Into the flames (firehouse fourteen book 4)

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INTO THE FLAMES

Firehouse Fourteen Book 4

 

Lisa B. Kamps

INTO THE FLAMES

Copyright © 2016 by Elizabeth Belbot Kamps

All rights reserved. Except for use in any review, the reproduction or utilization of this work in whole or in part in any form by any electronic, mechanical or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including xerography, photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, is forbidden without the express written permission of the author.

All characters in this book have no existence outside the imagination of the author and have no relation to anyone bearing the same name or names, living or dead. This book is a work of fiction and any resemblance to any individual, place, business, or event is purely coincidental.

 

Artwork by Jay Aheer of Simply Defined Art

http://www.jayscoversbydesign.com/

Table of Contents

 

Title Page

Copyright

Dedication

Other titles by this author

 

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-One

Chapter Twenty-Two

Chapter Twenty-Three

Chapter Twenty-Four

Chapter Twenty-Five

Chapter Twenty-Six

Epilogue

 

DANGEROUS PASSION sneak peek

About the author

Other titles by this author

For my cousin, Vicki Hansel Bachmeier.

I am in awe of your courage, strength and tenacity in the face of the adversity.

Stay strong and never, ever underestimate yourself.

And always remember: what they say about karma is true!

Other titles by this author:

 

THE BALTIMORE BANNERS

Crossing the Line, Book 1

Game Over, Book 2

Blue Ribbon Summer, Book 3

Body Check, Book 4

Break Away, Book 5

Playmaker,A Baltimore Banners Intermission Novella

Seduced By The GameCancer Charity Collection

Delay of Game, Book 6

Shoot Out, Book 7

The Baltimore Banners: 1st Period Trilogy

Books 1-3 Boxed set

On Thin Ice, Book 8

One-Timer, Book 9

Coming Soon

 

FIREHOUSE FOURTEEN

Once Burned, Book 1

Playing With Fire, Book 2

Breaking Protocol, Book 3

Into the Flames, Book 4

Second Alarm, Book 5

Coming Soon

 

STAND-ALONE TITLES

Emeralds and Gold: A Treasury of Irish Short Stories(anthology)

Finding Dr. Right

Time To Heal

Dangerous Passion

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Chapter One

 

Music blared next to his head, the underlying bass rhythm shaking the drywall, reverberating through the headboard and mattress then scraping along his spine and finally exploding throughout his body.

Dale Gannon rolled to his side and threw the covers off with an angry, impatient jerk. He ran a hand over his face, the short stubble on his jaw scratching his palm, and stared at the bright red numbers glowing on the alarm clock.

8:47

He'd managed to get in forty minutes of sleep before the blaring music jolted him awake. It hadn't even been a restful sleep and he felt worse now than he had when he got home. Tired, groggy, his head filled with hazy cobwebs that dulled his thinking and his reaction time. They'd been up all night, running one call after another after another. Shit calls: fire alarms, medic assists, wires down. One auto fire that broke the monotony of the other crap they kept getting hit with.

All he wanted to do was sleep. To get in a few hours of shut-eye before he went back in this afternoon for more of the same. That shouldn't have been a problem. Up until three months ago, itwouldn'thave been a problem.

Until the neighbor from hell had moved in.

Dale had yet to meet the guy, whoever he was. All he knew was that the jerk must not have a job, because he was home at all hours of the day and night.

And he had awful taste in music.

Dale rose from the bed, swearing under his breath as he reached for a pair of sweatpants and jerked them on. He curled his hand into a fist and pounded on the wall, hard. Three times. A short pause. Three more.

He held his breath, waiting to see if that would do the trick. A minute went by before the music, whatever the hell it was, finally stopped.

"Thank God." Dale stumbled out of the bedroom and made his way down the short hall to the kitchen. He needed coffee, lots of it. He'd settle for one cup then go back to his room to collapse and try to get back to sleep. Just a few hours, that was all he needed.

He'd taken two long swallows of the strong black brew before the music blared to life again. His back teeth throbbed in time to the bass line. The music built to a loud crescendo that seemed to end in an abrupt scream that caused him to jump. His hand jerked, sloshing coffee over the edge of the mug and onto the floor.

"You have got to be shitting me." Dale clenched his teeth and slammed the mug onto the counter. He once more curled his hand into a fist and banged it against the kitchen wall, hard enough that the pepper shaker fell off the back ledge of the stove. Hard enough that pain shot along the outside of his curled hand. Dale winced then brought his hand to his mouth, sucking on the knuckle of his small finger with a grunt.

The music stopped mid-squeal, like someone had hit a button and killed all the power. He grunted again then tore off a few paper towels to wipe up the spilled coffee. A little soreness in his hand was a small price to pay for peace and quiet. Finally. Now he could finish the coffee and drag his sorry ass back to bed for a few hours of much-needed sleep.

Sleep. Work. Back home to sleep some more. Yeah, what an exciting way to start his four days off, especially since those four days would probably be spent doing nothing. Unless he called his friend Rick Foster to see if he needed any help on any of his home improvement jobs. Maybe something that involved demolition. Tearing down a wall would certainly help get some of his aggressions out, especially since he wasn't doing much of anything like that at work, not in his position as an engine driver.

He reached for the coffee, not sure if he wanted to finish it or toss it down the drain, when someone started knocking on his door. Only knocking was too subtle a description. It was like someone was pounding at it, or maybe even kicking it, hard enough that Dale was only slightly surprised it didn't fall off its hinges.

A small grin lifted the corners of his mouth, a grin that probably looked as cold and flat as it felt. There was no doubt in his mind who was trying to beat his door down, not so soon after he banged on the wall.

The mystery neighbor from hell. It had to be.

Adrenaline surged through him, better than any jolt of caffeine. This was exactly what he needed to get his mind off things, to knock out the worry and guilt that had been eating at him for the last few months—ever since his youngest sister Lindsay had pulled that careless stunt and damn near killed his other sister, Lauren.

Dale sat the mug on the counter and did a quick neck roll, preparing for the confrontation he was certain was going to happen as soon as he opened the door. Good. Let it. He couldn't wait to finally meet the neighbor from hell and give him a piece of his mind. To tell him exactly what he could do with the loud obnoxious music that shook the walls at odd hours of the day and night. And if the guy was burly or belligerent—or both—then that was even better.

He stormed over to the door, his steps heavy on the hardwood flooring. He didn't pause, didn't stop to take a deep breath, did none of those things. Why should he, when he was more than ready for this confrontation? He yanked open the door, his mouth already moving before he completely opened it.

"Who the hell do you think—" The words died on his lips as the breath left him in a rush, his stomach clenching as if someone had just punched him. And he had been punched, no doubt about it. Except it wasn't a physical blow—it was complete and utter shock.

Dale blinked, thinking he must be seeing things. This couldn't be the neighbor from the hell. No way in hell. He'd been expecting a burly, belligerent, unkempt man. Someone he would have no problem confronting.

But instead of the man he'd been expecting, Dale found himself staring into the wide ocean blue eyes of an elf.

He blinked again, expecting the image to morph or fade. He was tired, his mind must be playing tricks on him. That had to be it.

The woman in front of him was wiry and petite. Fiery red hair flowed around her face in a halo of loose curls that tumbled around her shoulders and down her back. Her mouth, full and as deep as ripened strawberries, pursed in irritation. A flush spread across her high cheekbones, the color a dark pink against her pale creamy skin. Another splash of color, an electric blue that shone in the light from the hall, was smeared across her chin and jaw and cheek.

Not an elf. A Smurf.

The neighbor from hell was a fucking Smurf.

Or maybe a pixie. Or a siren. Or one of those other ridiculous mythical creatures he could never remember from his days in high school.

And definitely not a burly, belligerent man.

Her eyes narrowed, her feathery brows pulling together in a sharp frown. She leaned forward and waved something at him and for a split-second he actually thought it was some kind of wand. Dale stepped back, his eyes following the movement of her hand. Not a wand. A paintbrush, covered in that same electric blue that was smeared across her face. Her hand kept moving and the brush hit against the door, a line of blue suddenly appearing where it touched. A slash, almost like she was hexing him.

Dale leaned forward and grabbed the brush from her hand. "Watch it!"

Her eyes widened for a brief second then narrowed again. She didn't hesitate at all, even though she was smaller, shorter, more fragile. She jumped just a little and quickly retrieved her brush, then immediately started pointing it at him again, shaking it enough that drops of blue splattered across his bare chest.

"You are the rudest, most infuriating, most annoying person I have ever met!"

"Me? Lady, I'm not the one splattering paint everywhere. And I'm not the one blaring music at all hours of the day. And night."

"Well I'm sorry if the music was too loud. All you had to do was come over and ask—politely—and I would have turned it down. But no, you have to act like a Neanderthal and bang on the walls like a hairy gorilla with no manners!" She waved the paintbrush again, splattering even more paint over the door—and across his bare chest. His bare, hairless chest.

Dale stepped back, frowning, knowing he probably resembled the Neanderthal she was accusing him of being and not caring. Any sane person would be running the other way at the look on his face. Hadn't Lauren told him often enough that his scowl could send children screaming in fright? But the woman in front of him didn't even seem to notice. In fact, she actually stepped closer, still waving that stupid brush at him.

Not only was the neighbor from hell a Smurf, she was freaking insane, too. She had to be. Why else would she still be standing there waving that stupid paintbrush and getting all huffy?

Dale thought about just slamming the door in her face. Yeah, that would teach her. Or at least shut her up. His hand closed around the edge of the door, ready to do just that, but then he looked down and noticed that her feet were right on the threshold of his apartment.

Her bare feet, which peeked out from the hem of the long gauzy skirt she wore. He blinked and looked again, noticing that every single one of her toenails was painted a different color. Ten slender toes, ten outlandish colors.

Dale deepened his scowl and looked back up. "I am not a hairy gorilla."

Smurfette's mouth snapped closed with a soft click, effectively stopping whatever she had been yammering about. Her eyes narrowed for a brief second before she lowered her gaze from his face to his bare chest. Not like she could miss it, since she was less than a foot away and pretty much eye level with it.

The range of expressions playing across her face almost made him laugh. First there was shock, like she just now realized he was standing there in a pair of low-hanging sweatpants and nothing else. Then there was a small flare of feminine appreciation before embarrassment stained her cheeks a bright red, the color oddly matching the flaming glow of her thick hair. Her lips parted and she blinked, her gaze meeting his for a split second. Dale raised his brows in silent question, thought about actually asking her if she liked what she saw. Then her eyes narrowed and her lips pursed and he wondered if maybe he had imagined that look of appreciation.

"You are still a Neanderthal. A mannerless Neanderthal who doesn't even have the decency to get dressed before answering his door. What kind of—"

"Listen, Smurfette. I've been up all night and all I want to do is sleep. The last thing I need is to be listening to that awful screeching you call music—"

"It's opera—"

"And then stand here while you ogle me!"

"Ogle? Ogle!" Smurfette's face scrunched up in an expression of distaste that would have been funny if it hadn't been so insulting. A blush tinted her cheeks once more and she took a step back, opening her mouth to say something else. Dale shut the door with a bang, cutting her off before she could start. He heard her mutter something from the other side of the door, the words too muffled to understand. Thirty seconds later, he heard the sound of her own door slamming shut.

He chuckled then made his way back to the kitchen, feeling oddly energized and more alive than he had for the last three months. For a few minutes he'd been able to forget the drama and guilt and worry that had been plaguing him, the sense that he'd somehow failed. Maybe having Smurfette for a neighbor would actually be good for him.

And then the music started again, loud and obnoxious. He fisted his hand and was ready to bang against the wall when another noise stopped him. Was that really—? Dale leaned closer to the wall, listening.

Yeah, it was. Holy shit, Smurfette was singing, her voice pitched too high and completely off-key. He ground his teeth together and hit the wall, over and over. Only this time, the volume grew louder, overlaid by that awful off-key singing.

Fuck. It was going to be a long day.

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