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“—unrestrained fall.”


As they shut up at the same time, she forced herself not to look away. “David is a minor, and his mother is on the way.”

Moose gave her a smile and then it was all about the patient, he and Chavez following a protocol that Anne knew only too well. In New Brunswick, the fire service also functioned as paramedics and EMTs, and she ran through each assessment step in her head.

I can still do this, she thought. I can still do the job.

But even as the conviction hit to her, it was a useless revelation, a lantern without a wick. This kind of a run was only part of it. Sure, a person on the fire service needed to be able to handle a kid with a broken leg in a non-confrontational, non-emergent environment like this. But they also dragged charged lines up stairs, punched through drywall with axes, pulled downed colleagues out of hot spots.

Danny moved over to her, his head tilting as he watched the IV line get set. “How you doing?”

The words were so quiet, she almost missed them, and she was reminded of the way he’d always spoken to her on the job. Private, even in public.

Anne opened her mouth to I’m-fine him, but didn’t follow through on the impulse. She wasn’t sure why she couldn’t speak the lie—and had no intention of looking too closely at why a perfectly appropriate deflection dried up in her throat.

After Dave was on a board with a cervical collar around his neck and his lower leg stabilized, Moose and Chavez got him up on the stretcher. Mom arrived just as they were strapping him down, and she was in full scramble, hair a mess, her coat flapping, her purse clapping against her leg as she ran to her son.

“What the hell is wrong with you!”

Danny muttered, “Not the first time she’s been in this situation.”

“Yeah.” Anne went over and got her duffel. “Let’s go.”

This show-off session had been a colossal mistake, and the fact that it was ending with her on the sidelines as Moose and Emilio did the job she’d had to leave behind? She’d been right. God did not like the prideful, and although she had wanted to prove to Danny she was a-okay, she had to cop to some ego being involved.

As Moose interceded with Mom and brought the woman up to date, Emilio hesitated and then approached. He nodded at Danny, but it was a cursory hello—because hey, those two were going to see each other on next rotation.

Besides, this was about her. “How are you, Anne?”

Chavez had always been a good guy, and the gentle way he looked at her was everything she remembered about him. He was also still the tall, dark, and handsome firefighter hero who belonged in a centerfold calendar of guys in turnout bottoms holding long hoses—and yet he’d never been her type. Nope, back in the day, she’d never managed to look past Danny Maguire.

What was the question?

“I’m good.” She smiled brightly, and then hit the dimmer switch so she didn’t come across as desperate. “I’m great.”

After the collapse in that warehouse house, Emilio had come by the rehab hospital once, and the resolute way he’d focused on her face and not her arm had made her rush through the visit. He’d seemed relieved at the excuse she’d given him to leave, and she hadn’t faulted him. As he’d stood awkwardly next to her hospital bed, no doubt he’d been glad that he hadn’t been hurt—and he was decent enough of a guy to feel bad about that understandable relief.

“How’s you?’ she asked. Because she had to.

“Ah, great. I’m great. Yeah, thanks.”

He smiled, but then lost the expression. When he resolutely put the lift back on his lips, she wanted to tell him not to bother.

Anne rubbed her sweaty palm on the seat of her legging again. “I’m glad. That’s good.”

“Yeah, it’s . . . it’s good.” He glanced over his shoulder. “Looks like we’re moving. Good to see you, Anne—later, Dannyboy.”

“Great to see you,” she said too loudly. “Really great.”

Chris came over. “I didn’t know you’re friends with the EMS guys.”

“I’m not. I mean, I was. I used to be—” She shook her head. “Listen, I’ve got to say it again. I feel really badly about all this. I shouldn’t have been showboating.”

“That kid’s been trouble since he joined. At least now we have an excuse to cancel his membership. And he signed the standard release, so hopefully we won’t get sued.”

Danny stepped in. “If you need us to make statements, you know where to find us.”

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