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Every Beat of My Heart

The Calloway Series, Book 2

Jameson’s Book


 A single mom opposites attract romance book.

+ Excerpt +

Anthony turned the rig into an older neighborhood with mature trees, sliding to a stop in front of a small house. It was a routine call for a fire at a residential home. But we were prepared for anything.

I opened the door and hopped out, the fire alarm sounding. My fellow firefighters followed behind me with the hose. I pounded on the door, and it swung open.

“Where’s the fire?” I barked at the kid who stood in the doorway looking fearful.

He pointed his thumb over his shoulder. “In the kitchen.”

“Anyone else in the house?” I yelled following the smell of smoke.

“No,” he called back.

“You need to go outside,” I ordered, making a mental note to talk to him about a proper fire escape after the emergency was eliminated.

I relayed the location of the fire to my colleagues and raced toward the kitchen, snagged the fire extinguisher on the counter, and sprayed the flames that were licking the curtains.

Anthony and the rest of the crew followed me with the hose, ensuring no embers remained burning.

On the stove, there was a scorched pan and what looked like a badly burned grilled cheese. The stench of burned food permeated the room even through my mask. The stove top was black, and the cupboards next to the stove were charred.

Most likely, the fire started on the stove and quickly ignited a towel or hot pad, then moved to the curtains. It was a common scenario in kitchens and a dangerous one. In a few more minutes, the room, the one above it, and the entire house would have gone up in flames.

“I’ll talk to the kid,” I said to Anthony, who nodded.

Any time I was on site, the chief wanted me to be the one to engage with the homeowners. My coworkers said I had a way with people, especially panicked ones.

Outside, the kid, who looked to be about twelve or thirteen, stood on the grass, gazing up at the house with a guilty expression on his face.

I pulled off my helmet and asked gently, “Where are your parents?”

He swallowed hard. “My mom’s at work.”

“She on her way?” I asked him.

He nodded.

My jaw tightened, but I worked to keep my tone light. “Is there a reason why you didn’t exit the house immediately?”

“I thought I could get it out. We have a fire extinguisher. I just couldn’t get it to work. I didn’t want it to get worse.”

He wanted to get rid of the fire so he wouldn’t get into trouble. But he didn’t understand how quickly a fire could burn out of control.

“It’s good that you had one. But next time, leave the house at any sign of fire. Don’t try and put it out yourself. You could have been badly burned or injured from smoke inhalation.” He could have died if he hadn’t called 911. Most smoke detectors are designed to get the inhabitants out of the house. They are not a direct line to the fire department unless the house has a security system that links the fire alarm to the fire station.

“I should have. I’m sorry.”

Someone parked a sedan behind the rig. A woman with long, dirty-blond hair got out of the driver’s side in a panic.

“Owen!” she exclaimed in relief as she saw him. She touched his cheeks and rested her forehead on his. “Are you okay?”

“I’m fine,” he said, but his voice wobbled.

Owen’s mom was probably just happy he hadn’t been hurt.

“Oh, thank God.” Then his mother hugged him tightly.

I gave them a few seconds to comfort each other, admiring the curve-hugging skirt and her long legs before she pulled back and raised a brow in my direction.

“Good afternoon, ma’am. I was just telling your son that he should have exited the house immediately, not tried to put out the fire himself. These kinds of fires ignite quickly and can take down an entire side of the house within seconds.”

Owen blanched.

The woman nodded. “I’ll talk to him.”

Anthony appeared at my side, confirmed the fire was out and that there was no longer a threat.

“I’ll be there in a minute,” I said as he went back inside. “Ma’am, it’s good you have a fire extinguisher in the kitchen. But you’ll need a new one, and you should really receive some instruction how to properly use it.”

The woman slowly nodded. Even though she wasn’t present during the fire, she looked like she was in shock.

Every instinct was directing me to get her to sit. I touched her elbow and guided her onto the porch into one of the wooden rockers.

The boy hovered nearby.

The smell of burned remains wasn’t as strong out here, but the woman trembled.

Her eyes were slightly frantic. “I probably need to call my insurance company.”

“You’ll have plenty of time for that.” I went inside and grabbed a bottle of water from the fridge and unscrewed the cap before rejoining her on the porch. “Drink.”

She took the bottle from me with shaking hands. “Thank you.”

“You look familiar,” Owen said to me.

I turned my attention to him. “I substitute teach and fill in for absent bus drivers. Mainly in the middle schools. Sometimes I play basketball at recess. Maybe you saw me once.”

Owen nodded. “Maybe.”

I relaxed slightly. “We play basketball at the firehouse to relieve stress. It’s fun playing with the kids at school.”

His mother’s forehead wrinkled as she looked from Owen to me. “You teach, and you’re a firefighter?” 

I gave her one of my charming smiles, the one that told people not to take me too seriously and shrugged. “What can I say? I love kids.”

She studied my face as if she was trying to figure me out.

I shifted on my feet. “You’ll need to air out the kitchen tonight, maybe set up some fans.”

She straightened her shoulders. “Can we stay here tonight?”

“Once we complete our investigation, you’ll be cleared to go inside. You might want to stay in a hotel until the smell dissipates.”

The woman stood, looking less pale than she had a few minutes ago. “Thank you for your help and for putting out the fire so quickly. I can’t even imagine what would have happened if you hadn’t arrived.”

“Thankfully, Owen called us before he attempted to put out the fire.” I need to get away from this woman; there was something about her that was drawing me to her. It was odd because I dealt with panicked people on every shift. None had affected me like this. I was usually able to keep an appropriate distance emotionally.

I turned my attention to Owen. “Next time—”

Owen nodded soberly. “I’ll get out, then call nine-one-one.”

I nodded. “If you don’t have your phone on you, don’t look for it. Just run to a neighbor’s house. They can call for you. The important thing is to get out of the house. You’re more important to your mom than this house.”

“He’s got that right,” his mother agreed.

“And I’ll drop off a fire extinguisher.”

She frowned. “You don’t have to do that.”

I’d found over the years that the extra effort, whether it was a reminder to check fire alarm batteries or a fire extinguisher, was all it took to prevent a tragedy. “We have extras for this purpose. I can show you how to use them properly too. My name is Jameson.”

“I’m Claire Coleman. I can’t thank you enough for saving my son.”

I swallowed hard because I couldn’t promise he would have been okay if he’d been alone and hadn’t called 911. A child could easily have inhaled too much smoke and passed out while the fire spread. “You’re welcome.”

Then I left them on the porch to process what just happened. It was normal for me to stop back in and check on the homeowner, sometimes delivering the investigative report and following up with new fire alarms, batteries, and fire extinguishers, especially if the homeowner wasn’t particularly handy or abled.

This situation was different because I was attracted to this woman. I shouldn’t spend any more time with her, but I wanted to see her again when we weren’t in the midst of an emergency situation.

I joined my colleagues in the kitchen. I tried to push the woman and her son out of my head. I ran into attractive women all the time on the job. Why was this one so intriguing?


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