Up In Flames

By: S.C. Wynne

Chapter One




Ah geeze, really? Trent had to be here?

I scrambled sideways in the doorway of the bar, hoping I could back out before he saw me, but no such luck. So plan B entailed running my clammy hands through my hair while pretending to be surprised to see him. His dark gaze settled on me as he cocked one eyebrow and smirked. I don’t know, maybe I wasn’t convincing enough.

“Hey, Trent I thought you worked tonight,” I said, leaning against their booth and examining my ragged cuticles, all the while lecturing myself to ignore the fact that Brian was nestled next to him like an extra rib. Stupid prick. Push any closer and you’ll be up his ass.

“I finally got a Friday night off,” Trent answered, his lips barely moving.

If I was a little rattled seeing him it was only natural. We’d just pulled the cover over the corpse of our relationship a week ago.

Thank God one of my crew waved to me from the back of the bar and I made my escape, instead of having to endure mindless chitchat with my ex. Hi, how are you? So are you and Brian screwing? What’s it been, five minutes since we were together?

Terry, my firehouse captain, threw an arm around my neck. “Fuck him, Avery. He can just go to hell,” he slurred. Eighty-proof warmth wafted against my cheek.

“Well, Captain, a man has needs.”

Captain scowled and let go of me. “Told you not to get involved with a cop.”

I nodded. I put up a good front but it hurt like hell seeing Trent wrapping his big arm around Brian. The obvious intimacy between the two of them made me sick. But I sucked it up because most of the guys were watching me to see what I’d do. What could I do? Big fat nothing, that’s what.

One of the guys shoved a pint of something dark in front of me. I grabbed it and chugged. You might say I had a tiny bit of a reputation for having a bad temper. I think it’d been exaggerated if you asked me. I’d had exactly three altercations in the last year. Two of them were just guys blowing off steam, and I hadn’t started either one. The most recent occurred with a probie two weeks ago, on account of he almost got me killed during a call to an inferno of a house.

We were both on truck engine and the firehouse he’d transferred in from didn’t search vacants. But ours does and we had a little misunderstanding when he didn’t want to follow me in to search the place. After a little cajoling we went in and found two people under a pile of ceiling. Needless to say at six five and two hundred and thirty pounds I can get things done. But even I can’t carry two people at once, and that’s where I got a little pissed off. When I realized the dumb-shit new guy was frozen with fear, I didn’t have time to kick his ass until I’d pulled both people out. I called him a few choice words and bit my tongue and dropped it. I even held it together really well until we were drinking with the crew a couple of days later. Then lo and behold it all came bubbling to the surface, and I punched the kid when he mouthed off. He quit the department after that, and big fucking deal if you ask me. The job wasn’t for the weak of heart and he didn’t have what it took.

Anyway, I now had an undeserved reputation of sorts is what I’m saying. But I sat on the bar stool offered to me and did an excellent job of not watching Trent and his date.

“Hey, name’s Luke Turner.” A slender, tanned hand appeared under my nose. “Captain told me to come over and introduce myself.”

I looked up into the bright, mossy eyes of the hand’s owner. He was gorgeous. Probably in his late twenties, he had smooth angular cheekbones, full lips and blond cropped hair.

“Why?” I asked.

“Why, what?” Turner pulled his dark brows together

“Why did he want you to meet me?” I turned toward the Captain but he was busy hitting on Luxie, the waitress.

“I guess because I’m transferring in and going to be on truck with you?” Turner ran a hand across his crisp hair when I didn’t shake it.

I squinted. “We got a new guy coming in and nobody mentioned it?”

“New York, right?” He smiled at me. It was nice, white and warm.

Confused for a minute I then realized he must mean my accent. “Yeah. I’m a transplant, like the rest of the guys.”

“My mom was from Buffalo,” he volunteered.

“What’s her name, maybe I knew her,” I deadpanned.

He shook his head. “I’m gonna assume you’re picking on me and not implying my mom was a whore.”

I grimaced. “Fuck, no I’m not calling your mom a…tramp.”

“That’s a relief.” He scanned my frame. “I’d hate to have to try to kick your ass.”

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