“Old enough,” he said, and looked again at the looming mountains. “If I don’t make the move now, I might run out of time.”

And that was it in a nutshell. She was doing exactly the same thing, though for a different reason. She was running out of time.

“Yeah,” she said gently. “I know.”

Abruptly he hugged her, a one-armed, rib-crushing hug that was over before she could do more than gasp. “I’ll miss you, Angie, but we won’t lose touch. I promise you that.”

“Back at you,” she said awkwardly. The emotion of the moment left her flailing way out of her depth, as usual, but she managed a smile for him as she stepped out onto the landing. Some people instinctively knew the right thing to say, the right thing to do, but she wasn’t one of them. The best she could do was, well, the best she could do, and hope she didn’t screw up too much.

As soon as the door closed behind her, though, her smile turned sad. She didn’t want to leave. She’d grown up in her house, she liked the small community here even though God knows there was absolutely nothing that would qualify as a nightlife, unless you counted frogs. But so what? She’d enjoyed living in Billings, and she enjoyed living here. After a while, wherever she moved to would become home. She was who she was, no matter where she lived. Fiercely she shrugged off her sadness. She’d better get over her pity party or risk turning into what she disliked most: a whiner.

She took the flight of stairs down the outside of the building at a brisk pace, then strode across the cracked parking lot to her seven-year-old dark blue Ford pickup, keeping her head high with an effort. She wasn’t beaten, not yet, but she’d definitely lost this battle, and the taste of defeat was bitter as gall in her mouth. The worst thing was, Dare Callahan probably didn’t even know-and wouldn’t care if he had known-that she’d been in a fight for her survival, and that as she’d been going under for the third time he had effectively put his boot on top of her head and held her underwater.

God, she hated him. No, not hate, not exactly, but she sure as hell didn’t like him. To think that when he’d asked her out, two years ago, she’d actually been tempted to accept, that she’d even gotten butterflies in her stomach, but that was before she realized what he was doing. She knew better now. She didn’t like anything about him, not the way he looked or the truck he drove, or even his damn name. Dare. What kind of name was that? Like he thought he was some supercool urban daredevil, able to leap small Yuppies with a single bound-except he was too cool to make the effort.

If she had to be fair about it-and she didn’t feel like being fair-she supposed she had to blame his parents for his name, but that didn’t mean he was completely innocent, because he could have changed his name to Jim or Charlie, something like that. But on a website, Dare Callahan, Wilderness Guide, looked a whole lot cooler than, for instance, a plain old Charlie Callahan; people probably subconsciously felt as if they were hiring Indiana Jones.

And when she compared her own website to his, Powell Guide Trips was so lackluster she had to admit she probably wouldn’t hire herself, either. That was a hard thing to face, but there was no getting around it. She didn’t have the extra money to hire someone to jazz-up her website, so in her spare time she’d been trying to figure out how to do it herself, though she was painfully aware that generally one got what one paid for. Her site had been set up so she could update it, but it was inspiration that failed her. She had no idea what to do to make herself sound more capable than Dare Callahan, Wilderness Guide. Change her name to Ace, maybe?

The idea struck her and she stopped in her tracks, wondering if she might have actually come up with a workable idea, something that would buy her a little more time if nothing else. Her income had been falling for the past two years. Part of it was the economy, sure, but it didn’t help that she was a woman. Even though some of the big-game hunters who came to Montana every year were women, and an even larger percentage of the photographers on photo shoots were women, most people seemed to think that a male guide was a safer bet than a female one.

If there was trouble, a man was stronger, supposedly tougher, yada yada. She knew the drill. She wanted to fault it, but she couldn’t, even though she knew she was good at what she did. She was five-seven, a little above average height for a woman, with a lean, rangy build that disguised how strong she was. Even given that, there was no way she came anywhere close to being as strong as most of the men around here, especially a muscle- bound jerk like Dare Callahan. But if she changed her website and, say, used her initials instead of her name so people didn’t know right away that she was a woman… Yeah, she might lose repeat business, but that was practically nil anyway, so any new business could only be a plus.

And maybe she should concentrate more on photography trips and wilderness camping, things like that, rather than on hunting trips, which naturally leaned more toward men, as if a set of nuts was a requirement for competent guiding. From what she could tell, not having testicles was a big check mark on the plus side. Not only did she not have testosterone blinding her with ego and competition problems, she didn’t have to worry about whether to put them on the left or right, and she didn’t fall down and vomit if anyone punched her in the groin.

Talk about selling points: lifelong experience, no testicles. She could see it now, blazing from her website in brilliant red letters. She enjoyed the vision for a moment, then jerked her thoughts back to repositioning herself as more of a guide for photography trips and family outings.

Except this was something she should have done back in the spring, to pull in business during the height of the hunting season. Winter was coming fast, and with it came the end of hunting trips until next year. No, she had to face it: She was up against the wall. It galled her that she couldn’t turn her situation around-at least not here, not now. Her only chance at turning this around was to move somewhere else, where she wouldn’t have to deal with the competition of a jackass superstar. But she hated being a failure, at anything, anywhere, and under any circumstances. She hadn’t failed just herself, but her dad and his faith in her. Why else would he have left the property and business to her if he hadn’t thought she could make a go of it?

“Because there wasn’t anyone else,” she muttered, then, despite everything, she had to give a little laugh. Not that her dad hadn’t loved her; he had. But whether or not he’d loved her hadn’t factored into the decision to leave everything to her, because she was his only child and there literally hadn’t been anyone else. Maybe if he’d had any inkling of having heart trouble before literally dropping dead, he’d have put the place up for sale and taken up a line of work that wasn’t so physically demanding, but all in all Angie was glad that, if he had to die, at least he’d died doing what he loved. He’d been riding the range, not cooped up in a store or an office.

She’d been living and working in Billings at the time; her job had been just an ordinary one, in the administrative office of a hospital, but it had paid her rent and she’d liked it okay. The thing was, she’d never had a great ambition to do anything in particular. All she wanted at the time was to support herself. So when her dad died, the logical thing had been to move back home and take over his guide business. After all, she’d often helped him before she moved away, so it wasn’t as if she was a novice and didn’t know how to conduct a guide trip. She was a decent tracker, and a decent shot. At the time, she hadn’t seen any reason why she couldn’t make a go of it, and she was kind of ready for a change anyway, so why not?

And then she’d found something she hadn’t expected to find: She loved it. She loved being out on the mountains, she loved being in charge of her own destiny. There was something special about stepping out of a tent into the pristine early morning and being overwhelmed by the solitude and beauty around her. How could she have gone so many years without realizing this was exactly what she wanted to do? Maybe she’d had to go away for a while in order to see how suited she was for this life. Not that she hadn’t enjoyed living in a city; she had. She’d liked the variety, the people, the friends she made; she’d even taken some cooking classes and thought about maybe doing some catering on the side. But she loved being a guide, and enjoyed living here way more now than she had when she’d been growing up.

She did wish she’d made some different decisions, such as selling the horses and keeping the four-wheelers, instead of doing the exact opposite. Hindsight was great, except it was so damn slow in coming. She hadn’t anticipated that the economy would bottom out and discretionary spending would almost disappear. She hadn’t known Dare Callahan would move back home and siphon away most of her business. Why couldn’t he have stayed in the military where he belonged, safely away from her little patch of Montana?

If only-

No. No if onlies. Never mind that she was thirty-two and he’d given her butterflies. She didn’t trust butterflies, didn’t let herself get carried away by emotions and hormones. Once had been enough. She’d made such a fool of herself that whenever she thought of her abbreviated marriage her stomach still curdled from an almost overwhelming sense of embarrassment. A strong desire to leave Billings, the scene of the debacle,

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