Rekindle The Flames (The Men of CLE-FD Book 4)

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

I ACKNOWLEDGE GOD AS THE HEAD OF MY LIFE AND WITHOUT HIM; I WOULD NOT
BE ABLE TO DO WHAT I ENJOY.  SECOND, I LIKE TO ACKNOWLEDGE MY FAMILY FOR GIVING
ME STRENGTH AND SUPPORT TO KEEP ME GOING WHEN I WANT TO QUIT AT TIMES.  NO
DREAM IS WORTH HAVING IF YOU AREN’T WILLING TO PUT IN THE EFFORT.  MY FAMILY
ENFORCES MY EFFORTS.  I MUST NOT FORGET MY TEAM OF BETA READERS. THEY ARE
FANTASTIC AND I WOULD BE LOST WITHOUT THEM.  I THANK YOU FROM THE BOTTOM OF MY
HEART.

 

DISCLAMER

THIS IS A WORK OF FICTION. NAMES, CHARACTERS, PLACES AND INCIDENTS
EITHER ARE THE PRODUCT OF THE AUTHOR’S IMAGINATION OR ARE USED FICTITIOUSLY,
AND ANY RESEMBLANCE TO ACTUAL PERSONS, LIVING OR DEAD, BUSINESS ESTABLISHMENTS,
EVENTS OR LOCALES IS ENTIRELY COINCIDENTAL.

 

THIS EBOOK IS LICENSED FOR THE BUYER’S PERSONAL ENJOYMENT ONLY. THIS
EBOOK MAY NOT BE RE-SOLD, UPLOADED VIA THE INTERNET, COPIED, PRINTED, OR
REDISTRIBUTED WITHOUT THE WRITTEN PERMISSION OF THE PUBLISHER OR AUTHOR. IF YOU
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WORK OF THIS AUTHOR.

 

FIRST PUBLISHED BY BOOKSBYTOYE 2015

COVER DESIGN COPYRIGHT NORTHSTAR MEDIA AND TOYE LAWSON BROWN.

COVER MODEL: JAMES TUCCI

PHOTOGRAPY BY: STEVE FORBES

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

 

MY PERSONAL QUOTE: “SOMETIMES I WISH I COULD CRAWL INTO ONE OF MY
FICTIONAL WORLDS AND LIVE THERE”---TOYE LAWSON BROWN

 

THE MEN OF CLE-FD SERIES

IN ORDER
:

 

SMOKE & FIRE A FIREFIGHTER’S LOVE STORY

THE MEN OF CLE-FD ORLANDO TORRES STORY

BURNED

Prologue

Months Earlier

“Ryan, I’m asking this as a
favor. Please reconsider.”

Ryan shook his head,
determined not to let his wife win this argument. “I’m not backing down,
Megan.  No, and I mean no.”

Megan folded her arms
across her chest. “Once again, you’re not listening to me.  You should think
about it and get back to me.”

He pushed the tray of food
away from him and narrowed his eyes at his wife.  Many said it would never
work.  Ryan and Megan Tisdale had met by accident.  He happened to be walking
his dog Sparky in the park when Sparky broke the leash and got away. The large
dog was harmless and loved people.  To show his affection, he would jump up on
his hind legs and beg to be petted.

As Ryan called after the
120-pound St. Bernard that galloped through the open field, causing frightened
people to scatter, Sparky ran into the one woman not afraid enough to dodge
him. Ryan cringed as the dog plowed into the woman, knocking her to the ground.
That was the beginning of a beautiful relationship. It wasn’t long before they
fell in love, got married, and pledged to live together as one.

So far, they had beaten the
odds as an interracial couple. However, the marriage was not without its snags.
They had hit one big time, and it was tearing a hole in their fairytale
romance. “Megan, I came to have lunch with you on my day off. Let’s not waste
precious time arguing again.”

Megan hesitated before she
spoke. “I’m scared, Ryan. We’re drifting apart, and since you joined the fire
department, I don’t seem to matter to you anymore. We need a marriage counselor
to help us deal with this unless you don’t want to be married to me anymore.”

He took a deep breath. “I
get it. The 24-hour shifts do interfere with our time, but that doesn’t mean I
don’t love you. You’re busy with your nursing program; you don’t hear me
complaining.”

“My work as a nurse won’t
keep me away from home for days. I know I sound insensitive, but I didn’t sign
up for this.”

 “Please believe me when I
say, we don’t need to seek help from a marriage counselor. We can work through
this, Megan. We’ll need a little more time to adjust to our new roles in life.”

 “Ryan, you jumped into
this new career without giving second thoughts about your students or what you
left behind at the high school.”

“It would not be the same
if I went back, babe.  Besides, I love being a firefighter.  I don’t have
anybody judging me or have fingers pointing at me wherever I go. This is what I
do now.  You’ll have to accept it or do what you need to do.”

“Okay, Ryan,” Megan said,
lowering her voice. “I’m done.  I’m not helping the situation, so I’m going to
step away from it and do what I need to do for me.”

 “Megan, you’re blowing
this out of proportion,” he said loudly. “I have not shut you out of my life. 
We had talked about the fire department before I submitted the application. 
You didn’t want to hear it and blew me off.”

“There wasn’t a valid
reason for you to change careers.  People forget and move on to the next hot
topic.  You weren’t willing to wait it out before you bailed the moment you got
your freedom. Years of teaching you threw away just like old toilet paper. 
Also, out the window went our life together.  That newlywed glow we enjoyed for
years faded.  I was left behind to worry about you—to worry about us.  You
never once thought how your decision would affect our marriage.”

“It hasn’t affected our
marriage, Megan.  I haven’t gotten as much as a scratch since I’ve been with
the fire department.”

“That’s because you’re
still in training.  What happens when you become a full-fledged firefighter and
don’t have the most experienced men guiding you through procedures anymore? 
You’ll be on your own, Ryan.  I can’t do it.  My stomach stays upset as it is
when you’re working.”

“You are my number one priority,
Megan.  I’m not battling fires constantly, but when I am working I’m careful
because I know I have you waiting for me.  Baby, please don’t give up on me.”

“I’m not giving up on you.
Baby, the job is already affecting us.  When’s the last time we made love or
had any intimacy?”

Ryan’s shoulders felt heavy
as he shrugged. “I’ve been preoccupied with my training, but I know we’ve been
together recently.”

Tears pooled in Megan’s
eyes as she tried to blink them away. “We haven’t made love in months.  The
last time you looked at me as the woman you loved was at Nick and Lincoln’s
third child’s baby shower.”

His throat went dry, and a
chill ran through his body.  That can’t be right “I don’t believe that.  I
don’t know exactly the last time we’ve been together, but it hasn’t been that
long.”

“That’s the problem. You’re
so occupied with learning the ropes of the CFD that you have no idea what is
going on with us. I only have you for 72 hours, Ryan.  It’s sad I can’t get a
few of those hours with my husband.  You have pushed me away.”

Ryan ran his hands through
his short hair.  How was it possible to make a man who stood 6’3” and weighed
200 pounds suddenly feel small?  Had he been neglecting his wife? The pressure
from the trial was what triggered him to think about a new career. Starting
over as a firefighter was like his life had been renewed.  Not many people were
given the opportunity to have a clean slate after a nasty scandal.  At 35 years
of age, he took that opportunity and ran with it, possibly leaving Megan
behind. 

“Please, Megan, don’t leave
me.  Let me make it better; I promise I’ll change.”  He reached for her hands,
and she pulled away.

 Her pager went off. 
Taking it from her pocket, she shut it off and looked at him.  “I’m sorry, but
I have to get back to the lab.”

 “Megan, we’ll talk about
this when you get home. We can fix our marriage.”

Megan got up from the table
and glared at him.  “What we should do to mend our marriage, you don’t want to
do.  You fear a counselor will agree that you abandoned me.  You leave me no
choice, Ryan—I want a divorce.”

 He stood up as she walked
away from the table.  His feet wouldn’t move as shock and disbelief tore
through him.  How did he manage to let the fire and passion of their marriage
burn out?  She was his pillar in the darkest hours of his life. 
No!  It’s not
too late for me to fix this—I won’t let it be too late.

Chapter One

Present Day

“Hey, check it out, Ryan, two tickets for next weekend’s
Indians’ game.” Jon waved the tickets under Ryan’s nose.

Ryan didn’t move.  He was chilling on the couch with his
feet propped up on the coffee table watching TV. For the past four months, he’d
been staying with Jonathon DiMinico, camping out in his basement.  Since his
separation from Megan, life for him again took a major nosedive, and Megan
seemed to be moving ahead with her life this time– and without him– or so he
believed.

For months, he had time to think and figure out where it
all went wrong. Once he figured it out, he didn’t know how to fix it.  Megan
was right about him moving fast with the career change. If he had chosen to do
anything else other than become a firefighter, there probably wouldn’t be a
divorce pending.

“Club seats. Who are you taking?” He asked taking his feet
off the table.

“It’s you and me, cousin. You need to get out of this
house as much as you do the firehouse. You can’t sit around and sulk forever.”

“Thanks, Jon, but I’ll pass. I’m not in the mood to be
around a big crowd of people.”

Jon sat in the chair opposite Ryan. “Look, I understand
you’re hurting, man.”

Ryan ran a hand through his hair. “I don’t think you do.
I’m on the verge of losing my wife, and it’s killing me.”

“Hey, talk to me. We’re cousins and what you say to me
won’t leave this room,” Jon said turning off the television.

Ryan took a sip of beer, which had grown warm. “Nothing
personal Jon, but if I hadn’t joined the fire department, I still wouldn’t know
about you. Growing up, I had no one to share my fears or concerns with because
I didn’t know a lot about my mother’s side of the family; so, sadly, I am not
used to talking with anyone.”

Jon chuckled. “Well, I’m here for you, and you can trust
me. Tell me what I can do to help you get through this.”

Ryan released a deep sigh. “Get me my wife back. I know
Megan loves me. There is no way in hell she wants a divorce,” he said slumping
his head in his hands.

Jon shook his head. “Man, I wish I had the power to do
that for you. Megan is my family, too. I want to get to know her better and for
us to be a real family.”

Ryan frowned. “It can’t end this way, Jon. I want what you
have. I want a nicer house and kids with Megan. I want us to do stuff together as
a family unit.”

“Hey, it ain’t over until the fat lady sings. So, don’t
give up.” Jon tossed the tickets on the table. “You know, you have a stubborn
streak like me.”

“I know this is leading somewhere, so just lay it on me.”

“Make the first move, Ryan.  Megan is young. I’m not
saying she isn’t mature, but you’re going to have to think like her. Put your
age back ten years and think like a woman.”

“How in the hell am I supposed to do that? When she told
me how old she was when we met, that little voice in my head yelled at me to
run, only it was too late; the love bug had bitten me. I didn’t care she was
younger.”

“She’s older now and has her nursing career in the works.
You two need to be together, building the life you promised to each other. You
can’t do that living in my basement. Man, I hate to break the rules and say
this, but it will be up to you to make the first move.”

“Jon, she’ll want me to resign from the fire department as
a condition of calling off the divorce. I liked teaching history, but it wasn’t
hard to let it go. Being a firefighter is awesome, and I don’t want to let that
go. I love the energy and the excitement, plus I feel I’m doing something by
helping people. The look of relief on their faces when we pull up is something
I can’t explain.”

“I know. I feel the same way. However, Megan is
uncomfortable with your job. She only sees the danger and not the gratitude we
feel from helping people.”

“I tried to explain to her that we don’t face dangerous
situations every day. I reassured her I have the best team behind me when we
are in dangerous situations. She tunes me out.”

“Did you expect that to make a difference to her?  Maybe
I'll ask Gabby to talk to her.  Megan will get a chance to hear from another
wife of a firefighter on how they deal with the stress of what we do.”

Ryan perked up. “That would be great.  She’s been helping
out in Gabby’s department until she is assigned to a floor.”

“I’ll call her in a minute.”

“Thanks, Jon,” Ryan said twisting the wedding band on his
finger.

Jon took a bottle of water from the mini-fridge and
twisted off the cap. “How are you getting along with her parents?” He asked,
taking a swig from the bottle.

“Her father doesn’t have any issues with me. Her mother,
on the other hand, is a beast and hates the ground I walk on. I believe she
spread rumors about me during the trial to the press.”

“Are you serious?”

“They knew shit about me that no one would know but people
close to me.  I didn’t know you at the time, so who else could it had come from
but her.”

“You need to get her in check, too. A meddling in-law will
kill a marriage in a minute.  I’m sorry to say this, but Megan is
impressionable.”

“Yeah, she was sheltered by her mom, unlike Connor, who
has his life together. He was smart and moved out of town after he got
married.”

“Damn, how odd she doesn’t like you, and she is white. I
mean you’re a white man and have a decent a job. What exactly doesn’t she like
about you?”

“Megan was dating another guy when I met her. Iona was
furious when Megan dumped the guy for me. Not only was I older, which I don’t
believe was her issue, but this dude’s parents were super wealthy and socially
connected. Megan would have had the world at her feet if she had married him.
Iona was pushing Megan to get married and fast.”

Jon laughed. “Well, she did get married—only to you.”

“Ha! That was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I was
a Cleveland Public school teacher making nothing compared to the dollars a
first-year Harvard law graduate made. His salary made mine look like an
allowance.”

“Megan was smart to know money can’t buy happiness.
Anyhow, I don’t see her as a social climber but as a woman who wants love
instead of convenience.”

Ryan nodded his head. “Exactly. Megan is sweet and old
fashioned. She didn’t love the guy and didn’t want to lead him on; I did not
influence her to break up with him. Damn, it sucks I’m hurting her like this;
she doesn’t deserve it.” He tossed the empty beer bottle in the trash after
draining the last of its contents. “She’d probably be better off with the
lawyer. His job is safe. He would be home at night to share in conversation
about their day.” He swallowed hard. “And make love to her at night. He’d be
around to do the shit I can’t do when I’m at the firehouse.”

 “Don’t do it, Ryan. You’re second-guessing yourself. It’s
OK to want to make Megan happy but not at your expense. She has to come around
and accept that you have a right to have the life you want, too. We aren’t just
your average Joes looking to have our ego’s stroked; we’re specially trained
men and women who provide a valuable service to this city.”

“I owe her, Jon.  Every day for months, she stood by my
side.  This fresh-faced young woman kept her head held high as she listened to
the allegations that could have thrown me in jail for a long time.  She never
questioned me or once thought I was guilty.  If she did, she never let it slip
out of her mouth.”

“That’s because she loves you. The faith and trust were
there for her, she didn’t need to question you.”

“I love her. I have to get Megan back, and nothing is
going to stand in my way.  If I have to give up being a firefighter, then I
will.”

“Speaking as your lieutenant, I’m supposed to talk you out
of doing something you’ll regret, but I’m talking to you as a family member. 
Don’t make a rash decision based on what you’re going through right now. 
First, agree to see the damn marriage counselor as she suggested.  It can’t
hurt to get a professional’s opinion on your marriage.  They might be able to
steer Megan in your direction.”

“What if they can’t, Jon? I’ll lose her for sure.”

“Man, you only have a few months left before you become a
journeyman.  Ryan, if you drop out now there is no coming back. The Cleveland
Fire Department doesn’t hire that often. If you give up your lucrative spot,
you’re a fool. I’m sorry if I sound blunt, but I’m telling you the truth.”

Ryan took his shoes that were sitting on the side of the
chair and put them on. “I need some air.”

 “Good idea. Go for a walk and think about everything. My
shift starts tonight, so I won’t be here when you get back, but if you need to
talk, call me.”

Ryan ran his hand over his scruffy face. He should clean
up his appearance before going out in public. He wasn’t a bad-looking man. His
facial hair consisted of a goatee and mustache and not the scruffy beard men
were sporting these days. His thin nose, thick eyebrows, and dark brown eyes
that appeared devilish when he looked a certain way made up the rest of his
profile. He was also physically fit and had the body to prove he could do the
strenuous work required of a firefighter. When he sat outside the firehouse, he
would get approached by women walking up and down the street. He got more play
from women as a firefighter than he ever did as a teacher. Even the cadet
symbol on his helmet didn’t turn women off. However, none of that mattered to
him. He was honest about being happily married. At least at the time, he was
happily married.

“OK, I will. I think I’ll take a shower and shave first.”

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