Wild Montana. Danica Winters

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Название Wild Montana
Автор произведения Danica Winters
Жанр Зарубежные детективы
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Издательство Зарубежные детективы
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to have to wait for another ranger so I can catch a ride.” She looked down at her watch.

      “You don’t want to have to wait for another ranger, or is it that you don’t want to run into Travis?”

      Her face puckered at the man’s name and he instantly regretted asking her the question.

      “Sorry. Don’t answer that. It’s none of my business. Let’s go.” He slammed closed the tailgate and the topper. He jumped into the truck before she had a chance to answer.

      After a minute she dropped into the seat beside him. They drove in silence for what seemed like an hour.

      “How’d you know about Travis?” she finally asked.

      “I was in the FBI for five years. Let’s just say I’ve learned how to read people.”

      “If you’re so good at reading people, then how did you end up working at Goat Haunt? I thought only loners and outcasts liked that station. Last year it was manned by some lady...Gertrude or something. I swear the only word that woman ever said to me was, ‘Passport?’” Lex’s voice was soft, like she was trying to avoid hurting his feelings, but the blade had already sliced.

      She was right. Goat Haunt was his own private version of Alcatraz.

      “What can I say, I guess I’m just lucky,” he said, trying to make light of the situation.

      He steered the truck around the sharp corners and down the narrow road of the Going-to-the-Sun Highway. The moon had risen and made it just bright enough that he could make out the snowcapped peaks of the jagged mountains around them. To their left was a steep drop-off; the only thing standing in the way of a car going over and plummeting hundreds of feet to the bottom of the mountain was a short rock wall.

      He forced himself to focus on the road and ignore the tight knot of fear that always filled his gut when he came this way. At least the park was closed for the night, so there were only a few other cars—those that dared to spend the night in the park, or were hurrying to get out.

      “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said that,” Alexis started. “I...I’m just a little touchy when it comes to Travis. He’s my ex-husband. Lately things haven’t been going well between us.”

      He knew all about exes. He’d had more than his fair share, but after the events that had transpired with the FBI, he’d taken the last two years off from dating. It was his way of protecting another person from getting hurt. Yet when he looked at Alexis, he was tempted to break his self-imposed vow of celibacy. There was just something about the tomboy next to him. She wasn’t the type of woman who worried about a broken nail. She was the type who would be happy hanging out, reading a book, maybe going for a hike—and no matter how he counted it, spontaneous and real were always a turn-on. No matter how badly he didn’t want them to be.

      “You want to talk about it?” he asked, trying to avoid looking at her hand resting between them on the bench seat.

      She shook her head. “What about you? I noticed you don’t have a ring.”

      “It’s a long story,” he said, casting a look at her.

      “I heard that kind of thing has been going around.” She smiled. “Relationships are tricky—when you think you have a good one, it’s easy to get complacent and take things for granted, and with bad ones you are always struggling to find an escape.”

      His thoughts moved to his parents and how tricky their relationship had been. They hated one another and had fought every day when he’d been growing up. Though they were still married, the thought of the relationship they had made the word marriage sour on his tongue.

      Though he didn’t like the thought of marriage—at least the type of marriage he’d seen as a child—he still held hope that one day he’d find something different. Yet from the way Lex spoke, he wasn’t sure if she was attempting to make him feel better, or if it was a way of telling him she wasn’t interested. Either way, whatever residual hopes he had held in making something out of their clandestine meeting were gone.

      A roar grew loud behind them. In the rearview mirror was a single headlight.

      Alexis leaned forward and peered into the side mirror. “Who’d be crazy enough to drive a motorcycle down this thing at night?”

      Besides the cliffs and the sheer drop-offs, Glacier was known for the goats and random assortments of animals that loved to use the highway as their own personal travel system, avoiding the steep embankments and treacherous climbs.

      “Maybe that’s why they want to hug my bumper,” he said, checking the mirror. The bike was now so close to their tailgate that he could no longer see the headlight—it was nothing more than a reflective glow.

      He moved to slow down, but as he did, so did the biker, moving back so far that he lost track of the headlight around a corner.

      “What’s that guy doing?” Alexis asked, a whisper of fear creeping into her voice.

      “Who knows, but don’t worry. We’re fine. The guy’s probably just drunk or something.” Casper had driven this road a few times over the summer, but normally when he got off work he’d just avoid the park and drive home to the tiny town of Babb outside the park, where he had a little apartment on the second floor of a local auto mechanics shop. “Where’s the next pullout?”

      Alexis shook her head. “Not for a mile or two.”

      He was blinded as a car turned the corner ahead. It was moving fast and hugging the center line of the narrow road. He gripped the steering wheel, his fingers digging into the hard vinyl.

      At the last moment, the car swerved into their lane. He jerked the wheel, running the truck off the road and toward the rock wall.

      He reached across the truck, trying to stop Lex from lurching forward, but there was nothing he could do. The old Chevy’s tires squealed as the steel body ran against an outcrop of unyielding stone in a mess of metal and sparks.

      The truck’s tire caught and, almost in slow motion, it twisted. The world shifted and what had once been up was now down. As they slid to a stop, the truck was lying on its roof. Lex was held in place by her seat belt, her body slumped against the straps and her eyes closed. Blood dripped down her hair and fell onto the gray roof.

      “Alexis? Lex?” he called frantically, hoping she was still alive. “Lex, are you okay?”

      He started to move, but his strap held him in place upside down. The blood started to rush to his head, making his face feel heavy and bloated. Reaching up, he tried to unclasp his belt, but his fingers fumbled as he tried to make them work.

      The deafening beat of his heart started to slow and as he looked at Lex his vision distorted, making her look as though she were a picture going out of focus. His vision tunneled until he could only see her face. A wave of peace filled him.

      If this was it, the last thing he was going to see—her long hair and full lips—he could think of no greater goodbye.

       Chapter Four

      Alexis opened her eyes. The world was awash with the sounds of frantic voices. She didn’t know where she was; the world floated around her, moving and swaying like she was watching it through a pool of water.

      “Alexis?” A man’s voice broke through her thoughts. “Are you okay? Lex?”

      She blinked and there, kneeling beside her, was Casper with his silver badge on his belt and hair the color of chestnut, reds and browns that reflected the lights that filled the night, and shoulders so muscular that she was certain he did push-ups as a hobby. As he looked at her, his eyes were wide with fear.

      She tried to speak, but nothing more than a slight squeak escaped her lips. Her head ached and as she drew a breath, her chest ached. Swallowing back the pain, she tried again to speak. “What...happened?”

      Casper leaned closer and moved her hair out of her face. The strands stuck to her skin and she moved to reach up, but he stopped her. Then she tasted the