The jet plane roared down the runway, wheels humming. Within seconds Riccardo Rossi was airborne. Despite the fact he was leaving the heat of Tuscany behind, and heading back to the cool English spring weather that May usually afforded, he didn’t mind. English summers were barely warm by his standards on a good day, just as well since he got enough heat in his day job. Fighting fires in thick kit, with 70lbs of equipment on your back, were not for the faint of heart.
And he loved the fact they were firefighters and not firemen. He worked with several women, in fact half his watch were women, and they were every bit as good at the job as the men.
He closed his eyes, settling back into the seat. Italy had been…interesting. His brother Rafaele had teased him about his job, as always—calling him a lean, mean, fire fighting machine. He’d discovered another cousin he didn’t know he had—a pretty one at that—and then there was the strange painting Nonna had received. Or ordered. Or something.
He sucked in a deep breath and accepted the cup of juice the flight attendant handed him. Tuscany wasn’t the same without Papà there. That in its own way was a good thing. The relationship between him and his father had been strained at best, downright awful at worst, and Ric had left Villa Rossi and moved to the UK as soon as he’d turned twenty-one just to get away from him. He’d only gone back for the funeral because his brother asked him to attend. Honestly, that was the last place he wanted to be. To say goodbye to a man he’d spent his whole lifetime hating, a man that he’d—
He stretched out his legs as far as they’d go—which wasn’t anywhere near far enough for his six-foot-two frame. This time he’d returned, again because he was asked to, for Nonna’s birthday. Twice in three months. More than enough to last a lifetime.
The ice in his cup rattled as he set the cold orange down. His stomach churned with guilt. The burden he carried as always lying heavy upon him. He missed his brother and sisters. Of course he did. With them so scattered—him in the UK, Rafaele in Tuscany, Sienna in Australia and Alessa in Rome—being together all at the same time was almost impossible.
Video phone calls between him and his siblings just weren’t the same. Not that you could have all of them in the same window. He chuckled to himself, remembering dumping a jug of ice water over Rafaele’s head. One sure-fire way to put out the flames of love, at least temporarily.
It had been fun but not enough to make him stay.
His sense of duty, not to mention his faith and burden of guilt wouldn’t allow it. And he couldn’t deny the relief that he was flying home. Tuscany ceased to be home a long time ago.
He checked his watch. The direct two hour flight from Roma to London City Airport should be landing in fifty minutes. Landing at Heathrow would have meant a flight time of six hours, plus a five hour lay-over.
Hopefully his downstairs neighbour Bracken had remembered to feed Schiaccianoci, his tabby cat. Named after the Italian for nutcracker, Noci for short, had a micro-chipped cat flap so he could come and go at will; all he needed was feeding twice a day. He’d been a stray that Ric adopted from Battersea cats and dogs home shortly before Christmas, hence the name. The cat and he were now best buddies.
Of course, Noci might not like the fact he’d gone away again. Last time he’d sulked for days.
Ric opened his eyes and glanced out of the window. He preferred a window seat, but this time he’d been stuck on the aisle—he wasn’t paying and as a result hadn’t chosen the seat. The plus side to that was the stewardess would reach him first.
The bloke sitting next to him shifted and gasped.
“Are you all—” Ric broke off. The man was grasping his chest, his colour grey and lips blue.
No. Ric reached up for the call button to alert the air crew and stood. He had to get the gentleman to the floor and begin CPR immediately. As a firefighter he was trauma trained and knew what to do in most situations. Before he had chance to do anything, the man collapsed. Struggling with the man’s seatbelt, Ric finally managed to unclasp it as a stewardess reached his side.
“He’s having a cardiac arrest,” Ric explained. He, along with the stewardess, managed to lay the man on the floor. Ric quickly checked for a pulse, and groaned when he didn’t find one. He began CPR. As he worked he prayed the man would respond and stay alive long enough to get to where the medics could take over. “Need to get this plane on the ground ASAP. And have an ambulance on standby.”
A second flight attendant nodded and ran briskly towards the cockpit.
A minute or so later, the tannoy beeped. “Ladies and gentlemen, this is Captain Foster speaking. Due to an on board medical emergency we are diverting to Zurich. If there is a doctor on the plane, please make yourself known to the air crew immediately.”
No one came forward.
Okay, Lord. I guess this is down to You and me and the flight attendant. If it’s not too much to ask, please grant us clearance to land with an ambulance waiting on the runway for us.
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