He’s loved her for years . . .
Smoke jumper Reuben Marshall is harboring a deep regret—a split-second decision that cost the life of his crew boss in a fire. It’s a grief that has paralyzed him, kept him from moving forward. It’s mistakes, and regrets like this that keep him from pursuing his long-burning interest in Gilly Priest, their pretty, petite pilot. Not only is she not interested in dating a teammate, but she’s also the preacher’s daughter. And while Reuben’s not the chiefest of sinners, he’s no saint. Reuben feels like a buffalo next to her and worse, can’t seem to string two words together when she’s in his radar. He’ll just have to love her from afar…
Her dark secret keeps her from trusting . . .
Gilly Priest has worked hard to carve out her niche as a female bomber pilot in the dangerous world of firefighting. Sure she’s small, but she’s made up for her stature in courage, grit, and the tenacity to face danger other pilots wouldn’t dare to confront. And yes, she’s noticed handsome Reuben Marshall—who wouldn’t? Dependable and strong, he takes up most of the space in the room. But Gilly’s dark secret won’t allow her close enough to talk to him, let alone let herself fall for him.
A race to rescue the people they love . . .
When their smokejumper plane goes down in the northwestern Montana mountains, wounding their team, Gilly and Reuben are the only ones able to hike out to find help. But when their rescue mission turns out to be a fight for their lives against the terrain, a saboteur, and a forest fire, they discover they’ll have to put aside their fears and learn to trust each other. But will trust lead to igniting something they both long for…and fear? And can they save their team before tragedy strikes—again?
Then it was just Gilly and Reuben at the bar, watching the couple work their way onto the dance floor.
For a second, she looked at Reuben.
Blue eyes, so beautiful that he just swallowed.
“Hey,” he said, a sound that confirmed that, indeed, he was some throwback Neanderthal. He wanted to cut and run right then.
“Juliet was right. You were pretty amazing. Congratulations on winning.”
“Thanks.” More brilliance, but it was all he had. Worse, even sitting, he still loomed over her. Funny, she didn’t seem that petite on the radio or in her NIFC uniform or her jumpsuit.
He ran a thumb down his glass, parting the condensation there. Thought of something. “You want a drink?”
“I can get it.”
She began to raise her hand, but he held up his.
“Please – Gilly. You . . . Thanks for what you did. It was a big deal.” He offered a smile, mostly because these words came easily, honestly. “What are you drinking?”
“Root beer. Preacher’s kid and all that.” She offered a smile, and he felt like the chiefest of sinners with his half-drunk beer.
He ordered her drink, and she slid onto a high-top chair next to him. At least he wasn’t looking down at her.
She pulled the basket of popcorn toward herself, began to pick at it.
On the dance floor, the bank played a Brad Paisley cover.
You look pretty tonight. The words crossed through him, hung on, and suddenly he couldn’t think of anything else but that. Pretty. Tiny. Sweet.
He stared at his beer, hating that the words glued in his chest, clogging everything else.
This was why he didn’t talk to women. Didn’t talk to, well, Gilly.
“Reuben, man, get out here!”
CJ, calling him from the dance floor. Reuben looked at him, wanting to incinerate him where he stood. But the rookie wore a grin, two-stepping, of course, with Juliet. He twirled her in and out and back, dipping her.
Reuben glanced at Gilly, wishing he could read the expression on her face.
Shoot. What if she wanted to dance? And he just sat here, and . . .
“Gilly, ask him to dance!”
Now Juliet was in on it, waving at Gilly, who was turning white. She swallowed, clearly embarrassed.
He couldn’t take it. Seeing Gilly sit there, waiting for him to actually cowboy up. “Gilly, do you wanna -”
“No, I’m fine.” But it was the funny, half smile that appeared, then disappeared, that made his gut clench.
Did she want to . . .
And then she glanced at CJ and Juliet on the dance floor.
That’s all it took. He was tired of standing in the middle, not following his gut.
And his gut said Gilly wanted to dance.
Tonight, regret wouldn’t chase him home.
And they thought bull riding was tough. He took a breath. “Let’s dance, Gilly. I promise not to step on your toes.” He held out his hand, and when she only hesitated a moment before taking it, he congratulated himself on the best epic victory of the night.
Oh me, oh my! I think this whole series has spoilt me forever when it comes to the romantic suspense genre, because I’m not sure I will ever find another book that will make me feel like these books have. Reading these books is like an intravenous dose of romance and action. Somehow, Susan May Warren knows exactly the right words to use to tap straight into my visceral senses, and my poor heart doesn’t know whether to pound, stop, melt, or some strange combination of all three. How will anything else ever compare with that?
Rueben and Gilly . . . *sigh* I loved Jed and Kate, and I loved Conner and Liza, but there was something about Rueben in particular that tugged at my heartstrings. I think it was his vulnerability; his lack of confidence around Gilly. He’s quieter than his smokejumping teammates; a man of action more than words. But his emotions run deep, and he feels like he’s let a lot of people down in his life: his father, Jock and the other teammates who lost their lives in a forest fire almost a year ago. His friendship with Gilly, meagre though it is, means too much to him to risk spoiling it by making a fool of himself and pursuing his attraction to her.
Gilly once had aspirations of being a smokejumper herself, but her fear of heights held her back. And yet, put her in a pilot seat and she’ll fly into what feels like hell if she has to. And that is exactly what she does at the beginning of this novel, on her first official day as a firebomber. She pushes herself to prove that she is capable and fearless, in spite of her size and gender, and she most certainly does NOT need a man in her life; someone who would feel compelled to protect her all the time, or worse, would end up trampling her heart.
Meanwhile, it looks like the arsonist who has been lighting fires and trying to pin the blame on Conner’s drones has given up. But when their plane crashes, leaving one of their team members dead(!) and two seriously wounded, Gilly and Reuben learn they couldn’t be more wrong. I was surprised that they learned who was behind the sabotage and arson halfway through the novel, but don’t think for one minute that it means the tension lets up! I guarantee your adrenaline will be pumping right up to the end.
Susan May Warren seems to have taken ‘show, don’t tell’ to a whole new level in this series. She doesn’t just show; she recreates the experience. And in a novel with raging forest fires, plane crashes, an escape-for-your-life trek through forest land, and a dangerous air rescue, that’s a lot of experiencing!
She’s also one of the handful of writers I’ve found who can create emotional intensity in her romances (and I don’t just mean the kissing bits!) without it coming over as cheesy or overdone. Her characters connect on a soul level and their attraction is anchored by that connection, making the romance a completely organic part of the story. And maybe that’s why I loved Reuben’s character so much. It’s always the quiet ones that have the hidden depths!
Seriously, if you love romantic suspense, you are missing out big time if you don’t get your hands on these books.
I received a complimentary copy of this novel from the author in exchange for my honest review.
Release date: 2 August 2016
Publisher: SDG Publishing
Author’s website: http://www.susanmaywarren.com/
Previous novels in series:
Read my review for Where There’s Smoke
Read my review for Playing With Fire