Hello readers! I have chapter snippet for you from Welcome to Alvarado book #4, Dragged Through Fire.
I’m startled out of a damn good dream; a dream in which I didn’t toss that bartender’s number in the trash. The fire alarm is blaring, and it sets my blood rushing. Sorry, hot bartended of my dreams, but it’s time to go to work.
My apartment above the firehouse garage affords me two things: free rent in exchange for firehouse maintenance, and always being the first on the truck. Trent lives in the second one bedroom apartment, which used to be bunk houses, but he has yet to beat me for an alarm call. Liam sometimes beats me, but only because I’ve caught him sleeping in one of the two firetrucks on occasion when he gets enough of living at home. I get it. I lived with Dad for twenty years, too, before spending one summer clearing out the old bunk houses that hadn’t been used in thirty years and making them livable again.
Truth be told, we don’t get many late night alarms in Alvarado. There’s been more lately as the small rural town experiences some growing pains, but nothing crazy. A garage fire, an accident out on one of the unlit farm roads, or sometimes a barn heater that’s been knocked over. Those are always the worst, with frightened animals and frantic farmhands, but luckily they’re also the rarest call we get. Dad’s farm fire safety campaign took a better part of my summer before senior year, but it’s paid off. As I sit up in bed with the alarm bell clamoring under my feet in the garage below, I rub my eyes and wonder what’s on fire at-
What fucking time is it?
My blurry vision squinting at my phone’s way too bright screen says it’s two a.m., which means most of us are running on four hours sleep, tops. Man, am I glad Matt had to bow out early when his wife called with a sick toddler, and we all decided to call it a night, too. I feel enough like a pile a crap as it is.
A bang on my door shocks the hell out of me and has me on my feet. “Riley! Get your ass up!”
Trent? …The fuck? Hearing his voice up and out of bed first flips my gears into high speed. After splashing cold water on my face from the small kitchenette sink, I head out the door in my boxers and a white tank top then make a barefooted dash downstairs to the lockers. The alarm bell has stopped, which is…odd… because I’m the only one at the lockers…
With one knee-high fire retardant sock pulled on and the other in my hand, I turn to look around the garage. The glossy light gray floor reflects the big dome lights overhead and the shiny red of the two fire engines. Neither of the firetrucks are running, and the huge garage bay doors are closed.
What the heck?
Sock in hand, I cautiously walk to the back of Engine Two, wondering if I’d dreamed the whole thing, even Trent’s command to get up. Would explain how he got out of bed before me, and why the garage is eerily silent. Prepared to accept I’ve lost my damn mind, I take a last look behind the engines. What awaits me is no fire, but something much more dangerous.
“It’s about damn time, brother!” Zack laughs and Trent’s whooping whistle echoes through the garage.
“Have a seat.” Trent taps the back of a white enameled metal chair he’s swiped from our crew kitchen.
“What the hell is going on?” I ask, not taking one step towards that chair. All the hairs on the back of my neck are standing at attention, because when Trent and Zack put their heads together, it always spells trouble. “And where is the night crew?”
“We told Jimmy and Nate to go grab some burgers.” Zack continues to laugh his head off. “God, man, look at you! Already undressed, and the fun hasn’t even started. At least you ain’t a briefs man!”
Sock fisted, I cross my arms. “Seriously, what’s going on? Why did the alarm sound?”
“I tried to tell them,” Liam half says, half yawns and I finally notice him sitting high up on the back of Engine Two. None of them are in fire gear. In fact, they’re all still wearing what they had on when we went out for drinks a few hours ago. Liam looks tired and somewhat remorseful for his part in all this… whatever this is. “Told them you don’t like surprises.”
“I hate surprises,” I confirm what they damn well all know. When you grow up in the middle of four brothers, surprises more often than not resulted in your embarrassment, or an argument, or a broken arm.
“C’mon, bro,” Trent points to the empty seat. “Be a good sport.”
Knowing Trent won’t give up, and wanting to have this done with so I can get back to sleep, I huff out my frustration and sit in the chair. Zack giggles like a school girl while Trent marches over to the truck with a shit-eating grin, pulls something out then walks back over with his hand behind his back. The last time he did something like this, the thing behind his back turned out to be a tarantula. Bastard knows I hate spiders…
Trent whisks his hand forward, plops a glittery pointed hat on my head and snaps an elastic band under my chin. “Happy birthday!”
From the top of the fire engine, Liam blows one of those paper noisemakers and tosses an open packet of confetti at my head. Paper pink baby carriages and yellow ducks land on my shoulders. I pick one up and try to find some sort of sense in it.
“Left over from Matt’s baby shower,” Liam snorts and tosses another packet over my head. “Best we could do on short notice.”
“I think the hat is Matt’s, too,” Zack says. “Well, Avery’s. It says ‘I’m Two!’ on it, so I think it works for you just fine.”
“It’s not my birthday.” Wait…is it?
“It is.” Trent laughs. “As of 2:08 a.m., you are officially twenty-three years old!”
Zack slaps my back and lets out a heavy sigh. “Twenty-three years ago today, my short-lived reign over the Neumann household ended,” he laments. “Worst Christmas present, ever. No one said how cute I was anymore after you showed up.”
“You were never cute,” Trent argues. “You were a fugly baby with no hair, and Mom has the photo albums to prove it.”
“You’re one to talk, Captain Forehead,” Zack fires back.
“At least I grew into mine,” Trent retorts, at which point Zack puts Trent into a headlock and their usual scuffling commences with Liam refereeing from the far, safe sideline.
Well, shit. It’s my birthday. With everything that happened yesterday, I’d completely forgotten. We don’t ever make much fuss about my birthday, with it coming right after Christmas. For a long time, I thought Santa brought my birthday presents, too, because they’d always be lumped in with the ones under the tree. Mom would sometimes get me something special, and there was always a cake, but mostly it passed by like any other day, which was fine by me. As I’ve already stated, I hate surprises.
Which is why the longer I sit here, covered in confetti with a child’s birthday hat on my head, I become more agitated. But, I’m their brother, and it’s nice of them to remember my birthday. So, I plaster on a smile and try to shrug off my apprehension. “Thanks, guys. Can I go back to bed now?”
Zack lets go of Trent’s head and presses my shoulders back down as I attempt to vacate the chair. “Not so fast. We haven’t gotten to the best part yet.”
“The presents!” Trent does an overdramatic ‘ta-da!’ pose, complete with jazz-hands; never a good sign of things to come.
From his spot on the engine, Liam solemnly shakes his head and sighs out a warning. “He’s not going to like it…”
“Exactly!” Trent snaps his fingers. Oh, dear God... “He’s going to love it.”
I can already tell I won’t. But, for better or (most the time) worse, they’re my brothers, except… “I can see Matt wanted no part of this?”
Liam blurts out a laugh, and that scares me.
Trent nervously side-glances Zack, and now I’m actually frightened for my wellbeing.
“He couldn’t make it.” Zack does his best to play it off, meaning Matt wouldn’t approve of whatever they have planned. “Pregnant wife and a sick toddler and all that…”
“But enough about Matt,” Trent redirects. “Tonight is all about you, birthday boy. Are you ready to meet your destiny?”
Trent doesn’t reply but looks over his shoulder at the front of the firetruck then says more loudly, “Your destiny?!”
“What is going-” My words are cut off when the cab door on Engine Number Two opens and loud music blares out of it; Fire Woman by The Cult, only it sounds like a strip club remix.
Oh no! What have Riley’s brothers done? Who is stepping out of that firetruck? Find out on the next update post, or head over to Patreon to read it now.