tagInterracial LoveInto the Fire Ch. 01

Into the Fire Ch. 01




Just keep breathing.

I kept repeating the chant in my head amongst the commotion.

What is happening?

Why are there so many sirens?

All this noise is making my head hurt. Oh, God, does my head hurt.

Wait, why does my head hurt so badly?

"Miss? Miss, can you hear me?"

Okay. Keep breathing. Someone is here.

Just open your eyes and ask what's going on. Ugh, it feels like someone poured molasses on my face. Why is my face so wet?

"Hey guys, I need some help over here!"

Open your eyes, Tess. Slowly. Open your eyes.

With what seemed to be a considerable amount of effort, my eyelids slid apart. Everything was blurry, and I could barely make out the shape of the face hovering over me. Forcing my eyes to open wider, the face started to come into focus.

All I could see was green. Bright eyes the color of summer leaves, etched with concern.

"Hi." I croaked out.

The owner of those eyes seemed to be a bit relieved, and the corner of his mouth turned up. He simply responded, "Hi."

Then the face faded away, the noises ceased, and everything went black.

Chapter 1

I heard the rhythmic beeping of the machines before I saw them. The ache in my head seemed to have intensified but it was a lot easier to open my eyes. I blinked a few times, trying to steady my gaze as panic started to swell in my chest at my unfamiliar surroundings.

"Oh, thank God. You're awake."

I slowly turned my head toward the sudden voice, a quiet baritone with a hint of a southern drawl. The man left his chair by the wall and carefully sat on the edge of the hospital bed I was currently occupying. My vision was still a bit hazy, but I could make out his hand running through auburn hair. A large hand. A very large hand attached to a very large man; even sitting, he seemed to tower over me. A few more blinks awarded me with a clearer view of his face.

The eyes. The green eyes.

The green eyes and the face they belonged to were sitting next to me.

I only had about a million questions to ask. Why was I in the hospital? What happened earlier? Who was he, why did he have a worried look on his face and why the hell did my head hurt so badly? But all I could muster was a barely audible "Hi."

He waited a beat before responding. "Hi. Do you know where you are?"

"Hospital." I thought for a moment before clearing my sore throat. It felt like I hadn't spoken in months. "Why am I in the hospital?"

"You were in a car accident. Probably one of the worst I've seen." He shook his head. "You're damned lucky to be alive, we had to cut you out of your car."

"What happened? Is everyone okay?" I asked.

The worried face turned into a quizzical one. "Uh...yeah. Everyone else involved is okay, even the asshole who ran the red light and t-boned your car. Are you okay? The doctor said you have whiplash and a concussion."

I tried to sit up and groaned, every muscle in my body screamed in protest. "Is that all? Can I go home? I really hate hospitals."

He placed a hand on my stomach that stopped me from moving further. "Stop." he commanded in an annoyed voice. "You're gonna hurt yourself more than you already are. You may not have broken bones but you're banged up somethin' fierce. Just relax for a minute."

Not even bothering to argue, I closed my eyes and swallowed. "Thank you. For being there. For saving me."

He squeezed my belly gently before removing his hand. "No need for thanks, Miss. Just another day in the life of a firefighter. Um...I'll get the doctor for you. I gave them your purse with your wallet and they called your emergency contacts."

That got my eyes opened all the way, the panic that had started to subside as we were talking immediately dialed up to ten. "Oh no...please tell me they didn't call my parents."

"Well I don't care if she is sleeping, I'm not missing my flight to Cabo just because she can't drive properly!" The earsplitting voice filled the hallway outside of my room. The firefighter stood suddenly as I shut my eyes tightly and braced myself for the incoming storm.

"Jesus Christ, Contessa!" barked my mother as she slammed the door open, "You just had to pick this week to get into an accident? You know how important these vacations are to me!" A vision of pearls and a red and white polka-dotted sundress, her elegant exterior never could hide the horrible person she actually was. She cut her grey eyes at me as she continued her scolding, "Your father had to reschedule our flight, and look at you! You're fine!" My father stood in the corner without acknowledging me, on the phone that was constantly affixed to his ear.

"Excuse me Ma'am, but your daughter is anything but fine, and I don't think yellin' at her is helpin'," interjected the firefighter. For a brief mment, my mother's anger steered towards him. "Why are you talking? Who are you, a nurse? Go be useful and bring me a coffee."

"Mom, please stop," I pleaded in a low voice. "This is..."

"Shane," he helped.

"This is Shane, and he's one of the emergency responders who saved me. You know, from dying."

Mom scoffed. "So, what, do you want a tip or something? God, the help is always so annoying."

"I'm sorry," I mouthed silently to Shane. He shoved his hands in the pockets of his jeans and shrugged it off.

"Monica, our flight leaves in an hour." My father interrupted as he finally hung up the phone.

"Thank God!" My mother exclaimed, as I did the same inwardly. She placed her Gucci tote into the crook of her arm and started walking out of the room. "We'll be in Mexico for the next three weeks, and will probably be unreachable...try not to get into any more trouble," she said over her shoulder. As he followed behind her, my father added, "I put fifty thousand in your account for a new car. If you need more, send the bill to my secretary." The door closed, and I did a happy dance in my head for the short visit.

"Wow." Shane said. "That was..."

"Ugly? Horrible? Appallingly rude?" Those were just a few adjectives I could spurt out.

"I was gonna say intense. That was intense." He ran a hand through his hair again and tried not to look like he pitied me. "You okay?"

I picked at the rough hospital blanket, noticing some of the cuts on my fingers. "I'm used to it. I'm sorry she referred to you as the help...and that was her being nice." He let out a small chuckle as a doctor walked into the room with a chart and a large manila folder. "Well, let's see now...Contessa Adams?"

"Tess," I corrected her.

"Yes, well, Tess, I'm Dr. Wilson." She pulled an x-ray out of the envelope and held it up to the light to see it clearly. "You are one lucky girl to be alive right now. You've got some bruised ribs and quite the concussion, but you should be fine in a week or two with plenty of rest. You should stay with a friend or family who will be able to help you get around, and we can discharge you this afternoon."

"Um..." Obviously my parents were out. It was the beginning of summer break so all of my sorority sisters went home or on various vacations. I was about to make up a name just so I could get home and into my own bed when Shane piped up, "She's comin' home with me." I looked in his direction. Was he crazy?

"You're the boyfriend, yes?" Dr. Wilson asked as he nodded. "Great. We'll get her discharge papers ready." She briskly strolled out of the room and closed the door.

I took the opportunity to stare at him. "Boyfriend? Are you insane!? I don't know you from Adam and I'm supposed to go home with you?"

He shrugged and I found the nonchalant gesture a little irritating. "Sorry darlin', but you looked like you were strugglin' to think of a name to give her. I told them I was your boyfriend so they'd let me in your room. You really need someone to take care of you while you get better."

"And that someone is you?"

"Can you think of anyone else willing to help you right now?"

I couldn't think of a name. I sighed while I ran my hands over my weary face. "Look, I appreciate the offer, but I don't want to be a burden on you. I can take care of myself."

"I don't doubt that," he said, "but you need help and I'm offerin'. It's not a burden, and I wouldn't be able to sleep at night wonderin' if you've made your injuries worse. Consider it a personal favor to me for savin' your life."

"...fine. Just until I get better, a week or two, tops."

He chuckled and dug his phone out of his pocket. "Deal. I'm gonna run out and see if I can round up some new clothes for you. The ones you were wearing are beyond repair." He stepped into the hallway and closed the door.

I leaned back onto the bed, processing what just happened. What the hell did you just agree to? Going home with a random guy was definitely not in my normal range of behaviors, in any capacity. He didn't seem particularly psychopathic, but it was a little weird that he would invite a complete stranger to stay at his home. Maybe he's just a nice guy. Lord knows you could use a little nice in your life.


I felt a cool hand brush against my hairline and I leaned my head toward the touch, a small sigh escaped my lips when a thumb swiped over my cheek. When I opened my eyes Shane was leaning over the rail of my bed, stroking my hair casually. He pulled his hand back, bringing it around the back of his neck and giving me a half-smile. "Sorry. You were talkin' some weird stuff in your sleep."

"Oh." The personal touch gave me goosebumps, and I pushed down my feeling of nervousness. "Do you usually make a habit of touching strangers when they're unconscious?"

"Only the ones that I take home with me." I stared at him blankly. "...joke. It's a joke, Tess. Laugh."

"I would, but I wouldn't want to pop any stitches," I responded dryly as I started to pull myself up. Shane grabbed the underside of my arms gently to help me off the bed, my legs were weak and unsteady as I set down on my bare feet. The top of my head only came up to his chest, which was brawny and wide. I looked up at him in awe of his size. "Geez. You're huge."

Shane's booming laugh reverberated through my body. He held out the plastic Target bag he had tucked under his arm. "I didn't know what size you were, but this should be good enough for now. I also didn't get you any underwear, because this whole thing is probably weird enough as it is." I thanked him as he helped me to the bathroom, after I turned the light on and closed the door behind me I began to gingerly peel off the rough hospital gown that adorned my body, hanging it on a hook over the toilet. Plucking the shopping bag off the side of the sink, I reached in and pulled out a blue and coral striped maxi dress and a pair of flip flops. My slow-moving limbs made it difficult to get the dress over my head but I managed; the hem dragged on the floor but otherwise it fit fine. I threw the shoes on the floor and slid my feet into them, then pulled the dress up slightly as I teetered back to the door and stepped outside.

He was sitting on the bed with his feet crossed at the ankles, greeting me with a big grin. "You looked taller lying down."

I frowned slightly. "Hey, I will have you know that average height of an African-American woman is five feet, three and a half inches. At five foot four I am above average, thank you very much."

"However you want to chalk it up, you're still a short lil' thing. If you're gonna stay with me, you gotta learn to take a joke." I rolled my eyes but couldn't stop the smile from coming on my face, which seemed to please him. "There, see? Was that so hard, Miss Tess?"

"Yes it was. Now if you're done making fun of me, can we please leave?" He rose and strode to the door, opening it and silently gesturing me out into the hallway, following close as he shut the door behind him.

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