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Hearts on Fire 8: Saving C.C.

By:Dixie Lynn Dwyer


Prologue




C.C. Walker kissed her niece, Lola, and nephew, Bobby, goodbye. She didn’t know when she would see them again, but she knew she had to leave and move on or she would continue to suffocate here in New York.

They held on tightly, and she looked at her sister, Clare, arms crossed, anger in her eyes, and the first thoughts that came to C.C.’s head were that her sister was only angry because now she would be forced to move on and get out of her state of depression. She had kids to raise and a whole life ahead of her. Although she’d lost her husband, at least she had the opportunity to love and get married and start a family. C.C. hadn’t. Staying here made her dwell on her own boyfriend’s death, which had followed the tragic loss of her brother-in-law and her brother, Banks.

C.C. rubbed Bobby’s hair. “You be a good boy for mommy. You remember to call me whenever you want.”

He nodded then took his baby sister’s hand, and they headed toward the toy box in the living room.

C.C.’s bags were packed and the car full of what little she had. She and Parker had only started seeing one another in the past couple of months. Although it was new, it was still exciting, and she thought she had found the man she was going to marry. She swallowed hard.

“I can’t believe you’re doing this. Just packing up and heading out of town. It isn’t right. It isn’t fair, not when I’m stuck here and have to deal with all this heavy shit on my own,” Clare said to her in anger.

C.C. took a deep breath and released it slowly. She had to ignore that pull to take care of her sister like she had been the past six months. It was making Clare so dependent she didn’t lift a finger anymore. It was time to suck it up and be a mother and provider and move on.

“You need to deal with it because you’re their mother. They lost their father and their uncle, and now you need to work double time to make sure they never forget Lionel and Banks and the sacrifice they made. I can’t do it for you, Clare.”

“And tell them what? That the detectives can’t figure out if it was arson or not? That it’s possible some crazed arsonist set him and our brother up to die in a fire because he didn’t like firefighters and what they stand for? I can’t do that. It isn’t fair,” Clare stated through clenched teeth.

“You have to. It’s part of being a wife to a firefighter. You have so much support and all your friends. You have Mom, too, and the guys from the firehouse. You’ll be just fine. I have to go. I have to.”

C.C. thought about how they had lost their dad years ago. When would the suffering end?

“I know you think you loved Parker, but he was just a boyfriend, some guy you slept with. Lionel was my husband for six years. We had two children together. You can’t compare your loss to mine.”

C.C. felt her chest tighten. She never would compare that, but this was another reason why she needed to leave here. Her sister had become so dependent on her that she wasn’t living her life. Instead, C.C. was living her sister’s life. Her words hurt. She had no right to minimize what C.C. and Parker had. It had been new, but it was special. Plus Banks was C.C.’s brother too, but she couldn’t take being around their friends. The ones who lost two firefighters. It was as though they’d all decided that they knew what was best for C.C.

“I never compared the two. I’m sorry you’re having a problem with me leaving. One day you’ll understand and maybe even thank me for making the separation. You need to live your life. I need to live mine. I love you forever, Clare, as well as Bobby and Lola. Take care of yourself and be strong. I know you can do it.”

She exited the door and heard her sister crying, but C.C. hadn’t expected to hear something shatter against the door as she headed down the pathway. But she needed to do this. Plus, she wasn’t happy with the way she felt being a social worker for the Red Cross. She kept getting a creepy sensation lately. As though someone was watching her or something bad was going to happen to her. Was it her own subconscious playing tricks on her because of the tragedy that had struck her family and her personal life? She didn’t know, but her gut told her to get out of there and start living again. Maybe starting over would get rid of that negative, fearful energy now surrounding her. Lionel and Bank’s killer was still at large and unidentified. She knew someone had purposely set those fires. Perhaps that added to her fearful state of mind. But before she started getting paranoid and thinking that Parker’s death was somehow connected to the others, she needed to get out of town.

She thought about Detective Chris Factor, a good friend of her brother and a man who’d taken it upon himself to get involved with the investigation. He was a nice guy. In fact, she’d thought she might have feelings for him, but she was already seeing Parker. Chris promised her that he would figure things out and bring some closure to all of them. After all, Chris knew Lionel and Banks well and hung out with them a lot. She was tired of thinking about this situation every waking minute of every day.

She gripped the steering wheel and took a deep breath. She glanced at the house, felt that twinge of guilt, and then wondered if she was making the right move. She’d been over it so many times. It was right, and she needed to go. So what that she’d really only traveled alone a handful of times. She could do this.

She put the car into drive and headed out of the development. Her hunk of junk sounded as if it was on its last leg. She would deal with it as far as it got her and then decide her next move. She felt desperate to be free and get away from the town and all the sadness. God, please help me. Direct me to where to go and help me to survive. I need to live. I need to find a special place that will put all this behind me. Please let me find it.

She headed toward the highway going south. She could do this. She could drive until something got her to stop. She’d know exactly when she got there. The circumstances would present themselves because she had faith.



* * * *



Kyle St. James stood by the opening in the garage bay at the shop listening to his brother Frank ramble off the supply order. Kyle held the iPad in his hand and added the items and then checked them off on the supplier’s site. He double-checked them and re-read them to Frank, who nodded.

They had been working together for the past several years after taking time off to focus on their own careers. Kyle stretched out his arm and rotated it, feeling only a slight ache in his shoulder but enough of a reminder of the bullet he’d taken four years ago. Being a cop in New York City had been his life. He loved it, missed it, and wished he hadn’t have gotten shot. But it could have been worse. He could be dead like his partner, Doland.

He swallowed hard and caught sight of Frank stretching and then yawning. His brother was a Marine, retired a few years back and now helping their fathers with the mechanic shop and gas station. It was a gold mine, right on the edge of town before the bridge that led in and out of Treasure Town. Everyone filled up there before they headed out, and all locals and visitors got their cars fixed there. As he looked around the place, it brought back memories of growing up in Treasure Town, of hanging out with his other brothers, Mercury and Jenks, and having a blast. Frank and Jenks were the adventurous ones. Always looking for that adrenaline rush, whether it be skydiving, cliff climbing, or other crazy shit. He could have lost having this time with them. He could have died, and coming back to town and gaining some normalcy back was slowing making him see things clearer. Frank was a hardass, tight-lipped Marine, filled with piss and vinegar, and it was like pulling teeth to get him to talk about the Corps and what had happened while he served. His tight-lipped ways led him to being somewhat anti-social. But Kyle was okay with that because they lived together and spent a lot of time together, and that guaranteed that their brotherly bond was building stronger and stronger.

“Are you going to the Station tonight? I heard that band your brother’s friends are in is playing,” Tyrone, one of the mechanics, asked him.

“Not sure. I might. I have to see if Mercury is going,” Kyle replied.

“How about you, Frank?” Tyrone called to Frank.

Frank shook his head and finished up working on the small Ford Focus. He closed the hood and looked at Tyrone.

“Tyrone, bring this across the way to the car wash and then park it out front. Kyle will call Mrs. Wheeler and let her know it’s ready. If she needs a ride here, pick her up, but I think she said her son was around and can drop her back off.”

“No problem.” Tyrone got into the car. Frank and Kyle moved out of the way.

“You sure you’re not interested in heading over to The Station tonight? It could be fun to hear the band,” Kyle said to Frank.

“Not interested.”

Kyle watched Frank go over to the toolboxes and start putting the things back he’d used. He was always so organized, unlike Mercury, who would leave shit around years ago when they worked in the shop together. It was amazing that their kid brother was a paramedic and that Jenks had become a firefighter.

Kyle walked into the office and then something caught his eye. He saw some smoke and heard horns honking.

“What the hell?”



* * * *



C.C. listened to the radio, driving for hours and heading past the numerous beach towns. The loud muffler, the sputter and jerks of the engine wouldn’t deter her from continuing down the highway. She was determined to be happy. She wanted to make it on her own, find a new life, a new sense of belonging.

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