Read Against the Wild Online

Authors: Kat Martin

Against the Wild

BOOK: Against the Wild
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HE ATTRACTED HER AS NO MAN HAD IN YEARS . . .

. . . which was exactly the reason Lane had tried to stay away from him. Now she fought an urge to take the next flight home to L.A.

Instead she looked up at him and smiled. “Dylan. It's good to see you.”

She could feel his eyes on her, as blue as the sky, skimming over her beige slacks and peach knit sweater, subtly assessing her curves. There was something about him, something that made him seem dark and forbidding, like eating chocolate at midnight.

He stared at her so long she thought he was going to kiss her. Her breathing hitched and she realized she wanted exactly that.

 

 

Dylan wondered if Lane's tension came from the journey ahead or just standing next to him.

She'd been wary of him since the moment he had introduced himself in L.A. She'd refused to go out with him, told him in no uncertain terms she just wasn't interested. Not in him, or the job he offered.

For reasons he had yet to fathom, he had phoned her again when he got back to Alaska, offered her way more money than the job was worth. Since then, he had called himself a fool a hundred times, been thinking it right up to the moment he had seen her and felt that same punch in the gut he'd felt in L.A.

Now she was here, and he wanted her as much as he had then. Dylan was a man who went after what he wanted.

More thrilling romantic suspense from Kat Martin

 

 

 

The Silent Rose

 

Deep Blue

 

Desert Heat

 

Hot Rain

 

Midnight Sun

 

The Dream

 

The Secret

 

 

 

Published by Kensington Publishing Corporation

A
GAINST
The W
ILD
K
AT
M
ARTIN

ZEBRA BOOKS

KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.

http://www.kensingtonbooks.com

All copyrighted material within is Attributor Protected.

To my dear friends Sky and Linda Sylvers.
And in memory of their beloved cat, Alex.
Love you guys!

Chapter One

The low moaning of the wind awakened him. The old fishing lodge, constructed in the thirties, was built of hand-hewn logs, the chinking between them worn by time and weather, leaving spaces for the air to blow through. An eerie keening echoed inside the house, a chilling sound that sent shivers down Dylan's spine.

Just the wind
, he reminded himself. Nothing to do with stories of ghosts and hauntings. Just an inconvenience, nothing more.

Still, he had Emily to think of. Dylan Brodie swung his long legs to the side of the bed, shrugged into his heavy flannel robe, and padded barefoot down the hall toward his daughter's bedroom.

The lodge he'd purchased earlier in the spring was big and sprawling, two stories high, with a separate family wing for the owner, another for the prestigious guests it had once hosted, back in its heyday in the thirties. The living room was big and open, exposing fourteen-inch logs in the ceiling. A massive river-rock fireplace climbed one wall; a second, smaller version warmed the sitting room in the master suite.

Dylan had fallen in love with the place the moment he had seen it, perched on Eagle Bay like a guardian of the two hundred forested acres around it.

Old legends be damned. He didn't believe in ghosts or any of the Indian myths he had heard. He'd waited years to find the perfect spot for his guided fishing and family vacation business, and this was the place.

The wind picked up as he moved down the hall, the air sliding over rough wood, whistling through the eves, the branches on the trees shifting eerily against the windowpanes. Dylan picked up his pace, worried the noise would frighten Emily, though so far his eight-year-old daughter seemed more at ease in the lodge than he was.

Frosted-glass wall sconces dimly lit the passage as he walked along, original, not part of a remodel of the residential wing done a few years back, before the last owner moved out and left the area.

The four bedrooms and bathrooms upstairs on this side of the building weren't fancy, but they were livable while he worked on the rest of the lodge. The master suite had been updated, but it wasn't the way he wanted it yet. Eventually, he would rebuild this section, as well, bring it all up to the four-star standard he'd had in mind when he had purchased the property.

Dylan paused at the door to Emily's room, quietly turned the knob, and eased it open. His daughter lay beneath the quilt his housekeeper, Winifred Henry, had made for her as a Christmas gift. It had princesses and unicorns embroidered in puffy little pink and white squares, all hand-stitched to fit her youth-size four-poster bed.

His gaze went to the child. Emily had the dark hair and blue eyes that marked her a Brodie, but her complexion was as pale as her mother's. Unlike Mariah's perfect patrician features, Emily's mouth was a little too wide, her small nose freckled across the bridge.

She was awake, he saw, her eyes fixed on the antique rocker near the window. It was just her size, fashioned of oak and intricately carved. She loved the old chair that had been in the lodge when he'd bought it.

Emily never sat in it, but she was fascinated by the way the wind made it rock on its own. Dylan found it slightly eerie, the way it moved back and forth as if some invisible occupant sat in the little chair. She was watching it now, her lips curved in the faintest of smiles. She mumbled something he couldn't quite hear, and Dylan's chest clamped down.

It hurt to watch his little girl, see her in the make-believe world she now lived in, forming silent phrases, nothing he could actually hear.

Emily hadn't spoken a single audible phrase since her mother had abandoned her three years ago. Not a meaningful word since the night Mariah Brodie had run off with another man.

Dylan's hand unconsciously fisted. Maybe he hadn't been the husband Mariah wanted. Maybe he'd been too wrapped up in trying to make a life in the harsh Alaskan wilderness he loved. Maybe he hadn't paid her enough attention.

Maybe he just hadn't loved her enough.

Guilt slipped through him. He never should have married her. He should have known she would never be able to adjust to the life he lived here. Still, it didn't excuse her cruel abandonment of their daughter. An abandonment Emily had not been able to cope with.

Dylan forced himself to walk into the bedroom. Emily's eyes swung to his, but she didn't smile, just stared at him in that penetrating way that made his stomach churn.

“Em, honey, are you okay?” She didn't answer, as he had known she wouldn't. “It's just the wind. The lodge is old. There's nothing to be afraid of.”

Emily's gaze went to the window, where a lone pine branch shifted restlessly against the sill. Ignoring him as if he weren't there, she snuggled back into her pillow and closed her eyes. She blamed him for the loss of her mother, he knew. It was the only explanation for why she had withdrawn from him so completely.

Tucking the quilt a little closer beneath her chin, he leaned down and kissed her cheek. The wind picked up as he walked out of the bedroom and eased the door closed. Emily was his to watch over and protect, his to care for and comfort. But he had lost his daughter three years ago.

When he had driven her mother away.

 

 

Lane Bishop stepped off the Alaska Airlines flight at the Ketchikan International Airport. When she had finally agreed to make the trip from L.A., she'd been surprised to discover that the journey—two and a half hours to Seattle, then two hours on to Ketchikan—was shorter than a flight to New York.

Alaska had always seemed so far away, so remote. And yet she had always wanted to see it.

Of course, she had never imagined she would accept Dylan Brodie's offer and take a job helping him remodel the old fishing lodge he had purchased in the middle of God-only-knew-where, Alaska—even if it was a challenge she found hard to resist.

As the owner of Modern Design, an interior design studio in Beverly Hills, Lane had done a number of log homes, ski chalets, and exclusive rural getaways for the rich and famous. But a handcrafted nineteen-thirties fishing lodge on a bay in the Inland Passage pushed every hot button she had.

But then so did the lodge's incredibly sexy owner.

Which was the reason she had been determined to stay away.

She still wasn't completely sure why, after half a dozen refusals, she had changed her mind and agreed to take the job. Perhaps it was the debt she owed Dylan for saving her life—and getting himself shot in the process.

They'd only just been introduced, both simply guests at the wedding of a mutual friend, when gunfire had erupted. She hadn't been the target and neither had he, but Dylan had shoved her to the ground and been grazed by a bullet while trying to protect her.

Gratitude for the near stranger who had come to her rescue accounted for at least some of her motivation.

The rest had to do with the attraction she'd felt for him from the first moment she had met him.

She spotted him walking toward her, as tall as she remembered, at least six-two, and even more imposing. Her mouth went dry and her insides quivered. He was wearing a red plaid flannel shirt, the sleeves rolled up over sinewy forearms. His rugged features were chiseled, his face darkly tanned, and in a hard, masculine way, he was amazingly handsome.

He'd attracted her as no man had in years, and seeing him now, Lane felt the same jolt of heat she had felt back then. It was exactly the reason she had tried to stay away from him, and she now fought an urge to run back to the plane, take the next flight home to L.A.

Instead, she forced herself to look up at him and smile. “Dylan. It's good to see you.”

She could feel his eyes on her, as blue as the sky, skimming over her beige slacks and peach knit sweater, subtly assessing her curves. There was something about him, something that made him seem dark and forbidding, like eating chocolate at midnight.

He stared at her so long she thought he was going to haul her into his arms and kiss her. Her breathing hitched, and she realized she wanted exactly that.

Instead, he reached for the handle of her wheeled carry-on bag, and relief hit her. Or maybe it was disappointment.

“I'm glad you're here,” Dylan said. “The construction crew is hard at work, but I need to get things rolling on the interior.”

“Yes, of course.”

His lips curved in a smile, but his expression was as guarded as she recalled.
A man with secrets
—it was a thought she'd had before. Perhaps uncovering those secrets was part of the reason she had decided to come.

Perhaps it was simply that she hadn't been able to think of anything but Dylan Brodie since he had left L.A.

“We need to get your luggage. The baggage claim is off to your right.”

“We have to get Finn.”

His mouth, which was hard and fit his face perfectly, edged up. “I can't wait to meet him.”

Finnegan was her dog, a ninety-pound Irish wolfhound—the runt of the litter. Her closest companion since her fiancé, Jason Russell, had died in a motorcycle accident three years ago. Bringing Finn along was the only way she would agree to come.

They collected her bags, then went in search of her dog. One of the airport staff released him from his giant cage, and he raced to her side as if she had saved his life. Which she'd actually done when she'd rescued him from the pound just hours before he had been scheduled to be put down.

“You might have mentioned you were bringing your horse,” Dylan said drily.

Lane just smiled. “This is Finn.” She knelt and put her arms around his neck, gave him a hug. “Good boy,” she said. Tall and rangy, he had a coarse gray coat and dark brown eyes that seemed able to look into her soul.

“Were you a good boy on the plane?” Rising, Lane rubbed between his ears the way he liked, calming him a little. “I bet you were.”

Finn panted and gave her one of his goofy wolfhound grins. Lane scratched and petted until the stiffness went out of his body and he began to relax. “Finn, meet Dylan. He's a friend.”

Dylan closed the distance between them, eased a hand out for Finn to sniff. The dog got a whiff of his scent and relaxed even more.

“He knows the word friend,” she said. “He's very intelligent. He's a great watchdog, but he's amazingly gentle.”

“You said he was okay with kids.”

“Finn loves children.”

Dylan just nodded. From the terminal, he led her outside, carrying her heavy suitcase as if it were full of feathers instead of a month's worth of clothes and wheeling her carry-on, too.

“I hope you had a decent flight,” he said as they walked along, Finn trotting quietly at the end of his leash.

“As far as I'm concerned, any flight I can walk away from is a good one.”

His smile came easy this time, genuine and warm. It made her stomach lift alarmingly. This was the reason she had come, this amazing attraction. And yet it scared her to death.

“Up here, flying's mostly the way we get around,” he said. “Maybe I can teach you to like it.”

She knew he was a pilot. She had also known he would be flying her into his recently purchased fishing lodge. Instead of heading for the parking lot, he turned and started walking toward the water. Since the Ketchikan Airport was built on an island with only ferry access to the mainland, there were docking facilities for the floatplanes that carried passengers to inland destinations.

“I have a feeling you're a very good pilot,” she said. “I'm actually looking forward to the trip.” Though she didn't know that much about him, there was an air of confidence in the way he moved, the way he handled himself that made her think he was good at anything he attempted.

Dylan seemed pleased by the comment. “I think you'll find the scenery pretty amazing.” But he was looking at her and not the incredible view of the ocean, and Lane was having a hard time catching her breath.

Too late to back out now
, she reminded herself. Followed by,
Just remember to keep your head.

A ramp appeared in front of them, bobbing in the water. It swayed a little beneath their feet as Dylan led her toward a white floatplane with blue striped sides, rocking at the end of its tether.

“Beautiful airplane. What is it?”

“De Havilland Magnum Turbo Beaver,” he said proudly. “Some Microsoft exec from Seattle was the original owner. Sold her to a guy in Newport Beach, but it didn't work out. Now she's mine.”

“This is the plane you bought in L.A.?” That was what had led to their meeting. Dylan had stopped to visit his cousin, Tyler, who lived in the city. At the time, Ty, a private investigator, had been working with Lane's best friend, Haley Warren.

“I found her on the Internet. She was in fantastic condition, and the price was right. It was worth the trip down to pick her up.”

Since then, Haley had married Ty and become a partner in Modern Design, giving Lane the freedom to make the trip. Her gaze went over Dylan Brodie, looking like every woman's macho fantasy in his worn jeans and plaid flannel shirt. After the shooting at the wedding, while the EMTs had been cleaning the wound in his side, she had seen him shirtless, seen a portion of his incredible body.

Now, just thinking about all that hard male flesh had her nerves kicking up again.

Lane shifted a little closer to Finn as Dylan loaded her bags into the cargo compartment. He urged the dog up into the seven-seat passenger section of the plane and helped her into the copilot's chair. After a final check of the exterior, he climbed aboard, settled himself in the pilot's seat, and began flipping switches.

Her nervousness built. She still couldn't believe he had talked her into leaving her business and flying up for the weeks it would take to complete the remodel job. She couldn't believe she had given in to her wild attraction to him and accepted the job.

But as she looked over at Dylan Brodie, saw the confident way he went through the flight check, the ease with which his hard hands moved over the controls, she understood exactly why she had come.

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