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Like that meant she wouldn’t leave him.

“Whatever,” Danny muttered as he exhaled.

Moose looked away. Looked back. “You got a lot of people worried about you.”

“That’s on them.” He examined the lit tip of his cigarette. “Have I been late for work, even once?” When there was no response, he glanced at his former roommate and cupped his ear. “Did I hear you say no? I think I did. And have I slacked on scene? Wait . . . is that another no? Why I believe it is.”

“Your drinking is—”

“And here’s a last one. Have I asked you, or anybody else, to comment on my fucking life?” He grabbed his duffel bag and got out. “We both know the answer to that one.”

Taking a last drag, he blew the smoke over his shoulder. “So how about all of you shut up and worry about your own goddamn situations. I know all too well exactly how not-perfect your marriage is, for example, but you don’t hear me going on about that, do you.”

Before shit got way to real, he started to march off.

“How about you say hi to Anne for me,” Moose bit out. “The next time you see her.”

Danny stopped dead. As his hand tightened on the straps of his duffel, he felt a rage that went so deep, he knew without a doubt that he could kill from it.

But what was behind the anger was even more toxic, a swill of pain and self-hatred that made all the crap he’d gone through about his brother’s death and then losing Sol seem like warm-up exercises for the real challenge.

On the surface of his life, he was going through the minutes and the hours of the present. His reality, though, was stuck in that collapsing stairwell with Anne . . . and what he’d done with that axe of his. It was Groundhog Day 24-7, and shit was wearing his ass out, but that was where some people ended up in life.

He did not need the reminder from his best friend, however. No bright lights needed in this darkness, considering they only showed the alligators chewing his ass.

“Fuck you, Miller,” he said as he started walking again.

Chapter 10

New Brunswick Firehouse No. 617

McGinney Street and Third Avenue

Behind the wheel of a city-issued SUV, Tom shifted his cell phone to his other ear as he made the turn onto McGinney Street. “I don’t know whether the mayor’s serious or not . . . no, I don’t. Get over yourself, Brent. She’s a goddamn politician, and she’s just announced she’s running for a second term. She’ll tell us anything we want to hear just to get the union endorsement. So no, I don’t trust her.” He let the union president drone on a little, and then had to cut that shit off. “Listen to me, do not confuse this woman’s looks with virtue. She’s charming you up and I’ll be goddamned if I let us get pulled in a bad direction just because you like the smell of her perfume.”

As he cut the call and tossed his cell onto the empty bucket seat in his Explorer, he thought . . . hell yes, this was his car. Even though the vehicle was issued by the city and in his possession only because of his job as chief, it was his personal property, damn it.

Then again, he considered all of the stationhouses and each one of the engines, ladders, trucks, ambulances, and all the marked cars as his.

The people, too. Which was why he needed to get Brent Mathison out of that job at the firefighters’ union. The guy was too soft on that mayor and could not see the way she was manipulating him.

Stupid. But he didn’t dislike Brent or anything. How could he? All the men and women in the fire service were . . . well, not his children, no. He was not parent material. And they weren’t his family.

Hell, even his family wasn’t his family. Wife had hit the road. Anne was off the radar and out of the Christmas card photos. All he had left was his mother, and even with her, there was a lot of duty there—he was all she had.

Even though she really wanted her daughter involved in her life.

Thoughts of Anne put him in an even worse mood as he pulled onto the concrete pavers that went up to the four bays of the stationhouse. Everything was open, the sunshine glinting off the chrome and the glass and the red panels of the engines and the ladder trucks.

The 617 was the newest of the six houses in New Brunswick, functioning as the Fire Rescue Master Station. Built two years prior, the four-story brick building had state-of-the-art facilities, including an office for him with a conference area, a restaurant-quality kitchen, a mess hall and rec room, a weight room, and, on the third and top floors, private suites for the overnighters.

No more common bunk room or communal shower. Which was good news.

With the divorce, this wasn’t his second home; it was his only one.

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