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Posts tagged ‘characters’

Fiction Friday: “Do What”

“The sun hasn’t even come up yet, and you’re wanting me to do what?”

She laughed at me and tugged on my hand, making the sheet slip further down my body. Her eyes still twinkled. “It’s called a run. It’s not like it’s a special favor.”

“I’d do any special favor for you, as long as it was here in this bed. There’s no reason to get out of it, is there? We can work up a sweat here.”

She just grinned at me and finished pulling the sheet away. “Come on. We can do that after the run.”

Finally, some incentive for me to actually get out of bed.


No idea who these characters actually are. Whether they’re actually already existing characters or not. Maybe they’ll tell me eventually. 😉

2016 A-Z Challenge Reflections

A-to-Z Reflection [2016]

The A-Z challenge ended over a week ago, but now it’s time to reflect on how it went for me. Basically…really well. I had a lot of fun writing up each of the posts. In fact, most of the time I was about a week ahead on having them written and scheduled. It went a lot better than the first time I participated. I had a theme both times, so I don’t think that’s part of it. But, the first year I chose a theme that required me to do research, a good bit of it. This year, I focused on characters already established in my various series. I really enjoyed digging into their back stories and sharing pieces of them.

From my BC Security series, we had:

Alex Connelly – Alex comes homes after his parents’ deaths but finds something he wasn’t expecting

Casey Brannigan – Casey meets Marie for the first time

Declan Portor – When Declan’s mother dies, he goes home to find things worse than he expected

Hannah Connelly – Hannah’s reaction when her mother goes missing(events during Guarding the Heart)

Piers Quincey – Piers and Xavier realize they’re both carrying feelings for the other

Rowan Portor – Rowan meets Alexandra(Declan’s parents’ story)

Xavier Urban – Things fall apart between Xavier and Piers

Vivienne Quincey Vivienne(Piers’ mother) deals with feelings about son enlisting in Marine Corps

Xavier Urban(take 2) – this is the final in the arc starting with Piers and Xavier’s first post. Xavier faces Piers for the first time since their falling out.(events during Guarding the Heart)

And from my Flames & Hunter family series:

Finn Reddick – Finn deals with learning his mother is leaving his father

Giovanni Magaldi – Giovanni gets ready to interview new bartender for his family’s pub(events during Flames of Restoration)

Megan Luzat – Megan deals with  a lot of changes in he life.

William Boroughs – William welcomes two of his cousins to a family gathering

Dillon Yates – Dillon greets a new colleague

From my Gilbert, Co series:

Erik Matthews – Erik answers questions about his son after his daughter-in-law is killed

Kellie Caldera – Kellie welcomes new doctor to clinic(events during Healing the Heart)

Leann Rudler – Leann meets Rick and his son

Olivia Stevens – Olivia tries to deal with feelings about stepson

Patrick Williams – Patrick tries to come to grips with feelings about mother & stepmother

And from my Kurztown series:

Brian Sharrock – Brian rushes home for birth of his daughter and tries to reconcile having to return to law school

Lila Correlli – Lila deals with feelings of leaving home town and best friends

Joel Holland – Joel learns son was in car crash and tries to handle

Nila Siddell – Nila and Julian start dating and have to deal with attitudes of their small town

Susan Holland – Susan tries to deal with changing feelings for her best friend

Trisha Gosslar – Trisha wants to tie everything up in her last days.

Zachariah Sarrano – Zachariah gets word of wife and daughter in accident and rushes to hospital

I had a lot of fun writing these but am glad the month is over. Of course, now I’m participating in the Story a Day challenge, so really I’m pretty much continuing it. Now, time to start thinking on what next year’s theme will be.

A-Z Blog Challenge 2016 – Theme Reveal

A2Z-BADGE%202016-smaller_zpslstazvibI’m coming back for my second year in a row of participating in the A-Z Blog Challenge. Ok, so the ‘in a row’ was unnecessary, since I didn’t skip any years, either. Last year was my first year doing it. Anyway! Last year’s theme was “fire” as I have a whole series that revolves around firefighters, and even a spin-off series now.


Then, in May, I participated in Story a Day challenge for the second year(but not in a row this time). Most of those stories involved characters in one of my various series. It was after that the idea for this year’s theme(though I hadn’t quite decided whether I was going to do it again or not at that point). The idea has firmed up more in my mind since then, and I started planning out my posts in February(I greatly believe in getting ahead when I can).

Anyway, all that to say…


atoz-theme-reveal-2016 v2





…. ….





Last year I brought you researched posts, with a few about characters in my Flames series. This year, it’s all about the fiction. I’ll be bringing you snippets(or snapshots) from somewhere in a character’s past. Some of them are side characters(a couple are kids), but even those characters often come to get their own story, so this may even be a bit toward plotting future stories. I’ll try to keep these under 1000 words, but sometimes my characters take over and run off at the mouth(*cough*Declan*cough*).

I picked these mostly randomly and they still came out mostly evenly(well, they did until I changed a couple of them, and now they lean a little heavier to characters from my BC Security series).  have 9 from BC Security(though 2 are the same character. X & U are hard letters to come up with). 5 are from my Flames series, 5 from my Gilbert, Co series, and 7 from my Kurztown series.

This Year’s Topics:

A: Alex Connelly(BC Security)

B: Brian Sharrock(Kurztown)

C: Casey Brannigan(BC Security)

D: Declan Portor(BC Security)

E: Erik Matthews(Gilbert, Co)

F: Finn Reddick(Flames)

G: Giovanni Magaldi(Flames)

H: Hannah Connelly(BC Security)

I: Lila Corelli(Kurztown) – had none that started with I, but figured hers ended with it, so close enough.

J: Joel Holland(Kurztown)

K: Kellie Caldera(Gilbert, Co)

L: Leann Rudler(Gilbert, Co)

M: Megan Luzat(Flames)

N: Nila Siddell(Kurztown)

O: Olivia Stevens(Gilbert, Co)

P: Patrick Williams(Gilbert, Co)

Q: Piers Quincey(BC Security)

R: Rowan Portor(BC Security)

S: Susan Holland(Kurztown)

T: Trisha Gosslar(Kurztown)

U: Xavier Urban(BC Security)

V: Vivienne Quincey(BC Security)

W: William Buroughs(Flames)

X: Xavier Urban(BC Security) – told you there was a double one on here

Y: Dillon Yates(Flames)

Z: Zachariah Saranno(Kurztown)

So, there they are. 26 snapshots of my characters. I’m excited to bring these to you all.

JusJoJan: Day 24 – Compelled

Welcome back to Day 24 of Just Jot It January. I’ve skipped the last couple days. I had some vague ideas for the last two prompts, but nothing that formed into any actual words. So, I just didn’t write anything. Anyway, today’s prompt is compelled, brought to us by Willow.

I have a lot of stories in my head. And it seems more pop in all the time. Sometimes, as I write them, it actually feels like I’m writing them, making it all up. Then, other times, they just pour out of me. It’s more like the characters are telling me the story, and I’m just trying to keep up with transcribing it. These are some of my favorite to write, even if it can be a bit exhausting.

The first I can remember being like this, was Flames of Retribution, which I’ve just finished doing a second round of revisions on. The words only stopped rolling one time, because a side character revealed something about himself that I hadn’t been prepared for. Once I adjusted to that reveal(much as the main character needed to), the story rolled right on until the end. The other books in the series have rolled out much the same way. There’s just something about these characters.

The bedroom door creaked, and he turned toward the front door. He had no desire to see whoever Nolan had spent the night with. “I’ll see you later.”
As he opened the front door, he heard, “Nolan, you coming back to bed?” He nearly froze in the doorway. That hadn’t been a woman’s voice. He didn’t turn back, waiting until he was on the sidewalk to increase his pace to a jog.
His best friend was not gay. He knew that. He’d seen him with women, knew he brought them home. Did he bring men home too?
Did it matter? It didn’t change anything about the man his best friend was. Did it?
He picked up his pace. He couldn’t, didn’t want to, think about this right now. He’d finish his workout then head into the hospital. He wanted to be back at the apartment before Adrian brought Caitie home.

I also wrote this, and what led up to it, in a separate “short” story(if you can count 10k as still a short story).

Then, there’s the side characters that sometimes pop up. I think they’re just throwaway characters. And then they start talking to me, telling me they have a story to tell. Leo Rusak, from my Gilbert, CO series, was one of these. I really hadn’t been planning to tell his, and then I wrote My Way to You in 7 days. All 36,237 words of it.

She’d caught a glimpse of who Leo was talking about. “The guy Dad hired? Jensen?” That was his name, right?
“Jason,” he corrected softly. “So, you’ve already met him.”
“Kind of. He helped me up to the house yesterday when I got hit with a headache. He came out to the barn while I was there. We talked for a few minutes. He seems nice.”
A smile played around his lips, and her own lips turned down into a frown. “It’s not like that, Leo. He wouldn’t be interested in me, anyway.”
“What makes you say that?”
“Look at him.”
“Oh, I have,” he said, that smile still floating on his face. “Do you think Bryan will be jealous?”
Connie laughed and slapped at his arm. “You’re bad, Leo.”

This was when Leo popped up in Chasing the Ghost. My Way to You starts shortly after Chasing ends and then goes back in the past to when Leo and Bryan first meet. I really liked telling their story.

Another side character, Xavier (no last name yet), who showed up in Guarding the Heart(the first in my BC Security series – and yes, I have a lot of series), was another who surprised me and compelled me to tell their stories.

“Xavier. I didn’t know you were still here.”
He turned from the stove with a grin for her. “I’ve had the boss’s cooking before. I figured I’d save you that experience.”
“I’m right here, X,” Casey said from the table, and she froze in the middle of her laugh. “You don’t really need to insult me.”
Xavier flicked his gaze to Casey, where it lingered for just a moment before turning back to the stove. “Yeah. I see ya.”
Emelyn looked between them, awareness dawning. Casey seemed oblivious to the tone in the man’s voice or that look, though. She moved over toward the stove. “Need help with anything?” she asked, reaching over to squeeze the hand he had clenched against the counter.
He looked over at her, and saw the moment realization hit him. He glanced away, but she saw his throat move as he swallowed. “Nope,” he said, keeping his voice light. “It’s just about ready. All you gotta do is eat.”
She nodded and moved over to the coffeepot and saw there was already a cup sitting in front of it. Since the two men already had their own, she assumed this one had been set out for her. She wondered who she had to thank for that. But, by the small thing of milk and sugar sitting beside it, she thought she knew. Xavier didn’t know how she took her coffee.
When Xavier slid a plate in front of her, she dug into the eggs with small pieces of ham and potato mixed in. She hummed at the first taste. It had just a little bite to it. Perfect. “You have to tell me your secret,” she said, looking right at Xavier. “I promise I won’t tell anyone.”
He looked back at her, and she saw the slight relaxing of his muscles as he got another meaning in her words. “Not a secret once someone else knows.”

And then there’s this when another character shows up, which tells me at least part of what their story(which will be the third in the series)

“Need anything, boss?” Xavier asked, and Casey saw him standing at the foot of the bed. His gaze was on the wall behind Casey. “If it’s time for you to take more meds, I can get them.”
“No. I’ve got time before I gotta take more. All I need is for you to get the bug out of your ass. I told you I don’t want you to resign or anything. So, you could at least make eye contact with me.”
The rest of the room had fallen silent, and a heavy weight settled on his chest. But, it was Piers who broke the tension, and Casey saw his eyes linger on Xavier a moment as he said, “We gonna bring the boy up to speed or spend the rest of the day bullshitting?”
The tension dissipated at that, and Xavier turned away. He walked toward the other side of the room, and again, Casey thought he saw a quick brush of Piers’ hand against Xavier’s arm. The younger man jerked away this time, though. And before Piers turned away, Casey was almost certain he saw a flash of hurt in his eyes. He’d probably imagined it, though. This concussion was making him read more into things.

I really loved these guys, especially when Dorian(even though I could have sworn I’d named him Declan at some point) and Piers showed up. They’ll be in the next stories a lot more. In fact, Dorian/Declan’s will be the next one I outline.

Flames A-Z: Nolan Hunter

I did a post on Nolan back in April for the A-Z challenge. At the time, I was in the middle of writing his story. He’s another of those characters who was supposed to just have a walk-on part in the first book. That first book was supposed to be a standalone. HaHa. I seem incapable of writing those. He only has a small appearance in the second book, but he’s in a good bit of book 3. And we learn something new about him at the same time Mark does. In fact, I learned it only shortly before that and may have resisted just a bit.

Nolan is the third son of Carrick and Ariana Hunter(that kind of makes him sound like royalty, huh?) and grew up in Crystal Glen, Pa. His father works in construction and his mother was an art teacher. Nolan and his brothers grew up around hammers and power tools. Only his oldest brother, Tate, followed in the family business. Although, his other older brother, Kelan, at one time planned to be an architect. He also has two younger siblings, Jessica and Jace, who are about 10 years younger than Nolan. Jessica also followed in their father’s footsteps.

When Nolan graduated high school, he went to college, majoring in psychology. During his second year at college, he left and joined the Marine Corps.* While there, he met Mark Young, who became one of his best friends. He served four years, a lot of that time spent in the Middle East. He was wounded just before his enlistment term was up, and he was also growing disillusioned, so he didn’t re-enlist.*

After that, he ended up joining the Crystal Lake Fire Department. He spent a few of his teen years as an Explorer for the town’s volunteer department. And his father, two of his brothers, and his sister are all volunteers as well. He’d been there for a couple years when Mark returned home badly wounded. After he’d recovered, Nolan convinced him to move up north(same state, but they come from different parts of it) and join the department as well.

Since him and Mark were friends, Nolan had gone home with Mark a few times when they were on leave. And he met Mark’s sister, Maura. Unfortunately, the first time he met her, she was already engaged to someone else. So, he became her friend. And he waited. He stood by her even when her husband treated her poorly. And when she finally left him, he was still there to support her and waiting for her to be ready to move on.

Writing Nolan’s story did push me a bit out of my comfort zone(and no, still not revealing Nolan’s secret. haha. I’m evil like that). But, I do really like it. I’m hoping others will, too.

*these lead to stories I wrote for this year’s Story a Day challenge.

Flames A-Z: Adrian Riley

I’ve seen a few people doing an A-Z challenge for their stories recently. I wasn’t going to do it. I’ve got enough other things keeping me busy. And, yet, here I am. I’m going to be doing this in my own way, though. Two posts a week(Tuesday & Thursday) on characters from my Flames series. I have a few other series I could probably pick from. But, as the Flames series is my most prolific(have 5 novels, 1 novella, plus more planned, 1 spin-off started, & another in pre-plotting thoughts), so I figured it would be the best to go with. So, twice a week, I’ll introduce one of the characters, maybe show some “casting” photos, a bit of their background, maybe even a snippet from their story(or a story they’re in, if they’re a more minor character). Today, we have…Adrian Riley.

For my inspiration for Adrian and other things from Flames of Redemption, you can check out my Pinterest board here

Adrian was born on July 6, 1982 to Donovan and Chrissa Riley in Erie, Pa. He has one older brother, Rian. After him came Callum, Darcie, Connor, and Doreen. Thirteen years separated the oldest from the youngest. Adrian had always been a bit of a protector, but this intensified when at fifteen he was unable to save his baby sister from a fire. He tried to hold his family together, but his older brother went off to college, his younger brother got into drugs, and he wasn’t sure how to help the youngest two.

He carried this wound with him, even into his career as a police officer. When he had to arrest his brother, he decided to transfer to a smaller department in the nearby town of Crystal Glen. Most of his new colleagues didn’t know his past or his family of cops. He became a detective shortly after the move and had been there almost two years when he was assigned a case involving possible arson and the death of a firefighter.

While on that case, he ran into Kayla Brooke, a firefighter with Crystal Glen’s fire department. While trying to figure out who was starting these fires, destroying families, they fanned a few flames of their own. He was determined to protect her, but that was one thing that nearly caused him to lose her.

They still thrive on fanning each others’ sparks into something more, eight months into their marriage. Adrian wants everything with her, but he has a tendency to move faster than her.

I still don’t know yet if they’ll have more of a family together than their two dogs, Oscar(border collie mix) and Florian(Golden Retriever mix). But, that’s part of what I like about a connected series. Even though they aren’t the main characters any longer, we still get to follow the rest of their story.

And a little snippet from Flames of Redemption with Adrian and Kayla on that first scene(not the first time they’ve run into each other, though):

Adrian wanted to pound his head against a wall. Or her head. No, he’d rather kiss her against the wall, if there was a wall left to even lean against that wouldn’t crumble under them. He shouldn’t be thinking like that. Damn, that little firefighter was frustrating, though.
He wasn’t even sure why he let her crawl right under his skin, though she seemed to be quite adept at it. She barely even spoke to him. He wasn’t quite sure exactly what he’d done to piss her off so extremely. Had it been at the viewing? He hadn’t really even questioned her, or any of them. He’d only been there to observe. Same with the funeral. That one had really enraged her. Not like he’d actually wanted to be there, to intrude on their moment of pain, of grief. As he’d already told her, he only had a job to do. One just as important as hers. Of course, he hadn’t realized she would try to do his job as well.
Ah, maybe that was the problem. He shouldn’t let it get to him. She wasn’t even a trained investigator. At least James and Marshal Haig, from the State Police barracks, were trained to know what to look for.
He’d already made the mistake of saying that to her face once. He was smarter than people seemed to think, and he could learn from his mistakes. She’d scorched him with her eyes enough today. At least her mood had improved slightly once James had given her the gloves and the coffee he had in his car.
Of course, that improvement didn’t mean much, when it was already so bad. He thought avoiding her would make things better. She made it easy, since she seemed to be doing the same. If they were going to work this case together, they’d actually have to work together. They couldn’t ignore each other the whole time. He’d make a pretty good try at it, though. She’d have to go back to the station sometime anyway.
He wasn’t sure if he heard her, or if it was more of sensing her, but he knew the moment she approached him. Still, he kept his eyes trained on the floor. He figured it was better than looking at her. He wasn’t exactly sure what he would do then. Back to that thought of hitting her head against the wall. Even worse, giving in to this temptation to kiss her. Yes, he definitely thought that would be a worse decision.

On Thursday, look for a little bit on Kayla’s family.

A to Z: Z is for Zachary Brooke


For the last post of this challenge, I was going to write about fire zones, but I changed my mind. For this one, we get a little glimpse of Kayla’s father(and James’ brother). Zachary Brooke never got his own story(though I wouldn’t be adverse to going back in time and playing with that idea). He met his wife, Angela, about the same time his older brother was getting married. Less than a year apart, James and Zachary did almost everything at the same time. They went to the fire academy at the same time, joined the department at the same time. He married within months of his brother, and found out his wife was pregnant right around the time his nephew was born.

Going into the fire service was about the only way they were similar, though. James was tall and dark, whereas Zachary was smaller and light. James had dark brown hair, nearly black, and green eyes. Zach has blond hair and blue eyes. James always referred to him as the golden boy, not just for those looks, but also because trouble never seemed to stick to him. Zachary was always a bit impulsive and reckless(which he seemed to pass on to his daughter) and ran into situations without thinking. James was always there to back him up, which was probably a good part of the reason trouble never seemed to find him.

And a little snippet(this is from near the end of James’ story, Flames of Renewal, so if you haven’t figured out that will end happily ever after, you might want to skip this):

She leaned down and pressed a kiss to his forehead. “You should get some rest. I know the others want to see you though. Do you want me to send Zach in?”
“That’s fine,” he murmured, his eyes refusing to stay open. “Will you stay with me?”
“The doctor only wants one person at a time in here, but I’ll be in the waiting room when you’re up for more company.”
He didn’t have the strength to tell her that wasn’t what he’d meant. He felt her press another kiss to his face then she was gone. He had drifted off again though before his brother came into the room. He was woken by his strong voice telling about the time he’d followed Zach to a rundown house, and Zach had kept him from falling through the second floor to-
“I remember that incident quite differently,” he interrupted, his mouth twisting into a wry smile.
Zachary chuckled. “I thought a lie might pull you out of it.”
He glanced toward the door. “Is Teresa still out there?”
Zachary nodded. “We’ve already done one circuit through here. She even brought Avery in to see you for a couple minutes. Then, her parents took the girl to their house for the night.”
James shifted on the bed. “How long was I out of it this time?”
“A couple hours. You lost quite a bit of blood. You need to rest up so you can get some strength back.”
He glanced toward the door again. At least this time he could keep his eyes open. He wanted to see Teresa again, but he needed to take care of something else first. “Is Dad out there?”
Zachary shook his head. “He was for a little bit, but he went home. Said he didn’t want to sit around here waiting for you to get your lazy ass up.”
James laughed. He doubted those had been his exact words. “Can you call him and ask if he remembers what he did with Mom’s ring?”
He saw his brother’s eyes narrow. “You said you didn’t want it. She left it to you, but you didn’t want it.”
It would have been Sarah’s if she’d lived long enough. He couldn’t feel the guilt for that. Not when so much love filled him now. “I didn’t want it then. I do now.”

A to Z: N is for Nolan Hunter


Nolan Hunter is another character who was supposed to basically be a throwaway. I simply needed another firefighter in the scene. Then, as I was plotting Flames of Retribution(book 3), I realized he was a very close friend of Mark’s. And I realized why. It was about halfway through writing that one, I also realized Nolan has a secret he’s been keeping(even from that closest friend) and that he’d be getting his own story. I actually thought his story would come right after Mark’s, but I was surprised again. There was one other between them, but I’m working on Nolan’s right now.

Name: Nolan Hunter

Age: 34/35

Parents: Carrick & Ariana Hunter

Siblings: Older brothers – Tate & Kelan, Younger brother – Jace, Younger sister – Jessica

Occupation: firefighter

Background: Nolan grew up in Crystal Glen right in the middle of a large family. The son of a construction worker and art teacher, he always felt slightly apart from his close-knit family. Always a bit quiet and introspective, he still wasn’t the creative type. He spent two years in college pursuing a degree in psychology before leaving to join the Marine Corps. He served for four years, but after being wounded and realizing it wasn’t the life for him, didn’t reenlist. Instead, he went home and joined the fire department as he still wanted to help people. But, he worried the same people who had welcomed him home as a hero would shun him if they ever learned the secret he kept.

And a snippet from Nolan’s story(him & Mark are talking about Mark’s sister at the beginning. And yes, I need to clear up who’s saying what better. This is rough).

“What’s she have to say anyway? I know the kids start to school next week.”
“Evan’s being a fuckhead about something. She didn’t say what exactly, except he apparently wants them back. Asshole,” he muttered.
“He didn’t care about them when he had them. Why would he want them back now?”
“I don’t know, brother. She says she won’t go back. I just hope she sticks to it.”
“You know, I used to think she was happy just being the trophy wife. If I’d known how miserable she actually was-”
“She didn’t want you to know, Mark. I knew. I could hear it when I talked to her. But, she denied it even to me. She’d just say she was tired or the kids were wearing her out. I knew that wasn’t it, but I let it go.” He clenched his fist now. “I wish I’d done more before she was completely miserable.”
“It wasn’t for you to do anything. It’s still not.”
His head whipped back up, but Mark held his hands out in front of him. “No need to jump at me, brother. I’m not saying I’d stand in the way if she wants a relationship with you. I’m just saying she has to be the one to make herself not miserable. Isn’t that pretty much what you told me earlier this year.”
Nolan knew his friend was right. And it’s what he’d been telling Mark for longer than six months. More like six years. “I was going to check on them when our shift is over.”
He caught the smirk on Mark’s face but ignored it. “Should I keep my tux handy?” he asked.
Nolan barked out a laugh. “Like you own one. I figured you’d wear Class As like you did to Kayla’s wedding.” Then, he froze at what he’d just insinuated. “Shit. I didn’t mean that. I don’t have any plans to marry your sister.”
“And why not?” Mark asked. “There’s nothing wrong with her. Are you ashamed of your feelings for her, too?”
Damn, why did it feel like everyone was ganging up on him on this topic? “I’m not ashamed of any of my feelings. I’ve told you that before. But, she’s just getting out of one marriage. Why would I rush her into another?”
“I noticed you haven’t done much rushing,” Mark admitted. “That kind of surprised me.”
“I figured she’d need some space. Time to figure out what she wants. I’ll be there for her when she does decide what that is, though.”
“And if she decides it’s not you?” Mark asked, serious again.
He shrugged one shoulder. “I’ll be fine.”
Nolan knew by the look Mark sent him that he didn’t really believe it. Nolan wasn’t so sure he did either. But, he needed to make himself. He knew she’d been pushed into the relationship with her ex-husband by her father. This time a relationship had to be her decision, not anyone else’s.

A to Z: M is for Mark Young


I was going to talk about mutual aid today, but I think I’ll put that as part of another day’s post. Instead, I want to talk about another character in my Flames series who took on more life than I ever expected.

At first, I think I wrote Mark Young into Flames of Redemption simply because obviously Kayla couldn’t be the only firefighter at the station. Then, he started giving her a hard time. At first, I thought it was simply because he was grieving a friend, a brother, even more than a colleague. Then, I learned he’d been giving her a hard time even longer than that. And I realized there was even more behind why he did this, and little of it actually had to do with her. More of his background started to come through until I realized he had a story to tell as well. Well, it wasn’t so much I realized it as he demanded I let him tell his story. And he didn’t stop demanding, until I’d finished writing it.

Name: Mark Young

Age: 34

Parents: Timothy & Monica Young

Siblings: older sister – Maura, younger brother – Patrick

Occupation: firefighter

Background: Mark grew up as the middle son but never felt like he belonged anywhere until he joined the Marine Corps right out of high school. He served for almost eight years before being seriously wounded. While in the Corps, he met and became friends with Nolan Hunter(more on him tomorrow). After recovering, he moved to Crystal Glen(fictional town set in NW Pennsylvania) and ended up joining the fire department there with Nolan. He’d found another place he belonged, but traumas from the last several years still rode with him.

Mark had just lifted the bar over his head when he heard the sharp rap on his front door. He groaned as he set the bar back in the bracket and sat up. He was only halfway through his weights routine and hated being interrupted. But he grabbed the towel he kept near his weight bench and wiped the sweat from his face as he headed for the door. He’d taken his shirt off when he’d returned from today’s run and didn’t bother putting it back on. So, he answered the door in just a pair of track pants.
“Damn it, Mark. You could at least put a shirt on.”
Mark just grinned at Nolan. “Grow a couple inches, and you could just look me in the face.”
Nolan pushed against his shoulder. He could look him in the eye, but straight on, his gaze landed right at his collarbone. Mark just turned and walked back into the apartment, leaving the door open for his friend. He didn’t put his shirt on, dropping back onto the weight bench and reaching for the bar again. “I know you didn’t come here to spot me,” he said as he started another set of lifts.
“You never got my keys back to me.”
“On the kitchen counter. I tried to take them by your place and even brought them to the station yesterday, but you’d switched shifts with McCorkel. How’ve you been getting around?”
“Walking. Hopping rides with the other guys. Cork’s wife went into labor Saturday night. Hadn’t planned on working Sunday.”
“How is she?”
“Good from all reports,” he said, hopping up on to the counter as Mark settled the bar in the bracket again.
Without sitting up, he put his knees over the padded bars of the leg developer, hooking his feet onto the bottom of it. He started doing leg lifts and just turned his head toward Nolan. “The baby?”
“Good too. A little girl, Lorna Caitrin.He’s taking my next shift. I’m sure he’ll have pictures for you.”
Mark nodded, but his jaw tightened as he counted each lift in his head. It clenched tighter as his leg twinged. But, he pushed past that. He felt like he was always pushing past it. “Damn it, Mark. You don’t have to do this to yourself.”
“I’m not doing anything to myself,” he said, the words grating out through his teeth as he forced himself to do a few more lifts. “I’m doing it for me. I won’t go back to what I was.”
“What you were? You were fucking wounded. You were lucky to be alive, let alone keep your leg. Give yourself a fucking break. Being wounded isn’t a sign of weakness. The fact you’re still around and moving on your own should be a sign of your strength.”
“Didn’t feel that way to me when I couldn’t do a single thing for myself. I won’t go back to feeling that way again.” He let the equipment drop back into place and sat up, reaching for the towel. “Can you get a water out of the fridge? Since you seem determined to stay.”
“You’re in a nasty mood today, Mark. I figured that fairy would have taken care of that.”
He nearly snarled at that before pulling himself back. “She has nothing to do with it. It was a rough night. We got that warehouse fire and that pile-up.” He wiped the towel over his face again, as if that could erase the memory of the little boy he’d pulled out of the car. He was still alive even if his legs were mangled. They could fix that. He knew a leg could be fixed. So, he tried not to think about all the pain the boy would go through to get them working again.
At least he was still alive.
“What did happen Saturday night?” Nolan asked as he handed him the bottle of water. “You didn’t come back down before I left, and you never responded to my message.”
“I was a little busy.”
“So, you did get some. Why aren’t you in a better mood then?”
“I told you. It was a rough night.” He dragged a hand over his head though.
“We’re used to rough nights, Mark. What the hell is going on with you?”
“Hell if I know,” he muttered, taking a pull from the bottle. Then, he wrapped the towel around his shoulders. “I didn’t want to leave. She was wrapped around me, and I just wanted to stay there.”
“Maybe you should have.” The teasing tone and aggravation had left Nolan’s voice. “You could have given yourself that.”
Mark shook his head and leaned against a wall. “I haven’t even fallen asleep with a woman in over a year, Nolan. I never have trouble leaving. So, why was this so hard?”
“She have her claws in you already, brother? You going to start calling her when you’re done with work?”
Mark’s eyes snapped open, but even though Nolan was smiling, it didn’t quite reach his eyes. He knew his friend was worried about him. “No. It’s not like that. I don’t do relationships. Not anymore.”
“I’m not going there with you again. You already know my opinion about you still punishing yourself for that. You made a mistake. You’re human, Mark. You’re allowed.”

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