At least he remembered that he had something to make Gray as grumpy as he was.
“While you’re here …,” Aidan said, and went to his locker to pull out a brown bag, which he tossed to Gray.
“Shit,” his brother said. “What is it?”
“Plain black boxers.”
“No,” Aidan said.
Gray peeked into the bag with trepidation. “Shit,” he said again, and gingerly pulled out a small neon-yellow package. “What the hell?”
“It’s called a Man Sack,” Aidan said. “Pretty self-explanatory.”
Gray swore colorfully and shook his head. “Penny’s going to love this.”
“I thought she didn’t know.”
“Turns out she knows everything about everything.”
“Just don’t show her then,” Aidan said.
“I save my secrets for the important stuff.”
“Like when you come down to our place to eat our junk food?”
“Whatever, man. At least one of us is getting laid every night.” Gray met his gaze, and his prissiness vanished. “What’s wrong?”
This was the problem with having a brother who noticed every little thing, every single last detail, not to mention the fact that he knew Aidan like the back of his own hand. “Nothing.”
“Try again,” Gray said.
“I’ve got gear to clean.”
“So talk while you do it.”
“You’ve got a bunch of shit to do too,” Aidan said. “Go be someone else’s pain in the ass.”
“Is this about you getting dumped after you accused Lily of giving out secrets like she did at her last job?”
Aidan narrowed his eyes.
“Hey, you’re the one who picked a fight in a damn hair salon,” Gray said. “You might as well have posted it to Facebook.”
“Jesus,” Aidan said, and shoved his fingers into his hair.
“Listen,” Gray said. “Lenny’s a dick and was wrong to approach her at all knowing that you had interest in her. And because I’m your brother, I’m going to assume she was wrong as well. That’s just loyalty. So that makes you right.”
“And,” Gray said slowly, like he was speaking to an idiot. “The question now is, do you want to be right, or do you want to be happy?”
“Shit.” Aidan liked being right. Hell, let’s face it, he loved being right.
But he couldn’t remember being happier than he had since Lily’s return. Aidan knew that his brother and Penny had their ups and downs like most couples. When they fought, the whole building shook with it. But then there was the good stuff. The other night Aidan had been standing in his kitchen grabbing a late night snack and he’d looked out the window to see his thirty-one-year-old brother and sister-in-law running around outside in their pajamas and bare feet with water pistols, soaking each other and laughing so loud their joy permeated the entire place.
Aidan realized he’d wasted a lot of time waiting for the perfect woman, when all he really wanted was someone to laugh with him for the rest of his life.
So yeah, if it came down to a choice between happy and right, the truth was that he knew exactly which one he wanted. “Okay, I pick happy,” he said to Gray. “But how do you do that when you’ve already fucked everything up?”
Gray clapped him on the shoulder. “You drop to your knees and grovel your ass off.”
Just then the alarm went off, and Gray tightened his grip on Aidan, his knowing smile gone. “Shake it off for now. You need to go into this call with a clear head, you got me?”
“I got you.”
Aidan hit the engine at the same time as the rest of his crew, including Mitch. The fire was in Old Town, where the conditions of the row houses were mixed. All of them were old. Some looked it, and some had been remodeled, but they tended to go up like matchsticks.
They were built using balloon construction, meaning there were no fire-stops in the walls. So when flames got into the walls of one of these places, they traveled unimpeded from the basement to the attic, which sucked donkey balls.
Complicating the situation, being row houses meant each had a house attached on either side, so not only could the fire go vertical in a blink, it could go horizontal just as fast. And a multihouse fire was always a nightmare.
In less than five minutes from when they’d first received the call, they arrived on scene. Thick smoke curled in the air. The captain got on the radio telling dispatch to drop another full alarm, which would give them more engines and manpower.
It was going to be needed.
The good thing about Old Town was that it had a hydrant on every block, which meant that the second unit would have no problem getting a water supply. Their engine carried 500 gallons of water—about five minutes of pump action—so water supply was always a huge concern. Their saying “There’s no feeling worse than having your hose go limp in the middle of heated action” came from experience, and not the good kind.
“Shit,” Mitch muttered as they pulled up.
Yeah. Shit. A crowd stood out around watching smoke billow out of the eaves and windows. No visible flames though.
First things first. They verified all occupants were out of the house. Then they went to work ventilating the structure to allow gases to escape, preventing a flashover or backdraft. It also allowed for better visibility and got everyone off their hands and knees, where they’d been crawling around bumping into shit looking for a glow.
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