Big Sky Standoff - By B. J. Daniels Page 0,1

little to relieve her worry.

As she slid behind the wheel, he sauntered around to the passenger side, opened the door and tossed his duffel bag behind the seat.

“Is that all your belongings?” she asked.

“I prefer to travel light.” He slid his long, lanky frame into the cab, slammed the door and stretched out, practically purring as he made himself comfortable.

She was aware of how he seemed to fill the entire cab of the truck, taking all the oxygen, pervading the space with his male scent.

As she started the truck, she saw him glance out the windshield as if taking one last look. The prison was small by most standards—a few large, plain buildings with snow-capped mountains behind them. Wouldn’t even have looked like a prison if it wasn’t for the guard towers and razor-wire fences.

“Going to miss it?” she asked sarcastically as she turned the truck around and headed back toward the gate.

“Prison?” He sounded amused.

“I would imagine you made some good friends there.” She doubted prison had taught him anything but more ways to break the law. As if he needed that.

He chuckled. “I make good friends wherever I go. It’s my good-natured personality.” He reached back to rub his neck.

“Was it painful having the monitoring device implanted?” A part of her hoped it had given him as much pain as he’d caused her.

He shook his head and ran his finger along the tiny white scar behind his left ear. “Better anyday than an ankle bracelet. Anyway, you wanted me to be able to ride a horse. Can’t wear a boot with one of those damn ankle monitors. Can’t ride where we’re going in tennis shoes.”

She was willing to bet Dillon Savage could ride bare-ass naked.

His words registered slowly, and she gave a start. “Where we’re going?” she asked, repeating his words and trying to keep her voice even.

He grinned. “We’re chasing cattle rustlers, right? Not the kind who drive up with semitrucks and load in a couple hundred head.”

“How do you know that?”

He cocked his head at her, amusement in his deep blue eyes. “Because you would have caught them by now if that was the case. No, I’d wager these rustlers are too smart for that. That means they’re stealing the cattle that are the least accessible, the farthest from the ranch house.”

“It sounds as if you know these guys,” she commented as the guard waved them past the gate.

Dillon was looking toward the mountains. He chuckled softly. “I’m familiar with the type.”

As she drove down the hill to the town of Deer Lodge, Montana, she had the bad feeling that her boss had been right.

“What makes you think a man like Dillon Savage is going to help you?” Chief Brand Inspector Allan Stratton had demanded when she told him her idea. “He’s a criminal.”

“He’s been in prison for four years. A man like him, locked up…” She’d looked away. Prison would be hell for a man like him. Dillon was like a wild horse. He needed to run free. If she understood anything about him, it was that.

“He’s dangerous,” Stratton had said. “I shouldn’t have to tell you that. And if you really believe that he’s been masterminding this band of rustlers from his prison cell… Then getting him out would accomplish what, exactly?”

“He’ll slip up. He’ll have to help me catch them or he goes back to prison.” She was counting on this taste of freedom working in her favor.

“You really think he’ll give up his own men?” Stratton scoffed.

“I think the rustling ring has double-crossed him.” It was just a feeling she had, and she could also be dead wrong. But she didn’t tell her boss that.

“Wouldn’t he be afraid of them implicating him?”

“Who would believe them? After all, Dillon Savage has been behind bars for the past four years. How could he mastermind a rustling ring from Montana State Prison? Certainly he would be too smart to let any evidence of such a crime exist.”

“I hope you know what you’re doing,” Stratton said. “For the record, I’m against it.” No big surprise there. He wasn’t going down if this was the mistake he thought it was. “And the ranchers sure as hell aren’t going to like it. You have no idea what you’re getting yourself into.”

Stratton had been wrong about that, she thought, as she glanced at Dillon Savage. She’d made a deal with the devil and now he was sitting next to her, looking as if he already had her soul locked