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Sean Casey has convinced himself he's content with his blue-collar existence but at an emotional and philosophical crossroads in his relationship with his yuppie lawyer fiancée. When Echo Quinn--an adolescent flame, but now a successful health club owner--suddenly resurfaces with their "gifted" and troubled ten-year-old son in tow, Sean is forced to confront his deadly past and find absolution.
Watch the sparks fly when a pyrokinetic firefighter, and an alcoholic telepath--reunite in this "secret baby" story with a supernatural twist.
Secrets and betrayal, emotional and financial blackmail, familial debt and duty, redemption and rebirth are but a few of the timeless issues that a recovering alcoholic and telepath must handle when she attempts to unite a bereft father with the son she has deprived him of for a decade. Echo Quinn is "the one who got away", a successful business woman and single mother who has risen from the ashes of an abusive childhood and alcoholic adulthood to own and operate the ultra-chic and popular health club—Reverberate Health and Fitness. But not even this thriving enterprise and a budding relationship with her exceptional and precocious young son can save her from the ghosts of her dark and painful past; a past now threatening to blow-up in her face when said son becomes curious about the father he has never known. Sean Casey is a dedicated and skilled FDNY firefighter running from a dark and painful past of his own, carrying around the memory of his parents and older brother daily and ten years after their deaths in a devastating house fire in Graceville Falls, Georgia. Trying to make things right, he spends his days and nights ostensibly fighting "The Beast" that killed his family all the while denying his gift of empathy and the other more essential "gift" that may well have played a part in his family's death.
Ax poised on one shoulder, Sean leaped off the side of Engine 18, heart ramming his chest as the company slowed to a stop in front of the fire building, first due.
His excitement for the game, his hunger and need—for the action, the Brotherhood...the Beast—never waned. This excitement and need grew so much--daily, with the sound of every alarm--that Sean sometimes wondered if he could ever satisfy them with just the firefighting, wondered if the need and hunger would end only with his death.
Deirdre had once told him he ran to the call with the "mindless tenacity of a billy goat chasing a tin can into fastlane traffic on the highway." He had yet to figure out whether or not this vivid description had been a compliment. But seeing as they had been in the middle of an argument—Deirdre accusing him of being his "usual obsessive, selfish, workaholic self, putting duty to strangers before his commitments to her"—Sean guessed the billy goat metaphor was definitely not flattering.
He pushed Deirdre and their last argument out of his mind now, clearing his brain of any and all thought that could distract him from the Job.
Sean met Lieutenant John "Mule" Mulroney around the back of the engine. "I hate the hide-and-seek jobs," he mumbled, watching his cold breath in the afternoon winter air.
Sometimes he didn't know which he hated more: forcible entry or truck work. He knew for sure that he loved them equally, that the cold outside would soon be a distant thawing memory.
Mulroney called over his shoulder for backup.
The building was set back from the street, would need a lot of hose to reach and the chief ran around behind Mulroney and Sean, trying to figure the best way to get the lines to the fire as another company was dispatched.
The fire blazed away and grew by the second, no regard for the Brotherhood or their backup.
"Let's go see what this shit tastes like, ladies."
"Shit." Sean grinned behind Mulroney, his expression turning grim as he watched the chief and a probie open a nozzle. A couple of lengths burst and the chief tried to put a hose jacket over the rip as water gushed.
Looked like the team was going to drown back there.
"Casey! Inch and a half."
Sean retrieved the high-rise kit, followed Mulroney to the steel warehouse doors where the rest of the inside team had already begun working on it with a Halligan.
"Kick it in!" Mulroney attacked the doors and the metal collapsed inward at the seams beneath the force of his and Sean's boots.
The team fell in behind, humping the hose as Mulroney and Sean led the way up the three flights to the fire floor, flashlights in hand and lighting the way.
Mulroney paused just over the threshold, surveying the trajectory of the flames rolling along the ceiling towards the team.
Sean could hear Mule's brain ticking off every battle scenario and contingency in the few seconds the man stood silently staring. He suggested flanking and taking the blaze from the sides to avoid a flashover, knowing what the Mule's answer would be before the Lieutenant spoke.
"We're taking this mother face-to-face!" Mulroney shouted over the roar of the flames.
And Deirdre called him a tenacious billy goat? Sean thought.
Glass shattered and timber crumbled all around the squad as the chief charged the line from outside and sent them some water.
Baker, the nozzleman, aimed the flow at the heart, sprayed the blaze in sweeping strokes, smooth and even as a painter brushing his canvas.
Sean ran another hose from the standpipe in a rear corner of the floor as the fire retreated under the team's first barrage of water, nesting in the walls, refueling for a second attack.
He made his way back to the squad, kicking stray office furniture and fallen beams out of his path as he straightened the line.
This was definitely a good one, he thought, the fire fully involved, front to rear.
If Deirdre, or any other sane person outside of the Job could have seen or heard them in action, he was sure they would have been ready to have them all committed.
The chief reported in that there was someone trapped on the second floor, a civilian unaccounted for among the evacuated factory employees.
Mulroney ordered two men—Sean and a probie—to do a search, pausing only long enough to check in on his radio about the backup. The responding squawk carried unwelcome news.
"ETA's a couple of minutes on that, Lou."
"We'll be well-done by then," Sean muttered.
Mulroney yelled, "Time to dig in, ladies!"
The squad dug in as Sean led the probie—Thomas, if he remembered correctly since the kid had only begun this morning—down to the second floor.
Sean heard the kid panting behind his facepiece, even through the barrier of his own, heard the paint melting and peeling off the walls all around them as they reached the second fire floor.
Heavy smoke and flames greeted them, the same as above. They weren't going to find relief down here. Sean hoped they'd be lucky enough to find the civilian in one breathing piece.
He heard a woman's cry and stopped at the bottom of the stairs.
Thomas came up short behind him, slamming into his breathing apparatus. "Sorry, sir."
Sean recovered, reached back with a hand to steady the kid, his ears perked. He took off his facepiece to hear better over the roar and breaking glass.
He was sure he had...felt the woman. Felt more than heard. But how to say that?
"This way." Sean waved the kid forward, and Thomas fell in close behind as they traversed the smoky corridor.
Sean tried to filter out the cry, sure he had heard something above the howling blaze. He stopped abruptly when he saw the figure, a woman interwoven with the black mist, swirling within. A part of it or the cause?
Thomas tapped his shoulder. "Sir? Sir, is there a problem?"
Did the probie see her too? Was he seeing her? Feeling her inside his head, communing and linking with his gray cells? Or was her presence all imagination? Unreal and...insanity? Because it certainly wouldn't be the first time he thought he was losing his mind.
The woman waved at him, urging him forward and Sean remembered her now—vague but distinct. Other jobs, other fires. One where he'd lost a comrade. Another where he'd saved one. He hadn't yet decided which she was—friend or foe. So far she was batting .500. In any other game this would have been a decent statistic but not here where lives were involved. Any loss was too much in this game. Especially for Sean.
The floor groaned behind them.
Sean had a second to see the woman's eyes widen before he whirled too late to grab the kid. The planking opened beneath the probie, a hot gaping maw.
Thomas stared up at him, eyes Bambi-wide behind his facepiece as he clutched the edge of the crumbling floor.
"Hold on..." Sean said it as gently as he could, wanted to keep the kid calm as he hooked his boot around a nearby pipe to brace himself. If the kid got excited and hyperventilated, he'd use up all his air. There was always his own tank, but Sean didn't want to share his SCBA—their last source of air. Two victims were always worse than one.
He dove and reached for Thomas with both arms outstretched. The heat from below licked his face. Sean could only imagine what the flames were doing to the kid's legs below. "C'mon! Grab on to me."
"I can't reach..."
"You better pull your ass over here, probie!" Sean closed his eyes tight. The heat singed his eyebrows. "C'mon!" He bit his bottom lip, felt the fire licking up Thom's legs, felt like his own legs were on fire. He had to remind himself that they weren't. But the fire. The heat....
Sean's heartbeat roared in his ears in concert with the flames. He focused, slowed the rhythm, thinking cool. Something, anything cool to ease the heat. Concentrate. Open the valve. Open....
Thomas stopped struggling below him, startled as the fire suddenly abated.
"Grab my hands. Now!" Sean reached out as far as he could without losing his grip on the pipe. Thomas let go of the edge and grasped air. Sean extended one arm, thought it would come out of the socket when the kid grabbed hold of his hand. He closed his eyes again, focusing.
Cool air rose up from the gorge, curled like a whirlpool as Sean took a deep breath and heaved Thomas into the chilly pocket with him. He dragged the kid clear of the hole, left him gasping on his back as he turned to the woman.
She looked back at him with an anxious expression, seemed to forget why she was there. Then she waved him forward.
"I don't have time to baby-sit you, probie. Stay beside me!" Sean rushed forward, more reckless than the probie behind him would ever be. He made a left behind the woman at the end of the corridor.
She stood a couple of feet to his right—hovered, he thought—pointing toward a doorway thickly framed by fire.
Sean headed through the door without question as Thomas caught up, shouted behind him.
He didn't feel anything except the chill, unsure now if he or she was the source. He didn't care. Cared only that the source followed, encircled. Led.
Cool air swirled around him like a gentle twister, expanding; including the missing civilian as Sean knelt beside her several feet into the room. He hoisted the unconscious woman onto a shoulder and headed back out the way he had come.
The flames protested, hissing and dying and turning to sooty steam beneath the advancing hose team's assault.
Backup had arrived.
Sean collapsed into her arms—his guardian angel?—as everything went black and the heat returned.