When Shadows Fall (Callaways #7)

By: Barbara Freethy

Chapter One

"Callaway, huh? Which one are you?"

Colton Callaway looked into a pair of angry brown eyes and wondered what the hell he'd done to piss off his new captain, a man who had entered the firehouse only ten minutes earlier.

"Colton Callaway," he said, standing up a little straighter so that he was eye-to-eye with his boss. All he knew about Mitchell Warren, the new captain at Station 36, was that he was in his late thirties, had fifteen years of service under his belt and had a reputation as a well-respected hard ass.

The chatter in the dayroom had come to a crashing halt with the captain's entrance, and Colton could see the other guys watching their exchange with interest.

"I should have figured I couldn't get a firehouse without a Callaway in it," Warren said through tight lips. "You guys think you own the city."

Since he had numerous relatives in the department, including his older brother Burke, who was a battalion chief, his father Jack, who was Deputy Chief of Operations, and his sister Emma, a fire investigator—to name just a few—he wasn't surprised by Warren's comment. Firefighting had always been the Callaway family business in San Francisco. He just wished he knew which one of his relatives had pissed off Mitchell Warren.

"Let's get something straight," Warren continued. "I don't play favorites, especially not with Callaways. You screw up, you'll be out on your ass, and I won't care what your father or your big brother has to say about it. Understood?"

Warren jabbed his finger into Colton's chest, and Colton had to rein in a sudden wave of anger. He'd been proving himself for the last four years, and he was damn sick of it. He'd learned the hard way to keep his mouth shut, but it wasn't always easy—like now.

"Understood," Colton said as calmly as he could. He looked his captain straight in the eye. "We won't have a problem, because I don't screw up—sir." His cocky confidence earned him another scalding look.

"See that you don't." Warren stepped back and looked around at the rest of the crew, who suddenly busied themselves with whatever they were supposed to be doing. Then Warren left the room, heading down the hall to his office.

Colton blew out a frustrated breath, then walked over to the table where his friend Adam Powell was scarfing down a heaping plate of scrambled eggs. Adam was thirty-one with blond hair and brown eyes and had five years of experience on Colton, but since they'd fought their way out of a hotel fire a year earlier, they'd become good friends, and Colton valued his opinion.

"What the hell was that about?" Colton asked, sitting down at the table across from Adam.

Adam shrugged, his laid-back attitude in clear evidence today. "He doesn't like you."

"Yeah, I got that, but why? As far as I know, we've never met."

"Sounds like he has a problem with your last name. I'd forget about it. Do your job the way you always do, and he'll get over it. You're a good firefighter. The captain will see that."

"Yeah," he muttered. "I'm just tired of being judged by everyone who came before me."

"Then you should have chosen another profession."

That was Adam, always blunt and to the point. But Colton couldn't have chosen another profession, because all he'd ever wanted to be was a firefighter like his brothers, his father and grandfather. He just hadn't realized how difficult it would be to make his own name in the world.

Changing the subject, he said, "How were your days off?"

"Good. I took a hot redhead to Carmel," Adam replied with a grin.

Colton smiled back at him. Adam had no trouble picking up women. "Things must be getting serious. You've been seeing her for what—two months now? That's a long time for you."

"Dana is a beautiful woman and really good in bed."

"The perfect combination. When do I get to meet her?"

"We'll see." Adam shoved his empty plate to the side and wiped his mouth with a napkin. "What about you? What did you do?"

"I didn't have nearly as much fun as you. I worked for my Uncle Kevin. He's building a house in Noe Valley and had some work for me. And last night, I helped my nephew Brandon and his brother Kyle build a fort out of blocks while my sister and her husband went to Back to School Night."

"What is wrong with you?" Adam asked, shaking his head. "You used to have much better stories. What about the blonde you were dancing with at the club last weekend? What was her name?"

"I have no idea."

"Does that mean you didn't get her phone number, either?"

"I didn't ask for it. She wasn't that interesting."

"She was blonde, and she had a great rack. How could she not be interesting?" Adam challenged.

"I'm not that shallow," he joked.

"Yes, you are."

"Maybe I'm changing."

"Why would you want to? You're young, single, reasonably good-looking, and you wear a uniform. Use that to your advantage. It's gotten me a lot of phone numbers."

He'd gotten a lot of phone numbers, too, but lately he'd felt like something was missing. "I don't know." He waved a restless hand in the air. "I want someone to knock me over. I want to feel like I've been sucker punched."

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