Read it FREE on Kindle Unlimited!
Wildfires are dangerous—but the worst comes after.
Desperate for a drastic change in my life, I accept a job on the Boulder Mountain Hotshot crew—a formidable hand crew that fights front lines of wildfires in Washington—and push all of my thoughts into work. I don’t expect to make friends, but the crew quickly becomes my family.
When I’m facing down a wildfire, there’s no room to think about what I’ve lost.
In the heat of the moment, I can forget those who tore away pieces of my soul: my best friend, my father, my ex-fiancée. Action over thought.
After? Grief is the only echo.
Eventually, everything runs cold and awareness floods back in. When the smoke clears, I’ll have to deal with everything—and everyone—I’ve been pushing away.
SOMETHING SACRED EXCERPT
I jump out of the truck and find my crew at one of the water stations. After gulping the water Jones hands me, I ask, “Where are the rest?” I can’t make myself name them. My hands tremble.
Miller shakes his head. “McNally’s radio is spotty. It’s even worse here. I’m sure they’re fine. They were up high, and unless the wind turns in their direction…”
Davis pats my back. “They’ll be fine. He’s got more experience than the rest of us combined.”
I shrug. “Yeah, but Cora doesn’t. And Leo—”
We exchange a look. There is zero doubt in my mind that, if he could save Cora, he would. And then he’d probably wind up dead.
I exhale. “Can we get their location on a map? See what their escape route—”
“Shut off the brain, Fire Science,” Miller snaps. “Listen to the radio. Get checked out by the EMT. Relax.”
Relaxing is hard when there’s fire burning just over the hill. We’re on the downward slope, with a small farming town just below us. If we can’t stop this fire, their livelihoods will be ruined. How long does it take to rebuild a generations-old farm? To replenish what they’ve lost? I sulk over to the paramedic tent. Someone directs me to a chair and checks my nose and airways before declaring me good to go. They hand me a juice box and tell me to rehydrate. I cross over to one of the other tents set up with picnic tables where Davis is sitting. I want to bash my head against the wall. We’re just supposed to wait?
“Boulder Mountain Lookout, requesting immediate air evac,” my radio squawks. My gaze jerks up to Davis. He frowns.
“Received, Boulder Mountain Lookout. What is your location? Bravo Seven.”
Miller shouldn’t have told me to relax. There’s no way in hell that’s going to happen.
McNally spits out their coordinates on the radio and adds, “Wind has shifted west and looks like it’s taking the fire with it. It’s coming right up the mountain for us.”
I can see what’s happening out there in my imagination:
McNally has Cora and Leo burning an area clear for themselves just in case. He’s cautious like that. Our packs have small, portable drip torches. If a helicopter can’t get to them—can’t find them, can’t deploy because of the wind, or if there’s too low visibility—then they’ll have to make a go of it on foot or wait it out.
Every good lookout picks a safety spot when they set up. If the fire crosses that spot, it tells the lookout that they need to get the fuck out of dodge.
I wonder if that line has already been crossed, or if McNally is being cautious.
I can’t believe it, but for the first time: I pray. I pray that they make it out okay.
“Dude,” Davis says. “You’re shaking.”
My two best friends are up there, I almost yell at him. But that wouldn’t be fair. They’re friends with Davis, too.
I shake out my hands and jump to my feet. “I’m gonna, uh—”
I wasn’t supposed to feel helpless out here. I wasn’t supposed to feel like one false move and my world would implode. I did that for far too long with Macie, pretending everything was normal. I was done holding my grief and all of my anger inside of me.
But now, I want to explode because I’m right back where I was: helpless. I can’t do anything. We couldn’t stop that fire—hell, we couldn’t have put a dent in it—and I can’t run out there and play hero, pulling McNally, Leo, and Cora out of danger. That would get me killed, too.