The Firefighter's Girl

By: Natasha Knight



Prologue





What he had done to her was unforgivable.

Rebecca Banks shoved the last of her few belongings into her duffel bag while trying to make sense of the previous night’s events once more. Her head still hurt but she wasn’t going to take anything for it. It would strengthen her resolve to leave, to just disappear from her home town, something she hadn’t had the courage to do for too long.

Sawyer had no right; she had never allowed him that sort of power over her. It wasn’t part of the deal.

She zipped up the duffel bag and stormed through the small house, pausing to grab a can of Diet Coke out of the fridge. She set the overfull bag down and picked up her keys, working the car keys free from the ones to the front door, unable not to glance at the sofa where it had all happened.

Her emotions were all mixed up, tears of shame fighting against those of pride, of wanting to fight back and tell him he had been wrong, that he’d had no right! But he was gone and by the time he came back to check on her, she’d be gone too. For good.

She slapped the keys to the house down on the counter and slung her bag over her shoulder, but before leaving, she took one more detour to the back bedroom. There, she paused, looking at the bed that hadn’t been slept in for too long. It was Amelia’s room, the stranger who had taken her in two years ago and had been more of a mother to her than her birth mother ever had. She picked up the frame that held a photo of them together the summer before Amelia had gotten sick. Unshed tears threatened and she shoved it quickly into her duffel bag before opening the drawer and, from the small jewelry box there, taking the wedding band Amelia had never taken off when she had been alive. She slipped it onto her finger, wiped the back of her hand across her wet eyes and, without more than another glance, walked out the door.





Chapter One





Ten years later



Rebecca set her wallet down on the desk and began to search through her purse. She couldn’t remember the last time she had seen her driver’s license, but it had always been in its appointed slot in her wallet. She only noticed it was missing because she needed to copy her license number onto a form today.

There was a knock on her open door and Claire, the older woman who scheduled appointments, walked in with a file. “Last minute schedule change. Joanne had to leave early to pick up her daughter at school. Poor kid is sick. Hope you don’t mind, but the patient is already here so it’s too late to cancel.”

Rebecca took the file. “No, it’s fine, Claire. I’ll see the patient.”

“Thanks,” Claire said and left.

Rebecca zipped up her wallet and set it back inside her purse. She would have to look around at home for it. It wasn’t as though it could get up and walk away, after all.

She got up and only opened the file as she walked to her office door, scanning the injury of the first-time patient. He was a firefighter recovering from both tibia and fibula fractures. Poor guy probably hurt himself fighting a fire and saving a life. She smiled, already making a hero of the man she had yet to meet. She glanced at her watch. She would be going home a little later than planned, but that was fine. It wasn’t like Jeff was waiting for her anyway.

She walked down the corridor toward the waiting room. She closed the file and only read the name of the patient out loud once she turned the corner: “Sawyer Hayes?”

Time seemed to come to a sudden halt as recognition paralyzed her the moment the steely grey eyes connected with hers. Her breath stopped altogether and heat flushed through her.

He had changed a little. God, was it possible he had grown even more handsome? Her body reacted to him in exactly the way it had learned to ten years ago.

Over the top of her sweater, she quickly touched the ring she wore on a chain around her neck, Amelia’s ring, and heard her own ragged breath.

At least Sawyer seemed as shocked as she was, but he recovered himself more quickly and rose to his feet. She watched him take up his crutches. She blinked quickly and cleared her throat, opening the file again, pretending to read, very aware of the cold sweat collecting under her arms. When she looked up again, she felt her face flush with color as he made his way to her, his eyes never once leaving hers.