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Pure Heat
     

Pure Heat

3.8 12
by M. L. Buchman
 

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She lives to fight fires... But he's lit an inferno she can't quench

Carly Thomas could read burn patterns before she knew the alphabet. A third-generation forest fire specialist who lost both her father and her fiancé to the flames, she's learned to live life like she fights fires: with emotions shut down.

Former

Overview

She lives to fight fires... But he's lit an inferno she can't quench

Carly Thomas could read burn patterns before she knew the alphabet. A third-generation forest fire specialist who lost both her father and her fiancé to the flames, she's learned to live life like she fights fires: with emotions shut down.

Former smokejumper Steve "Merks" Mercer can no longer fight fires up close and personal, but he can still use his intimate knowledge of wildland burns as a spotter and drone specialist. Assigned to copilot a Firehawk with Carly, they take to the skies to battle the worst wildfire in decades and discover a terrorist threat hidden deep in the Oregon wilderness?but it's the heat between them that really sizzles.

The first in M.L Buchman's firefighter romantic suspense series featuring a team of daredevil smokejumpers who fight more than fires. The elite fire experts of Mount Hood Aviation fly into places even the CIA can't penetrate.

Firehawks Series:
Pure Heat (Book 1)
Full Blaze (Book 2)
Hot Point (Book 3)

Praise for M.L Buchman:
"High-energy military suspense at its best...this book has it all." —RT Book Reviews, 4 stars, on Wait Until Dark
"A fabulous soaring thriller." —Midwest Book Review on Take Over at Midnight

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
★ 03/03/2014
The flames of passion burn brightly in this meticulously researched, hard-hitting, and suspenseful contemporary. Carly Thomas is the senior fire-reader for Mount Hood Aviation, which provides aerial support for Oregon wildland firefighters. Steve Mercer is a former California smokejumper, sidelined due to injuries and now retasked as a drone specialist. Sparks fly between the two, both on and off the job, as they battle a series of deadly forest fires. While they eventually admit their mutual attraction, they both have emotional and physical damage to overcome. Their greatest challenge comes as all hands are mobilized to fight a near-catastrophic blaze, turning up a hostile surprise hidden deep in the forest. Buchman writes with beauty and simmering passion. His characters are complex, and the underlying romance is both sweet and intense. A memorable supporting cast includes characters from Buchman’s Night Stalkers military romantic suspense series, but this high-stakes romance is easily accessible for new readers. (May)
From the Publisher
"Strong, competent female characters and compelling technical and regional details are juxtaposed with a tender romance... A natural for all military romance fans. STARRED REVIEW" - Booklist

"A riveting adventure... Strong, competent female characters and compelling technical and regional details are juxtaposed with a tender romance as Buchman launches his new Firehawks series, a natural for all military romance fans." - Booklist

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781402286896
Publisher:
Sourcebooks
Publication date:
05/06/2014
Series:
Firehawks Series , #1
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
352
Sales rank:
83,907
File size:
951 KB

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

Steve "Merks" Mercer hammered down the last half mile into the Goonies' Hoodie One camp. The Oregon-based Mount Hood Aviation always named its operation bases that way. Hood River, Oregon-hell and gone from everything except a whole lot of wildfires.

Foo Fighters roared out of the speakers, a piece from his niece's latest mix to try and get him out of his standard eighties "too retro" rock and roll. With the convertible top open, his hair whipped in the wind a bit. Hell, today it could be pouring rain until his hair was even darker than its normal black and he wouldn't care. It felt so damn good to be roaring into a helibase for the first time in a year.

Instead of rain, the sun shone down from a sky so crystalline blue that it was hard to credit. High up, he spotted several choppers swooping down toward the camp. A pair of Bell 212 Twin Hueys and a little MD500, all painted the lurid black with red flames of Mount Hood Aviation, just like his car. He'd take that as a good omen.

He let the tail of his classic Firebird Trans Am break loose on the twisting dirt road that climbed through the dense pine woods from the town of Hood River, perched on the banks of the mighty Columbia and staring up at Mount Hood.

This was gonna be a damn fine summer.

Helibase in the Oregon woods. Nice little town at the foot of the mountain. Hood River was big enough to boast several bars and a pair of breweries. It was also a big windsurfing spot down in the Gorge, which meant the tourists would be young, fit, and primed for some fun. The promise of some serious sport for a footloose and fancy-free guy.

And fire.

He'd missed the bulk of last summer.

He hammered in the clutch, downshifted to regain control of his fishtail, and did his best to ignore the twinge in his new left knee.

Steve had spent last summer on the surgeon's table. And hated every goddamn second he'd been away from the fight. It sure hadn't helped him score much, either. "I used to be a smokejumper until I blew out my knee." Blew up his knee would more accurate since they'd barely saved the leg. Either way, the pickup line just didn't sweep 'em off their feet the way you'd like. Compare that with, "I parachute into forest fires for the fun of it." Way, way better.

And never again.

He fouled that thought into the bleachers with all the force he could muster and punched the accelerator hard.

Folks would be milling around at the camp if those choppers meant there was an active fire today. As any entrance made was worth making properly, Steve cranked the wheel and jerked up on the emergency brake as he flew into the gravel parking lot.

A dozen heads turned.

He planted a full, four-wheel drift across the lot and fired a broad spray of gravel at a battered old blue-and-rust Jeep as he slid in beside it. Ground to a perfect parallel-parked stop. Bummer that whatever sucker owned the Jeep had taken off the cloth covers and doors. Steve had managed to spray the gravel high enough to land some on the seats. Excellent.

He settled his wrap-around Porsche Design sunglasses solidly on the bridge of his nose and pulled on his autographed San Francisco Giants cap. The four winning pitchers of the 2012 World Series had signed it. He only wore it when appearances really mattered. Wouldn't do at all to sweat it up.

He hopped out of the car.

Okay, his brain imagined that he hopped out of the car.

His body opened the door, and he managed to swing his left leg out without having to cup a hand behind the knee. Pretty good when you considered he wasn't even supposed to be driving a manual transmission yet. And he'd "accidentally" left his cane at the roadside motel room back in Grants Pass where he'd crashed into bed last night.

So done with that.

Now he stood, that itself the better part of a miracle, on a helibase and felt ready to go.

He debated between tracking down a cup of coffee or finding the base commander to check in. Then he opted for the third choice, the radio shack. The heartbeat of any firebase was its radio tower, and this one actually had a tower. It looked like a very short fire watchtower. Crisscrossed braces and a set of stairs led up to a second-story radio shack with windows and a narrow walkway all around the outside. All of the action would funnel through there for both air and ground crews.

An exterior wooden staircase led in switchbacks up to the shack. The staircase had a broad landing midway that gave him an excuse to stop and survey the scene. And rest his knee.

He could have done worse. Much worse.

Hoodie One helibase was nestled deep in the Cascade Mountains just north of Mount Hood. From here, he could see the icy cap of the eleven-thousand-foot-high dormant volcano towering above everything else in the neighborhood. A long, lenticular cloud shadowed the peak, a jaunty blemish in the otherwise perfect blue sky.

The air smelled both odd and right at the same time. The dry oak and sage smell of his native California had been replaced with wet and pine. You could smell the wet despite the hot summer sun. At least he supposed it was hot. Even in early summer, Oregon was fifteen to twenty degrees cooler than Sacramento in the spring. Sometimes the California air was so parched that it hurt to breathe, but here the air was a balm as he inhaled again.

Ah, there.

He inhaled again deeply.

Every wildfire airbase had it, the sting of aviation fuel and the tang of retardant overridden with a sheen that might be hard work and sweat. It let him know he'd come home.

The firebase had been carved into a high meadow bordered by towering conifers. Only the one dirt road climbing up the hills from the town a half-dozen miles below. A line of scrungy metal huts, a rough wooden barracks, and a mess hall that might have been left over from a summer camp for kids a couple decades back. You certainly didn't visit firefighting bases for the luxury of it all.

You came here for the fire. And for what lay between the radio tower on which he perched and the grass-strip runway.

A couple of small fixed-wing Cessnas and a twin-prop Beech Baron were parked along the edge. They'd be used for spotter and lead planes. These planes would fly lead for each run of the big fixed-wing air tankers parked down at the Hood River airport or flying in from other states for the truly big fires.

Then there was the line of helicopters.

The 212s and the MD500 he'd spotted coming in were clearly new arrivals. Crews were pulling the big, orange Bambi Buckets from the cargo bays and running out the lines for the 212s. The MD500 had a built-in tank. Someone crawled under the belly of each of the 212s and hooked up the head of the long lead line used to carry the bucket two hundred feet below the bird and the controls to release the valve from inside the helicopter.

There must be a fire in action. Sure enough. He could see the refueling truck headed their way, and it was not moving at some leisurely pace. Not just in action, but somewhere nearby.

With a start, he realized that he wouldn't have to go trolling off base for company. He'd always been careful not to fraternize with the jump crews, because that made for a mess when it went south. But if he wasn't jumping anymore... Some very fit women would be coming into this camp as well.

He breathed the air deeply again, trying to taste just a bit of smoke, and found it. Damn, but this was gonna be a fine summer.

***

"Climb and left twenty degrees."

As the pilot turned, Carly Thomas leaned until the restraint harness dug into her shoulders so that she could see as much as possible. The front windscreen of the helicopter was sectioned off by instrument panels. She could look over them, under them, or out the side windows of her door, but she still felt like she couldn't see.

She really needed to get her head outside in the air to follow what the fire was doing. Taste it, feel the heat on her face as it climbed the ridge. Could they stop the burn, or would the conflagration jump the craggy barrier and begin its destruction of the next valley?

She needed the air. But the doors on this thing didn't open in flight, so she couldn't get her face out in the wind. In the little MD500s she could do that; they flew without the doors all the time.

This was her first flight in Mount Hood Aviation's brand-new Firehawk. It might rank as a critical addition to MHA's firefighting fleet, but she was far from liking it yet. The fire-rigged Sikorsky Black Hawk felt heavy. The MD500 could carry four people at its limit, and this bird could carry a dozen without noticing. The heavy beat of the rotors was well muffled by the radio headset, but she could feel the pulse against her body.

And she couldn't smell anything except new plastic and paint job.

When she'd suggested removing the doors, the pilot had laughed at Carly. Well, not laughed; the woman looked like she didn't laugh much. But she certainly implied that Carly could never get her to do that. Whoever she was, the pilot was new to the MHA outfit and Carly didn't appreciate the brush-off. When she'd insisted, she was told she could sit in the cargo bay, which had a great view with the doors open, but only to the sides. At least the Firehawk doors, on both sides of the craft, had a large, rounded bulge in the Plexiglas window. That allowed Carly to lean over enough to see straight down, which would help once they were dropping loads over the fire.

Carly wanted the wide view through the forward windscreen, in addition to the smoky air stinging her eyes and clogging her lungs. Well, she wasn't going to get it, so she'd better focus on what she could have. She shoved her hair aside and leaned her head into the Plexiglas bulge in the door and stared down.

At her command, the pilot lifted the Firehawk another five hundred feet and tipped them left. As they topped the last of the ridge, the vista opened before her. The morning sun shone down as if it were another peaceful day in the forests of Oregon. Everything was quiet on the yet unburned west side of the ridge. Stately conifers climbed, stacked like pillioned soldiers, rank upon rank of forest dripping with intensely flammable pitch. The mid-July sun baking the stands of bone-dry timber didn't help matters at all.

Mount Hood towered to the east, its glacier-wrapped head glared in the morning sun and looked so close she could touch it. This fire was still reported as small, but it was in a remote and inaccessible corner of the Mount Hood National Forest. MHA had no other fire calls, so the Forest Service had dropped this one into their laps to snuff before it got too big.

Carly waited to see what the pilot did when they crossed the ridgeline. Some retired Army major suddenly flying fire. This should be interesting.

"You fly much?" Major was some kind of high rank. Carly wasn't sure how high, but definitely senior officer. The woman had probably been a desk jockey who only touched a machine once a year to keep her certification.

"First time in a year."

Ka-ching, nailed that in one.

But the woman's voice had been dry. Or perhaps it was droll? Was she making some kind of joke?

"Ever flown fire?"

That almost earned Carly a laugh. "Not the way you're talking about it. Had to have a kid to do that." Her age was hard to tell. The woman had a sort of ageless blond beauty. Thirty maybe. But how had she made senior officer by that age?

"What was your last flight?"

"Oil rig." The way she said it was obviously a conversation ender so Carly let it die.

Maybe this Major had been thrown out of the Army for being hopeless. So bad that she'd even been chucked off the relatively mundane task of flying oil workers back and forth to their offshore rigs. If she was a Major and any damn good, rather than just having passed on her good looks, what was the woman doing in a Sikorsky Firehawk over a forest fire?

Though Carly had to remember that she'd often been discounted for being too pretty to know anything. Tall, slender, and bright blond hair, unlike the ex-Major's darker blond, always made guys assume she was an idiot, though even the densest ones soon learned she was way smarter, at least about fire, than all of them put together.

Carly had been up on a thousand flights over hundreds of fires. She'd seen them scorching across the hillsides from firebases since before her first toddling steps. She'd spent every summer of her life at air base camps. In her late teens, she'd gotten her red card and joined the mop-up teams-endless hours trudging through clouds of ash and charcoal seeking any stray heat or scent of smoke.

Her college summers were spent hiking the burning hills with hotshot crews, chasing the active fire up close enough that the heat was a continual prickling wash across her skin despite the Nomex suits. She'd worked her way up the ranks, and now she lived at the helibases during the fire season.

Lead spotter. Senior fire-reader for Mount Hood Aviation, the contracted flying arm of the Goonies, the Oregon wildland firefighters. The Flame Witch. She rather liked the last one. Never reacted when someone called her that behind her back, but she'd considered it more than once for a bumper sticker on her old Jeep.

At the crest of the ridge, the entire vista changed. The clean green of comfortably resting Douglas firs and larch spreading across rolling hills to the horizon was replaced by the fire giants of lore and legend. The quiet legions on the western face of Saddlebag Gap had been transformed into towering infernos, shooting flames to twice their majestic height. Eighty-foot trees had been turned into two-hundred-foot-tall blowtorches.

The pilot didn't flinch. That was a good sign. More than one rookie flyboy-or flygirl, in this case-had simply lost it and returned them to base before Carly could even get a sense of the fire. They'd land with a full load of retardant still in the belly of the aircraft.

A complete waste.

At least something like that usually happened early enough in the season that it didn't cause too much trouble. When the late-summer monster burns rolled across the Cascade and Coast Range, a lost minute could mean success or failure in the firefight, even life or death for the ground crews.

She'd only been at the helibase for a day, but there was already a rumor mill about the woman sitting in the pilot's seat. Carly didn't care. As long as the pilot didn't bank and run away, they were good. Now Carly could see the fire, and that was all that really mattered. Ground chatter on the radio had told her that the smokejumpers were fighting a losing battle against the head of the flame. Against one head. She could see that the flanking line they were trying to clear wouldn't be ready before the fire climbed up to them.

The fire had started with a wilderness camper who'd had the good sense to call it in as soon as they lost control of it. They wouldn't be so happy when the Forest Service sent them the bill to fight the fire. The entire forest was posted with the USFS's highest warning: all burning forbidden. Every pointer on every warning sign had been swung over to the far end of the "extreme danger" red zone.

This was an easy hundred-thousand-dollar blaze. If they didn't kill it fast, it would be many times that by tomorrow. One saving grace was that there were no homesteads out here to burn. When you started burning million-dollar homes perched on scenic hillsides, then costs started adding up quickly.

The fire was still just a Type III, so she could work as Incident Commander-Air on this one. She radioed Rick that she'd be coordinating directly with the Incident Commander-Ground at base. She was trained and authorized to serve as ICA on fires right up to a monstrous Type I response, but she found it incredibly distracting to set up each little aircraft run and her bosses at MHA agreed. Her skills on the big fires were best used as a Fire Behavior Analyst. As an FBAN, her job was about predicting the shifts and changes of a fire rather than the hundreds of tiny details of fighting them minute by minute.

This fire had climbed the western face of Saddlebag Gap, splitting from a single tail at the campfire into a dozen different heads, each fire front chasing up a deep-cut valley etched into the landscape, carved by ten thousand years of trickling streams.

Most of the heads were dying against a cliff wall at the upper end of their little valleys, leaving long trails of black behind them. Smoldering black tree trunks denuded of all branches and foliage were all that remained. Their shoulders were yet wrapped in the lingering smoke of dead and dying fires. They'd need heavy mop-up crews to check it all out, but there shouldn't be any real problems.

Three separate heads were still running hot, finding more fuel as they climbed to the ridge, not less. They fired showers of shining sparks upward into the climbing smoke plume that darkened the sky ahead of them.

The pilot tipped the Firehawk helicopter and headed toward the embattled smokejumper crew on the ground.

"No, wait." Carly hadn't finished understanding the fire from their vantage point five hundred feet above the ridge crest. Most Army hot-rodders thought you fought fires down between the branches. It was a relief that this one didn't, but would she get close enough when it mattered?

The pilot pulled back to a hover, and Carly could feel the woman inspect her. Rumor was that the pilot almost never spoke, except to her husband and her newborn girl. Carly could appreciate that. She tried to recall the silent woman's name but decided it wasn't important. Time enough to learn names if the new pilot lasted.

The flames climbing toward the fire crew were bad, but the crew had an escape. They could forge a path through that notch in the ridge and down the other side, ahead of the fire.

The number two head from the north was clawing up the ridge with no one to stop it yet. It radiated a malevolent, deep orange, as if saying, "I'm going this way, and just try and stop me. I dare you." The next sticks of smokejumpers would be here shortly. That's where they needed to jump.

"Base, this is ICA Thomas. How many smokies in your next load?"

"Three sticks, Carly."

"Roger, jump all six of them on the number two head. Out."

The number three head...

"That's the one." Carly pointed for the pilot. "That's the bitch. Hit her. Hit her hard."

The pilot didn't move. She was just looking toward Carly again, her face unreadable behind silver shades.

They simply hovered five hundred feet above the ridge, dancing on that margin between enshrouding smoke ahead and below, and sunlight above and behind.

Had she nerved out?

"The crew's okay for now. We'll drop more smokies on number two. Number three is going to cross the ridge and burn into the southern slope. Then we're in a whole new world of hurt."

No nod. No acknowledgment. Frozen for half a moment longer. No waver in the hover, a good trick in the jumpy gusts that heat-blasted first one way and then another above a fire. Carly now felt as if she were the target of study. As if she were the one being assessed, analyzed, and mapped instead of the fire.

"Drop in twenty seconds, chief." The pilot spoke over the intercom with absolute surety, warning the crew chief in the back to be ready on his fire-dump controls. "Fifty percent drop in three hundred feet of flow, so give me a dial setting of two for two and a half seconds. Eight-second hold and then the second half of load."

Evans Fitch, who'd been silent so far, acknowledged with a simple "Ready." That was weird because normally Evans was one of those guys who couldn't shut up.

He had flown a training run with the woman and had simply described the flight as "Serious, man. Real serious."-whatever that meant-in his atypically abbreviated speech, as if the pilot had stripped him of his voluble word supply.

Not counting Carly as spotter, there would normally only be one person flying in the Sikorsky Firehawk, but with a newbie pilot, even one who came with helitack certification, they were overstaffing. Evans was manning the duplicate set of drop controls, which connected back to a console in the helicopter's cargo area where everyone except the pilot and copilot rode. Carly would have to decide how long they needed to have Evans at the backup controls.

The woman's numbers were wrong. The drop length was okay, but the turn couldn't happen that fast. Before Carly could protest, the helicopter dipped and turned so sharply that Carly found herself hanging on to the edges of her seat so she wouldn't be thrown against the harness. The rotors beat harder through Carly's headset as they dug into the air, thrusting the Firehawk toward the third head of the blaze.

"Winds?" the pilot asked.

Carly blinked as they dove into the smoke. Visibility alternated from a hundred yards to a hundred inches and back as they plunged toward the maelstrom. The heat in the cabin jumped ten, then twenty, degrees as they flew into the hot smoke over the fire.

"Pretty mellow, steady at fifteen from the west-northwest." She could tell by the shape of the smoke plume and the slight movement in the droopy-topped hemlocks still outside of the fire.

The pilot simply left a long enough silence to remind Carly that she wasn't stupid and had known that. Of course, any decent pilot knew how to read the winds at altitude. The woman was asking about the real-world winds, a hundred feet over the treetops. That was a whole different question. As a pretest for planning a parachute jump, the smokejumpers would spill out weighted crepe-paper streamers that would twist and curl in the thousand conflicting air currents that battered above a raging fire.

"Chaotic. Winds can microburst from forty knots to zero and back in a couple seconds, and the worst of that occurs vertically. Horizontally, the winds will carry more or less up the slope, probably about thirty knots and chaotic at the moment. The winds are better at two hundred feet, much more stable." She offered the woman an out.

"But the retardant is best at a hundred feet."

Carly considered. "In these tight canyons, yes, if you can get it in the right place." The accuracy would be better, and the tighter spread would provide heavier coverage per acre. That would be an advantage right now.

Through the next visibility break, Carly could see they were already at the hundred-foot mark and moving fast. She glanced down at the unfamiliar console, needing a moment to spot their airspeed. Damn, but they were moving fast.

The pilot returned to her silent mode, and Carly worked the numbers in her head while she held on. Dial setting of two would be about right at this speed, if the flame retardant landed in the right place.

A loud bang could be heard even over the heavy beat of the Firehawk's rotors. A tree had just gone off like a bomb. Superheated until the pitch didn't ignite, it exploded. A thousand shards of tree in every direction. But the pilot had them moving fast enough that they were in the clear on this one. Not even the bright patter of wood chips against the fuselage.

"Drop in five, four, three, two, one. Drop now. Now. Now."

Carly more felt than heard the mechanical door opening on the thousand-gallon tank of flame retardant mounted under the belly of the helicopter. Most pilots drifted higher as the load lightened. This pilot was good enough that their altitude remained steady. Even better, the pilot held the same height above the treetops as they dipped into the valley, then climbed up the other side. She'd seen pilots who tried to hold stable to elevation above sea level. They either learned fast or were thrown out of the service. It was fine in a chaparral fire, but up here in the mountains, firefighting altitudes always had to be referenced from the terrain or you could fly straight into a mountain.

Leaning into the curved side window and twisting to see what she could, Carly pictured the pattern of the red mud. With a slight arc, half of the mud landed just at the very leading edge of the fire, and half on the trees just ahead of the flames. Textbook perfect. Normally, you'd attack the flank, narrowing the fire to extinction. But here they didn't have that luxury. By the time they flanked it, the fire would be over the ridge. It was still small enough now that maybe they could just cut its throat.

She'd counted to two and half, then again felt the slight vibration through her seat as the dump hatch's hydraulics slammed shut. The Firehawk helicopter somehow went from a hundred and twenty knots in one direction to a hundred and twenty in the other.

Carly couldn't quite tell how they'd done it so abruptly, though her eyes did momentarily cross from the g-force that knocked the air out of her lungs like a punch.

Some part of her mind had continued to count seconds. At eight seconds, Evans popped the retardant hatch again even as the pilot repeated her call of "Now. Now. Now." Somehow, impossibly, they were lined back up on the fire. It had taken a hard-climbing turn to avoid slamming into the wall of the valley that they had been crossing laterally. But again, they were just above the top edge of the flames, bouncing through the rough edge of superheated air currents bolting for the skies.

Carly sat on the uphill side, making it so that she couldn't see exactly where the pilot placed the drop. That was a good sign. Beginners thought that dumping the retardant directly on a fire did something. It really didn't. Retardant had to be dropped ahead of the fire. It was a sticky, nasty goo that clung to branches and bark like heavy glue, tinted bright red so that you could see where it lay. It cooled the unburned fuel that the fire sought and trapped the oxygen-laden air away from the wood so that it couldn't burn. No oxygen, no fire.

So this second pass, if the pilot did it right, should be laid just upslope from the first pass, overlapping to allow for the different direction of flight to coat the back side of some of the unburned trees and branches that had been coated in the first pass. But mostly the second pass would be targeted on the untouched and yet unburned trees. All to create a wider swath of protected fuel.

This one drop of retardant wouldn't be enough. Carly could tell that by the rough ride of the Firehawk helicopter through the air pockets as they hammered down into the valley and back up the opposite slope. They'd need another load right away, and probably two or three after that, to cut this head. The fire-heated wind roared up the valley too hard, too fast. Even the wide barrier laid down by the near-perfect drop wouldn't stop this beast.

But they'd sure slowed it down.

The ex-Army pilot hovered once again over the point of the ridge, turned so Carly had the best view of the fire below.

Carly keyed the radio.

"Tanker base. This is Firehawk Zero-one. Come back."

"Tanker base. Go ahead."

"Three heads. We hit north hard. You'll need two flanking loads to trap it. But first load we need water and foam on top of the crew on the south head. They're jumping the next couple sticks of smokies into middle head. Over."

"Roger that. Out."

"Out."

Even as she took her hand off the mike switch, she saw the jump plane, MHA's beautiful old DC-3 twin-engine, with the next round of smokejumpers. The plane was swinging above a high meadow not far from the middle head of fire. Two brightly colored paper streamers spilled out into the wind. They fluttered and twisted, showing a strong draft up the valley but no chaotic crosswinds. She'd seen the winds tie smokie streamers in knots while they still turned in the air. The smokies would be watching them intently to decide their best approach.

The plane turned again, and on the next pass, four jumpers spilled out, two sticks. The smokies' rectangular parachutes popping open in a bright array of Crayola red, white, and blues. In contrast, their heavily padded and pocketed jumpsuits were a dusky, dirty, soot-stained yellow.

As the plane circled to drop the next stick of jumpers, the pilot spoke, breaking Carly's reverie as she watched the choreographed ballet of a coordinated fire attack.

"Seen enough?"

"Roger that. Let's get another load."

The nose of the chopper pulled up sharply. In some kind of crazy compound maneuver that Carly had never experienced before, the body of the helicopter spun on its axis. Now they were equally abruptly nose down and moving fast back toward the firebase. Not one wasted moment of motion.

"Where did you learn to fly like that?"

Again that long, silent moment of assessment from the pilot.

"Army."

"I've flown with plenty of Army jocks. They don't fly like you. I've been up with enough of them to know that the Army doesn't teach this."

"I flew for the 160th SOAR, Airborne. Major Emily Beale." Then a note of deep chagrin entered her voice. "Retired, I guess."

It was now Carly's turn to remain silent as they roared back toward the helibase for the next load of retardant. SOAR. The Army's secret Special Operations Aviation Regiment. The best and scariest helicopter pilots on the planet. Well, they certainly wouldn't need Evans as a backup on any future flights.

"Why are you flying fire?"

"As I said, had a kid. Didn't seem fair to her if I kept flying military."

"Oh, like flying fire is so much safer."

Emily Beale again answered with silence.

Meet the Author

M. L. Buchman has over 35 novels and an ever-expanding flock of short stories in print. His military romantic suspense books have been named Barnes & Noble and NPR "Top 5 of the year," Booklist "Top 10 of the Year," and RT "Top 10 Romantic Suspense of the Year." In addition to romantic suspense, he also writes contemporaries, thrillers, and fantasy and science fiction.

In among his career as a corporate project manager he has: rebuilt and single-handed a fifty-foot sailboat, both flown and jumped out of airplanes, designed and built two houses, and bicycled solo around the world.

He is now a full-time writer, living on the Oregon Coast with his beloved wife. He is constantly amazed at what you can do with a degree in Geophysics. You may keep up with his writing at www.mlbuchman.com.

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Pure Heat 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 12 reviews.
Sandy-thereadingcafe More than 1 year ago
PURE HEAT is the first instalment in M.L. Buchman’s contemporary, romance, action Firehawks series-a spinoff from his successful Night Stalker series. I have not read the previous series and although this is a spinoff, it can be read without any difficulty or frame of reference from the original storylines. This is former smokejumper Steve Mercer and Carly Thomas’s story. As the Oregon wildfires begin to engulf everything in their path, the experts of Mount Hood Aviation will discover they are looking at more than just a fire fight but possibly a terrorism threat from within. The focus of the story is on a group of close knit elite fire experts-jumpers, helicopter pilots, fighters and, the struggle to contain the wild fires that have grown in intensity and danger. We are introduced to Steve Mercer-a former smokejumper-whose career was cut short from a near fatal injury that destroyed any chance of ever jumping again. With a new path in the war against wildfires, Steve is pulled into the close knit family of fire experts who risk their lives on a daily basis. To add to Steve’s struggle, Carly Thomas is a career wildfire expert from a long line of heroes but an expert who has seen her fair share of suffering and loss. It will take the pushing of his fellow firefighters to show Steve that Carly is worth the struggle-her cool demeanor hides a shattered heart. M.L. Buchman writes a compelling and intriguing storyline where the world building is awash in technical terminology and jargon from the world of aviation and firefighting expertise. At times, the storyline appeared to lose focus in the vast amount of background particulars and history behind some of the ‘real life’ wildfires as well as the infinite details of the helicopters and firefighting machines but M.L. would steer the story back on track and pull the reader into an intense storyline where our characters struggle to keep the fires-of both their heart and the land- under control. The secondary characters are colorful, intriguing, and passionate about what they do. The scenery is wondrous in its glory; the fire is staggering in its power; and the intimacy between our leading couple is sensual, heartbreaking and intense. We are pulled into the action, the mystery and the lives of those who face their mortality –day in and day out. PURE HEAT tells a story about the heroes who fight the fires and risk their lives. It is a story about two people who fall in love under extreme circumstances-drawn together by a mutual need and understanding about what it is to lose and carry on. It is also a story about the wildfire devastation that destroys so many lives; destroys so much wildlife; and destroys the land upon which we live. And it is a story about the potential for terrorist activities that go unnoticed in a land that reaps it beauty and languor from nature and everything is has to offer.
DComfort More than 1 year ago
4 Stars! Military Contemporary Romance Release date: May 6, 2014 ABOUT THE BOOK: These daredevil smokejumpers fight more than fires. The elite fire experts of Mount Hood Aviation fly into places even the CIA can't penetrate. She lives to fight fires... Carly Thomas could read burn patterns before she knew the alphabet. A third-generation forest fire specialist who lost both her father and her fiancé to the flames, she's learned to live life like she fights fires: with emotions shut down. But he's lit an inferno she can't quench... Former smokejumper Steve "Merks" Mercer can no longer fight fires up close and personal, but he can still use his intimate knowledge of wildland burns as a spotter and drone specialist. Assigned to copilot a Firehawk with Carly, they take to the skies to battle the worst wildfire in decades and discover a terrorist threat hidden deep in the Oregon wilderness—but it's the heat between them that really sizzles. MY REVIEW: I’ve always been a big fan of M.L. Buchman. This book made no difference in that opinion. He has a way of really drawing the suspense and action out of a scene and engulfing the reader until they can’t turn away. I loved the details of the story and the phenomenal way we were able to learn and discover the characters. This is a new twist and turn off his previous series, but there is a cross over with a few characters which makes it nice because you are able to see how they are doing. You want to learn about smoke jumpers and fire experts, this is it. Mr. Buchman obviously knows what he’s talking about as you go through all of the action. Add in the conflict of attraction, and a threat of terrorism on the side and you have a smashing novel that is hard to put down. The only drawback for me (and this is a personal opinion) is the details that went into so much of the story and then when it came to the love scenes, it was basically skipped over. It drew me back from the story a bit, but again, it’s just a personal preference. You want action, heat, and drama? Pick this up now. Great read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This writer is 1 of the best storytellers of our time. As always, his research is very detailed. His character development is multi-dimensional. Both of which makes 4 another great book that starts strong & finishes the same way.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great beginning for a new series. Some reviewers complain about Mr. Buchman's attention to detail but I'd much rather learn something new than read about explict and raunchy sex. My one complaint is that he over uses the word 'hammered' in all of his books. Liked the characters and catching up on Emily and Mark.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Im gonna f*** the author. It was a waste of money and time. The author is a f***ing b*t*h.
happyendingamust More than 1 year ago
My favorite of all her books so far. The hero is not perfect and the storyline atypical, 
JAB4422 More than 1 year ago
Steve was having a hard time dealing with the fact that he could no longer work as a smoke-jumper due to a leg injury. He loved this work so he retrained as a drone pilot so he could still help fight wildfires by viewing them in the air with the drone. He met Carly when they were working a fire and was impressed with her fire fighting knowledge and skills.  Carly had been involved with firefighting since she was a young girl.  She could 'read' a fire and tell where it was going to go and what it was going to do. Carly had lost two people she loved to firefighting but still stuck with her job and wanted to make a difference. This is an exciting story of the difficult and dangerous life of wildfire fighters.  It gave a very clear description on the dangerous job the men and women have in fighting the the wildfires that can burn for days in the wilderness. Even though there was a lot of technical information about fighting wildfires, it was important and helped the reader understand the dangers and why the firefighters did what they did. I appreciated the detailed descriptions.  They were so clear that I felt like I was in the helicopters myself. The attraction between Steve and Carly progressed nicely - not too fast or easily. I liked the pace of their relationship because it gave us a chance to find out about their lives in the past, which made them the people they were now. Carly is a smart and capable woman who knows her job well and doesn't hesitate to speak up.  You've got to feel sorry for Steve since he can't fight fires anymore.  Even being retrained to fly the drone, he doesn't think what is is doing is important. At first. This is a well written action packed book with romance on the side.  The author did such a great job of explaining the jobs of the smoke-jumpers that he obviously researched it in great detail.  Impressive.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have to admit, I was pleasantly surprised. I loved the way the author intermingled the characters from his previous series into the story line. They fit in perfectly and enhanced the story. Steve had been physically damaged in an accident. He had been retrained to work with new drone technology to continue to work in his beloved line of work, forest fire fighting. Carly was emotionally damaged, having recently lost two people she loved. The two instantly work well together, even though they fight their own inner battles on whether to let another person in. There is a lot of technical information in this book about fighting forest fires. This may turn some people off, but it does help the reader understand why they are doing some of the things that they do. I couldn't put this book down. I loved it from start to finish. There were a lot of emotions brewing in this book, there were funny times and there were times you had to fight back your own tears. It's a good book, I highly recommend.
maggiecoCO More than 1 year ago
Held my interest from the beginning. Good story and plot. Love the characters.
amdrane2 More than 1 year ago
I feel as though I now know enough about firefighting that I could possibly get a job at a camp now after reading this book. I was hoping I would love this book, but unfortunately I didn't. I mean, I liked it, but it took me forever to read it cause I really didn't care what happened between the two main characters. I'll probably read the next in the series, but it won't be a problem if it takes a while before I do. Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC
ToryMichaels More than 1 year ago
I make no bones about it. I love ML Buchman's books. I don't care that he's a man writing romance, because while there's definitely a more masculine touch to the writing, he does so well with the love stories that I completely forgot about it. If I didn't know he was a man, I wouldn't have guessed, just thought a woman was really in touch with certain rougher edges to herself. After being a rabid reader of his SOAR pilots series (I think I've reviewed a couple here), I snatched up the book as soon as I saw it on NetGalley and devoured it. (I'm just horrible about actually writing my reviews). To my absolute delight, we got the Majors back in the book, and toward the end as the slightly bigger issue is revealed as Steve and Carly battle the blazes, the presence of the Majors made perfect sense. Now - the interplay of Steve and Carly made perfect sense to me. I loved their banter, the fighting spirit that both of them had. They came from very different backgrounds, but had the same passion for firefighting. Carly was understandably gunshy about hooking up with another fireperson, but of course love wins out and Steve got his woman. I loved her back story and the fact that she's from a long line of firefighters. The fact that she's a woman and does it makes it even better. Yeah, she may not be on the front lines actually physically fighting the blaze, but she's just as important a part of the team, having to calculate where to fight them off. I don't hear about many women involved in a grueling profession like this, and after feeling like I was genuinely there for the fires the characters battled, I can understand why. I certainly wouldn't want to be in that job. I think part of what makes ML Buchman's books so enjoyable is he doesn't just focus on the relationship or even the characters. He makes the equipment they deal with take on a lives of their own. The drones Steve pilots become living tools for him, just the way the SOAR 'copters did in the prior series. And of course, seeing the majors with their baby (along with the banter about taking the baby into the plane overseeing the firefighting) was heartwarming. Those two really deserved their happy ending, as did Steve and Carly . Seeing other SOAR members kicked things up a notch. Anyway, loved the book, love the new series. Keep 'em coming, Mr. Buchman! 5 stars (or would 5 flames be more appropriate?)! Book provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
So, you're more North-Western Michigan. I'm about 20-30 minutes outside of Detroit.