Fox & FiremanbyFive_Eight©
The Christmas party sucked and Melissa left to go home at eleven.
She wished now she hadn't even bothered to go. Last week she bought a new silk dress just for the occasion. It rocked, totally hot: clung to her figure like the skin of a snake, low cut with a short sexy hem. Guaranteed to knock what's-his-name's eyes out, except when she arrived at the party what's-his-name had already hooked up with a skinny brunette with fake boobs. Jerk! Slut! Even though the dress got her quite a bit of attention anyway from all the guys at the party (and girls too, ha ha) the evening was spoiled for her. And it had taken a whole lot of talking to convince her best friend they should take separate cars too! Melissa wanted freedom of movement in case what's-his-name made his move.
Oh, and he had all right, just not the right one!
Now Melissa was glad she brought her own car, truck actually, because her best friend showed no sign of wanting to leave early. Some dude had attached himself to her and the two of them became very friendly very fast. Melissa could have gotten some well-deserved revenge herself if she'd been so inclined. She was a beautiful woman and not just the mirror told her so. Despite long silky ash blonde hair, a good figure and personality, like most young women she was not one hundred percent satisfied with her looks. In her own eyes she envisioned room for improvement, to be slightly slimmer and one cup size larger would not disappoint her in the least.
Males of the species flocked around her everywhere she went.
The male at the party who'd grown instantly infatuated with her wouldn't have been worth putting in what's-his-name's face: an obnoxious drunk her own age, twenty two; cute, yes; mature, no. When the clock chimed eleven, all yuletide goodwill had deserted her faster than Jack Frost in the Texas sunshine; she slipped the keys to her maroon Ford F-150 out of her bag and she was out of there.
But the night got worse for Melissa before it got better.
The party took place in a house out on some country road in between Grapevine and Lewisville. Few signs, fewer streetlights. Then out of nowhere some drunken fool in an SUV drifted into her lane heading straight towards her at a high rate of speed. Melissa had no choice, didn't even have time to honk. In order to avoid a head-on collision she swerved onto the gravel shoulder. As the SUV hurtled past, her tires lost traction in the gravel as she fought the wheel and tapped the brakes. Her truck skidded and then rolled over the edge of an embankment, and continued to roll. The beams of her headlights shined alternately on scrub brush and the tops of trees accompanied by a repetitive crunch of metal. When the nightmare of rolling over and over came to a halt, she hung upside down in the seat belt harness. She clawed at the buckle and couldn't get it undone, tried to open a door that refused to open.
A jumble of thoughts whirled through her head, fragmented pieces of memory: one of her shoes falling from the floorboard to smack her on the chin; a Lonestar song on the radio playing obliviously through the mayhem; her mother cautioning her about drinking and driving; a bill she'd forgotten to mail on her kitchen table; the tinkling of glass and the groaning of crushed metal all registered in her mind. For some unknown reason the airbag had not deployed, but at least she survived. She felt at her arms and legs and face and didn't feel the wetness of blood or the jutting agony of broken bones.
Small favor. Melissa was trapped. Then the smell of gasoline touched her nostrils a split second before a tremendous explosion boomed in her ears and shook the wreckage. She heard the roar of fire as flames lit up the night sky brighter than the big Christmas tree at the Parks mall in Arlington.
Helpless, trapped in a burning car, she could do nothing but cry out for help. Seconds went by, each one lasting an eternity as the temperature soared by fifteen or twenty degrees and continued to rise. Why had she ever gone to that stupid party in the first place? Why had she left that stupid party when she did? Why hadn't she chilled out and accepted a second glass of wine and partied like everybody else? It was the holidays, for gosh sakes. Why?
A fiery death certainly awaited her within minutes: fiery Christmas and no New Year!
Like an angel of mercy, illuminated in the bright leaping flames, a man appeared in a yellow firefighting helmet. Upside down, Melissa watched him bounding down the side of the embankment into the ditch where her truck had come to rest. He wore a tan firefighter's uniform with reflective orange strips at his chest, waist and ankles. In one gloved hand he clutched a big ax and ran like an athlete toward the blaze. He wrenched at the driver's side door handle on the outside of the Ford but, like her, he couldn't get it to work either; the entire door must be crumpled out of shape, impossible to open. Circling around to the other side of the truck, he made a valiant attempt to get the passenger door open but it resisted his heroic efforts.
"Miss," he shouted through the cracked safety glass of the passenger window, "Can you hear me?"
"Yes!" she screamed, terrified of being charred alive. The heat of the crackling fire kept increasing with each passing second. Despite all the cracked and broken glass, thick dark smoke began to fill the cab of the truck.
The fireman said, "Don't worry, you're going to be all right! Can you move your arms?"
"Yes!" she said frantically, trying not to scream again. She had nothing to worry about now; the uniformed man would save her life.
He called to her, "I need you to cover your face with your hands and close your eyes as tight as you possibly can! I'm going to break the windshield out!"
Immediately Melissa did what he said. The smoke roiling lazily in the air around her was so thick she started to cough and panic seized her for one horrible moment. She heard a crash and thought the gas in the tank had exploded again, but when a second and third crash sounded she realized the man in the firefighting uniform was swinging his ax like a baseball bat against the windshield. The fourth crash was followed by pieces of glass raining all over her and fresh air flooding into the cab.
Gasping in gulps of clean air, sweet but heated, Melissa shook her head to get the glass fragments out of her hair. When she opened her eyes, the firefighter was at her side wrestling unsuccessfully with the clasp of the seat belt buckle. She watched him tearing off his bulky gloves, the thick material an obstacle preventing him from getting the buckle to open, witnessed veins bulging in his neck each time his thumbs pressed desperately at the release button, and heard his measured breathing as he struggled to free her.
Finally the buckle opened with a decisive click. She would have fallen if those mighty arms hadn't caught her and set her down easily. The opening where the windshield used to be was too narrow for him to carry her through, so he clambered backward on his hands and knees. Melissa had fresh air to breathe but the heat got worse than ever and she realized the upholstery of the truck seat was on fire. She couldn't help from screaming, but the fireman's strong hands closed around her wrists and dragged her from the conflagration with only moments to spare.
If he'd arrived a minute later . . . she shut the consequences out of her imagination.
Although free of the wreckage and on her feet, the ordeal had not ended yet. She felt a sharp heat above one knee and looked down to see part of the hem of her little silk party dress on fire, ignited by the flames engulfing the cab as the brave man pulled her to safety. She was in shock from the sudden wreck and heavy smoke and intense heat. Once again the fireman had the situation well-in-hand; he saw her dress afire and assessed the problem and solution in the same instant. Before the dazed Melissa reacted he grabbed the décolletage of her dress and, with one long smooth rip, stripped the garment off her body. He pitched the blazing material away like a fastball from her before she got seriously burned.
She vaguely recalled being tossed over his shoulder. A moment later she found herself on her feet again, but fifty yards away from her destroyed truck. Melissa shuddered in relief as the horror subsided and she gathered her wits about her once more.
She'd lost her transportation and most of her clothes.
Another onslaught of thoughts jumbled together in her head at that particular instant. Normally she'd be concerned about standing next to a total stranger naked except for the tiniest pair of panties in her lingerie drawer. Since she didn't have a proper bra to wear with that dress because of its spaghetti straps (her firm bosom didn't require one anyway) she'd attended the party without wearing one (but very glad now she hadn't elected to go commando!)
Thank God Texas Decembers weren't all that cold, tonight was balmy.
She glanced to see if her thigh had gotten burned and noticed a patch of redness above her knee. When she heard the fireman swear she jerked her head up, surprised to find he wasn't even looking at her nudity, but at the inside of his left hand he'd somehow burned while disposing of the flaming silk.
Melissa gasped, "Are you all right?"
He grimaced and said, "Let's worry about you first." An angel for sure!
As he spoke he noticed her covering her bared breasts with her arms and turned away from her. He shrugged quickly out of his tan fireman's jacket with the reflective orange bands and, just as quickly, draped it over her shoulders. For some strange reason, possibly the extraordinary circumstances, his gentlemanly behavior made the tips of her breasts tingle and sent an unusual sensation of desire coursing straight to her lower belly and she pressed her thighs together only to yelp when they made contact with each other. Concerned with the fireman's injured hand, Melissa had forgotten all about the burn on her leg, but it was still very much there.
His uniform coat hung almost to her knees on her petite frame. She felt safe and secure wearing it. Beneath the suspenders holding up his fireman's pants he wore a white T-shirt, tight across his broad chest and the sleeves stretched by the muscles of his arms. Not bodybuilder muscles, but lean, strong sinew rippling like steel cables under his skin. By the light of her burning F-150 she detected a tattoo of two fire axes crossed in an X on his left forearm and, on the upper part of his right, a fire truck tat half hidden by the sleeve of his shirt. Totally ignoring his own wound, he crouched in front of her to check the condition of the burn on her leg.
"Are you badly burned, miss? The light here is so red I can't tell."
"It hurts to touch and it burns but I can't see it either. What about your poor hand?"
"I'll take a look at it after we get you doctored. There's a first-aid kit in my truck. Can you walk? You've lost your shoes and the ground is full of rocks and brush."
Her high heels were still in the truck along with the beaded clutch she'd taken to the party, but it contained only her driver's license, cell phone, a little make-up and five or six dollars. All replaceable, unlike her life, to whom she owed the selfless bravery of the lone fireman.
"I think I can walk," she told him.
After her first few tentative steps the fireman saw she was having trouble and insisted upon helping her. "I'll be careful of your leg. Are you ready? Up you go!"
Then he swept her off her feet and carried her like a baby up the treacherous and rocky embankment her truck plummeted down scant minutes ago. If she thought wearing his jacket made her feel secure, she discovered being in his arms felt even better. He trudged up the incline on sure feet as if she weighed nothing instead of only a hundred pounds. Well, a hundred and five! She leaned her head against his shoulder and closed her eyes. Melissa wanted to put her arms around his neck, in his firm grasp it wasn't necessary, but she wanted to at any rate. She imagined he was carrying her to a bed instead of up a hill.
He was so gentle and protective of her, tingles danced across her skin and a fire smoldered in her core to rival the one she'd barely escaped. She felt exquisitely vulnerable, longed for those strong hands of his to touch her (in any place he wanted!) Twice during the journey he asked if she felt comfortable and did she want him to alter his grip so her legs wouldn't rub together. She wanted to squeeze her legs together just then. She wanted to wrap them around his hips and rub them deliciously against him nice and hard; sighing inwardly as if a pleasant dream unfolded before her: pastel and soft around the edges. She never wanted him to set her down.
The time came however and he asked her, "Open your eyes, young lady, we're here. Think you can manage to stand?"
Melissa said she could. He lowered her gently to the ground on the passenger side of a white Ford Ranger pick-up. He'd pulled onto the side of the dark road to park before leaping to her rescue. In the ditch below she saw her own Ford truck still burning brightly. Thank God she had full coverage. How much time had passed since she'd plunged into the ditch? A couple of minutes, five, ten? When the fireman opened the door of the Ranger for her the interior light came on. He handed her a tube of salve from a first-aid kit in the glove box.
"Here," he said, "Put some of this on your leg and I'll get you to the emergency room."
"I . . . . I can't, no, no, you do it." She got cross with herself for sounding like a helpless female and added: "Please." Realizing she was making demands of a man who'd just risked his life to save hers she started to say something else, but didn't want to sound lame and decided to say nothing.
"No problem," he said with a smile. "Fortunately we have some light to work in. Why don't you get in and sit sideways so both legs hang out of the truck? Good girl, you're doing great. Would you take the cap off the tube for me and squirt some of that salve in my hand? No, the one that's burned, a lot more than that, that's enough. Now we'll kill two birds with one stone."
Melissa followed his somewhat confusing instructions, not fully understanding what he intended although it became apparent soon enough. She'd inched the bottom of his jacket up enough so it didn't touch the now-throbbing red splotch on her leg. When he spread the salve onto the area to apply, he effectively coated her burned thigh and his burned hand at the same time: two birds, one stone. The salve stung a bit, but Melissa thought his hand on her leg well worth any pain, also the fact she didn't spot a wedding ring on his finger.
When the fireman finished playing doctor he reached behind the seat to fetch a long metal flashlight and a green blanket.
"Wrap this blanket around you. I have to ask for my jacket back now."
"I'm going back down there."
"I left my gloves and a fire ax on the scene. Since that gear was issued to me the chief would get upset if I left it behind. Hang tough for a few, I'll be right back. Then we're hightailing it to the hospital."
"Is that the only word you know?" he grinned.
"No," she giggled, "But I'll be fine. Now." He was so cute when he smiled! And his uniform turned her on bigtime.
"You may not realize it but you've been coughing a lot. We're getting you checked for smoke inhalation."
Melissa eased to her feet and took off the jacket he'd loaned her, giving him no warning and making no effort to conceal her nakedness. When her breasts sprang abruptly into view he turned his head. She thought that was cute too.
"Here's your raincoat back, Mr. Fireman," she said coyly.
"It's not a raincoat, it's called a turnout jacket," he was saying as he faced her to reach for it. "It might look like a rain . . . Hey, you were supposed to cover up with that blanket!"
She wrapped it around her and said, "Sorry, I must be in shock."
"That makes two of us," he laughed. "I shall return shortly"
"Okay, Mr. Fireman," she said to his back.
Melissa watched him venture into the ditch again, unable to keep her eyes off of him. The fire was nearly out, but still burned bright enough for her see him. He ran the beam of the flashlight along the ground and picked up his ax. In another minute he'd retrieved both of his gloves. She thought he would come back up the slope then, instead he got down on hands and knees and then his stomach. He jabbed the ax into the truck where the windshield used to be; why she didn't know. Another few minutes went by while he poked around the truck on his belly but he got to his feet at last and returned to her side. In one gloved hand he held a lump of blackness that he set into the bed of his truck. He shined the flashlight on it.
"What were you doing? What did you bring back?"
"It's your purse," he answered. "At least I think it is." He messed around with the charred lump for a few seconds before producing her driver's license and a burnt object that used to be her cell. "I don't think anything else is worth salvaging, but at least your license more or less survived. A holiday miracle maybe?"
She was amazed. And impressed. "You salvaged my purse? How did any of this stuff survive the fire?"
"Fire is a bizarre element, you'd be surprised at the things I've seen come through fire unscathed." A look of sadness colored his face, haunted by past memories of firefighting maybe. "Usually fire takes more than it spares."
"Thank you, that was so sweet of you," she said, standing on tiptoe to kiss him on the cheek.
"It's what I do, miss," he stated. He removed his yellow helmet and jacket, put them in the truck bed and wiped the back of an arm across his forehead. He had sandy brown hair, sweaty and sticking up all over the place. She couldn't see the color of his eyes. He looked about ten years older than she: perfect!
"My name's Melissa, by the way."
"Pleased to meet you, Melissa. I wish it was under more pleasant circumstances."
Like under some mistletoe, she thought. "What's your name? I hate to keep calling you Mr. Fireman."
He favored her with another grin. "I'm Darryl. Shall we get you to the emergency room now?"
Darryl drove to the Harris Methodist hospital in Southlake. She kept wanting to ask him if he had a girlfriend or wife, but she'd been bold enough for one night and didn't want to pester him with too many questions. At Harris she was treated for smoke inhalation and minor first degree burns. When she came out of the emergency room, now wearing a hospital T-shirt and the green blanket wrapped around, she found Darryl reading a magazine in the waiting room.
He had a bandage on his left hand.
"How's your hand, Darryl?" she asked.
"I'll live. How about you, Melissa?"
"I'll live too, to see Christmas, but I have to take it easy for a few days, but the worst seems to be over. I'm surprised you're still here."
"I wanted to make sure you were okay. And I put your stuff in a bag." He handed a sack to her with a hospital logo on the side. "Have you got someone to come pick you up?"
Melissa hadn't even thought about it. "No, my mind's been all over the place."
Darryl volunteered, "I can take you, it's pretty late to be getting anyone out of bed."
Melissa's heart skipped a beat. "I live pretty far from here. In Irving."
"That's practically on my way unless you'd rather phone someone."
"I hate to impose, you've gone to so much trouble already. Thanks for saving me again." She fished around in the bag, the contents smelt burnt and she wrinkled her nose. Of course, her cell didn't work, it was a crispy useless piece of junk.
She wound up letting Darryl convince her to let him drive her home. During the trip she asked him how he happened upon the wreck so quickly. He told her he'd finished a 24 hour shift and on his way home saw the SUV weaving all over the road. Following the SUV he'd just gotten close enough to it to get the tag number to call in so the driver wouldn't kill anybody. That's when he witnessed Melissa getting run off the road.