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Wild Engagement: A Dark Pines Pride Bonus Story by Liza Street (1)

Chapter One

While Becca might be a kickass lawyer who could win, win, and win some more, she sucked pretty hard at socializing these days.

Knight’s Landing wasn’t nearly as fun of a bar as The A-Hole back in Huntwood, but it was Tacoma’s best pub for the after-work crowd. On a Friday evening, it was buzzing with conversation. Becca felt a headache forming, but tonight was a night to celebrate. She and her firm had just taken down Cory Bernall, and he’d be paying Becca’s best friend, Summer, back every penny he’d stolen from her, along with a hefty extra bit for damages.

That asshole could afford it. He hadn’t even needed Summer’s money—that was the worst part of this whole case. He’d just taken her identity and spent from credit cards in her name for fun. He hadn’t even felt bad about it, either.

Well, now he would. Or if he didn’t feel bad, at least he’d feel it in his giant trust fund.

Amanda, Becca’s partner at the law firm, bought a round of drinks for everyone who’d helped work the case. Becca took a couple of sips of her margarita, but she had to drive back to Huntwood tonight, and she didn’t want to get too buzzed or too sleepy.

“You look tired,” Amanda said, sitting down at Becca’s side. “And coming from me, that’s saying something.”

“How is little Joseph?” Becca asked.

“He’s about the cutest thing in the world. Here.” Amanda took out her phone and scrolled through a couple of photos of a sleeping three-month-old.

Becca sighed. He was adorable.

Amanda continued, “That’s what I wanted to talk to you about. You just wrapped up this case, and you did a fucking awesome job. You also kept the firm going while I was on an extended maternity leave. Postpartum depression was the worst, and you gave me all the time I needed.”

Becca reached over and squeezed Amanda’s hand. They weren’t usually very touchy-feely or affectionate, but the past few months had brought them together even more as friends than partners. “I’d do it again in a heartbeat. Besides, we hired Marco, and he’s taken up a ton of slack.”

“Exactly,” Amanda said with a decisive nod. “Which is why we’ll be completely okay while you take off the next couple of weeks.”

“Take off the next—what?”

Amanda smiled. “You don’t have anything coming up, and what work there is, Marco and I can handle in your absence.”

Becca made a scoffing sound. “I can’t just...take off for two weeks. I’ve got nowhere to go.”

“Maybe not. But you need the time. You’re tired, and I can tell your heart’s hurting. Is it still about Summer?”

Becca stared into her drink, afraid to meet Amanda’s eyes. “A little. It’s hard to feel close to her lately. It’s like she’s hiding something.”

“Maybe it’s time you figured that out,” Amanda said. “I’m giving you the space and time to do that.”

Becca wanted to argue, but if she was honest with herself, she needed a break. She’d felt good taking over while Amanda was gone, but if she didn’t get some downtime, she was going to burn out. She’d seen it happen to better lawyers than herself.

“Okay,” she said, smacking the table with her palm. “Okay. Two weeks off. I don’t know what the hell I’m gonna do with myself, but I’ll take the time.”

“Excellent,” Amanda said. “Now, if you do want to hook up with the new intern, I think he’s into you. If you don’t want to hook up with him...”

“I can’t hook up with an intern,” Becca said, shocked. “Besides, he’s a baby.”

“He’s twenty-two, you’re twenty-eight.” Amanda shrugged. “Not that big of a difference, and even then, I’m not gonna judge.”

Becca actually considered it. It had been that long since she’d spent the night with a guy. Sure, she collected numbers when she went out, she enjoyed a little flirtation. But nothing ever happened between her and whatever guy to make her think she was ready for getting naked with them. And she definitely knew she wasn’t ready for the final step—marriage—so getting invested in something and getting attached to someone just didn’t feel like it was right for her anymore.

“Are you holding a torch for Grant?” Amanda said. “You know he’d want you to be happy.”

“He told me so,” Becca said, nodding. “And I would find someone else to mess around with, except I just don’t want to.”

“And that’s fine, too,” Amanda said. Then she looked past Becca and giggled. “Then again, the intern is staring at you, so hooking up with him would be super easy. A sure bet.”

Shaking her head and smiling, Becca said, “Nope. He works with me and he’s a baby.”

“Speaking of babies...” Amanda said, looking at her watch. “Kelly’s gonna be so ready to pass him back to me when I get home. I’ll be heading out soon, too.”

Becca hugged her, set down some extra cash to contribute to the tip, and made her way out of the bar. The April evening was cool, and she wished she’d brought a heavier jacket with her. It didn’t take too long for her car’s heater to blast welcome warmth against her face, though.

The highway back toward Huntwood was relatively empty for a Friday night, and she played talk radio even though she wasn’t listening to it. Two weeks off, huh? She didn’t know what she was going to do, rattling around in that big old mountain home she and Grant had bought together. She liked the place, but it was so freaking empty sometimes. That empty house was one reason it had been so easy to pick up all the extra work while Amanda was on maternity leave.

Soon she turned off the highway to take the twisty road to Huntwood. Her car’s headlights illuminated the trees pressing in over the two lanes, making it look like she was in a long, tall corridor of evergreens. She was glad the snow had all melted off—driving in wintry conditions made her extremely nervous. When Grant had been alive, he’d even driven her to and from work in the winter.

He was a good man, Grant. If he were still alive, he’d already be planning a two-week vacation to somewhere warm and sunny, somewhere he could golf and Becca could lie out in the sun, flipping through the kinds of sexy magazines her colleagues at the office would be shocked to see her reading. Hot men and smutty stories.

She realized with a pang that her subscriptions had run out long ago. Grant had always renewed them for her.

Suddenly, a dog streaked across the road. Becca pushed on the brakes, determined not to panic. When she was a teenager, she’d nearly driven into the side of the mountain while swerving for a squirrel—that had taught her an important lesson.

The dog was huge, and even braking for it wasn’t enough. Becca shrieked. The dog glanced off the hood of her car and disappeared.

“Oh fuck, oh fuck. I hit a dog.” She gripped the steering wheel and stopped the car. The dog was nowhere in sight, not slumped on the side of the road in a heap like she’d expected. She took deep breaths. Had it really been a dog? What if it was a deer? Or a coyote, or wolf?

Getting out of the car and putting herself near an injured wild animal was a terrible idea.

But if that was someone’s pet...could she live with herself, not knowing?

She could call the Huntwood police. She knew a few people at the station and they might make fun of her, but whatever. Better than leaving someone’s injured pet on the side of the road.

Where was the poor thing? Had she not really hit it? No, that had been a definite thump as it bounced off her car. She cringed, replaying it in her head.

Maybe it hadn’t been hurt that bad, and it had run off to lick its wounds in peace.

Or maybe even now it was limping home and it would be picked off by one of the mountain lions that roamed the area.

She had to call someone. Grabbing her purse from the passenger seat, she searched for her phone. But her phone was nowhere in her purse, and nowhere on the seat or the floor of her car. She must have left it at the bar in Tacoma. She bit back a curse.

Just then, a hand slapped up against the outside of the passenger window. She shrieked, dropped her purse, and started screaming.

The hand disappeared and she heard someone say, “Calm the fuck down, lady, I just need a pair of pants and a ride into town.”

Oh hell no. She put the car in gear and started to drive.

She was afraid to look, but she looked anyway. A naked man stood on the side of the road. His shoulder was bleeding.

She should help him. That would be the best thing to do. The Good Samaritan kind of thing. Help people who need it.

But this was the twenty-first century, and she’d seen enough news stories to know this situation didn’t often work out well.

Still, he looked utterly helpless there, on the side of the road. And had she hit this man and her brain had just told her it was a dog? Wouldn’t the responsible thing be to stop and help him? Otherwise, if she’d hit him, this would be a hit and run. She certainly didn’t need that on her record. She could even see the local newspaper headline: Hoity-Toity Lawyer Pleads Guilty to Hit and Run.

“Shit shitty shit,” she said.

The guy was still standing there.

It would be stupid to stop. She knew that. She knew it would be the epitome of idiocy to let this guy get into her car.

Then she laughed. It wasn’t like he was hiding a weapon. Where would he hide it? Up his butt? Still, better safe than sorry—he could have friends waiting nearby. Naked ones. She tried not to laugh harder, but couldn’t help herself. She put the car in reverse and drove backward until she was next to him. She rolled the passenger window down a tiny crack.

The guy walked up to the car and peered in. He had dark brown eyes and a bit of stubble on his strong jaw. In another situation, she might have even thought him handsome with his messy brown hair that gave him a devil-may-care look. He said, “Hey.”

The dude was naked. On the side of the road late at night. Who the holy hell could say “hey” at a time like this?

Becca shook it off. “Did I hit you with my car?”

“Yeah. Glanced off my shoulder.” His voice was deep, melodic. It reminded her of fine whiskey and dark chocolate. He continued, “I rolled, and I’ll be fine. I could use a ride, though. I’m going to Huntwood—the direction you’re headed.”

She’d been going at least thirty-five, possibly forty miles per hour. “You should have several broken bones.”

“I’ll be okay,” he said.

“Where are your clothes?”

He looked around. “It’s a long story. Basically, I was out for a walk in the woods. Can you give me a ride?”

Who walked around in the woods, naked? She didn’t trust this guy for a second.

“Sure, I can give you a ride,” she said. She popped the trunk. “But you’re riding in the back.”

He shrugged and went for the back seat. The door was locked. He gave her an exasperated look.

“No, the way back,” Becca said. “I don’t know you and I don’t trust you and you don’t have a fucking article of clothing on.”

“How do I know you’re not going to take me back to your house, dump me in the basement, and murder me?” he asked.

“I just won’t,” she said.

“I can’t believe this,” he muttered.

“I can’t believe you’re out here without any clothes, and you’re not dying after I hit you with my car.”

“Speaking of that, do you have any pants I can borrow?”

“There’s a duffel bag in the trunk with my exercise clothes.” She smirked. “You’d look good in my tight gym pants.” From where he was standing at the car door, Becca couldn’t see the lower half of him, but if the muscles on the upper half were anything to go by, the bottom half would look awesome encased in tight exercise pants. Gym rat, she pegged him. Gym rat who had messily-spiky brown hair that looked like he’d just woken up after a night of fun.

And his deep brown eyes, so serious as they gazed at her, made her want to melt. Who was this guy? Sexy and sweet?

And...totally naked on the side of the road. Wow, she thought. It had been way too long since she’d gotten laid.

She tried not to watch from the side mirror as he walked to the trunk. She tried not to check out his rather perfect ass.

He must have found the duffel, because a second later he showed up on her side of the car, and when she looked down, he was indeed wearing her tight exercise pants. If the situation hadn’t been so bizarre, she’d have laughed instead of smirked.

“Thanks,” he said. “I’ll get in the trunk now.”

He looked like he expected her to change her mind. Um, nope. She’d read about crimes so heinous she hadn’t been able to sleep at night. She was never going to stop at another rest area for as long as she lived, and she sure as hell wasn’t going to let some strange man into her car.

Huntwood was just five or ten miles away. Becca was careful to go easy on the turns, although she had a feeling he was packed so tightly inside, he couldn’t have rolled anywhere even if he’d tried to.

She hadn’t asked him where in Huntwood he needed to be, so she stopped in the middle of town, on Main Street, and popped her trunk. Her car moved slightly as he got out, and then suddenly he was at her window.

He gave her a smile. “Thanks for the ride.”

What a lunatic. A lunatic who walked around naked in the woods. She gave him a finger wave. “Good luck.”

He grinned, as if he could read her thoughts. “See you around.”

“Yeah, I don’t think so,” she muttered, speeding down Main Street and to the far edge of town.

Didn’t matter how sexy he was—if he was the type to go around naked and get hit by cars on lonely forest highways, he wasn’t the type for her.

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