Home > Holding His Forever(8)

Holding His Forever(8)
Author: Alexa Riley

8

Phoenix

I wait a long time, longer than I thought possible, before going and knocking on the bedroom door. I put my ear to it, and when I don’t hear anything, I crack it slightly and call out her name.

“Fia? Are you decent?”

Reluctantly I look in and see that she’s tucked in under the covers, fast asleep, even though the overhead light is on and the sun is coming up outside. I’m used to going without sleep, but she must be utterly exhausted. She looks right in my bed. Like she belongs there. Giving my plain bedroom life. Making it feel like a home, and not a place I dread. It’s been months since I’ve wanted to crawl into my own bed, but that’s all I want to do in this moment.

I turn off the light in the room and walk over beside the bed. I touch her cheek, and she leans into me a little, making my heart swell. I kiss my finger, then place the finger on her lips, whispering goodnight.

Before I leave, I tape a note to the door, hoping that she’ll see it when she finally wakes up.

Fia,

Headed to work, but there’s a phone in the kitchen if you need anything. I’ve left my number on the table next to it, along with the key to the apartment. Call me when you get up, maybe we can meet for dinner?

Derek

I think about the note all the way to work, wondering if I said the right thing. She’s probably too traumatized about losing all her stuff to think about dinner. Maybe I should go back and just wait for her to wake up. If she’s got no one, then she may not have a way to get more clothes or food. She may need help getting around.

By the time I reach the fire station, I’m in a state of anxiety about leaving her alone. I need to get back to her, to make sure she has everything she might need. So instead of going in and getting to work, I head to the Captain's office.

“Sir, I’m going to need a couple of days off.”

He looks at me like I’ve suddenly grown two heads.

“Wasn’t it just yesterday we were talking about me pulling you if I thought you weren’t up to it? Then last night I hear about you taking a woman from that arson fire to the hospital?”

“Yeah, about that,” I say, walking into his office and taking a seat. “The guys had it under control, and one of the victims wanted me to stay with her until she was released. She didn’t have anyone else with her and no next of kin. I gave her a place to stay, and I wanted to take some time off to make sure she’s settled before I come back to work.”

He taps a folder next to him. “This is the report I’m sending over to the police department this afternoon on the findings from the fire. The guys from last night jumped on the paperwork for the investigation. It’s definitely arson, so I’m sure you’ll be asked a few questions. Just keep close to your phone until this settles.”

I nod, standing up and turning to leave his office. Before I get out the door, he calls my name.

“Phoenix.”

“Yes, sir?” I ask, looking back.

“Be careful.”

I nod, not really understanding. He never tells us that, even when we’re about to walk into a burning building. He usually just tells us to suit up and keep our heads on straight. But by the time I’m back out and headed to the store, his words of caution are already forgotten.

“Strawberry or mango?”

The old lady looks at me and smiles, shrugging her shoulders. “I’m not sure, but I’m sure she’ll be happy you made the effort either way. Good luck, handsome.”

She reaches up, squeezing my cheek, and I still feel lost. I’ve got a cart overflowing with things for Fia. I already bought her some clothes and shoesbasic things that I know can help her get through a few days. Then I came to the drug store, and I’ve loaded up on what I hope is something close to what she needs. Lotions and soaps, hairbrushes, a blow dryer. Women need so many things, and I want her to have what she wants. But I can’t decide between strawberry and mango shampoo.

Giving up, I throw both into the cart and head for the candy aisle.

I don’t know anything about Fia, but something about her has taken hold of me. Maybe it’s the need to protect and care for her because she’s in a vulnerable situation, but something deeper in my heart is feeling the connection. I’ve got fears that come with it though. That she might reject me, or that I could get attached to her, and the worst thought of all is that maybe she doesn’t feel this pull, too.

I’ve steered clear of dating women for most of my career because of the kind of job I have. In the blink of an eye, it can all be taken away, and I’d never wanted to put someone through that before. But then I think of my mom and dad and what an amazing marriage they had. And it wasn’t a fire that separated them, it was my mother’s cancer.

Looking to their relationship always made me long for my own. Fear has kept any possibility of that at arm’s length. But last night, Fia was thrown into my arms, and I wasn’t given a choice. Suddenly all the worry and dark clouds that have been hanging over me have been lifted, and something new and bright has replaced them. My angel found me, and suddenly I’m alive for the first time. I want to grab onto any part of it, even if I can only have it for a moment. I’ll take whatever I can get, but I’m going to fight like hell to make sure it’s forever.

My phone buzzes in my pocket, and I look down, hoping it’s her. When I see it’s my dad, I answer and think briefly what it would be like to introduce her to him.

“Hey, Dad.”

   
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