Burn for Me - Chapter 3
The sounds of Nickelback filled her apartment’s kitchen as Kitty was drying her hands, ringing coming from her handbag. Everything had been put to rights, and she was about to head out the door. She was on her way to drop off cupcakes at Nazareth House.
Kitty loved doing her bit for the inhabitants of the home. An organisation steeped in history, their aim since 1881 was to look after the indigent, elderly, and orphaned children. They offered a comfortable home and nursing to those in need. It warmed her heart to see the enjoyment her cupcakes brought to those who lived there, bringing a little bit of sunshine into their lives.
Finally, she managed to dig her phone out of her bag.
“Ms Spence, Grayson James. I’m calling to confirm a time and place with you for our meeting this afternoon.”
“Hi, Mr James, yes. I’m just about to leave. I make a delivery to Nazareth House every week and then treat the sisters to breakfast at a lovely little coffee shop down the road from them — the Red Velvet Lounge. How about we meet there around one o’clock?”
“Great. I know of the place. I’ll see you there.”
The nuns had left a few minutes earlier, and Kitty called for another cup of coffee as she sat waiting for the sinfully gorgeous Grayson James. She couldn’t remember a time that a man had piqued her interest like he did. It seemed like forever ago since a man had made her skin tingle and her belly flutter.
Bold as brass and larger than life, Grayson strolled in right on time. He looked around and spotted her sitting at a window table. Taking a moment to absorb the sight of her, he felt rooted to the spot. She was quite possibly the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen, with her raven tresses tumbling haphazardly down her back and dimpled smile.
Walking over to the table, surprisingly, she stood when he reached her, holding out her hand to shake. At around five-foot-two, she wasn’t the tallest woman he’d ever been attracted to, but she certainly had magnificent curves in all the right places, packing quite the visual punch.
Grayson said, “Ms Spence. Thank you for taking the time to meet with me. May I?” he indicated the chair opposite her.
“Yes, of course. It’s a pleasure, Mr James.”
“Please, call me Gray.”
“Oh, well, thank you. Gray then. And please, call me Kitty,” she replied, her soulful eyes the colour of jade and amber lighting up, pouty bee-stung lips lifting, and a heart-shaped face boasting the most adorable dimple when she smiled.
He needed to get his head back in the game. Since when did he wax lyrical about anything, let alone a woman? It just wasn’t him. He was here on business, not looking for his soul mate. Whoa there. Where the hell had that thought come from? Pull it together, man. Go do what you came to do, then get the hell out of dodge.
“Thanks,” he acknowledged with a grin of his own.
“So, what can I do for you, Mr – sorry, Gray?”
For a moment, Gray’s mind wandered into dangerous territory as he looked at her lips. Clearing his throat, he chided himself silently. Not cool, dude. Pull your shit together.
“As I mentioned on Friday, I’m investigating the recent fires in Kloofnek.”
“Gosh, yes. Terrible! My heart aches for those poor people. I have no idea what I would do if it happened to me. My shop means everything to me.”
“I was wondering if you might have any information that could shed some light on the case.”
“I really don’t think so. I can’t honestly say that I’ve seen or heard anything out of the ordinary.”
“Well, let’s go through the list of questions I have and see where that gets us. Okay?”
“Okay,” Kitty agreed.
Gray asked his questions, and Kitty answered as best she could. Eventually, he decided he’d gotten about all he was going to get about the fires. Completely forgetting his intentions of only interviewing the delectable Kitty Spence and getting the hell out, he turned his attention to asking questions of a different kind.
She really piqued his interest. He sensed there was a lot more to the woman than she showed the world. And damned if he didn’t want to unearth all that she concealed. Turning loose one of his killer smiles, he leaned in and asked, “So tell me, Kitty, is there a Mr Kitty waiting at home for you?”
Dimple showing, distracting him from his train of thought for a second, she replied, “Wow, you certainly don’t beat around the bush, do you?”
Giving an unrepentant shrug, he replied, “I’ve never seen the point of it. Besides, life’s too short. In my profession, you can’t afford to waste a second. You never know when your time is up.”
“I guess I can see your point. I’m just not used to going at a million miles an hour. But okay, I’ll play.” Taking a moment to drink the last of her coffee, Kitty eyed him over the top of her cup. When she was done, she set the cup back in its saucer and replied, “No, there is no Mr Kitty waiting for me at home, or anywhere else for that matter.”
Gray first felt surprise and then delight at the fact that she was single. It seemed the gods were smiling down on him of late.
His rather delightful meeting with Kitty Spence long over, Gray had been back at it for hours. Much as he’d wanted to linger over coffee getting to know her better, he’d headed back to the fire station instead and gone over every bit of evidence he’d found. Again. He’d read and re-read the reports. Over and over, until his eyes blurred. What was he missing? Something seemed off at the point of origin. The pattern was unusual – not the run-of-the-mill accelerant pattern. He just couldn’t put his finger on it, but he knew it was something important.
Whatever it was that he was missing, he knew it was the key to solving the spate of fires in Kloofnek. And he was sure it was hiding in plain sight. He’d thought the evidence he’d found at the last scene would give more insight into the perpetrator, but still he had nothing. Running his hands through his hair in utter frustration, he got up to get another cup of coffee.
The fire house was quiet in the early hours of the morning. Everyone getting in a bit of sleep while they could. He enjoyed working in those quiet hours. It helped him to focus. Not that it seemed to be helping at the moment.
The sudden jangle of the klaxon was loud and out of place in the silence. And just as suddenly, the fire house came to life. Firefighters and paramedics alike headed for their vehicles to respond to the call. As one of the firefighters ran past him, he asked where the fire was.
“High up on Kloof Street somewhere,” came the response.
Gray’s stomach sank. Damn it, he was too late. The arsonist had struck again before he could figure it all out. Someone had just lost their business because he couldn’t nail this one down. Grabbing his gear, he headed for the fire scene.
Chaos reigned. Pulling up to the scene, Gray turned his car off and sat looking at it. People were standing all over the place, jostling each other to gawk at the spectacle. Flames reached high in the night sky, lighting the area up like daylight. Fire trucks and rescue vehicles crammed into the narrow street, adding to the general sense of bedlam. To add insult to injury, there were reporters and news crews everywhere.
Gritting his teeth, he got out of the car and headed for the nearest policeman.
Showing the man his ID, he asked, “Evening, officer. Who is in charge here?”
Turning to look at him, the officer replied, “Evening, sir. Sergeant Monroe, over there.” The officer pointed to an older gentleman standing talking to one of his uniforms.
He made his way over to the two men, irritation stiffening his shoulders. Again, he showed his credentials.
“Gentlemen, sorry for interrupting, but I need a word with you, Sergeant Monroe, if you don’t mind.”
“Sure,” Monroe replied. Speaking to his officer, he continued, “Give me a second?”
The officer nodded and moved a short distance away.
“What can I do for you, young man?”
Extending his hand to Sergeant Monroe, Gray said, “Fire Marshal Grayson James. I’m the investigator for the Cape Town Fire Station.”
“Nice to meet you, Mr James. What can I do for you?”
“Apparently, the public has absolutely no concept of self-preservation, Sergeant. I would be very grateful if you could please push the safety barrier back farther to keep the public safe, especially from themselves. Also, I would greatly appreciate it if you could keep the press as far away from the scene as you can manage. Otherwise, they badger my guys and generally just get in everyone’s way.”
“You’ve got it, son. I’ll see to it. Bloody press slither in everywhere they’re not wanted.”
“Appreciate it, sir.” As the Sergeant turned to carry out his requests, Gray briefly allowed his head to bow as he gathered himself.
Heading over to the nearest truck, he spotted the senior officer on site. Jeffrey Erickson was a seasoned member of the fire department, and he enjoyed working with him.
“Jeff,” he greeted the other gentleman, “what have you got for me?”
“Hey, Gray. Man, this one is putting up one hell of a fight. My boys are battling to put her down.” He shook his head sadly. “I’ve been at this game for a lot of years and pretty much seen them all. I’m going to go out on a limb here and call this one arson too.”
Just then a shout went up. Turning to see what the problem was, they were in time to see the building collapse in on itself. Jeff’s radio crackled to life.
“Sir, we’ve got a man down in the building. Matthews and Simms went in for search and rescue, but only Simms got out before she fell. Shit, sir, Matthews is still in there.”
Cursing ripely, Erikson barked into his radio, “Ensure the building is stable enough to send someone in after him. If it’s a go, send Collins and Wilkes in. They’ve got the most experience on the team. Get him out. Go. Go!”
They’d known that he would be a problem from the time they’d first laid eyes on him. The fire investigator was going to ruin everything, and they couldn’t let that happen. They knew she was theirs. They’d just needed to give her the time and space to realise it, but he’d changed the game. They’d have to move their schedule up to win over their girl.
Let that be a lesson to you, Mr Fire Investigator. If you don’t stay away from her, you’re next. She will be ours. We will not tolerate your interference. She is ours! She always has been. You’re ruining everything with your misplaced arrogant sense of superiority. Not that it’s helped you any. You still haven’t figured it out, have you? That’s because we’re better than you.