Read an excerpt from Hearts on Fire ...
Jack Wolfe had no sooner accepted the mug of coffee from his father’s hands when the fire station erupted into choreographed chaos all around him. Suddenly everyone was dashing about, grabbing gear, getting into their trucks.
“Gotta’ go, Jackie. We’ll see you at home later, okay?” His father clapped a broad hand on Jack’s shoulder, then followed his crew.
Jack watched longingly as the trucks pulled out of the bays and disappeared into the muggy night. Just like that, he was alone. Fireflies glittered in the dark outside the station. The ticking of the ancient clock on the station wall was loud in his ears.
The bay doors to the station began to lower automatically and he stood to leave. No point sitting in an empty firehouse, even though he had spent plenty of hours by himself in this very room, reading and doing homework. The station was like a second home to him. The Wolfe family—the Wolves, as they were called around St. Caroline—were firefighters across generations. His father had risen through the ranks to become the chief. His two older brothers were captains. His uncle Jack—twin to Jack’s mother—had died in the line of duty before Jack was born.
At Jack’s birth, his mother had put her foot down. Her youngest was not going into the family business. Little Jackie was the one who would leave town, go to college and become a doctor or lawyer or schoolteacher. Spend his life in a nice, safe job instead of rushing headlong into burning buildings and causing his mother years of worry. Finding out that Jack had dropped out of Berkeley Law, gotten a job as a security guard, and was a volunteer firefighter in California would kill her.
And she was dying already.
He went outside, got in his car and began to drive. He’d heard the address of the call when it came in from the county central dispatch. It was Michelle Trevor’s quilt shop, closed at this hour obviously—just before eleven—so no one would be there. But his mother was a long-time customer of Quilt Therapy, so he drove out to see what was what.
He parked his car in the small shopping center parking lot across the street and jogged over to Michelle Trevor’s shop. In the dark, it was hard to pick out his dad and brothers among the identically-suited figures aiming water at the small cottage that had housed the quilt shop for years. The structure would probably make it, but everything inside was going to be ruined. He noticed a car sitting in the small parking area off to the side of the house. It was a white four-door compact, nothing out of the ordinary. Not brand new, but not ancient either.
“Whose car is that?” he shouted into the din of the truck engines and noise of high-powered streams of water hitting the roof.
A figure turned. “What?” It was his oldest brother, Oliver. “What are you doing here?”
Jack cocked his head toward the small white car. “Whose car is that?”
Oliver looked at it like he was seeing it for the first time. “I dunno.”
Alarm bells went off in Jack’s head. “Did you check to see if anyone’s inside?”
“Owners have been known to come back after hours.”
“Michelle and her daughters are in Chicago for some big trade show. They won’t be back until later in the week.”
“So you haven’t cleared the building?”
“There’s no one in there.” Oliver turned back to the fire.
Jack began running toward the back door. His hand was turning the knob—strangely unlocked for a shop that was closed for the week—when a big hand clapped him on the shoulder and yanked back hard.
“What the hell are you doing?” It was Matt, his other older brother.
“There’s a car parked over there and no one seems to know who it belongs to. Hasn’t anyone checked for someone inside?”
Matt frowned. “Who’d be inside? The whole Trevor family’s out of town.”
“Hell if I know! But there’s a car there!” Jack was right in Matt’s face now.
“Fine. I’ll go in,” Matt said.
“I’ll go with you.” The pull of the fire was too much for Jack. He wanted to be working this call, too.
“You sure as hell will not. If dad doesn’t kill me, mom will.” He shot a fierce glare at his younger brother. “You will wait out here.”
Jack took a deep breath. Mattie was right. He was a Wolfe, but not a member of the St. Caroline fire department. He didn’t belong here. He watched as his brother grabbed another firefighter and headed into the building. Two in, two out. Jack strode over to the car and cautiously touched the door handle. It was warm. If the fire got worse, it would be too hot to touch. He tried the handle, but the car was locked. No moving it now. He peered into the back seat, and recognition hit him like a backdraft.
There was a brown sock monkey hanging from the driver’s side seat, its short arms clinging to the metal prong of the headrest. A memory he hadn’t given a minute’s attention to in years flared in his brain.
This was Rebekah Trevor’s car.
He spun around at the sound of yelling behind him. Matt and the other firefighter were out of the building—and between them stumbled a woman, coughing and choking.