Submitting to this wild cowboy is one hell of an adventure…
Environmental journalist Reece Prescott never expected to see the mysterious woman from the Turkish marketplace again, so to meet Morgan Tempest in the middle of a summer storm at the top of the Blackleaf Mountains knocks him sideways.
Their instant connection blows him away…and makes him want to return to The Ranch, the secret club he owns with six of his friends. It’s the closest thing he has to home and the place he always finds himself avoiding when the anniversary of the worst day of his life rolls around. For Morgan Tempest, though, he might just be able to handle it.
Morgan has spent the last year reclaiming her independence and rebuilding her business. She’s in control and saying yes to life now. That includes the wild cowboy she meets in the mountains…and The Ranch, a place where everything she thought she knew about her boundaries—and desires—is challenged.
But before Reece and Morgan can explore everything the other has to offer, the real world comes crashing in, bringing with it climate disasters, armed mercenaries, corrupt politicians and their own troublesome pasts.
If they can survive all that, then maybe, just maybe, they’ll be ready for that next great adventure—falling in love.
Reader advisory: This book contains scenes of anal sex and outdoor sex. There are scenes of on-page violence including a gunshot wound, and mentions of emotionally abusive relationship.
General Release Date: 15th November 2022
Pain sizzled through her hand as acutely as if she had high-fived a skillet on the fire, and Morgan pulled back and shook out her palm. Montana got hot. She was a California girl, tried and true, and shame on her, but she’d been expecting something of a nip in the air, not the scorching hundred-degree weather that made the limestone rock face almost too hot to touch.
She glanced up, the sun partially obscured by the brim of her hat under her climbing helmet. It was midday, and her skin was coated in layers of sweat and dust and…
And she wasn’t going to give up, damn it. She was on this mission not because she loved the burning ache in her shoulders, not because she could actually sleep out under the stars without the claustrophobic ceiling boxing her in overhead. She was out here for all those reasons and so many more. Because she deserved a life without fear or boundaries holding her back. Out here in the open air, she was good enough just as she was. Morgan Tempest, not afraid of anything.
That part, the not jumping at the sound of a glass tumbling off a tray in a busy restaurant, the not clenching her fists until her fingernails dug into the flesh at her palms when she heard a man yell in the park, that was going to have to come. The not being afraid didn’t happen overnight, didn’t happen in a year. The only thing she could do was to keep climbing, and right now that was to be taken literally.
She swung her arm up and grabbed the next hold with ease. One arm, one foot, hand, leg. All her muscles burned and sweat slid down her back, sticking her tank top to her skin, skin she knew was catching too much sun in the late afternoon.
She added it to her list—the list in her mind, at least, because she hadn’t come up with easy-access notebooks just yet.
Practically speaking, this trip was a way to take the company—her company—to the next level. She was supposed to be making every note she could about what the modern woman wanted on her next trip around the world. How could she stay safe, engaged, and fully herself, while also tackling the tall, distant mountains?
It was a hell of a question to try to answer, and not just for the business. But if the last six months—hell, the last nine years—had taught Morgan anything, it was that staying at the bottom of the mountain wasn’t necessarily safer just because it was easier.
One step. One foot. One hand. One arm.
Out of the corner of her eye, she caught sight of a flash of white, brighter than the limestone, and she realized there was another climber resting on a small ledge maybe fifty feet above her, his feet hanging off the edge like he didn’t have a care in the world.
Wouldn’t that be something? To be carefree again.
Soon enough, the sun still beating against her skin, her muscles burning, her hands calloused and rough against the even rougher stone, she made it to that small ledge. She found her water bottle first, downing a few large gulps of water, then leaned back against the cool, shaded rock and looked out over the edge.
Fancy that, she could just sit on a mountain’s edge and watch the world around her.
So, Morgan did. She watched the clouds, watched the tips of her toes, watched the little ants climbing along the rock like they weren’t nearly three hundred feet in the air.
As she was watching the ants, Morgan noticed something tucked away in the shadow of the rock. A small black notebook. She picked it up. The spine was thick and the pages had clearly gotten wet at some point. There were small stickers on the bottom, from different campsites across the country, and the familiar campfire logo she recognized as One Leap Magazine. Whatever was in the notebook, it was clearly loved, and she tucked it into her backpack, hoping for the chance to run into the man who had been climbing here before her. Perhaps she would even make a friend on this trip if she did.
I’m seeing things.
It must have been the glare overhead, the bright summer sun bouncing off the limestone and frying his brain. Or maybe he’d been abducted by aliens in his sleep and discarded in the wilds of Montana without his memories. Whatever it was, Reece knew it was something because there was no reasonable, logical, or rational explanation for why he was seeing the woman from the marketplace here, three years after his trip to Istanbul, three years and nearly six thousand miles.
He grabbed for a hold and secured his grip on the stone. At least that was real. He could always count on the sensation of stone in his hand, of dirt below his feet, of the wide-open sky high above. No matter how many cities he had lived in, no matter how many trains, planes, and automobiles he had taken over the course of his career, it always came back to him and the great wild wilderness.
All that explained why he was out climbing, this week of all weeks. But it didn’t explain why he hadn’t just picked up his damned phone and texted Caleb and Dante and Van when he had flown back into Bozeman or why he hadn’t dropped them a line in the three days he’d been adventuring around the state. And it sure as shit didn’t explain why he was seeing the woman from the marketplace here, of all goddamned places on earth.
It wasn’t the first time. In the years since that first trip, she had become something of a talisman. He knew it was probably creepy as hell, but when the sight of something beautiful and safe—the sight of a woman he would never see again—kept his panic attacks at bay, then he didn’t ask questions. All he knew was that when his skin got itchy and his neck got hot, as it had done so much more that first year, he could think of the stranger’s smile in the market, and he could feel the ground under his feet again.
Even though he had caught sight of her in his dreams as well, weaving in and out of marketplaces in Morocco and Santiago, showing up in the maze of places he had spent his life exploring, the sight of her had never precipitated a panic attack. She always came after, and she always grounded him before things got worse.
Back to the beginning, what the hell is she doing here?
Reece chanced a look down the mountain’s edge. The climb wasn’t the hardest he’d ever been on, but it pushed him enough to forget about the date on the calendar and it was sufficiently challenging to keep most other climbers away.
It was probably some innocent brunette woman who was just trying to get her climb in for the day and he had gone ahead and projected a boatload of issues onto her. Thinking about her meant not thinking about other things and so he placed his foot in the next hold and picked up speed. Icarus, reaching for the sun.
The sun that was, unfortunately, starting to settle itself on the far end of the mountain range. He probably had another hour of good light and he wanted to get to some of the hiking trails to set up camp before it got dark.
The shadow of a cloud fell over the canyon and for a brief moment, Reece wondered if his dark mood had summoned it into existence. But when he glanced up, he realized that the near-white summer sunshine was suddenly nowhere to be found, and that dark and, admittedly, very ominous looking cloud wasn’t the only one in the sky.
If he knew one thing about survival, it was that it didn’t do a guy any favors to be caught thinking about something else when he was six hundred feet in the air on a five-point-eight climb. Above him, a crack of lightning shot across the sky, illuminating the valley below in sharp, jagged shadows that struck like predator’s teeth.
And that was his cue to very much get back on the ground. He glanced up, only to get smacked in the face with a sheet of rain, then he glanced back down. Up was only another twenty feet or so. While traveling had taken him to the edges of the world, to cities and villages he couldn’t have pointed out on a map in high school, he knew the Montana weather. He’d been a ranch kid, after all, and had been caught in more than one deluge brought on by the land of Big Sky. He knew how to weather this.
More lightning, and with it, the top of the mountain came into his view, just ten feet more, just five. The holds on the rock were already growing nearly too slippery to grip and his expensive climbing shoes didn’t have the same traction on the limestone surface as they had just a few minutes earlier. He was going to have to hustle his ass to get to the top without falling down the sheer cliff face and hoping someone caught him in time.
Which only served to remind him that he wasn’t the only person on the mountain.
Fuck. Fuck. He should have just gone straight to the Sinclair Ranch and left his demons to fend for themselves, but he hadn’t. He’d come out adventuring, and now he was going to have to look the woman in the face who bore too striking a resemblance to his one safehold during panic attacks. That was cool and normal and definitely not the stuff that scared women away from weird guys in the mountains.
One more hand hold. One more foot hold. Then he was pulling himself the last few slippery feet, grasping onto the permanent bolts wedged in the rock and sliding along on his belly until he was able to crawl away from the edge and finally come to a standing position. The rain was coming down harder now and the entire sky was cloaked in those rough dark clouds that looked like an encroaching dark sea tide. He reached for the flashlight at his belt and shone the light down the canyon, looking for any sign of the woman who had been climbing below him.
She wasn’t there. Either she had decided it would be a safer bet to rappel down the mountain or she hadn’t existed at all, and Reece was truly and officially manifesting his fear into reality and definitely not handling things as well as he had thought he was.
A few feet down the rockface, he heard a noise, and he turned the flashlight to see hands popping up over the mountain’s edge. He moved as quickly and safely as he could, until he was able to kneel at the mountaintop.
“Do you need help?” he asked, shouting to be heard over the roar of the storm. When he had first caught sight of her, he’d been more than impressed by the skill and speed with which she had been traversing the mountainside, but the rules of the game changed during a Montana storm.
“Just a hand up,” she called back. “It’s hard to get a grip.”
That was an understatement. The entire rockface where he kneeled was beginning to catch water and pour over the edge into the canyon below. He reached out and she gripped his hand, their connection slippery as they maneuvered up to the flat surface at the edge.
“I’ve got a quick-up tent,” he called. “We can both fit.” It was nearly impossible to see more than her silhouette in the storm, the rounded head of her helmet and the ridges of her backpack, but he could catch the nod.
“There’s a clearing up ahead.”
Thankfully, she was right. The short walk was difficult against the rain, but they were soon in a clearing of trees and dirt that would make it possible to secure the tent. The large branches took some of the brunt of the wind, as well, and made it easier to set the tent up, despite the howling sound that reverberated through the canyons like an angry echo.
And through it all, through the grabbing for the tent bag and the frenzied movements as they both grasped the edge and began to secure it down with ropes and bungees between the trees, he couldn’t help but lean into the adrenaline. Sure, there’d been a fair amount of running away in his life, but he loved adventure for adventure’s sake, and there was nothing more heart-pounding or invigorating than setting up an emergency camp during a breakthrough storm on a mountaintop with a stranger.
He tossed his pack into the tent to keep it from getting wetter then checked the cords securing it again. With two of them inside, it wouldn’t blow away, but there was an incline to the ground, and he didn’t want to risk anything pulling or tearing or tugging. The half-dozen stakes and the two extra ropes were a necessary precaution.
“It’s safe,” he called to this strange woman who had somehow entered his path right in the middle of the scene. “You can get inside.”
She hesitated, as if only just realizing that she had no idea who he was or whether this was a good idea. Because of course she hesitated. He had more than half a foot on her and, though it was clear she was one hell of an athlete, he was a big guy. He would fucking hesitate too if he was in her shoes—natural disaster be damned.
“I promise I’m not a serial killer,” he shouted.
“That’s exactly what a serial killer would say,” she shouted back. Above them, thunder rolled across the sky, a booming, cracking sound that truly seemed as if it would shatter the world below. That seemed to help her make up her mind. “But if you promise.”
She disappeared into the tent, and with one more look to the mountain’s edge beyond, Reece followed.