RUNNING WILD - Linda Howard and Linda Jones
The Men from Battle Ridge
Battle Ridge, Wyoming - Present Day
Carlin Reed has spent the last ten months on the run, since a friend was killed in her place. On her second date with a police officer, Brad Henderson, Carlin knew something was not right with him, but he ignored her rejection and started harassing her, so Carlin moved to Dallas. When a co-worker who borrowed Carlin's raincoat was shot in the street, Carlin knew it was Brad, but couldn't prove it. Now, ten months later, she planned to stop in Battle Ridge, Wyoming long enough for a piece of pie and a chance to plan her next move, and ends up with a job. Though she enjoys working with Kat at the Pie Hole, in the winter months there won't be enough business for Carlin to keep her job, and Kat tries to get her hired on at the Rocking D, a local ranch owned by Kat's cousin.
Ever since Zeke Decker's housekeeper left, he and the hands at the Rocking D have not had much luck with keeping another. After some trouble with hiring pretty younger women, Zeke is determined to hire a man, but when Spencer, the hand who's reluctantly taken on the kitchen duties, is hurt, Zeke is desperate enough to hire Carlin. While he's definitely attracted to her, something tells Zeke that Carlin is trouble, and he has no intention of bringing that trouble to his door. Kat explains that Carlin is being stalked, and it doesn't take long before Zeke sees just how tortured she is by her past, and he'll do whatever it takes to help her.
Carlin's life has been turned upside down by an obsessive, vengeful man, in RUNNING WILD, but when she lands in Battle Ridge, she finds something she'd never expected. After her parents' deaths, she drifted along for a bit, and after Brad focuses on her, she's too busy running to think much about the future. She's surprised to find herself enjoying life in Battle Ridge, a small town in the middle of nowhere—ranching country, far different from Southern Texas where this city girl has spent most of her life. Also surprising is the attraction she feels towards Zeke—after Brad, she had no interest in men and even less confidence in her ability to judge them. But, since running is the only thing she sees in her future, getting attached to anyone, or anyplace, isn't wise. Zeke's had a rough time since his housekeeper left, and an attractive single woman is the last thing the ranch needs, no matter how attracted he is to Carlin. The more time he spends with her, though, the more he wants her to stick around—and not just as a housekeeper.
Along with Kat, the secondary characters are the cowboys who work on the ranch, and while the story is mostly centered on Carlin and Zeke, the hands provide a bit of comic relief. Until the Pie Hole, Carlin's previous work experience had very little to do with cooking, so her early attempts are interesting to say the least. With plenty of humor as well as sizzling sexual tension, RUNNING WILD is a book I highly recommend.