Sunday, June 9, 2013

Just Count On Me-- Part Four

Part four of the short story, Just Count On Me, that bridges the Bradford series with my new series, Counting on Love!

You can find part ONE here!


“Put the oxygen mask on or I’m going to tell Conner that Sara said his uniform pants make his ass look great.”

Mac frowned at Gabriella Evans, the other paramedic on Conner’s crew.  “She never said that.”

“No, but Conner will want to believe it, so it will be like gasoline on that fire. No pun intended.”

That pun was totally intended.  Mac grudgingly took the oxygen mask and put it over his nose and mouth.  He didn’t need it, dammit.  But as he breathed for a few seconds, he had to admit that some of the fogginess in his head faded and the tightness in his chest let go a little.

Fine. He’d had a tiny panic attack waiting for the firemen to get Sara out of the locker room.  He watched as they escorted all six of the kids out first.  He knew that Sara had insisted on that, even though she was pregnant

He reached over and bumped the oxygen flow up just a bit on the machine, breathing in deeply. Gabby, bless her, pretended not to notice.

Finally he saw Jessica walking toward the trucks with one of the firemen.  Ben met her halfway across the yard, folding her into his arms, his shoulder shaking with the waves of adrenaline he could finally let loose.  If the guy wasn’t crying, Mac would be shocked.

He kind of planned to do a little of that himself.

And then there was Sara.

One of the guys was carrying her and Mac immediately dropped the oxygen mask and started forward.

“I twisted my ankle a little when we got to the locker room,” she said, holding up a hand and explaining before he even asked.  “Otherwise, I’m fine.”

“Gee, three inch high heels and slippery tile floors don’t mix, huh?” he asked dryly, watching as the fireman set her on the bumper to the fire truck.

Mac immediately knelt in front of her, inspecting her ankles.

“These are only two inches high,” she said.

“Oh, well, they’re almost practical then.”


He focused on her ankle, prodding and rubbing, rotating the joint, checking the pulse… and not registering any of the information.  That was all he could handle at the moment though.  Taking care of that one little thing, that one small part of her, was far less overwhelming that looking up into her eyes, seeing her smile, taking in the slight swell of her belly and realizing that he could have lost her.

“Mac,” she said softly, her hand going to his head.

He leaned forward, resting his forehead against her knee, one hand cupping the calf of her leg while the other took her hand and linked their fingers.

He just sat like that, letting it all wash over him… and out of him.  It was over.  She was here, she was fine.

Sara stroked her fingers over the top of his head, comforting him.  When he should be comforting her.

He drew in a long, shaky breath and finally made himself look up at her.

“I might prefer this to yelling,” she told him, her hand still resting on his head.  “Though seeing you torn up kind of kills me.”

He nodded.  “I’m torn up.  Too torn up to know that I’m even supposed to be yelling.”

Sara’s eyebrows rose, but then she just nodded.  “Right.  Exactly.  There’s nothing to yell about.”

“I thought I told you to replace that fucking thing!”

Looked like Sam knew what to yell about though. 

Mac pivoted on the balls of his feet, still crouching in front of Sara.  “Back off, Bradford. This can wait. Whatever it is.”

“Yeah, apparently Sara thought so too.  That microwave is ancient,” Sam said, his attention back on his sister. 

“I will definitely be replacing it now, don’t worry,” Sara said, her voice calm.

“That’s not funny,” Sam admonished.

It wasn’t.  Mac turned back to her.  “That’s the old microwave?”

“The torn up thing’s over, huh?” she asked.

“The torn up thing is why I’m yelling,” Mac said, stretching to his feet.  “That microwave is the reason I lost six years off my life tonight.  God, I’ve never been so sick and worried in my life.”

And just like that Sara was crying.

“Dammit,” Sam muttered.  He didn’t do well with women’s tears, especially his sisters and his wife.

“Well, crap.”  Mac did even worse than Sam did with Sara’s tears.  He hauled her to her feet and up against his chest. 

Holding her was his undoing.  He felt the sting of tears in his own eyes and buried his face in her hair, breathing in her scent, absorbing the feel of her, the warmth, the curves, the silkiness of her skin. 

They just stood holding each other like that for several long minutes.

Finally he let her go and turned her into her brother’s arms, swiping his hands over his eyes.

Sam held her tight too.

“I’m sorry,” she blubbered.  “I’m sorry.  I know it’s all my fault.  I should have just done it right away.  I didn’t know they were going to try to use it tonight—”

“It’s okay,” Sam told her, his face tight with emotion. “It’s okay.  You didn’t mean for anything to happen.”

“But I should have—”

“Yes,” Sam interrupted.  “You should have.  But it’s over now.  Everyone’s okay and that’s what we should all be concentrating on.”

Sara was next passed to Ben, then Jessica.  Then Conner.

He’d been standing at the end of the hugging line and gave her a huge grin as she came face to face with him.

“I’m right here, where you told me to be.”  He essentially directed the comment at Mac.

Mac gripped both hands into fists.  Okay, Conner could hug her.  He’d been great tonight.  He’d been focused and commanding, yet lighthearted on the phone with Sara to keep her calm.  He’d directed his crew, he’d worked with the firefighters, he’d taken care of the kids that needed him. 

Fine.  He could have one hug.

Sara stepped into his embrace and it was a nice, platonic hug.

For exactly three seconds.

Then Conner dipped her back and put his lips to hers.

In a very non-platonic kiss.

Mac’s fists clenched harder and he could almost feel the satisfying thud of his fist meeting Conner’s jaw.  He stepped forward.  “Dixon, you’re going to hurt for days.”

As if that was his cue, Conner brought Sara back upright and grinned at her.  “And that, sweetheart, is just a little of what you’re missing.”  Then he spun her toward Mac and sauntered off.

Mac had to admit that Sara looked a little stunned… and not at all pissed off.

Mac took her shoulders in both hands.  “You okay?”

Sara’s eyes widened.  “Well… yeah.”

She said it as if it was the dumbest question he’d ever asked.  Gabby snorted behind him and Sam was clearly fighting a smile.

“Uh, huh.  I think you might need treatment after all.  Clearly there’s something wrong with your head,” Mac told her.

Sara exchanged a glance—and a grin—with Gabby.  Which Mac completely noticed.

“Sure,” Sara said.  “That must be where these tingles are coming from.”

Mac gave a little growl, then swung her up into his arms and headed for the ambulance that would take them back to St. Anthony’s.  “I think I need to remind you what real tingles are like.”

She laughed and wrapped her arms around his neck.  “That’s what I was hoping you’d say.”

The final installment posts tomorrow!  

And then She's the One, book one in the Counting On Love series comes out Tuesday!!


  1. You know I'm proper looking forward to Gabbie and Connor's story cos I reckon she's proper feisty!

    Can't wait for part 5 now! x

  2. Thanks Stacey and Samantha! And yes, I intend for Conner to have to work hard to win the girl's heart :)

  3. Thank you for giving us this wonderful short story introducing some of the guys of the Counting on Love series and their connection to the Bradfords. I am really looking forward to this new series.