MONTANA BOUNTY HUNTERS: Authentic Men… Real Adventures…
A rough-around-the-edges bounty hunter takes a nature photographer on a wild ride.
Former SEAL, Russell “Animal” Hathcoat, retreated to a remote mountain cabin after leaving the Navy. Haunted by horrific images that replay in his nightmares of his last mission with his SEAL brothers, he intends to renovate the dilapidated cabin as penance and therapy, and to avoid rejoining the world around him. But then, someone who understands what he needs better than he does arrives to offer him a job.
Allie Travers loves the freedom and solitude of being a nature photographer and journalist—until the day she stares through her lens at a charging black bear. With her heart in her throat, she can only stand watching in horror, knowing she’ll never escape in time. But rescue comes in the form of a wild man who risks his life to frighten away the animal.
Once the danger is past, she’s told by his team of bounty hunters that she has more to fear than any animal in the woods. A felon is on the loose, and she has to accompany them to safety. Seeing an opportunity, Allie shadows the team as they hunt their prey deep in a national forest. Much to Animal’s chagrin, more than just his protective instincts are aroused by the pretty photojournalist.
Read an Excerpt
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 picked apart by 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, and to keep an eye out for any of his relatives who looked ready to head north with supplies to help him out. The rest of the team members grabbed their gear from their vehicles and began tracking Tibbets 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 in 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 large 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. Didn’t she realize he was trying to draw the bear’s attention away from her?
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.
Animal roared and flapped and moved a little closer.
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?”