HAPPY THANKSGIVING! We have a talented guest joining us today with is new romantic ruspense release of Full Blaze. Please give a warm welcome to author, M.L. Buchman!
Taking a Step Too Far
Full Blaze by M.L. Buchman
Cal Jackson stared up at the wall of flame eating its way toward him through the forest. He was always tempting fate one step too far. Now he was way past the second step, as well as the third. He was standing in the foreign land of totally screwed. In his seven years of fighting wildfires and five more photographing them, he’d never been this far over the line. Not even close.
He’d ridden the edge a lot since he was a testosterone-laden teen. It had earned him his fair share of cold slaps from ticked-off women, but maybe more than his share of warm and friendly nights. It had also led to numerous interesting opportunities to travel for both work and play, so he’d learned to take that risk without really thinking about it.
He tried not to take that second step very often; it was his warning that he was pushing the limits. But dancing along the edge of that step was what had won him so many of his awards. Though the Pulitzer for photography and “best of” for World Press Photo still remained out of reach, he’d bagged a lot of awards including the cover on National Geographic. And Time, twice.
Out here, way past the second step, the Grindstone Canyon Fire was in full-throated roar.
Calvin Jackson, the hero of Full Blaze, chose a rare occupation, photographing wildfires. There are only two photographers in the whole U.S. (for real) who are certified to travel embedded in an Interagency Hotshot Crew, and the other only does it part-time.
Cal has no past. Foster kid who doesn’t even know why. With nothing to lose, he pushes the envelope all the time because there’s so much to be gained.
And not just women.
He backed to the edge of the precipice and then turned once more to look at the on-coming flame. He wasn’t even conscious of his actions as he lifted his new Canon Mark III camera, found the frame, shot the photo. Zoomed back. Found the next, shot it. The beast was close. He’d only been so close to the heart of the firestorm once before. During his days as a member of a hotshot crew they’d have been long gone before the heart of the fire rolled this tight. The camera was actually heating in his hands, prickly hot to hold.
Too close! That was it. He dropped the camera into his bag and pulled out his old workhorse 6D body with the 28 mm wide-angle lens. No way he’d risk a lens change with all of the dust and ash in the air.
There! He could see the image coming together that would make a cover photo. Another prize-winner was almost here. Just a few more seconds…
But just because he goes too far in his life, doesn’t mean that he doesn’t do the same with women. Of course, that can have similar risks.
Jeannie leaned her head back against her seat, closed her eyes, and did her best not to scream.
The right-hand door on her side of the helicopter creaked open, letting in the smells of smoke and cooking dinner. Of the achingly dry grasses—they had to worry about not igniting them with the service truck’s exhaust even though the hay harvest was done.
She opened one eye and spotted Calvin Jackson standing just to her right and wearing one of his smarmy grins on his handsome face.
She didn’t plan.
She didn’t even think.
Jeannie blessed being left-handed as she shot out a fist and clipped him sharply on the chin. With it coming all the way across her body, she got some good power behind it. He tumbled backward, landing hard on the ground at Emily Beale’s feet. She had come up behind Cal without Jeannie noticing.
Jeannie looked at Emily, waiting for her reaction. Behind her mirrored shades, the fierce blond tilted her head down to look at the man groaning at her feet, then back up at Jeannie.
“Nice punch,” was all she said.
“Uh, thanks.” Jeannie’s hand hurt like hell. The guy must have a steel plate embedded in his chin.
Jeannie had to reach over with her right hand to pull the ignition key—her left hand was zinging too much to grip at the moment—and then she climbed down and closed the door.
She stepped over Cal, stopping shoulder to shoulder with Emily but facing in the opposite direction. “Okay if I finish the shutdown later?”
“Get some ice on your hand. I’ll ask Denise and her service crew to finish it for you.”
Jeannie nodded, managing not to look down at the evil Mr. Calvin Jackson, then headed for the food truck to get an ice pack and a cold beer.
“You certainly didn’t make a friend today, did you?”
Cal lay on his back, the short-cut grass prickling like hell. His head hadn’t stopped spinning, so he didn’t try getting up just yet.
He blinked open one eye against the pain. A pretty blond looked down at him through mirrored shades. He’d bet she’d be even better right side up, but it wasn’t worth the risk of standing to find out.
Cal’s challenges with Jeannie Clark have only begun, because when you make the step into love, it is waaaay past the second step or the third one. It’s right off into a strange and foreign land.