Three Years Later
No matter how much practice I had as a smokejumper, jumping out of an airplane terrified me every single time.
Our plane wheeled in the air, indicating that the pilot was putting us on our final jump approach. This was a relatively small mission—just four of us dropping into a remote part of the Cascades to shore up some fire roads. Me, Foxy, Derek, and Brinkley. It was the tail end of fire season, and the October chill could be felt inside our tin-can of an airplane. But cooler temperatures meant that whatever fire was on the ground wouldn’t spread quickly. The danger was low.
Foxy leaned close to me and said, “Is it weird to be afraid?”
I grinned at the handsome man. “Fear’s the default. It’d be weird if you weren’t afraid.”
We giggled together, remembering that last jump at McCall Smokejumping School five years ago when he had been the one reassuring me. If not for that comment before we jumped, we probably wouldn’t have fooled around when we got back to base. Which meant we wouldn’t have hooked up when we got to Redding.
Which meant none of this would have happened. It was funny how the smallest comment or interaction could have such a huge impact on your life.
Things happen for a reason, I thought as the light came on at the front of the plane.
The four of us stood and walked to the jump hatch. Ramirez, the spotter, grabbed my chute line and clipped it into the bulkhead so it would automatically deploy when I jumped. I gazed out the hatch at the beautiful forest below.
“I don’t see any fires!” I shouted over the engine roar. “Are we in the right place?”
“This is the spot!” Ramirez replied. “We’ll coordinate when you’re on the ground!”
The light changed from red to green, Ramirez patted me on the back, and I launched myself through the hatch.
It was an uneventful jump. The best kind. We came down in a flat clearing at the edge of the forest. I tucked in my legs and rolled when I hit the ground, a maneuver which was second-nature to me by this point. By the time I’d gathered my parachute and stripped out of my jumpsuit, four more parachutes were landing in a line to the north. Foxy, Derek, Brinkley, and our crate of supplies.
We grouped up and jogged to the supply crate. But before we could open it, our radio crackled to life.
“Jump Team Alpha, be advised that you need to set up your base of operations three-hundred yards to the north-west,” came Trace Donaldson’s commanding tone. “Grab your supply crate and head that way.”
I groaned. “Three-hundred yards, sir? Why didn’t we drop the equipment closer to that point?”
“Plans change, Hinch,” Trace replied gruffly. “Get moving or I’ll put your complaint in the mission report.”
“Yes, sir,” I replied stiffly.
Foxy sneered at me. I stuck my tongue out at him in return.
As we carried the supply crate across the meadow, I thought about Trace as a commander. He had settled into the role like a hand sliding into a glove, and was always fair. And nobody knew about our relationship—at least, I didn’t think anyone did. Because of that, Trace had to make sure he treated me equally. Which sometimes meant coming down on me harder than the other jumpers.
I knew why it had to be that way, but that didn’t mean I had to like it.
Despite my complaint, the supply crate felt lighter than normal as Foxy and I carried it between us. Maybe I was just used to the burden by now. After five years at Redding Base, we had all gotten into a nice groove. We were veterans. And although our first summer at Redding had been hectic and dangerous, the years since then had calmed down to a normal level of fire activity. More importantly, we hadn’t lost any jumpers. There had been a few close calls, but nothing fatal.
Couldn’t ask for a better result, all things considered.
I loved my job. I woke up every morning knowing I was doing something worthwhile with my life. Fighting the good fight. It was deeply satisfying, just as I had hoped it would be when I left the Air Force.
I’ll keep doing this for as long as I can pass the physical requirements, I thought with a smile. Or until they force me into retirement. Since I was thirty-five, I hoped that day was still two or three decades away.
We reached the edge of the forest where the fire road began. It was in pretty good shape, but could still use some maintenance—clearing away small shrubs and twigs, and stirring up the mineral soil.
Just as I lowered the crate, Trace said, “Jump Team Alpha? We need you to keep moving. There’s a clearing in the middle of the forest, another hundred yards or so to the north. That will be your base of operations.”
“Is there a better anchor point there?” I asked. The middle of the woods didn’t sound very safe, unless there was a lake or river we could start from.
“Hinch…” Trace warned.
“Sorry, sir,” I replied while picking up the crate again. “On our way.”
We crunched through the forest away from the fire road. The air was sharp with the smell of pine needles and pungent soil. There wasn’t even a hint of smoke on the wind. It was rare we landed and had such fresh air to breathe!
After a hundred yards, something materialized through the trees. “What is that…”
“I think it’s a cabin,” Foxy said as we neared the clearing.
We dropped the crate off at the edge of the clearing and frowned at one-another. “Sir? There’s a cabin here,” Brinkley said.
“A log cabin,” Derek said. “Lights are on, and smoke is coming from the chimney.”
Trace cursed over the radio. “Someone must have ignored the evac warnings. Check it out and impress upon them the importance of listening to the United States Forest Service.”
“They’re not going to be happy about this,” I told Foxy as we approached the cabin door.
“I don’t know,” Foxy replied. “Maybe they’ll surprise us.”
I opened the door and stepped inside. The log cabin was one huge room with a steepled ceiling and horizontal beams. The kitchen was on the far end of the room, and closest to us was a living room and sleeping area with a massive king-sized bed.
The man sitting on the couch wore jeans and a plaid button-down shirt. He was one of the largest men I’d ever seen in my life, covered from head-to-toe in bulging muscles. On the coffee table next to him was a handheld radio. He picked up the radio, and when he spoke into the receiver I heard it both in person and in my headset.
“Well?” Trace asked, grinning widely at us. “What’s the occupant look like? Devilishly handsome?”
I stomped toward Trace. “What the hell is going on, sir?” I glanced behind me for someone to share in my confusion, but Foxy was grinning knowingly at me. Brinkley and Derek were dragging the crate of supplies through the front door.
“I don’t understand,” I said dumbly. My brain couldn’t process what I was seeing right now.
Brinkley opened the latches on the crate and flipped it open. Rather than our normal firefighting equipment, it was filled with a variety of other supplies. Brinkley grabbed a sleeping bag and tent roll, then clipped them onto the back of his PG bag.
“My job here’s done. I’ll leave you guys to it.”
“Thanks for the help, Brinkley,” Trace said warmly. “Enjoy your week-long hike. And thanks for your discretion in all of this.”
He nodded, waved goodbye, and disappeared outside.
“I still don’t understand what is happening,” I said.
Derek patted me on the back and removed his helmet, shaking out his blond hair. “Remember how you mentioned we all need to take a vacation together, but our schedules haven’t lined up? Well, Trace found a way to make them line up.”
Trace spread his chiseled arms around him. “Welcome to your new home for the next week!”
“Vacation?” I sputtered. “But I didn’t bring anything with me! I need deodorant, and my toothbrush, and fresh clothes…”
Foxy pulled a bag out of the supply crate. “That has all your toiletries, a week of clean underwear, and several outfits.”
I raised an eyebrow. “You raided my panty drawer?”
Foxy grinned mischievously. “I had orders from Commander Donaldson.”
I examined what else was in the crate. Packed within protective foam were steaks wrapped in butcher’s paper, sacks of potatoes and vegetables, and an entire case of wine.
“I wondered why you insisted on packing the supply crate yourselves!”
Foxy reached into the wine case and pulled out a bottle of Napa Merlot. “I’m just glad the wine survived. Nobody has ever dropped a case of glass bottles out of a smokejumper airplane before.”
Once it all sank it, I giggled with excitement. I threw my arms around Trace and hugged him close.
“I love it! I love all of it! This cabin is amazing!”
“There’s our girl,” Derek said behind me. “Knew she’d come around.”
I kissed Trace on the lips. “Kind of an abuse of power to use Forest Service equipment for your own private vacation, though.”
He rumbled with low laughter. “After five years running Redding Base, I don’t mind mending the rules just this once.”
“Excellent,” I said. “Not the rule-bending. The fact that now I have some excellent blackmail material over you if I ever want to get promoted to commander!”
“Ha ha, very funny,” Trace grumbled.
Foxy fumbled around in the kitchen, and then I heard a bottle pop. He quickly filled four stemmed glasses with wine, then awkwardly carried all four of them in his hands.
When each of us had a glass, Trace raised his high. “Happy anniversary, Haley Hinch.”
“Anniversary?” I asked.
“It has been five years since you arrived into our lives,” Derek explained. “It flew by, didn’t it?”
I frowned at them. “I hate to be the party pooper, but we got sent to Redding in the middle of summer. It’s October now. You’re late by a few months.”
“We couldn’t find time to get away two months ago,” Trace said. “So this will have to do. And if you don’t like it? I’ll mark your complaint in the mission report.”
I giggled at his fake threat. “Okay, okay, sir! I promise not to complain any more, sir! I’m happy to celebrate this, sir!”
“A guy could get used to that kind of obedience,” Foxy said, waggling his eyebrows.
I raised my glass. “Then I also propose a toast. Here’s to five years with three of the most amazing men I’ve ever known in my life. We’ve all grown a lot since coming to Redding Base, and I wouldn’t be the woman I am today if not for your guidance, love, and support.”
“And the sex,” Foxy chimed in. “Don’t forget about all the sex.”
“That’s what I meant by support,” I teased.
Derek glanced at the door. “How far away do you think Brinkley is?”
“Far enough,” Trace said, turning his gaze to me.
I bit my lip. “Far enough for what?”
Trace gulped down the rest of his wine, put his glass aside, and took me into his arms. His kiss tasted tart from the wine, and his hand slid down my back to cup my ass.
Derek was behind me moments later, unzipping my jumpsuit and pulling it off my shoulders.
“Fair warning: I wore my least-flattering pair of panties for the jump.”
Foxy began kissing my shoulder. “Then we’ll just have to remove them.”
We kissed, and touched, and moaned our way to the king-sized bed. By the time my clothes were fully removed I was soaking wet. Derek and Foxy sat on the edge of the bed, and Trace wrapped his arms around me from behind and pushed me to my knees before them.
“On second thought, I don’t think Brinkley is far enough away,” Trace growled into my ear. “We’re going to need to muffle your cries.”
Trace buried his cock inside my pussy from behind, which pulled a gasp of pleasure from my lips. Then he grabbed a handful of hair in his fist and shoved my face down onto Foxy’s erect dick, forcing me to take it into my mouth.
I loved it when Trace and the boys were rough with me. Using me for their sexy gratification. I moaned loudly around Foxy’s cock as Trace pushed me up and down on it while fucking me from behind.
He alternated between Foxy and Derek. Down onto one of their cocks, holding me until I could barely breathe, then yanking me up again. I had just enough time to catch my breath before he was shoving me down onto the next one, holding my head hard against his throbbing dick to the point that I was almost gagging on them. It drove me wild with lust, pleasuring them from both ends while a third watched.
They took turns fucking me doggy style and holding my head down on the other two. Soon I was screaming with pleasure in the cabin, knowing that nobody else was around for miles.
Trace fired up the grill afterwards to cook us a lunch of steak and asparagus. After showering, I changed into the first outfit Foxy had picked out for me: dark leggings and a long-sleeved plaid shirt, with my favorite pair of brown boots. Outside, the air was chill but pleasant, and the only smoke on the air was the smoke coming from Trace’s grill.
I breathed in the crisp mountain air and sighed. “I can’t believe you surprised me for our five year anniversary.”
Foxy handed me another glass of wine. He was wearing that silly grin he always had after sex, like he knew a secret nobody else had learned. “We wanted to show you how much we care about you, Haley.”
“And how wonderful our… relationship is,” Derek added. “No matter how unorthodox it may be.”
I kissed him gently on the lips. “I never knew I could be so happy. Thank you. I wouldn’t change anything for the world.”
Trace cleared his throat while manning the grill. “You wouldn’t change anything?”
I frowned. “What do you mean?”
He put down the grill tongs and crossed his arms over his massive chest. “I’ve been thinking…”
“We have been thinking,” Foxy added.
“…about what you said back in June. About maybe wanting a family in the future.”
I tensed. I remembered that conversation because it had been so tense. It was almost an argument, and then none of us had discussed it again.
“I told you I want to start a family someday,” I said carefully. “But you said it would be impossible to make it work without disrupting our situation at Redding Base.”
“I did say that,” Trace admitted. “It was a stupid knee-jerk reaction. I’ve given it a lot since then…”
“We have given it a lot of thought,” Foxy corrected.
“…and we think we can make it work,” Trace said. “You wouldn’t be able to jump while you’re pregnant, obviously, but we could rotate you over in the strategic command position. You could help coordinate all our forces on the ground during missions. Planning the best handline points, monitoring fire spread data, organizing manpower depending on when the wind shifts.”
I poked Trace in the chest. “You just want someone to take your place so you can start jumping more often!”
“I’ll admit, that’s maybe ten percent of my reasoning,” he said with a small smile. “But it’s a lot more than that, Haley. I want you to be happy. And I want to have a family with you.”
“We want to have a family with you,” Derek said, placing a hand on my back. “All of us. Together.”
It was a desire I had shoved deep into the back of my head since we discussed it in June. But now they were saying they wanted the same thing as me. To have children. To start a family.
Tears shimmered at the edges of my vision.
“I think that’s a yes,” Foxy said.
All I could do was nod my head. The three of them wrapped their arms around me in a group hug, and held me together for a long while.
“The steak is going to burn,” I whispered into Trace’s chest.
“Fuck the steak.”
“Woah, hey now, let’s not go too far,” Foxy protested. “We can take turns hugging you and make sure the steaks don’t burn. Those aren’t mutually exclusive.”
I wiped my eyes with my palm and smiled. “Assuming we do this, I want to start jumping again as soon as I get back from maternity leave.”
“We’ve actually got to get you pregnant first,” Derek said with a smile.
“I’m serious,” I insisted. “I don’t want to be a mother if it means giving up my smokejumper position.”
Trace kissed me on the cheek, stealing my tears away. “I’m in charge of Redding Base. I’ll make sure of it.”
I went into the cabin to get my bag of toiletries, which contained my birth control packet. I carried it outside as Trace was removing the steaks and asparagus from the grill and placing them on plates.
Then I tossed my birth control into the fire. The plastic curled up at the edges, and the foil containing the pills crinkled and hissed.
“If we’re going to do this, then there’s no time like the present,” I said with a laugh. There were still tears in my eyes.
“Hold your horses, babe,” Foxy said while taking a plate of food. “We need our strength first. It’s going to be a long week. We need to fuel up if we’re going to put a baby in you.”
“And believe us,” Derek said with a confident blue gaze. “That’s one mission objective we’re going to fulfill.”
We laughed on the front porch of the cabin while eating our food.
If you enjoyed this story, check out this other Cassie Cole romance: THE NAUGHTY LIST!
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No matter how handsome and flirty they may be.
Yet when my promotion puts me in charge of the three of them?
That policy is going to be awfully hard to follow.
Liam, the chestnut-haired boy next door I've flirted with for five years--and who is finally single.
Arthur, the suave French accountant who pronounces my name like it's an expensive wine.
Robbie, the awkward computer nerd whose chiseled body and sleeve tattoos hint at a hidden life.
The four of us have to finish our big project by Christmas.
Which means my gorgeous employees are totally off-limits.
But that just makes our professional relationship even more tantalizing.
Especially as we start working long hours in the office.
With our careers on the line, can we ignore the growing attraction between us?
Or will we all end up on Santa's naughty list?