Home > Wicked Flame (Chicago Heat #2)

Wicked Flame (Chicago Heat #2)
Author: Ella Frank

 

Chapter 1

 

 

Ryan

 

 

“RYAN… RYAN?”

THE sound of my name penetrated through the thin veil of sleep that had found me sometime in the early hours of Sunday. I cracked my eyes open and looked up into the leathery face that had become a familiar sight overnight. Jon—Jameson’s friend and the owner of the pub where we first met.

“Well, hey there, Suspenders. Was wondering when you’d finally surface.”

I moved to sit up and winced as my feet fell to the scuffed-up floor of his bar.

“How’s the body feeling after a night in that booth?”

I arched my back, feeling it crack in all the right, and wrong, places.

“It’s not so bad.” I stretched my neck from side to side, and as the joints popped and tried to realign themselves, Jon chuckled.

“You’re a terrible liar. But you get points for not bitching and moaning about it. You also get a coffee, if you’d like one.”

“Yes please.” After last night, I’d just about kill for a coffee this morning.

“Right, well, let me get that going while you try to unfold yourself from that seat.”

He was about to walk off when I scanned the empty space, searching out the only man I’d willingly sleep in a pub for. When I didn’t immediately spot him, I asked, “Jameson?”

Jon gestured to the back hall with a tilt of his head. “Still in with Amy, as far as I know. I figured he’d rather see your face first thing this morning over mine.”

Jon winked and headed off to the bar as my back pocket began to vibrate. When I pulled out my phone, I saw several missed calls and texts from Gabe and Alexander.

I’d sent them a quick message after Jameson and I left the charity dinner last night, letting them know we were okay, but that was it. I knew I needed to call them back with an update, and I would, but they would have to wait. I had someone else I needed to check in with first.

I scrubbed my hands over my face as I made my way to the bar and took the same stool I had the only other time I’d been here.

Jon glanced over his shoulder in my direction. “Gotta say, I wasn’t sure I’d ever see you sitting there again.” He picked up two mugs and brought them over. “For what it’s worth, I’m glad I was wrong. You’re good for him.”

My eyes widened, and Jon smirked.

“What? You don’t agree?”

“Uh, no—I mean, yes, I agree. I just didn’t expect you to.”

“Neither did I.” Jon rested against the counter and took a sip of his coffee. “But sometimes people surprise you. You stepped up last night. Was there for Jameson when he needed it.”

“Of course. I wasn’t about to leave him to deal with all of this on his own. I lo—” I caught my words before they tumbled off my tongue, realizing my feelings were much closer to the surface than I expected.

I’d gone through the full range of emotions last night: happiness to sadness, hope to desperation, and finally heartbreak, which had turned into something much, much stronger. But those emotions were too new to speak of right now, and until I had a chance to fully settle into them, I wanted to keep them to myself.

“Don’t get me wrong.” Jon aimed a crooked grin my way. “I didn’t think you’d split. But I figured Jameson would try to run you off.”

“Oh, he did.” I brought my mug to my lips and took a sip. “But I changed his mind.”

“Ah, see? You don’t back down for him. That’s what he needs in his life. Someone to make him start living his. Why don’t you go on back there and see if he’s awake? I’m sure he’s going to need this.”

“I think you might be right.” I slipped off the stool and picked up the second mug. “Thank you.”

“No need to thank me. You’re doing me a favor. I’m sending you in to wake the beast.”

I chuckled. “He’s not that bad in the mornings.”

“And that’s why you’re going in. The Jameson I know was a surly pain in the ass whenever I had to get him out the door for school or work.”

Jameson had mentioned crashing on Jon’s couch too many times to count. He’d also talked about sneaking into the grocery shop Jon’s family owned, where I was sure he spent more than a few nights.

It was such a foreign concept to me that a child or teenager would sleep anywhere other than in his own bedroom, under his parents’ roof. But I was quickly learning how naïve and sheltered I’d been as both a child and an adult.

You’re good for him… My stomach churned as Jon’s words ran through my head. The doubt from last night slipped in as I headed down the hall, remembering the pain and anguish I’d seen on Jameson’s face outside the Peninsula when he told me he felt like a traitor.

I’d done that to him. I’d put him in that position. The guilt over that still lingered this morning.

Last night had been eye-opening in so many ways. It had shown me just how shortsighted I was to life merely miles from my own front door. For that I felt shame and a responsibility to rectify my perspective, and I had a lot to make up for regarding my own ignorance.

I stopped at the back office where Jon and I had taken shifts checking in on Jameson and his sister. Jameson had been content with watching her and waking her every couple of hours, and had she gotten worse, I knew he would’ve taken her to the ER. We hadn’t heard a peep from him since our last switch-out, and I assumed that meant good things. At least, that was what I was hoping.

I took a moment to gather myself. The past twelve hours had been chaotic, one thing after another, and we’d all been running on adrenaline. In the light of the morning, I couldn’t help but wonder what the day would bring.

Would Amy need closer medical attention? Would she want to talk to someone and maybe report what happened? From everything Jameson had said, that would be a hard no. But I couldn’t imagine that sat well with him. There was no way someone as protective as Jameson—someone who rescued people for a living—wouldn’t want to know who had done this to his sister.

He’d let that go last night in favor of getting her off the street and somewhere safe. But if I knew Jameson, it was still weighing heavily on his mind.

I gently pushed open the door to the office, careful not to make a sound, and the sight that greeted me just about broke my heart. At some point in the night, Jameson must’ve moved from the chair to the floor, as that was where I found him now.

He was seated on the hardwood by the end of the old vinyl couch where Amy’s head was, and her hand lay under his on his shoulder where his cheek rested. His legs were stretched out and crossed in front of him, and I could see his dark lashes against his cheeks. He was sleeping, probably for the first time all night. I stood by the door and took in the picture the two of them made, and my heart ached.

How many nights had they slept like this in the past, each relying on the other to get them through safely? It was heartbreaking. But seeing the love there, the connection, despite what I knew was a difficult relationship, sparked a glimmer of hope that maybe they could find their way back to each other.

My eyes grew damp as I thought of the difficulties the two of them must’ve faced growing up, and the idea that they’d had to do it all on their own. But then I thought of the strength and courage that had taken, the will to survive and succeed, and I felt an immense sense of admiration and—for Jameson—love.

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