Former military pilot Blaine Darby carries a load of guilt and pain from the harm he may have caused in wartime. Now he seeks to earn some good karma by fighting wild land fires while holding on to his great love of flying. But reporters like young Daz Contreras scare him -- one of the few things that do -- because he shuns the public eye.
Freelance investigative journalist Daz Contreras is convinced terrorists are behind at least some of the wild land fires plaguing New Mexico. All he needs is enough proof to break the story. As he pursues leads, he begins to shadow pilot Blaine Darby and, in the process, develops a gigantic case of hero worship.
When Daz is allowed to ride with Blaine one time, he hopes the adventure will help him to uncover the proof he seeks. Yet when a near tragedy unexpectedly develops and Blaine puts his life on the line to save a trapped hotshot firefighting crew, Daz realizes he’s an eyewitness to what may be a bigger story than the one he planned. But will the reclusive Blaine actually allow Daz to report the news as he sees fit, even as they grow closer?
Blaine looked at the other man for a steady few seconds. "Have you got any place to sleep?"
Daz shrugged. "I didn't see any motels as I came through town and it seems the fire crews bring their own gear. No worries though. I always carry a sleeping bag and a mat. They're in my car."
"Well, I don't think it's going to rain, but you're welcome to bed down with me under the plane. This won't be the first time I've done that. It provides some shelter."
The reporter smiled, a bigger smile than Blaine would have expected. "Hey, thanks. That'll be great." He took one step and then turned back. "I guess you'll be heading back to Grant County in the morning, huh? I'll get with you and the other two pilots when you have time. You know, that interview you promised me. I want all the details on your mercy flight."
Blaine wanted to growl but he didn't. "Yeah, sure. Really, it was no big deal but we'll tell you what we did. And yeah, I'll go back south in the morning."
He turned then and ambled back to the Nepture, heaved himself up the ladder and dragged his old sleeping bag and foam pad out of his locker. He tossed the bundle down and then climbed back to the ground. By the time he spread out the bedroll, Daz was back and did the same, closer to Blaine's than he might have expected. They'd be right side by side.
Since the night was still warm. Blaine only lowered the zipper of his flight suit to about waist height and unlaced his boots to kick them aside. For now he'd just sprawl on top of the bag. Although tired, he soon found he was too keyed up to readily fall asleep.
Part of that was due to the presence of another person beside him. He tended to guard his privacy and solitude. Just the sounds of another person breathing, shifting a bit as the solid ground seemed to bite through the thin pad and bag were intrusive. It was more than that, though. Had the nearby body been a total stranger, it would be easier for him to ignore. But it was Daz, handsome, volatile, intense, and far too attractive in a thousand ways.
* * * *
Daz could hardly believe this final bit of good fortune. Seemed like he was really on a roll. Some fantastic footage now resided in his camera, material for half a dozen great stories he felt sure local stations would fight to feature. He'd sign some good contracts tomorrow since news needed to be fresh. Best of all, though, he was lying right beside Blaine Darby, less than an arms' length apart.
He could tell by the other man's small sounds and restlessness that he was not asleep. It took more courage than facing down the federal agent, but he had to ask. "I think I could help you relax. Will you let me? I'm told I give a damn fine BJ."
He heard Blaine's sharp intake of breath, followed by a pregnant pause. Then after a moment:
"Did I just hear what I think I heard? You're kidding, right?"
"Dead serious," Daz replied. "Lower that zipper a few more inches and I'll prove it."