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Authors: Kathryn Shay

Tags: #firefighter romance series, #firefighting romance, #family sagas novel, #female firefigher, #firefighter romance novels, #firefighter training, #psychologist romance

The Fire Inside

BOOK: The Fire Inside
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THE FIRE INSIDE

 

By

Kathryn Shay

 

 

Praise for
Kathryn Shay’s Firefighter Books

 

“Inspiring and emotionally invigorating…a
true hero’s tale.” RT Book Reviews

 

“This powerful, emotionally realistic book is
the first of Shay's series about the men and women who put their
lives on the line every day and how that dedication and commitment
affect all those around them. Poignant and compelling, this novel
reinforces Shay's well-earned reputation as a first-rate
storyteller.” Shelley Mosley, American Library Association.

 

“A superb contemporary romance that grabs you
in the prologue and won’t let go until you’ve read the final page.
Bravo, Ms. Shay!” The Romance Readers Connection

“One of the best running collections on the
market today.” A Reader

Copyright 2014
Kathryn Shay

Cover art by Patricia Ryan

 

Smashwords Edition

 

This ebook is licensed for your personal
enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to
other people. If you would like to share this book with another
person, please purchase an additional copy for each person. If
you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not
purchased for your use only, then please return to the online
bookseller and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the
hard work of this author.

 

 

TABLE OF CONTENTS

 

Praise for Kathryn Shay’s Firefighter
Books

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Epilogue

Excerpt: The Ludzecky Sisters

About the Author

Chapter 1

 

“Get the lead out, old man.” The insulting
remark came from the lips of Captain Tess Righetti, an instructor
at the Rockland Fire Academy in upstate New York.

Jack Harrison, aka John Mason on this little
venture, had gotten the censure from her because he’d stopped to
adjust his face mask—he hadn’t worn the damn thing in years and now
had trouble making it fit. Attempting to conceal his annoyance, he
said to the very crabby woman, “Yes, ma’am.” Hell, she’d had a bug
up her ass since he’d gotten here.

She arched a brow. Her short brown hair was
thick and all uneven, its color matching her dark eyes. “And try
not to croak on me.”

“I’ll give it my best shot.”

Turning, he hurried into the
simulated-burning building for the first maneuver. The structure
was filled with mist, which mimicked smoke. Every time Jack went
into a fire, even a pretend one, he was struck once again by the
pitch blackness. Firefighters operated blind most of the time and
he knew fear of the darkness was one of the hardest to
overcome.

He followed five recruits carrying hose up
three flights of stairs, feeling the strain of the sixty pounds of
gear he wore. He’d stayed in shape in the Academy gym back home,
thank God, but he
was
forty-five.

The drill involved splitting into teams of
two and rescuing a tied-down dummy in a fake fire. The recruits
were to extricate one of the “bodies.”

“All right,” the recruit-in-charge, Rob
Hanley, said to the others. His breathing was fast from climbing
the steps. “Pair up. Go low and feel your way for victims. We don’t
know how many or where they are.”

Jack guessed there would be more than one.
Three probably, since six recruits were participating in the first
rotation. Following his partner, Jack entered a room and headed
right. Hanley took the left.

As he felt around for the dummy, he heard in
his ear, “This is taking a freakin’ long time, guys and gals. Has
anybody
got something?”

Right as she spoke, Jack’s hand came upon
heavy padding. The dummy. “Me and Mason just found one.”

“Well, hallelujah.” Because all the recruits
could hear, he heard her say, “You let Grandpa beat you out,
weaklings.”

Groans from several mics. Hell, he was still
trying to figure out why the woman harped on his age. It had never
happened to him in all his years of voluntary training.

“Hand me the wire cutters,” Hanley said.

Jack did. The recruit needed the experience
of freeing the victim, which wasn’t as easy as it seemed when he
couldn’t
see
anything, so Jack backed off and let the kid do
the work.

Ten minutes later, he allowed Hanley to walk
backward down the staircase—the hardest position—as they carried
the heavy dummy out.

Righetti met them at the door and got in
Hanley’s face. “Why isn’t Grandpa doing the hard part? You coddling
him?”

Jack’s temper spiked. She should be praising
the young man’s performance of a difficult task.

Blank faced, Hanley answered, “I wanted the
hard part, ma’am.”

The kid was definitely an overachiever. Jack
knew that particular malady. It had afflicted him all his life. And
his drive to be the best reached its peak in his role as a staff
psychologist for three hundred firefighters in Hidden Cove.

o0o

Tess stayed on Mason’s ass because something
was off about him. For one thing, he’d entered the class halfway
through for the practical part, skipping the book learning. Fire
Chief Lincoln had given a paltry explanation—how Mason had
transferred from one academy to another for personal reasons. She’d
never heard of that happening before. He was also middle-aged,
which wasn’t that much older than her, but was double the age of
the other recruits so the moniker fit. But he wasn’t getting any
special treatment from her because of his age. Nobody under her
watch would. Maybe if Joey…

Pushing thoughts of her brother aside, she
glanced at the clock, then back to the recruits. “Take twenty laps
around the gym, and you’re done for the day.”

Not one single person grumbled. Not even
Mason. Actually, he seemed in pretty good shape. About six feet,
linebacker shoulders, and now, after discarding the turnout gear,
wearing shorts and T-shirt, she could see corded muscles in his
legs and arms. He passed her as he ran—still not winded—and
saluted. She hid a grin, though sass from recruits was
unacceptable.

When the day ended, Tess headed for the
shower in her office. Before she reached the door, Mason caught up
to her. “Captain Righetti, a word?”

She stopped. His voice held authority. And
something else she couldn’t name. She pivoted. He was taller than
her, but she stiffened her spine and stepped back so she didn’t
have to look up at him. “What is it, recruit?”

“Stop looking for me to make mistakes and
concentrate on the others who need your support.”

“Excuse me? You dare question an officer? I
could have you booted out of this class for that behavior.”

He leaned in closer. His dark hair was damp,
and his gray eyes burned with intensity. His scent was sweat and
man. “In my other life, I was the boss. I know how to treat people
who work for me or those I’m training. Taunting
me
shouldn’t
be your focus; these young kids need all your attention.”

“Now, wait just a minute. Do
not
tell
me how to do my job. I don’t care who you are and where you came
from.”

Easing back, he held up his hands
arrest-style. “Okay, okay, I won’t again. Just think about what I
said.”

Tess watched him jog to the men’s locker
room. She’d overreacted to his suggestion, but he was way out of
line to talk to her like that. And he was wrong. She knew it was
vital to be hard on recruits. Otherwise, bad things could happen to
them. She dismissed Mason and went into her office.

o0o

The maze was always a problem for recruits.
In order to pass the practicals, they had to crawl blindfolded
through a miniature house-like structure equipped with several
barriers. As Tess Righetti tied the cloth around Hanley, who Jack
sensed would make a great firefighter, she said, “This isn’t going
to be a piece of cake, Hanley. Let’s see what trips up the big man
on campus.”

Hell. Jack had warned her two days ago that
she needed to be more supportive. Most of the line firefighters at
any fire academy were tough—should be tough—but this woman was
downright mean. And it didn’t set well with him.

Ms. By-the-Book held a stopwatch. “Go.”

Minutes ticked by. The kid should be out by
now.

Righetti shook her head. “Looks like he isn’t
such a hotshot after all.” Catching Jack’s eye, she arched a brow.
“Go find him, Grandpa.”

Angry at her apparent joy in the kid’s
failure, Jack stalked to the door of the maze, yanked it open and
went inside. He’d done this blind, right before Hanley, but it was
a lot easier when you could see. He circled the wall put up to stop
the recruits, hit a bench placed in the only pathway and climbed up
a few steps. He found the boy sitting on a ledge. It was the only
way down and then out of the maze, but blindfolded you didn’t know
how steep the fall was.

“Hey, Hanley. It’s me, Mason. Take the
blindfold off.”

“Gotta finish.” Jack could hear the boy’s
labored breathing.

“It’s too late this time around. Righetti
already called you out.” What the hell? What did he have to lose?
Jack sat next to him. “Remove the blindfold, son.

After Hanley pulled the cloth off, he looked
down. “Shit. It’s only a couple of feet.”

“But could have been more. You know, there
are techniques you can master for working in blindness.”

The kid removed his helmet and mask. His hair
was plastered against his head, and his skin beaded with sweat.
“Yeah?” He frowned. “You did it, right?”

“Uh-huh. But I had to learn how.” An idea
struck him. “You know what, if you want, I can help you with your
training.”

“What the hell is going on in here?” Righetti
had come into the maze.

“Just conversing with Hanley.”

“It’s not your job to
converse
. Get
out of here, Hanley. With your tail between your legs, so to
speak.” Then her gaze lasered in on Jack. “Meet me in my office at
the end of the day.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

When she started out, he whispered to Hanley,
“Tonight, at the Radcliff Hotel where I’m staying. We’ll go over
some stuff.” He glanced at Righetti’s retreating back. “No matter
what she thinks, you’re going to be a top-notch firefighter.”

o0o

Tess had showered and changed into jeans and
a hooded RFD sweatshirt before John Mason showed up. So had he, she
saw when he arrived. He looked different out of the firefighter
uniform. Wearing a soft-looking gray sweater that accented the
smoky color of his eyes and made his shoulders seem broader, he
didn’t appear contrite at all.

Standing with his legs apart, he dug his
hands in the pockets of his jeans. “So, what did you want to see me
about?”

She didn’t invite him to sit. “You damn well
know what this is about. You’re interfering in Hanley’s
training.”

“No,
I’m
helping the kid. Instead, you
set up more roadblocks than the maze itself.”

Her eyes flamed. “That’s it. I’m calling the
chief. You’re out of this class, Mason. I don’t care what strings
you pulled to get into the Academy halfway through. I’m going to
have you tossed.”

“Go ahead and call.” He took a seat of his
own.

BOOK: The Fire Inside
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