Dear Reader,

Back in December 2006, three climbers went missing on Mount Hood in Oregon. The story captivated many in the local Portland Metro area as well as the country. I wanted to know more about what might be going on up on the mountain so followed a link on a news article to a northwest climbing forum.

There I found posts written by volunteer mountain rescuers who were part of the rescue mission. As I read, my brain clicked into writer mode. After one particular post, a mountain rescue hero sprang to life in my imagination. As the rescue sadly turned into a recovery mission, random plot points evolved into a story idea that would become Rescued by the Magic of Christmas, published by Harlequin Romance in 2008.

Little did I know at the time, but that story would lead to others set on Mount Hood, including Snow-Kissed Reunion, a free on-line read at harlequin.com, and Christmas Magic on the Mountain, a 2010 Harlequin Romance that was a 2011 RITA® finalist. My November 2011 release from Harlequin Romance, Firefighter Under the Mistletoe, is the newest one.

The stories share the same setting, a fictional alpine-inspired town called Hood Hamlet, and characters, but each is stand-alone. RT Book Reviews, which gave my new release a 4 rating, saying: "Great chemistry between primary and secondary characters and a detailed rescue narrative bring this story to lifeMcClone revisits characters from previous novels without slowing the pace."

Firefighter Under the Mistletoe features heroine Leanne Thomas, a paramedic and volunteer mountain rescuer. The idea of a heroine who works and plays in the male-dominated arenas of firefighting and climbing intrigued me. But I couldn't figure out who would be the right man for her—a world renown alpinist, a geologist or other academic type, the list went on. I decided to do a little research to better understand Leanne and what she did for a living before deciding on a hero.

I spoke with a woman who volunteers with a mountain rescue group in Washington and another woman who is a paramedic in Oregon. Both were married men who did the same things they did—a mountain rescuer in the first instance and a firefighter in the second. Since the heroes in the previous books were mountain rescuers, I decided to go with firefighter as the hero.

I paged through the first two books to see if there were any firefighters up to the task. I found one, rookie Christian Welton, in a scene from Christmas Magic on the Mountain. He was not only the rookie at the fire station, but younger than Leanne and a rock climber. I thought I could have some fun with that! And I did.

Enjoy!

Melissa



Excerpt from Firefighter Under The Mistletoe

© Melissa McClone


Two days later, Leanne arrived at the Hood Hamlet Fire Station craving a sense of normalcy. No matter where she went in town yesterday on her day off, the rescue had been the topic of conversation. That annoyed her.

She entered the dining area. The scent of fresh brewed coffee greeted her. Paulson handed her a cup that she accepted gladly. The perfect way to start her shift. Both B and C shifts crowded around the table. A few volunteers, too.

"Finally," Marc O'Ryan, her medic partner, said. "We want to hear all about Welton's rescue."

Oh, no. Leanne swallowed a sigh. She looked at each of the faces in the room. Only Welton was missing.

Bummer. She'd wanted to see hear how Owen was doing. But she also wanted to see how Welton was faring. She'd thought about him lots yesterday. More than she would have expected.

"Before we hear about the rescue," the lieutenant announced, "let's get the morning briefing over with."

The exchange of information took less than five minutes. A new record.

"Now it's Paulson's and Thomas's turn," the lieutenant said.

Leanne wanted no part of this. "I'm going to let Paulson tell you what happened. I've got some stuff to do with the toy drive."

Every year the fire station put on a toy drive to help local families in the area who were in need. Leanne usually ended up in charge. Not that she minded. It was a great cause.

"Go on," Paulson said. "I don't mind telling the tale."

Leanne left him to entertain the captive audience. She preferred putting missions behind her, no matter the outcome, not dwelling on them. Nothing good came from rehashing things over and over again. Life didn't give do-overs. No matter how much a person might want to change what happened, they couldn't. Learn whatever lessons there were and move on.

She grabbed a pair of scissors and the fire station's toy drive supply box. She rolled out two large barrels from the back room into one of the apparatus bays. Additional drop-off bins around town might increase the number of donations. Right now things weren't looking so good. Only two new toys had been dropped off. One was from her.

She measured the barrels with the roll of red and white striped wrapping paper. If she worked fast, she could have these decorated before the rest of the station came out to check the vehicles. She kneeled on the cement.

"Thomas."

 Leanne recognized the voice immediately. Welton. She turned.

With an easy smile and bright eyes, Welton strode toward her in his uniform—a navy T-shirt and pants. His steel-toed shoes sounded against the pavement with a rhythmic clip. He moved with the grace of an athlete. Not bad for a guy who'd spent two nights in a snow cave. He'd shaved the stubble from his face. His light brown hair with an above the collar cut had been neatly styled. Quite a difference from his bad-boy look a couple days ago on the mountain.

Her heart went pitter-pat, a totally unexpected, unwelcome reaction. Okay, Welton was tough. He'd survived on the mountain and saved his cousin. That explained why her insides suddenly felt like goo.

"You're the last person I expected to see today, Rookie."

He stopped next to her. "Good morning, Thomas."

"Bet it feels like a great morning to you."

"Nothing like a comfy bed and a hot shower to make a person realize how good they have it."

"You're right about that." She lowered her gaze from his face. Uh-oh. She was eye level with his, um, pant's zipper. Heat rose up her neck. She faced the bins. "You missed the morning briefing."

"Chief put me on light duty and told me not to rush in."

Leanne bet it would be hard for Welton to watch the engine go out without him.

"He wants me to do some interviews here today," Welton continued. "Chief thought it might give the station and town a little PR."

She cut two large pieces from the wrapping paper. "Smart thinking. Hood Hamlet's been hurting with the drop in tourism. I've never seen so few donations to the toy drive."

"It's only the second of December."

"True, but usually we receive a lot of toys when the drive kicks off. If donations don't improve significantly, we won't have enough toys to match the number of requests we've received. There are a lot more needy families around here this year."

"No worries," Welton said. "All you need is a little Christmas magic."

Most of the old-timers around Hood Hamlet, and some of the not so old ones believed in Christmas magic. Leanne, not so much. Okay, not at all. She knew better than to put her faith in legends and fairy tales. Hard work and perseverance were the only things a person could count on. Even then life could change in an instant.

She returned the scissors to the supply box. "Oh, yeah, those barrels will be filled up with toys by the end of the week faster than I can say abracadabra."

"I never knew you were so cynical, Thomas."

"Not cynical," she countered. "Realistic."

"Being realistic isn't all that fun."

Welton's words didn't surprise her. She'd met his family at Timberline Lodge. Nice folks. Caring. Wealthy. He probably had never dealt with real disappointment his entire life. That was why he acted so carefree.

"Maybe not, but being realistic keeps you from crashing to earth as often." She positioned the wrapping paper around the first bin. "What the toy drive really needs is free publicity."

He held the paper against the barrel with his large hands. The hands of a climber with several small white scars and a larger one, as if he'd scraped off skin jamming his hand into a crack. "Let me help."

Welton moved closer. He smelled nothing like the mountain today. His fresh soap and water scent surrounded Leanne with intoxicating maleness.

"Thanks." As she taped the bright paper around the bin, warmth emanated from him like a space heater set on high. "Any word on Owen this morning?"

"He's with the doctors at the moment," Welton said. "My aunt's going to text me when he's out."

"Keep me posted on his condition, okay?"

"Uh, sure."

He turned the barrel, making it easier for her to tape. As she scooted closer, her left shoulder brushed his right leg.

Heat burst through her at the point of contact. Leanne tensed and moved away from him.

What was going on? They'd worked closely before out on calls, but she seemed hypersensitive to him this morning. Concern over his well-being from the rescue hadn't gone away yet. She added another piece of tape. "Finished with this one."

"It looks like a giant peppermint stick."

Leanne nodded. "All I need is ribbon and a boy."

"A boy?" The humor in Welton's eyes echoed in his voice. "Is that what you want Santa to bring you, Thomas?"

Her cheeks warmed. Being around him made her feel self-conscious, tongue-tied. So unlike herself. "I meant a bow."

"Boys are more fun," he teased.

She reached for the other piece of wrapping paper to cover the second barrel. "Except those who don't want a girlfriend for Christmas."

"Hey, I'm lots of fun."

"Not from where I'm standing."

"You're kneeling."

"Go bother someone else."

"You get that honor this morning, Thomas." He took the sheet out of her hands. "You tape. I hold."

Leanne preferred doing things on her own. Well, not climbing. A partner came in handy then. Still having an extra set of hands to wrap these barrels was…helpful. "Be careful, if you keep this up, you may find yourself on the committee."

He positioned the paper. "Committee?"

Leanne tore off a piece of tape. "The toy drive committee."

"There's a committee?"

"Me, myself and I." She taped the paper in place. "But I have lots of helpers."

"I'm more of a helper type than a committee person."

"Most guys are." Leanne placed the tape in the supply box. "If donations come in, I'll need a few strong men with trucks."

"Now it's men with trucks." An irresistibly charming grin lit up his face. "Santa's got his work cut out with you."

Leanne picked up the roll of red ribbon and wrapped it around the first barrel. "I'm actually pretty easy…"

Welton's eyebrows shot up.

"…where Santa is concerned," she finished.


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Contest!


Melissa wants to celebrate the release of Firefighter Under The Mistletoe with Newswire readers with the following contest!

To enter, visit Melissa's website and find the answer to this question:

What song did Melissa listen to while writing this book?

Then email us at staff@authorsoundrelations.com with the answer and be sure to include your full name and mailing address in the email.   Please also remember to mark the subject heading as 'FirefighterMistletoe'.

Do make sure you email your answers only to staff@authorsoundrelations.com or your entry will not be counted!

Four winners will be chosen and contacted via email shortly after November 26th.

1st Prize: $20 gift card to Amazon or BN.com (winner's choice).
2nd Prize: $15 gift card to Amazon or BN.com (winner's choice).
3rd Prize: $10 gift card to Amazon or BN.com (winner's choice).
4th Prize: $5 gift card to Amazon.

Please include your preference of which gift card you'd like. Gift certificates will be sent via email.

Good luck!

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