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By Jill Shalvis
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Raised as an army brat, bush pilot Lyndie Anderson has always been independent-and alone. Living only for her plane and the open sky, she eagerly rushes to help save the people of a small Mexican town from a raging wildfire. Yet when her cargo is a drop-dead gorgeous fireman, Lyndie suddenly feels a burning desire-one that may ground her for the first time in her life.
Firefighter Griffin Moore has been haunted by the loss of his crew in an Idaho inferno. Scarred by survivor’s guilt, he became a recluse who hid himself away from working-or being close to anyone. But when his brother convinces him to volunteer for another fire, he encounters a brave, beautiful woman who sparks a simmering passion. Now in the hot, dangerous conflagration of the Mexican jungle, Griffin and Lyndie must discover a way to rescue a town-and a love that may save them . . .
I have a thing for firefighters. I always have. There's just something about a guy who's willing to put his life on the line for others, isn't there? The job itself suggests being strong of mind and body and is innately masculine. (With apologies to the women firefighters out there, you're all beautiful!).
Years ago, I wrote three romances featuring firefighter heroes. The books have been out of print for a long time now and never made it to the digital age. My wonderful publisher has taken them out of obscurity and is reissuing them as ebooks.
WHITE HEAT, BLUE FLAME, and SEEING RED are not connected books, so they can be read in any order. Keep in mind they were written a long time ago and are not from this smart phone/digital age. But one thing they do have in common with my more recent books is a sexy, hot hero and a happily ever after.
Hope you enjoy!
The surf raged against the rocks on the shore with a violence that, oddly enough, soothed his soul. Seagulls dipped and glided in the fading light, in and out of the faint fingers of fog kissing the Pacific Ocean.
If he squinted, that fog could be smoke. If he cocked his head and listened, the calls of the seagulls could be cries of anguish and disbelief.
So Griffin Moore didn't squint, didn't listen. He just sat on a rock, arms resting on his bent legs, watching the sun slowly sink toward the horizon. Behind him the hills of San Diego stood out against a darkening sky. To his right, lights flickered as commuters made their way home on the 5 South, to their families, friends. Lovers.
Griffin waited for the wave of pain over that. After all, not that long ago, on another coast entirely, one of those cars might have been his as he headed toward his own life. And he'd had a great one. Warm family, lifelong friends—
Ah, there came a twinge now. Yeah, he'd had it all. Interesting that the thought didn't come with the stabbing pain it used to. He ran his fingers through the sand at his sides as he thought about that—
"Southern California instead of Southern Carolina," someone drawled. "Who'd have thought?"
The unbearably familiar voice went right through him as at his side appeared a pair of scuffed tennis shoes he'd have recognized anywhere. Griffin kept his gaze on the pounding waves and realized why he felt such little pain—he was numb. Blessedly numb. "I asked you not to come."
"Yeah." His younger brother toed a rock loose from the sand, then bent and picked it up. Studying it, he said, "But when have I ever done anything you've asked of me?"
"Save it." Brody hurled the rock into the spraying surf with an anger that matched the sea. Then he hunkered at Griffin's side, his voice softer now, only his eyes reflecting the swirling emotions that ate at both of them. "You're my brother, Grif. I miss you. I—"
"Don't say you're worried about me."
"I'm worried about you—"
"Damn it." Griffin surged to his feet, shoved his fingers in his hair, and turned so that he wouldn't have to see that worry for himself.
But even with his back to the only person who'd managed to find him in all this time, the sweet numbness that had taken him so many months to achieve dissolved faster than the salty ocean spray on the breeze. "Go away."
"Can't do that."
There was no missing all that was there in Brody's voice: fear, sorrow, need.
Too bad. At twenty-eight and thirty-two years old, they were grown men now. Plenty old enough for separate lives.
But that wasn't exactly fair, and Griffin knew it. They'd been close as far as brothers went; closer still as friends and confidantes. Close enough to live in the same town, hang with the same crowd. Close enough for Griffin to have spent plenty of years of his own worrying about Brody's lack of drive, lack of ambition.
The fact that the black-sheep son now worried about the golden one didn't escape him; it was just that he didn't care. Couldn't care. "I want to be left alone," he finally said.
"Yeah, I think I got that. But I have a job for you."
Griffin stared at the man who looked so like him. Same sun-streaked brown hair. Same blue eyes. Same long, lean build. He let out a raw laugh. "A job. That's pretty funny."
"Because unless you've made some great transformation in the past year…" Griffin reached for a rock, too, and chucked it into the sea. "Jobs give you hives, remember?"
"I remember everything. And did I say I had a job for me?" Brody let out a mock shudder. "Let's not go overboard, here. I have one for you."
"Doing what? Counting clouds as they go by? Because that's all I'm interested in at the moment." Griffin took another rock, a flat one, and tried his skills at skipping it. It bounced over the water one, two…five times. That's what sitting on a beach all day did for him, it built great rock-skipping skills. Good to know the time hadn't been wasted.
Brody watched the bottom of the sun butt up against the edge of the horizon. Then he picked up another rock. "There's this mountain range in Mexico, near the northwest corner of Copper Canyon." His rock sank after three bounces. "Alpine forests, cold stream canyons, amazing fly-fishing—"
"You've been spending Dad's money fly-fishing in Mexico again?"
"And down there, this wildland fire has taken root in the hills."
Griffin's half smile froze. So did his body, poised to skim another rock.
"It's threatening this village, you see, and yes, I know about it from a fly-fishing trip I just took not too far from there. Because of the big drought this year, there are so many bigger fires in Mexico burning that this one is small potatoes. What makes it worse, their firefighters have antiquated equipment, no agency backup, nothing. They really need a team leader for this one—"
Griffin's gut tightened as any lingering happy little numbness vanished. "No."
"Come on, Grif. They need someone with experience. You know all too well this fire-fighting shit is dangerous. People die. They need someone who's been out there, someone capable of organizing a crew—"
"No." That was all in his past. Maybe he used to organize crews, and maybe he used to be quite good at it. But his hotshot teams had worked together for years, and lived and breathed as a unit.
They weren't talking about teams here, not in rural Mexico. They were talking farmers, ranchers, whoever they could get, trying to save their land and their homes. No training, no experience.
No, thank you.
"They're in trouble," Brody said with rare seriousness. "Real trouble. There's no insurance, no money, nowhere to evacuate to if it comes to that. Are you hearing me? If San Puebla burns, these people are left out there in the wilderness with nowhere to go." He picked up another rock. "Tell me that as a former member—make that a leader—of an elite hotshot crew with fifteen years of experience that you just don't give a shit. Look me in the eyes and say it."
Griffin looked him right in the eyes. His dead heart didn't flinch. "I don't give a shit."
With a barely contained anger, Brody let the rock go. It skimmed the rushing water six times. He brushed his hands clean and shoved them in his pockets. "You never used to be able to lie to my face before that last fire that wrecked you."
"It didn't wreck me. I lived, remember?"
"Yeah, I remember. I just wasn't sure you did."
"Twelve others didn't," Griffin said hoarsely. The men who had died were like brothers to him.
"Yeah," Brody said quietly over the sound of the pounding surf. Darkness had fallen now, hiding Griffin's face, but Brody could hear the sorrow in his brother's voice. "And it was tragic as hell. Tragic, Grif. But it's time to stop putting your life on hold while you grieve. You've got to think about starting to move on."
Move on. Sure, that's what people did. But he couldn't. He didn't know how. "I don't want to talk about this."
"I know, but guess what?" Brody's smile was grim. "We're not only talking about it, you're going to Mexico to help fight that fire. You're getting back on the roller coaster of life, so to speak."
"Oh, you're going," his brother repeated with utter conviction. "If I have to make you."
"Make me?" A low laugh escaped Griffin at that. He had to hand it to his brother. He hadn't laughed in all this time, but somehow Brody had made him do it. "At six foot two, I have two inches on you."
"So?" Brody sized him up with an eagle eye. "For almost a year now, you've lived hard with slim rations, I can see it all over you."
"You've lost weight, man. I bet we weigh the same now. I can take you." He lifted a brow to accompany that cocky statement.
Griffin let out a breath, feeling a little weak as memories flooded him…Sean, Paul, gone. Greg, too—God, he still couldn't take thinking about them.…
"I brought your gear."
Griffin shook his head. If he'd been going to fight fires again, he'd do it right here in the country he'd adopted all this past year. Hell, he'd even been offered a job with the San Diego Fire Department, twice, but it didn't matter.
He wasn't going to fight fires again. "Brody…what is this really about?"
"You. Me. Mom and Dad. I don't know, pick one. Maybe I'm tired of waiting for you to stop wasting your life away, watching you let one terrible twist of fate ruin your life."
"I keep telling you, it didn't ruin my life. I'm still alive."
"Yeah? Can you say any of their names yet?"
Unable to believe his nerve, Griffin stared at him. "Go to hell."
"How about Greg," Brody said softly in the night. "Your best friend for twenty years. Can you call his wife and shoot the breeze with her yet?"
"You're an asshole."
"Yeah." Brody's face was grim. "Now here's how this is going to work. You're going to Mexico. You're going to remember how to be a forest firefighter because that's who you are, not some beach bum. You're going if I have to force you myself." His voice softened. "Please, Grif. Do this. Remember how to live."
"I'm not ready."
Brody simulated the sound of a game show buzzer. "Wrong answer."
"Don't be ridiculous. I'm not going anywhere."
"Here's ridiculous. You go—or I tell Mom, and Dad, and all the friends you still have left and have so pathetically neglected in all this time, where you are. I'll bring them out here and let them see you. Hound you. Feel sorry for you."
Griffin's stomach twisted. He turned in a slow circle, sandwiched between the sea and the green hills. "I don't care."
"Oh, yeah, you do."
He let out a disparaging sound. "You've never been particularly inspired about anything before. Why now? Why me?"
Brody studied the waves, lit by a few early stars and the city behind them. "You know, I'd have liked to lay around on this beach with you and just watch the clouds form—and believe me, I'd have come if you'd invited me even once—which you didn't. So now I'm forced into motivational mode." A long, martyr-packed sigh shuddered out of him. "You'd better get packed. You're outta here at the crack of dawn."
"I haven't said I'd do this."
"No, but you will."
"You're going because you'll do anything to avoid talking to the people you left behind. Am I right, or am I right?"
"I'm talking to you, aren't I?" Frustration welled through Griffin. He didn't want to do this; he didn't want to do anything. "This is asinine. I can't…I can't even think about…"
"I know," Brody said very gently. "I know. I also know the most social you've been in the past year is to ask the cashier to supersize your fries with your burger, but that's going to change. It has to. What happened wasn't your fault. Stop acting like it was." With a quick salute, he began walking away—leaving Griffin all alone, as he'd chosen to be all this time.
It was all about choices, Griffin thought. Even now, he could choose to remain in solitude.
But for how long?
Once upon a time, he and Brody had shared everything—the good, the bad, and the ugly. And he knew, as a matter of Moore pride, neither of them had ever backed off a dare, or made an idle threat.
Griffin had just witnessed Brody's determination firsthand, and he knew his brother well. Brody would have Mom out here on the first flight. If necessary, Phyllis Moore would walk the two thousand miles if she had to. She'd hover, she'd boss, she'd talk his ear off. She'd hug him tight, she'd offer such love—
No. God, no.
He wouldn't be able to take it, he just wouldn't. Just the thought of her, of his dad, of any of the friends he doubted he still had clogged his throat.
He could run. Maybe the Bahamas this time, though he'd miss San Diego, which had been an easy place to be lost in.
Idly he studied his brother's retreating back. Brody's shoulders were stiff with purpose, his stride sure and unwavering and filled with determination.
Nope, the Bahamas weren't far enough away. Nowhere was.
"Shit." He picked up one last rock. Skipped it into the ocean. Resigned himself to facing his future.
Whatever that was.
To Lyndie Anderson, nothing beat being in the cockpit. With the wind beneath her wings and her Cessna's tank full to the brim, the rest of the world fell away and ceased to exist.
Not that the world noticed. She could fall off the planet itself and not a ripple would be felt.
She liked it that way.
No ties, her grandfather had always told her. Ties held one down. Ties hampered a person's freedom.
Lyndie wouldn't know if that was true or not, as the last of her own personal ties—her grandfather, a staunch lifer in the military—was gone now.
That had been his motto, his mantra. He'd taught it to her on her first day of kindergarten, when she'd stood before her military elementary school, quaking in her boots.
He'd loved nothing more than to have her repeat it back to him. At five years old, she'd stared out of the corner of her eye at the school, where she could see other little girls dressed in their pretty dresses and shiny shoes and ribbons. They all danced their way through the front door with nary a look back at their misty-gazed mothers, while the camouflage-clad Lyndie had suddenly wanted to cling to the man no one else had ever dared to cling to.
"Kick ass," she'd repeated to him softly.
"What?" Her grandfather had carved a hand around his ear and frowned. "Can't hear that pansy whisper. Speak up, girl."
"Kick ass, sir!" She'd lifted her chin and saluted, aware of the mothers looking her way, no doubt horrified at the rough and tough–looking little girl with the nasty language.
Her own social status had been cemented that long-ago day, but her grandfather had tossed his head back and roared with gruff laughter, as if it had been their own private joke.
And it had been. She'd lost her parents two years before that in a car accident, and by kindergarten her memory of them had faded. Few had dared interfere with her grandfather, and as a result, there hadn't been much softness in her childhood. That had been fine with Lyndie, who wouldn't have recognized softness anyway.
They'd moved from base to base, and after her grandfather had whipped each of those bases into shape, they'd take off for the next. She couldn't remember how many schools she'd attended, having lost track at the count of fifteen before graduating and gravitating toward a similar nomadic lifestyle as a pilot for hire. But she could remember how many different planes she'd flown. She could remember each and every one of them, with her grandfather riding shotgun, teaching her everything he knew.
Those planes had been her real home, and over the years she'd honed her skills, flying whatever she could get her hands on and loving it. When her grandfather died and his nest egg had come to her, she'd upgraded her old beater Cessna 172 to a six-seater 206, which some liked to say was nothing but a big old station wagon with wings.
She loved her Station Air as she fondly referred to it. The big thing sure came in handy. Now, at twenty-eight, she worked for an international charity organization out of San Diego called Hope International. She was paid to fly volunteering experts into regions desperate for their aid. Doctors, dentists, engineers, financial experts…she'd flown so many she'd lost track.
She was flying one such expert now, a U.S. forest firefighter this time, to a small but remote wildland fire in the Barranca del Cobre, an area in northwestern Mexico.
Thanks to her job, she'd spent a lot of time in this particular mountainous region. Surprisingly enough, she'd fallen for the wide, open, undiscovered beauty, and had made it her mission to fly south as often as possible, ensuring that each and every one of the myriad of hidden villages received dental and health care, or whatever they needed. Not a small job.
But right now one of her favorites, an especially isolated village named San Puebla, needed help with a slash-and-burn ranch fire. Due to limited water sources and remoteness, the flames had escaped control. Compounding the problem was the severity of the drought this year, and the fact that wildfires had become a nationwide crisis.
More than seventy Mexicans had lost their lives in this season alone in the deployment of airplanes, helicopters, and firefighters. In southeastern Mexico, 250 Mexican firefighters currently were hard at work, along with 550 military personnel and 2,400 volunteers, all battling the out of control fires still burning. Guatemala and Honduras were threatened by similar situations. The San Puebla fire was considered insignificant in comparison.
No doubt, they desperately needed help. She had some of that help on its way. The man in her Cessna had been a firefighter in South Carolina, and had the skills necessary to organize a big crew.
And a big crew was needed. Just a few days ago the fire had been at twenty acres, but it'd escalated since, blooming over three hundred acres now, threatening the village.
"Kick ass," she said to herself, with a grim smile for the man who was no longer around to see her do exactly that.
"We almost there?"
This from her passenger. Firefighter Griffin Moore had gotten on board casually enough, without a glance at her, though she'd glanced at him. She always glanced at a good-looking man; it was a sheer feminine reaction of healthy hormones.
But in the last few moments, since the change in altitude from San Diego as they climbed over the Barranca del Cobre, sailing through majestic peaks dangerous and remote enough to swallow them up if they wanted to, he'd begun to exhibit signs of nerves.
"We're about sixty miles out," she said of the just over five-hundred-mile flight.
His voice was low, gravelly. As if he didn't use it often. And since he spoke to the window, she wasn't clear on whether he was making an idle observation or complaining.
At least he hadn't hit on her. It happened, and every time it did, it both surprised and amused her. Most of the time she was so wrapped up in her work she actually forgot she was female. But then some guy, usually a gorgeous one—she'd never understood why the better-looking ones always turned out to be jerks—figured her for a captive audience. Not that she had anything against men in general. Actually, she enjoyed men very much, she just liked to do her own picking. And she was picky.
Bottom line, her life was flying. And unlike Sam, her boss at Hope International—a man who appreciated the finer, more delicate dance of getting women into his bed—she didn't consider the experts she flew prospective lovers.
When a passenger wouldn't take no for an answer, she had no problem explaining the basics. One, she was a black belt. And two, she wasn't afraid to open the passenger door—in the middle of a flight—to assist an annoying passenger off the plane.
That threat alone usually warded off any further advances.
But this man hadn't so much as spared her a glance. He hadn't even spoken until now. "There's always turbulence right here," she explained, trying to be a good hostess. "And to tell you the truth, it's going to get a little worse."
He lost his tan.
"Need a bag?" Damn it, she'd just cleaned out the back yesterday. "Let me know."
Oh, now he looked at her. Right at her with icy blue eyes and a voice turned hardened steel. Except for a sensual mouth, the rest of his face might have been carved from stone. "I'm not going to be sick in your plane."
How many times had she heard that from some cocky expert, usually a know-it-all surgeon pressed into doing charity work by his hospital, only to spend the rest of the day cleaning up the back of her plane?
Once again, she eyeballed her forest firefighter, who was dressed in the dark green Nomex pants of his profession, with a darker green T-shirt tucked in. Broad shoulders and long legs, both of which made fitting into the compact seats a challenge. Light brown hair clipped short. His big hands gripped the armrests. Not good. Not good at all. "You sure you're okay?"
He had a quietly sober face, expression unyielding, gaze unflinchingly direct. "Just get me there."
A charmer. But since she never bothered to be charming either, that didn't bother her. She looked away from him and glanced down at the alpine crests lined with a green ribbon of conifers and small, hidden rivers as far as the eyes could see. Glorious, and a small part of her heart—not usually tied to any land—squeezed.
It squeezed even more when she got over the next peak. Off in the distance, marring the stark blue sky, grew a cloud of smoke that was so much bigger and more threatening than she'd imagined, her throat closed up.
This guy better be good at his job, she thought, and looked him over once again, this time assessing for strength and character. She already knew he hated to fly, which seemed odd. "I'm taking it you're not a smoke jumper."
He had his face plastered to the window, clearly trying to get a better view of the fire, impossible to do with the smoke impeding their visibility. "I didn't drop out of planes, no."
Didn't. Past tense. Odd…"A hotshot, then?"
So he battled his fires from the ground, in fiery, unfathomable conditions requiring strength and stamina, facing mayhem and death at every turn. Still…"You knew you'd have to fly here, right? Maybe you should keep your volunteering closer to home if you don't like to get on a plane."
"Thanks. I'll keep that in mind." His knuckles were white on the armrests. He shifted in the seat and bumped his knees. He was a pretty big guy. Rather mouthwatering, too, if she was being honest, and she usually was. There was a suppleness to all that lean muscle—and a good bit of pure power. It was obvious that physical labor was a part of his lifestyle, weak stomach or not. Interesting.
Taking her eyes off him, she simultaneously turned the control wheel and applied rudder pressure for an eastward banking turn.
He let out a low oath.
"Don't worry," she said. "I could fly this thing upside down and backward and still get us there."
If possible, his grip on the armrest tightened.
"Really," she said. "This is just a barely more challenging approach than most because of the quick change in altitude, but I've done it so many times I could—"
"Yeah. Fly it upside down and backward. Got it."
A smart-ass, too. That bothered her even less than the lack of charm, but because he'd gone an interesting shade of green, she wanted to keep him talking instead of puking. "You do this often? Volunteer?"
"Yeah, I hear a firefighter's schedule can be pretty hectic. Twenty-four hour shifts, right?"
He lifted a shoulder.
"Well, I hope you're braced for that because you're going to hit the ground running down there. There are people in danger of losing everything. And believe me, they don't have much to begin with."
With another noncommittal grunt, Griffin pressed closer to the window so she could no longer see even his profile, but she had no problem getting the message.
Fine. She'd only been trying to help him forget to lose his lunch in her clean plane. Instead, she'd concentrate now on getting them there. Time was of the essence this time around. Beneath them lay Copper Canyon, a breathtaking network of more than twenty canyons covering 20,000 square miles. Four times the size of the Grand Canyon, the place was a natural wonder. Lost in there, in the foothills of the Sierra Madre Occidental, lay San Puebla. The village had once been a miner's jackpot but was now too remote and isolated for anything or anyone but the most rugged of ranchers. The thought of them losing what little they had frightened her. She could only hope this man had what it would take to direct the crew, who would likely be a bunch of ranchers and a few military laborers sent in by train, all with little to no fire training.
She dipped the plane into a low valley, her breath catching at the vast beauty of the forest, the undiscovered creeks and rivers. The deep gorges and canyons and high vistas were some of the most amazing in the world, unarguably among the most rugged and secluded.
Above her, the sky spread glorious blue for as far as the eye could see—except for the ominous cloud billowing up from the ground. A cloud that began to threaten her visibility as she came in close.
- "Top Pick! 4 1/2 Stars! Laughter is served in doses as generous as the chocolate the heroine relies on to get through the day. Readers will treasure each turn of the page and be sorry when this one is over."—RT Book Reviews on Forever and a Day
- "4 Stars! Shalvis's latest Lucky Harbor novel is a winner-full of laughter, snark and a super-hot attraction between the main characters. Shalvis has painted a wonderful world, full of entertaining supporting characters and beautiful scenery."—RT Book Reviews on At Last
- "4 Stars! Shalvis pens a tale rife with the three "H"s of romance: heat, heart and humor. LUCKY IN LOVE is a down-to-the-toes charmer..."—RT Book Reviews on Lucky in Love
- "Readers will appreciate the steamy romance and eclectic cast of characters while rooting for the lovable heroine."—Publishers Weekly on Lucky in Love
- "Another touching, funny, delectably sexy treat that will make fans glad it is the first of three back-to-back releases."—Library Journal on Lucky In Love
- "Shalvis makes me laugh, makes me cry, makes me sigh with pure pleasure."—Susan Andersen, New York Times bestselling author of Playing Dirty
- "Count on Jill Shalvis for a witty, steamy, unputdownable love story."—Robyn Carr, New York Times bestselling author of Harvest Moon
- "Heartwarming and sexy...an abundance of chemistry, smoldering romance, and hilarious sisterly antics."—Publishers Weekly on Simply Irresistible
- "Jill Shalvis is a total original! It doesn't get any better."—Suzanne Forster, New York Times bestselling author
- "Ms. Shalvis characters leap off the page"—RT Book Reviews
- "Shalvis writes with humor, heart, and sizzling heat!"—Carly Phillips, New York Times Bestselling Author
- On Sale
- Mar 5, 2013
- Page Count
- 368 pages
- Forever Yours