beer over her; he’d been rejected before, and sometimes it sucked, but he didn’t curl up in a whiny, whimpering ball because of it. Still, for some reason, having her there kind of blunted the desire to go out looking for someone else. Even though he hadn’t asked her out again after the second rejection, he knew his own competitive nature well enough to realize that part of him-like his dick-had stayed focused on her and refused to give up.

With her gone, his clientele list would grow even more. He might have to start turning people down-

An idea streaked across his brain like a flash of lightning, freezing him in place. It was so obvious, yet so outlandish, that he automatically tried to discard it. She wouldn’t go for it in a million years… would she? No. Maybe.


Damn. It just might work.

He looked up at Harlan’s real estate office, then down the road to where the blue truck was just a dark speck.

“What the fuck,” he said aloud, “why not give it a shot?” He strode across the parking lot and climbed the stairs to Harlan’s office. Harlan heard him coming, of course; his boots thumped on the steps and the planks of the upstairs landing. When he opened the door, Harlan had already swiveled his chair around and was waiting with an expectant look on his florid face.

“Dare,” he said in mild surprise. “I thought you might be Angie coming back. Sit down and have some coffee with me.”

“Thanks,” Dare said, because on principle he never turned down coffee. He never knew when he might get another cup, and he’d been deprived often enough that he never took coffee for granted. Going over to the coffeepot, he poured a cup for himself, then one for Harlan. “Black, white, sweet?”

“Black and sweet.”

“How many?”


Dare dumped in a couple spoonfuls of sugar, gave the coffee a quick stir, then handed the cup over to Harlan. He dropped his tall frame into one of the four client chairs Harlan had optimistically put in the office. “Angie just told me she put her place up for sale,” he said brusquely, in his mind the ritual of coffee having taken care of whatever social niceties there were. “What’s the asking price?”

Chapter Three

Angie stared straight ahead through the windshield, her hands clamped around the steering wheel. Her eyes burned, but she refused to cry. She wasn’t a crier, anyway; the only time in her life she could remember having a complete meltdown was when she’d made a fool of herself at her wedding. If she hadn’t had the meltdown she wouldn’t have been so embarrassed, so in her book crying was not only a waste of time but also opened the door to all sorts of bad results.

She wouldn’t cry over Dare Callahan, anyway. There was nothing there to cry over. They had no history, no connection other than being in competition with each other, and that wasn’t going to endear him to her. No, if she was emotional about anything, it was about selling her place. She’d grown up in that house. Her dad had loved it here in western Montana, loved the people and what he did; his grave was here. Leaving here felt as if she’d be leaving him.

No way. She was moving, she had to, but she swore to herself right then that she’d come back at least once a year, more often if she could manage it, to tend to his grave, to leave flowers, even to talk to him as if he could hear her. Love didn’t go away when someone died, and she would make a point to honor him for the rest of her life. He’d been a good man, and he’d devoted himself to raising her after her mother deserted both of them for some sleazy guy when Angie was almost two.

Her dad had been enough for her. She didn’t know where her mother was, if she was even still alive, and frankly didn’t care. She had never done an Internet search on her mother’s name, and certainly never bothered to hire a professional to search. Angie’s dad had stepped up and supported her, raised her, loved her, and given her nothing but understanding and comfort when her wedding had blown up in her face. She couldn’t do anything for him now except honor him in death, so for as long as she lived and was physically able, she’d take care of his grave.

“So help me God,” she said aloud, and felt a little better, because saying it aloud somehow solemnized it, as if she had signed a contract. She wasn’t severing all ties. She’d be living elsewhere, and eventually that new place would become home the same way her apartment in Billings had become home after she’d lived there a while. Being adaptable didn’t mean she was deserting her dad’s memory.

Thinking of her dad made her realize she should be concentrating on the two clients who would be coming in day after tomorrow. One of them, Chad Krugman, was a repeat client, but he almost could have been someone new because she couldn’t remember a lot about him other than, as a whole, he was pretty forgettable. Thank God she had a copy of the photograph she’d taken of him and his client after the client had shot a deer, otherwise she’d have had no clue what he looked like. He was just one of those people who never made much of an impression: on the short side, but not short enough to be memorable because of it; a little balding, a little soft around the middle. Not ugly, not attractive. Just… kind of invisible.

Even though she’d looked at the photograph, she had a hard time holding his image in her mind. The one thing she remembered very clearly was that he wasn’t an experienced outdoorsman, or a very good shot. When he’d booked her before, last year, she’d even gotten the impression he hadn’t enjoyed himself very much and hadn’t really wanted to be there, so she didn’t have any idea why he’d rebooked for this year. Bottom line, though, she didn’t care why, just that he had; she needed the income. Hunting season would soon be over, and unless a professional photographer wanted some snow shots of the mountains for a nature magazine or something, she wouldn’t have anything else for the winter.

Maybe, against all odds, Harlan would get a quick offer on her place. She’d have to scramble to find somewhere else to live, but sooner rather than later. Now that the difficult first step was behind her, she was anxious to move on. It was that streak of realism again: Once she decided her course of action, she was ready to act.

For now, though, she had to take care of business, and get everything organized for the trip. She’d e-mailed Chad Krugman asking for some specifics on the client, Mitchell Davis, whom he was bringing as a guest. Had he ever hunted before, what kind of experience did he have, what was he looking for, licenses needed-that kind of thing. Mr. Davis was evidently more experienced than Chad, and he wanted to bag a black bear.

That alone raised her stress level. She didn’t specialize in bear hunts, so she’d been a little surprised when Krugman had made the booking with her. Her normal MO on a hunt was to avoid bear, because she was a little afraid of them. Okay, more than a little. She worked hard to keep anyone from realizing just how uneasy she really was on a bear hunt, because no one wanted a guide who was anything other than confident. She was confident in her skill at finding bear, but that wasn’t a comfort, because deep down she didn’t want to find a bear-any bear, brown or black, big or little. Why couldn’t Krugman’s client want to hunt elk? An elk didn’t present the same problems; it wasn’t likely to chase her down and eat her. Bears, well, bears were predators, and powerful ones at that.

Angie did what she could to both mitigate her fear and keep herself and her clients as safe as possible; she employed all the bear safety rules regarding food and trash, plus she always carried two big cans of bear repellent and made certain each member of her party did the same. Still, she was well aware that pepper spray worked on bears about the same way it worked on humans, meaning sometimes the sprayed kept coming after the sprayer. She didn’t intend to take any shots herself, but she’d be damn certain her ammunition was powerful enough to do the job if shooting became necessary.

She had already made certain the camp she’d leased was stocked with some basic, nonfood supplies, but there was still a lot to do; the campsite was fairly primitive, consisting of a few tents, air mattresses, and a portable toilet. The rest of their supplies would have to be packed in: food and water for three people, enough food for the horses. Krugman and Davis were bringing their own weapons and ammunition, so that was something she didn’t have to handle, but a week in the mountains wasn’t something that could be casually planned. She’d try her best to get her client in position to have his shot, but her main objective was to get them and herself back alive and in one

Вы читаете Prey
Добавить отзыв


Вы можете отметить интересные вам фрагменты текста, которые будут доступны по уникальной ссылке в адресной строке браузера.

Отметить Добавить цитату