Ericka Scott



Cobblestone Press • September 2008
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Danger and unexpected desire will leave them both breathless.

Unless he can come up with $500,000, Jason Swan will lose his hot air balloon ride company to his ex-wife, a woman he should have never married, especially since he has a penchant for men. Big, virile men like Michael O’Shaunnesy.

Michael O’Shaunnesy is on the run from his ex-lover when his car breaks down in Napa Valley. To escape, he steals Jason’s balloon. Miles above the ground, the two men are beset by danger … and desire. When disaster strikes, the only way out is down.

Read an Excerpt

“Oh, baby,” Michael said on a sigh. “That was the best I’ve ever had.”

“Yeah, I bet you say that to all the boys,” Josh teased with a grin.

“No.” Michael looked unduly serious. “I really mean it.”

Josh didn’t know how to answer, but he didn’t have a chance to think about it long.

“What’s that noise?” Michael asked.

A faint drone sounded in the distance.

“An airplane.” Josh turned his head to locate the source of the sound. “They usually don’t fly this low. Maybe we’re close to an airfield. If we are, we can put down there and perhaps charter you a flight to Canada.”

“Cool,” Michael said, his voice muffled as he pulled on his T-shirt.

Josh quickly dressed before retrieving a shiny metal tube from the wicker basket. He pulled out a navigational map, spread it on the floor, and used his finger to trace the balloon’s location. “That’s odd. The nearest airfield is about fifty miles away.” He looked up and tried to locate the airplane. With a start, he realized the aircraft was much closer than he’d thought, and it seemed to be headed right for them.

“Shit.” Michael backed up. “It’s Kyle’s private plane. I recognize the colors. Jesus. I think he means to kill me. The fucker is crazy.”

“Well, we’re not dead yet.” Josh grabbed the maneuvering vent and pulled it open. The balloon sank rapidly.

“What are you doing?” Michael shouted, still staring in horror at the plane’s approach.

“We’re going to get down into the treetops; the pilot would be crazy to follow us.”

There was one thing Michael didn’t doubt—Kyle Lombardi was insane. And knowing Kyle, he was sitting in the pilot’s seat, hunting.

It was bad enough that Kyle was going to kill him, but he couldn’t let Josh get caught in the crossfire.

“You have to go.” Michael pulled on Josh’s arm. “I don’t know how you got here, but you’ve got to go the same way you came.”

“I’m not leaving.”

“Your precious balloon is replaceable.” Michael wanted to shake Josh until sense rattled around in his stubborn skull. Something had happened the minute he’d walked onto that field this morning. He hadn’t wanted to think about it too much or too deeply. But now, looking at Josh’s pale face, he had to face facts. He’d fallen in love with this man.

Michael had never felt anything but lust for anyone before. Love was for other people, and love at first sight nothing but an elusive urban myth. Until today; until now. There wasn’t anything all that special about Josh. Michael had seen men prettier, hunkier, and more vivacious. But none of them had affected him the way Josh did. Looking at Josh, he felt as if he’d come home.

And he couldn’t let a madman kill Josh.

He looked over the side of the basket. If he jumped, perhaps the plane would leave Josh and his beautiful balloon alone. A wave of vertigo hit him, and he lost his balance, falling heavily against the hard floor.

“You okay?” Josh’s warm breath caressed his cheek.

Michael couldn’t move his head for fear of vomiting. “You’ve got to get out of here. Leave me. Can you jump? Lower yourself with a rope or something.”

“Leave you?” Josh protested. “Not a chance. We’re sinking as fast as possible, and so far, the plane just seems to be playing with us. Once we get to the ground—”

Michael looked up at Josh, preparing to argue to the death, when he saw the black threads stretched across the balloon’s flight path.

Power lines! Shit. Michael didn’t know crap about flying, but he did know one thing. Hot air balloons and electricity didn’t mix.

Without thinking, Michael hauled Josh up and dragged him to the other side of the gondola. He couldn’t look down without the risk of vertigo ruining his one chance to get Josh out. Without a word, he simply lifted and heaved Josh over the side. He glanced over his shoulder. The airplane had dropped to the balloon’s altitude and headed in a collision course with the basket. Michael could have sworn he even saw the flash of Kyle’s whitened teeth through the windshield. The damn bastard was smiling. Well, he’d give him something to smile about.

Taking a deep breath, Michael thumbed open the propane valve to infuse hot air into the balloon. He counted to ten and then, at the last possible second before the collision, dived over the side of the basket.