By Felice Fox
When Talia Iverson’s never-ending search for love takes a desperate turn, she skips out on her Hollywood starlet clientele hoping to disappear on her uncle’s ranch in western Montana. Training livestock guard dogs seems the perfect diversion—protect the wolf pack living on Iverson Ranch, and her uncle’s cattle. But when a son of their neighboring ranch suspiciously offers to help her track and ID the wolf pack, Talia discovers what it really means to tangle with a predator.
Rancher Abel Cameron is the most dangerous kind of bad boy—when he’s wicked, he means it. Convinced the shared, open relationship he’s in is the only kind that will tolerate his dark sexual needs, Abel knows he won’t ever be the primary man in any woman’s life. But when Talia Iverson shows up to protect the wolf pack denned up on his neighbor’s ranch, he sees her for who she is—a lost soul who could break open his cold, jammed up heart. And he’s just reckless enough to show her how to do it.
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© Felice Fox 2014
They rode north for an hour toward the timber, following the river, then turned west and ascended into the mountains. It wasn’t long before Abel spotted the hunter orange ribbon Uncle Cal had left as a marker on a low branch and easily located the tracks in dried mud. Abel swung down from his horse and got to Talia just as she was sliding off. His hand rode up her sides, exposing her bare skin to the air and she shivered, pulling her shirt and jacket back down without turning to look at him. She felt the heat of his gaze on her, though.
It was a constant.
He looked at her like it was his right to do so. He kinda looked at everything that way.
Abel walked off to examine the tracks.
“One’s been here recently, but no way to know if that’s our pack or a lone wolf passing through. Doesn’t look like the rendezvous area, though.” Abel crouched and Talia did the same.
The sheer size of the print took her breath away, unlike any canine footprint she’d ever seen. She laughed softly.
“I wondered if I would be able to tell the difference between a dog print and a wolf…”
Abel chuckled, too.
“Yeah, no mistaking it.” The set of prints in the mud were huge, as big as a man’s hand. Abel stretched and walked ahead. The approving tone of his voice, the tease of a shared moment, prickled over the back of her neck, so she rubbed it away.
As they walked their horses up and over a ridge, Abel spotted something in a draw below. When Talia realized he was reaching for his rifle, all calm left her, her veins flooded with adrenaline and she seized his upper arm. Her fingers gripped hard against unexpectedly stout muscle. Abel dropped his gaze slowly, first to her hand, then up to her eyes, which were now stinging.
“Don’t. Please. You gave me your word,” she said in a choked whisper.
He shook his head, crossing his big hand over his chest and placing it over hers. A warming sensation in her pussy came on fast, threatening to seep lower and buckle her knees. Not for the first time, Talia wondered what the hell she had gotten herself into? Should have started with an easier man, someone passive, a push over. Instead she’d gone straight for the big guns.
“You don’t know anything about hunting, do you?” he asked, still watching her.
She swallowed in response; an audible answer seemed unnecessary.
Abel released her hand, took the rifle down slow and enveloped her from behind, lifting the wood stock of his Winchester along her cheek so Talia could see through the scope.
“You see him now?”
Abel’s breath. On her neck. She forced herself to shimmy forward.
“I see him. He’s beautiful.”
At the far end of a clearing below, encircled by patches of trees, a bulky, tawny-brown elk rested, carrying a regal tower of velvety antlers. Looking through the scope, the bull seemed so very close. Abel shifted closer to keep a good grip on the rifle since she wasn’t touching it, a part of her still protesting what she had believed he was about to do. He was a sturdy wall of heat capturing her from behind. For the moment, he had reason to mold himself against her this way.
“Our wolf is long gone,” he said, deeply, slowly.
“How do you know?”
“If he were still around that bull wouldn’t be so calm.”
Abel let her watch for a few moments longer.
She nodded, the circle and crosshairs disappearing and the scene before her expanding fast into a mass of trees and brush and the big elk, blending into the muddy browns and greens of the thick underbrush, leaving her dazed. Abel returned to his horse to tuck the gun away, then helped Talia onto hers. She had no idea where they were headed next, but clearly Abel did, moving forward, weaving through trees without hesitation.
“Where to now?”
They’d been on the trail most of the day and the sky was just beginning to grow dark. Being in the chilly woods, seeing the wolf tracks and knowing how close they were to these majestic beasts had gentled and quieted her heart, at the same time a current of fear buzzed her limbs. She stayed close to Abel as they rode another ten minutes, descending along the creek bank. Here Abel pointed to elk tracks in the sandy terrain, though he didn’t dismount. Instead he continued to follow the stream, which curved gently to the right then, somewhat suddenly, disappeared into heavy timber.
Though the light had been fading, it dropped quickly, along with what was left of the afternoon warmth, when they entered those woods and began to climb again. Talia was about to mention that she didn’t want to be making camp in the dark, when Abel pulled up Shiloh and faced her, indicating over his shoulder with a quick turn of his head.
Behind him, tucked back in the trees and overhanging the stream, was a small, moss-covered log cabin with a single bay window, which took up almost an entire side of the structure. A rope bridge dipped from the far side of the cabin, suspended over the river. It looked like something from a fairy story.
“My granddad helped Cal’s father build it in the sixties. We’ll bed down there for the night and keep an eye on the trail.”
Talia removed her camera from her pocket. Of all the photos she’d taken on the trip, this was the one she most wanted to post, the one which proved she wasn’t in Southern California anymore. She was somewhere more magical and more real than anything Hollywood could dream up.
She imagined standing eerily in the darkened window, water rushing over rocks below, the whole scene lit by moonlight as she kept watch. Alone. Protected. But in her mind’s eye, Abel came up unexpectedly from behind like he’d done with the rifle, shirtless this time, resting his chin on her shoulder, slipping his hands under her plush pajama top, kissing her neck, her cheek.
Talia shook her head to chase away the images of pure fantasy—delicate and romantic and not at all consistent with her experience of this man. A soft “oh” escaped her when she realized she’d caught her mind wandering somewhere unsafe, turned it around and walked it back to where she could protect it.
That was new.
“It looks abandoned,” she said, her voice a little cold.
“If you prefer to sleep outside, I can build a nice fire. I can warm you from behind.”
“Inside is fine, Abel.”
He continued on.
Talia turned her horse, leading it uphill toward the cabin, struggling to keep her mind safe from visions of the Abel she did know; the one who, if she shared his sleeping bag, would pull down her pajama bottoms to expose her naked butt and press himself against it, hands grasping her waist, teeth biting her neck, claiming with his whole body the parts of herself she so desperately wanted claimed. He’d push her. He’d take everything if she let him.
ABOUT FELICE FOX
Felice is a big fan of bluegrass and country music, and a lover of all things wild, woodsy and romantic. She wears bad girl boots and was twice mistaken for a roller derby queen. Hold Me Together, the first Cameron Ranch story, was an Amazon #1 bestseller and Hot New Release. It has been described as a “danger to panties everywhere” (Herding Cats & Burning Soup) and “not for the faint of heart” (Fresh Fiction). Her fiction debut, Take Me for Longing, has been an Amazon bestseller since it’s release in 2012 and her second title, It’s Just Sext, became an instant Amazon #1 bestseller. Felice lives, loves and frequently sends out naughty text messages from Silver Lake, California.
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