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 (7 page)

BOOK: The Fire Inside
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“Don’t call me that. We’re not those people.”
He couldn’t tell from her tone if she was sad or angry. Maybe a
little of both. “That night was all smoke and mirrors.”

“You have every right to be upset with
me.”

“I got over being upset with you. And wanting
a relationship with you. The fact that you snuck off in the middle
of the night told me everything I needed to know.”

“I—”

She didn’t let him finish. In the same tone
she added, “Besides, you never contacted me. Since you didn’t give
me your number, I couldn’t get in touch with you. I didn’t even
know John wasn’t your real name.” The last was said with
disgust.

Nothing short of the truth was going to work
here, so he said simply, “In the middle of that night we were
together, Seth called. Sara had been arrested.”

Her whole face fell. He remembered Mitch’s
words.

Her brother was killed in a skiing accident.
She never got over it.

“She got caught smoking pot at school.”

“I…I’m sorry.” Tess gestured to the
restaurant. “She seemed all right out there.”

“Yeah, a little too all right. They had to
drop the charges because of some technicalities. I’m afraid she got
off scot-free.”

Tess watched him. “I’m sorry your daughter
had problems. But you could’ve come back after you took care of
her.”

“I brought Sara to Hidden Cove for few
days.”

“Still, at least a phone call was in order.”
She ran a hand through her hair, messing it. “You know what,
though? It’s water under the bridge. Let’s forget anything ever
happened between us.”

He went on as if she hadn’t spoken. “I was
going to call you as soon as I got Sara settled, but I, um…”

At his pause, she asked, “You got cold
feet?”

“No, I had a visit from Mitch.”

She frowned.

“He asked if I’d met his cousin.”

“So what?”


Raking a hand through his hair, he shifted
his stance. “Hell, Tess, I had a hot one-night stand with a woman
who’s like his baby sister. He’d kill me if he found out what I
did.”

“Why? We’re both adults.”

“You don’t know these guys as well as you
think you do, if you believe that. Zach decked Grady, his best
friend, when he found out Jenn was pregnant. And they knew each
other all their lives.”

Her face flushed, and now, fire lit her eyes.
This time, he could definitely read what she was feeling. “Let me
get this straight. You cut me out of your life because you were
afraid of Mitch?”

“You’ve never been out of my life. I’ve
thought of you every day since then.”

Closing her eyes she shook her head—in
disbelief?

There was a loud knock on the door. “Hello,
is somebody in there?”

Man, Jack had really blown this. “We have to
go.”

“Good.” She backed away from him. “Don’t
worry,
Jack.
I’ll keep our secret. Just stay away from
me.”

“I didn’t say I wanted that.”

“Yes, you did, when you called what happened
between us a hot one-night stand.” Opening the door, she walked
out, leaving him chagrined at facing an angry woman in the
doorway.

And about how badly he’d handled seeing Tess
again.

o0o

Zach convinced Tess to go with him to karaoke
night at Taylor's. Mitch went home to Megan. Paulie had an early
trial the next morning, but Jenn and Connie decided singing would
be fun, so they agreed to tag along. As the group was heading out
of the Hidden Cove Inn, they passed Jack’s table. Tess was hoping
to avoid him. But Zach stopped, so Jenn and Connie, ahead of her,
did, too. Tess was trapped.

Zach put his hand on Seth’s shoulder. “Hey,
you two. Want to come with us to Taylor’s? Tonight’s karaoke.”

“Sorry,” Jack said sternly. “They’re not
twenty-one.”

“On karaoke nights, underage kids can get in.
They wear a bracelet that shows they can’t drink.” Zach socked Jack
in the arm. “You come, too, old man, so you can watch them.”

Old man,
she thought, remembering how
she used to call him that. But that was before…

Tess ground her teeth so tight they hurt.

“You’re right. I’m too old for Taylor’s.”

Sara slipped her arm through his. “We won’t
go without you, Dad. We came home to spend time with you.”

Seth agreed.

“But you wanna go, right?” Again, Zach
wouldn’t give in. Tess wished he’d let this one go.

“Yeah, I do.”

“It’d be fun.”

Jack looked to Tess—for approval—but she
turned her face away. And heard, “We’ll talk about it.”

Finally, Zach led them away.

The four Malvaso relatives arrived at
Taylor’s, a popular place for the over-thirty crowd. Off to the
side was the karaoke room. The place was filling up with people,
but Zach managed to snag a table for seven. Tess inserted herself
between Connie and Jenn so if the Harrisons did show up, she
wouldn’t have to spend the night next to Jack.

The three of them arrived a half hour
later.

“We talked Daddy into coming,” Sara said.

Seth shot his sister a sideways glance. “You
can talk him into anything.”

Just like Joey, who could charm a stone.

A waiter approached the table. Tess, Zach and
Connie and Jenn were nursing beers. Jack ordered a pitcher of soda
for him and the kids.

Connie addressed Seth and Sara. “You know,
Jenn and I are twins, too. We don’t look as much alike as you guys
do, but we are womb sisters.”

Her face bright, Sara bestowed an
affectionate look on her brother. “We love being twins.”

“Speak for yourself, sis.”

She ignored the comment. “So, who’s
singing?”

“We’ll surprise you.” The mischief in Zach’s
eyes reminded Tess of how much trouble they’d gotten into when she
lived with them. Nothing as serious as being arrested, though.
They’d had the fun kind of trouble, like hopping the fence at the
public pool and swimming late at night. Jack didn’t seem to have
much control over his children. Once again, the notion brought
memories of Joey. It was vitally important for adults to protect
kids. Tess knew that only too well.

Unable to prevent herself, Tess took
surreptitious glances at Jack. He was seated across from her; his
hair was a little longer, she noticed now, his gaze still direct
and intense. She remembered vividly having all that intensity
focused on her.

The karaoke DJ announced, “Next up is Martin,
and on deck are Zach, Tess, Jenn and Connie.”

“Hey, I never said I’d sing.” Tess had been
okay with the idea that Zach would force her up on stage, until
Jack had arrived.

Literally, her cousin dragged her out of the
chair. Scrambling for a way to get out of this, and finding none,
she followed him to the front. While they waited, out of the corner
of her eye, Tess saw Sara perusing the list and elbowing Seth.

When the Malvaso cousins finally took the
spotlight, Zach stood in the middle of the girls as they belted out
Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’.” Though she was self-conscious,
Tess could sing, and sure enough, she got into the moment. She took
a solo part, and the guys at one table stood and cheered. She
sashayed over to them and bent down with the mic so they could sing
into it. Laughing, she flirted. They flirted back.

When they finished and returned to the table,
the kids were laughing.

“You guys are good,” Sara said with awe. “I’m
afraid to go up there now.”

“I’ll sing with you.” Though Seth teased her,
they seemed genuinely close. Had Joey lived, would he and Tess have
shared this kind of bond? They were four years apart, but the
Malvaso siblings had a wide age range and that didn’t keep them
from being tight.

When Seth and Sara left the group to submit
their songs, Jack, who’d been quiet, braced his arms on the table.
“You know, there’s a whole psychology to which tune people pick for
karaoke. I read an article about it in the
Journal of
Psychiatric Medicine
.”

Zach elbowed Tess. “I know. That’s why I
picked Journey for all of us to sing.”

“What’s the significance of the song?”

“We’re trying to talk Tess into moving to
Hidden Cove.”

His eyebrows skyrocketed. “Why would she do
that?”

“Oh, that’s right. You don’t know.” Zach’s
voice was somber.

“I’d prefer not to spread my woes around to
everybody,” Tess told Zach with more curtness than she
intended.

Like a lot of things, the objection simply
rolled off Zach’s back. “He’ll know eventually, when you stay.”
Zach looked at Jack. “She can’t go back on the line in Rockland.
When we found out, I went up and got her.”

“Was it from your fall, Tess?” Jack
asked.

A quick vision filled her mind of him tending
to her ankle in her office, then it switched like a camera to him
rubbing lotion on her calf. When she started to think about what
happened that night, her body reacted the same as it had then. She
had to clear her throat to speak. “Yes, it was from the fall. But I
haven’t given up on my ankle yet. Mitch arranged for me to see your
department doctor in a few days.”

Reaching across the table, he grabbed her
hand before she could pull it away. And squeezed. The gesture sent
sparks up her arm and simultaneously made tears prickle behind her
lids.

“I’m so sorry, Tess.”

Thank God Zach interrupted the moment. She’d
had the absurd urge to throw herself into Jack’s arms. “We want her
to transfer to the HCFD, and I just had a brilliant idea. She could
work at the Academy here, with you guys. There’s usually
openings.”

Jack looked as if he was about to swallow his
tongue. He wouldn’t like having her in Hidden Cove because of their
past. But there was more. Her teaching at the Academy would bring
back his objections to her methods. Tess ignored the hollow feeling
in her stomach at the notion that he wouldn’t want to work with
her.

Chapter 5

 

The fire chief’s office was big, bright and
filled with a warmth that most official surroundings lacked. Its
plush leather couches, wide expanse of windows, oak desk and
conference table were part of the reason. But mostly, Jack
attributed the atmosphere to the fact that Noah was such a happy
guy now that peace and contentment exuded out of him and into the
space he occupied.

Jack stared over at the chief. “What do you
think?”

Noah looked up from the outline he’d been
reading. “It’s great. I told you before I was on board. But I still
have concerns about the teachers’ reactions to the program.”

“Olive Hennessey is supportive of the new
class.” A battalion chief, Olive ran the recruit classes. “I
wouldn’t have brought it to you without consulting her.”

Leaning back, Noah seemed thoughtful. The
chief’s hair was grayer now but his face remarkably unlined. “You
know some of the fire house guys are going to balk. They’ll say
running a support group for recruits babies them, when the program
should toughen them up.”

Those would be Tess’s objections. He could
still see her face reddening as she shouted at him in her office in
Rockland, saying trainers shouldn’t coddle recruits. But Jack knew
he was capable of walking the fine line between coddling and
helping where needed. “If I worried about what the staff says about
me, I wouldn’t get anything done.”

They both laughed. Then Noah asked, “Now, for
the big question, should it be mandatory, or just an option?”

Jack frowned. “Olive and I went back and
forth on that. But ultimately, we decided if we think the class is
valuable enough to offer in the first place, it should be
mandatory.”

“And what about privacy? For the recruits and
the teachers.”

“In order for the class to be successful, the
recruits will have to share their feelings. If they’re shy or
fearful, there are ways make their comments anonymous. But I was
hoping for a more freewheeling discussion.”

“Will you inform the teachers what they
say?”

This was a hard one. He’d struggled with
whether he should let the teachers know when the recruits thought
they were too harsh or demanding
,
mostly for the teachers’
to monitor their own behavior. “After much forethought, I decided
not to tell the staff anything, even anonymously, at least for this
first time around. Like for everyone else I treat, what’s said in
my office is confidential, unless I think they’re going to hurt
somebody or themselves.”

“I trust you on this, Jack.” He leaned
forward. “Anything else?”

“Nope.”

“Then, I’m off for lunch with Will
Rossettie.” The former police chief who’d retired.

“You thinking anymore about joining his
ranks?”

“I am. I’d like more time with Eve and Iana.”
Noah’s child had been named after her brother, and Ian’s daughter
was Evie.

“How’s Ian doing?”

“Super. I can’t believe he’s turned our
terrorist training into a nationally known program. Fire
departments from all over the country want him to come and train
their people.”

“His experience in 9/11 made him understand
the concept of preparedness better than anybody. But his real
talent is his ability to reach seasoned firefighters.”

“Because they respect him so much.”

They left the room together and strolled down
the hall to where Jack worked. They passed Ian’s office on the way.
Outside in his waiting room sat Tess Righetti.

Jack halted. “I’m going to step in here a
minute. Tell Will I said hi.”

Tess didn’t see him until he reached her. At
first, when she glanced up, there was pleasure in those dark eyes.
Then she doused it like foam on fire. She stood and he noticed
right away how the stretchy beige slacks and a navy blue blouse fit
her…nicely.

“Good morning, Tess.” He hadn’t seen her
since the dinner at the Malvasos. The kids had a blast but Jack and
Tess had tiptoed around each other and there’d been no moments of
privacy.

BOOK: The Fire Inside
4.27Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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