Authors: Elle Boon
Word Count 40,420
By Elle Boon
© Copyright February 2015 Elle Boon
All cover art and logos © Copyright February 2015 by Elle Boon
All rights reserved.
Cover art by: Tibbs Designs
Table of Contents
Keanu Raine walked a few feet from his team, letting his inner fire control him. The forest fire was all but burned out, but it was searching for more, and he knew it had found a new source. The living, breathing entity of unforgiving heat that could engulf hundreds of acres only needed a little spark to ignite all over again, only Keanu wasn’t going to allow it if he could stop it. He ignored their questions knowing they were missing something. The hair on the back of his neck stood on end, never a good sign when you were in the middle of a huge forest fire. “Hey, did you guys hear that?” Keanu asked.
“Shit, man, this gobbler is a fuck nut,” Brax McKay grumbled.
“Kea, all I can hear is my stomach rumbling.” Hal Aldridge grinned, his blond hair soaked with sweat.
“I swear something’s not right.” Keanu nodded in the direction of the burned out forest.
He couldn’t squash the feeling of doom as he looked through the smoke. His inner fire leapt to life, sending his senses on high alert. A small blaze could easily turn into something much larger with the dry conditions, and in Keanu’s opinion, it was a guarantee. They’d evacuated the surrounding homes, but it wasn’t always a certainty all families would get out.
“I’m going to scout around a bit, since we have about thirty minutes before pick-up. You guys head for the zone and wait for my call. If I’m not there when the DC shows, I’ll meet you at the next drop.” He tapped the radio attached to his suit.
“Yeah, right, boss. I don’t think so, I’m going with you,” Hal snorted, moving to stand by him.
“It’s cool. I’ll go by myself. It’s probably nothing.” Keanu shrugged.
Hal shook his head. “Let’s go.”
The group of smokejumpers paused and Keanu nodded to Brax. He knew Hal would follow
him regardless. They left the other six members of their team and headed in the direction that Keanu sensed the disturbance. The overwhelming feeling persisted. Someone was trapped in the middle of the blaze. He could feel it in his bones. They needed to locate him or her quickly, or there wouldn’t be anything left to find.
Several minutes later, they stood on the outskirts of an already evacuated community. Keanu considered calling a stop to their search, fearing he was too late. There were towering homes to his right, less than a hundred yards away, and blackened earth to his left.
“Kea, if there was someone here, they must’ve gotten out.”
Keanu wasn’t sure how Hal knew he was searching for a person, but he had figured out
early on Hal was every bit as sensitive as he was.
Hearing Hal mimic his thoughts about their search made his stomach drop. The other man didn’t have to add
or they were dead
; nothing could’ve survived in the middle of the area.
Keanu shook his head, not willing to give up yet. “This way, I know I’m right.” Turning toward the trees, he didn’t need to check to see if his partner followed.
Burnt wood and grass surrounded them. Inhaling deeply he caught a scent so distinctive it made most people gag.
“My water tank is almost empty. If there’s a fire, and I’m not saying there is, maybe we should call for back-up.”
“There isn’t time. I smell burnt human hair.”
“Shit,” Hal swore.
Keanu led them into a thick clump of charred trees. With all the blackness surrounding him, he couldn’t see a thing, but he sensed a hot spot. A tingling deep inside wouldn’t let him ignore what he knew was a real threat. He rushed to the area before coming to an abrupt halt. A large section of land filled with tall dry grass had started to smolder.
“What the fuck? How the hell did we miss this?” Hal pointed. “Look.”
A small boy was nestled in the branches just above the flames.
“Hal, you climb and I’ll take care of the fire,” Keanu ordered, relieved to see his partner and best friend didn’t argue for once.
Stepping over the fallen branches and blackened areas, he inhaled the hot air into his lungs.
He continued sucking the flames into his body, relishing the feel of the warmth rushing through his system, while using the water hose attached to his pack to douse the hot spots.
By the time Hal had the boy on the ground, he couldn’t sense any more flames. He coughed and gave Hal two thumbs up.
They made their way back to their teammates with the small boy cradled in Hal’s big arms.
“What the hell?” Brax eyed the child.
Keanu grabbed a bottle of water from his coworker and chugged, while the rest of the group tended to the boy. His inner flame began to cool with the refreshing fluid and he accepted another bottle gratefully.
“Oh man, Kea. You saved the boy’s life.” Barry looked from the boy to Keanu.
Keanu shook his head. “Nah, I just got lucky. Hal got the kid down.”
“Bullshit! Good job, Kea.” Brax punched his arm.
Praise from his team made Keanu cringe. None of them were ordinary men, far from it, but he hated having attention drawn to him. He looked to the sky, happy to see their pick-up overhead in time to save him from unwanted admiration. They’d radioed ahead, alerting them to the addition. The first man took the child. Keanu was the last to leave the clearing. Giving his inner fire free reign one last time, he made sure they hadn’t missed anything else. By the time they finished, he was sure the next team wouldn’t have any surprises.
Getting into the DC-3 wasn’t nearly as fun as jumping from one, Keanu mused as he was
finally lifted up.
* * * *
Keanu stood on his deck gazing at the openness for as far as his eyes could see. He loved the smell of the mountains, the clean pine scent. It was very similar to his home with his grandparents. He raised his face to the sun, allowing the rays to warm him from the outside as his internal fire warmed the inside. Letting out a deep breath, he turned toward the fire pit in the corner and blew a puff of air on the logs, making them burn.
Smiling, Keanu stepped into his spacious kitchen and grabbed a bottle of beer from the fridge. Closing his eyes in bliss as he twisted off the cap, he tipped his head for a much needed drink. A platter of steaks and two potatoes wrapped in foil were on the counter, ready to be cooked. He grabbed the platter, stepped outside and placed them on the grill, then with another breath of air, the charcoals started to smoke and turn a fiery red.
“Yo, Kea. Where you at?” Hal yelled from inside.
“I'm on the deck. Grab a beer and come on out.”
Hal ducked his head, avoiding the doorjamb, and joined Keanu on the deck with two bottles dangling from his fingers. Keanu took a bottle from Hal with a shake of his head.
“Oofta, I so needed this.” Hal tipped his bottle to his mouth.
Keanu laughed and flipped the steaks. “Is ‘oofta’ a real word?”
“Hell yeah, it’s real. You can use it for just about any swear word.”
Keanu stifled a chuckle. “Thanks, but I think I’ll just say ‘fuck’ at least once in every sentence.”
“Why doesn’t that surprise me?”
“Fuck off.” Keanu laughed.
They sat in companionable silence, listening to the birds sing and the wind whistle through the trees. Keanu loved being outside almost as much as he loved women. He swore watching the trees sway was like watching a woman sashay as she led her man to bed.
“So, what did your grandfather want?”
Leave it to Hal to cut to the chase before Keanu was ready to talk about it. His grandfather lived at the top of the Cascades. It was only fifty miles away, but it could be another country.
Keanu shrugged. “Something is spooking him, and if you knew my grandfather, you’d know it was major. He scares the shit out of me and I’m a grown man.”
“He didn’t give you any hints?”
Keanu looked at the pit and sucked in a breath, making the red coals lose some of their glow, before turning to his best friend. “Nah. He needs my
.” Keanu made air quotes, shrugged, and headed to the grill.
“So, are you looking forward to going home, boss?” Hal asked.
“Yes and no.”
“We’re going to miss you on the team. Not sure what we’ll do without our very own
fireman.” Hal laughed, his booming voice echoing in the still of the night.
“Real funny. I’m still on call in case of emergency situations, and you know Brax can bend things to his will.” Keanu raised his eyebrows. The co-leader of their group had truly amazing and sometimes frightening powers, but Keanu wasn’t going to tell him he thought he was great.
The man already had a big head.
Keanu flipped the steaks and checked the potatoes.
“I’m going to miss my own personal barbeque-man.” Hal had a frown on his face.
He flipped Hal off. He’d had the ability to make a fire out of air since he was a small boy.
By the time he’d turned twelve, he’d learned to breathe the fire back into his body without much cost to himself, other than the need to burn off the energy one way or another.
After graduating from high school he became a fireman for the local fire department. Known as a fire-breather in the world of elementals, Keanu could create a small flame or a large roaring blaze, and in the next breath suck it back into his body. Of course, the larger the fire the more energy he needed to burn afterwards.
As a child, he’d hike for miles and freefall off a cliff into the freezing streams surrounding the Cascades. The adult Keanu found other more pleasurable ways to expel the effects, usually between the thighs of a woman.
“You need some help there, Kea?”
Keanu shook off his thoughts of the past. “Could you grab the salad and dressing out of the fridge?”
Within moments, Keanu had the steaks and potatoes on the table. It always amazed him the way the six foot four blond giant waited until everything was set before digging into his food.
He’d slice his steak with exact precision into small cube-like bites, and then stab them with his fork, before chewing each piece several times.
Hal always consumed the meat first, then the carbs, followed by whatever was left, claiming he liked to eat the good stuff first. It amused Keanu to watch him. Being a man who loved his sweets, Keanu would skip the meal and eat dessert first when he could.
“Why are you staring at me like I’m some kind of lab experiment?” Hal asked.
Keanu shook his head, raised his fork and pointed it at his friend. “You are the weirdest eater.”
Hal raised his bottle. “I get no complaints from the ladies.”
“Thanks for the visual, dude.”
Ankles crossed, hands resting over his full belly, Keanu leaned his head on the back of his chair and stared at the darkening sky.
Hal kicked Keanu’s feet on the ottoman. With a grunt, Keanu made room for the other man to stretch out his long legs, too.
“Have you ever had the feeling your world was about to get rocked?” Keanu asked without looking at Hal.
“Yep! Every time I take a lady to bed.” Hal wagged his eyebrows.
“Shut up, dick,” he laughed. “I don’t mean like that. Besides, I don’t get my world rocked when I fuck a woman, I rock
world.” Keanu smirked.
“Man, you’re so full of it. I heard Cathy calling you all kinds of names and none of them good.” Hal punched Keanu’s arm.