Read Flame (Firefighters of Montana Book 5) Online
Authors: Victoria Purman
Tags: #Romance, #Fiction
A Firefighters of Montana Romance
Copyright © 2016 Victoria Purman
The Tule Publishing Group, LLC
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
t wasn’t a
long way from Missoula to Dex McCoy’s hometown of Glacier Creek, Montana. Only two and a bit hours, if he took the most direct way. Today, Dex needed to take the long way, along Highway 35, which curved along the east side of Flathead Lake, Big Mountain right there where it had always been, the blue waters of Flathead Lake calling him home. As he drove, he listened to nothing but the throaty rumble of his truck and his breathing. No music on the radio. No company in the passenger seat.
When he’d left three months before to do a smokejumper exchange with another crew in Missoula, an important part of his graduation from rookie to full-time crew member, the Flathead Valley and the mountains all around it had been every possible shade of green. Now, the aspen, cottonwood, and tamarack trees were showing their fall colors—yellow and gold and a shimmering orange. As he drove, Dex thought there was nothing sweeter than seeing once again what felt like
forests laid out before him, as far as the horizon could stretch. The turning of the seasons also reminded him that the more things changed, the more they stayed exactly the damn same.
Dex could have stopped in at the Glacier Creek service station on Flathead Lake, checked in with his captain, Sam Gaskill, and his buddies, dropped off his gear, and stored it in his locker, so he would be ready for the next call out. But he didn’t. He could have driven on out to North Fork, the family ranch where his brother Mitch lived with his wife Sarah and their daughter Lila, but that would have turned into dinner and a conversation about their old man, and playing with Lila, and that sweet kid deserved every bit of his attention, not some bone-tired uncle who probably still stank of smoke. Definitely still stank of smoke. He’d call them when he got home, make plans to invite himself over for Mitch’s famous barbeque and some much needed hugs from his niece. After a much needed night’s sleep, he was due back on base tomorrow and, right now, he needed to get home to his apartment in Glacier Creek and crash in his own bed. He needed to dig out some clothes that hadn’t been on high rotation for the three months he’d been away, that didn’t reek of smoke and pine and sweat, and he needed to sleep.
He was nearly there.
He wound down the window, rested his elbow on the door, and stuck his head out into the wind like the family dog Rusty used to. Rusty had loved riding shotgun in the truck. The mutt would whimper and whine to have the door opened so he could jump up into the cabin, and would then shove his wet nose against the glass until Dex leaned over and wound it down all the way. With narrowed eyes and his tongue hanging blissfully about as far out of his mouth as it could get, the dog was never happier than when he was sitting in the truck with Dex. He smiled at the memory of that damn dog, now gone, buried under a cottonwood tree at North Fork. He leaned out into the wind, sucked in the cool, crisp Montana air he loved, but was careful to keep his tongue in his mouth.
Come to think of it, he’d spent a lifetime holding his tongue.
After his Mom died when he was eighteen years old, he didn’t ever tell anyone how much he missed her and her hugs at night, her whispered goodnights and kisses on the forehead where his hair met his skin.
When Mitch, older by five years, had taken over the running of North Fork, Dex hadn’t complained or been envious of his brother. Mitch had already been working with their father, learning all there was to know about managing the ranch. They’d agreed it was the most practical thing to do and anyway, there was an adventuresome spirit in Dex that he couldn’t define back then, but he knew he didn’t want to be tied to the ranch. Or Montana.
He’d held his tongue about that, too, seeing his father had still been trying to cope with their mother’s death, trying to hold it together for his two sons. The last thing he’d needed back then was for Dex to announce he was leaving.
Dex was practiced at not saying what he needed to or wanted to. When the other guys in the squad—or his Captain, Sam—had given him good-natured shit for a mistake or a slip, he took it on without backbiting, vowing to learn from it, to get better, not get even.
The only time in his life when he hadn’t held his tongue, when he’d told someone what he really thought, he’d seriously pissed off Cady Adams.
Yeah, Cady Adams of
on Main Street, Glacier Creek. Cady of the wild green eyes and russet brown hair and the mouth he hadn’t been able to stop thinking about every minute he’d been in Missoula. Cady Adams, the woman he hadn’t spoken to in the entire year he’d been home.
Yeah, that Cady.
Dex eased his truck into the drive of his apartment building and turned off the engine. He rested both wrists on the top of the steering wheel and peered out the front window into the fading, early evening light. He’d been living there since he’d come home to Montana, since he’d begun working as a smokejumper. It was a modern apartment in a modern complex with everything a regular person could ever want—stainless steel appliances, a brick fireplace, gas heating, a walk-in master closet, and a fenced yard. Everything he could ever want, that was, if he wanted to keep things simple, and it was only thirty minutes to base. It suited him for now. Who knew what he might want to do in a year’s time?
He got out of his truck, stretching out the stiffness from the drive, and began unloading his gear inside. He had decided to secure his fire fighting equipment in his living room rather than leaving it in the truck. He took a look around. Yeah, everything was still the same. Dex didn’t have much stuff. He hadn’t even bothered to make this place look like home in the year he’d been here. There was a big TV, a big old leather sofa, a rug and a coffee table where he usually ate dinner leaning over his plate.
Dex rubbed a hand over his chopped, dirty blond hair, scratched the stubble on his jaw. Didn’t bother to stifle the yawn.
He was home. And tomorrow, he’d be back at base, ready and more than damn well willing to get into the nearest DC-3 and jump into the middle of the big, Montana sky with a parachute harnessed to his back, all in the name of keeping people and property safe.
But right now, he needed some shut-eye.
He showered, went to bed, and was asleep in twenty minutes, trying not to dream familiar dreams about Cady Adams’s green eyes and her sweet pink lips.
Cady Adams started
work each day before the sun came up. She didn’t rise with the birds. She’d already had two coffees, made trays of cupcakes in the most popular flavors—double chocolate chip, red velvet, and vanilla—rolled out miles of buttery dough and pinched it over racks of pies, when the first bird song of the day echoed between the buildings of her home town.
She’d always been an early riser. Even when she was a teenager, she would be awake before her mom and gran were up. By the time they were coming down the stairs in the morning, complaining with a smile about their old bones creaking, she would have been in the kitchen for an hour. A pot of coffee would have already been brewed and Cady would have made them something special for breakfast before she went off to school. Gran’s favorite was pancakes with maple syrup and blueberries with just a dash of whipped cream on top, which she’d tried to convince them she didn’t want, but ate with a wicked grin anyway. Her mom’s favorite had always been granola muffins. “They’re healthier.” She would tell Cady with a lecturing tone in her voice but a grin in her eyes. From them, the two most precious people in the world to her, she’d learnt the all-important balance between sweet and savoury, between pleasure and restraint.
So, every morning Cady had prepared food for both. To show how much she loved them. It was a small thing, but it had been a tangible way of showing them how much she appreciated all they had been doing for her. The three of them were all they had but they were happy. Cady’s grandfather had died young in a car accident, well before she was born, and Cady had never really known her own father, who’d run off to Florida with a sales rep before his daughter had started school. Her mom and grandmother made up for the lack of men in the household by making sure Cady never missed out. Both had worked long hours—her mom as a pharmacy assistant in Glacier Creek, and Gran part-time in a florist shop next door to the pharmacy—to help supplement what Cady was earning from her various part-time jobs. They gave up their time and got creaky, old bones so they could put together a college fund for the only Adams child.
Their dream was for her to work hard and get accepted into a great east coast school.
“Dream big.” Her mom had always urged her. “Get out of Montana. Go get a career and see the world.” They wanted her to be a lawyer or a doctor. Something that screamed success.
But Cady had different dreams. They were big, too, but they didn’t involve courtrooms or operating theatres. She’d been afraid to tell them at first that the more she studied, the more she liked food. Home economics had become her favorite subject at high school and nothing else had ever stuck in her head like the science and art of baking.
One day, when she was in her senior year, Cady had gathered her mom and gran to the kitchen table. She’d made a delicate sponge cake, its layers smeared with sweet strawberry jam and whipped cream, and had made coffee. And then she’d broken the news to them that her dream wasn’t law school or med school but that she really wanted to go to one of the best culinary institutes in the United States and learn how to bake.