Chapter 2: Why Here?

1144 Words
Mark, the young firefighter, bolted out of the trailer that held the kegs of beer. Mallory went on full alert. Instincts she only used on fire scenes put her at the door before anyone else. Jesse stood pinned to the wall of the cold trailer, his eyes wide. She followed his gaze. She now knew what had been keeping her uneasy all day. What had put the scent of honeysuckle in her nostrils? What she'd refused to believe she smelled. A bomb. One with a timer and wires and all the parts necessary to blow up the beer trailer and all in its vicinity. Including all of her fellow firefighters. She'd seen too many bombs in her former life. Her heart raced and anger streaked through her. “Jesse, get out," she ordered. She wouldn't lose him. Not now. Not this way. He licked his lips and moved in her direction. He stopped and backed away from her as if he couldn't make the decision to leave. “Get out of here, Mal." Even in the face of a bomb, he was willing to protect her. Her heart sank. She might never be able to return that loyalty. That was a problem for another day. One where she wasn't facing a bomb. She clenched and unclenched her fists, her breath coming out in pants. “Not without you, Jesse. Mark call 911. Tell them we need the bomb squad," she said, still looking at the chief. When Jesse reached her, she yanked him out. He had 100 pounds on her, but she had surprise on her side. “Get me some wire cutters." Jesse looked at her as though she had three heads. “Do it." He shook his head. “No. You don't know what you're doing. You'll blow up." She made eye contact with one of the bystanders. “Get me wire cutters and clear everyone out of here. Someone make sure no workers are on the fair grounds." The last thing the struggling fire company needed was to lose this fair. It was their sole method of raising needed funds. No jerk with a penchant for bombs would do that to them. Not to the guys who missed dinners and family events to put out fires. Part of her knew this was just the beginning. That this bomb was part of some larger plot. She'd seen too many of those plots in her job with Homeland Security. *** The men moved to do her bidding. Except Jesse, who still stood in the doorway, his gaze piercing her. “Mal, get out. The timer read only ten minutes." She blinked. Still, he would protect her. Shield her from harm. Her heart raced as a thrill danced down her spine. Then the reality of the job at hand crept in and she put on her game face. Her pulse slowed to a turtle's pace. The bomb squad wouldn't get there in time. The bomb would explode unless she defused it. She grabbed Jesse by the shoulders. “Look at me." He did, and his eyes were filled with a fear she'd never seen. He could confront a fire, but this was out of his league. But a bomb was in hers. “Jesse, do you trust me?" “Yes." “Go. I can take care of this." “No." He ran a hand through his red hair. “This is stupid. I'm not losing you." The realization came to her on sharp shards of ice. Oh, God. In that moment she knew she'd never been his. Never. She'd been on hiatus from her old life. *** Booth leaned against the wall in the firehouse, his gaze glued to the beer trailer. When the contract had come down he hadn't believed who he would have to kill. She couldn't look any more harmless. But she did know how to defuse bombs. Go figure. The kill would be easy, but he hadn't been given the go ahead yet. He'd practice his shot until it was time. Even if that wasn't how he'd kill her. For a moment his heart wasn't in it. He tamped that down. It was unprofessional. Exactly what they'd feared would happen. He shook his head. No. He'd do the kill. Shifting his shoulders to ease the tension, he wondered if he was getting too old for this life. He longed for a beach somewhere. The millions he'd stashed away would work for him for many years. Just one more, he kept repeating to himself. One more dead body and he was free. He could feel the sun on his face already. There'd be beautiful women to attend to him. There were no virgins in heaven for him and he was fine with that. He wanted his reward in this life. He rubbed a hand down his face. The door to the beer trailer opened. His mark stepped out. Time to put on his concerned face. *** Sweat poured out of every part of Mallory's body. Each drop washed away any residue of adrenalin she might have left. She dropped most of her tools and blew out a breath. The bomb wouldn't blow. Opening the door to the cooler, the humid New Jersey air hit her in the face. She smelled herself and she alone warmed all the beer with her body heat. She gave a small smile and a wave to the crowd peering out the bay doors. This must be how astronauts feel after they splash down in the ocean. Ragged, but relieved. The bomb wouldn't blow. Her rubbery legs complained at the task of carrying her across the parking lot. From what weighed on her mind. She'd been sucked back into her former life. She walked past the bomb squad. “All clear." “You don't mind if I check, do you?" a man dressed in a bomb suit asked. She shrugged. “Not at all." She handed him her cutters and trudged to the fire house. The door to the bay where the trucks were parked opened as she approached. Jesse's gaze met hers and his held many questions. None she could answer. “Not tonight. I'll talk tomorrow." His expression softened and her heart broke. She wasn't the person he thought he knew. She wasn't at all who she'd said she was. Her arms didn't move, and she stood gasping in fresh, but humid, July air. “Can I at least drive you home?" Some part of her wanted that, to pass on some of the responsibility. To lie in someone else's arms for a few hours and pretend. The person she used to be wouldn't let her rely on anyone. “No," came out of her mouth before she could decide. She smiled at him. “I'll be fine, Jesse. I just want to be alone."
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