Fate Heats Things Up
Sarah Hadley Brook © 2017
All Rights Reserved
Tonight has to be the night, Scott swore to himself as he wiped down the long wooden bar top and snuck a glance at the entrance once more. He should have been here by now.
A strong hand clapped him on the shoulder, startling him out of his thoughts.
“You wouldn’t by any chance be looking for Adrian, would you?”
Scott narrowed his eyes and tried his best to glare at his boss, but when Tony only laughed, he knew he had failed miserably. He shrugged and tried to ignore the blush he knew was spreading across his face. “Why would you think that?” he asked, attempting to sound blasé.
“I’ve got eyes, don’t I, kid?” Tony gave Scott’s shoulder a quick squeeze before letting go. “You’ve been mooning over that man for the last month.”
Scott swallowed hard and silently chastised himself. He had been so sure he’d hidden his crush from everyone. Apparently not.
The bell over the door chimed, and before he could stop himself, he looked over at the double glass entry doors. His hope was short-lived, though, because it wasn’t Adrian. The chuckle he heard irked him, and he spun around to face his boss.
“For your information, Tony, I had already decided to do something about it tonight,” he huffed, irritation gnawing at him.
“And what would that something be?”
“I’m going to ask him out,” Scott admitted, pinning his gaze on Tony, just daring him to tease him again.
“Well, all right then! It’s about time, kid,” Tony proclaimed and grinned before heading toward the back room.
Scott couldn’t help it. He smiled back, shaking his head. When he’d first started working at the bar, it had irritated him that Tony called him a kid. He was twenty-five years old, for Pete’s sake. By the time he had a few days at Smokey’s under his belt, he’d realized that Tony referred to pretty much everyone under the age of thirty as a kid, so he’d stopped taking it personally.
He agreed with his boss—it was definitely time to do something about Adrian Campbell, and Scott was going to put it all out on the line this very night, even if the thought scared the shit out of him. Adrian should be arriving with his group of friends any second, just as he had been doing for the last few weeks. Scott felt a flutter in his stomach and tried to shake away the nerves by getting back to work. The bar would be filled with customers soon, and he still had to get some things done. The last thing he needed was to give in to his anxiety.
Of course, if the past was any indicator, he would be smart to worry. From the very first time he’d met Adrian, something had always seemed to prevent them from getting together.
That night, Scott had left a friend’s house and was heading home in his piece-of-shit car, as he lovingly referred to his 1989 Acura. It was late and he was on a dark, narrow, and winding two-lane road with no streetlights. Even the nearly full moon had been partially hidden behind some clouds. Dense woods butted up to the road on both sides for miles and oversized branches bowed out over the cars.
As he turned into another sharp curve, his tire rolled over something. His car lurched and the sound of dragging metal on concrete hissed out into the dark.
What the hell is that? He’d pulled his foot off the gas and turned his music down. He’d checked his rearview mirror and gasped at what he saw. Three massive shapes were barreling toward his car. The brake light cast a red glow on the moving figures, and his mind instantly flashed to all the horror movies he had watched over the years.
He looked around frantically and realized there was nothing to do but floor it. He had no idea who they were or why the maniacs were chasing him in the dark, but he wasn’t about to stick around and find out. When he stepped on the gas, the screeching sound grew louder and his car jerked hard, just before a loud crunching noise echoed into the night. Crap! Was that my tire?
He’d frozen, unsure what to do. Did he try to keep driving? Should he continue on or pull over? He could hear his father’s voice in his head lecturing him on how he’d destroyed his car by not stopping. That did it. Scott had been more terrified of what his father would say than the chance of being murdered, and he pulled over, even though he knew it was probably the most idiotic thing he had ever done in his life. In any horror movie, this would be when the audience screamed at him to get the hell out of there, but it didn’t change his mind. As he set the brake, he glanced in the mirror again. The figures had gained ground on him and by this time were easier to see. All three appeared to be wearing matching long coats and boots, like a uniform of some kind. There was something familiar about them. One more glance and his heart dropped to his stomach.
Fuck! They were firemen and they looked furious. What the hell was going on? Relieved they weren’t three crazy escaped convicts that were roaming the woods looking for someone to kill, he rolled his window down. They were obviously pissed, but he was fairly certain he wouldn’t be murdered.
“Do you have any idea what you just did?”
Hmm. He reconsidered his escaped convicts theory. They weren’t making any sense. Scott tried to speak, but two of them just wouldn’t let him get a word in. They were screaming at him through the window while the third guy was crouching next to his front tire.
“All right, I’ve got it.” The guy by the tire stood up with something in his hand. “Here, Hernandez, take this back to the fire and see what you can do with it.”
Scott looked at the two men at his window and swallowed hard. “Um, did he say fire?”
“Yeah, you idiot! You ran over a coupling and dragged the damn fire hose down the road and out of our hands! Tore it off the fucking hose!”
“A what? I don’t understand,” Scott said, bewildered. He raked his fingers through his hair and shifted uncomfortably in his seat as he darted his eyes between the two angry men. “What did I do again?”
Apparently, they were done screaming because they just glared at him.
“Guys, go on. I’ll catch up with you in a minute. I need to get some information for our report.”
Scott slid his gaze over to the third man again. Even in the dark, it was easy to see he was good-looking. Tall. Scott liked tall men.
The other two turned to leave.
“Fucking idiot. Could have killed someone,” Hernandez muttered.
Scott was mortified and started to shake. “I’m…I’m so sorry,” he said as he climbed out of his car and moved to talk with the only man still there. “How did I…I mean…fuck, I don’t know what I mean.” He ran his hands through his shaggy blond hair. “I don’t even know what a…what did he call it?”
“A coupling,” the fireman explained, his deep voice calm and reassuring. “It connects two hoses together when we need to lengthen the line. The house we’re working on is really far off the road.”
“Oh my God, is there anyone in it? Shit, what if someone dies because of me?” Scott felt sick and doubled over, fighting the urge to vomit. A full-blown panic attack was brewing up inside him.
“Hey, it’s fine.” The fireman moved closer and put his hand on the small of Scott’s back. “It’s an abandoned house. A really old, ramshackle house. Nobody lives there, so don’t worry. Just breathe through it. You didn’t hurt anyone. Hell, to be honest, this was as much our fault as yours.”
The fireman began to rub his large hand in small circles on his back, calming him down and at the same time sending warmth spreading through him. “What do you mean?” he whispered.
“I mean that Sanders shouldn’t have hooked up the lines in the street. We pulled the firetruck pretty far off the road and we hadn’t set out cones or lights around the area yet. But I’m new here, so I can’t really tell him he was wrong. For some reason, he left it there and went to check on the hydrant and then you hit it and dragged it down the damn road!” He chuckled a little as he drew his hand away from Scott’s back. “Shit. Never seen that happen before.”
Scott cleared his throat and pulled himself to a standing position, leaning his hip against his car.
“You feeling better?”
Scott nodded and started to reply, but as soon as their gazes met, his breath hitched in his throat. Shit. The man was gorgeous. Deep chocolate-brown eyes stared back at him and Scott couldn’t tear himself away.
“I’m Adrian. Adrian Campbell,” he said as he offered a hand to Scott.
He swallowed hard and shook Adrian’s hand. “Scott Dwyer.” Electricity jolted through his body as if he had touched a live wire, and Scott yanked his hand back.
Adrian quirked an eyebrow at him but kept silent.
“Um, yeah. I should be going. Thanks for…well, thanks. Sorry about the…the hose thing,” Scott stammered as he opened his door. “Wait…should I drive my car?”
“Yeah, the tire’s fine. The coupling and hose were dragged but then it looks like the coupling banged around in the wheel well for a bit.”
“Okay. Thanks. I don’t know a lot about mechanical things,” Scott admitted as he turned back to his car.
“Yeah?” Scott looked at Adrian.
“Do you live or work around town?”
Scott smiled tentatively. Why was he asking? Could Adrian be attracted to him? “Yeah, actually both. I have an apartment in the center of town—over Gina’s Pizza Oven. And I bartend at Smokey’s Bar & Grill.”
“Smokey’s? The guys were telling me about that place. Said they all hang out there pretty often.”
“Yeah, they do. It’s sort of Station 39’s hangout. The owner, Tony, used to be a fireman.”
“Campbell! Get your ass over here!”
Adrian grinned. “Guess they need me. The fire was almost completely out by the time you dragged the hose, but I better get going. See you around, Scott.”
Damn. Scott tried to hide his disappointment as he nodded and slid into his seat. He checked his rearview mirror and was frustrated that he couldn’t see Adrian. Either it was too dark or he had moved too far out of vision. He shook his head and tried to ignore his intense longing to have Adrian touch him again. It had struck him that maybe fate had brought them together. As he drove off that night, he wondered how soon he would see Adrian again. He’d never really believed in fate before, but something told Scott it wouldn’t be long before they connected again.