When firefighter Kal Donovan transfers to the Tactical Rescue Team, he's determined to succeed by giving work one hundred percent of his attention. This proves more difficult at his ten-year high school reunion when he runs into Hannah Clark, his first love. She's still the smart, funny, beautiful girl he loved in high school, but everything has changed. She's divorced, has a son, and has zero interest in exploring an old romance.
Hannah has moved back home after a disastrous end to a marriage that never should have been. Now her only focus is getting her hair salon up and running, and making sure her son is happy. She doesn't have time for love—especially not with Kal. She intends to look forward, not backward, and Kal is most definitely part of her past.
However as Hannah and Kal start spending time together, Hannah realizes that what she's feeling for him isn't nostalgia, but red-hot attraction. Kal's intent on showing her what it's like to be cared for, romanced, and consumed with passion—and Hannah loves it. But she wonders if she has the courage to risk her heart again, even as Kal vows not to lose her a second time.
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Even with sweat pouring down his face and muscles straining until they hurt, Kal Donovan was deliriously happy to be doing his job as he made his way through the rope rescue skills activity. He was adept, sure with his hands, balanced twenty feet above the beams in the Technical Rescue Team training room as if he'd been made for this.
Because he had and he knew it. He didn't falter once as he snaked his way down the rope, using his hands to carefully maneuver toward the rescue dummy dangling precariously off the platform below him. Kal was secured by his harness, his teammates above him holding on to his rope and making sure he was safe. In a real-life scenario, this would be a lot scarier. Instead of swinging twenty feet off the ground, it could potentially be twenty stories or more. He made every connection, then rescued the dangling dummy and brought it to safety, his muscles screaming in pain. He was drenched in sweat, but he'd gotten the job done.
And when he finished, everyone on the team applauded. Well, almost everyone. He felt the eyes of a couple of his team members glaring at him in judgement, as if what he'd done wasn't good enough. Even though his lieutenant nodded in satisfaction, there were still a couple of members on his team who felt he didn't belong.
Sure, it had only been four months since he joined the TRT, but in that time he'd more than proved himself, both in training and on calls. He had no idea what the issue was with Phil Beckwith and Dean Starling.
He pulled off his gloves and returned them to his bag, the feel of their eyes still burning on his back.
"Good job, Donovan."
He straightened and smiled at Micah Brown. "Thanks."
Meg Garcia joined Micah, leaning an arm on his shoulder. "You'll never be as good as me, of course. I'm the best here. But still, you're not too bad."
Micah shoved her off. "What're you talking about? I'm better than you'll ever be, Garcia."
"Wanna put those words to action? I'll rope climb you for bragging rights."
And they were, climbing the rope side by side, using only their hands and arms to bring them up. Kal had to admire the effort it took to do it without gloves. That had to hurt like hell.
Meg won by a hand. She slid down to the applause of the squad, including Starling and Beckwith.
Micah and Meg shook hands.
"You're pretty good for a-"
Meg pointed a finger at Micah. "If you say 'for a girl,' you're gonna lose your balls."
"I was gonna say . . . uh . . . for a . . . uh . . ."
"Better quit while you're already behind, Brown," Lieutenant Anderson said. "Clean up in here. Irish said lunch is ready."
"Yes, sir," Micah said, the first to make his exit from Meg.
"Good thing he's a fast runner," Andy Redmond said.
"Yeah, he needed to run," Meg said, then turned to Kal. "And what about you?"
He held out his hands. "I'm no match for you. I already know that."
She grinned. "Smart answer. Let's clean this up. I'm hungry."
They put the training room back in order, then everyone hustled into the kitchen.
Kal loved this station. The TRT shared space with Station 38 since it was a large fire station, with plenty of room for all of TRT's gear and vehicles. Though they often went on calls with all of Ft. Lauderdale's fire stations, depending on who needed their expertise. And sometimes they went out on their own.
Station 38 was out on a call, which meant the TRT could spread out at the large table.
Irish Smith had made amazing Cubano sandwiches for lunch. The smell of the pork cooking had been driving Kal crazy all morning, so when Irish handed him one, his mouth watered. Gooey cheese hung out the sides of the sandwich.
"Irish, you missed your calling," Kal said. "You should have been a chef."
"Nah," the big, burly firefighter said. "Cooking is just for fun. Firefighting is the real job."
"Amen to that," Starling said. "A real firefighter knows that firefighting is the blood, sweat and tears of what we do."
Starling made sure to give Kal a direct look when he said it. And Beckwith, right behind him, offered up a smirk.
Whatever. Kal had given up trying to figure out why those guys had it out for him. He knew it wasn't the color of his skin, because Starling was black like him. So it had to be something else.
He made his way to the table and took a seat, diving into his sandwich, enjoying the flavor of the pork, ham and all the spices.
"Heard you did good on the ropes, Kal," Irish said, coming to sit down across from them.
"Thanks," Kal said.
"Yeah?" Phil Beckwith asked. "Who told you that? He ain't that good."
Irish pinned Beckwith with a hard stare. "Yeah? Who died and made you the judge of this team?"
The one thing Kal had learned straight off was never to argue with Irish Smith. He was mean as fuck when crossed.
Beckwith didn't answer, just shoved his sandwich in his mouth, which was a smart move.
Kal had just finished the last bite of his lunch when the alarm sounded for the TRT.
They climbed into their turnout gear and headed to their trucks.
"Two tractor trailers collided on I-95," their lieutenant relayed to them. "One on fire on the overpass, one dangling over the overpass, the driver trapped inside. Station 17 is on scene working the fire. We need to rescue the driver and secure the trailer before it falls."
Kal closed his eyes and got a mental picture of what the scene looked like, what they'd need to do once they got there.
Fortunately, it didn't take long to get to the area, which looked like a disaster. At least it was still daylight, which meant it would be easier to assess the situation. Lieutenant Anderson met with the lieutenant of Station 17 to get a sitrep.
Kal studied the scene. They could rappel down and get to the cab of the truck. Wouldn't be easy, but it was doable.
"All right, everyone," the lieutenant said, grabbing their attention. "Brown, Donovan, Starling, I want you all harnessed up to rescue that driver. Be ready to go as soon as the rig is shored up."
They all nodded.
"The rest of you get rigging in place to shore up that semi right now. We've got two heavy-duty wreckers on the way to pull that semi up, but I want that driver out of there in case something goes wrong. Ladder 24 is arriving on scene below to provide assistance."
Kal had gotten into his harness, grabbed his ropes and was ready to anchor and rappel down with his team. They met at the guardrail, and once the rest of the team secured the load and the rig, they started to rappel. Regardless of what Starling thought about him, they worked together to make their way down to the semi cab.
They tossed their ropes over the side of the concrete, Beckwith and Redmond providing anchor support.
Since Micah Brown was the senior firefighter of the three of them, he was lead on this.
"Swing around, Donovan, and make your way to the door."
"You got it," Kal said, inching his way across the cab, trying to do it as lightly as possible so the cab wouldn't sway. Fortunately, there was no wind today, which helped.
He peeked his head inside the door.
"You okay?" he asked the driver.
"Scared shitless. Get me out of here."
"Are you hurt anywhere?"
The guy shook his head. "I'm fine. I just want out."
"Try to stay calm. Don't move. We'll get you out soon. What's your name?"
"All right, Larry. I'm Kal. Keep your seat belt on and stay still. I'm going to open the door. You'll feel like you're falling, but I'm not gonna let that happen."
Larry looked out the window. "Okay."
Starling had made his way next to Kal, and looked over at him.
"Turn around so I can get the harness," Starling said.
Kal pivoted, and Starling unhooked the harness from his belt.
"Hey, buddy," Starling said. "My name's Dean, and when Kal here opens the door, I'm gonna grab hold of you and slip this harness on you. Then I'll hook it to my harness, and we'll head out of here."
Larry nodded. "Yeah, sounds great."
Micah hovered just to the side, helping to provide rope support.
"You ready, Larry?" Kal asked.
"No, but let's do it."
"Okay, Larry," Kal said, keeping his voice calm and even so the guy wouldn't freak out. "You hang tight to the steering wheel, and don't lean toward the open door. We'll handle the rest."
Kal looked at Starling, who nodded. Kal opened the door, and Starling slipped inside, grabbing hold of the driver. Kal made his way around to support both Starling and Larry, and before long they had secured the driver with the harness and unhooked his seat belt. Then it was a matter of getting him to Station 27's ladder team, which was already in place. Kal, Starling and Micah all followed the ladder team down.
Once Larry was securely on the ground, the two wreckers could start the job of pulling the semi off the side of the overpass.
Lieutenant Davenport of Ladder 27 came over to them. "Good save today, guys."
"Thanks," Kal said.
Micah followed the lieutenant over to make sure Larry was okay. Kal turned to Starling.
"We did good today."
"You were lax on the rope. And you didn't back me up fast enough once I reached the driver. If I wasn't as fast as I am, both he and I could have fallen. Next time, step it up."
Starling walked away, and Kal just stared after him.
What the fuck? Kal knew he'd done that job clean and perfect. So what the hell was Starling's problem?
He shook his head and went over to talk to the ladder team, because there was no point in having a conversation with someone who completely disagreed with you.
Ladder 27 gave them a ride back up to the top of the overpass, reuniting them with their team. They did cleanup and returned to the station. Fortunately, the rest of the day was uneventful, and Kal was damn glad when shift was over the next morning. He was frustrated and tired, hadn't slept well the night before and was grouchy when he got home.
He pulled into the driveway at the same time as his brother Jackson.
"How was shift?" Jackson asked.
Kal shrugged. "Saw some action. The two semis on I-95. Rappelled down and helped get the stranded driver out."
"Heard about that. Good rescue."
They went through the garage and inside the house, putting their gear away in the laundry room.
"Not a good rescue on my part if you ask one of my team members."
Jackson tucked his head in the fridge and grabbed some orange juice, then pulled glasses from the cabinet and poured. "Still having issues with those two guys?"
"Apparently. I don't know what it is with them, but I can't seem to do anything right."
Kal went to the sink to wash his hands, dried them, then got eggs and bacon out of the fridge.
Kal and his brother stood side by side making breakfast.
"What do you think it is?" Jackson asked. "Just a personality clash?"
Kal pulled the bacon from the pan and laid it on a plate, then started on toast. "I don't know. Maybe. I've tried to be nice, I've tried hard to get to know them, but they won't give me anything."
"What does your lieutenant say about the job you're doing?"
"Nothing but good things."
"Fuck 'em," Jackson said. "They've obviously got it out for you for no good reason. Or maybe they're jealous that you're doing so well after such a short period of time on the team."
Kal shrugged. "I've tried everything I can, and all I get is shit from them."
They carried their plates to the table and sat.
"Then stop trying," Jackson said. "You don't need their approval. They don't evaluate your performance-your lieutenant does. And as long as he says you're getting it done, that's all that counts."
Kal knew Jackson was right. He didn't need everyone on his team to like him. But, damn, he'd never had a conflict like this with anyone he'd worked with before. He and his fellow firefighters had always gotten along. When he'd worked at the same station with his brothers Jackson and Rafe, the entire group had been like a family. There had been no personality clashes.
He was an easygoing guy. He was friendly.
Then again, maybe Jackson was right and he needed to let it go. As long as they could work together, nothing else mattered.
"I smell bacon."
Kal looked up to see Becks, Jackson's fiancée, coming down the stairs.
Jackson grinned. "I knew the smell of bacon would wake you up."
"And we made extra," Kal said.
"Which is why I love you both-in different ways."
She came over and kissed Jackson, went over to fix herself coffee and filled her plate with bacon and eggs. Then she took a seat.
"How were your shifts?" she asked.
"Kal had mean boys, so his was shitty," Jackson said. "Mine was good. Nothing eventful."
Becks looked over at Kal. "What? You have mean boys on your team?"
"I don't want to talk about it. How's tattooing?"
"Fabulous," she said. "And you know you can talk to me about anything."
"Thanks. If I need to, I will." He'd practically grown up with Becks. They'd all been homeless together, so she was like a sister to him. Finding her again and Jackson and Becks falling in love had been the greatest thing to ever happen to their family. And now that Jackson had finally proposed to Becks, they were getting married. Hell, both of his brothers were getting married. His brother Rafe and his fiancée, Carmen, were tying the knot next month.
They were all growing up. It was kind of surreal.
"So, you guys have a weekend off, which is rare," Becks said. "What's on your agenda this weekend, Kal?"
"My ten-year high school reunion is tomorrow night."
Becks's eyes widened. "How fun. You're going, aren't you?"
"I thought I might. Hang out with a few of my friends, and hopefully catch up with other friends who don't live close by that I haven't seen in a while."
"Totally worth it," Jackson said. "You'll have a good time."
He was looking forward to it. Even though some of the people he wanted to seeor at least one particular person who he hadn't seen in almost ten yearslikely wouldn't be there.
They'd broken up after graduation. Then she'd moved out of state. Gotten married, or so he'd heard.
Anyway, that was all in the past. She was his past. And as he knew, the past should stay where it was. But he'd still hang out with his friends, and after today's shift, he could use a good time.
So he'd go to his high school reunion and have some damn fun.