THE sound of the rain hitting my slicker was earsplitting. I wished there were some sort of way to block out the noise because by the time the fire truck arrived, I would be deaf.
I took a deep breath, trying to ignore the water I sucked in as I scanned the parking lot where I was waiting. The bridge to the island had been shut down a couple of hours ago to everyone but emergency crews. Everyone but firemen and now… me.
The roar of the fire truck was deafening when it pulled into the supermarket parking lot, but only a little more so than the rain. I’d already checked in with the fireman stationed there to let him know I was with Hospice and a patient needed me. Now all I needed to do was stand in the rain and wait to get onto an island getting slammed by ninety mile-per-hour winds.
I nodded at one of the workers and held up my waterproof backpack full of new medicine the doctor had prescribed. The patient was an elderly lady in the hospice care I worked for who had decided to wait out the hurricane in her home. In fact, her exact words when I talked to her were, “Since the cancer hasn’t gotten me yet, I doubt the storm will either.”
I followed the fireman to the fire engine rumbling as it idled at the edge of the parking lot. The rain and wind had let up a little bit, and by that I meant it was no longer sideways and in my face.
We arrived at the truck and the guy helped me into my seat. The firefighters were talking all around me, and I recognized each and every one of them. I saw most of these men at some time or another when visiting their teammates after a bad fire or an injury.
Then there was the ever-so-sexy, drop-dead gorgeous Mike Brown, Deputy Fire Chief, who was sitting shotgun and speaking into a walkie-talkie. Every time I saw him walk through my ER, I tried to stop myself from drooling. He was at least a half-foot taller than my own six-foot-nothing, and his build made me feel like a twink. I hadn’t felt that way since I was fifteen and started playing varsity soccer.
Even though my fantasies ran into overtime on the gorgeous blond fireman, I was fairly certain Mike was straight, since he flirted with every nurse in the ER. Well, maybe flirting was a heavy word to use. He smiled a lot, which was nice because he had a perfect smile. When he was done talking to whoever was on the other end of his walkie-talkie, he looked over his shoulder and shot me a million-dollar grin. “Ready?”
I needed to get my mind back on business. I’d checked out the weather before I left my apartment, and I knew the storm was only starting. It was moving slow and it would be a few hours before the eye made landfall.
I gave Mike a nod and he indicated for the driver to roll out. Adrenaline coursed through my body and took care of my nerves as we rumbled up the street toward the bridge. One of the firefighters leaned forward from his jump seat and handed me one of walkie-talkies. “When you’re done, just radio for us. Don’t change the channel. Any questions?”
Fred used to be an EMT before becoming a firefighter this year, so I remembered him well from his visits to the ER. He was always nice and good-tempered, but right now, he was so serious. I took the radio from him and used the belay clip to attach it to my backpack. “Dude,” I said quietly. “Are you nervous?”
He shook his head, even though I knew it was a lie. This hurricane was the worst to hit our town since long before either of us had been born. No one would have blamed him if he was panicking, but he’d put a brave face on and was keeping quiet. “No, man. I’m cool.”
I sat back in my seat, the vibration of the truck shaking me all the way to my bones as I heard Mike yelling into his radio over the noise of the rain. We rumbled along as the bands of rain kept coming onshore. I could barely make out the huge beachfront homes along Gulf Boulevard, and I wondered wildly for a second if some of the water slapping the side of the truck was from the ocean.
A shiver ran down my back as the adrenaline rush ended. What a time, too, as we were pulling on to my patient’s street. I grabbed my backpack, checking to make sure my radio was attached.
Once we came to a full stop outside the house, I hopped down and slung my bag over my shoulder. “Jared, wait,” Mike called.
I stepped over to where Mike stood. “Listen, be careful. When you call for us, wait inside. This street is going to flood before long, and we may be a while because a house collapsed down south of here.”
I nodded as I tried to shield my eyes from the rain. “I think I’ll be fine,” I said, knowing my tone told him I was humoring him.
“Hey,” he said, becoming serious. “You’re in my care down here, and I take your safety seriously, even if you don’t.” He stepped closer as he spoke, the water quickly soaking his blond hair and running down his face.
I couldn’t stop looking at him because of the way the water sluiced down his forehead and dripped off his nose. Mike towered over me, making me feel like a shrimp.
He was still staring down at me, obviously wanting me to agree I wasn’t going to do anything stupid. “Fine, I promise not to try anything dumb. Not like you have to worry though, since my self-preservation skills are pretty high,” I yelled over the rain.
Even though my slicker was protecting me somewhat, I was getting soaked from the knees down. I pointed toward the house, tired of yelling. “Go!” Mike shouted, turning back to the truck.
I couldn’t help but gawk at him as he got in. The man had a body to die for underneath his heavy fire gear, and here I was standing out in the rain, making an ass out of myself. I couldn’t see his body but I still stared at him. I turned after he shut the truck door, my eye candy gone.