Where There's Smoke: inspirational romantic suspense (Montana Fire Book 1)

Table of Contents

Montana Fire: Summer of Fire Trilogy


Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12


Author's note

Montana Fire Book Two: Playing With Fire

Montana Rescue

Susan May Warren Library



Montana Fire: Summer of Fire Trilogy

Book One


Where’s There’s Smoke



Susan May Warren




She’s a smokejumper who’s afraid of fire.

He’s the partner who can’t forgive himself for loving her.

Now they must face the flames together if they hope to survive the Summer of Fire.

About the Book

Seven years ago, when a fire jump in the forests of Alaska went horribly wrong, smokejumpers Jed Ransom and Kate Burns spent twenty-four terrifying hours saving each other from a wildfire. They had no idea it would light a blaze inside of them that neither of them could forget—a fire they both deny.

Now a supervisor, Jed commands the Jude County Smokejumpers with a reputation as a calm, level-headed leader.

Kate is a legendary smokejumper, known for her courage and willingness to risk everything to get the job done.

When the death of the man who taught them how to jump, along with a raging wildfire in the mountains of Montana, brings them together to train up a new team of jumpers, Kate and Jed have no idea the love they’ve been running from is about to ignite.

But when an arsonist goes after their team, Kate and Jed must decide between stirring love to flame and fighting the blaze that could destroy them all. In this first book of the Montana Fire: Summer of Fire trilogy, Kate and Jed are about to discover that where there’s smoke, there just might be a happy ending.



She’d come three thousand miles to burn to death.

“Kate, if you don’t deploy right now, you’re going to die!”

Kate Burns could hear Jed, his voice muffling around in the back of her brain, but the roar of the fire simply had her by the throat. Three-hundred-foot flame lengths chewing up the pristine Alaskan wilderness, torching Fraser firs, white pines, black spruce. The blaze candled along the tops of the birch trees, the fire storm churning up its own wind.

It felt like that hand of God, reaching out to grab her in a paralyzing chokehold. It kept her brain from firing, from reacting to Jed’s words.

From reaching for her shake-and-bake fire shelter, folded and tucked in the pocket of her jump pants.

Because, what would it matter? They were in the green, a highly combustible area, and they’d bake to death under the thin tinfoil even if the fire didn’t scurry underneath and scorch them.

And that vivid picture had her knees buckling.

Her father would be so angry.


Hands on her shoulders shook her, jerked her around. “Get your shelter on!”

Kate got a glimpse of Jed a second before he threw her to the ground. Face blackened, his eyes fierce, red bandanna pulled up over his nose. And balancing hard on a makeshift crutch she’d fashioned for him only hours before.

He looked like she felt—wrung out, broken, and on the edge of unraveling.

Except, he wasn’t standing still, waiting for the wall of flame to hit him. In fact, he had his shelter out, already unfurled, and now shook it over her. She fell to the ground, an old, dry riverbed, filled with gravel and rock, moss and brush. But, where he pushed her down, mostly sand and dirt.

“Pin it down! Remember your training.”

Training. Oh—the three years as a hotshot—a wildland firefighter—and her last six weeks with the Midnight Sun Smokejumpers where, two weeks ago, she’d passed her final exam.

Don’t die
. Her training boss said it as he’d handed her the Midnight Sun patch. Laughter. She’d grinned.

Jed landed in the dirt next to her, having apparently yanked her shelter from her pocket. He wrestled with it in the superheated winds, his teeth gritted as he yanked it down to the earth. Pinning it there with hands, elbows, knees, feet.

Except, in a flash that struck her in the heart, she knew the truth.

might not die, but Jed Ransom didn’t have a prayer of holding down all four corners, not to mention the edges, of his shelter. Not with his injured leg.

Not with those bare hands.

Kate threw off her shelter and, in a second, it caught the wind and flew—no turning back now.

“What are you doing!”

She didn’t answer him as she rolled herself under his tinfoil, grabbing a corner, drawing it over her. She clamped down her side with her hand, elbow, and leg.

He caught on fast. Or maybe not as much as she’d hoped, because even as she nailed down the side with her limbs, he covered her upper body with his, protecting her.

She felt the length of his body against her, his powerful arms, honed from chopping through the dense forest, digging fire line with his fire ax, aka Pulaski. For a second, her heart just stopped with the sense of it. She’d spent the last decade wishing she might end up right here.

In Jed Ransom’s arms.

Hopefully right before he kissed her.

Except, maybe she’d omit the part where they would bake.

Jed secured the top of the shelter with his hands, the other side with his elbow, knee, his good leg.

Then, her helmet crushed next to his, he said in his low baritone, “Dig us a hole to breathe into.”

Outside, the fire cycloned around them, exploding through the trees into a storm of flame, the sound of it a locomotive ready to drive over them.

Kate started to shake as she clawed at the ground, scrubbing away pebbles and stone, finding the cool riverbed. She widened the hole for him, and his whiskers brushed her face as he fought to find cooler air.

“Deeper. We need to protect our faces.” He balanced his helmet on the rim of the hole, his breath on her skin as he turned to her. “We’re going to live, Kate, I promise.”

She longed to believe him.

The ‘shake and bake’ flapped, the fury of the fire starting to bake them. Sweat dripped down her face, saturated her body under her jumpsuit and turnout jacket.

And then Jed’s breathing caught. Tiny sounds, a deep groan as the heat began to sear his skin. But she couldn’t lift her head, because suddenly the fire washed over them, a wave of heat and flame and fury that made her press her face to the earth.

She didn’t know who screamed first.


Chapter 1


Seven years later...

Not until she reached four thousand feet did Kate Burns realize this jump had “epic comeback” written all over it. Except, her father’s memorial service probably wasn’t the right time to show the world that fear couldn’t keep her grounded. And, with Reuben and Conner nearly out the door of the Twin Otter, herself next in line, probably it was too late to pull the plug on their commemorative jump.

But she could hardly turn down Miles Defoe, her father’s incident commander. Say
to the entire population of Ember Montana on hand to remember the firefighters who died on a mountain last summer.

Of course she would jump. But she’d keep it safe and easy and channel the fear fisting her chest, pumping fire into her veins. Not newsworthy. Not spectacular. Not epic.

Something her father might—if he were watching from heaven—be proud of.

Over the intercom, Gilly’s voice cut through the thunder of air whipping into the open door and over the drone of the plane. “I’ve reached four thousand!”

Kate glanced into the cockpit where Gillian Priest, her dark auburn hair looping through the hole in her gimme cap, manned the controls. Gilly glanced over her shoulder, the headphones dwarfing her, and met Kate’s eyes. Grinned. A comrade-in-arms in this male-dominated world of smokejumping.

A paltry handful of women managed to climb the ranks and earn a spot on one of the fourteen teams around the nation. Despite the tremor in her gut or the acrid taste of bile lining her throat, Kate planned on holding onto hers with the tenacity of any of the wildland fires she’d jumped over the past seven years.

She swallowed the bile away. At least today’s jump didn’t require her to fly over smoky columns of superheated air. Or to drop into a blackened meadow or dirt-edged moraine just outside the roar of the dragon.

Today she didn’t have to fear dying under a piece of high-tech tinfoil.

Instead, adorned with a purple memorial ribbon attached to her pack, she’d drop out of the sky in memory of seven comrades who’d perished doing what they loved.

Wearing their standard Kevlar jumpsuits and gear packs, fellow jumpers Conner Young and Reuben Marshall edged up to the door. They snapped on their helmets and peered out into the expanse.

The two men, along with Pete Brooks preparing to jump behind her, were the only survivors of her father’s crew. Guys she planned on getting to know if she hoped to seal the canyon Jock Burn’s death left in her heart.

She should have been jumping with him on his crew instead of returning home to honor his memory.

“Coming around for the jump,” Gilly said into the coms.

. Again, Kate ran her four-point check—drogue release handle in clear view, Stevens connection attached to the reserve, reserve emergency handle in clear and plain view, and the cutaway clutch, also readily accessible.

Just stay calm.
Jumping was the easy part, right? The part she actually
She reached for her helmet, glancing at her jump partner. Pete, his blond hair pulled back in a jaunty knot, blue eyes and a bronze ring of whiskers, grinned at her with a lazy smile that probably knocked the girls silly down at the Hotline Saloon.

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