Asher & Emmett

an excerpt



Chapter One

Asher stretched languidly as the morning light streamed in. Something had woken him, a sudden bad feeling in the pit of his stomach. Like every time Emmett went running into a burning building. He shook his head and propped himself up on his elbow. There was no reason to worry here in this paradise. They had rented a cabin located between Denali and Fairbanks, off Parks Highway. He and his husband had been here for four days and planned to stay another three. They'd taken a road trip up to Chena Hot Springs Resort to see the Ice Museum, taken a run on a dog sled, and enjoyed the geothermal pools. They'd also spent a day hiking in the Denali National Park.

He gazed at his husband, who was still sleeping soundly. The sunlight streaming in through the window highlighted his tanned skin. His dark brown hair was mussed; Asher had run his fingers through the thick locks late last night when they had made love after gazing up at the night sky. It had been clear, and the beauty of the heavens had been breathtaking. He had stayed up with Emmett until three a.m., gazing in awe at the stars and sharing sweet kisses, curled up together. They were here to celebrate their fifth anniversary, and were splurging on a romantic getaway, knowing despite their hectic lives, they wanted to adopt and had already started the process. Having completed all the paperwork and home study, they were hoping for a match when they got home.

Emmett was a firefighter on a rescue squad. And Asher was a paramedic in the same firehouse. That was where he and Emmett had met, fallen in love, and even gotten engaged. Asher would never forget Emmett getting down on one knee in front of the entire firehouse and popping the question. Now, he had made the decision to go to med school and study to be a doctor. He knew residency would have him putting in insane hours, but he and Emmett had talked about it, and Asher was confident he could be there for their child despite it. It would be a balancing act, but he was up for the challenge. He enjoyed being a paramedic, but he wanted to be a doctor. It wouldn't be easy, he knew, but he had Emmett's support and love, so he could handle it. He grinned and leaned down to brush his lips against his husband's.

Blinking, Emmet gazed at him, green eyes hazy with sleep. "What time is it, baby?"

"Not sure, still early."

With a yawn, Emmet pulled him close. "Can we-?"

Asher startled as the ground and then the whole cabin started shaking violently. He grabbed onto Emmett and held him for a second. Emmett jumped up and yanked him down to crawl under the bed. It wasn't easy with them both being six feet tall, but they curled around one another.

A window in the living area shattered, their things on the dresser crashed over with it. A picture broke as it fell.

He and Emmett embraced tightly, shielding one another as they waited for it to stop. "I thought they said earthquakes were minor here?"

"Must be an exception to the rule." Emmett kissed his hair. "As soon as it stops we'll get dressed and outta here. People are gonna need help, Ash."

Asher yanked him to the other side as one more violent shake sent the bed forward. It was made of sturdy oak and solid, he thought they would be okay under it, but maybe not. "Let's hope we don't."

Emmett locked gazes with him. "You kidding? Like I'd let anything happen to you."

The tremors stopped. Asher climbed out and rushed for their clothes. There was an aftershock as they dressed but it was minor. Asher didn't suggest that maybe they should hunker down, or better yet get the hell outta Dodge. He wouldn't do that and neither would Emmett. They saved people, it was their purpose and they both knew it. Maybe they were even here for a reason. He'd always believed in fate; it'd led him to Emmett after all.

He and Emmett were ready in seconds; jackets, sweaters, jeans, and hiking boots all pulled in quick succession. Being on call you had to do things in a hurry; you never knew when there would be a fire, accident, or, well, earthquake. Though he'd never experienced the last one until now.

Emmett cupped Asher's face and kissed him quickly. They shared a look and stepped over broken glass. The couch had slid into the fireplace in the living area and the small kitchen was a wreck. The front door was stuck; it took them both yanking to pry it open. Logs-that had been stacked by the cabin-rolled in and they dodged them.

It was eerily quiet outside. Despite the destruction inside, the wilderness seemed relatively undisturbed, though the animals had clearly fled; he could see areas trampled in the grass and nearby there was a downed tree. Then Asher heard a woman screaming. A little boy hung from a small bridge over a stream and she was desperately trying to pull him up. Further away in another cabin across the lake they could see smoke. Fire. Damn.

"I'll get the kid," Asher called out and took off.

"I'll be at that cabin, see if anyone is trapped," Emmett shouted back.

One quick glance back at his husband then Asher ran as fast as he could to the bridge. Just as he reached it, the woman lost her grip. The drop wasn't large, but still would be a shock and could the kid swim? Fuck. He ripped off his sweater and kicked off his boots at the bank then jumped in. It wasn't deep, his feet reached the bottom, but the kid was clearly hurt and struggling to keep his head above water. He waded through the current as the boy began splashing and crying for his mom. He couldn't be older than five. Asher came up behind him as he went under.

Asher slipped his arms under the kid's armpits and pulled him close, leaning back to keep him afloat. "Hey, buddy, I'm here to help. Stop splashing, 'kay? Hold on to me."

The boy wrapped his little hands around Asher's biceps. He was shivering, the water was warm but he had to be in shock. "You hurt anywhere?"

"My leg," he sputtered, gasping for breath.

Asher began dogpaddling back to shore. "Okay, just hang on. You're gonna be fine."

The kid hardly weighed anything even soaking wet, so he got them to shore pretty quickly. His mom waded in and lifted him up into her arms. "Oh, Jasper, baby. I was so scared. Are you hurt?"

Tears welled up in the boy's aqua green eyes. "My leg hurts."

Asher got up and shook off the water. "I can take a look okay, buddy?"

The woman gave him a one armed hug. Her son was the spitting image of her, copper red hair, green eyes, willowy, and pale. "Thank you, thank you. Oh my God, you saved his life."

"You're welcome, ma'am. I'm a licensed paramedic, can I see what's wrong?"

She nodded. He grabbed his sweater and slipped it back on first. He didn't like being exposed and he was chilled. Jasper needed to get warm, too. "Where's your cabin?"

"We were on a walk. My father is a caretaker of these cabins, he stays in one, and we were visiting. Jasper loves seeing the moose."

"He needs to get warm. Our cabin is over there." He pointed, and after he put his boots back on she followed him, holding tightly to her son. "I'm Asher, by the way."

"Claire, sorry. I should've said that sooner."

"No apologies necessary."

He grabbed a few logs and cautioned her as they entered the cabin. He set the wood by the fire and Claire wrapped Jasper in a blanket after Asher shoved the couch back. When an aftershock rocked the cabin, he realized a fire might not be the best idea, hadn't he already seen one cabin burning? He silently prayed Emmett would come walking through the door. He didn't. Worry began to bubble up. He was going to search for his phone when Jasper began crying. Maybe he was hurt worse than Asher had thought; he had to be certain the kid was stable before he attempted to call for help.

He decided to check on Jasper then go find his errant husband. He knelt beside the couch as Jasper clung to Claire. "So, you're a local?"

"Yeah, we never have quakes this bad." Claire sighed. "It has to be an eight at least. Probably a nine. Anything else lower than a seven and hardly anyone notices."

"How do you get used to that?" he asked curiously.

Claire shrugged. "Just part of life, I guess. And this is our home."

"Well, it's beautiful. We've had a wonderful vacation up until now."

She chuckled and glanced around. "Where's your wife?"

"Husband," he corrected gently yet proudly. He hoped her reaction wouldn't be negative. "He's a firefighter, ran off to that burning cabin."

"Oh." Her eyes widened. "I hope he's all right."

"Me too." Asher examined Jasper, but he couldn't see any visible injuries. He was breathing regularly, had a steady pulse, and coherent reactions. He was probably terrified, though he seemed much calmer now. Asher touched Jasper's leg, having him stretch it out. He rolled up the boy's pant leg and took off his shoe. He gently prodded the kid's ankle; it was slightly swollen, tender to the touch and already bruising. Not broken though. "I think it's a bad sprain. He'll need to get it tended to but it doesn't look broken." He stood. "I have a small first aid kit. Lemme get it."

He dashed to the bedroom, grabbed the kit out of his suitcase, and used an Ace bandage to wrap Jasper's ankle to give the boy a little support and hopefully lessen the pain. "Feel better?"

"Yes, much better."

Claire hugged her son. "As soon as Jaz warms up, I'll head to the main cabin. I need to find my dad."

"He shouldn't walk yet, Claire," Asher replied. "I can go with you, we can take my car, but I really need to see where Emmett went."

"Of course, go ahead. We'll be fine. I'll check and see if I can get a hold of anyone on my phone."

"Good idea." He pointed to the small table, grateful to see his Surface still there and not in pieces. "Maybe you can see if we have internet still and find out anything?"

"Definitely."

"Thank you, Mr. Asher," Jasper said with a sniffle.

He smiled and ruffled Jasper's hair. "You're welcome, little man."

Standing up, he took the kit, and thought once again it'd be a good idea to have his phone so he searched for it. It had fallen off the dresser and the screen was cracked. No reception, but it seemed to be working. He tried 911 but the call failed. He then rushed out the door.

To his horror, the cabin on the other side of the pond was fully ablaze.

Emmett had no gear, no help.

Dear God.

He ran as fast as his legs would carry him.