Cheek to Cheek
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by Chris Owen
Category: Erotica/Gay-Lesbian Erotica
Description: If you loved Chris Owen's firefighters in 911, you'll love Cheek to Cheek! Firefighters Will and Mallory meet at a quiet gay bar, and they're both willing to keep things anonymous and impersonal. Mal has issues with his soon to be ex, and Will isn't willing to push. That plan works out fine until they discover that they'll be working at the same fire station, where Will is set to replace injured firefighter Drew. Their agreement to keep their relationship easy and no-pressure, just a physical thing, soon go out the window. Everything in their lives seems to become a test, from old loves to meddling family, to the brave men they risk their lives with. The one thing that seems to make sense is the dance they share, both literal and figurative. Can Will and Mal find a way to reconcile the life they think they want with the need they have to be together, or will the dance be over before it really begins? The appearance of much-loved characters from the popular 911 is an added bonus for Chris Owen fans. Don't miss Cheek to Cheek!
eBook Publisher: Torquere Press/Screwdriver, 2009 http://www.torquerepress.com
eBookwise Release Date: September 2009
138 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [210 KB]
Reading time: 142-199 min.
Mallory sat in his car and looked up at the light in his apartment window. He didn't want to go in there. Oh, he wanted to go home--he wanted a shower, a hot meal and maybe even to talk about the God-awful day that Ottawa had just been through. He wanted to talk about the friends he'd lost and the ones in the hospital. He wanted to remind himself he was still alive. Then he wanted to go to sleep and find out it was all a dream.
But he didn't want to go up the stairs and into his own home and do it all there. He felt too old for the day he'd just had, too old to be dealing with the slow decline of his relationship. Days like the one he'd just had made him think about stopping, made him feel like he was pushing sixty instead of forty. He was one of the older firefighters on his crew; he had experience, he knew what he was doing, but every time a firefighter died it got harder and harder to go back to the station. Every time it got harder to convince himself he wouldn't be next.
Mal made himself go in, the stairs to the third floor taking a bit longer than normal. He stood outside of the apartment door and took a breath, a pause that was becoming a common thing over the last few months. Coming home had become as painful as leaving used to be. Mallory sighed and opened the door, knowing exactly what he'd see: the apartment full of light, nearly shining in its pristine and orderly fussiness, everything put away, every dish washed, every book and magazine neatly stacked. Trish would be waiting on the couch or at the table, his supper ready for him. She'd smile and welcome him home, and he'd feel her sincerity, because she was glad he was home.
He'd often thought that the tragedy of their relationship was that they loved each other. They just weren't in love anymore, and neither of them wanted to admit it out loud. Again, he was just too damn old to start over.
This time he opened the door and Trish flew into his arms, tears on her cheeks. "Thank God," she whispered in his ear.
Guilt slammed into him. He hadn't called, had just driven home when he'd finished his shift. She wouldn't have known if he was alive or dead, and he didn't even think to pick up the cell phone and call. She never called him after a shift; she said she dreaded him not answering.
"I'm sorry," he said inadequately. "I'm so sorry, baby."
She pulled back, her lean dancer's body flexing and twisting in his arms. "I was pretty sure you were okay," she said softly. "I knew you were outside of the building--I saw you on the hose when they showed the building. But then the building collapsed and they started saying up to ten men were gone ... and I worried."
Mallory kissed her forehead. "I'm still sorry. I should have called."
She took his hand and led him toward the living room. "Do you want to talk about it?"
"Not yet. Want to shower, more than anything else." He stopped, looking at the wall. "It was bad," he said, his voice rough. He knew she was standing behind him, but he was unable, or unwilling, to look at her. "We lost two. It looks like we'll lose another. Two more on the critical list." He turned to face her. "I don't think I can do this anymore."
She looked him in the eye and smiled, the same sweet smile he'd fallen in love with seven years ago when she was teaching him to dance. "I believe you can, Mal. But if you don't want to, that's another matter." She nodded at him decisively. "I'll get your supper ready. You shower." Then she was gone, off to the perfectly neat kitchen.
Mallory went to the perfectly neat bathroom and showered, trying to wash everything away. It didn't work. Nothing worked anymore. He felt broken in a hundred ways, exhausted. His friends had died, and he could only ache.
He assumed it was better than anger. He assumed the anger would come.
They ate in silence. He called the station to check in with the next shift and find out if they had any news. He was told that Drew Smyth was still in surgery and they wouldn't know anything more for hours. With nothing else to do, he and Trish sat and watched the news together. He tensed when Trish moved closer on the couch, but put his arm around her anyway, because he did love her.
During a commercial Trish asked, "Is there someone else?" Her tone was curious, her voice soft and sad.
Mallory froze. That was the one question he hadn't expected, ever. "No," he said. "Never. I wouldn't do that to you."
She nodded like she knew that, but had needed to ask, needed to find out something from his answer. "We're going to destroy ourselves not hurting each other. It's all over, isn't it?" she asked, not looking at him.
He didn't ask what she meant. "I'm sorry, Trish." He kept his voice just as soft as hers, and his sadness was genuine. It wasn't supposed to go like that.
She shrugged one shoulder. "It's not your fault. And I'm glad we didn't descend into fights and pain. It's more like we ... outgrew the relationship. You're my best friend, Mal."
Mallory held her a little tighter. "I know, Trish. I do love you."
She nodded and then sighed. "Do you want me to move out?"
He looked around at the apartment that was so much hers, even if he had lived there first. Her wide-open spaces, her colors, her shining hardwood to dance on. "No, baby. I'll go."
"But not right now." She stood up. "Sleep, Mal. We'll figure the rest out tomorrow."