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    Out of the Flames – Chapter Eight

    Vacaville, California, the following day, Tuesday…

    Just like a few days before, Bette slid herself into the passenger seat of Tina’s car for another off-book fieldtrip, only this time she wasn’t distracted from any bittersweet moments with her daughter. She had started to heed Tina’s advice, who had made her see that she could never be Avery, nor could she expect to be. Instead, she just had to be herself and trust that the love that she and Reagan had for each other would be enough to forge a stronger bond.

    Today was quite different. Bette was even optimistic that she and Reagan would become closer, and that she and Tina would soon find the one thing that would lead them to El Caco. She felt like she was one step closer to standing face to face with the man who likely killed her wife, and that thought alone was enough to sustain her energy to see herself through to the end.

    Just after they crossed the Bay Bridge and Tina navigated through the MacArthur Maze on their way to Vacaville, Bette asked. “So what was your excuse for leaving work early today? Mine was parent-teacher conference.”

    “Dental appointment,” Tina grinned when she replied. It was refreshing to have Bette initiate idle chitchat. It meant she was beginning to claw herself out of her grief. “Works every time I need a little time to myself.”

    Bette grinned in return, admiring how Tina kept things real with her. So, I’m not the only one. Bette was never one to take a full hooky day but taking an hour or two to go for a run when the weather was perfect or to meet Avery for a special early date was never out of the question. “I’ll have to weave that into the lineup,” Bette joked. Suddenly her grin disappeared. Who was she kidding? She realized she wouldn’t be running anytime soon, nor would she be sneaking away for early romantic dates.

    Tina glanced at her. The gloom that was absent this morning had reappeared. “Did I say something wrong?”

    Bette shook her head, knowing full well she had to break this cycle. “No, it’s not you. I just have to get used to my new reality, that’s all.” A change of subject was needed. “I got a hit on that unknown number that Caco’s phone, or what we think is Caco’s phone called. It’s another burner. I added it to another case Eric and I are working on, and the company will send me the records tomorrow.”

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    1. Great chapter. Glad she is listening to that inner voice and to Tina. Maybe they can get to the vehicle and back to town before they are caught in the fire. They are now taking extreme chances with their lives, damn the prisoners. They need to get the heck out of there. Great writing.

    2. I am glad that Bette listened to her inner voice and Tina and didn’t pull the trigger. Now they have to move fast before it is to late to escape the fire.
      I don’t want anything to happen Bette and Tina, but it wouldn’t surprise me if you let Bette save Tina because Bette couldn’t save her parents and Avery the previous times. The circle will come round then.

      Another fantastic update CN! Thank you!

    3. What a surprise, CN! I didn’t expect a new chapter this soon. Thanks for the treat.
      But on the other hand that means that your wonderful story is coming to an end.

      Many of my thoughts on this chapter have already been posted by others. I just hope that you’ll give us a happy ending, Something that helps Bette to break the “fire cycle”. But please, let Tina and Bette live, I’m not up for more tears ;-)

      • kiwipit, I don’t think I’m up for more tears either. Don’t fret. While this story is rapidly coming to an end, part 2 is already swirling around my head. I plan to roll up my sleeves very soon and start giving it form. The second story will focus on Bette and Tina and address unanswered questions from the first.

    4. I’m so busy, I can barely keep up with your posting! Finally had a chance to binge on both chapters yesterday.

      I have to say, I was relieved to discover that Avery was speaking to her parents on the phone and not some secret lover. It’s clear that she was still on the fence about whether or not to allow them in her life or Reagan’s which would explain why she hadn’t yet told Bette that she had spoken to them. It’s likely that Avery passed away with a bit of her own guilt for keeping Bette in the dark which would explain her distraction during the whole investigation scene and that makes me very sad. I bet that she didn’t even see the exchange between Bette and Tina because she was so preoccupied with whatever was happening during that phone conversation so Bette harbors extraneous guilt for nothing.

      It bears repeating that I am also glad she didn’t pull the trigger when the opportunity presented itself. Vengeance is but an ugly demon that can consume and most certainly motivate; luckily it had not completely swallowed Bette in this instance. But now that they’ve got their man, what shall become of their battle with the elements? Mandatory evacuation is no joke in California. Hopefully 2 of the 3 make it Out of the Flames with nary a burn! Not that I’m wishing anybody dead or anything, but if push comes to shove and someone has to die of smoke inhalation, well, lets hope our two protagonists get the better end of the deal.

      Obviously you will need a second book to this story as the first arc comes to a close. No doubt the love story potential is what some may call a…slow burn. Okay, I’ll see myself out now. lol

      – MeLL

      • MeLL, You’re so right about those mandatory evacuations. Years ago, wildfire threatened my parent’s home in the foothills, and a voluntary evacuation was ordered. Dad had cleared a good defensible space around the house, so he and my brother chose to ride it out and man the hoses, with packed cars standing by as a means of quick escape. It was a dicy 48 hours, but they were lucky…the wind shifted. The next town over, just a few miles away, wasn’t so lucky and was virtually wiped out. That’s why when our fair state was hit with a record-breaking fire season last fall, I knew I had to use the wildfires as a backdrop in this story.

        Also, you’re dead on about the second book. I knew from the start, I wanted to tell this story in two distinct arcs. First, tell how Bette walks thru the flames, then second, tell a story after she comes out the other side.

        • Wow! Your dad and brother are brave souls! Glad they made it! I had a friend who barely made it out of the Squirrel Valley fire with her entire family a couple years ago. Thankfully her house was untouched and all of her animals survived (four dogs, a llama and some chickens), while her next door neighbors were not as lucky as their entire house burned down.

          I’ve always thought that fire fighters are the bravest of all first responders and even military members. Because they are fighting the elements of nature while law enforcement and military fight other men (and women).

          Looking forward to the next (final?) chapter!

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