Hot Shots Men of Fire #1 - Wild Heat - Bella Andre

Bella Andre - Hot Shots Men of Fire #1 - Wild Heat

Wild Heat (Hot Shots: Men of Fire #1)
Bella Andre




MAYA JACKSON was going to find the bastard who'd killed her little brother and she was going to make him pay.

But first she had to take care of the details. The stupid, goddamned details.

She turned the key in the lock of Tony's cottage on the edge of the Tahoe National Forest and her throat grew tight. How could he be dead?


As of Tuesday, November 15, 2:09 A.M., Tony was nothing but ashes, the remains of his bones and skin and spirit lost in the rubble of an apartment building on Lake Tahoe Boulevard. Three days ago he'd walked through flames to save a couple of stoned ski bums. And he'd died a hero.

At twenty-three.

Tony's landlord needed the place cleared out to show to potential tenants. He'd been nice about it; if she couldn't come for a week or two he'd be happy to stash everything of value in a storage shed behind the building. Maya had wanted to throw the telephone through a window.

Everything of value was already gone.

Standing on the top slate step, Maya forced herself to open the cottage door. All she needed to do was pack up Tony's T-shirts and jeans and books and shaving cream and she could get the hell out of there. But it wasn't that simple. Because the last time she'd been in Tahoe it had been her brother's birthday. Two months ago he'd been having the time of his life up in the Sierras, fighting fires, bagging babes, hitting the slopes when the powder was fresh.

Images of her brother and father tangled up inside her head as she held on to the doorknob like it was a lifeline. Judd Jackson had also been a firefighter. A hotshot, one of the elite who put out the fires everyone else ran from.

As a kid she'd marked time by her father's presence. For six months he'd be there every day. Making her breakfast. Taking her to school. Kicking a soccer ball with her and Tony in the backyard until they were called in to dinner. She'd loved falling asleep to the rough sound of his voice as he read from storybooks, then closed them to make up stories that were even better. For the other six months of the year he was gone. Fighting the worst fires that had ever been. The Wheeler Fire in Ojai, California. The Siege of 1987 in Oregon. Judd Jackson was a national hero, time and time again.

Maya knew kids with hotshot fathers who left one day with a smile and chainsaw and never came back. She learned to dread every late night phone call and unexpected visitors at the front door. Her dad always came back, thank God. But he couldn't shake a brutal cough. And then, a year ago he'd been diagnosed with aggressive lung cancer. All those years of sucking in ash and black smoke had taken their toll.

She was still recovering from her father's death when Tony's fire chief had called. One less Jackson in the world.

Maybe, she thought, if she and Tony had an antagonistic brother-sister relationship like so many of her friends it wouldn't have hurt so much. But he'd never been the kind of little brother who pulled her pigtails and messed up her things, and even though she was four years older she didn't treat him like a baby. They'd been friends as well as siblings.

Their mother, Martha, had lived on pins and needles whenever their father was away fighting fires. And since organization and details weren't her mother's strong suit in the best of circumstances, Maya had been in charge of making sure Tony signed up for teams and had his school projects done on time. It was nice to be needed, so she hadn't really minded taking care of her brother. And then, when their father had died, everything had flipped around, and Tony had taken care of her.

Now he was gone too. She hadn't cried yet. How could she when her chest felt like a block of ice?

Her girlfriends were trying to say all the right things, but none of them really understood. Her boyfriend, Dick, a San Francisco firefighter, was completely out of his depth. He'd practically seemed relieved when she'd said they should take a break. And Martha was a complete wreck, alternating between crying and sleeping.

There was no one else to take care of Tony's things. Only