The most dangerous animal in the wilderness is… man.
Michael Brooks is a loner by nature, a man with a hair trigger temper and a deep abiding love for the wilderness he patrols. Sonny Rydell seeks escape from a family bent on him following their legacy of public service. Neither man is thrilled at the prospect of spending time together, camping rough while Rydell collects research data for the government agency funding him.
Survival training teaches a man to be prepared to handle any eventuality. Their outing will test their joint skills to the max. What it won’t do is help them deal with an attraction that threatens to light up the night sky.
Circling the perimeter, his eyes and attention skyward toward the huge floods illuminating the arena, he never saw the man coming until he connected with a mountain of solid muscle. At six-two Sonny was no light weight, but the shorter cowboy damn near bowled him over. Hands the size of dinner plates steadied him while gunmetal blue eyes raked him over with a fearsome scowl.
Sonny yelped, “Oh hey, man, I’m so sorry. Wasn’t looking where I was going.” He pointed toward the crowded top railing and shrugged. “Looks like I’m SOL.”
The man chewed his bottom lip, his face hidden in the shadows cast by his hat. He twisted his head and yelled, “Yo, Dolly. Come over here.”
A teen girl, built solid in an athletic way, came rushing out of the crowd, dragging a tall, skinny kid who looked like he’d blow away in a strong breeze. She smiled at the brick wall still clutching his hips in a hero worship way, exposing a chipped tooth.
“Take this fella…” He tilted his head up enough Sonny nearly swallowed his tongue when he got a good look at a wet dream of ruggedly handsome. “What’s your name?”
“Sonny. Okay. Dolly here will take you to the contestant’s area. Stay out of the way and you won’t get tromped on.”
Sonny muttered, “This ain’t my first rodeo.”
Ruggedly handsome smirked. The scowl was less intimidating. He could do the scowl, oh yes, he could. That wasn’t the only thing he could do…
Dolly had him by the elbow, ushering him through the chaos, the noise lessening as they dashed behind the shelter of the judges’ stands. He managed to mumble his thanks as the girl indicated a place where he could climb onto the top pole fence and watch the chute opening, releasing the calf into the arena.
The horse and rider were on the opposite side of the chute. He heard yelling, men complaining, cajoling, shouting and then a heartbeat of silence, followed by a clang and a detonation of sound—pounding hooves, screams, hoots and hollers. A chestnut the size of a tank exploded from the runway, muscles bunching as the hind end dug in. In a blur, horse and rider followed the calf who was bending in a line across the axis of the arena. The man was right-handed. The line was all wrong. He’d have to position the chestnut parallel to the calf in order to have a snowball’s chance in hell of actually making the catch.
Time slowed. The violent movement of air as the loop left the rider’s hands blanketed the roar from the stands. The chestnut ducked his head into his chest, curling into a sliding stop and jerking left, backing up quickly to tighten the rope. The rider was airborne for an instant, his left stirrup flung skyward as he hit the ground running.
Sonny counted… a thousand one, a thousand two, a thousand… The crowd roared. The field judge checked the tie as the rider remounted and eased the chestnut forward, putting slack in the rope. The calf needed to stay down and tied for six seconds or the team would be disqualified. Only then was there a collective sigh of relief… and appreciation.
It wasn’t until the horse and rider approached the exit gate that Sonny realized two things: he’d been watching his wet dream compete and he was still holding his breath.
The announcer bellowed, “Let’s hear it for Michael Brooks, our new leader with a time of…”
Michael Brooks. No wonder the teen had worn a hero worship, shit-eating grin.
“Mister?” He looked down to find fangirl Dolly tugging on his shirt sleeve. “You coming?”
“Coming where, little lady?”
The girl pursed her lips and puffed up with importance. “Michael said I’m to fetch you.”
Did he now? That was interesting, all things considered, and it sort of begged the question. Did he want to be fetched?
He counted once more… a thousand one… searching for an answer.
Sometimes fate made it easy. The answer was…
Oh hell, yeah.