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Authors: Ashley Suzanne,Tiffany Fox,Melissa Gill

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BOOK: Rekindle
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“Chief.  Thank you for the vote of confidence, but I’m not sure how well I’m going to do.  I’ve never trained anyone before.  Didn’t really want to, to be honest.  I’m used to working with a seasoned partner.  I need someone who can play off my cues and vice versa.  You know how important that is, Chief.  This kid’s barely finished school.”  I place my elbows on my knees and bend my head forward preparing for a panic attack to start any time.

“Listen.  I know you’re new here, but I’ve heard about you, Christina.  Your last chief had nothing but great things to say about you, and whether you like it or not, you’re the lead paramedic now.  That means you’re training this girl.  No other house in the city can take her and she’s not qualified to work anywhere else.  I can’t have you riding alone, so it’s kind of a both of you or neither of you situation.”

“What?” I ask a little too loudly.  Composing myself, I remind myself I’m only here because of my last chief and I’ll be damned if I make him look bad.  He took a chance on me when no other house would.  He had faith in me when nobody else did.  “I’m sorry.  I’ll get started right away, Chief.  Thank you for the opportunity.”

“Thought you’d see it my way,” he chuckles, and his casual but firm demeanor returns.  “You’ll do great.  If you can make her half the EMT you were when you first started, she’s going to be great, too.”

Relief washes over me.  I know I had glorious recommendations when I thought about leaving the city a year ago.  My old house had nothing but the utmost respect for me and wanted the best for me, but until this moment, nobody had ever voiced that to me personally.  I’m probably being a girl, but it feels damn good and I want to keep hearing it.  Instead of fishing for more compliments, I rise and walk out of the office in search of my new partner.

“Martinez,” I say with some authority to my voice, scanning the room for her when I step into the mess hall.

“One second,” she responds.

“Get geared up.  I’ve got some things to show you before we get a call.  Welcome to 75, one of the busiest houses in the city.”  Her smile could light up a room and her excitement is all but radiating off her.  I remember that look.  I used to have it. 

This girl’s going to do just fine once I whip her into shape.

CHAPT
ER SIX

NICK

Two Weeks Later

“Mack, you and Richards take upstairs.  Jones, you’re with me,” I call out to my team, removing my helmet to put on my mask, then replacing the helmet.  With Jones right behind me, we take the hose through the front door and start making our way through the dense smoke, toward the flames.

“Fire department.  Is anyone in here?” Jones yells behind me.  My eyes automatically scan the area as I continue searching for the root of the problem. 

I doubt anyone’s in here, seeing as it’s an abandoned house, but that doesn’t mean anything anymore.  Way back when, empty homes were few and far between.  These days, they’re more common than occupied ones, and that makes for a breeding ground for dealers to create drug houses and homeless people to find shelter from the elements.  Abandoned houses are now more dangerous than the actual fire.  God only knows what we’ll run across and I’m not sure any of it would shock me anymore.

Jones, still holding the hose behind me, searches each room we pass for victims and each room turns up empty, which is a blessing.  Well, it
was
a blessing until we reach the kitchen.

“I got him,” I say over my shoulder, letting Jones take the nozzle while I attend to the burned man passed out by an old stove.  First glance indicates he had taken some wood and papers, placed them into the oven and lit them on fire, most likely for warmth.  I’m sure he didn’t think the dust, debris and trash around would go up with it; they never do. 

Placing my hands under his shoulders, I begin dragging him backward while Jones releases the water onto the flames.  As soon as I reach the front door, I know I’m safe and can pick the small framed man up and carry him to the ambulance.  Just like she was before, Tina’s waiting just off the porch with the gurney, ready to get to work on her patient.

“He was pretty close to the flames.  He looks pretty crispy and I’m sure he breathed in lots of smoke,” I say, laying him across the fresh white sheet that won’t be so clean after she’s done with him.

“Thanks.  We got it from here.  Anyone else in there?” she asks, not looking up, instead cutting through his shirt and placing probes on his chest.

“Not sure, but I don’t think so.  Jones is putting the fire out now and Mack and Richards didn’t find anyone upstairs.  Take him, if we need to, we’ll call a second rig.”

“Got it.  Thanks.”  I almost forgot how fucking beautiful she is when she’s in her element.  Not caring about anything else in the world except the man she’s working on, her hair’s wild in her face and I fight the urge to push it behind her ear like I would have another lifetime ago—back when everything seemed easier … less complicated.

Turning around, I head back inside to help Jones extinguish any remaining flames, even though I’m pretty sure he has it under control.  Having been on the job just as long as I have, he’s the guy I’d want to rescue me if I were in a burning building.

Speaking of rescue?  Those guys were dispatched to a car accident a while ago, and still aren’t back?  Must have been a bad one.  Lucky for us, most of our guys are trained to do either job, just in case the situation arises.  It’s not typical; actually, it’s pretty fucked up when you think about it, but with all the understaffed firehouses in the city, we need to be able to separate if need be, and some days that’s more likely than not.

Twenty minutes later, the ambulance with the victim is at the hospital making their drop and the fire in the empty house is extinguished.  Packing up our equipment, passing the case off to the police department and jumping on the truck, we head back to the firehouse.  Between the five guys stuffed in the engine, the smell of fire, water and B.O is enough to make me want to shower as soon as we get back, but it’ll have to wait.  With the sun setting behind us, it could be a long night.

And, of course, as soon as the thought passes through my head, the radio goes off, the dispatcher sending us to another fire. 

*****

Jumping out of the truck after the third consecutive call, I’m exhausted and desperately in need of some sleep.  Kicking off my boots and hanging up my coat on the hook, I stretch my back and walk into the mess hall; Tina’s face is the first I see.

She’s sitting at the table with the new EMT, laughing about something over a bowl of noodles.  Watching them like some sort of stalker, I debate going to join them, and when Tina’s soft eyes meet mine, my decision’s made.

“Evening, ladies,” I greet, taking a chair at the end of the table.

“Hey, Conrad,” the new girl responds, shifting in her seat so her body’s facing me.  Tina gives her a cross look, shakes it off and turns her head to me with a genuine smile. 

“Hopefully the night will slow down so we can actually get some sleep.”  Scrubbing a hand over my more than a day’s worth of stubble, I know if I just lay my head down right here, I’d be able to pass out, no problem.

“I could make you some coffee if you’d like.”  Frankie’s voice pulls me from my thoughts of sleep.  Glancing at Tina, her jaw tight and eyes narrowed, I run my fingers over my lips to disguise my smile. 
Jealous, Tina?

“That’d be great.  Thanks.”  Frankie all but jumps out of her chair and swiftly moves into the kitchen, preparing a fresh pot.  Tina’s glare has my skin prickling, hairs standing on end.  She’s pissed and I think it’s utterly hilarious.

“What the hell are you doing?” she whispers.

“What do you mean?” I ask, feigning oblivious.

“You know exactly what I’m talking about.”  Tina waves in Frankie’s direction and I follow her movement.  I feel I should note Frankie’s not my type whatsoever, but the girl’s maybe twenty-one and her tight body reflects it.

“I’m just trying to make her feel welcome.  We’ve been busy lately and I haven’t had a chance to get to know her.  If I’m going to work with someone, especially with what we do, I should know a little about her, wouldn’t you agree?”  Remembering an argument Tina and I had at 75 when she was getting a little too close to one of the probes, I throw her reasoning back in her face. 

“I’ve known you a long time, Nicholas Conrad, don’t think you’re getting one over one me.  The rookie is off limits.  You hear me?”

“Is she off limits because she’s a rookie?  Because we work in the same house?  Or maybe you’re a little jealous, Tina?  Which is it?” I prod, pushing buttons I know I shouldn’t push, but the reaction I get is enough to make my dick want to escape the confines of my pants.  The best sex Tina and I ever had was when she was pissed, and as much as I try to not think about angry fucking, Tina clawing at my back and pussy swallowing my dick whole, I just can’t.  A pissed off Tina might as well be crack and much like a recovering addict, I can go without it for extended periods of time, but as soon as it’s in front of me, that crack is all I can think about.  I could really use a fix.

“You’re impossible,” she seethes, standing up and walking out of the room.  Everything in me wants to make her answer the question, but the window closes as Frankie sets a fresh cup of coffee in front of me and takes the chair right next to me.

“Here ya go.  I didn’t know how you take it, so I brought cream and sugar.”  She smiles, placing both in front of me.

“Black is fine.  The stronger the better.”  And I don’t just mean the damn coffee.

CHAP
TER SEVEN

TINA

How dare he?  I mean, how fucking dare he?  Isn’t it awkward enough that we’re forced to work together and he wants to add in him dating my rookie?  No.  Just fucking no.

Storming out of the mess hall, I march into the bunks and flop on my bed.  Staring at the ceiling, I remember when Nick used to look at me like he’s looking at Frankie.  I get it, she’s beautiful and I’d kill for her ass, but aren’t we professional?  I am, I can say that much.

I’m not stupid enough to think he’s been celibate since our divorce, but I’d much prefer his latest conquest wasn’t a girl I ride with.  Hell, I’d never do that to him—make him sit and watch me eye fuck one of his brothers … unless.

No.  That’s not cool, but it is kind of funny if you think about it.  A taste of his own medicine.  It’s so juvenile. I’m not sure I could, but the thought alone has me giggling to myself.

“What’s so funny?” Jones asks, sitting on the edge of his bed, unlacing his boots.

“Nothing.  Just thinking of something.”  I stifle another chuckle, but I can feel my cheeks heating.  Thankful for the darkened room, I pull the thin blanket over my head. 

And now I can’t stop thinking about Jones.  Tony’s a good looking guy.  Dark, tanned skin, toned in all the right places, huge-ass arms, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s strong enough to bench press me.  Inwardly groaning, I roll to my side, away from Jones, and try to take a little nap before my next call.

I’ve been so used to working twelve-hour shifts, and now that we work the same shifts as the firefighters, my body’s having a hard time adjusting.  The understaffing problem is no joke and it’s almost worth taking another job with a private company.  It’ll be more money, less hours and not as demanding, but also not as rewarding.  There’s just something about pulling up to a burning building behind a fire truck filled with guys who are so hopped up on adrenaline, ready to save lives … it’s enough of a rush to keep me here.

“You know I know Frankie, right?”  Rolling back over, I pull the blanket from my eyes and give Jones my full attention.

“How?” I ask, wanting to hear their story.  It would also be nice to be able to tell someone about Nick.  If he trusts me enough to open up, maybe I can, too.

“We grew up on the same block.  My sister used to babysit her and we dated for a little while,” he says, lying on his back, staring at the ceiling much like I was a few minutes ago.

“Y’all dated?  You’re like forty and she’s in her early twenties.  I’m not judging, but that’s kinda creepy,” I joke.  His mouth splits into a grin and he rolls toward me.

“Mitchell, you really think I’m forty?” he laughs.  “I just turned twenty-seven and she’s twenty-two.  Frankie and I started dating when she was seventeen.  Didn’t last long.  She wanted to go off to college and I had just started here.  Wasn’t gonna work.”

“Go off to college?  Then what’s she doing here?”  Now he’s got me really interested.  You can become an EMT with a little more than a year, including state exams, at a community college.  I should know.  I did it.

“Have no idea.  I hadn’t talked to her much in the last few years, then she just shows up here.”

“Wow,” I whisper, unsure of what to say.  Does Frankie want to be here for the job?  Or is she just following around a boy? 

“I have a confession,” I say before I lose the courage.  I need someone to talk to.  Lacy is always there, but she doesn’t understand how everything works in the firehouse, she only understands firemen.

“You’re Nick’s ex,” Jones casually states like he’d known all along.  Breathing a sigh of relief, I sit up straight and walk over to his bed.  Sitting at the very edge, he sits up next to me.  Both of our backs to the door, he places his hand on my knee and reassuringly squeezes.  “I know Conrad.  Been real close since he came to this house.  Well, as close as anyone can get to Nick, anyway.  And, a few weeks ago, he was watching his wedding video and the woman looked kind of like you, but younger.  Then the pictures around the house confirmed it.”

“I don’t know what to say.”

“Nothing, if you don’t want, but I have a feeling you do.”

“I’m not sure what I’m doing, Tony.  I never stopped loving him and I never imagined we’d work at the same house again.  When I was down in the mess hall, he was flirting with Frankie and I wanted to jab his eyes out for looking at her.”  Tony’s hold on my leg tightens and glancing over, his eyes are dark and narrowed. 
Shit.  I just pissed him off.
  Or made him jealous?  “Wanna loosen up there, Tiger?  You’re cutting off my circulation,” I joke and he releases my knee.

“Sorry.  Dammit.  That girl, she’s always been able to get under my skin like nobody else.”

“I know what you mean,” I sigh.  “You love her?”

“Yep.  Always have.  Probably always will.”

“Yeah,” I breathe.  From my bed, my phone chimes and scares the hell out of me.  Patting Jones on the leg, I walk the few steps back to my bunk and check the message waiting for me.

DO NOT CALL HIM: I almost forgot the pot was just as black as the kettle

Son of a bitch!

ME:  Har! Har!

DO NOT CALL HIM:  How about you keep your legs closed and I’ll keep my fly zipped?

That bastard.  As if I’d ever fuck someone I worked with … never mind …

ME:  Deal.

DO NOT CALL HIM:  You look real pretty today.

ME:  Stop it.

My heart’s about to leap out of my chest and my smile’s on the verge of breaking my cheekbones.  Even Jones is looking at me funny.

DO NOT CALL HIM:  Just thought you should know.

Tossing the phone to the foot of the bed, I just stare at it.  This is going to get a lot harder before it gets any easier.  Huffing, I lie back and try to fall asleep.  Then the alarm goes off.

“Medic 30.  Ladder 9.  Rescue 91.  Over-turned vehicle.  I-94 and Connor.”

“Fuck,” I groan, shoving my feet back into my boots and lacing them tight.

Jogging down the stairs and through the mess hall, Frankie’s taking her sweet ass time putting her shoes and coat on.  “Pick up the pace, Martinez.  We’re pulling out in thirty seconds.  You’re in or I’m leaving without you,” I bark, running past her.

And in thirty seconds, I pull out of the garage and head toward, hopefully, our last call of the night.

We’re the first to arrive on scene and the accident isn’t as bad as it could have been.  Rushing to the car, the driver is unconscious and the passenger is awake, but barely.

“Hey, you okay?” I ask, and the woman shakes her head violently.

“No.  Help me, please.  And him.  Wake up, Ricky!” she screams, attempting to unbuckle her seatbelt.

“Ma’am.  I need you to remain still.  I’ll come get you, but if you take off that buckle, you could hurt yourself worse.  Okay?”

“Yeah.  Yeah.  Okay.  Just hurry, please.  My chest hurts.”  I bet it does.  The only thing holding her to her seat is the seatbelt and it can’t be very comfortable. 

Ladder and Rescue pull up behind my rig moments later and come to assess the scene.  “I’ve got a woman, conscious and panicked.  I need to her out before she hurts herself.  Male driver is unresponsive and should come out first.  Chief, call for another ambo,” I order, fully in my element, my adrenaline pumping something fierce.

Max gets on his radio, calling for another bus, and the rescue squad grabs the Jaws of Life.  Pulling and prodding the driver’s side door, they have it off in a matter of minutes, just in time for the driver to open his eyes.

“Hey, I’m Christina.  I’m gonna get you outta here, but I need you to stay calm, okay?”  Placing my hand on his chest, his eyes connect with mine and he nods his head.  “Thanks, man.  What’s your name?” I ask.

“Rick,” he mutters, a little blood coming from the corner of his mouth. 

“Alright, Rick.  I’m gonna get you outta here with the help of my friends.  You just hang tight.  We’ll have you at the hospital in no time.  Can you hold out for a little longer?” 

“Yeah,” he croaks, and like a well-oiled machine, we get to work freeing the trapped couple.  Ten minutes or so later, Rick and his lady friend are on gurneys, IVs hooked up and in transport to the closest hospital.  It’s nights like this that make me feel blessed for having the greatest job in the city.

BOOK: Rekindle
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