UPDATE: The winner is…Rebecca Merz!
Series lovers, I have one for you! Love a lot of badass alpha heroes, fast action, great sex, and humor? Well, that’s what I deliver in Montana Bounty Hunters! And another installment is set to drop next Tuesday!
Are you caught up? No? Then click on a cover to pick up your copy of one of these fast-paced stories and begin your blitz-read through the series, because next Tuesday Animal is coming!
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Tell me whether you’ve ready any of the series, and if you have, which book are you on?
Excerpt from Animal…
Animal tuned out the crackling, thudding sounds of his team members moving through the forest.
On day three after he’d joined the hunt, he wasn’t regretting his decision to give MBH a try. He’d been unwilling to make any long-term promises. Hadn’t signed a contract or filled out a W-9. Not yet, anyway. When Fetch had described what Tibbets had done, and then talked about the hunters who were already on his trail, Animal had felt a stirring of interest. Manhunts were something he was familiar with. So, he wasn’t hunting a high-dollar target through the Hindu Kush mountains. Wasn’t dropping into some walled compound to sweep a house in the dead of night.
Still, this felt familiar. Moving through the bushes. Tracking a target. Looking for campfires, footprints, signs Tibbets had stopped to piss or shit. That morning, they’d found a butchered deer. Most of the carcass had been left for scavengers. So, it hadn’t been left by a game hunter. He’d taken a portion of a haunch, had roasted it over a quickly built fire, and had eaten as much as he could before moving on.
Looked like Tibbets was feeling pretty sure he’d slipped the noose. He hadn’t even bothered to try to bury the evidence he’d been there.
The first afternoon, Animal had ridden along with Carly and Reaper. They’d shown him the warrant and pictures of Tibbets and his family. They’d canvassed businesses in Olney—gun shops, grocers, gas stations, but no one recalled seeing him or his cousin Murray.
That evening, they headed to Tibbets’s favorite haunt again. The women sat at the long polished bar, chatting up the bartender and the waitresses. Dagger and Mace played pool with two plugged-in and gossipy locals. Reaper and Animal sat at a table, watching the doors. But none of them were getting any bites.
About an hour into their surveillance, Hook and Cochise arrived.
Hook slapped a map on the table. “Found the parcel his family owns. It sits on a creek.”
“’Bout damn time,” Reaper had muttered.
The next morning, they’d geared up and surrounded a small, ratty camper trailer. Tibbets had been there recently but was now gone. After tearing through his belongings, searching for clues where he might have gone next, they bagged up dirty clothes for Mace’s dog Taco to scent on.
The moment Taco lowered his nose to the ground, following Tibbets’s trail from the camper’s metal steps, they’d realized the man had headed straight into the woods, afoot, rather than driving out.
They’d left Dagger, Lacey, and Cochise behind to watch for any movement in town, to keep an eye any one of his relatives who looked ready to head north with supplies to help him out, but the rest of the team grabbed their gear from their vehicles and began tracking him into Flathead National Forest.
Animal didn’t mind the rough conditions. He was accustomed to long marches and sleeping on the ground. None of the hunters, even Carly Stenberg, complained about the conditions, even after they’d endured a chilly rain the previous day. They’d dried their clothes beside a fire last night, reasonably assured they were still a day’s hike from catching up to Tibbets. Conversation had flowed around him, but he hadn’t felt the need to try to contribute.
This was a tight, well-trained crew, and they knew each other well. But they seemed to understand he wasn’t the chatty type. He rather liked the fact they let him be.
They came to the edge of the woods. A large meadow stretched before them, mountains in the background. The meadow was broken on one side by ridges of exposed rock.
“We got company,” Reaper said quietly. They all held back, remaining hidden by the brush. Reaper lifted an arm and pointed.
Animal pulled out his tactical telescope and followed Reaper’s direction, at last spotting a slender figure standing beside an outcropping. Not their mark. A woman. She stood in front of a tripod and peered into a camera. She had wheat-colored hair drawn back into a messy braid. She wore a red plaid shirt and a khaki vest over blue jeans and boots.
Suddenly, she jerked back her head, giving him a glimpse of her profile. Her eyebrows were lowered, her mouth dropping as she stared down the hill.
He turned his telescope toward whatever had caught her attention and immediately understood her concern.
A baby black bear ambled into the clearing, heading upward toward her location.
“Where’s mama?” he whispered.
As though answering his question, a loud bellow sounded from the forest farther down the tree line. A bear ran out, huffing and bellowing, heading toward the woman.
He didn’t have even a millisecond to think through a better plan. Animal dumped his pack and ran into the clearing, tearing at his shirt. When he’d ripped off the buttons down the front, he flapped the edges, trying to make himself look bigger. “Ha! Ha!” he yelled as loud as he could to draw the bear’s attention away from the woman.
Mama Bear bounced on her front paws and spun toward him.
“Don’t shoot unless you have to!” Animal tossed over his shoulder to Reaper.
“Don’t get in my line of fire!” Reaper shouted back.
“Don’t shoot her!” the woman screamed.
“You, shut up!” Animal yelled, still running, still flapping.
The bear’s head moved from Animal to Reaper behind him, and again to the woman, likely trying to decide who was the biggest danger to her cub.
The baby bear squalled and changed direction, running for his mama.
Just when Animal feared the bear would charge, she spun and ran into the woods, her cub running right behind her.
Animal halted, breathing hard. He gave another flap of his shirt. “Ha! Ha!” he shouted, hoping she’d been startled bad enough not to turn around.
Then he heard a whirring sound, coming from up the rise. He turned his head toward the woman. The sound came from her camera. Animal gave her a fierce glare then began to stalk up the rise.
When he reached her, she straightened and flashed him a wide smile. “Thanks for that. Thought for a second there I was going to be lunch.”
“What the hell!” he bellowed, anger shot through him. Didn’t she have a clue how close to being “lunch” he’d been, trying to rescue her? And all she’d thought about was taking her damn pictures?
Her eyebrows shot upward, and she stood still.
Behind him, he heard more of his team stomping up the hill. He should have turned and walked away. Should have let Reaper handle getting her packed up and off the mountain. Away from him.
Instead, anger vibrated through him. He glanced at the gear strewn around her feet. “Who the hell comes out to the wilderness without a goddamn gun?”
“The only shots I plan to take are with my camera,” she said icily, lifting her chin.
He ground his teeth as his face heated.
“Wish I’d been shooting video though,” she said. “The footage would’ve gone viral. Do you chase bears often?”
He narrowed his gaze, not liking her smartass tone. Did she know how close he was to exploding? Men he’d fought with knew better than to talk to him when he was like this.
A throat cleared beside him. “Ma’am, you need to pack up,” Reaper said, his voice even.
Her hazel gaze darted from Animal to the man standing beside him. “Why? She’s gone.”
“The bear’s the least of what you have to worry about out here.”
She seemed to finally take in the fact that she was surrounded by five well-armed strangers. “Were you tracking her?”
“We don’t hunt bear,” Reaper said, his voice lowering.
Animal felt a little of his steam begin to cool hearing Reaper’s clipped delivery. Someone else here got the fact she had no business out here. Alone.
“Well, I thank you for your advice, but I have no intention of packing up and leaving. It took me three days to get here. I’ll be setting up camp.” She bent and swiped at the straps of her backpack then reached inside it. She pulled out a small 9mm Colt Defender but had the good sense to point it away from the group. “I’m not unarmed.”
Animal grunted. “Think that would have stopped her? If you didn’t hit her in the head, you’d just piss her off.”
“Well, that’s not your worry, is it?” Again, she lifted her chin.
Damn, if his body didn’t go hard. The way she locked her gaze with his, she didn’t show any fear. Foolish was what she was. He could get around her gun and have her on the ground in the time it took her to realize he’d even moved.
“This is no place for a woman on her own, not today,” Reaper said.
Her back stiffened. Her cheeks paled just a bit.
“We’re not what you should fear,” Carly said quickly, stepping past Animal and Reaper. “It’s gonna take a few minutes for these two get over the adrenaline rush to explain. I’m Carly,” she said, reaching out her hand.
The woman passed the gun from her right to her left and shook Carly’s hand. “Carly, it’s nice to meet you.” She didn’t smile, and her gaze kept scanning the rest of them, like she expected them to make a move against her.
Animal drew a deep breath. He knew what she saw. He wasn’t into scaring women. Happened naturally, often enough. He set his hands on his hips and glanced at the ground while he waited for the tension in his body to ease.
“We’re bounty hunters,” Carly said. “We’ve been tracking a dangerous felon. He’s in this area. It’s not safe for you to be here.”
As Animal glanced up again, the woman’s frown deepened. “I’ve been here a day. Haven’t seen anyone but you. How do I even know you’re telling me the truth?”
Carly glanced back at Reaper. “Show her the warrant.”
Reaper reached into his pack and pulled out the folder. He passed it to the woman.
She held the folder in the crook of the arm and thumbed through the documents. “Okay, so I believe you’re what you say. But since you’re on his trail and he’s not here, why do I have to leave? Obviously, he’s already passed my location.”
“Because there are going to be more teams out here, combing the area. We’ve got the jump on everyone else. When other teams arrive, our skip might double back to evade them. No place in this wilderness is safe.”
Her lips thinned then twisted. Her gaze went back to Animal. “Dammit, I just got here.”
Animal stepped forward, using his body to intimidate her. Yeah, he felt no shame doing that. Not when scaring her into making the right choice could keep her safe. “You’re not safe on your own. Pack up.”
Damned if the woman’s mouth didn’t twitch like she wanted to laugh.
She arched a brow. “You’re right. It’s not safe to be alone out here.”
Her expression gave him no ease. He narrowed his eyes until they were slits as he waited for what else she intended to say, because there was no way in hell she was giving up so easily.
She gave a little shrug and grinned. “I’ll go with you.”