Nothing beats getting out of the concrete jungle and into the quiet of the forest. Website designer Scottie Ness is taking a well-deserved vacation from the grindstone, and he plans to spend it in the solitude of Washington’s Gifford Pinchot National Forest around Mt. Adams. He’s prepared for everything—except the lightning storm that traps him in a wildfire.
The firefighter who rescues him sustains serious injuries and ends up in the hospital. Jax Quintero might be abrasive, but the guy saved his life, and Scottie wants to thank him. As they spend time together during Jax’s recovery and exploring the state’s landmarks when he’s released from the hospital, Scottie discovers there’s more to Jax than a smart-ass adrenaline junkie. Jax reassesses his opinion of Scottie as an arrogant city boy who has no business in the mountains. Though Jax’s wounds prevent them from taking things as far as they’d like for a while, they can’t deny the heat building between them—and this is one fire they don’t want to put out.
All About Eating in the Northwest
One of the best parts of traveling, even through books, is sampling the cuisine. Different areas in the US have distinctive dishes or foods that epitomize the region. I was born down south and a lot of my family are from there. Chicken and dumplings, chicken fried steak, grits, collard greens, boiled green peanuts, oranges… these are the foods of my early years. I moved to Washington as a young girl, and the menu changed.
If you like seafood, Washington is a great state to live in. My dad was an avid fisherman while I was growing up, and we had a steady diet of fish like salmon, steelhead, bass, blue gill, and trout. Of course, he batter dipped and fried quite a few of those, and there was always a side of hush puppies (leftover batter dumplings) so it wasn’t a complete change.
I grew up around ranches so fresh beef, pork, chicken and eggs often went from farm to table. Hunting is also a great source of fresh game like venison and elk. Fruit orchards are everywhere and apples—Washington’s “official” fruit—is one of the main crops. Peaches, cherries, and pears are also big. One of my favorite events was always the Cherry Fest. The Huckleberry Festival was also popular. Carnival rides, games and treats, many themed to the fruit name along with the usual cotton candy and caramel popcorn.
What do all of these things have in common? Fresh. If nothing else, Washington is known for great, natural food available nearly year round since our weather is fairly temperate for a northern state. Healthy dishes, alternative diets, macrobiotic lifestyle… it’s hugely popular here. A ‘food craze’ that has the potential to last. Jax wasn’t always into health food—he was a young guy at one time and we all know what they’re prone to stuffing in their gullets—but by the time he meets Scottie he’s already learned that eating natural food is best to fuel his body. He’s a dedicated fireman, and that means keeping in shape. That means good food made from great local ingredients. Fortunately for him, and those of us who live in Washington, there are a lot of stores specializing in health food. And even “regular” grocery stores tend to have a large organic selection.
“WHAT EXOTIC tropical locale are you going to spend your vacation drunk in?” Carter leaned back in his chair so he could see into Scottie’s cubicle. He smirked. “Or are you hitting the casinos in Vegas to make your fortune and leave all of us to toil away in the trenches alone?”
“Neither. Hiking and camping in the Gifford Pinchot around Mt. Adams.” Scottie adjusted a line of code, and the website header widened. “I’m all set to go in the morning.”
“Seriously? You have a week off in August, and you’re going to waste it trudging through the dirt and pine trees when you could be lounging on the beach somewhere?” Carter shook his head. “Wouldn’t catch me doing that. Aren’t there bears and cougars up there?”
Scottie shrugged one shoulder. “I might see a bear, if I’m lucky. Cougars are actually pretty shy.”
“You want to see a bear?”
“It’d make a great picture.” The website he was working on needed to be visually appealing on both computers and mobile devices, and he was having a hard time focusing. “It’s Friday. Don’t you have some reason to duck out and start the weekend early?”
“Nope. Miranda, Tark, and I are all going out for happy hour at Corrigan’s, but not until six. Don’t try to change the subject. You know you can take pictures at the beach, right? White sand, crystal blue water, and palm trees swaying in front of the setting sun.”
“Dime a dozen. I like living in Washington because we have so many places where I can take beautiful nature photos. Coastline, rivers, lakes, mountains, even the desert, all within a few hours’ drive. Besides, I’m still paying off my student loans. I don’t have money for expensive vacations.”
“Two words. Credit cards.”
Of course. Carter wore name-brand shoes with his fancy suits and never brought a lunch, preferring to order takeout. He’d graduated a year before Scottie, so it wasn’t like he made that much more money. “One word. Stupid.”
Carter rolled his eyes. “Whatever, man. When I take my week off next month, I’m going to Hawaii. Hotel on the beach, coconut drinks, and chicks in bikinis. Any women you come across in the campground will probably be covered in pitch and pine needles.”
“I’m not going to stay in the campgrounds. I’m hiking and camping off the trails, and for the most part, I won’t see any people at all.”
A look of horror crossed Carter’s face. “Seriously?”
He nodded. “I used to go camping with my family all the time growing up. We’d hike, fish, roast hot dogs and marshmallows over the fire. It’s peaceful.”
“Whatever, man. When you get munched on by a bear, can I get your chair?”
It was Scottie’s turn to roll his eyes. “I’m not going to get eaten by a bear, and your chair is the same as mine. Why would you want it?”
“I spilled fish sauce on mine earlier this week, and now it smells funny.”
“Well you can’t have my chair, and I’ll notice if there’s a fish funk on mine when I get back, so don’t even try to switch them. Don’t you have a project to finish? I have to get this done before I leave.”
“Fine, fine.” Carter rolled back to his desk. “Have fun communing with wildlife.”
The number one question folks ask Alicia when she shares she's a MM romance author: "Why gay fiction? Why write men when you're a woman?" and her answer is: "Why the hell not!" Alicia Nordwell is one of those not so rare creatures, a reader turned writer. Striving to find an interesting story one day, she decided to write what she wanted instead. Then the voices started... Yep, not only does she talk about herself in the third person for bios, she has voices in her head constantly clamoring to get out. Fortunately, with the encouragement of her family and friends, she decided for her own sanity to keep writing.
Now you can find her stories both free and e-published. When she’s not on the computer typing away, she's a wife and a mom of two in the dreary, yet ideal for her redhead complexion, Pacific Northwest. Except for when she disappears into one of the many worlds in her head, of course! She can also be found quite often at her blog, where she has a lot of free fiction for readers to enjoy or working hard, or maybe hardly working, as an admin on GayAuthors.org under her online nickname, Cia.
Cia’s Stories: http://www.ciasstories.blogspot.com
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