Against the Fire: Outlaw Lawman

By: Kat Martin & Delores Fossen



One




The screech of the siren didn’t reach him at first. Exhausted from a hard day’s work, Gabriel Raines slept soundly. But as the shrill cry drew closer and the flashing red lights lit the walls inside his bedroom, something registered in the depths of his mind and he stirred.

Gabe blinked awake, eyes instantly alert as had become his habit during his years as a marine. He’d been out of the corps for years but some things just didn’t change.

The wail of the siren grew louder on the street below the window of his downtown Dallas condominium, then the fire truck shot past and the sounds began to dim as the vehicle drove farther away. With a weary sigh, Gabe turned to look at the red neon numbers on his alarm clock. Three-thirty.

Running a hand over his face, he lay back against the pillow, hoping like hell he’d be able to get back to sleep.

He might have if his cell phone hadn’t started ringing.

The siren’s wail had stopped. The fire truck had reached its destination, which meant the fire was nearby, and the sound of a second engine was beginning to fill the night. Gabe reached toward the nightstand and picked up his cell phone, flipped it open and pressed it against his ear.

“Whoever this is,” he grumbled, “this had better be important.”

“There’s a fire at the Dallas Towers.” The voice of his foreman, Sam McBride, floated over the line. “Looks like all our hard work is going up in smoke.”

Adrenaline jolted through him. Gabe swung his long legs to the side of the bed. “Are you sure it’s the Towers?”

“I was on my way home, about a block away when I heard the first fire truck. I saw it turn toward the Towers and decided to see what was going on.”

Already off the mattress, Gabe pressed the phone more tightly against his ear. “You see what part of the structure is involved?”

“I could see flames in the lobby.”

“Son of a bitch.” They were almost finished with the major renovation they were doing on the Tower’s soaring marble lobby. Almost.

He took a breath to steady himself as he walked toward his closet. “If you were just heading home, you must have had a pretty hot date.”

“I didn’t spend the night if that tells you anything.”

Like Gabe, Sam was a bachelor and both of them lived downtown. An area that formerly consisted of run-down buildings was being revitalized, turned into a chic little district of shops and boutiques. Gabe had built the condos Sam lived in, as well as the Las Posas development that housed his own unit.

“I’m getting dressed. I’ll be there in fifteen minutes.”

Gabe closed the phone. He should have known things were going too well. In his experience, every time life went a little too smoothly, bad news lurked around the corner.

Naked, he crossed to the oak dresser against the far wall, jerked open his underwear drawer and pulled out briefs and a pair of socks. Dragging on a pair of jeans and a Dallas Cowboys T-shirt, he ignored the row of Western boots sitting on the closet floor and shoved his size-thirteen feet into the heavy leather boots he wore when he was working.

Gabe left the condo and a few minutes later, he was pulling his big white GMC extended cab pickup over to the curb just a little ways down the block from the Towers. Smoke and flame billowed out through the open glass doors leading into the lobby, but the fire boys were at work inside and had three powerful jets of water hitting the building from different angles. With any luck, the blaze would be brought under control before it burned into the offices on the floors above.

The bad news was, the lobby would have to be completely rebuilt.

Son of a bitch.

“At least the building was insured.” Sam McBride strode toward him, almost as tall as Gabe’s six-foot-two-inch frame, but instead of having Gabe’s dark hair, blue eyes and muscular build, Sam was blond and lanky. On top of being a damned good employee, he was Gabe’s best friend.

“Well, I guess that’s something. It’ll sure put us behind schedule, though. I was hoping to finish up here, split the crew up, use the guys to finish our other projects.”

“Not gonna happen,” Sam said.

Gabe looked up to see one of the firemen walking toward them in full battle gear: fire protection suit, helmet, goggles, high rubber boots.

“Be better if you stepped back a little,” the fireman said, “kept out of the way.”

“I’m Gabriel Raines. My company’s been rebuilding the lobby. A lot of my equipment is still in there.”

“Sorry to hear that, Mr. Raines. Most everything in the lobby’s completely gone. It was a hot, fast fire. We’re lucky we were able to get a handle on it so quickly.”

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