Ms. Kate not only writes a fabulous romance here but the facts within the story lets you see how these people work and live their lives fighting these wild and dangerous fires. This story is definitely not to missed.
Into the Heat by Kate Burns
Being a firejumper is hot enough, but when Delia finds herself assigned to a remote cabin for two weeks with fellow firejumper Cooper Tallman, things begin to really heat up. She and Coop take care of all their assignments at the post while doing their best to ignore the growing attraction between them. They manage to keep their internal fires at bay until one afternoon when circumstances throw them into such close contact they can't ignore their smoldering bodies. When duty calls they, of course, answer. But the forest around the couple is not the only thing ablaze and they begin to realize they cannot ignore their feelings for much longer--or can they? After all, in a wildfire anything can happen. There are no guarantees, and not every flame can be extinguished.
"I've got the duty assignments for the next fourteen." Beck's heavy steel toe work boots sent a spray of gravel flying as he stopped beside the repair bench in the open-air shed. His eyes scanned the papers on the clipboard he held in his work-scarred hand for a moment before he cleared his gravelly voice and said, "Delia, you and Coop are assigned to the north ridge station. Usual drill ... brush clearing and piling, facility and trail maintenance. You don't need me to tell you what to do, you've done this before."
"When do you want us there?" Cooper asked, his words giving no hint to the way he felt about the assignment.
Already turning to leave, the facility manager stopped, his feet sending a new wave of grit around their ankles. His gaze swept over the two standing before him, their hands and tools stilled over their chainsaws. A muscle worked in the man's jaw, moving the maze of wrinkles around his eyes and on his forehead in small patterns while he openly appraised them. For a moment Delia thought he had something to say, something that he wanted to give voice to but couldn't bring himself to do. In the end, Beck shrugged his massive shoulders and said, "Up to you. Duty begins tomorrow. If you can pack your gear in time you can head up there tonight. If not, first thing in the morning."
Cooper said, "I can be ready tonight."
"So can I."
* * * *
Fourteen days. Two whole weeks. Alone. In a remote cabin in the middle of nowhere with Cooper Tallman.
Things could be worse.
It only took twenty minutes to pack her duffel and head out to the large black SUV but Cooper was there before her, his duffel packed into the cargo area beside an assortment of tools and foodstuffs. Delia tucked her bag beside his, closed the cargo door, and walked around to the passenger side. Climbing in beside him, she caught a whiff of the bar-and-chain oil they'd been using on their chainsaws before Beck found them. Not sure if it came off her or him, she let the edges of her lips curl upward.
Yeah, that'll curb any man's appetite for romance. The scent of oil, smoke, pine tar, and all the other less-than-feminine aromas that surround us. Not that this guy allows himself any appetites other than the ones that roar hotter than any I've got to offer. If Cooper's got a taste for anything romantic--with anyone, anywhere--he keeps it to himself.
"What's so funny?" he asked, shooting her a sideways glance as they pulled onto the black ribbon of pavement that they would use to get to the station. It wound through thousands of acres of forest in some of the remotest areas of the state and was used exclusively by the wild land firefighters. "Did I miss something?"
The grin grew as she shook her head. "Nothing, really. I guess I'm just happy to be going up to the north ridge. It's always been one of my favorites."
It was true. Nestled high on the ridge, the station looked more like a resort than an outpost for firefighters. A breathtaking view of the wooded valley gave it a prime advantage in that smoke could be seen for miles in all directions. There was also a small lake not far from where the station had been built, providing not only a good supply of emergency water but also a cool place to swim in the hot summer months.
"Mine, too," Cooper said, turning his eyes to the road.
“No. Nothing hurts. What about you? Did you break anything?”
He grinned. “Only your conversation, it seems. What the hell were you doing dragging half a tree, Delia? That thing must weigh more than you do.”
Weight among fire jumpers was not a topic that was off-limits, as it was in so many other areas of life. Fire jumpers have minimum and maximum weight limits and those who worked the ranges were monitored closely to be sure they maintained the limits.
“Hey—you know I’m at the limit.”
“Just barely,” he teased. Tightening his arms and shifting his body, as if weighing her, he said, “It feels like you’re hardly at the limit, actually. Are you sure you haven’t lost a few pounds lately? You don’t feel heavy enough to qualify.”
She poked him in the shoulder, her finger meeting a hard wall of muscle. “Don’t give me that—you know I’m over the limit. Believe me, I qualify. And stop weighing me like that, Coop. It’s not professional for one jumper to weigh another with his body.”
Coop. It was the first time she’d used the nickname out loud. She’d always maintained a formality with him, and the other guys, and that included not using nicknames. She was one of the only jumpers who used everyone’s full name. If he noticed her slip he didn’t show it.
“It’s not as if I’m weighing Beck or one of the other, hairier, guys,” he said, holding her close and smiling. “This is actually pretty enjoyable, Delia. You should let me weigh you more often.”
You’re right. This feels better than enjoyable, Coop. It feels—dangerous. What the hell am I doing lying on top of you like this? And damn, why do you feel so good? You’re so hard and muscular, every slope of your body is pressing into mine and you’re making me feel…you’re making me feel very unprofessional.
I’m wet. I want you. Oh, God, how I want you.
Cooper’s eyes dropped to the creamy slopes of her breasts. She followed his gaze with her own and colored when she saw how exposed she’d become. The round outline of her nipples peeked out above the lacy edges of her bra, their firm points barely contained but very discernible beneath the flimsy lace.
He shifted slightly and any doubts she had about his arousal were lifted. Cooper’s erection pressed steadily against the fabric between them, large and hard and throbbing. Delia’s fingers itched to touch it, her pussy clenched with desire and her mouth dried as she lifted her eyes to his face. He was watching her carefully and when their eyes met his gaze held steady.
“I was only trying to help you,” he said quietly. “I saw you dragging that big limb and thought I’d help you pull it. I didn’t trip you on purpose, Delia.”
“I know. Thanks for trying. I should have blocked it but…”
He swallowed and she watched his throat constrict. It was, like so much else on the man, thick and firm and masculine. And it was, she realized, another part of him that she longed to touch.
While her hands had resisted the urge to stroke his erection they didn’t do the same with his neck. Without thinking, she trailed one finger along his jaw, over the razor stubble and down the slant of his skin to his throat. He was soft yet firm, an oxymoron that aroused her desire even further. As she touched him, her pussy ached. Her hips, as if having a mind of their own, pressed against his. A groan escaped him, a low, wild sound that stopped her finger immediately.
At first she thought he was going to kiss her when he lifted his head and opened his mouth. Her heart thudded and she held her breath but he only spoke, his voice hoarse.
“Delia, as much as I’m enjoying this I think we’d better get up. If we don’t I’m liable to do something very unprofessional and I…I don’t want to do that. These are still work hours and I—God, I can’t believe I’m saying this. I think we’d better get back to work.”
Cooper lifted her gently to her feet as he stood up. When he did, she saw the prominent bulge in his jeans. It was as she’d imagined it to be and she drew her breath in sharply, lifting her eyes to meet his. He was looking at her with a serious expression on his face.
With one final look at her breasts he turned and walked through the forest, leaving her to tangle with the pine branch on her own.
What the hell have we done? A one-night stand on the observation deck? I’ve just acted like every female jumper hopes none of the others will act. God, how could I have done it? Had sex with him while we were supposed to be on duty? Sure, our day was done and we were relaxing but still—I shouldn’t have done it.
Damn. I wonder if Cooper is going to tell the other guys what went on. I don’t think he will but who knows? And if they all find out I’ll deserve every disgusting look I get, every damn proposition, because I’ve allowed myself to lose sight of what I’m here to do.
She chanced a sideways glance at him. Cooper’s chiseled features, set in a serious expression as he watched the road, made her heart lurch and her pussy tingle. A fine sheen of perspiration covered her forehead as she looked down at her hands, twisted together on her lap.
Who am I trying to kid? I let myself fall in love with him. Now there’s no going back to what we had before.