Nothing beats getting out of the concrete jungle and into the quiet of the forest. Website designer Scottie Ness is taking a well-deserved vacation from the grindstone, and he plans to spend it in the solitude of Washington’s Gifford Pinchot National Forest around Mt. Adams. He’s prepared for everything—except the lightning storm that traps him in a wildfire.
The firefighter who rescues him sustains serious injuries and ends up in the hospital. Jax Quintero might be abrasive, but the guy saved his life, and Scottie wants to thank him. As they spend time together during Jax’s recovery and exploring the state’s landmarks when he’s released from the hospital, Scottie discovers there’s more to Jax than a smart-ass adrenaline junkie. Jax reassesses his opinion of Scottie as an arrogant city boy who has no business in the mountains. Though Jax’s wounds prevent them from taking things as far as they’d like for a while, they can’t deny the heat building between them—and this is one fire they don’t want to put out.
Two days later, Scottie had done all the hikes close to his base camp, and he was ready to go farther afield. He went over his backpack once more, grabbing a few small bottles of water and two tubs of noodle soup. All his emergency supplies were still packed neatly, and he made sure to pack extra batteries for his camera and his GPS.
He tossed his bag and stove in the SUV, but left the rest of his camping gear. He hadn’t seen a soul since he left Trout Lake, so he wasn’t too worried about anyone coming across his camp and stealing his stuff. Right before he left, he remembered to toss the empty water container in the backpack to fill up on his way to the trailhead.
When he stopped to fill up the jug, nothing came out of the spigot in the turnoff. There was a white truck—not really white anymore—parked next to the bathroom. A guy in a pair of shorts and a polo came out. He held up one hand. “Hey.”
“Hi! Camping at the lake?” It was a pretty safe bet with the flip-flops he was wearing.
“Yeah. Not much lake to enjoy this year, though. Still busy enough I had to run the wife down here to this bathroom.”
Scottie nodded. “I stopped on my way up, and it looked pretty low. Still saw a fewpeople out on float tubes with trout poles.”
“I caught a six-inch rainbow this morning.”
“Nice.” Scottie kept his amusement to himself. He patted the water pipe. “Hey, do you know when they shut off the water?”
“Yesterday, I think.”
Damn. “Okay, thanks.” Good thing he always kept a filter in his gear. With the bottles he had and his full CamelBak, he should be fine for a few days. Scottie climbed in and started his car, waiting for the guy’s wife to come out and get in their truck before he drove off. No one liked choking on dust.
It took forty minutes to drive around to the base of the trail. There was a van already parked at the turnout. That type of vehicle usually meant berry or mushroom pickers. He’d probably have plenty of solitude once he got a good distance down the track. This hike had a big climb in elevation, so he also dug out his extendable walking stick.
He was right. About ten minutes up the trail, he found a large group of people spread out over the slope. They were yammering to each other, hands busily stripping the bushes of ripe berries. Scottie waved back when they waved at him, but he didn’t stop to chat.
The hike took the rest of the afternoon, but he stopped for several breaks as well as taking pictures. He drained his CamelBak, but luckily he’d found a flowing stream to refill it with his filter. He stopped for a snack on the top of one ridge, turning in a full circle. The path had become nearly nonexistent after it stopped at a meadow, victim to the lack of grooming. He spotted his stopping point and chose some landmarks to help him once he was back in the trees.
When he finally made his way out of the trees and into the meadow he’d chosen, Scottie was eager to get his pack off his back. There were a few different kinds of scat and a good-sized wallow along with scrapings about shoulder height on the saplings. If he was lucky, the elk would come in sometime during the late evening or morning. The scrape was high and fresh, and only elk would be rubbing off their velvet that early.
Scottie’s pack tent was low to the ground, just big enough for him and his backpack. He pulled out his pocketknife and cut several low-hanging pine branches. He rested them against the sides of his tent to help camouflage it.
After pulling up a patch of grass to make a small dirt circle, Scottie got out his pack stove, balancing it carefully as he filled the cup with water. He used a lighter to start the fuel, turning it up full blast to bring it to a boil. The sun was fading and the wind had picked up, so the cup of soup was welcome for warmth as well as filling the hole in his stomach. He made sure to bag his trash and put it all away.
The light left some interesting patterns of shadows, and he walked around the edges of the trees, trying to capture them. He found a stump and sat down, listening and waiting. Finally, he grew too cold sitting there, and it was gettinglate enough he needed to get back to the tent before it was too dark to see since he’d forgotten to grab his headlight.
Yipping coyotes didn’t sound too far off, but he wasn’t afraid of them. He rolled up his flannel for a makeshift pillow and stared out the mesh front of his tent, enjoying the shining stars between the gathering clouds. The moon hadn’t cleared the trees, but it had been full the night before, prompting him to spend the time to get shots of it over the span of several hours.
The combination of the short night’s sleep and the long hike wore him out, even though it was barely past nine. He blinked sleepily, taking a deep breath and letting it out long and slow. Not even the lump of dirt under his hip was enough to keep him awake.
Lightning flashed, and thunder rolled over the landscape. Scottie blinked, squinting when the lightning lit up the thick clouds again. There were only a few seconds between that and the boom and rumble, but it wasn’t raining.
A dry storm. Scottie debated getting up, but he wasn’t really set up to get lightning shots with his camera. Instead, he got out and covered the top of his tent with a tarp hung from the large trees surrounding him just in case it began raining. He hunkered down in his sleeping bag, squirming to get away from the lump, and enjoyed listening to nature’s display of violence.
Okay, first we have Scottie; businessman, city boy who gets a week vacation from work and decides to do what his family has always done and spend some time out in the wilderness. Hiking and camping and just getting away to the quiet of nature and take some pictures of the mountains, that’s his hobby and he’s quite good at it. He’s responsible about it as well, he leaves daily reports and checks in with park rangers and safety spots so that if he runs into any trouble, the correct people will know where he’s at and where he’s headed. Just in case.
What he wasn’t anticipating is a wild brush fire and it gets out of hand fast and he ends up getting injured. Meanwhile, Jax, firefighter and dude with a bad attitude thinks Scottie is just another amateur out on the mountains and he’s got to risk his life to try to save him…. And come on, dude… it’s your job… I didn’t care much for Jax in the beginning; I didn’t like the attitude he had or the way he treated Scottie, especially because, like I said, it’s his job and he takes great pride in it; so what’s the deal?
Scottie feels bad enough and takes it upon himself to visit Jax often in the hospital after he gets hurt during Scottie’s rescue and brings him gifts and finds ways to entertain him during his timely hospital stay. They get to know each other that way and then more and more as time goes on. I don’t wanna spoil too much of it, but their relationship progresses in a natural friends to lovers kind of way. It doesn’t take long because they’re attracted to each other from the beginning, there’s little to no angst and I liked that, I’m not big on angsty reads so this one was a good, light read with a few steamy encounters thrown in. It ends on a sweet note and it’s just the beginning for these two, I’m curious to see if there’s more in store for these two sometime in the future. This is the first book I’ve read from this author and it was just the kind of story I needed at the moment. Light, sweet and low angst.
4 pieces of eye candy for me
The number one question folks ask Alicia when she shares she’s a MM romance author: “Why gay fiction? Why write men when you’re a woman?” and her answer is: “Why the hell not!” Alicia Nordwell is one of those not so rare creatures, a reader turned writer. Striving to find an interesting story one day, she decided to write what she wanted instead. Then the voices started… Yep, not only does she talk about herself in the third person for bios, she has voices in her head constantly clamoring to get out. Fortunately, with the encouragement of her family and friends, she decided for her own sanity to keep writing.
Now you can find her stories both free and e-published. When she’s not on the computer typing away, she’s a wife and a mom of two in the dreary, yet ideal for her redhead complexion, Pacific Northwest. Except for when she disappears into one of the many worlds in her head, of course! She can also be found quite often at her blog, where she has a lot of free fiction for readers to enjoy or working hard, or maybe hardly working, as an admin on GayAuthors.org under her online nickname, Cia.
Cia’s Stories: http://www.ciasstories.blogspot.com