I came to Texas for one reason—closure. But I don’t know if I have the courage to face my past, to finally say good bye when my heart feels as if it’s splintering into thousands of tiny pieces.
New town. New job.
I’m a damned good paramedic. I don’t want to be your friend. I don’t do close relationships. I just want to do my job. But dammit, Layne is breaking past all my carefully erected barriers. How many times can I be hurt without it destroying me? He makes me feel things I don’t want to feel. He makes me feel alive.
Just because I’m a paramedic doesn’t mean I have to fix everyone, but when Fiera hires on, I can tell she’s broken, even though she hides behind a tough exterior. I certainly don’t want to get involved in anything long-term. I should stay away. Keep my distance.
Yeah sure, like that’s going to happen when she’s pushing all the right buttons. She’s sexy and she’s beautiful…and she needs help. I have a feeling I won’t be her knight in shining armor, though.
But as Fiera begins to unravel her past, she uncovers secrets and betrayals. Will she be able to face the lies that surround her?
At times intense, but with moments that will make you laugh out loud, and others that tug at your heartstrings. Rescue Me can be a standalone book in the Hayes brothers series, #4, but it’s still better when you read them in order.
I parked my faded, red pickup on the backside of the small parking lot at the fire department in Rush, Texas. I made sure the U-Haul wouldn’t block the entrance, and then turned off the engine. I’d gotten a late start after renting and loading the U-Haul. The drive had been sixteen long hours. I’d stopped just shy of two this morning, leaned my seat back, and caught a few Zs. I was up and on the road a couple of hours later.
A new job, a new town—the story of my life. It suited me. Besides, this was where I’d been led, but damn, it was hot in Texas and this was only the beginning of summer. I already missed Denver. I just had to keep telling myself this change was for the best. Maybe, just maybe, I’d find closure here.
The pickup door squeaked in protest when I shoved it open. I should oil it, but I was afraid if I did anything at all, I might jinx it. Like the door falling off or something. I stepped out. I could relate to the protesting hinges. My muscles screamed a protest of their own. I stretched, then smoothed my hands down the front of my faded jeans and straightened the light blue top I wore. At my last stop, I’d washed as best I could and ran a brush through my hair. Then I grabbed a to-go coffee in a Styrofoam cup. I loved coffee. I would not call what I drank coffee, but I drank it anyway, hoping the caffeine would jolt me awake.
My gaze moved around the area. The bay door was open, and I could see two firetrucks. I spotted three ambulances, two under an awning, and a couple of men were washing another. At least, they had been until I pulled up. Now they were just staring.
A young man with light blond hair, made even lighter by the bright rays of the sun, absently sprayed the unit with a water hose. His mouth was hanging open. I was pretty sure he wasn’t paying attention to what he was doing. When I met his gaze, his mouth snapped closed and his face turned a bright shade of red. Sheesh, you’d think he’d never seen a woman before.
My eyes moved to the other man. The guy had some serious muscles. Broad shoulders. Thick, dark hair. I frowned. He looked vaguely familiar. I shook my head. He looked like every hot guy I’d come into contact with. Tall, tanned, and handsome. A lethal combination.
He casually tossed the yellow sponge into the bucket of water, still watching me, not a bit concerned he was staring. Like a leisurely stroll, his gaze roamed over me. My body went from warm to sizzling in the space of a heartbeat. I couldn’t move, I couldn’t breathe. He eventually made his way back to my face. I forced myself to draw in a deep breath. Enough oxygen returned to my brain so that I could think clearly again.
Until he used a secret weapon I hadn’t counted on. He smiled. No, it was more than a smile, it was a promise.
Yeah, in your dreams.
I quirked an eyebrow, then tossed my auburn hair over one shoulder as I made my way into the building. I didn’t even know the man, and yet, he’d practically undressed me with one look.
It didn’t matter that he’d turned my insides to mush. Any other time, I probably wouldn’t have let him get to me, but I was running on very little sleep. It didn’t help that the guy had been off the charts hot, but the red patch on his sleeve proclaimed he was a paramedic, while the other patch had the fire department logo. That meant one thing to me – he was totally off limits. Well, most of the time co-workers were. I wouldn’t completely rule him out because he was so damned hot.
Yep, not nearly enough sleep.
I continued to the front door, stopping just inside the building. I was immediately enveloped in cool air. I could feel my tense muscles begin to relax as I glanced around the office.
A woman, probably in her forties, sat behind a desk talking on the phone. Her blonde hair was cut in a bob and bounced every time she moved her head. The office was clean and almost looked homey. An ivy plant sat on a shelf with vines trailing down the side and pictures of different landscapes hung on the wall. It smelled like office supplies and the cinnamon plug-in that was in the socket beside the file cabinet. On the opposite side of the room was a hallway that I assumed led to the common area. That was usually the way it was set up.
The woman looked up, then signaled she would be off the phone in a moment. When she hung up, she was smiling. “Sorry about that. I’m Nancy, how can I help you?”
“I’m Fiera Murphy.”
The woman’s expression went blank, then dawning shown in her eyes. “Yes, Captain Berry has been expecting you. Let me tell him you’re here.” She picked up the phone and hit a button. She spoke to the other person, then set the phone back in the cradle. “Go right in. First door on the left.” She pointed down the hallway. “Oh, and the captain is just a big teddy bear. Don’t let his gruffness scare you.”
Yea, I couldn’t wait to meet him. Yes, sarcasm was a part of my charm.
The butterflies began to swarm inside my stomach, as if they’d inhaled too much nectar. It was nothing new. It happened every time I changed jobs. I changed jobs a lot. I usually stayed in one place around six months, a year at the most. Not enough time to make friends. You’d think I’d be used to all this by now. I wasn’t.
I tapped on the door.
“Come in,” a voice boomed.
Startled, I jumped. I mentally cleared my mind of a hulking Grizzly bear ready to attack as I opened the door.
“Just one second,” he said, pounding keys on a keyboard with two fingers. “I hate computers,” he grumbled.
Big bear was an apt description. I almost smiled, but stopped just in time. Instead, I studied my new boss. His physique matched his booming voice. Even sitting behind the desk, I could see he wasn’t a small man. His dark hair was liberally streaked with gray, and he had a mustache that was almost entirely gray. When he screwed up his mouth, the mustache had a funny way of twitching to the side.
“Finished,” he boomed again.
This time, I didn’t jump.
“I’m Captain Berry. Most everyone just calls me Captain.” He studied me for a moment. “So, you’re the new paramedic. Are you any good?” He motioned for me to take a seat.
I sat across from his desk, leaning back against the brown leather and crossing my legs. “I’m damned good.”
“So my niece up in Denver tells me.” He held up some papers. “Nancy checked your references, too.”
I knew all my stuff was in order. I always made sure I left on good terms. My father warned me never to burn my bridges. It was the one good bit of advice he’d given me – then I never saw him again.
The captain glanced down at the papers he held. “Twenty-five years old, licensed paramedic, nationally certified, CPR, PALS, ACLS—all your paperwork is in order. Been in the field since you were eighteen. You’ve got so many awards, I thought you’d be older.” He peered over the top of the papers. “Kind of wish you were ugly, though.”
I sat a little straighter. “I beg your pardon?” Maybe this wasn’t the place for me. Dammit, Rita said her uncle was over the ambulance department, and that he was the best.
“Now don’t go getting in a huff,” the captain said. “I just meant that guys don’t always think with the brain God gave them when there’s a pretty girl in the room. You’re a lot more than pretty. I don’t like mistakes. Mistakes can cost someone their life.”
“I’m here to do my job. I think my paperwork speaks for itself. When I’m on duty, I’m a professional, nothing less will do.”
He nodded. “Which is probably why you come highly recommended, and I’m not just saying from my niece. Although my niece is a pretty good judge of character. She takes after me.”
I began to relax again.
“But I have to ask. You never stay in one place very long. Why?”
The question always came up, never failed. I had my answer down pat. “I want to see as much of the country as I can. I probably won’t stay here for more than a year. Are you okay with that?” The part about my wanting to see the country was a lie of course, but I didn’t want to get into a long explanation. Besides, it wasn’t anyone’s business but mine.
“Most medics come and go.” He sighed. “I’m used to it.”
I was glad he didn’t have a problem. I didn’t relish getting back into my car and driving to the next town. Sure, I could get another job. Ambulance services always needed medics with experience. But going on Rita’s recommendation, I’d already rented an apartment and paid the six month lease and deposit.
“You’ll be partnered with Layne Hayes most of the time to start with. He’s our training and orientation officer, as well as working on an ambulance,” the captain continued. “He’s been here a few years, knows the area and how we do things. His partner is leaving in a couple of weeks. You should be familiar with everything by then.” He pushed a button on the phone. “Nancy, send Layne to my office.”
The butterflies fluttering inside my stomach turned to angry, buzzing bees. I couldn’t help it. Moving cross-country did it to me every time. I made myself take slow, steady breaths.
The captain began to talk about the value of working for the ambulance service, which was stationed with the fire department. I tuned him out. I’d heard the spiel before. Mostly, they just didn’t want you to screw up. All the other stuff was a lot of crap. Just a con.
I could tell them a thing or two about cons. My father had been one of the best. The greatest con he’d ever pulled was when he said he cared about me. I’d been stupid enough to believe him, but I put it down to being young. I might’ve been gullible when I was ten, but not anymore.
The door opened. I turned slightly in my chair and looked at the man who entered. My heart skipped a beat. It was one of the guy’s from outside. Unfortunately, it was the hot one. The one I’d already promised myself I would steer clear of.
Now I could see the color of his eyes. They were a deep green, and when the light hit them just right, there were flecks of gold. Right now, they were staring at me. No, more like devouring me.
“This is your partner for the next few weeks, Layne Hayes,” the captain said, then turned to Layne. “Fiera Murphy. She’s from Colorado. I’ll leave you two to get to know each other. I have a meeting with the mayor in ten minutes.” He glanced at his watch as he gathered some papers and stood. “And it looks as though I’m going to be late again.” He stopped at the door, as if he’d forgotten something, and looked back at me. “Welcome to Texas.” Then he was gone.
I was stuck in the room with Layne. My heart fell to my feet. Why did nothing ever seem to go right? Just once, I didn’t want to go through life gritting my teeth.
“Yes, welcome to Texas, Fiera Murphy,” he said with a slow, Texas drawl.
His words wrapped around me, pulling me toward him. I sat a little straighter in my chair, then cleared my throat. “Thank you.”
He nodded toward the door. “His bark is a lot worse than his bite.”
I began to relax just a little. “Nancy warned me.”
“Do you have a place to stay?” he suddenly asked.
“I rented an apartment. The Gables.” Rita had recommended the apartment complex, too.
He reached into his pocket and pulled out a cell phone. As soon as he punched in a number, he put the phone to his ear. “The captain just hired a new paramedic. She’s going to need help getting her things unloaded. Yeah, see you in ten.”
I couldn’t believe the audacity of the man. As soon as he got off the phone, I glared at him. “I’m perfectly capable of unloading my own things. I don’t need anyone’s help.”
“Are you always this stubborn?” His eyes twinkled.
My lips compressed into a fine line. “I wouldn’t call it stubborn. I just don’t need anyone’s help.”
He glanced through the papers on the captain’s desk, effectively dismissing my comments. I had a feeling I would get the help, whether I wanted it or not. Okay fine. I didn’t care anymore. I was exhausted. I wanted to get moved into my apartment, take a hot shower, open up a bottle of wine—if I could remember which box I’d packed it in, and listen to the music downloaded on my phone. In other words—relax.
“Very impressive resume,” he said. “Lots of awards.” His gaze raised once more and met mine. He didn’t look impressed. I grudgingly admitted to myself that paper awards didn’t mean a whole hell of a lot to me, either. Actions always spoke louder than words.
“They’re just pieces of paper, as far as I’m concerned. But if you’re asking if I know what I’m doing in the field, then I do. I’m not bragging, just stating fact. It doesn’t mean I don’t make mistakes. I do. I just pray one of my mistakes doesn’t get someone killed. There, are you satisfied?” Yes, I knew I sounded a little testy. I probably should’ve waited until tomorrow to come in, after I’d had a good night’s sleep, but I didn’t like to wait. I usually ran on fast-forward, no looking back.
He nodded, then began telling me more about the company, but I didn’t tune him out like I had the captain. There was something about his voice that drew me in. Which I knew was crazy. I must be more tired than I thought.
There was a knock on the door.
“Yes?” Layne asked.
The door opened, and a guy stuck his head in. Not bad looking. Like most firemen and ambulance personnel, the guy was young and buff. His gaze immediately moved to me in an assessing manner. Apparently, he liked what he saw, because he grinned.
“We were just around the corner. You said someone needed help moving?” he asked, but his gaze never left mine.
“This is Fiera Murphy, the new paramedic the captain hired. She’s moving into the Gables. That’s her U-Haul you saw in the parking lot. You and Danny don’t mind helping her unload, do you?”
His question wasn’t really a question. It was more like he was telling them they would be helping me. I hated that even more. “I’m perfectly capable of driving over to my apartment building and unloading my own stuff. I loaded it without help, and I drove from Colorado all by myself.” My words were a little more sarcastic than I intended.
“I’m Wes,” the guy introduced himself. “We don’t mind a bit. You can follow us over. Are you ready?”
I started to argue, but then realized it probably wouldn’t do any good. “Yes,” I said with a sigh as I came to my feet. In fact, I was more than ready. Apparently, Texans were pushy. Well, I was the type who pushed back. Just not right now. I was too damned tired.
Once we got to the Gables and I checked in, I had to admit I was grateful for the help. I was on the second floor. It would have been a pain in the ass to carry everything to the elevator, get off on my floor, go down the hallway, and get everything inside. It would’ve taken me at least ten trips. It took them three, along with a couple of dollies they borrowed from the manager.
The apartment was nice. Granite countertops, brown leather sofa and matching chair. Small kitchen table with four chairs. Open concept. Light and airy. A very modern, one bedroom. On the small side, but I didn’t need much room.
“Is there anything else we can do?” Wes asked when they had the U-Haul unloaded.
I shook my head, then reached into my purse. “How much do I owe you?”
From the look on his face, you’d have thought I slapped him. He stood a little taller, and the guy was already all of six feet. He towered over my five feet, five inches.
“Ma’am, we didn’t do it for the money. You need anything else, just let us know. We’re always glad to help. Oh, and Danny has a hitch on his truck. We’ll turn the U-Haul in if you have the paperwork.”
“Then thank you,” I said. I hadn’t meant to insult them. I closed my eyes and shook my head. I was off to a fantastic start. I dug the paperwork out of my purse and gave it to Wes, then closed and locked the door after they left.
As I headed toward the shower, I began peeling off my clothes. It felt as if they were glued to my body. When I was standing in the middle of the bedroom, I finished stripping.
I really did appreciate their help. Sometimes I got damned tired of doing everything on my own. I dropped to the side of the bed, running a weary hand across my forehead. No, being alone was the way I liked my life.
And if I didn’t move right now, I probably never would.
I pushed off the bed and headed to the bathroom. Once I was beneath the spray, I started to feel a little more human. Tears suddenly welled in my eyes. I let them fall unheeded, knowing they were just from exhaustion. I mean really, what did I have to be sad about? I had a good life. No one told me what to do. If I got tired of a place, I left. Nothing and no one to tie me down.
Then why did I come to Texas? Why this area? Texas was a big state, I could’ve gone anywhere. Maybe after all these years, I still needed answers.