Where There’s Smoke... There’s Firefighters!
My first firefighter was Lieutenant Howard “Six Pack” Paxton of Station Five. This rough-and-tough, Harley riding man won me over with his willingness to do whatever the job took—and to plunge boldly into the flames. After that, I was hooked and now my keeper shelf has plenty of hot, hot firefighters.
My firefighters don’t man a station house or ride out on the truck; they’re not wrestling fire hydrants or shouldering their way into burning buildings laying hose. Mine jump out of airplanes four thousand feet above the flaming wildland fires. Jump thousand, look thousand, reach thousand, wait thousand, pull thousand. Check your canopy. Watch out for your team and never lose sight of the fireline. That’s the smoke jumper way of life and the men jumping into the heat and the flames of California’s wildland fires live by these tenets. Former soldiers, the Donovan brothers’ jump team fought together on battlefields overseas; now, they return to Strong, California, each summer to fight forest fires. Eight ex-soldiers. One pilot. One plane. One team. And three very, very sexy brothers.
“Rough day at the office?” Faye gave Evan a quick visual inspection, but the only obvious damage was a couple of red patches on his forearms.
“You could say that.” He squeezed her again, so she figured that said it all.
“He okay?” She asked her question quietly, her eyes on Evan’s brother, Jack, pretending she hadn’t given Evan the once-over.
Evan’s face got still, as if he wished he had the answer to that question. “Not entirely. Probably good enough, although he needs to go to the hospital and get that arm of his checked out. Lungs, too. He popped an ankle good, too. He’s not doing jumping jacks on it for at least a week.”
“What happened?” She let him turn them both back toward the hangar, her feet falling into step with his while she waited for him to answer her question. A pickup truck passed them, headed out to the DC-3. Jack’s ride, because apparently he wouldn’t go on a stretcher with sirens flashing.
Evan ran a hand over his head. “One minute, we’re holding the line. The next, we’re hauling ass for a safe spot. Jack tripped. He’s going to be okay. He’ll take a couple of days off, maybe a week. His Nomex did its job, and he’s got more scrapes and steam burn than anything, other than the ankle.”
God. Her brain was feeding her images she didn’t need or want. “How about you?” He stepped inside the hangar, and she didn’t wait politely outside for him. No, she went right in with him and sat on the bottom of the steps leading up to the loft while he stripped off his gear and she devoured him with her eyes.
“I did okay, Faye.”
“Prove it.” She needed to see that jumpsuit come off. If he were keeping secrets, he wouldn’t be for long.
“I need a shower,” he growled. “Something to eat. And sleep. Sleep would be real good right now.”
She sat there. What else did he need? What did he want? He prowled closer, as if there was something, all right, and despite the guys all around them, it was as if they were alone in their own little space. That, or maybe Evan’s jump team had more manners than she’d given them credit for.
He leaned over her, caging her in his arms. “You want to know what else I need right now, Faye?” His smoke-blackened face was fierce and triumphant.
“You tell me,” she murmured, “and I’ll make sure you get it.”
“That sounds good.” He was close enough now that his mouth was only inches from hers. The good manners were fading now; some of the jumpers called good-natured jibes, watching the two of them getting up-close and personal on the stairs. “I want that shower. You want to know why?”
She looked at him, but, God, his thumb was caressing the corner of her mouth, and she didn’t have anything more to say.
“Because,” he continued, his voice rough and low, “I’m taking you to bed, Faye, unless you say no. I want to hole up and make love to you and forget all about this damned fire for a night. I don’t even want to talk about it.”
“No talking, just kisses. Got it,” she said breathlessly.
He backed her into the stairs, letting her feel the hard metal railing at her back. “So you up for kissing me all better tonight, Faye?”
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Bio: I live in Northern California with my husband, two kids and four cats. After ten years of graduate school and too many degrees, I escaped to become a technical writer. When not planted firmly in front of the laptop translating Engineer into English, I enjoy gardening, running (even if it’s just to the 7-11 for slurpees), and reading books curled up with my kids. I currently write Smoke Jumpers for Kensington Brava, with a spin-off novella series (The Hotshots) starting in July 2013. I also write for Harlequin Blaze (watch for my first Blaze in early 2014!).