly acceptable to bark your greeting.  Especially when all she wants to know is if I saw Nick.  How Nick’s doing.  Did we talk.  And are we getting back together and giving her grandbabies.  Next time, phone’s getting shut off the second I walk through the door with a voicemail greeting letting her, and anyone else who likes to talk when I want to sleep, know that I’m alive, didn’t fall through a roof and will return all calls when I’m awake.

“How was it?” she starts.  I was lucky to avoid the inquisition from Lacy this morning.  I’ll be sure to get Dakota a present, because I’m pretty sure it’s because of her that Lacy didn’t’ start in on me. 

“It was good, Ma.  I’m trying to get some sleep.  Can I call you later?”

“You never have time for your mother anymore,” she whines and I want to crawl through the phone and choke all the guilt inducing comments from her repertoire. 

“Ma, listen.  I love you.  I’ll come see you and Daddy this weekend, but I just got off a twelve-hour shift.  I’m exhausted and need to sleep.  Work’s been busy and I have to go back again tomorrow.  I just need to rest.”  I try to rationalize with her, but quickly realize I’ve opened myself up for more judgment.

“You know, if you would just get a secretary job like your cousin Jasmine, you wouldn’t have to work all these hours in a dangerous job.  And one where you’re around firemen all day.”

“But, Ma, where’s the fun in that?  All those boys with good jobs and pensions in one spot.  I don’t even have to try to date anymore.”

“Because that worked out so well for you last time?  Just think about it, Chrissy.  A good day job where you could be at home in the evenings to keep your old mother in the loop.”

“Can you please not call me Chrissy?  You know I hate that.” 

“When you have a daughter of your own, give birth to her after nineteen hours of labor, you can choose what to call her.  Until then, I’m going to call you whatever I want.”

“Goodnight, Ma.  I’ll call you later.”  I don’t wait for a response before hanging up on the call.  If I keep up this banter, she’ll keep going, just like that damn battery bunny … you can never win against him.  And I’ll never beat my mother in a battle of words. 

Turning down the volume on my phone, I toss it back on the nightstand and close my eyes.  It’s only a matter of minutes before I fall asleep and welcome the peace without prying ex-husbands, nosy best friends, Frozen pajamas and nagging mothers.  It’s a perfect world.

*****

True to my word, I meet the guys at the pub down the street from the house after their shift.  I’m not on until late morning, so I can risk a few with them.  As much as I try to hide my disappointment, I keep watching the door, my ears perking, so to speak, every time someone new walks through.  It’s not Nick this time, just like it hasn’t been him the last dozen or so times.

Engaging in casual banter with the firefighters, I’m surprised at how mature they seem to be in comparison to the guys at 75.  Not once have they commented on my cup size, how my ass barely fits in my uniform or my petite stature and all the wicked things they could do with a “fun size” like me.  It’s welcoming and disheartening at the same time.  Did Nick say something to them?  Warn them off?  Not that I’m interested in dating a fireman again, or even screwing around with one, and more times than not the disgusting comments my last house would make were, in a weird way, nice.  It was like they noticed I was a woman when we weren’t working, and a solid paramedic when we were.

These guys couldn’t care less. 

“Here ya go, Mitchell,” Mack says, setting a shot glass down in front of me.  This will make the third one I’ll turn away as I’m being cautious to not have a hangover for my next shift or the daunting morning I’m already in for.

“No thanks,” I respond, pushing the glass toward him.  “I’m on shift tomorrow and I got a thing pretty early.  I might be new, but the chief will have my ass if I walk in there smelling like a distillery.” 

Laughing, he shoves the glass back in my direction.  “Chief’s the one who bought this round.  You wouldn’t want to disrespect his generosity, would you?”  With a mischievous grin, he watches me slam back the shot and set it upside down on the table with a ‘there ya go, you’re welcome’ face. 

I end up tossing back one more shot, singing a very spectacular rendition of Bel Biv Devo’s
Poison
and fighting off the rumors that spilled over the next twenty minutes about Mack and Jones with the rest of their crew having done me before.  All in all, 22’s starting to feel just as relaxed and comfortable as 75 was for the last few years. 

Nick’s the only problem, and since he’s not here tonight, I’m pretty sure it doesn’t even matter.  My next shift with him, maybe we can chat about what the hell we’re going to do about him being cold one second then eye fucking me while I’m naked.  It’s a fine line we’re walking, but once upon a time, we were in love and you can fall out of love, but it’s pretty hard to stop caring about someone who meant so much to you.

I have a feeling we can find a middle ground—something comfortable for both of us.  If not … well, we can cross that bridge when we come to it.

“Don’t forget, everyone.  Pancake breakfast tomorrow morning followed by prayer at the cemetery for a fallen brother.  I expect everyone there as I’m making a speech and as long as I have you fools, I’ll get a few applause,” the chief, Maxwell Masterson, booms from the front of the bar.

Nodding my head, I pack it in for the night and head home, hopefully to find a full night’s rest.  I’m going to need it for tomorrow. 

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