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Cochise

Cochise

Former Army sniper, Cochise Mercier, left Denver SWAT under a cloud of controversy, which was why he ended up back home in Montana, and where he heard about the Montana Bounty Hunters. The “cloud” didn’t seem to bother his new boss, so he’s “all in” and finding he enjoys hunting down fugitives for bounties, encumbered by fewer rules.

Sammy McCallister is a by-the-book sheriff’s deputy, who has a beef with bounty hunters. Forced to stand by with her gun in her holster, while hunters take down scumbags, she’s particularly irked by the new guy in town. Cochise, with his long black hair and thousand-yard-stare makes her uncomfortable, itchy in ways she’s never felt before. When she finds herself needing his help late one night, the reason for her irritation becomes all too clear. She wants him. But first, they have to make it out of the mountains alive…

Read an Excerpt

Cochise Mercier, the new hire at Montana Bounty Hunters, took a deep breath to force his heart to slow its pace. A trick he’d learned as an Army sniper to make sure a jerking breath didn’t mess up a shot. The trick worked in most situations when he needed his mind to slow and for his focus to home in on a target or a situation. Clearing his mind meant he was able to take in more of what was happening around him and enabled him to discard the things that weren’t important—like the way the wind beat a tree branch against the side of the house, a steady thump that sounded almost like clomping footsteps. Instead, he concentrated on the way the light, beaming through the tall arched windows at the front of the house, flickered whenever his target paced left or right, telling him where their mark was. An important fact, because in minutes, he’d have to breach the oak front door and be ready to take him down—with his weapon or his body, depending on whether Randy Pinter was armed. A fact Cochise would have to ascertain in a split second.

“Can’t see any movement in the back rooms,” came Jamie Burke’s voice through his earpiece. “I think he’s alone.”

He still wasn’t used to hearing a woman’s voice on the comms. He’d never had a female as part of any of his missions on the ground with the Army, and Denver’s SWAT had, at the time, been all male. That voice interrupted his calm. His instinct was to protect women and children, but she was a part of this team—and his boss—so again, he drew a deep breath, pushed aside his concern, and concentrated on his target. Pinter was pacing in front of the window to the right of the front door.

“Girlfriend’s car isn’t in the garage,” came Sky Reynold’s deep voice. “Must have gone for takeout. I’m moving around to the front.”

“Deputies just arrived,” Lacey Jones’s too perky voice sounded. “I’ll go brief them about what’s about to go down. Make sure they know we have the owner’s permission to be here.”

Cochise could hear the excitement in her higher pitch. Thank God, she was back at the road with the vehicles. The thought of her cotton-candy sweetness being anywhere near Pinter made him shudder. The girl might have qualified with her weapon and might be doing well with her self-defense classes, but she had no real experience going head-on with bad dudes. He didn’t want to be around the first time she was truly tested.

“You call it, Cochise,” Jamie said.

With his heart as slow as when he slept, he felt the familiar ice-water chill flow over him. “Ready,” he whispered and then stepped away from the bushes beside the porch. “Moving toward the door… On three. One…two…three.”

He pounded three times on the door. “Federal Recovery Agent! Get down on the floor!”

Then, just as they’d rehearsed, Sky popped up, used a short cudgel to break the right front window, and tossed a flashbang grenade through the opening he’d made.

Cochise turned his back and crouched beside the door. A split second later, he heard the explosion and a muffled shout. He stood and swung the battering ram against the thick front door. The frame around the door splintered. He tossed the ram and kicked the thick oak, waiting as it slammed forward against dark wood flooring. Then pulling his weapon from its holster, he stepped onto the door into the foyer.

Inside, he saw no sign of Pinter. “Not in foyer. Moving to living room.”

“I’m coming your way,” Jamie said, and then a moment later, “Mudroom, clear. I’ll check the garage.”

Sky stepped to the right. “I’ll take the kitchen.”

Cochise headed through the living room. “Living room clear.” Then he moved toward the room farther to the left—a study he’d peered inside earlier. He shoved open the door, stepped to the side, then quickly darted through the opening, bending low as he entered. He glanced behind a sofa, opened the closet. “Clear.”

“Clear in the kitchen,” said Sky. “Moving toward the stairs.”

Cochise cleared the downstairs bathroom, another hallway closet, and then ran up the stairs. Just as he reached the darkened landing, he saw Sky back out of a bedroom and shake his head.

Cochise signaled that he’d head right toward what he suspected was the master bedroom, while Sky took a smaller bedroom at the other end of the hallway. Cochise unclipped his Maglite from his web belt and shone it down the darkened hallway.

“Garage clear,” Jamie said.

“Make sure the bastard didn’t circle around to the backyard.” Lacey and Dagger had the road and yard fence line covered, and both were quiet.

Just as he reached out to turn the door handle for the master bedroom, Sky whispered, “Clear.” Cochise tensed. Last possible place.

Pinter must have shot up the steps the second the window was broken. Slippery bastard. Something they’d learned talking to the cops who’d arrested him for a home invasion. The fact the judge had awarded him bail after he’d led the police on a three-mile foot race through backyards, over fences, and through busy intersections, where he’d nearly lost the cops, had the entire team shaking their heads. The $500,000 bail must have seemed an impossible goal for a two-time loser, but the prosecutor hadn’t looked closely enough at the family to raise an argument. They hadn’t known the grandfather doted on the prick. He’d willingly used his ranch to secure the bond.

Why Pinter had chosen a life of crime was beyond Cochise. He came from money, dated money, and now, he was facing decades in jail after beating up a couple he’d robbed at gunpoint for a measly sixty dollars and a wedding ring.

Sky came up beside him, a shotgun loaded with beanbag rounds raised, with the stock against his shoulder, and cupping a flashlight against the barrel. He gave Cochise a nod.

Cochise quietly turned the knob then shoved it open. Sky preceded him through the door, turning his body to the left then the right.

Cochise went to the bed and flipped the mattress off the frame. Nobody huddled under it. He quietly slid open the nightstand drawer, the place where Mr. Anderson said he kept a handgun. Shining the light inside the drawer, Cochise noted it was empty, except for a bag of cough drops and loose change. Catching Sky’s glance, he shook his head.

He moved to the bathroom door while Sky sped to the walk-in closet.

As he turned the handle, he heard the scuff of a foot and froze. Withdrawing his hand, he signaled to Sky, who quickly edged to the opposite side of the door.

Pinter had plenty of warning they were there. He had no place left to hide. Likely had the gun. Cochise’s best route would be to get him to surrender.

“Randy,” Cochise called out, “you’re not getting out of this house. We’re bounty hunters, and we’ve been tracking you for days. A whole goddamn team to take down your sorry ass. We have deputies in the road out front in case you decide to be stupid. You’re not going to be stupid, are you?”

Sky moved a step backward. “We think we have him cornered in the upstairs bathroom,” he whispered to the team. “Get eyes on the side of the house beneath the window.”

“Already there,” Dagger said.

Sky moved closer.

“Buddy,” Cochise said, keeping an even tone. “Your best move is to come out with your hands up where we can see them.”

Ten seconds passed. Not a sound came from behind the closed door.

Again, Cochise reached out and gripped the knob. It was locked. Stepping in front of the door, he raised a foot.

But he heard a click and pitched to the side. An explosion ripped through the door.

On his back on the floor, Cochise stared at a circle with splintered edges right where he’d been standing a second earlier. He rolled to his feet, his weapon aimed at the hole.

“What the fuck?” Jamie shouted in his ear. “Coming up the stairs.”

“Deputies are running for the house,” Lacey said sounding breathless, like she was running, too.

In the distance, he heard several sets of footsteps stomping quickly up the stairs. No way was he letting the women anywhere near this vicious pig. He aimed at the door. “Better get on the ground, Pinter.” Then he fired two shots, just to make sure the dirtbag was taking cover, and kicked in the door.

Inside the room, he made out the glint of metal coming from around the side of the shower stall. He ducked into the stall as a shot was fired. Then he darted out again, reaching out his left hand as the handgun appeared around the corner. With his back to Pinter, he gripped the weapon, shoving it, and the hand that held it, to the side. A bullet hit the toilet, shattering porcelain. Water spilled out onto the floor.

A punch landed against his ribs, knocking the breath from his lungs, but Cochise didn’t let go of the gun, he spun and shoved the hand holding the gun against the edge of the stall.

The gun clattered away.

More punches hit his sides—much good that did, because his Kevlar vest took the blows—but Cochise couldn’t end this while all he held was Pinter’s hand. He jerked Pinter forward then backed him into the shower stall, crushing him against the tile with his body, unable to turn because he still held his own weapon outstretched. With his elbow, he beat backwards, catching Pinter in his sides.

Searing pain in the corner of his shoulder sucked away what was left of his breath. “Motherfucker, did you bite me?”

He beat back his elbow and aimed a backward kick at a knee.

The lights to the bathroom flashed on.

Sky filled the doorway, his glance taking in the gun on the floor. He moved forward and reached out. Gladly, Cochise gave him his weapon, and then turned and pummeled Pinter, clipping him in the jaw, the ribs, then giving him another punch to the jaw.

As Randy Pinter sagged toward the gray stone floor of the shower, Cochise kept his fists balled. But Pinter’s eyelids lowered, and his jaw relaxed.

A clap against his shoulder made him wince. “Think we have him,” Sky said.

Cochise lowered his eyebrows. “We?”

Sky grinned. “Hey, I freed your hand.”

“Fucker.”

“Tell me that wasn’t satisfying.”

Cochise grunted.

Just then, Jamie rounded the corner, two deputies crowding in behind her. One tall, burly male and a female with scraped-back, blondish hair and angry eyes.

Suddenly, the spacious bathroom was too crowded.

“Do we have to call an ambulance?” Jamie asked.

Sky leaned over Pinter and ran his hands over his body, doing a quick search for weapons. When he straightened, he aimed a kick at his hip.

Pinter stirred and moaned.

“Nope, he’s conscious,” Sky said, his mouth curving into a smirk. “Jail’s just fifteen minutes away. They can take him to the ER to be checked out.”

Cochise bent and rested his hands on his knees, dragging in deep breaths to clear his head of the anger still pounding through him.

Jamie came up beside him and plucked at the neck of his tee. “Too bad he didn’t get a mouthful of Kevlar. That has to hurt. Buddy, you might need stiches. Sky and I will make sure this one gets to jail, and that they know to test Pinter for any nasty diseases. Your vehicle’s still back at the office; I can have Lacey take you to the ER.”

Cochise straightened, inwardly cursing the fact his truck was back at the agency parking lot. He’d ridden with Sky and Jamie on the way over.

“I’d love to,” Lacey said, her blonde head peering around the corner, “but I can’t wait on you. Dagger and I have to drive to Whitefish to meet up with Reaper. He texted that he may have found Wallace’s hideout.” She gave a hundred-watt smile. “We’re riding into the mountains on horseback.”

Jamie groaned. “Good Lord. Last time Reaper was on horseback, he nearly drowned in a stock pond.”

“You can drop me at my truck. I can get myself to the ER,” Cochise said, and warmed to the idea. Anything to avoid listening to Dagger give Bounty Hunter Barbie another long lesson about how not to get killed doing her job. “You two need to get on the road, or you won’t get any rest.”

A throat cleared to his right. The female deputy’s frown was fierce, but she lifted her chin. “I can drop you, but I won’t wait around.”

He nodded. From her expression, she was about as thrilled with the idea as he was. She’d dump him at the entrance, and he’d be on his own. The way he liked it. “Suits me fine. And I appreciate it.”