Someone on the inside is trying to sabotage C-Shift, and Jerome White and his longtime mentor, Capt. Lloyd Frederickson, are certain it’s racially motivated. When the Fire Department chief balks at an internal investigation, Lloyd and Jerome have no choice but to take matters into their own hands.
Jerome and Lloyd’s personal problems further complicate their lives. After thirty years of marriage, Lloyd’s wife, Nellie, wants a divorce, even though their sex life is still deliciously hot. And while Jerome and Nicolle are deeply in love, Mychel Hernandez, a Hispanic bombshell at the station, has set her sights on Jerome. But his attentions soon turn to a horrific car accident involving Nicolle. As Jerome is thrown headfirst into this nightmare, he must face life as a single father, a critically ill spouse, Mychel turning up the heat with her advances, and an overwhelming sense of fear and apprehension about where the menace will next strike.
From the #1 bestselling author Parry “EbonySatin” Brown comes her anticipated hardcover debut—a fast-paced, multilayered story of extraordinary characters grappling with issues of race, family, love, and deceit. In Fannin’ the Flames, she brings readers to the forefront of the lives of our most revered men—and the women they love.
From the Hardcover edition.
|Publisher:||Random House Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||5.10(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.75(d)|
About the Author
Visit her website at www.parryabrown.com.
From the Hardcover edition.
Read an Excerpt
"Ohhhhhhhh, oh my God! Uhhhhh!"
Nicolle paused to wipe sweat from her eyes. "Come on, gurl, come on!" she encouraged herself aloud. "You can do this. Eighty-six. Eighty-seven. Eighty-eight. Ohhhh, dang! Eighty-nine. Ninety!"
Nicolle collapsed onto the floor mat as sweat oozed from every pore in her five-foot-six-inch, two-hundred-thirty-five-pound body. With ninety sit-ups, she had reached an all-time high in her morning exercise routine, but she had a feeling it wouldn't matter. She laughed out loud. Lordy, she thought, I know if I step on that scale I'll see that I haven't lost an ounce!
It's all right to say I love you out loud, and it's all good so you don't keep it inside-Luther Vandross's voice filled the room as the upbeat tempo of "Say It Now" gave Nicolle the momentum to move to the StairMaster for the final phase of her workout in the bedroom she had converted into an at-home gym.
The clock on the twenty-inch television perched in the corner near the ceiling read 7:08 a.m. Listening to music while watching the previous night's bad news with the closed-captioned display was how Nicolle Devereaux-Winters spent every morning that her loving husband of eighteen years was on duty at Fire Station 27 of the County of Los Angeles Fire Department.
Slumber was always elusive on the nights she spent alone. Even though she went to sleep late and rose early, the hours still seemed to drag far past the twenty-four Jerome worked on C Shift. So far they'd been lucky Jerome's only injury in the fifteen years he'd been with the fire department was a broken hand, and that had happened off-duty during an annual boxing tournament.
This morning, KTLA Channel 5's wacky morning news team seemed more sedate than usual. Giselle Fernandez's lips formed silent words as the white letters flowed upward over the black box at the bottom of the screen. A small picture of a firefighter hovered in the upper right-hand corner above the early morning television icon's head. Exercise regimen forgotten, Nicolle hit the Mute button on the remote control to hear the report.
"Three firefighters were injured in the early morning hours, battling a three-alarm apartment house fire, when the floor collapsed. Two were taken to the Alisa Ann Rush Burn Unit while the third, with less severe injuries, was taken to Harbor-UCLA Medical Center. The cause of the explosion and subsequent blaze is not known, but it is suspected that a drug-manufacturing lab is to blame. The names of the three injured firefighters are being withheld pending notification of family."
Nicolle wasn't sure what the newscaster had said after revealing that three firefighters had been injured. The Hispanic woman's words seemed to all run together. With trembling hands, Nicolle reached for the cordless phone. She speed-dialed Jerome's cell phone number, and the voice mail picked up before the first ring. His phone was off. Her fingers were numb as she shivered from the coldness brought on by her fear. She then dialed Jerome's pager number and managed to key in their home number, followed by 9-1-1, a code that meant "No matter what you're doing, you betta call me now!"
Nicolle made the ten steps to the office across the hall and picked up the handset on the fax machine to call Nellie, her best friend and the wife of Lloyd Frederickson, one of Jerome's colleagues and godfather to their second son.
Nellie picked up on the first ring. "I'm already watching the news."
"How did you know it was me?" Nicolle spoke quickly, her words tripping like a five-year-old with loose shoelaces. "I called you from the fax phone because I didn't want to take a chance on Jerome calling when I called you."
"It's always you when there's a news report about a firefighter being hurt or killed." Nellie's cool tone unnerved Nicolle.
"Have you heard from Lloyd?"
"I've paged him, but nothing yet," Nellie said. "It's only been two minutes, Nicky."
"How have you been able to do this for thirty years? This makes me so nuts. I want Jerome to take an administrative job so badly, but of course he has to be 'in the thick of things,' as he calls it."
"Gurl, I do a lot of praying." There was something in Nellie's voice Nicolle couldn't quite discern, but she was so caught up in her own panic that she didn't give it much consideration. "Of course, there isn't anyone answering at the station, either. I've hated this job since day one-but they're fine. The chief would call if either one of them was hurt."
"What if the chief is one of those that's been hurt?" Nicolle felt like she was bordering on hysteria. "The news report said it happened in the middle of the night. They had the news footage. Why don't they call?"
"Making yourself crazy isn't going to help anyone, especially the boys." Nicolle heard Nellie exhale cigarette smoke. "We just have to stay calm until we hear something one way or the other. Trust me, they're fine. Bad news travels on the wings of an eagle. Believe that."
"I'm so glad the kids are off school today and sleeping in. Otherwise, they'd be up, looking for breakfast and watching me freak out. I do so loathe this about myself. I have no control over my fear where Jerome's job is concerned."
"You'll survive. We always do," Nellie continued without emotion. "I'll call you as soon as I hear from Lloyd, and you do the same when you hear from Jerome."
"Okay. And Nellie?" Nicolle said softly.
"I just really love and worry about my husband-don't be mad at me for that."
"I don't know what you're talking about," Nellie said. "Why would I be mad at you?"
"I'm just saying."
"I'll talk to you soon. And stop worrying."
Nicolle stood in the center of the room that functioned as her home office. The smallest of their five bedrooms, it was equipped with all the latest and greatest equipment: computer, fax machine, copier, color laser printer, scanner. You name it-she had it. Whatever her job hadn't provided, Jerome had acquired for her. The walls proudly boasted of her many accomplishments in her personal and professional life, and family pictures featuring her boys in varying stages of growth filled the wall opposite her desk. Her degrees, diplomas and certificates from every academic institution she'd ever attended were on the wall behind where she sat. A statistical analyst for an insurance company, she was able to work from home ninety percent of the time. For the past eight years she'd been a working, stay-at-home mom. Jerome and her boys loved it, but not half as much as she did.
The early morning sunlight streamed into the room through the beveled windowpane, casting a rainbow onto the hardwood floor. The squeaking sound of Nicolle's tennis shoes on the freshly treated surface frayed her last good nerve. Halfway to the door, she bent to untie and remove her walking shoes. She had nothing left from which to draw to work out. She would do what she was worst at-wait.
Nicolle and Jerome had a picture-perfect marriage and family life, complete with three sons, a home with a picket fence and a Rottweiler named Brutus.
She had been lucky that her parents had moved into the new housing development for middle-class working black families, just two doors down from the Winters. Thanks to that bit of good fortune, there had always been a Jerome and Nicolle. They had been stroller buddies, played in the sand at preschool together, shared graham crackers in kindergarten, graduated from Miss Davis's sixth-grade class, and then, on that magical night at the spring formal, they fell in love.
Older than Jerome by only six weeks, Nicolle had loved Jerome since the fourth grade. They had begun dating in the eighth grade and had been inseparable since that dance so many years ago. Nicolle's and Jerome's families had lived on the same street since before both of them were born, and the Devereaux and Winters families had attended the same church for more than forty years. Jerome had proposed to Nicolle on the night of their senior prom, hoping she'd finally give in to his constant request for an expression of the love she'd proclaimed since before puberty. Although she had flatly refused to give in to anything that night, she'd accepted his proposal, and they were married the Saturday following graduation-both still virgins.
Jerome had attended California Polytechnic Institute at Pomona while Nicolle worked for the County of Los Angeles Fire Department as a secretary. When he'd graduated with honors with a degree in engineering, he'd hoped to work for an auto manufacturer. Nicolle's mother had become seriously ill during his senior year in college, but he hadn't had the heart to ask her to move to Detroit, where he'd planned to secure a job.
Because the department was in need of what the powers-that-be termed more "intellectual" blacks on the firefighting force, his wife's boss, the fire commissioner, had suggested Jerome take the test to become a firefighter. Although Nicolle had taken offense at the implication that there was a shortage of qualified blacks available, she mentioned the opportunity to Jerome without the additional commentary.
Jerome placed first on the entrance exam and had ranked in the top three on every test he'd taken since that day. With his consistent high scoring, she still couldn't understand why he hadn't made captain, but Jerome discouraged her from discussing it. As much as she respected her husband's work, she still hated worrying about him every time he worked a shift.
Walking back into the gym, Nicolle stepped onto the black-and-white-checked flooring, her socks sliding and causing her to lose her footing. Landing on her rear end, she began laughing uncontrollably until tears streamed from her eyes like spring rain. The joyous sounds of laughter quickly turned to moans of anguish. Jerome always chastised her about walking on the tile floor with only socks on her feet. "You're going to fall-or worse, your legs are going to spread apart and you'll pull your groin muscle. Then a brotha won't be able to hit that bootie." She'd do anything to tell him he'd been right again.
As she reached to turn off the television, she heard the hum of the garage door opening. Jerome was home. Forgetting his warning about socks on tile, she sprinted toward the staircase. Taking the steps without caution, she jumped onto the Spanish marble foyer, feeling the cool through her white crew socks. Slipping slightly, she regained her balance without missing a beat. She flew past the living, formal dining and family rooms into the kitchen. Throwing open the door that led to the garage, Nicolle startled Jerome at the back of their flame-red Durango, where he was gathering his bag.
"What's wrong?" he asked, looking concerned as she rushed toward him.
"I was so worried!" Nicolle stepped back to take in the full view of the man she loved more than the air she breathed. He reeked of smoke, exhaustion had drawn deep lines around his bloodshot, dark brown eyes and soot had darkened his cinnamon-brown complexion by at least two shades, but he'd never looked so good to her. "Why didn't you return my call or page?"
"Oh, baby, I'm sorry. My cell and pager are both on the table in the family room. I forgot them yesterday. I was going to call you when I thought you were up, to tell you we weren't on the fire call that made the news-we were already on a rescue run when that call came in-but at three thirty we got our own fire, and we just finished up about an hour ago. I know I should have called. I didn't even bother to take a shower-I just got in the truck and headed home to you, Babe-ski." He pulled Nicolle close and buried his face into her very ample bosom and moaned seductively. "Girl, you sho' nuff smell good. The boys still sleeping?"
"Don't Babe-ski me!" Nicolle teased, pressing herself into his body; she could feel his arousal. "You should've called me before you went on that last run. You know I don't really sleep when you're not here. And how can you want to have sex now?" she pretended to protest. "You're so exhausted. I can see it all over you."
"Look at you. How can I not want to make love to the woman who is sexy enough to make me look at Halle Berry like she's a man?"
"Now, see, if you'd said Queen Latifah, you know I might even believe you. Come on, I'll make you some breakfast while you take a shower."
"I have a better idea. You come take a shower with me, and I'll have you for breakfast."
"Hmmmm. I'll race you!"
From the Hardcover edition.
Fannin' the Flames an Interview with Parry "EbonySatin" Brown
1. How'd you get the name "EbonySatin"?
I began writing on the Internet and my screen name was (and still is) EbonySatin. Back then it represented my favorite color and ultra smooth skin. Also, several hundred fans knew me only as EbonySatin, so I incorporated it into my name when The Shirt off His Back was published in order to be recognized.
2. What motivated you to get involved with and write about firefighters?
In May of 1999, shortly after I'd begun the thirty-eight week road trip to promote the self-published version of The Shirt off His Back, a firefighter friend encouraged me to attend a conference being held in Little Rock, Arkansas. In my zeal to sell books, I gladly accepted the invitation. Nothing could have prepared me for the very warm reception I received from the South Central Region of the International Association of Black Professional Fire Fighters (IABPFF). At the memorial luncheon I performed the poetic tribute I wrote called "Nothing like a Black Man," which was in the original self-published version of The Shirt 0ff His Back. The poem was also on my web site, and I recite it at almost every single one of my readings to a standing ovation each time. I've since recorded it and I give it away on CD at my readings, which everyone loves. But at the IABPFF conference, they stood on their feet cheering for more than three minutes. A wonderfully mutual love and respect was born that spring and I've not missed one conference since that date. I still perform the poem at every conference and the reaction is always the same.
3. How has your personal experience with firefighters inspired your writing, and how has it inspired your life?
The conferences were not all work, so I got to know and hang out with many of the firefighters. But I also sat quietly among them in hospitality suites at various conferences over the years (I haven't missed a conference since I attended my first one) and observed. I began to recognize that I was in the presence of something very special. The more I observed, the more enamored I became of the fire fighters. Being in the presence of these brave, selfless people has forever changed the way I view life. My love and respect for them is so strong that not a fire truck or rescue unit passes that I don't whisper 'there go my boys'.
4. Racism plays a big part in Fannin' the Flames. Did the firefighters you met in real life influence your decision to make this central to the plot of this book?
Without a doubt the racism aspect was the biggest motivator to get this story written. Most of my exposure had been with fire service workers employed in southern states and their stories left me wide-eyed and amazed that these kinds of injustices were taking place in the new millennium.
5. How did you do research for this book?
I interviewed firefighters, paramedics and emergency medical technicians for hours. I did a ride along with one fire company, and words cannot possibly describe what it was like for me to spend twelve hours as a firefighter. When the alarm sounded I thought my heart would burst through my chest as I ran for the truck. I never realized how high off the ground the truck actually was. Once I was perched on the seat behind the driver, I put on my very own jacket and helmet. At first my neck had trouble remaining stable under weight of the helmet, but by the end of my shift, I had mastered getting into the truck and holding my head up once I got the helmet on. Of course I had to stay a safe distance from the fires, but on rescue runs I was up close and personal with the victims. From the down-home breakfast to the high- speed runs on the wrong side of the street with sirens blaring, that was a day I will always remember. Everything that happens in Fannin' the Flames comes directly or indirectly from watching and listening.
6. Choose one situation in the book that you'd really like your readers to remember.
That's a tough one. There are so many 'moments' in this story, but if I can only pick one I'd have to say when Jerome walks away from Mychel on New Years Eve. It showed his true character, his inner strength and devotion to the woman he loves.
7. You sponsored an essay contest from which you've chosen two winners to be published in the back of Fannin' the Flames. Tell us what inspired you to do this, what the submissions were like, and why you wanted to do it.
I believe with all my heart that to whom much is given, so very much is required; therefore I wanted to give a little something back to those who have inspired me to write Fannin' the Flames. I wanted the men and women of the fire service who've taught me what a true calling is, to feel a part of this project, so I created an essay contest and with the help of the International Association of Professional Black Firefighters a query was sent out to all of their regions. I received approximately 200 responses, and I chose the winners with some help from my agent. I wanted the fire fighters to feel very much a part of this project and to be proud of what we've accomplished together. It was so difficult to choose the winning essays because they all said the same thing: they love what they do. The winners don't have any specific connection to Fannin'. I just chose two entries that really spoke to me. Pamela Harris became a firefighter after the age of 40. This is amazing because so many younger people can't even pass the physical test. She then lost her son to a heart attack (he was only 22 years old). She has overcome so much and after I read her story, she won hands-down. Jamal Johnson is a young man, who comes from a family of fire fighters -- both his father and brother are also fighters. And he has an incredible commitment to his community. He is a true role model.
The winners will have their essays published in the back of my book and will be flown out to the IABPFF conference in Los Angeles this August, receive hotel accommodations (on me), and will attend the book launch party. I'll also take them to dinner and will feature their photographs and essays on my website parryabrown.com.
8. What are you working on now?
My fingers are really busy these days. I'm putting the finishing touches on my second romance anthology Love at Work with my Sistahrette partners Pat Simmons and Lisa Watson. I've begun my fourth full-length novel, Made of Honor, a story of idealism and betrayal. And finally, I'm writing the screenplay adaptation for Sittin' in the Front Pew. Oh yeah, and co-producing the feature film production of The Shirt off His Back.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This is where the warriors of Flameclan will nest. There is enough room for multiple cats to sleep here. there is a large res, surrounded by bracken and bushes that have grown together. There is a roof of tightly woven branches and vines overhead. ~ \•Fawnstar•/
This book is a must read. I literally picked it up and could not put it down. So many emotions were expressed, I was envy of Nicolle, I cried with loud outbursts and then I laughed. The book is outstanding. I'm so glad the author connected this book with 'Sittin in the Front Pew' - no one told me, what a wonderful surprise.