CHAPTER TWO


Chimney spent the next few days almost glued to his phone. Hen rolled her eyes every time she saw him texting with Maddie, but she also nudged his shoulder with hers as they got dressed one morning.

"I'm happy for you," she said simply. "Buck's sister, who would have thought?"

"After all the shit he's said about his sister, Maddie is the absolute last thing I expected," Chimney admitted, laughing with Hen. "And I'm happy too. Hopeful."

Hen raised an eyebrow. "You think this is going places then?"

"Well, I always do," Chimney admitted. "I even bought Tatiana a ring, and we know what a joke that was."

"Don't remind me," Hen groaned. "I'm glad she's out of your life."

Chimney finished buttoning his shirt, shaking his head. "Honestly, I think I'm too scared to think about what's next," he said. "I just know that we've been talking for a while, we've been texting like crazy this week, and I just refuse to jinx it."

"Good plan," Hen said, just as Buck walked in.

"So," he said. "How are things with you and my sister?"

Chimney really hadn't intended everyone to find out just what had occurred, but it turned out Buck and Eddie had seen them kissing, and Chimney had just told all Monday morning rather than let them think that he'd kissed Maddie four hours after meeting her.

Sometimes it was just easier to take the path of least resistance around Buck. "Things are good," he said. "Although I'm pretty sure that Maddie told me to tell you to mind your own business if you asked."

"This is my business," Buck scoffed. "She's my sister, who just divorced her scumbag husband. I love you like a brother, Chim, but I will end you if you hurt her."

Since when did Buck love him like a brother? Chimney just smiled, and clapped Buck on the shoulder as he left the locker room. "Good talk," he said, leaving a protesting Buck behind.

His phone buzzed, and he grinned. It was Maddie, continuing a conversation from earlier.

God, he couldn't wait to take that woman on a date.


The date thing proved to be a little harder than he thought.

"I'm working Friday night," Maddie told him, her voice coming clear over the phone. "So that's out, and so is Saturday morning because I will be pretty much dead until afternoon."

"I work Saturday morning," Chimney said, walking around the kitchen at the firehouse. Maddie had gotten off her shift and the 118 was having some minor downtime, so he'd called her. "So what about Saturday night?"

"I work nights all weekend," she said, and Chimney groaned.

"Guess what?" He said, and she sighed.

"Murphy's law, you work mornings all weekend," she said, and he nodded before realizing she couldn't hear him.

"You got it," he said. "Well, hey, maybe we can just grab another coffee next week."

"I'd like that," she said. "I'm off Monday through Wednesday."

Chimney bit back another groan. He'd picked up extra shifts way back when the schedule was written, because Bobby had asked him to, and he'd figured he'd have nothing to do.

"I'm not off until Thursday," he admitted. "Well, I'm off tomorrow."

"I can't do tomorrow," she replied. "Okay. Well, we can try again. And we'll keep texting."

"For sure," he said. "I do love texting with you."

"Talking is pretty nice too," she replied. "That way I have something to do while I sit in traffic."

The bell rang above Chimney. "Well, hold tight, because you're about to have even more traffic," he said. "I have to go."

"I can hear," she said. "Talk to you later."

"Bye, Maddie," he said, and switched off, running towards the poles.


Chimney was exhausted Saturday evening, and his shift had felt like an eternity, but he headed over to the hospital anyway. He figured he'd just drop in, see if she had a minute, and if not, no harm done. He figured he should have probably texted first, but by the time he thought of that he was already halfway there.

Too late to turn around.

He just wanted to see her. Through some curse, no calls had taken them by St. Elizabeth; even if they had, Maddie wouldn't have been working.

Maddie had texted him a caffeine emoji as a joke right before he'd left the 118; that had been his prompt. He was going to get her another cappuccino, make sure that she didn't have to drink the awful coffee the hospital provided.

He managed to find street parking not too far (truly a miracle) and went to grab a coffee for her. By the time he reached St. Elizabeth's doors, the sun was starting to set. He should be home and getting dinner ready; he was starving, but fool that he was, he was walking through St. Elizabeth's doors, coffee in hand.

It was oddly quiet for a Saturday night, and Chimney counted his blessings. Maybe, just maybe, he'd get lucky.

Omar was at the reception desk, and he raised an eyebrow at Chimney. "You didn't bring me one," he said, and Chimney smiled.

"I didn't know if you were working," he said delicately.

"You could have texted, you have my number from when I venmoed you," Omar replied, then grinned. "You know I'm just kidding."

"I did hope," Chimney said. "Is, uh, Maddie around?"

"She could be," Omar said. "If you promise to include me in your next coffee run."

"Omar," Maddie scolded, and Chimney swung around to see Maddie walking up behind him. "You do not get to make Chimney your coffee bringer too; you've already got about six nurses doing that."

"I always need more coffee bringers," Omar sniffed, but somehow managed to evaporate, leaving Maddie and Chimney somewhat alone.

"What are you doing here?" She asked, taking the proffered coffee cup. He thrilled when her fingers brushed against his, and he didn't miss how her eyes shot up to his face; she'd felt it too.

"I feel like that's fairly self evident," he smiled. "I just wanted to grab you a coffee, I was on my way home and I just...didn't want to wait another week before I saw you."

She dimpled; a truly beautiful sight. "I appreciate it," she said. "Omar, can you cover for me?"

"You get five minutes," came Omar's voice.

"I knew he hadn't actually left," she hissed at Chimney.

"Heard that too," Omar called, and Maddie shook her head, leading Chimney outside to the bench. She was in red scrubs this time; they brought out the color in her cheeks, and made her brown hair glow.

"How was your week?" She asked. "Beyond what we've texted."

"It was fine," Chimney shrugged. "Your brother won't stop bugging me."

"Me either, but he means well," Maddie said. "And he's basically my best friend, so I allow him that."

Chimney itched to just throw an arm around her; to take her hand, but he held back. He didn't want to cross a line, so he kept his hands firmly in his pocket. "So," he said. "What do you work Thursday?"

"Morning," she said. "My weekend schedule basically flipped on me."

"Dinner?" He asked, voice hopeful. "It doesn't have to be anything big, just a quick bite. I know you'll be tired."

"We can plan for that," she said, a smile in her voice. "But only if you swear not to be mad if I cancel because I'm dead on my feet."

"I would never be mad at you for cancelling," he said automatically, not thinking. He paused, remembering Buck's "scumbag husband" words. She was probably thinking about him. (Chimney wasn't even sure of the man's name.)

She smiled at him, reaching to brush her hair behind her ear. He could tell she wasn't sure what to say.

"That's probably five minutes," he said, regretful. "I don't want Omar to send out a search party."

She sighed. "I feel awful that you drove all this way just for five minutes," she began.

"Don't," Chimney said simply. "I wanted to, and Maddie? It was worth it."

He realized he'd said around the same thing last time; he'd say it as many times as needed for Maddie to believe it.

Her face softened even more. "Howie," she began, stepping closer to him, and he could feel something was in the air. He really, really wanted to kiss her again. He'd been thinking about literally all week.

Her cell phone started buzzing the second he took a step closer, and Maddie closed her eyes in visible disappointment.

"That's going to be Omar," she said, and, arching on her toes, she leaned to kiss his cheek. It was over in a second, and she was scampering inside without a word, but Chimney stared after her like a lovesick puppy, stars in his eyes. It took him a long time to leave; he kept praying she'd steal another moment and come back out for a real kiss, but finally, he turned and left.

He couldn't wait until Thursday.