Hard to Resist - By Kara Lennox


AT 3:00 A.M., MOST of the guys at Fire Station 59 were either asleep or watching a cheesy action movie. But for a few of them around the scarred Formica table, fortunes were being won and lost.

“Remind me—does a straight beat a flush, or is it the other way around?” The one woman at the poker table looked at her two opponents with “innocent” big blue eyes.

Ethan Basque suppressed a groan. Talk about beginner’s luck! He laid his crummy cards face down on the table. “Doesn’t matter, Priscilla. You win again.”

“Not so fast,” Tony objected. “Pris, sweetie, a flush beats a straight. Do you want to make a bet?”

Priscilla checked her cards and worried her lower lip with her teeth. “Okay.” And she pushed all her chips to the center of the table, about twenty bucks’ worth.

Tony groaned. “Forget it. You win.”

Priscilla smiled sweetly and raked the chips to her side of the table. “Maybe next time you’ll let me teach you how to play bridge, instead of insisting on poker.”

Ethan laughed at Priscilla’s sheer audacity. “Soon you’ll be wanting us to drink tea and paint our fingernails.” But the comment had no bite. Though not all of his coworkers would agree, he actually liked having a female around the fire station. He and Tony had made it known that anyone who messed with Pris was messing with them, which hadn’t made them the most popular guys in a place where rookies were already at a disadvantage.

Tony gathered the cards together and shuffled. “My deal. Seven-card stud, this time. I’m getting my money back.”

“If your luck changes.” Priscilla arranged her chips into neat, even stacks.

And then the jolting electronic buzz of an alarm filled the station and abruptly ended the game. Tony dropped the cards on the table and three chairs scraped back as the firefighters headed, without a word, to the pole hole.

Ethan’s gut tightened as it did every time the alarm sounded. So far, as the three newest members of this company, he and his buddies hadn’t faced anything more serious than a smoldering Dumpster, a small kitchen fire and a minor car accident. He’d never even had to stretch hose. But he knew the day they’d trained for was coming, and he anticipated it with both excitement and dread.

Most of the older, more experienced firefighters took the stairs, but the three rookies couldn’t resist using the slick brass pole. Station 59 was one of only three in Dallas that still had poles. Ethan landed with perfect control at the bottom, followed quickly by the other two. Each headed for a different vehicle.

Ethan was first to the ladder truck. He stepped into his pants, which were waiting for him by his assigned station. Then he grabbed his coat. Loaded down with forty-plus pounds of turnout gear, he vaulted into the backseat. The ambulance’s engine fired up first, and Ethan knew Tony—on paramedic duty—was about to roll out. Tony had been a paramedic for a couple of years before he’d applied to Dallas Fire-Rescue. Priscilla was on the engine. She would be their “nozzle man,” on the hose with Otis Granger.

The rest of Ethan’s unit boarded the truck, but none of the others acknowledged him. He, Tony and Priscilla were the “probies,” the rookies, the untried. At this point there was no trust, no camaraderie.

Not yet. Maybe never.

Lieutenant Murph McCrae rode shotgun in the officer’s seat. As a rookie, Ethan’s job was to stick close to McCrae, watch and learn. Which wouldn’t have been so bad, except McCrae clearly didn’t want a rookie at his elbow. The rest of his unit consisted of Captain Eric Campeon, the driver, who would be in charge of their rig, and Bing Tate, a thoroughly obnoxious guy who liked to crack filthy jokes in front of Priscilla in a vain effort to embarrass her.

As the engine rolled, they got the word from dispatch. The second alarm had gone out—which meant their wagon was on its way to a fully involved fire. The truck sped through the streets of Dallas’s Oak Cliff section, and Ethan’s heart thundered inside his chest. This was it. He was off to meet the beast—fire.

Fifty-nine wasn’t the first company to arrive at the two-story apartment building, where smoke was pouring out of a lower window. The captain from Station 21, now Incident Commander, was already organizing resources and developing strategy. News traveled in shouts and nervous whispers: People were trapped inside.

“We’re going inside,” the IC bellowed. The firefighters’ assignments