Her lips were so soft. Her little body felt so right, so delicate under mine… I closed my eyes and traced little kisses down her neck and up again, making my way to those hazel eyes. Feeling her suddenly go rigid I opened my eyes to see hazel turn to blue, with the lids frozen open the skin started to char, turning black and dry. Her mouth was open, lips pulled back in an unnatural grimace.
“Just let go…”
Tom sat up with a gasp. Blinking and looking around the room he was thankful he was alone. He often called out during this one. It always came when he was thinking of someone else. It had been longer this time since the last one; four months at least, but those eyes still haunted him. Would he ever be rid of them?
But the voice at the end had been new. Just let go…
He tried to think of something else. Despite the chill in the room he decided he needed a cold shower. He got up and looked out the window and saw a winter wonderland. From the second floor bunk room he could see the sun coming up over the farmers’ fields in the distance. The drifts looked to be about four feet and only Main Street had been plowed. He could hear some guys in the kitchen having breakfast and the distinctive sound of snow shovels on concrete.
Yes, shoveling snow is a great idea.
He made his way to the shower and caught his reflection in the mirror. His left eye was puffy and the cheekbone under it was a distinct black and purple. Great. That’ll get the guys started again. They made a big deal about his black eye last night when he got back, after they heard what happened. Someone saw Kat’s Passport at the clinic and called Jack. Then Jack called Tiffi. He got a simple explanation from her but wasn’t satisfied with that. He’d demanded to know everything from Tom. It made an unpleasant confrontation at the firehouse. He managed to tell Jack everything except about the kiss.
He stared at the scar that ran from his right ear down his shoulder blade and partially down his upper arm. The scar was tight and wrinkled, shiny like burn scars always were. Turning away he thought just another reminder, like the nightmares weren’t enough. He quickly showered, dressed, and snuck out the back door to head downtown.
As Tom picked his way around the drifts the only thing he could think about was how stupid he was to kiss her when she had just passed out and come to. He was a certified paramedic. He should have recognized all the signs for a potential head injury, but when they were laying there on that dusty floor all he could think about was the need to kiss her. She had a great body. She must be a runner. But there was something about those hazel eyes. When he first ran into her at the bank he though her eyes were a muddy green, but then when he saw her again they were a golden brown. They were so… bottomless. He could see right through them. They revealed the exact moment she realized he was the same person from the bank and her stumbling embarrassment that followed. Cute.
He needed to bury himself in work. The only problem was he was on a mandatory ninety-six hours off. He worked twenty-four on and twenty-four off for four days and now had four days off. He looked at his watch. Only seventy-two hours to go. Being alone and sedentary got him thinking. Thinking was not always a good thing when you’re trying to forget something. Work was better.
As he walked closer to Main Street, across Kat’s street and through four foot drifts he figured he could volunteer to dig some people out. That should get his mind off Kat’s warm body. This is the first time in two years he’s felt this strongly about anyone. And he had just met her. She must think I’m the most presumptuous prick.
It was the first time he let his guard down a while. All those walls he built for protection crumbled down when he saw that railing break. It was like seeing the house burst into flames all over again.
Tom shook the image away and passed another man walking in the opposite direction, almost colliding with him.
“Excuse me,” Tom said as they passed.
“No problem,” the man replied, turning down Kat’s street.
As he approached Main Street Tom decided to buy a shovel from McNicol’s Hardware, mostly because it was the only business up and running. He walked in and immediately found the shovels right beside the entrance. He strode to the counter where he wondered if the old man was Mr. McNicol himself. He had no name tag.
“Who are you?” The old man sounded like he had gravel in his throat.
Taken by surprise Tom replied, “What?”
“I said who are you?”
A woman in her forties with a red carpenter’s apron that said “McNicol’s Hardware” rushed out from the back of the store apologizing.
“I am so sorry, sir,” she turned to the old man. “Calm down, Daddy. You don’t have to know everyone who buys a shovel. Look, he’s got on a WFD hat. I bet he’s the new hire over at the firehouse.” She turned back to Tom and winked.
“Yes, mam,” Tom smiled. “I’m Tom Booker.”
“Mary Neston. This is my father, Willy McNicol,” she replied taking his offered hand.
“Nice to meet you, mam.” Tom nodded to the old man, “Sir.”
Mr. McNicol just grunted in his direction. Progress.
“Just ‘Mary’. Is this it for you?” she asked, indicating the shovel.
“Yes, mam. Mary,”
“Aren’t you adorable? The ladies will be fighting for scraps before too long. How long have you been to town? Where are you stayin’?”
Tom had a brief image of she-wolves tearing through loose clothing.
“I’ve only been here about five days. Right now I’m just sleeping at the firehouse, but I’ll be moving to the Logan house before too long.”
“Oh, that was you?” she asked wide-eyed, handing him his change.
He asked warily, “What do you mean?”
“Are you the client that brought Kat Foster into town from the Logan house?”
Flabbergasted, Tom was finding it hard to close his mouth.
“News travels fast here. It only takes one person to call a couple people and it just multiplies from there. Everyone in here has been buzzing about it. Kat’s mother is my sister.” She turned to the old man again and raised her voice, “Daddy, this is the boy that brought Kat back to town when she fell last night.”
Mr. McNicol just grunted again and gave Tom the old once-over pausing at the shiner. Tom could almost hear his thoughts; punk.
He could see the resemblances between Kat and her aunt and grandfather; same long face and wide hazel eyes. He let out a puff of air, feeling sheepish. If they only knew what really happened. Great, now he’d have to get used to the small town quirks and busy-bodies.
“Don’t worry, honey. There’s new gossip everyday. Everyone will forget about it tomorrow.”
“Good to know. Thank you, mam. Mary.” He turned and walked out.
Tom walked out from under the store’s canopy and surveyed Main Street. There were already people at the bank digging out and there was a bobcat plowing the gas station. There wasn’t anyone at the realty office. He knew Tiffi was taking care of Kat and they wouldn’t be able to shovel today. From what he heard about the business, the old owner shouldn’t even be walking to and from his car, let alone shoveling. He’d start there. The sooner he got it up and running the sooner he would be out of the firehouse.