Make Me Want (Men of Gold Mountain)

By: Rebecca Brooks

For Robert

Chapter One

Tyler McCall drove the last four hundred miles without stopping. Not because he didn’t want a break to stretch his legs, work out the crick in his neck, or see some of the scenery he was passing. But because he did.

Those were things the old Tyler might have done, taking his time to enjoy the California coast, the Oregon cliffs along the water, the views through Washington as he drove to the mountains he was going to call home for the next six weeks. The new Tyler, the one fleeing L.A., didn’t deserve such pleasures anymore.

If Scott were here, he’d have been bouncing out of his seat, eager to see San Francisco, Portland, spend the night in Seattle and walk along the water, marveling at the mountains across the bay. Scotty had never left California—unlike Tyler, who’d traveled way too much. He still remembered snippets of Seattle from the months he’d lived there before his mother snatched him out of school and whisked them to— He couldn’t remember where they’d gone next. Chicago? It was all a blur.

But Scott wasn’t here. That was the problem.

So Tyler pushed on.

It was dark by the time he turned onto the long, winding road that climbed into Gold Mountain. Had it been daylight, he would have seen the iconic peak still capped with snow in July. A hiker’s dream in the sunny, dry valleys. A wildland firefighter’s nightmare.

Tyler switched on his high beams and coaxed the engine up the turns. He needed to sleep. He needed a shave. He needed something to eat besides sticky-sweet granola bars, their wrappers littering his truck.

Most of all, he needed a whiskey. Neat. A double pour—hell, make it the whole bottle. Scott’s drink. He couldn’t decide whether coming to Gold Mountain was supposed to make him feel better, or worse. If it was supposed to help him move on from what had happened to Scotty…or make sure he never forgot.

He had the address of his rental house programmed into his GPS, but based on the description and the hastiness with which he’d put down his deposit, he wasn’t expecting much. Certainly not a welcome basket or a home-cooked meal. In L.A. he could stop on any corner but this town had clearly shut down for the night. Everything he’d looked into said Gold Mountain had developed a lot recently, but the one grocery store he passed was closed and he didn’t think he could face another gas station dinner.

Up ahead, though, was a parking lot for a place called Mackenzie’s, and on Saturday night, it was full. He slowed down. The building was wood, he noticed reflexively. No metal roof, no heat resistant paint. No protection when the wildfire risk this summer was the highest it had ever been.

“Stop worrying so goddamn much,” Tyler said aloud as he pulled into the lot—the first words he’d spoken since gassing up in Eugene. It’s what Scott would have said to him.

Then again, maybe Scott should have paid more attention to danger. It was a mistake Tyler wasn’t going to make again.

“So, where you from?” The bartender’s name was Mack. She said she owned the place along with her boyfriend, Connor, who waved from the open kitchen and looked more like an acrobat, he was juggling so many pans.

Tyler had made a beeline for an empty seat on the edge of the bar where he could watch the action without anyone noticing him, but not two sips into that honeyed burn and here she was, making conversation with the newcomer even on a busy night.

Or trying to. He wasn’t exactly pulling his weight.

“California,” he said, swirling the liquid in his glass so he didn’t have to look up.

“That’s a long way.”

“Yep.” He took another sip.

She pulled the taps on two draughts at once. “Up here hiking for a few days?”


He could practically feel Scott beside him, rolling his eyes. His first night in this town where he was going to spend the next six weeks of his life and he was already turning himself into some kind of pariah. He should say where he was from, why he was here, ask about the local attractions. He should make a fucking effort.

“I’m here for the summer,” he said, just as Mack was giving up on him and turning toward another customer. “Work.”

“Nice,” she said, pocketing a tip. “Like I said, I’m Mack. Come around anytime.”

“I’m Tyler,” he said. “I will.”

Smile, he told himself. It’s what non-assholes do.

When Tyler quit his job fighting wildfires in California, his boss and mentor Aidan said he wouldn’t tear up Tyler’s resignation letter if Tyler promised one thing. He could supervise the firebreak the Forest Service was putting in on the ridgeline above Gold Mountain, but only if he tried to enjoy it.