Read The Fire Inside Online

Authors: Kathryn Shay

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

The Fire Inside (10 page)

BOOK: The Fire Inside
4.33Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

“Fair enough.” Noah stood. “Let me know early
tomorrow morning. I—”

Mitch’s phone rang. “Uh, sorry. I have a
specific ring tone for Megan. She wouldn’t call unless it was
important.” He stood and crossed to the side of the room. But they
could hear, “What’s up, baby?” A pause.
slapped his hand on the wall. When Jack saw him turn white, he rose
and went to stand behind his friend. “I—” Mitch cleared his throat.
“I’ll be right there.” He clicked off his phone and stared at

Jack settled his hand on Mitch’s shoulder.
“What’s wrong?”

Mitch glanced over at Tess. “It’s Mama. She’s
been rushed to the hospital.”

Bolting up, Tess rushed to them. “What’s

“She had a heart attack.” Mitch took her
hand. “We have to go to the hospital.”

Tess froze. “Aunt Sabina?” Her voice was

“I’ll drive you there,” Jack decided.

“Go ahead. Let us know what happens. I’m
sorry, Mitch, Tess.”

Ramirez called out, “All of our kids know
each other.

If you need help, call me. I can pick them up
and keep them at my house.”

Now Tess was white-faced, and her hands
shook. Jack ushered her out, with Mitch at his side. No one spoke.
In light of Sabina’s illness, the previous disagreements voiced in
this room seemed inconsequential.

Chapter 6


Mitch and Tess hurried inside the
emergency-department waiting room while Jack parked the car. “Is
there any news?” Mitch asked the question of Megan, who met them at
the door.

Her police calm slipping, Megan’s lips
quivered. “None. The nurse came out and said the doctors were
running tests.” She put her arms around Mitch and hugged him.

Tess turned away at the emotion between them,
because it weakened her even more.

When she drew back, Megan said, “Let’s go

As they made their way to couches, Tess tried
to curb the fear curling inside her like a snake, ready to uncoil.
She adored Sabina but hadn’t spent enough time with her. The
desperate feeling was exacerbated by the atmosphere of the
hospital—ringing phones, the PA calling for doctors, the sense of
urgency in this area. Just like before. Her parents had been
brought to a hospital after their car slid on black ice and crashed
into an embankment. Joey had been helicoptered to one from the ski
slope. She remembered the horrific hours of praying and then the
hopelessness. People died in hospitals.

The area was empty except for them. About
twenty-by-twenty, the room sported a big window and was painted a
cheery yellow, which didn’t seem right, given the suffering that
took place here on a routine basis. When the three of them were
sitting on couches, Megan took Tess’s hand. “You’re pale. Do you
need something to drink?”

“No, just tell us what happened.”

“Mama was alone at the house. Sabby was in
school when Mama had chest pains and called 911. I was at the
precinct and the dispatcher let me know, so I met them here.”

“Did you get to talk to her?” Mitch asked
gruffly. Tess could see the worry etch itself in every line of his

“No, she was already in the treatment

Mitch glanced toward the ER door. “How long
has it been?”

“Not even an hour.”

Checking his watch, Mitch frowned. “It’s
four. Where’s Sabby?”

“I called Lisel Woodward because I know she’s
home with her daughter. Sabby loves playing sister to Iana. They
picked her up from school.”

Listening to mundane matters made Tess feel
worse. The waiting area seemed as if it was closing in on her, so
she stood. “I need to use the bathroom.”

“There’s one in the corner over there.” Megan
glanced up. “Want me to go with you?”

“No, I’m fine. Stay with your husband.” Tess
wasn’t fine but she needed time alone to process what was happening
without the interference of the others’ reactions, without them
worrying about her. Besides, Mitch was more likely to show his true
feelings to Megan if they were alone.

Tess made a beeline to the lav, and once
inside, she leaned against the door. The two stalls were empty.
Sabina was seventy-four years old. She’d lived a full life. But,
oh, God, she didn’t want to lose her beloved aunt now.

No, don’t think that way
, she told
Tess had to get a grip. She crossed to the sink,
threw water on her face. And stared into the mirror. But she
couldn’t wash away the worry. The woman who’d been a second mother
to her could die today. Tess’s eyes misted. The people she loved
most in the world would be devastated. She buried her face in her

The door to the women’s room opened, and Tess
looked over, expecting Megan. Instead, Jack stood in the
doorway—big and unbreakable. He took one look at her and snicked
the lock. Crossing to the sinks, he grasped her by the shoulders
and pulled her to his chest. She went, willingly.

His hand in her hair and his woodsy scent
soothed her. “It’s okay to be worried, to cry about having someone
you love in danger.”

She buried her face deeper in his white
captain’s shirt.

“But, Teresa,” he whispered softly, “you also
have to keep things in perspective. Sabina is strong physically.
Mitch and I were talking about that when we had dinner with you
guys when my kids were home.”

Wanting to be comforted, she nodded.

“You can let go, honey.”

His words of understanding battered her
defenses, and Tess burst into tears. He held her tight, kissed her
head, kept her close. When she finished crying, she drew back. “I
know I don’t have the right to break down like this.” She swiped at
her cheeks. “All her kids…they need you now.”

“Hush. Sabina loves you like a daughter.”

“She took me and Joey in, Jack. I was
fourteen. Paulie and Mitch were out of the house. Zach, Jenn and
Connie still lived at home. The whole family supported me until I
graduated high school and got a job. Our lives would have been a
nightmare without her.”

“I’m glad you had that. It must have been
tough when your parents died. Then…Joey.”

She shook her head. “Did Mitch tell you about

“Yes. You’ve suffered a lot of loss in your

“I can’t think about that now. Especially

“Then, wash your face and we’ll go back

Someone banged on the door. “Is anyone in

He gave a little smile. So did she. “What is
it with us and bathrooms?” he asked.


Jack returned from fetching nine cups of
strong coffee from the hospital cafeteria. The Malvaso family had
been at Memorial for almost two hours. “I think I got this right,”
he said to the group. They’d clustered together, having dragged
chairs over to the couches. The entire family, minus children, had
arrived, as well as Will Rossettie, who’d been a stalwart friend of
Sabina’s for years.

While Jack doled out the cups, he addressed
them all. “We don’t know how long we’re going to be here. Let’s
make sure the logistics are all worked out. Kids, for

Jenny, clutching Connie’s hand, looked to
Grady. Her husband said, “Tony called me when you were notified.
He’s got all three of ours. Indefinitely.”

Connie’s kids had gone with her husband’s
family. Her husband, a doctor, was out of town and would fly in if

Jack’s gaze transferred to Casey Brennan,
Zach’s wife. She’d gotten close to Sabina, something Casey didn’t
do with most people. Her face was ravaged and her blue eyes
bruised. “My ex has ours—my girls and Zach’s boys.”

“Good all around. If anybody wants them
picked up, I’ll do it.”

“Trish and Bobby don’t know yet,” Mitch put
in. Trish lived in Florida, and Bobby was in college an hour away
from Jack’s twins. “I thought it best until we get some news on
Mama’s condition. If they have to come in, maybe you can get Trish
at the airport.”

Jack saw Tess swallow hard. The Malvaso young
adults would head home if Sabina had to have surgery. If she died.
Studying Tess, he could practically see the thought flicker across
her face. And he wanted nothing more than to hold her hand like the
other couples in the room. But he knew he had to stay

“Is everybody’s shift taken care of,

“Noah said he’d cover whatever we

“Then, we wait.” He encompassed them in what
he intended to be a reassuring gaze. “Have hope and hang on to each

When the Malvasos were settled, Jack made his
way to Will. Though he’d retired from the police department a
couple of years ago, he’d stayed fit and healthy. But worry over
Sabina’s attack accented the lines in his face, making him look
older than usual. “How are you doing with this, Will?”

“Hangin’ in there.” His eyes were filled with
worry. “I was cooking dinner for her tonight. She always makes food
for everybody, so it was supposed to be a treat.” His voice broke
on the last words.

Jack stayed with the older man until Mitch
joined them.

Zach got up from Casey’s side and strode to
Tess. Sitting on the couch next to her, he slid his arm around

And they all waited.


At six o’clock, the doctors came out. Jack
knew the cardiologist, as they’d done some work together
coordinating the fire department’s interaction with emergency
personnel. “Hi, Ben.”

Dr. Ben Black nodded, then faced the rest of
them. “We’ve done an angiogram on Mrs. Malvaso. Her left artery is
ninety-five percent blocked, but the right one is mostly clear. We
should put a stent in the left to avoid having too much stress on
the open one.”

“A stent?” Tess could hear the hope in
Mitch’s voice. She understood it. “That’s not bypass surgery.”

“No, and since many of you have medical
training, you know that this is a good diagnosis. She’s lucky we
caught the blockage now and that little damage was done to her
heart. Since she’s only in her mid-seventies, this is the best

Tess, who’d stood when the doctor came out,
dropped to the chair in relief.
Thank you, God.

Jack crossed the room, knelt in front of her
and took her hands. They were ice cold. “It’s good news,

“I know. I know.” She swallowed hard. “I’m so

The two of them waited in silence while the
rest of the group discussed visiting hours. After, Mitch came up to
them. “We can go in two at a time and see her, Tess.”

“You guys go first, of course.”

“No, Megan wants you and me to go in
together. She’ll come along later.”

“No, I—”

Jack interrupted. “Go ahead. Sabina will be
worried about your reaction.” More softly, he said, “Because of
your parents and Joey.”

They found Sabina lying in the bed, seeming
frail, but her eyes brightened when she saw Tess and Mitch. The
room smelled of antiseptic but it was tinged with Sabina’s
talcum-powder scent. “Oh, good Lord, I have caused so much

Tess held back while Mitch moved to the bed
and sat on the mattress. “Mama, hush. We love you. Of course we’re

Stroking Mitch’s face, she said, “I
understand.” Her gaze transferred to Tess. “Come here,
I want to see you up close.”

Tess approached Sabina and put on a brave
front. “Hi, Aunt Sabby.”

“Look at you. You have cried.

“I’m just glad you’re all right.” Even to her
own ears, her voice sounded weak. Raw. “And the treatment isn’t too

“Dr. Black explained the procedure. I should
be all right in no time.”

“You’ll be all right, but some things have to
change, Mama.” Mitch’s voice had turned serious. “You do too much
for all of us.”

Sabina eyed Tess. “Some things do have to
change. And I am hoping Teresa will help us.”

“Of course I will, Aunt Sabby. Anything you

“Good. Stay in Hidden Cove for a few

Mitch looked puzzled. Then he burst into
belly laughter. “If I didn’t know better, Mama, I’d think you set
up your niece.”

“If I had thought of it, I would have. Now I
will use a mother’s best weapon.”

“What’s that?” Tess asked, relieved to be
joking about this.

“How do you say it, Mitch?”

“You’re guilting her into this.”

“Yes, Teresa. I am.”

“I’ll stay. For as long as you need me.”

Mitch squeezed Tess’s arm. “You’ve made her a
happy woman, honey.”

“That’s all that’s important now.”


At midnight, Jack pulled into the Fire
Academy parking lot to drop Mitch and Tess off at their cars. Mitch
would go back to the hospital to sit with Mama Malvaso, whose
surgery had been a resounding success. Sabina, in her typical
caretaker role, had insisted everyone get some rest, so the
Malvasos had agreed to take shifts. Amazingly, Sabina would be able
to go home tomorrow.

From the back seat, with the lot’s lamplights
shining on them, Mitch put a hand on Jack’s shoulder. “Thanks,
buddy. For everything.” Then he touched Tess. “Where’s your

“At the other end of the lot.”

“I’ll run her down,” Jack told his

“Get some rest, honey.”

“I will. My time to come back is ten. I wish
I could stay now.”

“Everybody did. Mama’s out of the woods, but
we don’t want to overwhelm her with visitors. It’s still two at a

“I understand.”

After Mitch exited the car, Jack turned in
his seat. “How you really doing?”

She nodded. “I’m tired, but I doubt I’ll

“You’ve had a big day. All that at the
Academy and now Sabina’s problem.” He watched her for a minute.
“Why don’t we go for a drink?”

Leaning back on the headrest, she closed her
eyes. “I’m trying to stay away from you.”

BOOK: The Fire Inside
4.33Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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