Leslie will be donating 5% of book sales in the first week to a Wildfire Fighting charity called Wildland Firefighter Foundation!
Chase groaned as he sagged down into his usual chair in the station meeting room. Garrett Wyld, his usual meeting neighbor, reached over to elbow him in the ribs.
“Easy, Wyld!” Chase swapped his mug of coffee to the other hand to keep from spilling any more. Even the shitty station coffee was a precious commodity on a chilly Alaska morning like this.
Garrett just chuckled and shook his head. “Something tells me I’m not the uneasy one. Why the long sigh, Kingston? You get lucky last night?”
Nearby squad members turned their heads, suddenly interested in the exchange. Chase took a sip of his coffee to avoid answering outright. It was a calculated risk, and he lost out—the brew was still hot as hell, even hotter than the blaze at the squad’s last house call. He avoided an outward grimace and paid the price as the fluid scalded his tongue and seared his throat.
“Maybe,” he said enigmatically. At least his poor abused tongue could still deliver the proper air of mystery . . . despite the cloak of mystery getting whisked aside in the next moment.
“You fucking dog.” One of the senior squad members punched his other shoulder, and when Chase switched his coffee from hand to hand this time, he was grinning.
“Ah, to be young!” another lamented.
Chase just shook his head. He had aged out of bragging about his conquests, but he wasn’t above receiving the heaped congratulations his reputation still earned him. He just wished he could remember the name of the gal he’d taken home last night . . . not that it made the least bit of difference. She had shipped in on a cruise liner out of Seattle and had already moved on to the next town by now. It had been fun, plain and simple, and that was how he preferred it. He’d show another sexy tourist the sights—and help her keep her bed warm—before the week was out.
The door blew open, and every head turned from Chase as the fire chief entered. Chase may have been the life of the party, but even he knew he was no match for the big boss himself.
“Listen up.” Hank Logan crossed to the desk at the front of the room and tossed his clipboard down. He leaned back against the table and crossed his burly arms. Chase leaned forward despite himself. He had never seen Hank’s clipboard get the table treatment so early in a meeting. His chief wasn’t even looking to it as a reference now. He was looking straight into the faces of his men.
Something was up.
“New assignment,” Hank told them. “I’m taking a volunteer contingent down to California. Cedar Springs, to be exact. She’s a small town that’s used to the wildfires this time of year passing her by. This latest fire reared up over the past few days.” Hank nodded as if to himself. “Still fairly tame, so it’s a control job to help the local squads keep it from spreading anywhere populated. Low risk, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be dangerous.” Hank surveyed the crew’s faces once more. Chase suppressed the urge to look at Garrett. “A call for supplementary support passed across my desk this morning,” Hank continued, “and I agreed to it. I want to take some men with me down south. Like I said, it’s all voluntary.”
“I’m in,” Chase blurted. No one seemed surprised that he was the first.
“Could be weeks,” Hank noted. “Maybe even months. Think the pretty tourists who disembark down at the port can spare you?”
Chase rocked back in his chair and flipped up the bill of his cap with a grin. “They’re going to have to.”
“If Kingston’s going, then so am I,” Garrett volunteered. “Can’t let you boys have all the fun!”
Hank nodded. “Anyone else?”
The shouted affirmations came quickly after that. As Hank’s offer sank in, every member of the squad suddenly realized that he or she could use a little extra Vitamin D. Once the contingent had filled out, they were dismissed. Chase rose, still grinning, and left at the head of the class. His pulse raced with equal parts caffeine and excitement for what his summer now had in store. Still, one question lingered in his mind.
“Cedar Springs,” he said aside to Garrett as they headed for the locker room. “Why does the name sound familiar?”
“I was wondering that myself, and then I remembered,” Garrett said as he pulled open his locker. “Cedar Springs is Chief’s hometown.”
“How the hell do you know a thing like that?” Hank almost never talked about himself. He left the airing of intimate anecdotes to . . . well, to people like Chase.
Garrett shrugged. “He mentioned it once to me when we went out for a drink.”
“Bet you he has a childhood sweetheart stashed away down there,” Chase said.
Garrett snorted his disbelief. “I’ll take that bet.” They shook on it, then locked eyes. Chase could see his own excitement mirrored in Garrett’s expression. Screw dangerous, this latest assignment was going to be more fun than a summer’s worth of Alaskan nights spent in the company of any one of those down-south Dorothys who hailed from the Emerald City.
Guess I’ll have to find a girl’s bed to warm down in Cali, Chase thought as he tossed back the rest of his coffee.
He was looking forward to it.