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M. L. "Matt" Buchman

The Complete Wildfire Smokejumpers (also in audio)

The Complete Wildfire Smokejumpers (also in audio)

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-a Firehawks Smokejumper romance novel collection-
They are the best smokejumpers in the business, but they must conquer the fire before they can find their hearts.
Wildfire at Dawn
Fire traps Akbar and a wilderness horseback guide high on the alpine slopes of Mt. Hood.
Wildfire at Larch Creek
An intense Alaskan fire season and his best childhood friend alter the rest of Tim’s life during a visit home.
Wildfire on the Skagit
Krista has never found a man up to her standard until a former Green Beret joins the firefight.

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Mount Hood Aviation’s lead smokejumper Johnny Akbar Jepps rolled out of his lower bunk careful not to bang his head on the upper one. Well, he tried to roll out, but every muscle fought him, making it more a crawl than a roll. He checked the clock on his phone. Late morning.
He’d slept twenty of the last twenty-four hours and his body felt as if he’d spent the entire time in one position. The coarse plank flooring, worn smooth by thousands of feet hitting exactly this same spot year in and year out for decades, was an old friend that felt as if it was out to kill him. He managed to stand upright…then it hit, his shoulders and legs screamed.
Oh, right.
The New Tillamook Burn. Just about the nastiest damn blaze he’d fought in a decade of jumping wildfires. Two hundred thousand acres—over three hundred square miles—of rugged Pacific Coast Range forest, poof! The worst forest fire in a decade for the Pacific Northwest, but they’d killed it off without a single fatality or losing a single town.
There’d been a few other bigger in Oregon since he’d first answered fire’s call, out in the flatter eastern part of state. But the New Burn—mostly on terrain too steep to climb safely even when it wasn’t on fire—had been a horror.
Akbar opened the blackout curtain and winced against the summer brightness of blue sky and towering trees that lined their firefighting base camp. Tim was gone from the upper bunk, without kicking Akbar on his way out. He must have been as hazed out as Akbar felt.
He did a couple of side stretches and could feel every single minute of the eight straight days on the wildfire to contain the bastard. And the strains of the excruciating nine more days to convince it that it was dead enough to hand off to a Type II incident mop-up crew. Never before had he spent seventeen straight days on a single fire.
And in all that time nothing more than catnaps in the acrid safety of the Black—the burned-over section of a fire, black with char and stark with no hint of green foliage. The mop-up crews would be out there for weeks before it was dead past restarting, but at least it was truly done in. The New Tillamook Burn wasn’t merely contained; they’d killed it bad.
Yesterday morning, after demobilizing, his team of smokies had pitched into their bunks. No wonder he was so damned sore. His stretches worked out the worst of the kinks but he still must be looking like an old man stumbling about.
He looked down at the sheets. Damn it. They’d been fresh before he went to the fire, now he’d have to wash them again. He’d been too exhausted to shower before sleeping and they were all smeared with the dirt and soot that he could still feel caking his skin. Two-Tall Tim, his Number Two man and as tall as two of Akbar, kinda, wasn’t in his bunk.
Oh right, Akbar had already noticed that. His towel was missing from the hook too.
Definitely not awake yet.
Right, shower would be good.
He grabbed his own towel and headed down the dark, narrow hall to the far end of the bunk house. Every one of the dozen doors of his team were still closed, smokies still sacked out. A glance down another corridor and he could see that at least a couple of the Mount Hood Aviation helicopter crews were up, but most still had closed doors with no hint of light from open curtains sliding under them. All of MHA had gone above and beyond on this one.
“Hey, Two-Tall.” Sure enough, the tall Eurasian was in one of the shower stalls, propped up against the back wall letting the hot water stream over him.
“Akbar the Great lives,” Tim sounded half asleep.
“Mostly. Doghouse?” Akbar stripped down and hit the next stall. The old plywood dividers were flimsy with age and gray with too many showers.
The Mount Hood Aviation firefighters’ base camp had been a kids’ summer camp for decades. Long since defunct, MHA had taken it over and converted the playfields into landing areas for their helicopters, and regraded the main road into a decent airstrip for the spotter and jump planes.
“Doghouse? Hell, yeah. I’m like ten thousand calories short.” Tim found some energy in his voice at the idea of a trip into town.
The Doghouse Inn was in Hood River, which lay a winding half hour down the mountain. They served exactly what Akbar needed: smokejumper-sized portions and a very high ratio of awesomely fit young women come to windsurf the Columbia Gorge. The Gorge, which formed the Washington and Oregon border, provided a fantastically target-rich environment for a smokejumper too long in the woods.
“You’re too tall to be short of anything,” Akbar knew he was being a little slow to reply, but he’d only been awake for minutes.
“You’re like a hundred thousand calories short of being even a halfway decent size,” Tim was obviously recovering faster than he was.
“Just because my parents loved me instead of tying me to a rack every night ain’t my problem, buddy.”
He scrubbed and soaped and scrubbed some more until he felt mostly clean.
“I’m telling you, Tim. Whoever invented the hot shower, that’s the dude we should give the Nobel prize to.”
“You say that every time.”
“You arguing?”
He heard Tim give a satisfied groan as some muscle finally let go under the steamy hot water. “Not for a second.”
Akbar stepped out and walked over to the line of sinks, smearing a hand back and forth to wipe the condensation from the sheet of stainless steel screwed to the wall. His hazy reflection still sported several smears of char.
“You so purdy, Akbar.”
“Purdier than you, Two-Tall.” He headed back into the shower to get the last of it.
“So not. You’re jealous.”
Akbar wasn’t the least bit jealous. Yes, despite his lean height, Tim was handsome enough to sweep up any ladies he wanted.
But Akbar did pretty damn well himself. What he didn’t have in height, he made up for with a proper smokejumper’s muscled build. Mixed with his tan-dark Indian complexion, he did fine.
The real fun, of course, was when they went cruising together. The women never knew what to make of the two of them side-by-side. The contrast kept them off balance enough to open even more doors.
He smiled as he toweled down. It also didn’t hurt that their opening answer to what do you do? was I jump out of planes to fight forest fires.
Worked every damn time. God he loved this job.

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