Niki Garat tolerates her job and the city, but she lives for her summer vacation with her grandfather at his sheep camp in the stunning Big Horn Mountains of Wyoming—until this year.
When the U.S. comes under attack, including an aggressive attempt by foreign invaders to locate nuclear missiles hidden throughout remote western lands, the serenity of her mountain refuge is shattered. As area ranches are commandeered, neighbors and friends, including Deuce, her childhood infatuation, band together.
Throughout their struggle to stay alive, Niki begins to understand what came between her and Deuce, but before past mistakes can be corrected they must endure a terrifying manhunt and a desperate fight for survival.
A heavily-armed man in uniform shoved Deuce out the back door of the barn in the direction of the shed. He stumbled into view, his hands tied behind his back. When his head came up Niki could see that his eyes were nearly swollen shut and blood ran down his face and soaked his hair and shirt.
The man kicked Deuce hard in the small of his back and shoved him to the ground. Deuce struggled to rise to his knees, swaying, but keeping his balance. The soldier slung his automatic weapon over his shoulder, backed away several paces, pulled his pistol from its holster and raised the weapon, leaving no doubt in Niki’s mind of his intentions. Deuce was about to be executed.
Niki didn’t think, she reacted on instinct. She stepped out of the shadows of the shed, raised the rifle to her shoulder, sighted in and pulled the trigger as methodically as if she had trained her whole life for that one shot. The muffled sound startled her, but as the man dropped, she knew she had hit her target, and most of the sound had been dulled by the bottle nipple and the rest drowned out by the noise of the helicopter.
Before her mind could register what she had just done, Deuce stumbled into the sheep shed, shouldering her inside, out of view. The motion would have sent Niki to the ground if she hadn’t fallen back against a feeder bunk. The collision knocked the wind out of her and she gasped for breath, staring up at the beaten and bruised man towering over her.
“Cut the rope,” he demanded.
His deep, familiar voice seared through the fog in her brain and she quickly retrieved the pocket knife she had just stowed. The blade was dull, but she sawed frantically until the rope fell to the ground.
Deuce grabbed Niki, wrapping his arms around her and pulling her hard to his chest. She was too shocked by what had happened to cry or seek comfort in his arms, so she stood stiffly in his embrace without uttering a word.
“I guess you could pull the trigger if enough was at stake,” he mumbled as he gently stroked her hair, easing her head back until he could look into her eyes.
“What?” she asked, her focus returning to the man embracing her.
Deuce stepped back and released Niki. “Is your grandfather with you? Where are the horses?”
“Papa is badly injured. I came alone for help.”