Flame (Firefighters of Montana Book 5)

By: Victoria Purman



That getting up before the birds thing she had going on? Early nights were a small price to pay for this freedom, this independence, this strength in herself that having her own business gave her.

So, when Dex McCoy drove slowly down Main Street on Saturday morning, Cady was already wide awake and alert to everything happening in her shop and in the street out front. She’d just served a crew of smokejumpers from Glacier Creek service station, a bunch of guys who were regulars—black coffee and sugared donuts—when she saw him.

She had some kind of sixth sense when it came to that man. The connection was made the day after his mom’s funeral, their senior year at high school. He’d looked so wounded, so hurt and so angry. Until he’d seen her, until he’d let her wrap her arms around him because she couldn’t say anything meaningful enough to take away his pain.

He’d left Montana soon after, still wounded and hurt and angry and they hadn’t really spoken again until four years ago at The Drop Zone, the bar in Kalispell where all the smokejumpers hung out. She tried to push the memory of that night aside.

Cady tried to shake off the awareness of him but it was stuck in her head like a sliver of sliced almond in between her teeth. Her attention caught like a falcon seeing a mouse scamper in the grass a hundred feet below its extended wings. She looked outside, past the display of cupcakes on top of her glass counter, and the heads of her customers, and saw him in his truck, driving slowly past.

Without realising it, Cady let out the breath she’d been holding for three months, since Dex had driven off to Missoula to smokejump with another crew. There was absolutely no reason she should have been scared for him. She was born and bred in Glacier Creek and her best customers were the smokejumpers who parachuted out of DC-3s to tackle wildfires in the Montana mountains before they became truly wild and even more dangerous. She knew those men and women were highly trained, extremely skilled, strong as oxen, and fit.

So why had her heart been in her mouth the whole damn time he’d been away? Why had she dreamt about him, so vividly, over and over? Why had a tall, scarred smokejumper called Dex McCoy, a man who continued to cross The Drop Zone with a whiskey in his hand rather than say hello to her, gotten inside her head like he had? She huffed. It was inexplicable. How could she be so worried about a man who—not once, ever—had come into Cady’s Cakes and bought one single damn thing?

“Cady?”

Cady tore her attention back to the familiar face staring at her across the counter.

“Sorry. Did you say something, Jacqui?”

“Honey, you gave me too much change.”





Chapter Two





One of Cady’s best friends, Jacqui Edwards, was now staring at her strangely from across the counter, her eyebrows lifting in surprise.

“What?”

“You gave me five dollars too much, Cady.” Jacqui smiled. “I don’t know how you expect to make a living if you keep giving you hard-earned cash away.”

Cady found a laugh, tried not to see Dex’s face. Oh, get it together, Cady. You’re a grown woman. A capable, responsible woman. You are in your cake shop. Cady’s Cakes. Yes, that’s right. The pink shop on Main Street. The one all the smokejumpers laugh at but can’t walk past without coming inside for their coffee and donuts. Well, all of them except one. And then she was thinking about Dex again. Why hadn’t he been in her shop? Was he a health nut who wouldn’t go near sugar? Or carbs. Did he know she made trail mix bars for the jumpers? They were healthy and nutritious, energy-sustaining for all those days and nights in the mountains.

He didn’t come in to buy those, either.

Cady shook her head, willing each and every thought about Dex McCoy to sink to the bottom of Flathead Lake.

“Damn. Thanks, Jac.” Cady accepted the five dollar bill Jacqui slapped in her hand.

She curled her fingers around it and allowed herself a smile. She still got a thrill out of serving customers. Her customers. One year on and she was making this thing work. One year of, admittedly, little sleep and no social life whatsoever, but she was running her own business and that was something to be damn proud of. Cady’s heart swelled with pride and then a familiar ache at the fact that her mom and gran weren’t there to share it with her.

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