Wild Montana Winds
Historical Western Romance/Western
Journey to the Montana frontier in this captivating tale of adventure, honor, and endearing romance.
What happens when a mountain man tries to tame the heart of a Highland lass?
Ainslee McConnell turns down every eligible bachelor who asks for her hand, for she knows none can quiet her adventurous spirit. When she travels from Scotland to visit family and seek new experiences, she discovers a life more rewarding than she could have imagined.
Raised in the wilds of the Montana mountains, Colton Dawson lives as rancher, mountain man, and tracker. He is content . . . until one day a spirited Scottish lass crosses his path on her way to Hawk’s Peak. When a moment in Colton’s past revisits him, he fights to keep safe those he loves most.
Return to Briarwood and Hawk’s Peak to experience a timeless western romantic adventure that will sweep you away on the wild Montana winds.
Enjoy an Excerpt
from CHAPTER ONE
Briarwood, Montana Territory
August 5, 1884
Colton Dawson reached the ravine and looked over the edge into the river below. He’d ventured far enough from the ranch and town to make him wonder if the men he currently tracked knew something about the area he didn’t.
There wasn’t a copse of trees, a body of water, or a mountain peak within one hundred miles that Colton hadn’t scouted, drunk from, or climbed since his arrival in Montana a decade earlier. The Gallaghers’ ranch had spanned more than thirty-five square miles ever since they tore down the fence between Hawk’s Peak and the former Double Bar Ranch. All of it had been explored at one time or another by a Gallagher and half the men who worked the land, cattle, and horses.
The cattle were a prize to any rustler and it was well known throughout the territory that the Gallaghers’ horse breeding operation produced the most highly valued stock in the area. No one had yet been able to figure out whether the cattle or horses drew the raiders onto Gallagher land, but they intended to find out.
Colton gentled his horse until it stood as silent as its rider. He listened to the wind move through the trees and caught the scent of summer pine. The river below rushed over rocks and echoed through the gorge. He knew the land leveled and the river rose a few miles to the south, where it wound back again toward the ranch.
The tracks pressed into the soft ground indicated the riders had shifted direction and now headed north, away from the river. Colton concluded the men didn’t know where they were going, which gave him the advantage. The mountains and forests that stretched north is where Colton gained his education, where he’d learned how to trap, hunt, and track.
His horse scraped a hoof over the ground and sidestepped back from the ravine, but it wasn’t the drop or the water below that bothered the gelding. Colton smelled the fire and the burning flesh, and he searched the sky on the other side of the river for signs of smoke.
Flames licked the damp air and the fire sizzled with each drop of rain. Sunshine quickly made way for dark, rolling clouds, and Colton doubted the two men in the makeshift camp had anticipated the sudden change of weather. He followed the smell of the fire and wasn’t surprised when some of the rustlers’ tracks crossed the same path.
He dismounted and crouched behind a boulder, his horse now six yards away. Colton watched the men scramble to keep the flames alive by tossing wet sticks onto the smoky pile. They were no longer on Gallagher land, but the meat roasting over their fire no doubt came from Gallagher stock. A carcass lay a dozen feet away from the camp, on the ground in the open for any animal to find.
Idiots, Colton thought. He despised fools and rustlers alike, and these men were both. If he moved closer, he knew he’d find the staggered HP brand of Hawk’s Peak Ranch on the remains. He listened and waited. The tracks told him more than two men rode with the outfit currently making rounds of cattle ranches in the region. Hawk’s Peak was bigger than most in the state, which made rustling the cattle tempting. More cattle meant more land to cover, and people of a mind to steal might figure a few head here and there would go unnoticed.
A good cattleman always noticed.
Ethan Gallagher, head of the family, had put a bullet in one two nights ago, and the culprit now sat in the Briarwood jailhouse awaiting transport or a judge, whichever came first. Three men who lived in or close to town were rotating the watch at the jail, but it had been a heavily spoken-about topic for some time. His younger brother, Gabriel, was able to catch another one, but the thief managed to ride away into the night.
They needed a sheriff, someone with experience they could trust. Ramsey Cameron, Eliza Gallagher’s husband, was an obvious choice. He pinned on his marshal’s badge when needed, though they knew he did not wish to make it a long-term profession. Ben Stuart, Hawk’s Peak foreman and close friend of the family, had the necessary experience, yet he was more valuable at the ranch. Colton knew it was only a matter of time before more of these rustlers were brought to jail, the doctor, or the undertaker. He didn’t care which one.
The rain fell hard from the sky, dropped from branches, sizzled on the dying fire, and slickened or muddied every surface. The men scrambled, shouting at each other. Colton could handle two of them without worry. He watched the direction where the other riders had gone and heard nothing.
He raised his rifle and stepped out from behind the boulder. He was close enough to the men, and he didn’t have to shout over the weather. “Meal time’s over.”
They both turned. Colton followed a low curse with, “What the hell have you gotten yourself into, Ike?”
Ike didn’t answer. His partner raised a pistol to Colton, who fired, disarming the other man and putting a hole through his hand.
“What you go and do that for!”
“You’re next, Ike, if you pull that shooter from its holster.”
“I ain’t goin’ to jail.” Ike’s hand hovered over the butt of his gun. “We didn’t harm no one.”
“You’re rustling. You’ve worked the land. Hell, you’ve worked one of the ranches that
have lost stock.”
Ike spit on the ground. “Not no more.”
Colton knew Ike had a reputation for spending too much time at the saloon. It was why when he first inquired about work at Hawk’s Peak, they had turned him away. “It’s your drinking that keeps you out of work, not the ranchers.”
“Them Gallaghers never gave me a chance.”
Colton kept Ike’s partner in the edge of his sight while he spoke with Ike. He preferred taking both in alive. “The Gallaghers offered you a train ticket out of Bozeman to a place where no one knows you. You could have a new start, Ike.”
“Money is what I need.”
“Stay sober and you might keep a job. But not this time.”
Colton recognized the panic in the other man’s eyes. He looked like someone who believed he didn’t have options. Ike’s hand returned to the butt of his pistol.
“Don’t do it.” Colton aimed, his finger on the trigger of the Winchester rifle that had seen him through a decade of life in these mountains. “There’s still a way out of this.”
“To jail?” Ike’s hand gripped his gun handle. “It wasn’t my drinkin’ this time, I swear it. Couldn’t do it no more, scrapin’ and beggin’ from these ranchers. They don’t deserve any of it more’n I do!”
Colton had heard it before, from drifters and out-of-work cowboys who detested wealthy cattle ranchers because they’d been in the right place at the right time and worked hard to build their empires. He knew some came by their spreads through less than honorable means, but most fought to carve out a life in a land where most folks found it tough to survive.
“You’re going to jail. Nothing you can do about it.”
Ike’s eyes softened around the edges. His shoulders relaxed. Colton saw defeat and expected Ike to make the second worst decision of his life. The first had been to join up with the rustlers. Ike drew, but before he pulled the trigger, a bullet from Colton’s rifle sliced through Ike’s upper thigh. The pistol dropped from Ike’s limp fingers and his companion became bold, reaching for the fallen gun.
“It would be a shame to lose the use of both hands.”
The rustler pulled his uninjured hand away from the gun. “Who the damnation are you, mister?”
End of preview
Excerpted from Wild Montana Winds by MK McClintock. Copyright © 2019 by MK McClintock. Published by Trappers Peak Publishing. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the author or publisher.
Available in various formats including e-book and paperback. Read the e-book on most devices and tablets with the free Kindle App.