Inferno of Love:Firefighters of Long Valley Book 2(15)By: Erin Wright
He slung his backpack over his shoulder and then began searching for the rope he’d thrown in the backseat last fall. He’d kept meaning to get it out and put it away, but somehow, he’d never gotten around to it. His laziness was about to pay off. He tossed some blankets and an old jacket out of the way when he finally spotted it, peeking out from under the seat, and pulled it out, sighing to himself as he did.
Dammit, it was as short as he remembered, which meant that it was too short to get all the way down to the base of Eagle’s Nest. He’d gone out rock climbing and rappelling with Levi dozens of times over the years, and this spot was a favorite of theirs, so he knew just how much rope he needed to get to the base. This wasn’t going to do it.
But on the other hand, if he didn’t rappel off the side of the cliff, he’d be stuck taking the trail on the north side that also wound its way through the forest to the base of the cliff. It was totally doable, of course, but a hell of a lot slower. He might as well have just come with the rest of the guys in that case.
No, down the front was the only way. He could get the dog, the guy, and they could hike back out together the long way around.
His heart was running at top speed, adrenaline dumping into his system on overload, as he climbed up the barrier of large boulders, his work boots slipping as he tried to heave himself upward. This climb was a hell of a lot easier when he was wearing the right shoes. No surprise there, of course.
He finally got to the top of the boulders and worked his way over to a relatively skinny boulder stuck firmly in the ground. It was the same one they’d used countless times in high school. The boulder wouldn’t move an inch, so he at least had that certainty he could count on, even if it was the only one.
He didn’t have rappelling gear or safety equipment of any kind, and he was risking life and limb here, but hell, he’d come this far. He could go a little farther, right?
He straightened up and took a moment to look out over the hillside and valley below. Smoke and flames were billowing up, but it appeared the majority of the fire had started working its way to the south. Thank God. It wasn’t terribly surprising – daytime winds tended to go upslope and then as soon as evening hit, they usually changed directions and went downslope. It looked like that was holding true for the winds whipping this fire up. As long as this tourist and his dog had stayed put at the base of Eagle’s Nest, they might just live through this after all.
As Moose was doing his best to figure out where this fire was going and what it was doing, his boot slipped a little on the pebbles underfoot and he instinctively looked straight down, his eyes skittering past his boots and down the cliff face. He’d made it a point to never look down – he hated admitting to it, but heights scared the bejesus out of him, something even Levi didn’t know. Looking over the valley was one thing; looking straight down a cliff was another.
And that’s when he spotted her.
“Georgia?” he said, in shock.
There she was, huddled against the cool of the rock, trying not to breathe in too deeply, holding Sparky close against her, praying harder than she’d ever prayed in her life that the fire would change directions and leave her the hell alone, when she heard a noise. Rocks, bouncing down the side of Eagle’s Nest. What the hell? What had knocked the rocks loose?
She wiggled backwards a little until she could give herself enough room to crane her neck upwards – not her most graceful move ever, but okay – to see a dark figure waaayyyyy up at the top of the cliff face.
He looked down and their eyes locked. Her mouth dropped open as she stared upwards.
“Georgia?” he called down to her. “What the hell are you doing here?”
“What am I—” She broke off into a coughing fit, the smoke starting to burn her lungs. She’d been careful to keep her shirt over her mouth and her head tucked down between the rock and Sparky for what felt like forever, but now that she’d pulled away from that sheltering embrace, the ash and soot were starting to work their way into her lungs.
She tore her eyes away from the apparition of Moose – she was at least 72.3% sure that he was a figment of her smoke-addled mind – and towards the fire below. She hadn’t dared to lift her head before, and she was shocked to see that the fire had in fact turned and was heading south. There were glowing embers everywhere, and a few straggly brushes still on fire, but God must’ve been listening, because she was still alive.
She sat up fully and leaned against the rock face, holding onto Sparky firmly with one hand while she rummaged for her CamelBak hose with the other. Flipping the cap off with one hand, she brought it to her mouth and sucked down the divine liquid.
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