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Sudden Response, Page 1

R. L. Mathewson

  Chapter 1

  “Fresh meat,” Eric read the sign with a chuckle as he pulled his light blue uniform shirt on over his white tee shirt. “I guess you must be Greg.”

  The man nodded frantically as Eric looked over the boys’ recent work. They had Greg strapped to a long board in nothing but his boxers. Greg’s mouth was taped shut with a piece of two inch white medical tape. Someone, probably Johnson, drew a big happy face on the man’s stomach. To top it off they leaned Greg against the chain link fence with the sign tapped across his hips for the entire world to see.

  Eric put his bag down on the sidewalk and worked on tidying his uniform. “The name’s Eric. I’m really sorry about this, Greg. I meant to get here sooner, but I got a little held up.”

  Greg tried to shrug against his restraints.

  “I gotta tell you that I’m a little embarrassed to work with these guys.” He gestured to Greg’s predicament. Greg nodded slightly. “So juvenile.” He shook his head in disgust and bent down in front of Greg. Greg tried to look down to see what Eric was doing, probably hoping that he was getting a pair of scissors to cut him down.

  Eric stood up with an aerosol can in his hand, absently shaking it. “I tell the boys if they’re going to do something, do it right the first time. We take a lot of pride in our work around here, but this,” he gestured lazily towards Greg, “has amateur written all over it. I’m sorry, Greg, but I have a reputation to protect.” With that Eric sprayed green spray-paint on Greg’s brown hair.

  After a few minutes Eric stepped back to examine his work. “Hmm, better, but not quite what I’m looking for.” He shook his head and bent down to retrieve something else from the bag. This time he stood up holding a red marker.

  Greg watched as the marker came closer to his face until his eyes crossed. He felt the pen press against the tape covering his lips. He looked up to see Eric smile. “There, that’s much better.” He stepped back to examine his work. The green hair and full pouty red lips worked for him.

  He picked up his bag and gave Greg a smile. “Welcome to the 707, Greg. I’m your training officer tonight. I’ll see you inside.” Eric walked away while Greg tried to scream against the tape.

  Eric walked into the fire house. “What’s up, Eric?” a man asked.

  “Not much.” He made his way upstairs to find the rest of the men watching the game.

  “Eric!” they shouted in unison.

  “Gentlemen, I see you greeted my third rider," a new EMT who rode along on a shift to train, "Very disappointing work, gentlemen, very disappointing,” he said, shaking his head in disgust.

  Ethan ran a hand over his bald head as he said, “Come on, man, we had to rush it. The game was coming on.”

  Eric looked at the large television. The Yankees were playing Boston at Fenway. “Sorry, my apologies.” He held up his hands and made his way back to the sleeping quarters. He walked to the last room on the right and threw his bag on the bed to the left. The one to the right was empty, letting him know his partner wasn't here yet. He would make the bed later. That is if it was a slow night otherwise he would be working all night on rig and wouldn't have a chance to grab some sleep.

  He wasn’t supposed to be working tonight, but the lieutenant called him at home a few hours ago and asked if he could come in and train a third rider. Eric jumped at the chance since his social life had been shit for months and he could always use the money.

  “Eric, you have a call!” one of the men yelled.

  Eric walked back out into the living room of the three level fire house and passed the guys now watching him instead of the game. Jeff held his hand over the phone. “A woman, damn she sounds sexy as hell!” He handed the phone over to Eric.

  “Hello?” he said, having no clue as to who would be calling him at work.

  “Hi, sweetie!”

  Eric sighed, looking back at the men, not really all that surprised to see them laughing. He promptly gave them a one finger salute, eliciting more laughter. His love life was a joke to them. They couldn’t understand how any man could go months without a girlfriend or at the very least get laid.

  “Hey, mom, what’s going on?” he asked.

  “I’m just making sure that you’re coming tomorrow night for dinner. Your brother will be here with his new girlfriend.”

  “That’s great, mom,” he said, not really caring at all. This was his mother’s way of bringing up a possible match for him. According to his mother it didn’t matter that he was a thirty year old man, she had a responsibility to make sure he was happy and of course to her that meant finding a wife.

  “I wanted to tell you about this lovely girl I met at the grocery store yesterday.”

  “Oh, Mom, you didn’t,” he said, feeling a headache coming on.

  She ignored him and continued. “She’s pretty, single, young and did I mention head cashier?”

  “Mom, call her up and cancel. I’m not interested.”

  “I don’t see why I should. I offered the poor girl a homemade meal and I intend to keep that promise. Now, since you’ll be here you can help keep her company.”

  “Mom, I might not be able to come tomorrow night. I might have to pick up another shift.” Even as he said it he knew his mother already dismissed the idea and expected him there.

  She sighed into the phone. “I'll expect you by six. Oh, and make sure you tell Joe to come, too.”

  “Bye, Mom.” He hung up, wondering how the hell he was going to get out of going.

  “So, who was she trying to hook you up with this time?” Jeff asked.

  “A cashier,” he muttered, ignoring their laughter. "Anyone seen Teddy?" he asked, wondering where his partner for the night was. If he wasn't so damned bored he would never have taken this shift.

  Working as an EMT was probably the best job he'd ever had. It was great. The hours were good, better than good, the pay was incredible and every day was new and exciting. The only thing that could really make or break your day besides a really fucked up call was your partner.

  Eight to twenty-four hours shifts working with someone in what really came down to a box on wheels could either be a hell of a good time or have you coming to blows. Imagine being stuck in a small box with someone who didn't bathe or worse wore what seemed like a gallon of cheap perfume or cologne. He'd found himself standing out in the rain, blizzard, or sweltering heat many times in order to get away from the stench. Worse was being partnered with some annoying asshole or an outright bitch that you couldn't stand.

  He was lucky that his full time partner was also his best friend. They'd been best friends since they were eight. Joe was a hell of a partner. Never complained, always had a joke, and was easy to get along with, unlike his partner for tonight. He really lucked out with Joe.

  Teddy on the other hand was a Class A prick. He hit on anything with breasts and didn't take rejection well. The guy had more write ups than the entire squad put together, but thanks to the Union he couldn't be fired. Tonight was going to be a true test of his patience. Besides being an arrogant asshole, the guy didn't know what the hell he was doing and was a lazy bastard. Why in the hell did he agree to come in tonight?

  "Don't get all choked up, but Teddy won't be in tonight. He banged out," Jeff said as he grabbed a bottle of water from the fridge.

  "No shit?" Eric asked, hoping the man wasn't fucking with him.

  "I shit you not. Seems a stripper broke his nose when he tried to ignore the 'no touch' rule," Jeff said, chuckling.

  Eric shook his head, laughing. Leave it to that pervert to get his ass kicked by a stripper. "Who am I working with then?"

  "Not sure. Bill's been on the phone for the past hour trying to get you someone to work with," Jeff said, leaning against the counter.
/>   "If one of you gentlemen would be so kind as to go release my third rider and tell him to clean up I'll go check out the rig," he said, heading towards the garage.

  "Do we have to?" one of the men whined, making him laugh.

  Eric walked over to the board to grab the keys for ambulance seventy-nine only to find the hook empty. No doubt the last crew left the keys in the ignition, he hoped at least. He walked past several of the box ambulances towards the van style ambulances and sighed with relief when he spotted ambulance seventy-nine with its back doors wide open.

  Whoever his partner was for the night was already in the ambulance checking it out. He walked over and paused when he spotted the very luscious figure bent over inside his rig. He ran his eyes over the familiar figure and he groaned inwardly. His eyes went from the long honey blond hair pulled back into a no-nonsense ponytail to the small waist, flared hips and perfect bottom that was pointed his way.


  He couldn't think of a better sight to start the night off with. It was too damn bad there wasn't a chance in hell he would ever find out how those lush curves would feel beneath him.

  "I thought the restraining order stated that you couldn't come within a hundred yards of me?" he demanded.


  Joe bit back a smile at the familiar deep voice. He was the only man on earth who could make her smile without fail. It had always been that way ever since they were kids.

  She still remembered the first time she met him. It was her first day in a new school. Her mother, who decided this time was going to be different, decided to shove eight year old tomboy Josephine, Joe for short, into a overly frilly dress that was too short and in her opinion too ugly to be seen in public. She'd never been so embarrassed in her life. During recess she tried to hide from the rest of the kids, but that only managed to draw more attention. When one little boy came over and shoved a handful of worms down her dress she made that boy eat every single one of them.

  An hour later they both sat in the principal's office, filthy, clothes torn, and mutually angry at Tyler Mathews for tattling on their little fight. They made a pact then and there to get Tyler back and had been best friends ever since.

  Their friendship had survived the cootie stage and continued on into middle school, high school and then EMT training. Many people, including Eric's mother, thought they were cute and would end up married one day. That little pipe dream faded away when everyone realized they were best friends and nothing more.

  She'd lost track over the number of women who got pissed over their relationship. Most of them foolishly tried to give Eric an ultimatum because they couldn't handle her place in his life. Eric never batted an eye when he dumped them flat on their asses seconds later. Hell, he even broke up with his fiancé three years ago when she tried the same thing.

  There had only been a few men who tried that nonsense with her. They quickly learned that her loyalty belonged to Eric. That little problem had been the cause for many break ups over the years. Not that she or Eric ever made it an issue. They didn't. They just went on as they always had. It's not like they purposely tried to push people away, but sometimes it was hard for other people to handle their friendship. She never understood their problem. If anything it should make them feel more comfortable that they were both more than capable of loyalty. Plus, and let's be honest here, if they wanted to have sex they would have done it a long time ago.

  She felt the back of the ambulance dip as Eric climbed in behind her. "I can appreciate a woman who's willing to turn her nose up at a judicial order to be with me," he said in his deep sexy voice that had Joe rolling her eyes.

  Joe turned and smoothly shoved several bags of expired saline in his arms. "You know a piece of paper will never stand in the way of our love," she said in a sweet teasing voice while she batted her eyes up at him.

  Eric chuckled softly. "I see you missed me."

  She nodded solemnly. "I did. I really did. When Bill called up and begged me to come in even though we just got off a twenty-four hour shift this morning I jumped at the chance." She ran her eyes down his lean well defined body back up to meet his mischievous green eyes. "You know I can never stay away from you." She reached up with both hands and pinched his cheeks, hard. "You're just so darn cute," she said, pursing up her lips.

  "I'm studly, baby, get it right," he sighed heavily as if it were a burden to remind her yet again.

  She placed her hands on her hips. "You're absolutely right. What was I thinking?"

  Eric jumped out of the ambulance. "It's okay. I forgive you," he said as he made his way to the trash can to dump the saline. He was going to have to post something to remind crews to double check supplies when they picked them up at the hospital.

  He grabbed a bottle of sanitizer and some rags before heading back to the ambulance. Joe was already completing their check list. He tossed a rag onto her clipboard. She looked up to stick her tongue out at him and went back to her paperwork.

  "Did I mention that we have a third rider today?" he asked as he sprayed down the stretcher and began wiping it down.

  "Great," she said, stretching out the word.

  He paused mid-swipe to look over at her. "What's that supposed to mean?"

  "It means I have to play babysitter the entire shift," she answered.

  Eric frowned. "I don't think he's going to be much of a problem. He looked capable."

  Joe rolled her eyes. "I wasn't talking about him."

  Chapter 2

  "Everything okay back there, Greg?" Eric yelled into the back of the ambulance.

  Greg turned around in the tech seat to answer him. "Yeah, everything's fine. Um, when are we going to get a call?" Greg asked, trying to feign casualness. Eric and Joe shared a look. No doubt the kid was a whacker.

  A whacker was a term they used for someone in the field that took the job too seriously and thought of themselves as Superman. They got too excited about the job and focused way too much on it when they weren't working. Most new EMT's were guaranteed whackers who came in overeager, too confident and full of their own bullshit. As entertaining as it was to seasoned EMT's, and a little annoying, it could also be dangerous in the field.

  "Cause I'm ready you know. I don't really need to third ride, because I have some experience, but Bill said it was policy. He said it was up to you to sign me off early so I can get off the initial probation period. So, if you want to do that you know I wouldn't mind. I don't want to waste your night or anything," Greg rambled on.

  Joe covered her mouth to keep from laughing and leaned into the steering wheel while Eric glanced around the convenient store parking lot they were stationed at.

  "I, um," he forced himself not to laugh and keep a straight face, "I really appreciate the offer, Greg. Thank you, but don't worry about wasting my time. We really like the company."

  Joe shook with silent laughter against the wheel. Yup, they'd been training officers for six of the twelve years they'd worked as EMT's and heard it all from their third riders. A few were honest about being nervous, the others hid it well until their first call and a few like Greg liked to bullshit their experience right from the start. Definitely a whacker, Eric thought.

  "I've been working as a lifeguard at a resort since I was sixteen," Greg offered.

  "Is that so?" Eric said with false interest. This was the point where Greg would brag, trying to convince the two of them that they didn't need to train him and that he knew what he was doing. It never failed to be entertaining when a third rider thought they were seasoned pros just because of one or two experiences from their past.

  They had one guy outright refuse to listen to them while they were extricating a man from an overturned car and tried to correct them because he'd seen an episode of ER where they did it completely different, and wrong. Eric ended up having to punch the guy out before he paralyzed the poor bastard in the car. The jerk tried to yank the patient out of the car by his head. That patient actually thanked Eric and lie
d to a cop later, covering Eric's ass. Again, whackers could be very dangerous in the field.

  "Yeah," Greg said, nodding to himself. "Did that for almost ten years now. I've been teaching CPR and first aid for two years as well."

  Great. He taught people how to watch a video and pass a written test so he thought he was king shit now. This was going to be an interesting night.

  "Ever have to use your skills?" Joe asked, twisting in her seat to look back.

  The guy averted his eyes as he said cockily, "Oh yeah, you wouldn't believe the shit I saw on that job." Which no doubt meant he hadn't so much as applied a band-aid to some kid's skinned knee.

  Joe gave him a smile. Her beautiful baby blue eyes sparkled. "That's good. It means you'll probably pick up on the way we do things around here quickly."

  Eric had to hold back a snort. Joe was always too nice. Well, right now she was. If this guy's bullshit got in the way of patient care even he wouldn't want to get in her way. She'd go apeshit on this guy if he caused one of their patients any problems.

  Greg nodded thoughtfully. "True."

  "Great. I'm going to run inside and grab a drink. I'll be right back," she said, still smiling.

  Eric watched her walk into the store and wasn't aware that Greg moved out of his seat to lean in the front and do the same until he heard the man mutter, "Nice."

  More annoyed that the man was getting a little too close to