Big Sky Wedding
Sky Reynolds knows that he and Jamie Burke are perfect for each other. Both prior-military, they met while they were stationed in the desert, and fate brought them back together in the Montana mountains. They love working together, love everything about the new life they share, however, for some reason Jamie’s been dragging her feet regarding wedding plans.
After a particularly stressful time, they take a break. Sky heads out on a mission in the Gulf with the Brotherhood Protectors, and Jamie’s chasing a dangerous felon through the woods with her tracking dog, Tessa. Sky and Jamie have time to think about what’s really important, and when Sky returns and joins her on the trail, he has a plan to give Jamie the wedding of her dreams.
Read an Excerpt
Being a local celebrity had its perks, Reaper Stenberg mused. As a prime example, take the night clerk at the local Bear Lodge Motel…
He’d watched Reaper and his partner, Jamie Burke, enter the motel office, and his eyes immediately widened. “You’re him! Reaper!” he said, pointing at him. And then his gaze swung to Jamie. “And you’re Sky’s woman.”
Reaper smirked about that because the males of Montana Bounty Hunters tended to get the most name recognition and fan mail since the trailers for Bounty Hunters of the Northwest started showing up on Twitter and a national cable channel—with the exception of “Bounty Hunter Barbie”, as the fans had dubbed Lacey Jones, because of her penchant for wearing pink and “The Essential Bounty-Hunting Makeup Box” she now sold on their website.
The clerk was only too happy to verify that one Carlito Brannigan was staying at his fine establishment. He even offered them the keys without them asking, or bribing, him to do so. He did ask that they wait just a minute while he switched his monitor to the surveillance system, because he wanted to record the takedown.
Jamie turned to Reaper and rolled her eyes but gave “Darius” her email so he could send her the link once he uploaded the recording onto YouTube. It would join a growing list of videos as people in this corner of Montana had begun filming the bounty hunters’ daily appearances—both the mundane and the action-filled ones.
Yeah, their lives had changed a lot over the last few weeks. New bounty hunters were being recruited, along with an accountant and web/promotional guru. They’d purchased state-of-the-art security and surveillance equipment, and now that they had an upcoming, dedicated TV show, their blog had gone viral, boasting over a million views the first day they’d gone live. Not only was their website generating income, but bail bondsmen were sending them more leads as well because of their success rate.
If they hadn’t had Lacey’s skills for creating disguises, they might have found their jobs harder to do when they needed to work “under the radar”. Plus, signing autographs and taking selfies with fans on the street was kind of embarrassing, but he couldn’t complain about the paychecks. Between bounties and his first check from the show’s production company, his bank account was sitting pretty.
“Damn, Reap, you daydreaming?” Jamie asked, slapping his abdomen with the back of her hand.
Musings shoved aside, he made his usual growly, grumpy noise, because he knew it pissed her off. Jamie was convinced he was a dyed-in-the-wool misogynist, that he had yet to accept that female bounty hunters could be equally as effective as their male counterparts. But she was wrong. He’d long since accepted the fact that Jamie was a better hunter than he was. She was smarter, kept her head together when shit went sideways, and could handle the biggest, meanest criminals without breaking her bones or getting herself shot. Things he couldn’t claim. Fact was, he looked for opportunities to mix it up with dirtbags, while she looked for “clean” catches.
Reaper would never let her know how much he admired her gutsiness. A man had his pride to protect. And he’d never admit he acted differently when he partnered with his wife, Carly. Fact was, Reaper tended to forget Jamie was female, not that she wasn’t hot, but she was so competent he had to think of her as one of the guys in order to let her do her thing. With Carly, he tended to be a little overprotective, which had gotten them into trouble a time or two because it was hard for him to let her out of his sight. He hovered like a mother hen.
With Jamie, he didn’t watch his words either—cussing and insulting whenever the situation warranted. She didn’t get pissy or look ready to cry—not that Carly ever teared up when he said the wrong things, but with Jamie, he could be as crude and rude as he wanted, and the worst that would happen would be her slamming a door on his face or elbowing his gut. Yeah, he guessed they were friends. Hell, she was his best friend.
The thought rang like a bell in his head. His female partner was his best friend.
“Goddamn,” he muttered, then bumped into her when she halted in front of Room 23.
“Look, since you seem a little distracted,” she whispered, “how about you head around the back of the building and make sure Carlito doesn’t try to squeeze himself through a window.”
Reaper frowned but gave her a nod and turned to retrace his steps, jogging because Darius was likely watching. Reaper didn’t want him speeding up the recording on his YouTube video because he was dawdling and Darius thought viewers would get bored. He looked ridiculous when that happened.
When he rounded the building, he flicked on his Maglite and counted the back windows until he reached 23. “I’m in position,” he said.
He heard pounding, then, “Carlito Brannigan,” she shouted into his earpiece, “open the door! Fugitive Recovery Agent, here. I’m gonna take you to jail.”
She pounded again, a sound he could hear at the back of the building, but Carlito didn’t open the door, and the lights remained dark inside the room.
However, after a moment, he heard clattering on the other side of the window, and he quickly placed his back against the wall so Carlito wouldn’t see him. “Think he’s going for the window, or maybe hiding in the bathroom. Better use that key,” he whispered.
“Roger.” Then a second later, “Okay, I’m in,” she said, just as quietly. “Room’s clear. Bathroom door’s locked.” Banging sounded again, this time nearer.
“Look, dipshit, you’re not getting away. Just open the goddamn door!”
Reaper grinned. Jamie’s vocabulary had grown more colorful over the months they’d worked together. She sounded fierce when she let go.
The window beside him slid open. A head appeared then arms extended, and Carlito must have made a little leap because his shoulders quickly cleared the ledge, but that was as far as he got.
Carlito grunted twice and placed his hands on the wall beneath him while wriggling his body, but it appeared he was stuck, his belly filling the opening and cinching his gut tightly.
Reaper couldn’t help it. He laughed.
“What the fuck’s so funny?” Jamie asked.
“Get that bathroom door lock picked, and you’ll see,” he drawled.
“Man, I can’t breathe,” Carlito said, gasping.
A moment later, Jamie said, “For fuck’s sake. Seriously, Carlito. You’re a cat burglar? How the hell did you scale a two-story house to break into the City Manager’s place?”
Reaper wiped the smile off his face and stood in front of Carlito. He reached for the large man’s shoulders. “You have to hold onto me while I pull.”
Carlito wrapped his arms around his neck.
Reaper hoped like hell Darius didn’t have a camera surveilling the back of the motel, because Carlito hugging him was definitely not a good look. “You’re gonna have to push him through from behind, Burke.”
“Jesus. Carlito, if you fart, I swear to God I’m tasing your ass,” she groused. “And have you ever met a squat? Your ass is as soft as my pillow. Okay, get ready to catch him, Reap.”
Reaper’s body shook with suppressed laughter, but when he felt Carlito’s body shift, he pulled with everything he had. At last, the big man’s body dislodged from the window, and Reaper backed up until Carlito’s feet dropped to the ground.
Instantly, the man swayed and would have fallen but for his tight hold on Reaper’s neck.
A flash of light nearly blinded him, and he scowled at Jamie who took another shot with her cellphone. When she lowered her phone, she grimaced.
“Man, I don’t know what you ate, Carlito, but holy hell,” she said, waving a hand in the air.
Reaper gripped Carlito’s arms, pulled them down, then quickly turned him to face away. He snapped cuffs around the other man’s wrists then gave him a little shove. “Come on. We’re headed to the detention center.”
Nearly two hours later, dawn broke on the horizon as they drove down the highway toward Bear Lodge. After they’d finished the paperwork at the jail, Jamie had gone silent again.
Reaper watched Jamie out of the corner of his eye. Since she’d returned from vacation with her fiancé, she’d been silent a lot. Well, except for the ruckus she’d made the morning she’d first arrived back at the agency. That morning, she’d stomped to her desk, tossed her “go bag” on the floor, and then aimed a scowl around the bullpen before saying, “Don’t want to talk about it.”
He’d been tempted to ask her about what, but Brian Cobb, the office manager, had given him a quick shake of his head. Whether he knew what had put the knot in her panties or not, Reaper couldn’t be sure, but other than raising his eyebrows, he’d refrained from responding. He was rather proud of that fact. His wife Carly would have said he was “evolving,”, but since she’d decided to duck work to finish writing her first Montana Bounty Hunters thriller, he’d forgotten to mention it. Now, he’d have to wait for praise after he got home.
“Soooo,” he said, just to make some noise and remind her that she had a passenger sitting right there beside her.
She shook her head. “Still don’t want to talk about it.”
Reaper drummed his fingers on the dashboard. “How’s Sky? I was surprised he didn’t come in with you.”
“Sky’s working with Hank Patterson’s people for the next little while.”
He nodded. Maybe that was why she was pissed. Only that didn’t really make sense since she liked Hank. Maybe she was pissed because she wasn’t working with him, too. “Hank got a big op?”
“No clue. Didn’t ask.”
Her voice was clipped, a clear message she didn’t want to continue this topic of conversation.
Reaper decided to ignore the heavy hint. “You two pick a venue for the wedding?”
He guessed he’d said the exact wrong thing because her brows lowered, and her lips pressed into narrow line. A little alarmed, he decided maybe he should zip his lips, because her expression didn’t bode well.
After a moment, she slapped the steering wheel with her palm. “I would’ve been happy with a quickie at City Hall. But, noooo, he wants some big fucking production. Do you know how much it costs to rent the banquet hall at Cooper’s Steakhouse?” It was a rhetorical question, because she didn’t pause. “Damn near as much as this stupid ring,” she said, holding up her left hand. “At least the ring will last a lifetime. And don’t get me started on the church. I’m a lapsed Catholic. Do you know all the hoops the priest wants me to jump through before I can traipse down the aisle? Hell, I never even had my confirmation…”
Reaper shook his head. “Sounds complicated,” he murmured. He didn’t do complicated, so he could commiserate.
“Damn straight. And the expense! I’d just as soon blow ten grand on a damn vacation and have a tan that lasts longer than the ceremony.”
“Sounds like you two didn’t agree on much.”
Her shoulders slumped. “He’s…disappointed. And I think…maybe…I was a bit of a bitch about the whole thing. I think that’s why he told Hank yes when he called with a job.” She glanced at Reaper. “I think he regrets asking me to marry him.”
Her eyes were glittering, which made him nervous. “Now, Jamie, Sky loves you. Remember? I was there when he popped the question. Never saw a man happier than when you said yes.”
“But that was right after I almost got killed by that terrorist, Nozari, and we were both feeling pretty lucky…and the sex was…”
Reaper raised his hands. “TMI, babe.”
“You know what I mean. We were both…”
“Happy?” he muttered helpfully.
“Yeah. I thought I was the luckiest girl in the world. We’d just reconnected. I’m mean, it felt like fate, seeing him again, here, after we’d met on the other side of the world. We had so much in common—both ex-military, our time together in the desert, our love of this place…” she said, waving her hand at the mountains in the distance.
Reaper didn’t like heart-to-hearts. He wasn’t any good at them, and getting in anyone else’s business made him uncomfortable, but she was his friend, so he pushed away his discomfort and said, “Tell me something. Is this your first fight?”
She shifted in her seat. “We didn’t really fight. There’s been no yelling. At all. Hell, he’s barely spoken to me in two days.”
Jamie sounded so miserable he began to fear she’d cry a tear or two, and that would never do. Women’s tears made him feel…itchy. Reaper cleared his throat. “You two sleeping in the same bed?”
She snorted. “Sleeping, yes. Doing the horizontal mambo, no.”
He nodded, feeling like, for once, he was smarter than Jamie. “Well, that’s your problem.”
“What? Not having sex?”
“That’s part of it. You need a good fight. A loud one. Not that you need to trade blows—that’d be abuse—but someone needs to break something, toss a lamp or a radio.”
“That sounded kind of specific.”
He winced. Carly had hurled a radio at his head the last time they’d had a tiff, but she’d aimed wide. “Point is, you need to let it all out—the frustration, the hurt feelings. Sky’s got to forget he’s a gentleman, and you need to forget you’re a lady. Physically, you’re both in your prime, and you’ve both been to war. Civility is just a mask. Forget about rules and don’t worry about holes in the dry wall. Connect to the animal inside you. The fucking will follow naturally.”
She snorted again, but this time her shoulders shook. “Jesus to be a fly on the wall when you and Carly have a blowout.” She shot him a glance, a smile curving her lips.
He grinned. “Makeup sex is the best, partner. After that, neither of you will give a damn if you’re married in a church or the County Line Bar.”
She shook her head. “‘Civility is just a mask.’ When did you get so philosophical?”
“Carly doesn’t let me get away with caveman talk. And because she’s so damn smart, I feel challenged sometimes to surprise her.” When Jamie started laughing, he did, too.
“Reaper, I’m damn glad Fetch made us partners.”
“Me, too, babe. Me, too.”