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Running Wild: The Men from Battle Ridge [Mass Market Paperback]

Linda Howard , Linda Jones
2.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

Nov. 27 2012 The Men from Battle Ridge (Book 1)
In book 1 of this steamy new contemporary Western romance series by two blockbuster authors, a cowboy and a woman on the run take a stand and fight for love.
 
Carlin Reed lives in fear, off the grid, moving from place to place. So Battle Ridge, Wyoming, a small town in the middle of nowhere, seems like a good place to lie low for a while. But after becoming cook and housekeeper to cattle rancher Zeke Decker, Carlin suspects that she’s made her first mistake. Rugged, sexy, and too distracting for his own good, Zeke is pure temptation mixed with something deep and primal that makes Carlin feel almost safe. Soon things are getting way too hot in the kitchen.
 
Zeke doesn’t challenge Carlin’s terms: cash, dead bolts, and no questions. It is easy to see that she’s a woman in trouble. Problem is, he’s so blindsided by his attraction to her he can’t think straight. Zeke tries to stay all business, no complications—but that game plan is sabotaged the second Carlin gets under his skin. And when her terrifying past follows her to the ranch, Carlin faces a heartbreaking choice: run away from the man she loves, or put him in the crosshairs of a madman.

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Product Description

About the Author

Linda Howard is the award-winning author of many New York Times bestsellers, including Prey, Veil of Night, and Ice. She lives in Alabama with her husband and a golden retriever.
 
Linda Jones is the acclaimed USA Today bestselling author of more than sixty novels, including Untouchable, 22 Nights, and Bride by Command. She lives in Huntsville, Alabama.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Chapter One

10 months later

Battle Ridge, Wyoming, didn’t look like much. Carlin Reed pulled her faded red Subaru into a parking space in front of an empty store and looked around. There probably wouldn’t be any jobs here, but she’d ask around anyway. She’d found work in some of the damnedest places, doing things that she’d never before have considered. Work was work, money was money, and she’d learned not to be picky. She wasn’t above doing yard work, washing dishes, or just about anything else as long as it didn’t involve prostituting herself. Her first attempt at mowing a lawn on a riding mower had been something worthy of a clip on YouTube, but she’d learned.

From what she could see, Battle Ridge had fallen on hard times. Her atlas gave the population as 2,387, but the atlas was six years old, and from what she had seen driving in, she doubted Battle Ridge supported that many residents now. She’d passed empty houses, some with “For Sale” signs that had been up so long they’d become dingy and weather-­beaten, and empty stores with “For Sale or Lease” notices in the windows. Here in the West it would still be considered a fair-­sized town, especially in a state the size of Wyoming with a grand total population of half a million people. Nevertheless, the reality was that half the buildings around her were standing empty, which meant she’d likely be moving on.

Not right this minute, though. Right now, she was hungry.

Not surprisingly, traffic was light. Hungry or not, Carlin sat in the dusty four-­wheel-drive SUV and through her dark sunglasses carefully studied everything around her, every vehicle, every person. Caution had become second nature to her. She hated losing the unconscious freedom and spontaneity she’d once known, but looking back she could only marvel at how unaware she’d been, how vulnerable.

The level of her vulnerability might change depending on circumstances, but she was damned if she’d add in the factor of not being aware. She’d already noted that the license plates of the cars and trucks parked on each side of the street were all from Wyoming. There was little chance her movements could have been anticipated, since she hadn’t known she’d be stopping here, but she still checked.

Two buildings down on the right was a café, The Pie Hole; three pickups were parked in front even though two o’clock in the afternoon wasn’t exactly a prime mealtime. The name of the café amused her, and she wondered about the person who had come up with it, whether a quirky sense of humor or a don’t-­give-­a-­damn attitude was behind the choice. Her amusement was momentary, though, and she returned to studying her surroundings.

Directly behind her was a hardware store, another small cluster of vehicles was parked in front of it. To the left was a general store, a Laundromat, and a feed store. A block back she’d passed a small bank, and beside it had been a post office. Down the street she could see a gas station sign. There would probably be a school, and maybe people from fifty miles around drove their kids here. Was the town big enough to support a doctor or a dentist? To her, it seemed like a good deal: a thousand or more patients, and no competition. A person could do worse.

After she’d watched for a few minutes, she settled back and watched some more, waiting for that inner sense to tell her when she’d been patient long enough. She’d learned to listen to her own instincts.

The normalcy seeped into her bones. There was nothing frightening here, nothing unusual going on. She got her baseball cap from the passenger seat, pulled it on, and grabbed her road atlas and hooded TEC jacket before getting out of the Subaru. Though it was summer, the air was cool. The TEC was very lightweight, just a couple layers of nylon, but it had so many pockets that it had actually taken her days to locate all of them. If she had to run, everything she needed was in those pockets: ID, money, a throwaway cellphone—­with the battery removed and stored in yet another pouch, a pocket knife, a small LED flashlight, even a couple of ibuprofen and some protein bars. Just in case. Seemed as if these days she surrounded herself with “just in case” items and scenarios; she was aware and prepared.

She hit the lock button on the remote, and slipped the key and remote into her right front jean pocket, then headed toward the little café; her leggy stride covered the distance at a fast clip, just one more detail about her that had changed during the past year. Once, she’d never gone anywhere in a hurry; now her instinct was to move, to get from A to B, get her business accomplished, then move on. While it was true that a rolling stone gathered no moss, she wasn’t worried about getting mossy; more to the point, a moving target was harder to hit.

Still, when she reached the café door, her own reflection startled her. Baseball cap, long blond hair in a ponytail, sunglasses—­when had she acquired the whole Sarah Connor–­Terminator vibe? When had she become someone she barely recognized?

The answer to that was easy: the moment she’d realized Brad was trying to kill her.

She opened the door of The Pie Hole; a bell over the door sang as she walked in. Stepping to the side, she took a moment to do a fast assessment, looking for another exit—­just in case—­evaluating the three men currently riding the stools at the bar counter, their legs spread and boot heels hooked on the railings as if they were on horseback—­again, just in case. There was no clearly marked rear door she could see from her vantage point, though there was one door with a plain “Keep Out” sign. Could be a storage closet, or an exit. She could also assume there was a back door off the kitchen, though, and maybe a window in the bathroom. Not that she’d need either, during this short stop.

The three men at the counter evaluated her right back, and she found herself tensing. She didn’t like attracting notice. The more she stayed under the radar, the less likely it was that Brad would be able to track her. It was reassuring that there was nothing remotely familiar about any of the men, and that their clothing proclaimed them local. She’d gotten good at judging what was local—­wherever “local” happened to be—­and what wasn’t. These men fit right in, from their creased hats down to the worn heels of their boots.

She shouldn’t have come in here. Too late she realized that any stranger would stand out in a place this small, where the locals might not all personally know one another, but they’d certainly recognize who belonged and who didn’t. She didn’t.

She thought about leaving, but that would attract even more attention. Besides, she was hungry. The best thing to do was the normal thing: sit down and order. She’d eat, pay the bill, then move on down the road.

The café itself was a smallish, pleasant-­looking place, gray linoleum floor, white walls, an honest-­to-­God jukebox against the back wall, red booths along the street-­front windows, and a smattering of small round tables in the center of the place. The counter, complete with a couple of clear pie cases and an old-­fashioned cash register, ran the length of the right side of the room. A pretty brunette in a pink waitress uniform stood behind the counter, talking to the three men with the ease of long acquaintance; like the men, she’d glanced up at Carlin’s entrance, and even through her sunglasses Carlin caught the brilliant glint of strikingly pale eyes, making her alter her grade of the waitress’s looks from pretty to something more. Maybe those eyes were why the three cowboys were camping on those stools, rather than the lure of food. Good. If they were flirting with the waitress, they were less likely to pay a lot of attention to anyone else.

The last booth was positioned against a solid wall; Carlin chose that one and instinctively slid in so she was facing the doorway . . . just in case. The plastic menu was inserted between the napkin holder and the salt and pepper shakers; she removed her cap and sunglasses and grabbed the menu, more from curiosity than anything else, because all she wanted was coffee and pie. She’d get something to eat, and use the break to study her map of Wyoming, figure out exactly where this little country road went, and pick a place to stop for a while.

She’d been so sure Brad wouldn’t bother to follow her to Dallas. She’d been wrong, disastrously wrong. Now when she stopped she took extra precautions. No one got her social security number. There could be no bank account, no W-­2, damn it; somehow she had to fall off the radar, something that was increasingly hard to do with everything computerized. He’d bragged about his computer skills and she’d hoped that was all it was—­bragging—­but evidently not. She didn’t know how he’d found her in Dallas, but he had, and she’d barely made it out alive. Jina hadn’t.

If she let herself think about what had happened her stomach would knot in panic, and she’d feel as if she were strangling on her own breath, so she’d pushed the memory away and focused on simply moving, doing what was necessary to stay alive. He’d try again, but she was damned if she’d make it easy for him. Somehow she’d figure out what to do, a way to outsmart him, set a trap—­something. She couldn’t live like this forever.

But for now, she couldn’t stay in any one place too long. Unfortunately, she didn’t have enough cash to just keep driving around the country on a permanent road trip, so she&rs...

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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Very Disappointing! March 30 2013
Format:Mass Market Paperback|Verified Purchase
Linda Howard is one of my favourite authors. But the book was by far her worst offering. The writing was dry and didn't evoke any emotions. Howard's past novels had a lot of humour - this one certainly did not. And the sex scenes? Very short. Not descriptive. No foreplay. Basically, it was more like wham-bam. It was a total waste of money and time.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.1 out of 5 stars  164 reviews
33 of 35 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Weak suspense, but sweet & enjoyable (3.75 stars) Dec 4 2012
By Mountaineer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition
**********
(Adult content: Explicit sex, violence and murder, no religious profanity but lots of cussing -- about 200 times.

3.75 stars, rounded up, possibly 4. Good! An enjoyable contemporary love story, if a tad disappointing. I loved the characters and the western setting, but there was not enough of that wonderful high-octane suspense I have grown to expect from Linda Howard. (I am not familiar with the co-author.) This book also lacked Howard's famous sexy banter (see Mr. Perfect, for one example). It just didn't have ENOUGH of the earthy bold humor I love -- even though the heroine, Carlin Reed, was named after the comedian, George Carlin, and the authors tried to include witty repartee.

It held my interest, but the suspense was rather weak and the villain seemed one-dimensional. I couldn't get too worried about Carlin's psychotic stalker (Brad), because I knew she was safely off the grid on the ranch, as the book synopsis indicates. I knew she'd be safe from Brad until something happened that would reveal her whereabouts. Also, she made Zeke promise not to hunt down Brad, and wouldn't even tell him Brad's last name.

So ... no offense + no defense = no suspense.

Without any real suspense for most of the book, what's left is a sweet story about big-hearted ranch hands (I liked the scenes of protectiveness and loyalty), good hot food (glad the hungry ranchers finally got something besides oatmeal and cheese toast), lessons in self-defense (I enjoyed these scenes), and Carlin's attempts to make white cake and biscuits (meh). There were also a few potentially life-threatening events, but they were all accidental.

Pacing was weak. I had a hard time staying with it in the long middle section. Too much focus on recipes, laundry, and house cleaning. I wish the book had been shorter. I forgive more of a shorter book.

The love affair with Zeke? Fine! It just didn't do a whole lot for me. Not sure exactly why not. He didn't want her there at first?? They didn't talk much ?? -- first SHE didn't talk to him, keeping him at bay, out of her kitchen, not even calling him by name. Then HE didn't talk much to her, not wanting to spook her, needing her to feel safe at his ranch (sweet) and not flee. Sometimes, it almost felt like he fell in love with her cooking, but only because the authors talked so much about food. Yes, there was some explicit sex, but there wasn't quite enough emotional sizzle. I liked the scene in his office! The one part where Zeke really came across like a super-protective Howard hero is when he beat the tar out of _____, midway through the story. And of course, Zeke was in top alpha protective form at the end, against Brad. That's a Howard hero!

The truth is, I hold Howard to a higher standard than most. Blame it on her other heroes, like Jack, or Sam, or Grant, etc. Even a weak book written by Linda Howard is better than many an average book.

Bottom line: Good! Glad I read it. Glad it has no religious profanity.

Kindle search stats, counting cuss words: dam -140 times, shi*-41 times, F or MF- 23 times ( Amazon won't let me spell profanity right, but some people want to know details about the kind of language before they buy a book, so I include it. )

Ps. I plan to read the sequel.

***
35 of 38 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Another disappointment... where did it go? Dec 17 2012
By booklady5 - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I have been reading for many, many years and have loved many writers during that time. Linda Howard has been a favorite for a very long time. But I have to ask, where did her writing talent and her ability to tell a story go? There have been books by LH that I wished for just 1 more page. Characters you loved that shared romance and a really great story. This book is not one of them.
I found it crude. There is no other word for it. If LH's editor is telling her to add vulgarity because this is 'today', she needs to listen to her fans instead. Crude. None of it added to the story in any way. Why write a story that is less when you can write one that is more? One that shows the growth of the caring and trust between the hero and heroine.
I gave the story a 2 for the humor and sass of Carlin. I didn't care for her name at all but at least we got to call her Carly through the book. I love humor in a story. But the long drawn out discussions of cooking and cleaning and more cooking and more cleaning became boring and dry. Zeke was never completely fleshed out, except on the front cover of the book. What I mean is, we really didn't get to know him. I found the story being told felt like it was jerked along. The time line was completely off, referring to a couple of months having passed, when it had to be at least 4 or 5 months.
The entire book needed to be reworked and some serious editing done. The romance was non-existent and almost cold until Carlin decided it was time to take what she wanted. Really? Crude.
I felt the last 1/4 of the book was rushed and just a way to tie up ends. I don't know a lot about Ms. Jones or her writing, but did Ms. Howard just put her name on the book because I really didn't find much, if any, of her quality of writing.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Almost .... But Not Quite Jan. 14 2013
By terrylynn - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I love western romance, historical more than contemporary, but this particular story was lacking in my opinion. It's pretty long for one thing and when I looked back on the sequence of events, there just aren't that many. Carlin Reed who is on the run from a rogue cop stalker, arrives in the small town of Battle Bridge, Wyoming, makes friends with the owner of the local cafe, ends up working for handsome but prickly Zeke Decker on his ranch, learns how to cook, fends off unwanted cowboy advances, decides to have sex with Zeke and eventually meets her stalker face to face. That's the whole book in a nutshell and in between is a lot of cooking and baking and a lot of dancing around the obvious question between Carlin and Zeke... should we or shouldn't we "f---". That word is offensive and overused in this book and doesn't add anything to the content or setting of the scene. I enjoy a steamy sex scene as much as the next person, I just don't need to hear it described using gutter language and the last time I saw the word dick used this often, was in high school on the bathroom wall. I just couldn't work up any strong feeling for Carlin and Zeke, although there are some great secondary characters that help round things out. There are a couple of hero/damsel in distress bits of action that keeps the pace from totally lagging, but all in all, I wouldn't waste my time or money on this one, unless you can get it from your local library.
16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Love it! Dec 1 2012
By Ellepaul - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I loved Running Wild! In fact I loved it so much I may just reread it (when I can find the time) over again. This was the perfect small town, cowboy romance with a bit of suspense story. The fact that I finished it in one day will tell you that I did not want to put it down!

Carlin Reed is running scared and living off the grid. A police officer who she dated twice is after her. He has already killed her friend because he thought it was her. Since the police wouldn't help her, she is not taking any chances and is trying to going into hiding.

After working part time (and under the table) at a small town restaurant, Carly gets a job as a housekeeper and cook on an out of the way ranch owned and managed by Zeke Decker. It takes awhile for Carly to trust him and while they are attracted to each other, they do nothing about it. The romance is a slow simmer as we see their relationship grow through daily life as well as challenges that come into play.

Now I am not a big fan of suspense stories but Running Wild has just the perfect amount. It really keeps the plot interesting and yet it wasn't too over powering. I know I am looking forward to more in this series by this wonderful writing team!
12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Terrific Duet Nov. 27 2012
By Dianne Socci-Tetro - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
In this great opening book into a new series, you will get to meet the feisty, smart and scared Carlin Reed. And, yes she was named after George Carlin! She is being stalked by someone nobody would ever expect it of, and her stalker has already killed one person that Carlin cares about. Now she is on the run.

Her running takes her to an unlikely place by the name of Battle Ridge Wyoming a very quiet ranching town that is sort of on the way out, with people moving trying to make a living elsewhere.

After working for a while for Kat the owner of The Pie Hole here in town, Carlin gets sort of coerced into taking a job for Zeke Decker, a cattle ranch owner who is just walking sex on a stick, if you know what I mean! He is gruff, blustery and the type of guy who wants to fix everything for almost everyone!

This was a wonderful romance, but even more importantly, it was a terrific suspense novel. This is something that Linda Howard is known for, and she really worked it. I had trouble seeing just where Ms Jones left her mark, as the writing was so seamless between the two women.

Some of the passages got to be a little too much with the inner angst but they were soon bypassed by increasingly suspenseful...well...suspense scenes.

Zeke does get around to eventually getting his own way and teaching Carlin just what she needs to know about saving herself if she ever finds herself in need too. And of course she will eventually need to. She makes for a great kick-butt heroine who also knows when to let someone more experienced take over in the kicking butt department.

This was written with a tight plot, great, well-rounded characters of different kinds all with their own voices. The scene descriptions where vividly written, the scenery descriptions made you actually see them in your mind. There was even plentiful humor to break up the fear factor. The sexual aspect took quite a while to come up and I appreciated that. I don't always like a book where the couple has to fall into bed in the 5th chapter. I could actually believe that they took their time and really fell into love instead of it being simply lust disguised to look like love.

I loved this book and will be buying the next one in this series, and I will be keeping this on my to -be- re-read shelf!

*ARC SUPPLIED BY PUBLISHER*
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