Today is the release day for Fire and Water. Dominic came in this morning to say goodbye before he left for work and I could barely sit still on the sofa I’m so excited. This is a story that really touched my heart. I was the oldest growing up with a younger brother and sister. I heard over and over how I was the smart one and they were the ones with the looks. It hurt. Of course my peers reinforced that view. Anyway, I don’t want this post to be a downer and the point is that in Fire and Water I write about looking deeper, beyond appearances, to what’s really important. It’s a theme that touches me deeply. .
Officer Red Markham knows about the ugly side of life after a car accident left him scarred and his parents dead. His job policing the streets of Carlisle, PA, only adds to the ugliness, and lately, drug overdoses have been on the rise. One afternoon, Red is dispatched to the local Y for a drowning accident involving a child. Arriving on site, he finds the boy rescued by lifeguard Terry Baumgartner. Of course, Red isn’t surprised when gorgeous Terry won’t give him and his ugly mug the time of day.
Overhearing one of the officer’s comment about him being shallow opens Terry’s eyes. Maybe he isn’t as kindhearted as he always thought. His friend Julie suggests he help those less fortunate by delivering food to the elderly. On his route he meets outspoken Margie, a woman who says what’s on her mind. Turns out, she’s Officer Red’s aunt.
Red and Terry’s world collide as Red tries to track the source of the drugs and protect Terry from an ex-boyfriend who won’t take no for an answer. Together they might discover a chance for more than they expected—if they can see beyond what’s on the surface.
“Terry,” Julie said from next to him, and he turned back around. “Are you watching that guy?”
He ignored her, taking a sip of his beer, and then turned to her. “Do you think I’m shallow?”
“That’s a loaded question if I ever heard one.” She sighed and rested an elbow on the bar after looking at him. “If you want my honest opinion, I’d say you’re self-absorbed as opposed to outright shallow, but most people equate the two pretty closely, so, yeah, you’re a little shallow.” She bumped his shoulder. “Hey, you did ask.”
Terry swallowed and met her gaze. “I suppose if I didn’t want to hear what you thought, I shouldn’t have asked.” That was so not the answer he had wanted to hear. He’d asked because he had overheard what the paramedic had said at the pool, and Julie was supposed to tell him they were full of shit, not agree with them.
“Damn right,” she said, and Terry rolled his eyes. “You have to admit that you put a lot of importance on how people look, and that didn’t turn out so well with—”
“Don’t even say his name,” Terry growled just loud enough for her to hear.
“Fine,” she snapped slightly. “But you know I’m right. You have the perfect swimmer’s body and the perfect tan all the time, even in the winter.”
“I like to look good.”
“No, you sometimes obsess over how you look, and when you met… you know who….” She rolled her puppy brown eyes again. He knew mentioning his name wasn’t going to make him magically appear, but just thinking about his ex sent a cold shiver up his spine, and instantly he felt momentarily isolated in a room full of people. “You latched on to him like crazy, but look where that got you.”
“No. You’re going to hear this. I know you’re really cute and hot and all. You’ve got the handsome whole swimmer thing going and the job that goes with it, but, Terry, we’re here talking about whether or not you’re shallow, and a kid nearly died at the pool today on our watch. I kind of think that’s the definition of shallow.” Her eyebrows cocked upward, and Terry looked away.
“Dammit,” he said half under his breath, looking up as the server placed their food on the bar in front of them. “Thank you,” he said with a smile and received one in return.
Julie took the first bite of her salad and swallowed. “So I guess the question is, if you don’t want to be shallow, what are you going to do about it?”
“Do?” Terry asked.
“Yeah. Do.” She glanced over at him with one of those fiery looks that if he were straight would have had him instantly hard and aching to take the tiger to bed. Instead, when he got one of those looks from her, he knew he was in deep shit.
“Can’t we talk about this a little?”
“You want to talk? Okay. Kid nearly drowns, we save him and get him out of the pool. It’s made all the news reports that we saved his life, which should make both of us happy. We did what we’re good at, and it made a difference. It wasn’t our fault that he fell in and got hurt, regardless of what his mother said. However, instead of talking about that and trying to figure out how we’re not going to let it happen again, you’re having a crisis of identity because some people you don’t know said you were shallow.” She patted him on the shoulder. “I think the time for talk is long past. Honey, face it—you’re shallow, okay? And vain, let’s not forget vain. But you’re really nice to look at, so I’ll give you that, because there are times at that pool when we see things no one should have to see.” They both shuddered.