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Ash: Devil's Crucifix MC
Author: Carmen Faye


Chapter 1


“Come on, Dani! Get your ass moving! This is no time to quit!” Captain Quinn hovers over me as I lay flat on the ground, a hundred or so feet from the end of the course. “This is why we don’t let pansy girls into the field! They just can’t handle it!”


I look over at his dusty brown shoes. They’re covered in ashes and soot; the laces are just barely holding them together. I wanted boots like those -- I wanted firemen’s boots.


As he continues to scream, I push myself back up to my elbows and sink my back and stomach farther into the sun-scorched concrete. I don’t give a damn what he says -- I’m going to do this.


Slowly, I scoot and slide myself through the fake debris -- the discarded pieces of wood, the hanging branches simulated to look like ceiling planks, the marked cones where there should be holes in the ground. And inch by inch, the 180-pound weight attached to my hips slowly moves steadily behind me.


I can see the red line coming around a corner. It’s my end point, my exit, my salvation. I just need to get myself and that ugly, screeching blank hunk of metal past it, and I’ll be home free. It should be impossible -- at least for someone as tiny as me -- but I’ve actually been able to use my small frame as an asset.


I pull myself just past the line so I can sit up and grasp the rope around my hips with both my bare hands. The rope strains and almost feels like it’s going to snap. The weight doesn’t budge, so I give it another yank. Nothing. I set my jaw, clench my teeth, and heave all my weight backwards -- and suddenly, the weight gives a jump. Encouraged, I pull again.


The other three trainees, all guys, drop what they’re doing and stare. They’ve been done with this course for a long time now. No one else had as much trouble as I am. But then again, 180 pounds is nothing when you’re six feet tall and ninety percent muscle.


“Go, Dani!” comes a voice from behind me. “You got this, lady. C’mon. Just pull that goddamn weight across the line!” Crouched just inches away from me is Jamie, doing his best to be encouraging but still somehow coming off as a bit of a dick. Part of me thinks he is just seconds away from grabbing me from around my waist, throwing me over his shoulder, and doing the work for me.


But he knows better. Instead he gets the rest of the trainees to chant my name with him. Even Captain Quinn is in on it as he shouts out my remaining time: ten seconds.




My hands make a loop around the rope.




I lean back slightly like I’m about to row a boat.




I make my first tug and the weight moves an inch.




I grunt and heave as I pull again.




My hands drop the rope as my body begs me to just give it up.




I feel sick to my stomach as I know I have to try again. I can’t not do this.




I take in a deep breath of air, filling my lungs up.




I cry out as I pull hard against the rope. My entire body leans back and falls onto the concrete.




The weight slides fast across the line.




I pull once more to be sure while letting out the longest, most satisfying cry I can muster up.


“You did it! You did it Dani!” Jamie throws himself around me as I lay in a ball. His closeness throws me off, but I let it happen.


I’m too tired to push him away if I could. The other trainees reach down and pat me on the shoulder before going back to the workout machines and weights left out in the fading sun.


Above me, the Captain makes a note on his clipboard before giving me the thumbs up sign. I did it. I wasn’t supposed to. No one, including myself, thought I would ever get through that obstacle course with a weight that heavy. Just last week, I was struggling with a weight half its size, but I managed to find some kind of strength I never knew I had in me. And now I am only a few months and skill tests away from being a full-fledged fireman.


Still, I can’t focus on that right now. All I can think about was how every muscle in my body is crying out. My arms feel as if they have been through a fire themselves while my neck struggles to keep my head lifted. Even my legs, which were pretty isolated, seem to rebel against me as I try to pull myself up to standing. Jamie, who is still hanging onto me like a monkey to a tree, isn’t exactly backing off either.


I hate to admit it but I need to sit out for the rest of the workout. I can’t get much done anyway. I’m pretty sure if I even attempt to lift my gym bag, I’d be thrown to the ground by the weight. Instead, I take a seat in the two-person jacuzzi already bubbling and brewing and let myself just soak. I can’t care less that, sitting here in a black sports bra and panties, I’m pretty exposed.


“You’re looking pretty fucking awful, kid.” Nate calls to me from his weight bench as he packs up the massive round weights from the pole back to the storage area. “You want a little something for those muscles?”


“I could go for a massage,” I yell back as I turn my body slightly. My wrinkled prune of a hand emerges, grasping for the side of the tub to balance. “But I don’t think your wife would like that much.”


“Good thing I wasn’t offering, Dani.” He winks at me, his eyes smiling brightly. “What I was offering was some meds. I’ve got some pretty strong stuff in the back of the ambulance I could give you.”


At the word “medicine,” my mind instantly perks up. I slide to the edge of the tub and stand up slightly, trying my best not to appear overly eager. “You could do that? I thought you had to be a doctor to write that stuff. I don’t want to get you in trouble with your day job.” Nate and Aaron are both EMTs. It gave them an advantage when it came to the joining the fire department. They had known the Captain and the rest of the crew pretty well, and when it comes to open jobs, they’re pretty much a shoo-in for a full-time position.

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