Authors: Lauren Dane
Huffing with the exertion, when I already felt wiped out and too aware of the flames snapping barely a yard away, I pushed to a sitting position and eased her onto her side on the floor. Behind her facepiece, her eyes were closed and she looked serene in unconsciousness. Vowing to see her serene again for real, I held on to the front straps of my oxygen tank’s carrying frame and came to my feet.
I expected my freshly freed leg to buckle, or at least for pain to rip through it. The support beam obviously hadn’t weighed as much as I thought, though, because my leg stayed locked and felt fine.
The rest of me didn’t feel fine.
My pulse was speeding and my mind circling with the wonder of how we were going to get out of this damned basement alive.
The football-field-size plant’s twin furnace and boiler systems were less than twenty feet away and primed to explode and unleash all hell. We should never have come down here, but a worker who’d escaped upon hearing the explosion that started the blaze swore someone was trapped in one of the four refrigeration rooms that snaked off from the basement’s central area. We hadn’t made it as far as the heavy wooden doors of the refrigeration rooms. If someone was in one, it was already too late to help.
“Ryan?” The unexpected sound of Deitre’s voice came thick and raspy from her prone position on the floor.
My heart skipped a beat with my gratitude to hear her talking. Living. Then I realized she had to have broken the seal on her respirator to be speaking so clearly. Which meant she was even now sucking in toxic fumes.
Son of a bitch.
My heart beating harder, I squatted beside her, intending to hoist her into my arms and perform an escape trick worthy of the world’s finest and fastest magician. Through her facepiece, her gaze locked on mine. Her eyes held something I’d never before seen in them. There was affection but, more, there was the kind of trust that went beyond what one firefighter felt for another.
With the breath staggering in my throat, I stroked the glass over her cheek. I’m here, baby. I’m going to get us to safety.
“We’re already there,” she murmured back.
She’d spoken quietly enough that it was possible I’d heard her wrong. It was just as possible that she was hallucinating. Worry sailing through me and eating at my gut, I slipped my arms under her legs, tucked her against my side, and stood. And then I toppled right back to the floor, dropping her flat on her back from five feet up, as something crashed into the side of my helmet with the force of a semi.
I caught Deitre’s smile, still so trusting despite the fact that I could have broken her in half by dropping her onto her tank. Then my eyes shuttered closed and my mind was consumed with nothing but thoughts of her hot body, naked of the tank, turnout gear and everything else, as she rode me to another of those truly divine orgasms.
I t shamed me to realize I’d passed out for a few seconds. It shamed me more to acknowledge how ridiculously soft and moony Ryan had me feeling. I should have left him to die. But I hadn’t at the first opportunity and I couldn’t at the second. I also couldn’t erase the whole fire scene without my father finding out and raising hell when he discovered the reason behind my actions.
Since none of the other crew members had arrived to assist us, the only viable course of action was employing my second self to knock Ryan out while I fed him seductively sweet and dirty dreams.
Tucking my second self inside my mind, I removed my facepiece and oxygen tank and then called out my wings. I could walk through the inferno sizzling and popping all around us without a problem. He wasn’t liable to make it unscathed.
Scooping Ryan into my arms, turnout gear, tank and all, I soared to the ceiling and surveyed for potential exits. The door wasn’t blocked by the support beam any longer, but the fire was eating its way through the entry. Small windows lined the top of the basement walls, letting in shafts of oncoming twilight.
The windows were too small to fit his body through.
Shit. I didn’t want to teleport. Mortals had a way of not making the transition so well.
It affected their minds, which was one part I knew I couldn’t heal. But then, the side effect of a little lunacy was better than the death I should have let him succumb to.
Holding him close against my body, I retracted my wings and teleported us to the processing plant’s semidark parking lot. We reemerged behind the camouflage of a ladder truck. I laid Ryan down on his side on the blacktop, and then tugged off my helmet, and ran around the truck to shout for a paramedic from one of the waiting ambulances.
A woman in white-and-blue EMT gear raced over and jogged with me around to the backside of the truck. Together, we removed his oxygen tank and then carefully rolled him onto his back.
“He got hit by flying metal,” I said in a shaky voice as she eased off his facepiece and checked his vitals.
I wanted the tremor in my voice to be feigned. But Ryan’s face was sickeningly pale, and I was seriously afraid for the harm I might have caused him. Shivers ignited deep in my belly and swept through me as a tidal wave of terror. I could feel my entire body attempting to slip into shock.
Like some common freaking mortal.
Damn, but he’d gotten to me these past weeks. By making me feel like more than a demon. By treating me like both a sexy woman, inside and out, and a colleague whose hands he’d place his life into without a second thought. By making me go almost as moony over him as he so obviously was over me.
“I have to check on the rest of the crew,” I offered the medic. Like a complete chicken shit, I didn’t even look back at Ryan’s face, but rounded the ladder truck and hurried over to the first of a trio of water trucks.
“What can I do?” I shouted to Landen Vernelli, a beefy blond guy in his midtwenties.
His reputation as a playboy was wel noted, and I might have found him appealing in that way if he hadn’t made it clear he thought I belonged back at the firehouse, answering phones.
He turned to glare at me. “Where the hell did you guys go?”
“We had to get out a back way. Ryan was knocked un conscious on the way out.”
Surprise entered Vernelli’s eyes. “You carried him al the way around from the back of the building?”
“You got a problem with that?” I snapped.
“Not at all. I’m impressed.”
Though I shouldn’t have cared, I basked in the glory of his approval for a few seconds.
Then the enormity of the harm I might have caused Ryan came slamming back. “Don’t be. I have no idea how he’s going to be when he wakes up.”
If he woke up.
Deitre entered my hospital room, and I shut off the wall-mounted TV to grin at her from my semisitting position in the narrow bed. When Vernelli stopped in this morning, he’d mentioned that she planned to come over as soon as her shift ended. I’d spent the fifteen hours since being carted via ambulance to Sunrise Hospital & Medical Center last night, convincing the staff, as well as a number of my coworkers, that I was fine, and all I wanted was to see my devil girl.
Right now, she wasn’t looking like a devil girl, though.
Standing just inside the door, she wore faded jeans and a loose-fitting, white pocket T-shirt. A navy blue, unadorned ball cap covered her head, and a waist-length red ponytail stuck through the ring at the hat’s back.
Nah, right now, she was looking even better than a devil girl.
She looked like someone I could take home to meet my family. Someone I could understand why I loved for more than the sex. Someone I could settle down and adopt a couple of kids with.
Presuming she stuck around after I owned up to my past with Jada.
I’d let sharing the information slide the last few days, while I silently battled the mind-swamping guilt made better only when Deitre had her hands or mouth on me, or spent the night infiltrating my dreams, the way she’d done again when I’d been knocked unconscious last night. But I couldn’t continue to let it slide. I had to tell her the truth. I would do it as soon as I gave her a more complete look at the man beyond the cocky grin and turnout gear.
“Thinking about making a break for it while you still can?” I teased when she continued to stand a few inches from the doorway.
She gave a weak smile. “Just making sure that you look okay.”
I glanced down at my half-dressed body. Not buying my confirmation over the phone that I was fine, Jack had dropped by last night. Since I hadn’t been so sure I would be fine back in the basement of the processing plant, I’d been damned glad to see him. Almost as glad to see the sweatpants he’d brought me so I didn’t have to lie around in a hospital gown with my naked ass hanging out.
Of course, Deitre would have enjoyed the view. Or maybe not.
For only the second time, outside of while we were on the clock and she generally behaved, I wasn’t getting the vibe that she wanted to do me.
Her gaze returned to mine, and I asked in a light tone. “Did I pass inspection?”
“You look good.”
“I feel good. I’d feel even better if you closed the door and came and lay down with me.” Recognizing how that sounded, I clarified, “Not for sex.”
Like the word sex was her cue, a devilishly wicked sparkle moved into her ice-blue eyes.
Her smile peaked into a sultry one. “You really think I can handle lying beside you without wanting you?”
Five seconds ago, yes. Now, as she closed the door and then started toward me, not in the least.
With every step she took, the room temperature seemed to notch up another ten degrees. My breathing sure as hell picked up by a good ten anxious inhales. She slid onto the bed beside me, and I jerked at the brush of her hip against mine. Two layers of cotton separated our skin, yet my cock roused to instant hardness; an obvious fact since I hadn’t worn underwear beneath my sweats.
Running her hand along my thigh, she eyed the bulge of my groin. Her tongue slipped out, dabbing at her lush lower lip, not quite that deep shade of cherry-red today and still way too tempting.
Yeah, I could see where this was about to go. The thing was, I wanted it to go there. I wanted her with such an instant and intense desire that it had perspiration popping out on my face and chest. I also wanted to get some conversation in before we had life-confirming sex.
Lifting Deitre’s hand from my thigh, I curled her fingers in my own. “I hear congratulations are in order.”
She turned her attention from my crotch to my face. “For what?”
“Winning over Vernelli.”
“Whatever. I was just doing my job.”
“Were you?” Despite a good deal of what happened in that basement last night being patchy, I could remember the gut-level fear in her eyes when I’d become trapped under the support beam and then later that breathtaking trust. I practically ached to believe those emotions meant that she was feeling more for me than lust.
Deitre frowned. “What do you mean?”
“Saving me didn’t mean anything more to you than rescuing a victim while on the job?”
Her frown deepened. “What was it supposed to mean?”
I wanted a straight-up answer, but not at the cost of kil ing the moment and the weekend plans I’d yet to share with her. Reverting to the teasing tone, I supplied,
“Thought maybe you were afraid of losing me before you had a chance to track down the butt plug and stuff it up my ass.”
Her frown evaporated on a debauched laugh. “You really would enjoy it if you gave it a chance.”
“I’ll take your word for it.” Fisting the end of her thick, silky ponytail, I pul ed her flush against me, torso to torso, face-to-face. “And enjoy these killer lips for a while.”
Her mouth opened on a throaty sigh. I slipped my tongue inside and caressed her moist inner cheeks and gums. Over her teeth. Against her own tongue. She responded, but not in her typically fierce style. Rather, soft and slow and easy, and with just a little wiggle of her mound against my erection.
She was giving me the lead without my having to ask for it. That alone told me I was coming to mean something to her. Instead of ravishing her, the way my throbbing cock would have liked, I broke the kiss to send her a smug smile. “You know, I would have saved you if you just left me alone long enough to regain consciousness.”
“Of course you would have. Right after you walked on water.”
We shared a laugh that felt almost as good and not nearly as draining as sex with her had a habitual way of being. Before Deitre stopped laughing, I said, “Jack stopped by last night. He invited us out to the B and B for dinner on Sunday.”
Her laughter died short. “You’re going to be out of here by then?”
I breathed a sigh at her tone. Not wariness to think I wanted her meeting my brother and his fiancée, but relief to know I really was going to be al right. “They’re discharging me after lunch.”
“So it didn’t have any adverse effects?”
“Nah, the metal didn’t even dent my helmet. Mostly they kept me overnight for observation and to check for smoke inhalation.” I gave her a reprimanding look as the memory of the panic I’d known for her returned to quicken my pulse. “They should have held you, too, for that stunt you pul ed.”
“Breaking the seal on your respirator. Those fumes could have kil ed you.”
“I didn’t break the seal on my respirator. You must have been hallucinating.” Concern came into her eyes. “Are you sure you’re okay?”
Like I said, last night was patchy. Maybe I’d only imagined Deitre’s voice, though I swear I heard her talking. Since it wasn’t important enough to argue about, I took her face in my hands and her lips in another blood-sizzling kiss.
This time she met me lick for hungry lick, slide for needy slide. Her sex rubbed against my cock and her warm, soft palms worked their way up the sides of my bare torso. I had no idea how she kept her hands so soft, considering the demands of our job. I just knew I liked her touch a hell of a lot as she slipped her hands between us and circled the tips of her fingers around my nipples.