Arsonist hunter Alexander Caufield was the best. Ruthless, relentless, he always found a way to uncover the truth. For years, he was obsessed with finding the firebug who'd framed his father. Now his investigation pointed to the Parrish family, and he wanted justice...and revenge. But when Xander met the bold, brash and beautiful Melody Parrish, it wasn't long before he fell for her, and hard. A firejumper and daredevil pilot, the woman courted danger and, suddenly, he had a life-and-death decision to make. To set his father free, would he ruin the woman he loved?
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March 31, 2007
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Excerpt from Warrior for One Night by Nancy Gideon
"What the hell was that? Mel, what's going on up there?"
"Nothing. Be down in ten. Everything's under control." Five minutes ago she wouldn't have been lying. Jimmy Doolittle once supposedly said there was no good reason to be flying near thunderstorms in peacetime. But then Jimmy had never fought against a lightning storm in a helicopter by dropping water from a Bambi Bucket.
She'd been in the air for five straight hours, swooping down through a double rainbow only once to take on fifty gallons of Jet A fuel. Thunderheads continued to gather mass in the surrounding quadrants, making it harder to dodge around the clouds. Rain battered against her windshield as the ride grew bumpy. When the call came to pull back, she ignored it, shifting her headphones from her ears to ring about her neck. And she kept working, beating back the flames one hundred gallons at a time. Wind swirled around the Long Ranger, hitting her from every possible direction as she went down for another dip. She'd taken the front door off for the water drop and leaves were blowing around in the cockpit. After putting in some big power changes to maintain altitude, she had started to worry. But she didn't second-guess her decision to stay. There was no way she'd let the fire beat her.
She'd stayed in the air as darkness gathered. Knowing she had to be on the ground by 8:55 p.m. or face the wrath of the Bureau of Land Management safety gods, again, she dismissed the terse order to call it a night. She had until thirty minutes past sunset to make every second count. Then it was Miller time, not before. With position and instrument lights on, she followed her GPS heading. She was on the radio to her crew chief when halfway up the canyon, a thousand feet above the ground, at seventy-five-percent torque and ninety knots, she smacked into a solid wall of air.
The impact threw her into her shoulder straps. She heard a loud thump followed by the whine of rotor RPM decaying. Thinking it was engine failure, she lowered the collective while a million things ran through her mind. Should she turn the routine call into one of distress? Start emergency procedures? Was she going down? But then the rotor RPM came back and with a gust of relief, she realized she was still in control. Elated to get through what left too many aircraft looking like confetti, she sped on to Lake View, where the ground had never felt better.
With the blades still making a lazy circle overhead, she hopped out of the cockpit to toss her helmet to the older man waiting there.
"That was close," she told her uncle as they both ducked low to trot out of the rotor wind. "I must have hit a micro burst or wind sheer. Bam. Like a brick wall. Make sure you give her a good once-over before we go up again to see that nothing was rattled loose."
"I can tell you what's rattled loose," came another angry voice. "Your brain, that's what. What the hell were you doing up there, Mel?"
Taking a breath to maintain her calm, Mel turned to face Quinn Naylor, her boss and long-ago, one-night lover, with a disarming smile. "I call it flying, Quinn."
"By the seat of your tight pants," he shouted back at her, not in the least appeased by her levity. "I call it reckless. I thought I made myself clear when I brought you in on this gig. There's no room in the air for any John or Jane Wayne heroics. That's not how I run my show."
"I was getting the job done," she yelled back at him, giving up on civility to go toe-to-toe on the tarmac. She was an impressive five-ten in her La Sportiva boots, but he had a good five inches of tightly compacted fury on her.
"Not with my crew. Not anymore. Go home, Mel. I'm pulling your ticket."
Too angry to feel shock or distress, she pushed into his face with an aggressive snarl. "Take your crew and shove it. I'll catch another ride."