Authors: Sara York
Tags: #Gay & Lesbian, #Literature & Fiction, #Fiction, #gay, #Romance, #Western, #Genre Fiction, #Gay Romance, #Westerns
The first book in the Colorado Heart Series
By Sara York
Colorado Wild Copyright © 2013 Sara York
Cover Art by Sara York ©Copyright 2013
This book is a work of fiction. All characters, places and events are from the author’s imagination and should not be confused with fact. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, events or places is purely coincidental.
This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any material form, whether by printing, photocopying, scanning or otherwise without the written permission of Sara York.
This book contains material that only suitable for mature readers. Enjoy!
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Colorado Wild. The Author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of the following wordmark mention in this work of fiction:
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Table of Contents
Grant Stovall watched the clouds gathering at the top of the mountain, bringing darkness to the land. The wisps of moisture blocking the last rays of sun were too thin to produce the much-needed rain, ending the drought that left half of Colorado under burn ban. A wildfire threatened houses and ranches over a hundred miles away on the north side of Colorado Springs, but Wild Bluff Ranch was lucky, being nestled between two small mountains in a lush valley, positioned perfectly in a sweet spot of moisture. In the few years he'd been here, the fires had never touched their land; even if the smoke was an unwelcome guest, the flames stayed far away.
"He's not coming back," Duff Whitaker growled behind him.
Grant had noticed the older man walk in the room moments earlier but chose to ignore the intrusion. Duff, still a very formidable man, had retired from the military after thirty years of service. The ranch had been an opportunity he couldn’t pass up ten years ago when the government had approached him. The secrets about the ranch were buried so deep he doubted that even the president knew of their existence, which suited everyone perfectly.
was virtually unknown, its own separate entity, operating without any oversight other than themselves. Scary if you took the ranch and its men at face value, but if you knew the men for who they were, what they'd been through, no one would question the work they did. The original funding and land grant had come from good ol' Uncle Sam, but the government disentangled itself from ranch operation as soon as possible. He was glad for the separation since it meant none of the decisions they made were political.
Grant held back the sigh threatening to escape but didn't turn to meet Duff's gaze.
"He might." The words came out weaker than he'd intended. He wanted to be strong in his assertions, giving Duff the idea that he believed what he said. In truth, he didn't think Craig would be back, ever.
"Son, once they leave, they can't come back."
Frustration ground through him, leaving him unsettled. "He's out there, waiting. I feel it."
"I'll tell you like I told my son when his woman
walked out and left him high and dry. You can't force them to stay. Craig Jenkins left on his own. We didn't force him out. He could have stayed and lived with you, working the ranch, forgoing missions until he got his head on straight, but he left and now you need to move on."
Grant's heart twisted and he gasped for breath. Living without Craig meant never getting a full breath of air.
There was too much unresolved. The ending had eaten away at his peace, leaving him unsettled. His missions hadn't been hampered, not really. At least he didn't think so. In truth, he needed to fix his thinking before he made a huge mistake that couldn't be corrected.
ights flashed in the distance, drawing Grant's attention. "Who is coming in?" Their state of the art security system would have alerted everyone in the house if a strange car turned into their property.
His name is Roger Burk. He's a Navy SEAL."
A new guy—I didn't know we were getting a new team member."
"Roger was recommended."
Grant stiffened. New members were tricky, leaving everyone on edge as they got used to each other. "Really?"
"His best friend and
lover, died on a mission eight months ago. When his papers came for re-upping four weeks later, he declined. Said his heart was no longer in it. That they were ineffective and he needed to be effective."
"Is that where you were two weeks ago?" Grant turned from the window and faced Duff, taking in the lines that crisscrossed the man's face, not from any battle scars, just old age taking its toll, leaving a good man marked by the
missions of life.
"I know you want to be included in bringing guys in. I let you bring in
James and Mike, but some missions aren't yours to have."
Grant turned back to the window. Since Craig had high-tailed it out of Dodge three months ago, Duff had changed toward him. If
Grant were completely honest, he'd changed. He was surprised Duff had allowed him to go on his last mission alone. As team lead, he had responsibilities, but he wasn't at Duff's level and that was okay. Before the ranch and retirement, Duff had been a general, three-star at one point while in the Marines. The third star had put him in a position to open this ranch, giving people like Grant, who wanted to make a real difference in the world, a place to go. Sometimes the appreciation he felt didn't show.
Grant caught Duff's gaze, holding it for a long moment
, hoping to convey his respect. "Yes, sir." Duff nodded to him before Grant turned to watch the car pull close to the house. Two men exited the vehicle, one from the driver's seat, the other from the back. Both wore masks covering their entire face and dark glasses to obscure their eyes. They were anonymous. He had no idea if they were military or CIA. He knew they weren't FBI, those guys would throw a fit if they knew what Wild Bluff was about.
"We'll let Roger get settled before we introduc
e ourselves." Duff rubbed both hands together and looked as excited as a kid in the candy store.
Grant chuckled. It had to be a weird position to be in. R
oger was a SEAL, and yet his hands were cuffed together in front of his body and his eyes blindfolded, leaving him helpless. Had Roger at any point lifted his blindfold, all bets would have been off and he'd have been taken back to Washington, reamed a new one, and dismissed. Right now, the man didn't know if he was in Colorado, Wyoming or Virginia for that matter. What they put new team members through, the disorientation and unknown forced upon them, challenged the best soldiers. The trust needed to live at the ranch required extreme measures. So extreme that the trainers didn't even know what the men would eventually end up doing.
he'd been new to Wild Bluff and his flight had landed, Grant had an idea they were in the west. His senses had been on high alert, picking up a few cues, but he'd been flying blind. Because of the drugs they gave him, he'd spent most of the five hour long flight passed out, at least that's how long they told him the flight had been, they could have easily lied. At the time, he believed that the flight had been five hours. Roger would still be feeling the effects of the drug they'd used to knock him out, but the man would be fighting to appear normal. Grant smiled, remembering how crazy that day had been. Out of his element and totally at the mercy of others wasn't how he'd spent his life as a solider. He'd been a leader in the Marines, one of the elite, and he'd had the respect of his men. Giving it all up, being treated like a criminal when he'd been brought on board, that had messed with his mind.
Duff usually supplied the new recruit with fresh fruit and water, though few men took any of the food or water until Duff
arrived in the room. He'd been suspect of everything when he first came to the ranch. Of course being drugged and put on a plane usually made you a bit jumpy even if you volunteered for the treatment.
"Come on, Grant. Let's go introduce ourselves to Roger. I'm sure he'd like to meet you."
"I'm sure he'd like to meet anyone. I remember how terrible that first day was. Nervous as a momma dog with new pups and nothing to defend myself with. It was dreadful."
Duff chuckled and patted Grant on the shoulder.
"Let's go give him some relief. I'm sure he needs to see a friendly face."
Roger Burk drew in a deep breath, the scent of food driving him crazy, but eating anything from that spread would be stupid. He didn't know if this was another test or if he was at the end of his journey. The handcuffs had thrown him, but he understood the need for trust. The position he'd taken meant danger for everyone.
When the CIA
had first approached him, he told them they were crazy. He'd thought they were trying to trip him up and get him in trouble, for what, he didn't know. He told the CIA dude he wouldn’t fall for their tricks, that he was smarter than that. Then he was approached by another spook and he listened, asking questions. After a series of meetings and a few overnight trips where he stayed up all night long talking to the government officials, them digging into his psyche and he trying to gather as much intel as possible, they agreed that he could enter training.
The two months he spent at The Facility were the hardest days and nights he'd ever experienced.
SEAL training was a cakewalk compared to what he'd been through. When he passed, they told him he failed. Every exercise tried to break him but he got tougher, doing more than they expected, even taking it upon himself to escape his locked room to save a young Iranian teenager he'd been led to believe was innocent though they were torturing the boy to get information on an operation. It was another test to see if he would stand up for what was right. That night, they actually gave him more information, telling him that if he hadn't tried to save the young man they would have cut him loose the next day with some money after he signed a nondisclosure agreement. Part of him longed for that nondisclosure agreement, wondering what exactly he'd gotten himself into.
A noise sounded behind the only door to the room and he reached for his weapon, finding
nothing—no gun, no knife. Military training had taught him to always be prepared, but they'd taken everything to leave him defenseless. The only utensils in the room were spoons, plastic at that. Roger widened his stance and readied for an attack. The door swung open, admitting a big man, judging from the wrinkles he'd put the guy's age close to sixty, his gray hair was cut short in a traditional military style. The second man looked closer to twenty-nine or thirty. He wore his brown hair longer, more stylish. His blue eyes may have been half-closed but Roger could tell not much got past the guy.
"Hello Roger Burk, you can relax, we have no weapons." The older man held up his hands but his act didn't fool Roger. He was carrying a gun at his ankle and probably had a knife at his back. The younger guy was packing. Roger let his gaze slide down the young guy's body and he swallowed, noticing that not only was he packing, his package was huge. Roger looked away, disgusted by his interest. It had been a while, more than eight months since he'd last touched a guy. He fought the sting behind his eyes, forcing his mind away from
"Your names?" Roger didn't like them knowing who he was without knowledge of his own.
"I'm Duff Whitaker. I run the ranch."
"Duff Whitaker. There was a three-star named Whitaker. His
full name was William Duke Whitaker. He served at the Pentagon and White House. He was well connected until he left the service eleven years ago. Since then no one has heard from General Whitaker—publically. There are rumors that he's doing something, but no one knows what. Supposedly he lives on his ranch in Texas tending cows. Am I to assume we are in Texas?"
"Wow, I'm impressed.
" The sexy dark-haired man said. His voice was smooth as caramel, but deep enough to resonate inside Roger. "I'm Grant Stovall, I had no idea who Duff was before coming to the ranch. And no, we're not in Texas."
met Grant's gaze, measuring the man. He might be able to take him in a fight, but it would be close. "Grant Stovall. You were a Marine."
"Interesting. You either have a very good memory or you already know our team," Duff said, irritation tingeing his voice.
"No sir, I don't know your team. I was snooping while at The Facility. I think they might have known I was looking around but I'm not sure. I found an open office door one night when there was a fire alarm and read the names on a file."
"You're crafty. I can see why they recommended you to the team. Have you eaten anything?"
Roger lifted his brows, wondering what Duff took him for. Grant smiled and stepped forward, grabbing a piece of cheese and popping it into his mouth.
"No, I choose which piece you eat."
Roger stepped forward, studying the tray of food.
. Go ahead. Pick a few pieces of food for both Duff and I to eat. Also pour up some water or other beverages. Please, test us."
selected cheese, fruit, crackers and a few cookies for the men to eat. He placed everything on one plate. "Both of you pick from this plate."
"Sure." Duff grabbed a cookie and took a bite. Grant grabbed the fruit. Both men consumed the food he'd given them and drank from the glasses he'd set before them. Still, he wasn't satisfied. "I don't trust either one of you."
"Here." Grant pulled a Glock G30S from his waistband and handed it to Roger. "Just aim for the legs if you decide to fire randomly. I really don't want to die today."
Roger chuckled nervously, glancing to the corners of the room. "Do I have a gun trained on me?"
"No, you're perfectly safe. I just thought you'd feel more at home if you had a weapon. I've seen you reach for your piece more than once."
He was beginning to like these guys and that pissed him off.
Roger checked the magazine and the chamber. "You guys don't play around. One in the chamber."