MONTANA BOUNTY HUNTERS:
DEAD HORSE, MT
Authentic Men… Real Adventures…
The happily single owner of the only liquor store in Dead Horse, MT needs the biggest, baddest man around, and a certain former Green Beret seems made to order…
When Chase Kudrow leaves the Green Berets, he is ready to throw off rules and regs and be his own damn boss. Bounty hunting doesn’t tie him down and occasionally gives him the adrenaline rush he craves.
Then he discovers he has a niece, an eight-year-old, who is the only family he has left. Suddenly, his life gets serious. He needs a steadier paycheck and a place to set down roots so he can do right by his dead sister’s little girl. Being recruited by the Montana Bounty Hunters: Dead Horse, MT, office perfectly fits the bill.
His “get serious” agenda soon finds him in the company of one of the town’s “good” women, Rhonda McAvoy, who owns the local liquor store. Sure, she’s pretty and seems interested, but what does he know about wooing a good woman who will certainly expect more than he knows how to give?
When her store is robbed, Chase swoops in to provide some much-needed security expertise and protection and soon discovers an addiction he never wants to kick. Sweet Rhonda is full of her own sexy surprises…
Read an Excerpt
Chase Kudrow flipped down his visor to shut out the bright morning sun beaming through his windshield. He was parked on Main Street in Dead Horse, congratulating himself on his good sense in accepting the job with Montana Bounty Hunters’ Dead Horse office because he was here, hunting a skip, and not living out of his truck in bumfuck Colorado…or Wyoming…or Idaho. Sure, Cage Morgan, his new boss, had said they’d be looking for the richest bounties in a multi-state area when he’d offered him the job, but as luck would have it, today’s hunt was right in their own backyard.
Chase would never admit it to any of his new bounty hunter brothers, but he’d been ready to settle down and stop living out of a suitcase, something he’d done since mustering out of the Green Berets. He needed to put down roots and prove he could provide a stable home—to himself and to the caseworker handling his niece’s situation. No way in hell was he letting his only blood relative, his little sister’s orphaned daughter, be raised by strangers.
The job offer had come at just the right moment. Although he’d feigned resistance to joining the hunters as part of their newly formed satellite agency, inside, he’d been jubilant. He’d hemmed and hawed for days, and he’d done his homework, reaching out to hunter friends in the Kalispell office to make sure this gig was legit, and that he could trust the people he’d be working with. The more he’d learned, the more certain he was that his accepting the job was meant to be.
Yes, there was a lot left to iron out. He had yet to find a house. Work had been pretty busy, but he’d be asking Cage for some time off to find a home and fill it with furniture and all the things an eight-year-old might need or want, and for him to meet with local school officials to talk about what he’d need to get Mikayla enrolled in the fall. Then the hard work would begin to get Miss Tight-ass Bradshaw at Child and Family Services in Billings to sign off.
The last time she’d seen him, she’d shaken her head. “How do you think you can care for a little girl? You live like a gypsy, Mr. Kudrow. All your past mailing addresses have been forwarding services because you’re never in one place longer than a month. How are you going to be a father to Mikayla?”
He’d shifted in his chair, knowing his petition looked bad, but this was Audra’s girl. He hadn’t been there for her mother, hadn’t even had any idea how much trouble she’d been in. His mama, had she been alive, would’ve been so disappointed in him for his neglect while he’d been out living his life.
No more. He’d lived like a nomad since his days in the military. He’d liked seeing the world, but when he’d gotten fed up with the rigor and the rules he’d had to abide by in the Army, he’d left and found the one job ideally suited to his wandering ways. Even now, working from a home base in Dead Horse, bounty hunting allowed him to roam just far enough to keep from feeling that itch to pull up stakes and move, and it gave him the occasional adrenaline rush he craved. The targets were varied, and hunting them down never got boring. Except when he was on stakeouts, like this one.
Today’s target was Billy Calloway, one of the Calloway brothers who ran a junkyard east of town, who’d been busted with a shit-ton of stolen catalytic converters. Billy had refused to give the DA the names of his suppliers, so he was facing multiple charges for receiving stolen goods. Since he was a three-time offender, the judge had set his bail at $100,000—high for the crime, but Judge Hodges was setting an example for the other Calloways.
Then the dumbass skipped his court date…
Chase picked up the manila folder Fredericka “Fig” Newton, their office manager and tech guru, had prepared for all the hunters combing their hometown for this skip. Billy was a scrawny fucker, with greasy brown hair, a scruffy beard, and one eye that permanently looked down his nose. He’d be easy to spot.
The passenger door beside him opened, and Dylan “Preacher” Priestley, his new partner, climbed into the seat beside him holding a small pink box in his hand.
“Took your damn time,” Chase groused, not really concerned, but he and Preacher enjoyed that kind of relationship, always griping at each other but quick to jump into action when the situation called for it. Two months in, and Chase wondered how he’d ever gone it alone as a bounty hunter. Having a partner made things like boring-ass stakeouts kind of fun.
“They’re straight out of the oven,” Preacher said, opening the box to reveal two big donuts. Preacher’s hand hovered over them.
“Don’t even think about takin’ the one with the sprinkles,” Chase said, giving him a glare.
Preacher shrugged. “Sprinkles taste like chalky sugar anyway.” He plucked the pink glazed donut from the box and left the cream-colored one with sprinkles for Chase.
Chase plucked his from the box, took a bite, and groaned. “Don’t know how you aren’t fat.”
Preacher waggled his eyebrows. “She makes me work for them.”
“TMI, man,” Chase said, holding up a hand.
Preacher grinned. “Sorry it took so long. I had to taste wedding cakes when I was in there.”
Chase wrinkled his nose. “Way to kill my appetite, man. Weddings!” He gave a mock shudder.
Preacher chuckled. “Laura and Rhonda have this huge notebook. It takes up an entire table when they open it. It has polaroids of cakes and things to decorate the tables with, flower arrangements—”
Chase narrowed his eyes and looked out the windshield. “Rhonda’s in there?”
“Yeah, why?” Preacher shot him a sly sideways glance.
“Just wonderin’. Haven’t seen much of her lately. Her sister’s behind the counter at Dem Bones Package Store every time I stop to buy beer.”
Preacher arched an eyebrow. “You crushing on Rhonda?”
Chase gave him a deadpan look. “I don’t crush on women. Just sayin’. She seems pretty busy with all that wedding shit.”
“She’s been a huge help to Laura. Says she loved planning her wedding more than she loved her ex-husband. Said it should’ve told her something.”
“Didn’t know she’s been married…”
“Yeah, for five years, until her husband up and left town with a massage therapist.”
“Must have been rubbing more than his back.”
Preacher shrugged. “Laura doesn’t talk much about him. Guess he left her the store and a pile of debt. She’s been digging herself out of that mess for years.”
Chase finished off his donut and followed it with a gargle of coffee straight from his thermos. When he screwed the lid back on, he glanced down the street. His attention was snagged by two men stepping out of Dead Center Guns & Pawn, both holding handguns and wearing camouflage masks pulled over their chins and noses. They were running toward a beat-up pickup parked alongside the curb.
“Think we got trouble,” he said to Preacher, tapping his ignition button and glancing up and down the street before punching the gas pedal and pulling out of his parking space.
“Damn.” Preacher hit the button on his radio. “Hey, Fig!”
“Yeah, Preacher. What’s up?”
“I think we’ve got a robbery in progress on Main Street. Saw two armed individuals coming out of the pawn shop. Call 9-1-1.”
The tailpipe of the beat-up pickup belched smoke, and then the truck jumped the curb and careened down the street.
“We’re in pursuit,” Preacher said over his radio.
“You aren’t the cops,” Fig muttered back.
“We can tell them where these bastards land.”
Chase shot a glance at Preacher. “We might want to make sure the pawn shop was actually robbed before we interfere.”
Preacher hit his button again. “Fig, we need to know if these guys actually hit the shop.”
Fig radioed back immediately. “They did. I’m hearing it now over my police scanner. They roughed up Roy Owens and emptied his cash drawer. The sheriff’s scrambling county units. He doesn’t have anyone in town right now.”
The truck ahead of them pulled away, racing down Main Street, past the city limits sign, and into the county. Chase blew out a breath and stomped on his gas pedal, determined not to let these guys pull out of sight on the winding roads leading toward the highway. Not that he had skin in this game, but a hunt was always a rush.
Preacher leaned forward, squinting at the truck ahead. “Yeah, tell the sheriff it’s an older model truck. Blue—”
“And fucking rust,” Chase mumbled. The paint on the vehicle had its own camo pattern due to peeling paint.
“A Chevrolet, I think. Chase, can you get closer so I can get the tag?”
Chase rolled his eyes and refused to look at his speedometer. They were coming close to the first of the deep curves on this stretch of road. The truck ahead barely let off the gas, sliding across the double yellow line as it began the curve.
“Montana plate…4985…” Preacher gave the rest of the digits while clinging to the “Oh Shit” handle.
“Stay on this channel with me,” Fig said. “I’m relaying everything to dispatch.”
The road followed the winding base of the mountain, switching left then right.
“Where the fuck do they think they’re going?” Chase bit out, not liking how fast they were traveling on the narrow highway, and especially not liking how the truck in front of them kept drifting into the next lane around blind curves. “It’s not like he’s going to lose us.”
Ahead, he watched as the passenger in the truck rose in the back window then turned to face them. An arm stretched out of the window beside him.
“He’s got a gun!” Preacher warned.
The robber fired, and a bullet pinged against the mirror on Preacher’s side of the truck.
“Fuck!” Chase gritted his teeth and fell back a hundred feet but refused to slow any further. The fuckers owed him a damn mirror. Like hell he’d let them get away with this.
“We’re receiving fire,” Preacher said.
“The sheriff says to pull back,” Fig said. “He has a unit coming down Miner’s Road. He’ll lay down a spike strip. They’ll intercept.”
Preacher and Chase shared a quick glance. Chase shook his head.
Preacher pressed his button again. “There’s loggers’ trails all throughout these hills. If we let off the pressure, these guys’ll ditch their truck.”
“Be safe,” Fig said. “I’ll let the sheriff know.”
They started into a curve to the right, and the gunman leaned his torso out the passenger window, holding his handgun in both hands, and began to fire.
Chase jerked left then right, trying to avoid any bullets.
A single hole surrounded by crisp shining crystals burst in the center of the windshield, and the sound of crackling glass accompanied a quickly spreading spiderweb. “Buddy, you okay?” Chase shouted.
“Yeah, but your truck’s not.”
Chase snorted and leaned to the left to look through the least damaged area of the windshield. The road curved again, this time left, and the asshole hanging out the window lost his shot. When it straightened, the driver of the truck suddenly hit his brakes.
Chase slammed his foot down, too. Too late. The truck ahead drove over the spike strip and his tires blew, causing the truck to shimmy left then right before coming to a stop in front of two sheriff’s vehicles parked side by side, blocking the road, deputies standing behind their open SUV doors. Chase let out a string of curses as his own tires hit the strip, and he fought for control as he found his truck riding on rims. “Shit! Fuck!”
When he brought his truck to a stop, he and Preacher bailed out their doors and used them as shields as they pulled their weapons and kept their gazes glued on the rust-bucket truck.
Still masked, the assholes in the truck appeared to be arguing. They faced each other and one was leaning close, an index finger poking at his friend’s shoulder.
“Hey, you two assholes in the truck,” Sheriff Grimes’ voice blared over loudspeaker.
Chase grunted. “Think I like that guy.”
“He’s not bad,” Preacher said, keeping his gaze on the men in the truck, who didn’t seem in any hurry to comply with the sheriff’s order. “Met him a few times at the diner. When Cage and Reaper were first setting up the office, they used to pull him in to discuss what it meant having the bounty hunters in his town. He was concerned.”
“Concerned enough he might not be too worried what direction his men fire?”
“Nah, they discussed how the hunters could help local law enforcement when he needs extra manpower.”
“Huh.” Chase pursed his lips. He’d never worked alongside the police. One too many times, he’d had them step in and spoil a takedown, stealing his bounty from under him.
One of the men in the truck faced forward and raised his hands. The other slammed his palm against the steering wheel. He still hadn’t cut his engine.
As his buddy opened the passenger door, the driver suddenly reversed his truck, coming straight at Chase’s vehicle.
Preacher and Chase both jumped away just as the rust-bucket slammed into the front end of Chase’s truck, pushing it backward.
“Goddammit!” Chase bit out as he watched his truck slide toward the soft shoulder of the road and over the embankment, continuing downward to the sounds of cracking branches and metallic thumps.