Stopping Traffic (A Back to School Romance) (Love at The Crossroads) (3 page)

BOOK: Stopping Traffic (A Back to School Romance) (Love at The Crossroads)
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No, that stop sign definitely wasn’t necessary as she hurried across the street with the children.
Wow
. A chance glimpse at her face proved she was gorgeous. Her skin was a rich combination of light and dark. Definitely a rich milk chocolate and her shoulder length hair blew in the wind as they raced by her.

There wasn’t enough time to catalogue all her features, but in seconds, Royce glimpsed lips, nose and eyes. Thank God for twenty/twenty vision. From the cab of the truck, Royce shook his head. He hoped the other three firefighters with him didn’t hear his blunder.

Ordering himself to re-focus, Royce pushed the vision of loveliness to the back of his mind. His company was heading to a situation that was top priority. “Jesus, please spare both lives and property. Whatever is lost, I know You can restore, in Jesus’ name, Amen.”

As the fire truck sped to their destination, Royce spied the dark smoke spiraling upward and dispensing into the air. They were still blocks away from assisting the first unit on the scene, but with smoke that dark, he doubted the fire was under control.

Minutes later, chaos greeted them on the scene with bystanders, emergency vehicles and equipment spread out everywhere. Royce did his own assessment as Felix brought the truck to a stop. The chief on the scene briefed Hershel since he was the captain of the company eight that would assist.

The older two-story brick house had an attic. Judging from the number of windows, there could be four or more bedrooms. One ladder was in position with a hose, flushing the flames. The fire had already burned a front first floor window, leaving a black streak racing upstairs.

An ambulance was nearby. EMS was administering oxygen to a woman and her teenage boy. Survivors—praise God. Thank God, there was some distance between the houses. Otherwise, the strong winds could have sparked adjacent fires.

His brother nodded to the lead commander and walked back to Royce, Felix and Allen. 

“Four victims. The most serious have already been transported to Christian NE Hospital. Another one is en route to DePaul’s. The good news—everyone is out. There is heavy damage in the front bedroom that had been occupied by an elderly man. The family says their uncle, who was on oxygen, was attempting to smoke in bed. Flames engulfed the room almost immediately.”

Engine House
Eight went to work. The blaze struck three alarms before the engine companies won the battle, dousing the flames from every angle possible. To keep the fire from rekindling in hot spots, Royce and a fellow firefighter added foam to the water to cover spots that were still hot within the structure. Afterward, they scavenged through the structure to recover whatever valuables could be saved for the family.

When it appeared that the situation was under control, Royce began to wrap up the hoses as his mind returned to the red hot crossing guard. Why
was the vision plaguing him when there was a strong possibility that she could be married? Royce steered clear of women’s advances who he knew were married and women with children. As far as he was concerned, life was too short to deal with drama. But the urge to find out if she was off limits was overpowering his common sense.

“Hey, Captain,” Royce respected his brother’s position when working together, “Mind if go back by the way of Brandon’s school?”

“Why?” he asked. When Royce stalled, Hershel wiped his brow. “Do I have to guess or are you going to tell me?”

“A woman with the nicest pair of legs…had my heart racing as if I downed a large double Espresso.”

“What?” Hershel stared at him as if he had two heads, then snickered. “Was she washing cars or holding up a sign for Little Caesar’s Pizza?”

“Actually, she was a crossing guard in front of Duncan Elementary.”

Hershel’s chuckle spiraled into a laugh. “A crossing guard,” he mumbled as he nudged Royce toward the direction of the fire truck. “You’re lusting after a crossing guard when you should’ve been praying, man.”

“A man can multi-task
, too, but a great pair of legs can distract any man.”

Once they were back in the truck, Hershel looked over his shoulder at Royce and shook his head. Turning back to their chauffeur, he advised Felix to go pas
t Duncan school.

“What? No Duncan donuts? Oh man,” he griped, steering the fire truck away from the curb as onlookers watched them. A few small children waved and Felix honked, acknowledging them. They cheered with their eyes wide with excitement.

Royce smiled. He loved children and he took his role as uncle to Hershel’s two boys and his younger brother, Trent’s daughter very seriously.

He wasn’t surprised when their truck crawled to the stop light at the intersection where his mind
had gone berserk—no crossing guard was in sight. School had been in session for more than an hour.

After stopping to get the donuts, they greeted their relief crew back at the station. While Hershel briefed the morning shift, Royce and the others headed to the showers and prepared to go home.

Royce believed in second chances. He knew in his heart he would see the lovely crossing guard again. He just prayed it wouldn’t take another emergency call to cross paths
.

 

 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER
FIVE

 

 

When Candace pulled into the company parking lot, Solae was milling outside the main entrance talking with other coworkers. Once she spotted Candace, she left the group and headed her way.

“So how did it go?” Solae asked, opening her car door as if she was a valet. Her expression seemed hopeful for good news.

“Fine, except for almost getting hit by a fire truck.” Candace shivered. She couldn’t allow what happened to dredge up the memories of when her husband was struck and killed. She had to do this for Lindsay.

Her friend put a fist on her hips. “Would you stop exaggerating?” Rolling her eyes, she fell in step. “You survived.”

“Barely.”
Lord, You know how long it took me to even walk downtown near the intersection where Daniel died and I overcame that fear. Please don’t let me develop one for fire trucks.

“Every day will get better. You’ll be delivered before you know it!”

How could she argue with that? Candace had no comeback.

“Well, you’re here now, ready to start a new adventure in life,” Solae said as they headed to the boss’ office. There wasn’t much paperwork to be done since she was already an employee—even though a virtual one.

The day went by swiftly as Solae introduce Candace to one coworker after another. “It’s nice to finally meet you in person,” many of them said, welcoming her.

Candace wasn’t too surprised to find that her small sleek half wall cubicle was angled perfectly across the aisle from Solae. It was stylish, cozy and just enough room for Lindsay should she have to bring her to work in the event she had to make up time. Thank God for a thirty-five hour work week and paid lunch, otherwise Lindsay may need a cot.

It was ironic that Candace had to come into the office to be considered for a promotion, but so many tasks were done via virtual assistant. Although it felt good to be away from her home office, she dearly missed hearing her daughter’s chatter when Candace instructed her to be silent so she could get some work done. 

The lunch break came without Candace realizing she was hungry. The cafeteria was massive with a dining room that boasted three sets of buffet bars: fruits, salads, soups, fried and baked entrees. After filling their trays with their selections, Solae chose a cozy spot in a far corner. Once they blessed their food, Solae tackled her salad. “Do you think you’ll like it here?”

Candace nodded. “It feels weird not to have Lindsay close by. I wonder if this is what empty-nesters feel like when their children grow up and move away. My baby is just in kindergarten.” Shaking her head, Candace enjoyed a mouthful of chicken and wild rice soup. “Do you think I should get Lindsay a cell phone just in case she has an emergency?”

Solae almost choked. Reaching for her bottle of water, she took an unladylike swig. “You’re kidding, right? If there is an emergency, the school will notify you. Girl, if you don’t cut them strings and let Lindsay grow and explore her world, then I will unfriend you from Facebook.”

Humph. Her best friend might be Lindsay’s godmother, but Solae hadn’t experienced the bond between mother and child. Wasn’t worrying the norm? Plus, Candace wasn’t convinced that the world was all that safe to explore, especially after her husband was killed while simply walking across the street. No dangerous lifestyle, bad habits or health issues—just going from corner A to corner B.

Once lunch was over, Candace’s first day breezed by quickly. She left work to fulfill her afternoon role as crossing guard. “Lord, will this get easier, or will I always be afraid? Help me Jesus,” she whispered as she got into her car and drove away. Surprisingly, the second shift was without incident—no more fire trucks—and she felt more in command.  Candace felt like she was walking in victory as she strutted to her daughter’s classroom to retrieve her and go home.

Lindsay was a ball of energy. “Mommy, my teacher let me collect the pencils today and tomorrow I’ll…” Lindsay rambled on until they got home and continued as Candace prepared dinner. She had never seen her daughter so happy. Lindsay talked non-stop about her teacher and what she learned in school and the many new friends.

Maybe being away from the little chatterbox during the day wasn’t such a bad idea after all. By week’s end, Candace had settled into her positions as account executive assistant and crossing guard. She had to admit that her school duty was forcing her to face her fears, and in Jesus’ name, overcome them. At her desk, snapshots of her and Lindsay littered her cubicle. She smiled at the pictorial timeline of her life with Lindsay

“Ouch!” Candace blinked. One thump on her head was followed by another one on her shoulder. Whirling around, she blocked her face with both hands from the peppermint ball attack. Candace was learning that it was Solae’s choice of ammunition when she was trying to get her attention. “Stop it.” She laughed. “What is your problem?”

“Well, I thought I was having a conversation with you until I realized you had zoned out on me and I was talking to myself.” Solae scooted her chair out of her cubicle, across the carpet and rolled right into Candace’s, bumping her chair.

“Now that you’ve got my attention, what do you want?”

Solae shrugged. “Actually, nothing. With the computers down and since I left my reading material at home, I thought I’d annoy you.” She grinned and lifted a brow. “So are you getting the hang of standing on the corner?”

“Funny.” Candace stuck out her tongue. “Some of the older children want me to dance in the street like Chris Rock in that
Rush Hour
movie or wear white gloves like a clown or blow a whistle like I was in a marching band.” She chuckled. “For some reason, they think it’s cool.”

“Or use those legs like a majorette. That’s all these brothers have been talking about since you walked into this office.”

“I’m not interested in romance in or out of the office. I have a little one to fill my life. I don’t have time for a man.” Candace reached for her bottle of water to take a sip.

“Well, Lindsay is going to need a daddy, and I think this is a good time for us to start looking for the right material.”

Candace accidentally sprayed Solae with the water she was sipping. “Us?”

“I mean you,” Solae corrected, pointing.

“I thought you were throwing your hat in the ring, too.” Candace eyed her friend until they both started to giggle. Once she sobered, Candace cleared her throat. “I had a good man and I doubt there is another one out there.”

Solae nodded. “Daniel was a good man and husband, but he never got the chance to be that good father to Lindsay. She’s going to need a daddy in her life, so you might want to pray on it.” With that said she rolled her chair back to her desk.

Uh-uh, Solae was not going to have the last word on that. “I don’t have to pray on it. The Bible says he who finds a wife finds a good thing. If Lindsay’s substitute daddy is out there,” she paused and patted her chest. “Let him find me. That is all.”

***

Royce’s week ended without another sighting of the mystery crossing guard. He even compromised a much needed late morning sleep-in by setting his alarm clock, so he could be at the intersection early enough to meet her.

That scheme didn’t work. With his body feeling like lead, Royce slept right through the siren sound effect alarm on his phone. Running out of options, Royce hinted to Hershel that maybe Brandon could ask around for him.

Hershel didn’t crack a smile. “See you this weekend at Trent and Julia’s house. Don’t even think about bribing my son then.”

The weekend meant their sister-in-law would whip up a home cooked meal for them. With both parents deceased, the brothers were determined to maintain a tight bond.

On Saturday, Royce slept throughout the day until his stomach roared. Getting up, he showered and dressed, then showed up at their doorstep hungry. “What’s up, bro?” Trent answered with six-month-old daughter, Ariel, in his arms.

BOOK: Stopping Traffic (A Back to School Romance) (Love at The Crossroads)
12.11Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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