With their SCBAs—self-contained breathing apparatuses—in place, they combed through the smoke-filled house pulling hose as they went farther into the blackness.
The captain radioed them that the homeowners had reported they’d not seen any flames on the main level or second floor.
Which meant that the fire was more than likely in the basement.
The second unit arrived on scene and found the stairwell leading down to the basement, but the heat was too intense to make entry.
The second unit was assigned to open the basement windows from the outside to relieve that heat. And sure enough, a few minutes later they reported they had water on the fire and it would be extinguished shortly.
Aidan and Mitch were sent up to the attic to check there. It felt like a hundred and fifty degrees in the small, cramped, overstuffed-with-crap room but it was indeed fire-free.
When the captain ordered them to change out their oxygen bottles, Aidan and Mitch headed through the escape hatch to the main level of the house. Mitch stopped to open a window and Aidan walked across the floor and …
Fell through it.
As he fell, he heard the captain reporting on the “sponginess of the flooring” and warning them to use “extreme caution and stay to the edges.”
Too late, he thought, and landed with a jarring thunk that knocked the air out of him.
The first thing he heard after landing was his own radio. Mitch was calling for the medic unit to stay on scene. Then the second unit radioed Aidan’s captain, alerting him that one of his crew had decided to drop in and visit them in the basement.
Everyone was a damn comic.
Mitch got to him first, which meant that he was either magic or he’d flown down the stairs. “What the hell,” he said, running his hands over Aidan’s limbs.
Aidan shoved him away and sat up. “I’m fine.”
No one believed him, so he was forced to cool his heels and let the medic give him a once-over, which only made him all the more pissed off at himself. “If this went out wide on the radio—”
“Oh, it did,” Mitch said, looking amused, the bastard.
“Then text my mom before she calls the captain and gets me fired.”
“Already done,” Mitch said, and he held his phone up to take a pic of Aidan. “She insisted,” he said.
Aidan rolled his eyes.
Mitch was reading his texts. “Oh, and she says you’re an idiot to let Lily walk.” He looked up. “You let Lily walk?”
An hour later the house had been confirmed condemned and a structural engineer had been called in. Official cause of fire—malfunctioning furnace.
“Hey, that’s kinda like you,” Mitch said to Aidan. “Official cause of breakup with Lily—malfunctioning brain.”
By the time they got back to their station—with Aidan being mocked by his entire unit, both for his fall and for losing Lily—their shift was over.
In a hurry to get out of Dodge, Aidan showered quickly. Even more quickly when he saw the six-inch gash across his side. He slapped some gauze on it, called it good and left the station. In his truck, he pulled out his phone, which was loaded as usual. He flipped through the texts. The first two were from Gray. Tell Kenna hell no. And: Just trust me on this.
DELETE and DELETE.
Kenna had texted him as well: Thinking about going to Argentina to ski the rest of their season.
Aidan hit reply and typed: Sure.
He was no idiot. If he told his sister hell no, as Gray had suggested, his sister would be gone before anyone could blink. But if he agreed with her, she’d chill and hopefully move on to some other whim.
But just to be sure, he sent Gray a solution: Sneak into her room, find her passport, and put it in the safe.
Then there was Hud’s text: Heard what happened with Lily. You’re a fidiot. Do I need to spell that out for you? F-u-c-k-i-n-g I-d-i-o-t.
Aidan shifted, his side beginning to ache as he accessed the next text. It was a pic of two people kissing, a ridiculously close-up selfie, and he turned his head sideways trying to figure out what the hell he was seeing. When it clicked into place for him, he threw the phone to the passenger seat and stared at it like it was a coiled cobra.
It was his mom, making out with Marcus.
Jesus. He scrubbed a hand down his face and gingerly picked up the phone and thumbed to the next message, half terrified it’d be another pic. It was a text: Sorry, darling, I meant to send that to myself and ended up sending it to my entire contact list.
That had been sent twelve hours ago, and when he hadn’t answered she’d sent another one: I’m guessing by the silent treatment that you don’t approve. Well, I don’t need your approval, Aidan Scott Kincaid, and I don’t want you getting mad at Lily for fixing my hair for my third date with Marcus, either, you hear me? And speaking of Lily, there’s something you should know.
He hit her number immediately. “What about Lily?”
“Honey, hi! You okay?”
“Yes.” He rubbed the spot between his eyes where a headache was forming. “Lily,” he grated out.
She sighed. “Okay, but you’re not going to like this.”
“I hate stories that start like that,” he muttered. “Is she okay?”
“Yes. Or as okay as she can be after what happened with you.”
He pinched the bridge of his nose. “Mom—”
“It’s all my fault, Aidan.”
He blinked. “What?”
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