Can you believe Jeremiah has been out for three years? Neither can I! I know plenty of you have read it, but in case you haven’t, today I’m giving you a longer excerpt to whet your appetite. For a touch of background, Jeremiah is a paramedic, and if there’s one day he hates working, it’s the Fourth of July. And what day is he working? The Fourth. He and Collin have already met, and it didn’t exactly go swimmingly…with all that said, enjoy! And if you do love this little snippet and haven’t read Jeremiah yet, pick it up here.
It had only taken two hours of my shift to remember why I avoided working the Fourth with every fiber of my being. We’d had five callouts so far, and Moms would whoop my behind if I didn’t make it to her house party, regardless of when I got off or how tired I might be. The absolute last way I was trying to end my night was at my own apartment complex, knowing I’d have to bypass my floor, my bed, for another four, five hours.
Until I watched the cat from Friday night sitting there kissing the blond, and I knew my night could get worse. Just my luck that the first guy I’d looked at twice in the past six months was loving up on the guy he’d undressed a few nights back. Who looked to be in a fuck-ton of pain. Goddamn, what the hell had happened?
I shook my head and tried to focus. Dark-hair looked at me, his eyes going wide and mouth dropping, before he squeezed the other guy’s shoulder and backed up. I scanned the crowd real quick, and sure enough, there was the woman I’d carried, her sunglasses on, looking impressively passive. I saw the way her mouth quivered, though, no matter how she tried to hide it. She was holding on by a string.
I knelt next to the guy while Will crouched beside me, prepping the bag. “Hey there, I’m going to go over some questions with you. That okay?”
He nodded and gave me a wobbly smile.
“What’s your name?”
“Can you tell me what happened, Ryan?”
“I was taking the flutes back to my friends and bumped into a guy with a sparkler.” He sniffled and choked back a sob.
“You hit your head?”
Add concussion protocol. I ran through the questions and he answered them all correctly, giving me an absolutely mutinous glare when I asked who the president was, then whined softly when I pulled out my bag and checked his vitals.
“We need to get you to the hospital so they can clean and dress this,” I said.
“Is it going to hurt?”
“Like hell,” Will deadpanned behind me.
A single tear rolled down Ryan’s face, but he nodded and gave me a shaky smile. I held him as gently as I knew how by his good arm and helped him up. His whimper made me feel like I’d kicked a puppy and I apologized for hurting him. He cradled the bad hand against his chest and wobbled a little, and I steadied him while we walked the few steps to the stretcher.
“How’re you feeling?” I asked after Will and I helped him on.
“Okay.” He sucked in a hard breath and whistled it out before he nodded, firmly this time. “I’m okay.”
I unlocked the stretcher and Will and I hurried to the elevator. We wheeled Ryan inside as carefully as possible, trying our best not to jostle him more than necessary. Dark-hair and the lady ran up behind us.
“What do you think you’re doing?” I asked Dark-hair when I felt him brush against me in the elevator, too close for comfort.
His brows furrowed. “Uhh, we’re coming to the lobby with you?”
I crossed my arms and pointed. “No. You guys take the main elevators. We’ll be at Howard.”
The woman tugged on his arm. “Come on, Coll, let’s go.”
He looked like he wanted to argue, but shook his head and followed his friend to the resident elevators.
I jammed the button repeatedly for the door to close, then turned to find Ryan lying there with his eyes shut and Will staring at me like I’d lost every ounce of sense I had.
“What was that all about?” he asked.
“What? They can’t ride in the truck with us.”
“Yeah, but…” Will trailed off and focused on the numbers overhead.
I clenched my jaw and did the same. I knew what Will was thinking, that the request was common and a non-issue. But I needed to concentrate, and the feel of Dark-hair’s body against mine, even for those few seconds, sent shocks of unwanted desire ratcheting through me. I needed the time to calm down, especially since I’d grossly misread their situation the first night. The normal elevators were fast, but this service one was taking its sweet damn time, and when we reached the lobby, I was good again.
Dark-hair and the lady were waiting. We loaded Ryan into the truck, and his face contorted in an effort not to cry out. I could smell the alcohol on him, but hell, it was the Fourth. Everybody and they mama was drinking tonight. But that meant I didn’t want to give him pain meds until he’d sobered up a little. And that meant he’d be hurting for a while longer.
Will hopped in the driver’s seat and I settled in the back with Ryan. He smiled at me, as much as he could under the circumstances.
“Your friends are right behind us. Is there anyone else you want to call?” I asked once we were moving.
Ryan rolled his lower lip in and looked down. I didn’t know the guy from Adam, but I’d clearly asked a loaded question. “No, I’m fine.”
“Are you sure?”
This time he didn’t respond, and I left it alone. Not my damn business. His vitals were stable, so I relaxed. Out of our five callouts so far—God, I hated working the Fourth—three of them had required the ER. Since there appeared to be glass in the wound, he’d likely get seen quickly, but he and his friends would still be there for hours.
We pulled up to the ambulance bay, lights flashing, sirens on, in less than five minutes, and brought Ryan out. He was still in obvious pain, but a bit of color had come back to his cheeks. We wheeled him in and I shook my head real quick at the blinding overhead fluorescent lights. Ten years on the job and I still couldn’t get used to the damn things. Ryan squeezed his eyes shut too. Even without a concussion, that shit had to hurt.
A nurse met us at the front, took one look at Ryan, and shook her head. “Any appendages missing?”
I huffed. “No. Twenty-eight-year-old male with lacerations to the left forearm and significant burns to the hand and forearm. Not actively bleeding. Vitals stable. Good pulses, sensation, strength, and range of motion in the extremities. Alcohol on board, so no pain medications administered en route. Evaluated in the field for concussion due to slip and fall. No loss of consciousness.”
She grabbed a clipboard and scribbled down the notes. “Okay. Well, let me get him triaged so we can get that glass out. We’re crazy tonight.”
Always. We transferred him to a gurney and rolled him down the hall, squeezing him in between two other people who looked dazed, confused, but alive, breathing, with all limbs intact.
“Let’s get you signed off and you can get out of here,” the nurse said.
I bent over Ryan. “You going to be okay here?”
He smiled at me. Even pale and in pain, he was gorgeous. Wasn’t hard to see what Dark-hair saw in him. “I’m good. Thank you.”
I squeezed his shoulder, wondering why I felt the need to comfort him when I didn’t do that with anyone else. “You take care.”
He winked at me and waggled his brows, and I was sure that when he was at a hundred percent, he spelled trouble. And even though she’d been drunk last week and had sunglasses on earlier, I’m sure the woman was fly too. I could only imagine what the three of them got up to.
I walked to the front knowing Will had already looked everything over. As the senior member, though, I had to sign off on the paperwork. I scanned everything, scrawled my name, and handed it to the receptionist with a flourish. Will tapped me and pointed to his watch. “Shift’s over.”
“Thank fucking God,” I muttered, more to me than him, but he laughed. “Let me hit the john and I’ll be ready to roll.”
He paused, then his lips curved into a smile and he nodded. “No rush. I’ll be in the truck.” He walked away whistling. Motherfucker.
I went to the men’s room and took a moment. Sometimes I hated that Will could read me so damn well. I’d never told him I was gay, but I didn’t hide it. Just not something that came up at work. Unless I was seeing someone, which I wasn’t, there was no need to discuss who I went home to. That excuse didn’t work with the fam, who also didn’t know, but I took my justifications where I could find them.
Still, I couldn’t deny the way I’d acted toward that guy—Call or whatever the girl had said—was unusual. Not inappropriate, well within the rules, but rude. Enough for Will to notice. And transparent enough that Will knew I’d rather cut my tongue out than go to an ER bathroom, but here I was, stalling. Just like the other night, and I couldn’t forget how well that had turned out. Trippin’ over a guy who already had a man. What kind of fuck shit was that? I sighed, washed my hands and stepped out, and there he was.
Him and the girl, huddled in the waiting room with everybody else in the damn District, slumped against the chair and staring at the ceiling. He looked tired, but good Lord he was pretty. In a different way than Ryan, who was almost delicate. But this guy was taller, more fit but still compact. His shorts were tight around his thighs, and that, mixed with the hair…was a thing for me, just like the last traces of the lip-gloss I could tell he’d eaten off and the hair that was just long enough to get a good grip on.
He shifted in his seat, cracked his neck, then turned. Our eyes locked and he frowned, like he was wondering why the hell I was standing there like a chump. I frowned too, because that was a damn good question. And the hell if I had an answer I was willing to cop to. I nodded at him, a quick dip of my head, and walked out. I wasn’t the one to get hung up on what I couldn’t have, and I’d be damned if I started now.
The truck wasn’t there when I got outside. I walked to the right without looking, sure Will would park around the cut, like he always did on busy nights so more trucks could unload. I was halfway there when I heard the doors open behind me.
“Jeremiah, can I talk to you?”
The sound of my name on his lips was like smooth whiskey going down, and a vision flashed in my mind of him on his knees, that eyeliner he insisted on wearing running down his cheeks while he choked on my dick. Jesus fucking Christ. I kept walking.