Big Sky Standoff - By B. J. Daniels

Chapter One

Dillon Savage shoved back his black Stetson and looked up at all that blue sky as he breathed in the morning. Behind him the razor wire of the prison gleamed in the blinding sunlight.

He didn’t look back as he started up the dirt road. It felt damn good to be out. Like most ex-cons, he told himself he was never going back.

He had put the past behind him. No more axes to grind. No debts to settle. He felt only a glimmer of that old gnawing ache for vengeance that had eaten away at him for years. An ache that told him he could never forget the past.

From down the road past the guardhouse, he saw the green Montana state pickup kicking up dust as it high-tailed toward him.

He shoved away any concerns and grinned to himself. He’d been anticipating this for weeks and still couldn’t believe he’d gotten an early release. He watched the pickup slow so the driver could talk to the guard.

Wouldn’t be long now. He turned his face up to the sun, soaking in its warmth as he enjoyed his first few minutes of freedom in years. Freedom. Damn, but he’d missed it.

It was all he could do not to drop to his knees and kiss the ground. But the last thing he wanted was to have anyone know how hard it had been doing his time. Or just how grateful he was to be out.

The pickup engine revved. Dillon leaned back, watching the truck rumble down the road and come to a stop just feet from him. The sun glinted off the windshield in a blinding array of fractured light, making it impossible to see the driver, but he could feel the calculating, cold gaze on him.

He waited, not wanting to appear overly anxious. Not wanting to get out of the sun just yet. Or to let go of his last few seconds of being alone and free.

The driver’s side door of the pickup swung open. Dillon glanced at the ground next to the truck, staring at the sturdy boots that stepped out, and working his way up the long legs wrapped in denim, to the firearm strapped at the hip, the belt cinched around the slim waist. Then, slowing his eyes, he took in the tucked-in tan shirt and full rounded breasts bowing the fabric, before eyeing the pale throat. Her long dark hair was pulled into a braid. Finally he looked into that way-too-familiar face under the straw hat—a face he’d dreamed about for four long years.

Damn, this woman seemed to only get sexier. But it was her eyes that held his attention, just as they had years before. Shimmering gray pools that reminded him of a high mountain lake early in the year, the surface frosted over with ice. Deeper, the water was colder than a scorned woman’s heart.

Yep, one glance from those eyes could freeze a man in his tracks. Kind of like the look she was giving him right now.

“Hi, Jack,” he said with a grin as he tipped his battered black Stetson to her. “Nice of you to pick me up.”

STOCK DETECTIVE Jacklyn Wilde knew the minute she saw him waiting for her beside the road that this had been a mistake.

Clearly, he’d charmed the guards into letting him out so he could walk up the road to meet her, rather than wait for her to pick him up at the release office. He was already showing her that he wasn’t going to let her call the shots.

She shook her head. She’d known getting him out was a gamble. She’d foolishly convinced herself that she could handle him.

How could she have forgotten how dangerous Dillon Savage really was? Hadn’t her superiors tried to warn her? She reminded herself that this wasn’t just a career breaker for her. This could get her killed.

“Get in, Mr. Savage.”

He grinned. Prison clearly hadn’t made him any less cocky. If she didn’t know better, she’d think this had been his idea instead of hers. She felt that fissure of worry work its way under her skin, and was unable to shake the feeling that Dillon Savage had her right where he wanted her.

More than any other woman he’d crossed paths with, she knew what the man was capable of. His charm was deadly and he used it to his advantage at every opportunity. But knowing it was one thing. Keeping Dillon Savage from beguiling her into believing he wasn’t dangerous was another.

The thought did