Cleansing Flame

By: Andrew Grey

Rekindled Flame: Book Two

Life has been grinding Dayne Mills down almost for as long as he can remember. First he lost the love of his life in an accident that also left him with a permanent injury, and then his mother passed away a year later. When his house burns to the ground, it’s the last straw. He can’t take any more, and if it wasn’t for kind and handsome firefighter Lawson Martin offering him a hand up and a place to stay, he doesn’t know what he’d do. Dayne would love for his relationship with Lawson to evolve into something beyond charity, but he knows going after a man so far out of his league will only lead to yet more heartache. It’s best to just keep his mind on his research.

It’s that research that leads Dayne to an old student journal that not only provides clues to the Native American heritage Lawson has been searching for, but chronicles a century-old love story. The tale that unfolds might be just what Dayne and Lawson need to remind them that no matter how dark life becomes, love can find a way to shine through.

For Dominic. He isn’t a firefighter, but as both of us get on into middle age, he still lights a fire for me.

Chapter 1

SOMETIMES IT really sucked being older than everybody else, and sometimes it was an advantage. For the last four years, Dayne Mills had gone to school in order to graduate from college, and closing in on thirty, he was finally near the finish line. He had chosen a degree in the humanities, with the goal of being able to teach. At least that was the plan. Get an education so he could get a job and better support himself and hopefully leave some of his past behind. He had begun to second-guess that plan about a year ago, but it had been too late to change course.

Dayne’s faculty advisor had pulled a lot of strings for him, so instead of sitting in his usual building at Penn State Harrisburg, he was in Carlisle at Dickinson College, taking two classes he could never have afforded otherwise. Professor Collins was an amazing man who thought Dayne had talent, so he’d arranged for him to take more advanced classes at Dickinson for a semester. It was unusual, and Dayne was honored that Professor Collins and the people at Dickinson had been willing to work to make this happen.

Instead of meeting in a fancy lecture hall, their class was in one of the older buildings on campus, in a room with tables formed into a square so everyone could see one another. Dayne had been a little awed when he’d first walked in a month ago. This wasn’t like the modern white-walled classroom he was used to, with plain desks and A/V equipment. This room had towering ceilings and windows that reached all the way to them, surrounded by warm woodwork that had been there for over a century. Every time he came to class at Dickinson, he wished more than anything that he’d gone here for all of his education.

“Good morning.” Professor Hunterson strode into class and set his books on the table.

“Good morning,” Dayne muttered half under his breath. While the other students were chipper and excited, he was tired. He’d been up most of the night because his legs refused to stop throbbing. They still ached, but concentrating on the discussion took his mind off them.

“As all of you know from the syllabus, part of this class is a paper on some facet of the history of American education. I’d like to review the topics you’ve chosen. I’ve already talked with some of you, but for those I haven’t, please see me during the last fifteen minutes of class.”

Dayne opened his notebook and looked at the ideas he’d jotted down for his paper, the general topics ranging from the birth of public education to education on the American frontier. He really didn’t think too much of any of them. They sounded so predictable and ordinary, and he wanted to do something special and interesting. He stared at the page for a few more seconds, hoping inspiration would strike, but nothing came to him. Not that he had much time—the discussion was starting.

“Let’s start where we left off talking about the national education policy during World War II.” Professor Hunterson did a quick review of the details he wanted to focus on from the reading material and then opened the class to discussion.

Dayne both loved and hated this style. He loved it because it was so different from the conventional lecture-type classes he got at Penn State Harrisburg. These classes were exciting, with students arguing with one another and sometimes even with the professor in order to fully flesh out concepts and ideas. He also hated it for the same reason. Talking in front of others always made his stomach churn. Dayne knew Professor Hunterson kept track of everyone who spoke, so he got his thoughts together and shared them with the class. “The austerity during the war definitely extended to the classrooms.”

“Yes. That’s a topic I’ve been waiting for,” Professor Hunterson said after Dayne croaked out his thoughts. The class picked up on the theme, and before long Dayne was in a lively discussion and hardly had time to think much about it.

“That’s all we have time for today,” Professor Hunterson said a while later, “but we’ll pick this up next time.” Most of the students grabbed their notebooks and filed out, but Dayne stayed behind, once again looking at his ideas. Three other students did also, and Dayne remained seated while each of them talked to the professor for a few minutes and then departed.