How To Tame A Wild Fireman(2)

By: Jennifer Bernard

He shook his head. “Why don’t you at least try to be sexy, now that you’re getting out of Loveless? You might be able to pull it off.”

God, she hated him. And of course she wouldn’t try to be sexy. That was the last thing she wanted, being who she was, living where she did. But Patrick wouldn’t understand. He would never get how it felt to be an outcast, the way she and Liam did.

Liam broke into their conversation. “No fights. Are we going to get the tattoos?”

“That’s a hell yes,” signed Patrick, with a quick, challenging glance at Lara. “I’m in. No fear. Seize the day. We’ll never forget this moment, the three of us getting jabbed with needles and spilling blood together.”

Lara realized things were spiraling out of control, which happened a lot with Patrick around. “I didn’t bring enough cash.”

“It’s on me. Do or die. Together forever.” Patrick put one arm around each of them and shepherded them toward the door of the Rusty, and hopefully Trusty, Needle.

By the time they stumbled out, it was sometime around four in the morning. Night hung still and clear around them. Stars glimmered overhead. Pain throbbed in their various body parts. Only Liam had backed out, unable to get past his fear of germs. He’d watched the tattoo artist like a hawk the entire time to make sure everything was properly sterilized. The smell of rubbing alcohol surrounded them like a toxic cloud. Their eyes were bleary, their senses stunned.

Patrick looked exhilarated. “Whooo-hoooo!” He howled into the night sky. “Now that’s what I’m talking about! Yeah, baby!” He vaulted onto his bike. “Hell if I can sleep after that. Anyone want to head out to the cliffs?”

“No!” Lara folded her arms across her chest, although every movement of her left arm felt uncomfortable. She didn’t even want to think about the ridiculous goldfish on her upper arm. It was the closest design to a squid the tattoo artist knew how to do. “I’m going home.”

Liam signed. “Do you need a ride?”

“Nope. You know how the Haven feels about motor vehicles. I’d rather walk. I need the fresh air.” Her Aunt Tam, head of the Haven for Sexual and Spiritual Healing, tried to maintain a tranquil atmosphere free from engine noise. Exceptions were made, of course, but not at four in the morning. “But . . . uh, yeah. It’s been real. Drive safe.”

“Safe?” Patrick started his bike. The drone of its engine echoed through the empty, down-at-heels street. “What kind of boring-ass word is ‘safe’? I want to live on the edge! Be wild! Go crazy! Right, Liam?”

He signed the gist of his manifesto to Liam, who gave a worried shake of his head. Lara knew he was fretting about the lateness, even though Friday night was the Callahan brothers’ designated late night out. Lara’s heart ached for her friend. Oh, Liam, with his quiet manner and guileless blue eyes. Always in Patrick’s shadow, though he never seemed to mind. Then again, it could be hard to tell what he minded, since social interactions were challenging for him.

“Whatever,” she signed, flapping her hands against each other. “I’m out. See you whenever.”

Liam gave her an awkward wave. Then he carefully climbed onto his bike. Patrick offered a soldier’s salute. “We who are about to face our father’s wrath salute you.”

She waved good-bye and turned toward the empty street that would take her home. The last she heard of Liam and Patrick was the receding roar of their two bikes and the occasional war whoop from Patrick.

She had no idea everything would change—forever—fifteen minutes later.

Ten years later

News spread fast in San Gabriel Fire Station 1. In the apparatus bay, Fred the “Stud” abandoned Engine 1 mid-chrome-polishing and raced to the training room. From the workout room, Vader saw him run past and tossed his fifty-pound free weight aside. Double D nearly tripped over it, but in his eagerness to see what was happening, managed to leap high in the air, agile as a gazelle.

“What’s going on?” asked a bewildered Sabina Jones as firefighters streamed past.

“It’s Psycho,” someone panted. “He’s gone crazy.”

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