Wilde Side

By: Jannine Gallant

Dedication




To my mom, Marilyn Strandberg, for her endless support and encouragement.



Thank you for being the amazing, caring woman you are.





Chapter 1




The limo ahead jostled and shook, hitting every hole pocking the endless dirt road winding through the wilds of Idaho. Since the black behemoth more closely resembled an armored tank than a luxury vehicle, the occupants probably barely felt the bumps. Lucky them. When her head smacked against the side window after the support van bounced through a particularly deep rut, Devin Lockhart clamped her teeth together. Too bad she’d been relegated to traveling with the media team instead of riding with the congressman’s personal entourage.

As both vehicles picked up speed to a bone-jarring level, she swore beneath her breath. If one of the newshounds hadn’t been sitting right next to her, she’d have used a few choice phrases to express her true feelings about her boss’s latest scheme to ingratiate himself with the voting public.

Leg outstretched, she readjusted to anchor herself better with a foot jammed against the door and a white-knuckled grip on the armrest. This ridiculous backwoods rafting adventure was designed to favorably sway the opinion of the common man in the upcoming presidential election. Portray Walton Hinsdale as a stalwart hero primed to conquer the wilderness with his devoted son by his side.

She snorted softly. What a crock.

“I can’t believe we aren’t there yet. Shit!”

The grumbled complaint rose to a squeak as another bump sent them airborne. She glanced sideways, and a grin slipped out. Apparently the reporter from the TV news show, Political Spotlight, didn’t share her inhibitions. Liam Kennedy’s lips twisted in a grimace, and brown eyes held a touch of panic behind thick-lensed glasses. He couldn’t be much older than her own twenty-nine years, but the man had bragged earlier about landing such a prestigious assignment. If his pained expression was any indication, he was rethinking his good fortune.

Devin took pity on him. “I was told twenty-five miles of dirt road.” She craned her neck to see the odometer. “We’ve gone twenty-four.”

“Thank God. I’ve gotta pee like a race horse, and the bouncing isn’t helping.”

She pressed a hand to her lips to hold back a laugh, relieved she’d been smart enough to opt out of a second cup of coffee with her breakfast.

“Here we are, folks, Boundary Creek Campground.” The driver’s amused gaze met hers in the rearview mirror as the older woman stopped the van behind the limo. “For those in need, toilets are over to the right through those trees.”

When Devin pulled the release handle on the door to slide it open, the journalist bolted past her and disappeared into a stand of lodgepole pine. She and the videographer riding in the back seat climbed out more slowly. Stretching her arms out in front of her to ease kinked muscles, she took a bracing breath of chilly morning air—then nearly choked when her gaze landed on the man approaching at a fast clip. If he were a mere mortal. Devin had serious doubts. The specimens who hung around Capitol Hill didn’t have hard-muscled chests tanned to a deep bronze, or arms that could surely sweep her off her feet with little effort. Short brown hair, damp from a shower—or maybe a swim in the river roaring loud enough to drown out the chirping birds—crowned a face with a straight nose, hard jaw and square chin.

When the blue T-shirt he’d just pulled over his head shifted down to cover drool-worthy abs, Devin forced her gaze upward. Amusement sparkled in green eyes flecked with gold, and a hint of a smile curled firm lips.

Why wouldn’t he laugh? She must look like a gaping idiot with her mouth hanging open. She snapped her jaw shut. Too late for damage control. The newcomer had already veered right, his full attention captured by the congressman waiting beside the limo.

Shrewd gray eyes bright with pleasure softened the blunt features of Hinsdale’s rugged face as the big man greeted him. “Howdy, stranger. How long has it been?”

“Way too long.” A grin stretched the hottie’s mouth to reveal even teeth. “My parents’ thirtieth anniversary party three—no—four years ago.”

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