Live Wire by Carina Alyce

Chapter 1

a good idea needed to be shot.

Cleveland Fire Lieutenant Mateo Soto ordered a Guinness at Throckmorton’s Corner and watched the combined ranks of two shifts welcome their newest additions to the firehouse.

There were three shifts, which meant two new guys on B and C-shifts.

And one red-headed chick on A-shift.

Just what they needed.

Said chick bellied up to the bar and a glass of something clear was placed in front of her.

“Having water?” Mateo suggested to Ms. Leslie McClunis, his A-shift’s newbie. She’d been sick yesterday and spent the majority of her first shift in and out of the bathroom.

“If it’s clear, it’s vodka.”

The girl weighed a hundred pounds of nothing. Her tight little green sundress showed she was devoid of curves. “I’d hate for you to feel like you did yesterday.”

Her hazel eyes flashed. “I’m sure you would, lieutenant.”

“Something you want to say?” Mateo lit a cigarette.

“Nothing.” She attempted to make a cutting comeback. She had quite the mouth, they’d learned in the past twenty-four hours.

He blew smoke in her direction. “Doll, I’m really sorry your first day was rough, but that’s firefighting.”

Those eyes rolled, “You think I’m a fucking Forrest Gump or something? Just because I don’t know which asshole spiked my food and slashed my tires doesn’t make me stupid.”

“It’s called an initiation. Got to earn your place.” Mateo took another drag from the cigarette.

“What did they do to you on your first day?” she challenged.

He thought back to those days, now almost two decades ago. “They put my clothes in the walk-in freezer. After they sprayed them down with the hose a few times.”

“I’m sure that did terrible things to your balls,” the redhead said archly.

Mateo blinked because while it wouldn’t have been a surprising comment coming from another man, it was a shock coming from someone as delicate appearing as her. “It was cold. Always happens to the newbies. It’ll get better.”

“This bullshit didn’t happen when I was at 13.” From what Mateo understood, they had paired the two female rookies together for a year under the tutelage of fellow Puerto Rican, Captain Hector Mondragon.

“Firehouse 13 isn’t as busy as 15,” he answered shortly.

“Which is exactly why I applied for the spot at 15. You think I can’t take it because I don’t have a dick?”

Mateo restrained himself from asking how she liked to take it. The two women in a different firehouse hadn’t seemed real. Until two days ago, the women had been unicorns. Now most of the conversations his guys had were whether the ladies were nymphomaniacs or lesbians.

It was tough to tell with Leslie McClunis. Her hair was cut far shorter than the current in styles of 1995 for Mateo’s taste. It wasn’t exactly what he’d call butch, but her macho and aggressive attitude gave him quite the mix of signals.

Of course, certain members of his shift were more determined to settle the question. Jim Conley, their old ‘newbie,’ came by to invite her over. “Come have a drink with us.”

To her credit, she did try to smile—more of a grimace. Mateo hoped she wouldn’t take the offer at face value, since he suspected Conley had been behind the laxatives in her lunch. As lieutenant, his job was to not interfere beyond making sure they didn’t hurt her. She’d have to learn this stuff on her own—starting by being careful now.

And she’d have to be made of even sterner stuff if she expected to make it at 15. Mistakes during firefighting could mean death.

Still, he couldn’t help how his eyes lingered on the way she moved. She practically floated, which was probably an optical illusion from the beer. He had to admit she had a cute little ass, if he were into skinny girls.

Which he was not.

His mother would have given him a very loud talking to if he brought a gringa home—especially if she had the vocabulary of a sailor. That was why he kept his liaisons brief with the numerous MetroGen nurses who were happy to ride a firefighter home after their day shift ended.

He was on a third cigarette, a second beer, and chatting up his first nurse of the evening when he heard more trouble.

“You damn lesi dyke!” Conley shouted at McClunis.

“Then I definitely ate out more pussy than you ever will.” McClunis dumped a pitcher of beer on his head.

The rest of the firefighters, including the other newbie, crowded around the scene. The only person who appeared slightly upset was Carl Walsh, but as an unranked member, he was in no position to stand up for McClunis.

Mateo set down his cigarette and walked over, hoping he could deescalate before the scene degraded into a brawl.

Conley flipped the table and took a few menacing steps toward McClunis, who backed up... and found her escape blocked by other firefighter bodies.

Fabulous, Throckies was the closest bar to Firehouse 15, and getting his team banished would crush his love life and piss him off.

Before Mateo got there to break things up, someone else from one of the back corners shoved their way through the wall of people.

“I think that’s enough,” the blonde woman said. She was wearing a skimpy white tank top, heels, and a short blue skirt. Two solidly built guys backed her up on either side.

Despite the unnatural shade of her hair, Mateo recognized her easily.

A pity Conley did not. “You stay out of this, bitch.”

“You hear that, boys? He called me a perra. I am very upset.”

Conley paused since he had not expected her response.

She fluffed her fake blonde hair, a full head taller than McClunis, and stuck out her six times more curves. “What shall I do?”

Mateo squeezed his way through the bodies to confront his firefighter. “This is Officer Isadora Reyes from the Second Precinct.”

“Who wants a nice, friendly drink with us? All friendly like.” Reyes actually smiled, while McClunis had been unable to form the same with her lips earlier.

Mateo crossed his arms over his chest. “We would love a drink.”

“I’ll buy drinks for everyone, including our boys in blue,” McClunis volunteered.

“Apologize to both ladies,” one of the police officers said, “before Reyes drills two holes in your ass.”

“Two rounds of drinks,” McClunis upped the ante.

Unsurprisingly, the entire bar cheered, and the two other police officers escorted McClunis to buy the beer.

“Thanks,” Mateo said to Isadora as the crowd dispersed. “I was getting there.”

“Yeah, sure you were.”

“I was. She’s new to the firehouse, and she’s gonna have to get a thick skin. She is our first woman.”

“Yes, I know. Women. Such bitches, “Isadora said, stone-faced. A few nurses joined the firefighters now the fight was over, which would sweeten tempers.

“Will I get bitched at if I buy you a drink for your trouble?” Mateo beckoned her to the bar. His previous nurse had attached herself to one of the firefighters from B-shift.

“Tequila.”

He waved for the bartender and checked back on his team. McClunis and the officers carried six pitchers of beer back to the tables. One of the police officers pulled out a chair for McClunis and was sitting closer than was necessary. She didn’t appear to notice and was talking animatedly to Carl and a few other guys from B-shift, who had opted to sit nearby at their table. “Do I need to worry about this?”

“That another fight’s going to break out or he’s gonna see if the carpet matches the drapes?” Isadora asked.

A definite cherry on top, as Mateo couldn’t say he liked that possibility. He’d be super pissed if McClunis soured their relationship with the local PD. “Can it be both?”

“It’ll be no different from when any of my other ladies hook up with one of your guys. Or when they bang a nurse,” Isadora reminded him, since the firemen of 15, including himself, were not always discreet about their liaisons with MetroGen or Cleveland PD.

MetroGen and the Second Precinct were still speaking to them. “You win.”

“Women don’t ruin everything. Guys bring plenty down on themselves. Otherwise I wouldn’t be dressed like this.”

He took a meandering examination of her outfit and makeup. It was much louder than he remembered her wearing in the past, but the last time he’d seen her up close had been the day of her cousin Benicio’s funeral a few years back. Her black-on-black ensemble that day in no way resembled her neon blue eyeliner and heavy mascara. “I remember your hair being less bright. And your makeup…”

“Less like a stoplight? I’d hope not at the cemetery,” she joked and sipped her Tequila.

“You used to be over in the Fourth Precinct, right?” While he wasn’t sad to see her, the Second Precinct handled the hospital area. “You got transferred here?”

“Just here for the summer. Another officer is on maternity leave, which is why I’m in this lovely get-up.”

“It’s very attractive.” Mateo deliberately took a long look below her collarbone to where her breasts were on excellent display.

“I’m a streetwalker.” She pointed to her boobs. “Pushup bras are amazing, aren’t they?”

“No opinion here, though I expect they got you plenty of attention.” Mateo hadn’t expected her to encourage him to ogle them. Rather than let himself cross a line, he lit a new cigarette.

“You would not believe the number of men who offered me drugs or money.” She finished her shot. “So, you got this year’s newbies at the firehouse. How is that going?”

“I think you pretty much saw,” Mateo said.

“Lots of passion?”

“Very true.” He ordered another beer and took a slow drag of his cigarette. Captain Cordova had not been pleased to discover Firehouse 15’s vacancy had been filled by a woman. Like Mateo, the existence of two women within Cleveland Fire had been tolerable in the abstract to his captain. It became less exciting when it was staring him in the face.

And Hector Mondragon wasn’t known to go easy on anyone. Still, he couldn’t look at the tiny Leslie McClunis and not think Hector had been overly generous on her evaluations. Even if she was ready for the job, the social disruption of a woman being in what had been a men’s only space was a struggle Mateo did not relish.

“It will fade. They’ll get used to her. If the police can, so can firefighters.”

“I don’t know,” Mateo said. He took another long drag, willing it to calm his nerves. As lieutenant, his job was to build team cohesiveness, and they couldn’t even make it through an evening at a bar.

“I do know. It’ll take time. Do you know what they called me during my first three years on the beat?”

“No.”

“Spic chick.’”

Mateo gagged on his cigarette. “That’s the only thing they could come up with?”

She stole his cigarette and took a hit. “What did they call you?”

“Pedro.” He took it back. “Hector Mondragon was the one who came up with it.”

“See, everybody will take their lumps and get back to the job.”

The troublesome wildcat herself walked up to the bar right next to them and ordered three vodka shots. “I’m on may way out, but I figured I’d get one for the road with the fearless leaders of police and fire.”

“Cheers.”

They clicked their glasses and downed their shots. Leslie walked out with nary a stagger despite Mateo’s count of her consumption of five drinks in under an hour. “I hope she gets home okay.”

“Actually, I think she’ll have help.” Isadora jerked her head at the two police officers mingling and sharing beers with the firefighters. One of the police officers brought over a new pitcher, poured a round, and appeared to be on his way out.

Mateo ordered another beer, understanding Isadora’s meaning. “You think the two of them, even though they just met?”

His objection sounded ridiculous because he’d picked up his share of women at this very bar. He must have been getting prudish the closer he got to forty.

“I think you’re spending way too much time thinking about that canelo, because you haven’t noticed I’ve been hitting on you,” Isadora used the word for cinnamon to describe McClunis’s hair.

His head snapped back around. She didn’t sound pissed, but more amused. “My bad. I guess my brain was still on duty.”

She sipped his beer. “Are you going to leave me hanging? We didn’t just meet.”

That was very true. They’d run in the same circles for years and on occasion had worked together for a common cause, particularly in her family’s sad situation. However, she’d been married then, and she’d never indicated any interest before today.

Her wedding ring, he knew, was three years in the grave, just like the age of her cousin’s tombstone.

“Why today?”

“I spent a full shift being someone else and getting hit on by guys who ‘slimy’ doesn’t even being to describe. What’s wrong with seeing what happens with someone I actually know?”

Resolving to forget the firehouse and its newest member, Mateo took her hand, which was as tan as his own. “In that case, would you like to take a walk?”

She tapped her chin. “Can you put in a little more effort?”

“Querida, it would honor me to take a walk with you to the desired location of your choice—be it my place or yours.”

“My place sounds good. My kitchen is very nice. It was just remodeled with my alimony money.”

He put out his cigarette and finished his beer. A taxi would have to do because he was not getting behind the wheel.

She lived on the west side, so he spent the ride examining the lovely Isadora Reyes with very different eyes.

Sure, he’d noticed her before as a colleague in the functional sense, and on occasion he’d idly wondered what she looked like naked. But then again, what guy didn’t do that?

Married women had always been out of bounds as far as he was concerned. Yet today, she’d made the effort to make sure he noticed she was in play.

To help him out, she leaned forward to show off her curves and licked her lips.

His cock twitched in response and jumped when she set his hand on her thigh. The small calluses on her right hand caressed the larger calluses of his left. Hers were probably from her cuffs and night stick. His were from gloves and hoses, drilling every day.

Guess he’d find out soon enough.