Of all the firefighters working tirelessly to save the trapped employees and extinguish the inferno blazing at the Elm Street Brewery, who would have guessed she would stumble across Mr. December from the Texas Firefighters’ Alliance calendar?
What were the odds?
She watched as Luke jogged away from the bright light of the camera toward another firefighter, wearing an oxygen mask, standing next to the ambulance. The vivid blues and reds from the truck flashing across Luke’s face. Even from this distance, she could make out his features easily. The deep-set green eyes framed by long lashes perfectly placed on his face, accented by a square jaw, a subtle cleft in his chin covered with the hint of a blond beard. He was handsome in the picture, but in person, he was downright gorgeous.
Ciara shook her head as she turned back toward Vic, the young and inexperienced cameraman covering the fire with her. Vic’s excitement for finally getting to cover a high profile event was contagious. Ciara was grateful he’d been assigned, instead of one of the jaded cameramen she’d worked with before.
“You nailed it, Ciara! Jackie’s going to love it! I’m sure she’s going to re-run it all day tomorrow,” Vic said, lowering the camera off his shoulder and resting it against the ground. “How long have you known that guy?”
Her muscles stiffened as she looked away toward the smoldering brewery. The flames were contained in the tanks, which were being flooded with water by three hoses extending from the ladders of fire trucks from the Tomball, Spring, and The Woodlands fire departments.
“What guy?” Ciara asked, bristling at her voice, which came out octaves higher than she intended.
“The firefighter that saved the old lady. Did y’all go to school together or something? Abigail told me you grew up out here,” Vic said, an eagerness in his expression that annoyed Ciara.
“What makes you think I know him?” Ciara asked, biting her lower lip. She’d stared at Luke Diamond’s photograph in the calendar too many times to count. He’d been the inspiration for the philanthropic slant she’d taken on the segment. After reaching out to a few of the community centers that the Alliance had built, Luke’s name had popped up too many times to go unnoticed. And then he was standing in front of her, rushing out of a burning building carrying an old lady to safety.
“Well, you knew his name without having to ask him. Plus, y’all just seemed real familiar with each other. A kind of chemistry between the two of you. Did y’all date or something in the past?” Vic asked.
Ciara laughed as she watched the final flames of the fire being extinguished. A roar of cheers erupted in the air, as the firefighters roaming across the property gave each other high-fives and hugs. “Of course not.”
Vic’s cell phone rang, and he stepped to the side to answer the call.
Heart pounding in her chest, Ciara wanted to scream for making that mistake. Even though she knew precisely who Luke was, she still should have covered by asking his name before she got the interview. If Vic noticed, she knew Luke had as well, and what would he think of her now? Did he know about her earlier coverage of the calendar on the evening news? Would he think she’d been drooling over his picture, waiting for the chance to meet him?
Had she been drooling over his picture?
Of course not.
Sure, she’d admired the photo. Any girl with eyes couldn’t deny that he was handsome.
Never in a million years did the thought even cross her mind that she would see him out here tonight.
This was a fluke. Some kind of weird coincidence that would never happen again.
But she had to admit, the interview was good. No, better than good. Better than great even.
It had been one of the best live interviews she’d ever done, and that was saying a lot.
Luke had been caring and sensitive as he answered each of her questions. His earnestness was refreshing, and his tale of crawling through the building to reach the trapped employees was riveting. Exactly what she’d needed to make the story a lead for the next several news cycles. And from what she could tell, she’d gotten an exclusive. He hadn’t talked to any of the other reporters stalking around or given them a statement.
“That was Abigail. I’m going to get some new video of the building now that the fire is out, and then we can head back to the station. They’ll need you to do some voice-overs for the updates tomorrow, though,” Vic said.
“Sound good,” Ciara said, reaching for her cell phone. Now was the time to get the real scoop from Abigail on how she’d done. Ciara pressed the speed dial for Abigail and raised the phone to her ear.
“Well, well, well, didn’t you snag a big one tonight,” Abigail said.
“Was it really as good as I think it was?” Ciara asked, anxious to ensure her coverage had hit on all the key points.
“Above and beyond. This was exactly what you needed in more ways than one,” Abigail said, a teasing hint in her tone.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Ciara asked.
“Mr. December miraculously saves an old lady from the fire. Then you get to interview him, and the two of you are making goo-goo eyes at each other throughout the entire interview—”
“I was not … NOT … making goo-goo eyes at Luke Diamond!” Ciara shrieked, then turned to look over her shoulder to see if anyone had heard her outburst. Her eyes lingered on the spot where the ambulance had been but was now gone and replaced with the van from Channel 11. The rival reporters were consumed with their own footage of the fire.
Abigail laughed. “Really? Check khtx.org and watch the segment for yourself. Chemistry between the two of you was off the charts. Trust me, he was giving you goo-goo eyes right back.”
“Just stop it,” Ciara said, the muscles of her back tensing. She wanted nothing more than to drop into a series of cat/cow poses but resisted the urge to draw attention to herself.
“So, did you talk to him after the interview? He seemed so kind and thoughtful on camera,” Abigail said.
“He was kind and very thoughtful. One of the other firefighters that helped him save the employees was getting medical treatment from an EMT, and Luke excused himself, quite politely, to go check up on him. I think he may have left in the ambulance with that guy,” Ciara said, scanning the crowd for any sign of Luke.
“That’s too bad, but maybe you could make a few more trips to your hometown for breakfast. Don’t small town firefighters and police officers start their day by eating breakfast together at a local restaurant? Or is that just on t.v.? Anyway, it wouldn’t be too hard for a top-notch reporter like you to figure out where Luke hangs out,” Abigail said.
“Why would I do that? He’s a handsome man, and he does amazing things for the community. That doesn’t mean I magically have time to date someone who probably isn’t even interested in a woman like me,” Ciara said.
“What? Are you saying that because your black and he’s white? Come on! This is the twenty-first century. You think that matters? Plus, have you taken a look in the mirror lately? Luke is handsome, but he doesn’t have anything on you in the looks department,” Abigail said.
Ciara stifled a smile. “I know what I look like, Abigail, and I’m not every man’s type. Anyway, I need to keep focusing on doing whatever it takes to get that news anchor position. Do you know what Myra told me earlier? She said that I could close the gap on Oscar for the promotion. Oscar is Jackie’s first choice right now! I don’t even understand how that’s possible.”
“Don’t think I didn’t notice you’re little change of subject, but it’s okay. We can talk about Luke Diamond more tomorrow. As for Myra, she’s an instigator. None of us know what Jackie is thinking and who is the front runner. Jackie and Myra barely even talk to each other, which is why Myra is retiring. Myra had the old news director wrapped around her finger, but Jackie doesn’t conform to anyone,” Abigail explained.
“I see. So I shouldn’t be concerned about Oscar?” Ciara asked.
“No, and especially not after the work, you did tonight. Jackie was practically prancing around the newsroom because of your footage. She has the editors working late to carve it up into additional segments and commercials that can run tomorrow. I wouldn’t be surprised if you get asked to go back out there for some follow-up,” Abigail said.
A sharp stabbing pain throbbed in Ciara’s temple as she leaned against the news van. She could not come back to Old Town Tomball tomorrow or the next day or any day, for that matter. Her past haunted the streets, neighborhoods, shops, and restaurants of the town. Too many painful reminders lurked around every corner.
The more time she spent in Old Town Tomball, the harder it would be for her to ignore those memories. The only way she’d been able to move on with her life over the past fifteen years was by forgetting growing up here. Spending more time in this town would resurrect a past that she didn’t want to revisit. That she couldn’t visit because it hurt too much.
“In a city as big as Houston, I think this fire is going to quickly become old news. But we’ll see,” Ciara said, then reached for the door as Vic came walking back toward the van. “Vic is done with filming the extra video of the brewery now that the fire is out. We’re going to head back to the studio. Are you going to still be there when I get back?”
“Probably not, but let’s do lunch tomorrow, okay? We still need to talk about you and Luke,” Abigail said.
Ciara groaned and pressed end on the call.
The last person she needed to think about was Luke Diamond of Tomball Fire Station 384.
Disclaimer: This is a rough draft manuscript as I’m participating in NaNoWriMo. It will contain typos, missing words, brackets for things I may want to research later, and other messiness common in a first draft of a work. Please keep this in mind as you read. It is truly a Work in Progress. Thanks for reading!