Burning Truth

an excerpt

FUNDS TO BE RAISED FOR BRIDGE REPAIRS; FIREFIGHTERS BAND TOGETHER FOR CHARITY CALENDAR



by Kent Crandall





White Pine, NY. After a grueling winter that saw White Pine buried under mounds of snow and battered by numerous storms, the Adirondack region is finally due for more seasonal weather. Not only has warmth returned to the mountains, but it's also going to get a lot hotter, courtesy of the men of the White Pine Fire Department.

"It's for charity, the only ones who benefit from this are the people who buy the calendar and/or cross over the Paddy Rodgers Memorial Bridge. In White Pine, that encompasses everybody," said Chief Devon O'Connell, referencing the calendar he and his fellow firemen will be posing for. To help fill out twelve months, a few men from nearby Honor Hills will join in. Proceeds are going toward repairs of the steel expanse that links the two villages.

When asked which of his crew of studly firefighters would be taking their shirts off and posing for the calendar, the Chief was noticeably evasive. "I know I'm January, leading the troops, but that's all I can say. We've got a few surprises up our sleeves, but all else I'll say is that it's the ideal way to honor a great man. Paddy Rodgers was the heart of this town. It's one thing to name the bridge after him, it's another to maintain its upkeep."

The record snowfall and high winds that swooped through the mountains has contributed to the serious erosion to the carriage of the sixty-year-old trestle, once named the Memorial Bridge but renamed last year ago in honor of the fire chief who died in the line of duty. At one time, his son Trent was a member of the brotherhood, until leaving town. Could he be making a return for a good cause?

"Trent thinks it's a wonderful and worthwhile project, so he told me during our last phone call," spoke Trudy Rodgers, mother and widow. "I'm sure he would participate if he could but he and Angel are currently working that deadly brush fire out in Arizona as part of a massive team of dedicated firemen." Angel Montero, who briefly worked for the department, is Trent's lover.

As speculation builds about other participants, this reporter, who has covered the bravery and off-duty antics of this fire department for years, has a few insights. No doubt young stud Austin Walker will be among them, as will Nick Lynch, the handsome firefighter who came to White Pine last fall. Will the chief's son, Tucker, formerly of the rock due Tuck & Tumble, help out? And who among those at Honor Hills will make the cut? Surely Chief Alex Silva will be among them, as will his burly son, Joey, a one-time interim chief here in town.

Coming to White Pine to photograph these men will be celebrated international photojournalist Ellis Van Pelt, who has had photography shows in both New York and L.A, as well as on the continent. When reached for comment about why he would take on a project in such a remote part of the state, he answered, "It's for a good cause. And because Tucker asked me."

Digging deeper, this reporter went to Tucker O'Connell himself for an explanation. "I knew Ellis during my singing career in L.A. He's an extremely generous man, both with his time and his talent. We are fortunate he is coming to White Pine." Could there be more to this subplot neither man is revealing? Does Tucker's lover, Austin, have to put out another fire?

Stay tuned to the Gazette for updates on what will prove to be a hot time. The location of the photo shoot has not been revealed, so we will all have to wait until the calendar goes on sale. Have you pre-ordered? This reporter has, because nothing says sexy like a bunch of shirtless firemen, and that's the burning truth.







Part One



The Lies They Tell



Chapter One

Trent

He stole a sideways glance at the man behind the wheel of the sleek black Porsche and his heart fluttered. He couldn't believe how much in love he was, fully, madly, deeply, with their future filled with as much promise of this spring day, where nature bloomed and the jagged mountains of the Adirondacks stretched teasingly toward an azure sky. Twenty-seven year old, white blond haired Trent Rodgers felt like he too could touch the sky, thinking there was nothing he couldn't accomplish as long as this sexy, virile, cologne-scented specimen of a man was at his side.

"Stop staring at me," Angel Montero said.

"Why? You're beautiful."

"Just keep your eyes on the road."

"You're the one driving, which means I get to simply appreciate the scenery."

"Good, then look at the world around you. It's lovely country."

"I know that, I grew up here. Which means I know what it looks like."

"You also know what I look like, in both the light of day and under cover of darkness."

Trent felt his crotch thicken at the mere mention of the nighttime. It was when Angel was at his sexiest, his heavy beard coated with dark stubble from the long day. He was also surprisingly tender as they curled up under the covers. Most nights, he made Trent feel alive when Angel's hard cock thrust inside him. Not that they were adverse to sharing their insatiable affections during waking hours, but at night there lay this sense that only they existed in this world. When a sweaty, hairy Angel reached the rush of climax, Trent could almost feel the spin of the earth, as though it were shifting on its axis just for him. If they weren't on a self-imposed deadline, Trent might suggest they pull over at one of the rest stops and seek some privacy within the deep woods. He had the overwhelming urge to suck his Angel dry.

"Later," Angel said, as though reading his mind. "For now, your mother awaits us."

Nothing killed sexual desire more than the mention of a parent. Still, Trent begged to differ. "She doesn't even know we're coming to White Pine."

"I'm sure she does, she's a mother and so that means she's got intuition about her kid."

"Angel Montero, did you phone her and tell her we were coming?"

He shook his head, and even though his dark eyes were hidden behind slick shades, Trent knew the man he loved was telling the truth. So he settled back in his seat as the car zoomed on wicked curves that took them further up the mountains. A road sign indicated they were within three miles of the Village of Honor Hills, which meant White Pine, his home for the first twenty-six years of his life, a memory for the past year, neared.

All around them nature had come alive after the brutal winter, the trees alive with expectant buds, the exposed rocks that formed a wall on either side of the road gleaming with the sheen of a just passed rain, baking now in the sun. The Adirondacks of Upstate New York certainly saw their fair share of snow and ice during what for most would be considered an endless winter, but when the warmer temperatures clung and the stifling hot summer months loomed, experience had taught Trent there was no nicer region in the world.

It was hard to wrap his mind around, but he was finally headed home.

He and Angel had left town last year after realizing their love for each other. Angel was a man who preferred a transient life, shuffling from job to job, one fire station to another, set on seeing the United States one village at a time, one road at a time. For Trent, still reeling from the fiery, tragic death of his father, Fire Chief Paddy Rodgers, convincing him to join Angel on his adventure had been as simple as asking him. Their passion had been in its infancy, the road not the only part of their lives to explore. Since then they seen much, loved much, worked, lived, cruising the back roads of the country in this sexy Porsche, making continual love at roadside motels and guest houses and in the showers at whatever fire station happened to employ them. But circumstance had brought Trent back home to White Pine, and he was forever grateful not to be doing it alone.

Trudy Rodgers, his mother, was in the hospital.

"You're nervous," Angel said.

Trent stared forward, his blue eyes hidden behind sunglasses. While the harsh glare from the sun was strong and the sky was deep blue in color, the temperatures were only in the low fifties, not warm enough to take the roof down on the sporty vehicle. How Trent had loved when they rode the currents of the wind, caution not the only thing thrown to it. Angel was right, it was his nerves that traveled with him, because as much as he had come to deal with not having his father in his life, the idea of losing his mother too--he had no siblings--left Trent adrift.

"You know me so well," Trent said.

"Look, Trent, she just took a fall--she's going to be fine. Not like she's...sick."

Trent nodded, thinking about that morning in Arizona when his mother called. She didn't sound like herself, her voice groggy, as though she were speaking through a cloth. Turned out it was a result of the painkillers the doctors at White Pine Medical Center had given her. She then explained that she had taken a spill on a patch of black ice in her driveway and gone down hard, which left her with a broken leg and a mild concussion.

It had taken less than one minute for Trent to decide they were headed back to White Pine, and now here they were, a week later, just about to cross over the iron expanse of the Paddy Rodgers Memorial Bridge, named in honor of his late father. The irony didn't escape him that to return home and embrace his mother he first had to reopen the wound of his father's passing, and his own responsibility in causing it. Of course most of his co-workers and friends had assured him there was nothing different he could have done. The deadly fire at the Lucky Scent factory would have claimed Trent also had not Paddy acted as he had. Life was fragile, tenuous, and manmade, not unlike the scenic bridge. As the Porsche soared toward the entrance of the bridge, he could see the metal trestle rusted orange in places, noticed the tarmac was pockmarked and bumpy. It could do with a few repairs.

"Ready?" Angel asked.

Even had Trent said no, there was no stopping them as the car shot forth across the wide expanse, the canyon below opening to them, the waters of the Iroquois River flowing more than two hundred feet down. It was a breath-taking sight and Trent found his heart thrumming with a familiar excitement. Damn but it was good to be home, and in seconds, he was, the road sign for White Pine announcing their arrival within the isolated village. They drove past Sally's Dive, the Highway 50 Motel, and Shiner's Diner, all White Pine staples. Trent directed Angel along the streets until they reached the block-like structure known as the medical center. Not quite a hospital, but for the needs of this little village, it did in a pinch.

Angel slid into an available parking slot and the two men unfolded themselves from the tight confines of the compact car. Angel was six foot, Trent just an inch shorter, but both men were built from solid frames, their jobs as firemen keeping them in top shape, and as such they were grateful after the long drive today to finally be able to get out and stretch.

Trent started toward the main entrance, Angel hovering back against the trunk of the car, the sun glinting off the windshield. He looked ready to tan himself, not that he needed it with his dark, mocha-colored skin. With a sharp intake of breath, Trent still couldn't believe this sexy man was the center of his life. But he was, and if so, why then was he hanging back?

"Aren't you coming with me?"

"You say hello first, I'll come up in a few minutes."

Trent walked back across the lot, sliding his hand into Angel's. He tightened his hold, as though he were never intending to let go. Figuratively, he wasn't. With his other hand, he set it on Angel's shoulder, rubbing it up and down his muscled arm. He leaned in and kissed him, the taste of his dark goatee like chocolate, but that's because they had stopped for a snack about an hour ago. Licking at his lips, Trent smiled.

"Yum, Snickers really does satisfy," he said.

Angel slipped a wandering hand down and stroked Trent's crotch until it began to grow hard inside his jeans. Neither man cared at the moment who witnessed what, but fortunately at two in the afternoon of this sunlit spring day there wasn't much activity going on in the parking lot. "I'll show you what true satisfaction is."

"You always do," Trent said, "but not now. Last thing I need is to walk into my mother's room with a raging hard-on. All I want coming with me is you."

"You sure?" Angel asked, a smile crossing his lips.

"Never more," Trent said.

It was an exchange they had come to use whenever one of them doubted the words of the other, code to let them know there was no more debate. So Trent headed back toward the main entrance, Angel at his side. At the admissions desk they asked about Trudy Rodgers and were directed to the third floor, Room 312. Trent thanked the woman behind the desk, surprised that he hadn't recognized her. Had he been gone that long, or did White Pine change that quickly? It seemed unlikely, but if he could go through a major life change, he supposed it was inevitable that the place he'd once called home could move on too.

Did that include his mother? He feared she would look...old, fragile.

Only one way to find out, his mind nagged him, and so they headed into the elevator and quickly made their way to the third floor and eventually his mother's room. The door was open but he knocked anyway, since the television was on, the sound loud. Was his mother's hearing going as well? He steeled himself for what he was about to see, squeezing Angel's hand again as he did.

"Just go, I'll be right behind you."

Trent didn't argue this time. He knocked again, and then entered.

"Hi, Ma," he said, peering around the corner of the room.

The older woman in the bed had been staring at the television, some mindless talk show, and when she turned it was like years melted away from her wrinkled face, the smile gracing her features just as Trent had pictured, remembered. Her right leg being locked in traction, keeping her immobile had not been part of the image.

"Trent..." she said. "I knew you'd show your face sooner rather than later."

Behind him, Trent felt Angel's presence. "Told you she'd know. Mother's intuition."

"And my Angel," she said, her smile widening even further. "Oh thank the good Lord, my boys are home."