Clyde Blackward is a firefighter with the Arapahoe County fire department. When a fire breaks out near his pack’s territory, he races to do his job and protect life and property. Little does he expect the fire was set by a newly turned wolf.
Zedrek Phillips has always loved fire, but when he’s offered a chance to be more than human, he jumps at it. He had hoped to find a family in the offer, but what he found instead were loneliness and danger. When he’s abandoned by the pack, he only finds solace in fire, unless he can be rescued by a firefighter who’s more than he seems.
Zedrek Phillips loved fire. He loved the smell of it, the beauty of it as the flames danced over the wood and the soft crackles filled the air. With a life full of ugliness, it was the only thing of beauty he had.
He'd chosen a house in Aurora for his latest display. It was a new construction, and there was no one living in it yet. He was always careful about that. It wasn’t hard to carefully choose his targets from houses for sale, both old and new. Even though he enjoyed the blaze and the perfect artistry of it, he didn’t want to directly hurt anyone. He loved burning things. He wasn’t a killer.
Tossing the gasoline around, Zedrek was careful not to step in it or get any of it on him. In case he met anyone as he was fleeing the scene, he didn’t want any gas odors to give him away. He wanted this one to be the biggest fire he’d ever set, even bigger than when he burned his parents’ home down after they had abandoned him for being gay. His father had beat him after finding him with Jarrod. Then his father and mother threw him out into the streets. Jarrod never talked to him again. Zedrek had been lighting little things on fire for years, but when his parents went on their annual Caribbean cruise, he went back and burned their place to the ground. They had taken everything from him, and he had returned the favor.
Two nights earlier, he’d met the contractor who was building the house he’d targeted. He’d said it was the best one he’d ever built. He’d taken Zedrek out because he was a nasty old man and wanted someone pretty to party with. They’d decided on a price for that party, then the man had drugged him and left him in the alley behind the bar they’d been at. When Zedrek woke up, he realized the contractor had taken advantage of his drugged state. It hadn’t taken him long to figure out the location of the house the contractor was so proud of, and he was ready to make the man pay.
Zedrek walked over to the where the last of the contractor’s tools were waiting to be loaded up and taken away. It was a small conex storage building, but he left the gas cans outside of it.
He walked calmly to the side yard, and then he pulled out a match. He struck the match on the box and stared at it for a moment. The small flame danced on the match head. In a way, it was the perfect embodiment of the larger flames that were about to engulf the house. Before the match burned down too far, Zedrek tossed it into the dirt. It flipped over a couple of times, leaving a tiny red comet tail, then it landed on the edge of the gas. It was a perfect toss. He’d learned a long time before to not throw the match directly in the gas, as it would put out the flame as often as catch fire. The trick was to get the stick portion of the match into the gas so the flames and the fumes met slowly, easily. Then the fire would begin.
He crouched down to watch the blaze start. This was the best part—when the flames were tiny and the fire was just barely getting started. Then it would sweep along the gas and spread quickly.
He stepped back far enough to not get hurt, but still close enough to feel the heat from the flames as his work grew. The fire made him feel better. In a life without control, finding some was essential, and his way of choice was the fire. He made sure the people who tried to take his control felt his power, even if they never knew it was him. Sometimes he felt like the hand of God delivering justice to evildoers.
He had been so caught up in watching his fire quickly mature that he didn't hear someone come up behind him until it was too late, and the man had his hand wrapped around Zedrek's arm. Zedrek yanked away, but the man was far too strong, much stronger than anyone he'd ever met. His grip was like iron.
"Let me go," Zedrek yelled, surging to his feet. He took a swing at the man with his free hand.
The man wasn’t overly large, but he caught Zedrek’s hand, moving faster than Zedrek could follow.
He snarled, and his canine teeth grew longer. His eyes were too bright, even in the fire. "Are fires the best you can do? Or is there more than just this pitiful little house fire inside of you?"
Zedrek looked to his fire and then back to the man. There was nothing pitiful about him or the fire. The flames grew larger by the second, and soon the whole house would be destroyed. It would spread to the field behind the house and then into the park beyond. He’d chosen the house carefully and he knew that he’d get the biggest fire he’d ever caused while getting back at the contractor. Fire was the most powerful thing. It was such a hugely destructive force. But whatever the man was, there was something more about him too. He was powerful, maybe as much as the fire.
"I'm Tom," the guy said. His words lisped through his fangs, but Zedrek followed what he was saying well enough.
"What…" Zedrek licked his lips. "What are you?" It wasn't just the smoke messing with his mind. There was something more going on. He wasn't imagining it. He tried to pull away from Tom again, and this time he threw his weight into getting away, but Tom's fingers turned into claws over his arm.
Through Tom’s smile, his fangs retreated. "You like to set fires? Do they make you feel powerful?"