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 (4 page)

BOOK: The Fire Inside
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He sat in his vehicle, staring at the house.
Once again, a feeling of connection, of perhaps speculation that
something was happening—or might happen—infused him.

Finally, he exited the car. The brutal
February wind hit him in the face as he made his way over the
sidewalk, which was slick from the snow that had started to fall
again. Once on the stoop, he rang the bell. She’d said she was
getting around, so she could make it to the door. Then it opened
and she stood before him, dressed in a pink sweat suit, her hair
sticking up every which way and a scowl on her face. “Jack? What
are you doing here?”

He held up the bottle. “I brought wine. You
can have some because you’re off the strong pain meds. I thought we
might order dinner.” He peeked inside. “Unless you have
company?”

“Look at me,” she said, her tone cross. “Do I
look
like I have company?”

He bit back a grin. “You’re not at your
best.”

“Don’t laugh at me. I haven’t had a shower in
two days. My hair’s stringy and I probably smell. You don’t want to
come in here.”

“I do.”

She leaned on the edge of the door. “It’s
unethical to be fraternizing with a recruit.”

“Let me in and I’ll tell you why that’s not a
problem.”

Her eyes narrowed, she moved back. “That’s
intriguing.”

Once inside, he asked if they could sit. When
they were on the couch, he faced her directly. “Tess, I’m not a
recruit.”

Those pretty brown eyes widened. Tonight,
they were liquid looking in the lamplight. “I don’t
understand.”

“I’m already a firefighter and a
psychologist. I’m here to go through the recruit class’s practical
end so I can get a better idea of what my guys and gals go through
on a call.” He sighed. “I didn’t take the first half of the course
elsewhere. I wanted to be part of just the practical
activities.”

Now she stiffened. “What? Why wasn’t I told
this?”

“I asked it to be kept quiet so I could
experience the reality of how the recruits feel about officers,
what fears they have. I also was worried if I disclosed my
identity, I’d be treated differently.”

Her face flushed, and he could tell she was
calming herself.

“I’m sorry if that upsets you.”

“In some ways, it does.” She leaned back into
the pillows, seeming thoughtful. “But I understand your thinking.
How long are you staying in Rockland?”

“I can only take two weeks from my position.
Then I go home.”

Her brown gaze narrowed on him. “I knew
something was up with you.” She glanced to the ceiling. “At least
I’m not fraternizing with a recruit.”

Leaning over, he tipped up her chin; she
didn’t seem to mind that he touched her. “What do you need tonight,
Tess?”

Her eyes closed briefly and she sighed. “Damn
it, I’m afraid to shower alone. My best friend is in Europe, and
two of my female colleagues are at some kind of special training
this week. I don’t have any family here.” Her voice hoarsened on
the last statement. “There was no one else in town to call.”

“Well,” he said, his eyes dancing,

I’m
here.”

She blushed. “Oh, yeah, sure. I’m gonna let a
stranger help me in the shower.”

“Tess, we’re adults. And we can do this
modestly, if that’s what bothers you. You got underwear on?”

“Yeah.”

“I’ll help you remove the pants to your sweat
suit and then the cast.”

“I was thinking of cutting the material up
the side.”

“No need. I’ll set up and get you into the
shower—in your underwear—then I’m sure you can manage by yourself.
I’ll come back to help you over the tub and be right outside the
door in case you need me.”

“You won’t peek?”

“Scout’s honor. Not that I wouldn’t mind
seeing…”

“Oh, flirting will make me a lot more
comfortable.” Her tone was an attempt at sarcasm, but it didn’t
quite hit the mark.

“Seriously, let me do this for you.”

“I am desperate. Okay. There’s a shower chair
in the basement that I bought when I first got injured. I’ll go
into the bathroom and you can get it.”

While she went down a long corridor, he
sought out the chair in a very tidy cellar and headed back to the
first floor. He found the master suite, then the attached bathroom,
where she was sitting on the toilet seat. Still in her sweat suit.
“Why the hell I put on these sweat pants is beyond me. I can’t even
roll them up to take off the removable cast because the legs are
too tight. I forced them on, I guess.”

“Let me. I’ve had experience with these
casts.”

“Yeah, when?”

“My twins broke quite a few bones.”

Her eyes widened like moons. “You have kids.
Um, a wife?”

“Twins, one of each. I’m a widower. Elizabeth
died in childbirth.”

“Oh, John, I’m sorry.”

“Yeah, me, too. It was twenty years ago, but
it still stings sometimes.”

“I imagine.” She squeezed his arm gently. He
liked the feel of it. And the gesture was spontaneous, revealing
who she was inside.

He knelt before her.

“Scootch up and pull down your pants to your
knees.”

She did and he eased the sweats off, nearly
tearing the material, it was so tight. Then he removed the cast.
Her ankle was swollen but not as bad as when she hurt it. His hands
went for the zipper of her top.

Tess shook her head. “I think I can manage
this.”

“Sure.” He stood, set the seat in the tub and
turned the shower on to just below hot. When he faced her, he saw
she wore a serviceable sports bra and plain white panties. She had
beautiful shoulders, toned biceps and a flat tummy. All a golden
brown.

“You’re staring.”

“I’m not,” he lied and moved closer.

She slid her arm around him so he could help
her get her legs over the tub. When she settled, he said, “There
you go.” His voice was husky from the feel of her silky skin. “I’ll
be right in the bedroom. Don’t get out by yourself. I put a towel
within arms’ reach.”

Jack left the bathroom, closed the door and
leaned heavily against it. Holy hell! He
had
been staring.
He’d wanted to touch more, much more, of the skin she’d bared. And
he felt like a peeping Tom.

On the other hand, she didn’t seem affected
at all.

o0o

Tess let the water sluice over her like a
gentle waterfall. She’d removed her underwear because John had
indeed left a thick towel next to the tub for her to wrap herself
in after this. The hot water felt wonderful; soaping up her body
and hair was a tiny miracle and she took joy in the sensations.
When she was clean, she just sat there a minute. And was hit hard
in the face by what had happened to her in the past few days.

No, don’t dwell on it
, she told
herself
. You’re going back to the line. This isn’t final, no
matter what the doctors said.

To defer the notion that she was at fault,
she thought about John. Who wasn’t a recruit. Instead of anger,
she’d felt a sweep of relief when he told her he wasn’t her
student. And now, she thought about him helping her undress, the
way his calloused hands felt on her skin. The images made her heart
beat faster.

“Hey, you okay in there?” His voice came from
the other side of the door.

“Uh-huh.”

“It’s been twenty minutes.”

“Oh, sorry. You can come in soon.”

Retrieving the towel, she managed to wrap it
around her naked body. Then she called out, “Come on in.”

He did, carrying a pair of gray yoga pants
and a long-sleeved top and undies. She stared at the bright yellow
lingerie. “You went through my drawers?”

“Guilty as charged. I picked the most
comfortable-looking ones.”

She felt herself blush.

A sexy brow arched. “Not all of them were
made for comfort, I don’t think.”

“I have a fetish. Underwear.”

“It could be worse.” Leaning into the tub, he
turned off the faucet. “What do you need now?”


“Help me to the seat again and put the cast
on. The yoga pants are wider legged, so I can manage after
that.”

“Oh, hell.”

Tess felt her face redden and not out of
pique. “Cut it out. You’re making me nervous again.”

Once he’d gotten her seated, he asked,
“Lotion?”

She scowled.

“My daughter, Sara. I buy her different kinds
to put in her Christmas stocking, her Easter basket. One of the
times she had a removable cast, she liked the feel of the lotion on
her first.”

Why not? She wouldn’t have bothered because
it would be too hard to reach by herself. Nah, it wouldn’t. But she
let him do it anyway. “Yeah, there’s some in the vanity.”

He retrieved a big pink bottle from a drawer
and knelt again. She was mesmerized by how he opened the lid,
sniffed it. “Mmm.” Taking a dollop, he rubbed it between his hands,
then on her leg. Her entire calf. A jolt of desire shocked her
system. When was the last time she’d felt something that intense?
She didn’t date much. Sure, she’d had some recreational sex, but
she couldn’t remember the last time she was with a man.

“Tess?”

Oh, God, she’d closed her eyes. Had she
moaned?

“Are you feeling weak again?” He sounded only
concerned.

“Some.”

He didn’t respond, just clipped the cast back
on and stood. “I’ll be out here. I ordered dinner from a menu on
your fridge. I picked the things that were marked.”

“Thank you,” was all she could manage.

He left and Tess took deep breaths to calm
herself. Geez, she’d responded to him like a Victorian bride. This
kind of thing
never
happened to her.

Okay, Teresa,
she told herself.
Y
ou’re being foolish. Nothing was said, or done, really. He
doesn’t know you wanted to jump his bones. Calm down.

Her other half responded,
But you
could
jump his bones.

I could
, she thought mischievously. He
wasn’t a recruit. And she was attracted to him—a lot. His wide
shoulders and long lean torso all appealed to her. Some casual sex
with a stranger sounded pretty damn good right now. And he’d be
leaving town at the end of his two weeks, so choosing him for a
partner wouldn’t have any long-term complications.

Once she had the idea, it wouldn’t go away.
So she just sat there and pondered what to do.

o0o

His back to the bathroom, Jack stood staring
out at yet another February snowstorm in upstate New York. The
bedroom window was crystalized with ice, making squiggly patterns
on the panes. Every now and then, a tree limb knocked against it.
But the weather didn’t concern him. All he could think about was
how Tess looked in plain white underwear, how she’d trembled and
drew in a breath when he massaged her leg, how her eyes had
glittered with interest. He’d never been into sex with someone he
didn’t have a standing relationship with, someone he hadn’t gotten
to know, but right now, he was up for it, literally.

Weren’t you embarrassed?
she’d asked
when she’d fallen on top of him in the gym.

Nope, not then. And not now. He just didn’t
know what to do about his attraction to her. And something else—he
was having trouble reconciling the woman in the tub with the tough
recruit trainer. Tess Righetti was a paradox. And Jack liked
paradoxes.

He heard the door to the bathroom open.
“John?” Her voice was stronger this time, but husky.

Pivoting, he faced her. And his jaw dropped.
Nothing unusual about her damp hair prettily messed, her cheeks red
from the shower, her full mouth. No, what stumped him speechless
was the towel she wore. Only the towel.

He warned himself,
Don’t be
presumptuous.

“Do you want something more?” he asked in
what came out as a croak. And thought,
Please say yes, you want
me.

Her hand was at the knot. “Now, there’s a
question.” Her tone was flirty.

A grin spread across his face. “What exactly
do you need, Tess?”

She started toward him. “First, call me
Teresa.”

“A beautiful name. Your given one?”

She nodded. “Tonight, I want to be a mystery,
like you are.”

It was his turn to nod.

“Do you want mystery, John?”

“Right at this moment, I want a hell of a lot
more than that.”

This time, her laugh was sultry.

Another step. And another, until she was so
close he could see the drops of water still on her shoulders. He
had a slicing urge to lick them off. His gaze lowered to the towel.
“You gonna drop that thing, darlin’?

Another step, until she stood so close to him
that he could see her pupils were dilated. She said, “You want me
to?”

“No.”

A frown.

“Let me do it.” His hand went to her chest,
wrapped around the knot. But he didn’t undo it. “Tell me, Teresa,
is this a good idea?”

“Who the hell knows? We’re both adults.
Unattached.” A frown. “You are unattached, right?”

“There’s no woman in my life.”

“No man in mine now, either. So what would be
the harm of two strangers in the night, like the song says, having
a little fun?”

Jack swallowed hard. The feeling that this
was going to be more than
a little fun
caused him to think
twice. For about ten seconds.

Then he unloosened the knot.

o0o

She lay on the bed, like some naked harem
girl sprawled out before him, while he looked his fill and slowly
disrobed. Desire, thick and steamy, hummed in her blood—and it felt
so good, especially after her depression the past few days. He
slipped the sweater over his head to reveal a black shirt.

“Hmm,” she said as he grasped its hem.
“Double hmm,” she added when he shrugged it off. His chest was
sprinkled with dark hair, perfectly placed across his pecs and
abdomen, as if by some deity who’d taken his time to do it right.
She tracked his hands to his belt, which he unbuckled.

BOOK: The Fire Inside
7.53Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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