Montana Rescue (The Wildes of Birch Bay Book 2)

PRAISE FOR KIM LAW


Montana
Cherries
is a heartwarming yet heart-wrenching story of the heroine’s struggle to accept the truth about her mother’s death—and life.”

—RT Book Reviews, 4 stars

“An entertaining romance with a well-developed plot and believable characters. The chemistry between Vega and JP is explosive and will have you rooting for the couple’s success. Readers will definitely look forward to more works by this author.”

—RT Book Reviews, 4 stars on
Caught on Camera

“Kim Law pens a sexy, fast-paced romance.”


New York Times
bestselling author Lori Wilde on
Caught on Camera

“A solid combination of sexy fun.”


New York Times
bestselling author Carly Phillips on
Ex on the Beach


Sugar
Springs
is a deeply emotional story about family ties and second chances. If you love heartwarming small towns, this is one place you’ll definitely want to visit.”


USA Today
bestselling author Hope Ramsay

“Filled with engaging characters,
Sugar Springs
is the typical everyone-knows-everyone’s-business small town. Law skillfully portrays heroine Lee Ann’s doubts and fears, as well as hero Cody’s struggle to be a better person than he believes he can be. And Lee Ann’s young nieces are a delight.”

—RT Book Reviews, 4 stars

Also by Kim Law

The Wildes of Birch Bay series

Montana Cherries

The Turtle Island series

Ex on the Beach

Hot Buttered Yum

Two Turtle Island Doves
(novella)

On the Rocks

The Sugar Springs series

Sugar Springs

Sweet Nothings

Sprinkles on Top

The Davenports series

Caught on Camera

Caught in the Act

The Holly Hills series

Marry Me, Cowboy
(novella), in
Cowboys for Christmas

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, organizations, places, events, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.

Text copyright © 2016 Kim Law

All rights reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced, or stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without express written permission of the publisher.

Published by Montlake Romance, Seattle

www.apub.com

Amazon, the Amazon logo, and Montlake Romance are trademarks of
Amazon.com
, Inc., or its affiliates.

ISBN-13: 9781503938731

ISBN-10: 1503938735

Cover design by Shasti O’Leary Soudant

To my mother.

Thank you for bravely heading into the unknown with me so I could research these books. That nine-day, four-state, twenty-five-hundred-mile trip was one of the best times in my life, and it gave me memories that I’ll cherish forever.

Chapter One

N
ick Wilde was a man who liked to ride the edge. He knew when to play loose and free, when to yuk it up for the crowds, and when to turn on the charm for the cameras. But he was also a man who knew when to shut it down and be 100 percent focused. And when climbing atop an eighteen-hundred-pound beast named Death Comes to Your Door, it was time to focus.

He paused before swinging his leg over the gate and into the chute and, as he’d done before every ride for the last seven years, he sent up a silent prayer. Then he pulled in a deep breath, and with his thoughts focused solely on winning, he got down to business. Thirty seconds later, with his gripping hand firmly in place and Death’s muscles rippling under his thighs, Nick gave his cue. It was time to ride.

The gate swung open, and the clock started. And Death intended to win.

The bull bucked, shook, and twisted, doing things a lesser man would have crumbled under. But using his legs, and the strength of his core, Nick rode the animal, his free hand whipping in the air with each motion and his teeth rattling hard against his mouth guard. When the bell sounded eight seconds later, he flung himself from the back of the animal in one fluid move.

On his feet in a matter of seconds, he watched the bullfighters run Death from the ring, and Nick’s smile fell easily into place. He was the last ride of the evening, and given how those eight seconds had played out, he’d be walking away with the pot tonight. His heart pumped. What a ride! He pulled the cowboy hat from his head and waved to the cheering crowd, most of whom were already on their feet. He was the reigning champ, two years running—a god to these people. And he loved that.

After tossing out one last wave, he dusted himself off and climbed onto the bottom rung of the exit gate to await his score. His agent patted his arm and gave a knowing nod.

“Going to take another season,” Charlie Scott said.

“Why do anything else?” Nick agreed. He played to win, after all.

“Got a call today. Cuts for the new commercial are looking great. Ratings on the last one are still high, so they want to push to get this on the air ASAP.” Charlie tilted his head and shot Nick a look. “And the minute you sign on for the PBR, they triple the payout for the endorsement deal.”

Everybody wanted him to go national. “I like Montana Pro just fine.”

Truth be told, he could have joined the Professional Bull Riders years ago. And won. And, at twenty-five, if he wanted to go that route, he should get to it. His time was limited. But he liked it here. He liked Montana. And he had yet to feel the need to change that.

“Nick Wilde takes an eighty-nine on Death Comes to Your Door.”

The crowd went wild, knowing the score landed him easily in first, and Charlie gave a nod of approval as several of the other riders descended. Congrats were tossed out all around, and Nick noticed that a handful of the usual buckle bunnies waited not far from the clump of men. He recognized all the women. They were around after most rides.

He winked at Betsy, a strawberry-blonde he’d recently spent some time with, and then he felt himself being tugged toward the center of the arena where cameras and the rodeo director waited. As did a petite brunette—the owner of the beast who’d just manhandled him, and a longtime friend. Due to Death’s own scores, the bull also took top billing this weekend. Nick gave Jewel a huge grin and took his place next to her, accepting the oversize winner’s check and additional congratulations.

Within minutes, the place was emptying out and he found himself standing with Betsy, the buckle bunny he’d been eyeing earlier, but whom he had zero time for tonight—unfortunately. He was three hundred miles from his family home, and he needed to be in Birch Bay shortly after daybreak.

“I couldn’t take my eyes off you tonight,” Betsy purred.

Adrenaline continued to run high, so Nick took a moment and did what came naturally. He kissed Betsy, who was now curling into his side, and he lowered his palm to outline the curve of her very sweet hip. There was nothing quite like a warm body after a thrilling win. But . . . 
sigh
 . . . he and this particular body would have to wait.

“We could—” she started.

“I can’t,” Nick groaned. He gave her lips a final peck before pulling away. “I’m heading out of town as soon as I wrap up here.” Assuming his truck was running. It had died earlier that day.

“I could go with you.” There was a brazen naughtiness in both her words and her eyes that gave Nick pause. Because what went unspoken was her guarantee of making his drive far more entertaining than it could ever be alone.

But he and Betsy had never taken things beyond the rodeo, and he didn’t think now was the time to change that. He was going
home
. To the house where he’d made it a point to visit just enough—but never too much—over the last seven years. His mind would be on things other than the hot woman at his side tonight.

When Betsy’s bottom lip pouted at Nick’s silence, his gaze fastened on that slip of pink, and he had the fleeting thought that he could call his dad and tell him that he’d be late. Like, maybe by a day or two. It wasn’t as if Nick had to be there before his dad left town, anyway.

But at the same time, it wasn’t as if Betsy wouldn’t be around next weekend, either.

He gave a growl of need when her hand slipped under his protective vest, but he caught it in his before she could burrow down to skin. “You’re tempting, Bets. You know you are.” He leaned in to whisper across her lips. “But I really do have to go.”

She nipped his lip in response, and he kissed her once more. They weren’t serious
or
exclusive, but she was a hell of a good time.

“I’ll be in Great Falls next weekend,” he said when they separated. The annual event in Great Falls was one of his favorites of the year. “Find me Friday night?”

“You can count on it.” Her words lost some of their heat as her eyes caught on something behind him, and Nick glanced over his shoulder to find Jeb Mauley passing them by. Jeb was a rookie, and far less
experienced
than Betsy, but that wouldn’t stop her. She turned back to Nick. “I . . .”

Nick chuckled. “Go. Have fun.” He inclined his head to where the nineteen-year-old rookie had stopped and was now talking to a couple of lingering reporters. “But leave the kid in one piece, will you? He has a lot of potential.”

Laughter floated out behind Betsy as she made her way toward Jeb, and Nick caught himself wishing it bothered him to know that she’d be sleeping with another man tonight. Yet, it didn’t. It never had. And though he’d never been one to envision tying himself to one woman for any length of time, he did occasionally wonder if he was missing a key ingredient to make him “normal.” Didn’t most men want the woman they were hooking up with to sleep only with them?

Or maybe they didn’t. He honestly didn’t know.

But there was a persistent voice in his head these days telling him that something wasn’t right. That
he
wasn’t right. Which struck him as oddly funny because if anyone in his family stood a chance of being “right,” or
“normal,”
he’d always thought it would be him. Not that they weren’t all royally screwed up.

Turning away from Betsy and the now-grinning Jeb, Nick retrieved his phone and saw that he’d gotten a voice mail from the garage. He listened as the owner explained that it would be late next week before they could get the part in they needed to fix his truck. Which meant . . . how in the hell would he be getting home tonight?

The answer came in the form of a five-foot-two bubbly brunette barreling toward him.

“Nick!” Jewel Brandon threw her arms around Nick’s neck when she reached his side, leaving her toes dangling above the ground. Her husband waited behind her with the patience of a man used to seeing his exuberant wife in the arms of other men. Nick and Jewel had been friends since being paired together in a fourth-grade science project and finding out neither was particularly fond of science. And though he’d moved out of town immediately after high school graduation, he’d seen her around the rodeos for years. As a stock contractor, she not only raised several of the bucking bulls utilized at regional rodeos, but it was her job to get them there.

“Such a great job tonight.” Jewel grinned up at him once she dropped back to her feet. Her cheeks were rosy. “Eighty-nine points! I thought for sure big Death was going to toss you.”

Nick chuckled. They’d been standing side by side in the winner’s circle earlier, but with all the people and cameras crowding around, the two of them hadn’t had a chance to talk. “You know better than that.” He winked at Jewel, then reached for her husband’s hand. “Good to see you again, Bobby.”

“You, too. Great riding tonight.”

“Thanks. Couldn’t do it without good bulls.” Nick spoke to Bobby, but his attention had shifted to the woman now heading their way. A woman he hadn’t seen in years. And one that made him feel twelve again.

Same as thirteen years earlier, he couldn’t take his eyes off Jewel’s oldest sister. Harper had the same facial features and hazel irises as all three of her sisters, but that was where the similarities ended. She strode with the same badass purpose she’d had as a teen; her expression announced her approachableness, while also making it clear that if you got too close, you might get scorched; and her hair—an unruly bob no longer than the length of Nick’s fingers—was a mixture of navy blue and jet black. It had been
pink
the first time he’d met her.

“Harper Jackson,” he said as she reached their small circle, managing not to sound as awestruck as he felt. He offered his hand, telling himself the move wasn’t because he wanted to touch her, but who was he kidding? He’d wanted to touch her every time he’d ever seen her.

“Stone,” she corrected. Her palm slid across his. “I’m a Stone now.”

That’s right. She’d married a man she’d met in the army. Nick also remembered hearing about the accident that had taken her husband’s life. A knot formed behind his sternum. That had to be tough.

“How are you?” he asked.

The corners of her mouth tightened a fraction, and her eyes shifted slightly away. “Couldn’t be better,” she murmured. She turned to her sister. “Congratulations, hon. Death came through for you again.”

“That boy knows his job.” Jewel slipped an arm through Bobby’s.

Nick stood quietly as the sisters talked, registering the same thick throatiness in Harper’s voice that he remembered as a kid, but he tuned out her actual words. Instead, he replayed the day he’d watched Harper dive off a cliff on the west shore of Flathead Lake. The day he’d fallen in love with her. Only, ideal woman aside, she’d been three years older than him, and a lifetime more mature. While he’d been nothing more than a kid with his first bout of acne.

She turned back to him then, and her gaze locked onto his. He held his breath. “Congratulations to you, too,” she said. “Good to see Montana’s favorite cowboy is maintaining the status quo.”

“Montana’s favorite has an image to uphold.”

He gave her the smile reserved for women he deemed to be wearing too many clothes, but she didn’t appear impressed. She rolled her eyes at him. Embarrassment immediately flared, threatening to color his cheeks, and he suspected he’d forever make a fool of himself over Harper Stone.

“Harper came tonight to see what Bobby and I do during a rodeo,” Jewel explained.

“That so?” Nick lifted a brow at Jewel’s sister. “Planning to take up bull riding?”

She lifted a brow in return. “Been there, and done that.”

She had a ballsy smugness about her that he could appreciate. And he remembered that same smugness directed his way any number of times when he was a kid. He’d been incapable of
not
looking away from her whenever she’d been around. And she’d seemingly been incapable of not
showing off for him.

But did she really expect him to believe she rode bulls?

Not that he couldn’t picture her on one. Her lean thighs would grip its flank, her body would be tight and—

“She’s going to be helping me out for a few weeks.” Jewel’s words pulled Nick’s attention away from the idea of her sister straddling a wild animal. She put a hand to her flat stomach, and her smile grew wide. “We haven’t announced it yet, but we have exciting news.”

Nick’s eyes rounded when he realized what Jewel’s gesture implied. His gaze dropped to her stomach. “Pregnant?”

“Yes!” she squealed.

“Congratulations, J.” Nick closed the gap and gave his friend a hug—banishing Harper and her taut body to his later musings—then clapped Bobby on the back. “To both of you.” He turned back to Jewel. “You think the world is ready for a mini you?”

She giggled. She was what his Aunt Sadie would call a “pistol.” Full of energy, happiness, and always into the last possible thing someone would expect of her. Like raising bucking bulls. “It better be,” she said. She propped both hands on her hips and gave him a cocky smirk. “And if it’s not, it has a limited time to get that way.”

“When are you due?” He looked her over. “You doing okay?”

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