Lillian Banks’ career took off like a house on fire and she’s on top of the world. Great job that she loves, moved to a great city, into an opulent new condo, in one of the world’s premier smart buildings no less; all she was missing was the kind of romance to set her soul aflame. She thought she’d found it but instead, found herself burned.
Backdraft knows what it’s like to get burned and not just by fire. His ex, Torri, did quite the number on him recently by banging one of his firehouse bros behind his back. He’s sworn off love and dating altogether for the time being and is happier for it. He just wishes he could get the time he wasted with that crazy skank back again.
Out of the ashes, an unlikely friendship is formed. Backdraft and Lilli could find themselves rising if only they can get past their hurts and give things a chance. Of course, lasting happiness is no guarantee, no matter how much they might burn for each other. After all, sometimes what was doesn’t want to let go.
“Dude, are you even listening to me?” Golden demanded, and I held up a hand. He shut up, and I diverted the rest of my attention fully to the couple at the table nearby.
The dude held her hands in the middle of the table and was talking to her in low and earnest tones but her eyes were too wide, glassy with shock, and I knew the look. I’d felt it myself only a few weeks ago, as one of the guys at the firehouse had told me the same thing that I would bet my last paycheck that this guy was telling her.
“Look, I’m sorry, I… I never expected things to go this far, but being with you… I’m sorry, Lillian; it just showed me how much I love her. Reminded me why I fell in love with her in the first place.”
The woman abruptly pulled her hands from his and put them in her lap, those wide, storm-chased blue eyes of hers finally letting loose, twin crystalline tears slipping over the careful makeup she’d put on before their date, tracking mascara down her cheeks.
“I can’t believe I’m hearing this,” she uttered, her voice hollow, and I knew that feeling, too. I put things together with lightning speed.
This guy was breaking up with his side chick and the side chick had absolutely no idea there even was a main.
That was a new kind of low, even for me.
“Did I just hear that dude say what I think I did?” Golden demanded, and I held up a hand and waved him off. Aly’s face was set in surprise as I abruptly walked away from the table. Yale held his girl practically in his lap, protectively, and I was struck by how this piece of shit should be doing the same to the petite little thing across from him. Instead, he was smashing her heart with a ball-peen hammer, and in one of the most humiliating ways possible, to boot.
The motion of my stalking away from our table caught those devastated blue eyes of hers and she made eye contact with me. I got the full brunt of the pain she was desperately trying to mask and god, wasn’t that a familiar ache?
My heart went out to her, and I read clearly the pleading in her eyes for me not to intercede, but chose to misinterpret it. I couldn’t ignore what was going on right in front of me. I wouldn’t. Some pains were indeed private, but she needed to get the hell away from this guy, like yesterday.
“I’ll be back later,” I muttered at Golden who’d kept pace with me, and with a shrug, he broke off and went back to his beer. He didn’t say a word; neither did Blaze, who I caught out of the corner of my eye, leaning back on his stool. They both knew better.
Text Copyright © 2018 A.J. Downey
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
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