Authors: Capri Montgomery
Mitch had been dead set on turning her into a reporter—something she didn’t want to be. But he had a point. She could tell a thousand stories with her photographs, but a newspaper would always want the written text to accompany it. She didn’t delude herself into thinking Mitch would always be there, that she would always be his wingman…or wing-woman for that matter. At some point he would want somebody else to work with him. She assumed that point was approaching faster because he seemed to be talking “Eve the Reporter” with her a lot more lately. Maybe he had been right. Maybe she should branch out a little. But she didn’t want to just be a reporter. She didn’t just want to go out there and cover the stories everybody already knew about. If she were going to do this she wanted to do it right. She wanted to tell the stories people didn’t get to hear about.
“I need a favor. And I’m asking because I’d like you to grant me your permission to do it.”
He looked at her as if she had just grown a second head. “Uh…I don’t follow. I’m not the kind of man to hold you back.”
“It’s not that,” she laughed. “It’s just that it would involve you and so I’d like to know if it’s okay.”
“Oh,” he let out a sigh of relief. She hoped to God he didn’t think she was one of those women who gave up her identity the moment she met a man because she wasn’t that woman. If she wasn’t willing to let her brother’s control her life she surely wasn’t going to let any other man do it either.
“Mitch has been trying to get me to do some reporting to go with my photojournalistic skills. I want to do something different. I want to tell the story that matters. I want to tell your story.”
“My story? Are you serious?”
“Yes. When I saw you saving that child—God, Adam it’s in your blood. You live and breathe this job. It’s not just a paycheck for you and I want to show people that. I want to show them the people who are keeping us safe, and I want to start this series with your story. Now, I can’t guarantee that it will ever get published. There’s no blood, no mass murder, no violently juicy story behind this, but I’d like to give it a try. I’d like to document you, your job, your life, what it takes to be a firefighter, and I want to submit it to a paper to see what happens.”
He sat back in his chair and ran his hand along his jaw. “I…wow…Eve.”
“Just think about it. I don’t need an answer today. And with as busy as Mitch is keeping me taking pictures of recent events I might not have time to start this article tomorrow either, but I’d really love to do this. And, if it would make you feel better I would gladly do this story more as a whole instead of just one man. I, of course, would need to get the permission of your chief, but I can handle that. I won’t ask him until I know if you’re okay with this, but if you say yes, and if you’d prefer that I talk about all the men at the station, then I’ll talk with the chief.”
“I would prefer if this was about more than me. Clearly I’m just one man, but the department is a collective of brave men putting life and limb on the line and I wouldn’t want to take that focus away from them.”
“Then I’ll tell the story as a whole, if you’re willing to do it.”
“Let me think about it some more.”
“Okay,” she smiled. “And it’s okay if you say no. I’d get it, really. No hard feelings.”
“Do you want me to say no, Eve?”
“No. I just want you to know it’s okay if you do. I won’t be some bratty would-be reporter who tries to get even or anything.”
He laughed. “Good to know. Not that I ever thought you would be.”
“Besides, if the fire department is out there’s always the police, the military, hmm…loads of options here.”
“And what does Mitch think about this?”
“I haven’t talked to him about it yet. He has plans for me; I can tell. He wants me to go to New York with him at the end of the year. He keeps talking about being able to write stories and do the pictures. I can tell he’s trying to help me pave the way to not becoming obsolete. He wants to make sure I won’t get swept under the rug when the next great photojournalist surfaces—not that I think I’m great, just you know the industry is kind of temperamental with employment sometimes.”
“I know,” he nodded. She was sure he did. This business was cut throat. She would prefer not to have her throat cut.
“Plus my story would be vastly different from what Mitch writes. He’s into conspiracy theory, hardcore expose the truth type stories. I like documenting the world around me. There’s something about seeing the things we see every day, but seeing them differently, appreciating them differently. Seriously, people pass firehouses every day, but do they really appreciate how important they are? Do they really look at it and understand that without those resources we would be in a world of trouble? I don’t think so. If they did then budgets wouldn’t be so easily cut for areas that clearly need to be made stronger.” She could go on forever about how people looked at the world around them but never truly saw it, never truly appreciated it. Maybe that’s why she loved taking pictures so much. A photograph captured the moment and forced people to sit down, to step back and take a look at the world as more than a passing blip on their radar.
“Okay, enough shop talk for one night. Let’s talk kissing.” She winked at him.
“I like the way you kiss, Adam. I like the way I feel when you kiss me. And I’d like to feel it again. Of course if it’s unfair to you then I understand—”
“You’re kidding me right? Unfair to me? Baby, I love kissing you.”
“But kissing is all it can be…”
“Well, maybe not all. Kissing, touching—no sex. I can promise you I’ll keep it in my pants. But my hands, now those are definitely going to want to touch that tight little body of yours.”
She laughed. “Are you saying that you want to caress me like you did earlier?”
“I’m saying my hands came really close to getting a feel of those small breasts of yours and I’d really love to know what they feel like in the palm of my hand. Is that a problem for you, Eve?”
She looked at the determination in his eyes, the look of desire and want that matched her own. She shook her head slowly. “I want you to feel them, because I’d like to know how your hands will feel touching me there, skin to skin, not through my blouse.” She had never before been willingly touched by a man there and she wanted to know what it felt like…not just what it felt like in general, but what it felt like with this man.
“We’ll clean up first because once I get started I don’t plan on taking a break to do the dishes.”
She laughed. “I should hope not. Although you are going to have to take me back home.”
“My spare bed would be more comfortable than your air mattress.”
She didn’t doubt that, but she couldn’t sleep over. She didn’t even have clothes with her. Not that it really would matter. She was off work tomorrow anyway, so she could always go home and change before heading south.
“Something’s bothering me,” he took her hand in his.
“Would you really go to New York at the end of the year?”
“I don’t know. I mean I never thought of staying here forever. New York; I guess that’s a logical progression for somebody in my profession. I considered there or D.C., so I guess. I mean if Mitch wants to go to New York then I guess there’s really nothing holding me here. You’ve already said you’re planning to leave at the end of the year.”
“Your loyalties are with Mitch; is that it? You’ll go wherever he goes?”
“Well, he did save my life. I guess maybe that’s the real reason I didn’t press charges…” she stopped talking the moment she realized the words were already out of her mouth. Adam’s grip on her hand tightened.
“What the hell did he do to you?”
“Oh, not that,” she said quickly. “I mean, he tried…well, not that he meant to.” She realized she wasn’t helping the situation because Adam’s hold tightened even more. “Ouch,” she tried to pull her hand away. “You’re hurting me.” He released her quickly.
“I’m sorry, Eve.”
“It’s okay,” she rubbed her hand. He was clearly angry. “Don’t mention it to my brothers because I haven’t told them about it.”
“You haven’t told me about it,” he nearly barked.
“Well, it’s no big deal really. It’s just…I was staying in Mitch’s guesthouse. I rented it from him. It was the perfect setup since we worked together. But one night, he was drunk, and he used his key to let himself in. I woke up to him on top of me, kissing all over my body, touching me—and nothing happened. I got him off me and out of my place. I broke the lease contract; not that he was going to fight my getting out of it. I moved into that apartment complex. It wasn’t my ideal place to live. I don’t particularly enjoy hearing my neighbor pee or shower in the morning, but it’s really all I could do on such short notice. I’m not rich. And the home prices here, even to rent, are just insanely stupid.”
“You should have pressed charges against the bastard.”
“He didn’t mean it. He apologized and it’s never happened again. He’s never…” she didn’t finish her sentence because if she really thought about it, Mitch was always a little hands on. He had stopped rubbing her shoulder after that night, but recently he was back to his old ways of touching her. But it was innocent; at least she hoped it was innocent. It was just Mitch. He did it to everybody…no, he did it to all the women. Nobody else seemed to complain about it, and it really wasn’t a big deal so maybe she shouldn’t complain either. They worked closely together. It was only logical that they would have more than just a working type of relationship. He thought of her as a friend; at least she hoped that’s all it was. She liked Mitch, respected him professionally, but never, in her wildest dreams, did she fancy anything else with him.
“It is a big deal, Eve. It should have never happened that once either. And I can tell you this, being drunk doesn’t make you do crazy things you’ve never thought about doing. It just lowers your ability to restrain yourself, to use good judgment and to keep yourself from doing the things you’ve been thinking about doing before. Clearly the man wanted to get inside you. Being drunk just lowered his ability for restraint. He wasn’t thinking clearly or he wouldn’t have come to you that night. But make no mistake about it, Eve, he wanted you all along. A few too many beers just relaxed him enough to try to take you.”
“But nothing,” he growled. “The man tried to force himself on you, Eve. That’s not forgivable. I don’t give a damn how drunk he was; it’s not forgivable.”
She exhaled slowly. Adam was angry. Gosh, she thought her brothers were bad, but the reaction Adam was having now was just as strong. The difference is her brothers wouldn’t have stopped at just being content with chastising her for not pressing charges. Her brothers would have found Mitch and castrated him for his attempt at getting to know their little sister in the biblical sense of the word. Honestly, she wasn’t sure Adam wasn’t having the same violent thoughts right now.
“Don’t be angry with me,” she whispered. “I did what I thought was best.”
“For him.” He snapped.
“For me,” she closed her eyes, remembering that night. She had been terrified. She had contemplated pressing charges. She had contemplated calling Thomas. But she didn’t do either because she had so many thoughts going through her head of what would happen after. She didn’t want any of the possibilities to be a reality. She didn’t want Thomas to ride into town and teach Mitch what happened when somebody messed with a McGregor—let alone one of the girls, and she didn’t want the media attention. This was Mitch Decker after all. Any complaint would garner attention. On top of that, she was living in his guesthouse. Yes, she paid rent. Yes, she had a contract and things were business as always for her. But she could hear the speculations and rumors and the lies, and she didn’t want to go through that. Mitch had saved her life and on some level she couldn’t justify ruining his. But it was more than that, she knew a complaint could ruin her life too and it just wasn’t worth it. Nothing happened, more than what he had tried to do, and she made an executive decision to make sure what he did stayed a secret between her and him and the walls of that house. She should have known it wouldn’t. Secrets never stayed buried for long; not even the ones she fought so hard to keep inside.
She opened her eyes when she felt Adam’s hand close over her hand. “I understand,” he assured her. “I still hate the bastard. But I understand your decision.”
His words gave her comfort. He didn’t look down on her. He didn’t think she was a total idiot for not doing what probably seemed like the best thing to do, the right thing to do. He respected her ability to make a judgment call—even if he didn’t fully agree with it, he respected it.
“Thank you;” her voice was barely a whisper, but from the gentle squeeze he gave to her hand she was sure he heard her. She needed to change the topic—fast, and the best way to do that was to switch the focus back to something Adam loved doing—fighting fires. “So, tell me about the Espanola fire. It’s almost completely contained; how much longer do you think it will be before it’s over?”
“It’s never easy to say. What little rain we did get wasn’t really enough to ease the drought. It’s been hot, sunny, and dry since the few hours of wet that we were lucky to get. The ground is still prime for fires,” he shrugged. “We have it mostly contained, which means some of the crew that came in from Mississippi can now head back home, but partial containment and complete containment are two different things. Until it’s out we don’t make promises that it won’t grow bigger than where it’s at. On top of that, we have the White Eagle fire that jumped the line and set us all back there.” He laughed. “I say us like I was there fighting that one.”