"Evil So Unimaginable In The Person Of Her Own Brother Keeps Finding Her"
Reviewed by Sandra Wurman
Posted July 31, 2009
Margaret Grace Strafford learned about fear and distrust at
the ripe old age of thirteen. Faced with eminent death at
the hands of her own brother Nathan she made a life altering
decision. Running away with the strange eccentric mountain
man Ira Danvers who just paid several pelts of fur for her
seemed her only choice considering that no one at her own
house was challenging Nathan and coming to her aid. As
Nathan continued to rage about the injustice of the will
written by their father he became more and more violent.
Surely he didn't mean to kill her, his own sister but the
blows were getting harder and harder and she was no match.
So for the next several years she shared a life of seclusion
and trapping with Ira and became widely known as Mad Mag.
She went from a life of luxury, security and social
refinement to one of instinctual survival kept reasonably
safe by her protector Ira. Then he died. But Maggie had
learned a great deal from him and was resolved to remaining
virtually hidden in her mountains. But fate had other ideas
Coming upon Garret Daines half buried in snow
Maggie knew she had to help him as he had once come to her
aid. Only she never imagined what affect spending time in
very close quarters, her cave, would do to her fragile
lifestyle. She wasn't prepared for these very new feelings
she had for Garret and the passion he was able to ignite in
her. Garret was also beginning to care deeply for this
rather odd, distrustful but beautiful woman hidden behind
filth and bear skins. The question was would he be able to
earn her trust to get her off her mountain and into his
Just as they were exploring their newfound
relationship their very lives were threatened. Maggie by
someone in her past that wanted her to remain hidden or even
better dead. And if Garret continued to get in the way, well
he was expendable too.
The characters in the first two installments of the Wild
series were incredible and I wondered how Stacey Kayne would
match them. Well in MOUNTAIN WILD she surpassed my
expectations. Instead of merely completing the saga she left
me definitely wishing there were more characters with
stories to unfold in the future. True to form Maggie and
Garret's characters are allowed to develop and grow just as
your feelings for them do. Great strength and greater
compassion enveloped everyone in MOUNTAIN WILD including
those we have met before and those we are introduced to in
this final book. You don't need to have read the previous
books to truly enjoy this one, but it would be a shame to
miss out on those great stories. I promise you will not be
able to put this one down. Enjoy.
Fourteen years ago a terrified young Maggie Grace fled
into the wilderness of the Wyoming mountains, where she
has lived alone, fighting for survival, ever since. Until
she finds cowboy Garret Daines lying unconscious in a
Snowbound in Maggie's cabin, sharing the only
bed with this beautiful, wild woman, brings Garret's body—
and guarded heart—pulsing back to life.
Garret is the
only man ever to show Maggie any kindness, and the walls
around her heart begin to crumble. But this wildcat won't
let herself be easily tamed...
ExcerptCentral Wyoming Territory—Fall, 1889
She moved with the caution of a doe caught grazing in an
open meadow. Her dirt-stained fingers quickly secured a rope
behind her saddle, binding her supplies as she discreetly
watched the men filing out of the newly constructed town hall.
Following a roomful of grumbling cattlemen out onto the
boardwalk, Garret Daines spotted the woman they called Mad
Mag the moment he stepped into the crisp evening air. Her
mangy bearskin coat and battered brown hat was hard to miss
in the fading light of an otherwise deserted street. Murmurs
of recognition and surprise rumbled through the crowd of men.
Garret had seen the mountain recluse in a town only one
other time in the eight years he'd lived in these Wyoming
hills, some years back in a settlement further north. The
bushel of tangled black hair beneath her hat suggested she
could still benefit from a lesson or two in hygiene. Known
for having a temperament on the far side of crazy, Mad Mag
tended to avoid folks altogether. She obviously hadn't
expected all the cattlemen within fifty miles to spill out
onto the streets of Bitterroot Springs at five o'clock in
the evening. He glanced around at the men watching her with
an equal measure of curiosity and caution.
"What's the plan?" Duce asked, clapping a hand on Garret's
shoulder as he stepped beside him.
Garret glanced over at his business partner, the man's wide
grin striking him as a pure wonder. The past two hours of
heated debates and near brawls, two of which had included
Garret, left an ache in his shoulders, the frustration
winding inside him still burning for release. In the
fourteen years he'd been riding with Duce the wiry
cowpuncher had never known a sour mood.
He doesn't handle the account books, he silently
retorted. Duce had signed on as his partner in name only,
refusing to take a cut or responsibility for a business he
hadn't funded. At the age of forty-two, Duce still lived for
Saturday nights and blowing his paycheck on weekend benders.
In the past six years of running his cattle ranch, Garret
had come to envy Duce's carefree attitude and figured the
past few winters had closed the wide gap in their ages.
Garret felt old. Nothing like a failed marriage and Old Man
Winter cramming his boot up your behind to age a man.
He glanced out at a pink-streaked sky. "Sun's about down.
Might as well spend the night."
Duce gave a nod. He raked his fingers through his bushy red
hair glowing bright beneath a streetlamp then tugged on his
hat. "Think I'll head over to the Gilded Lady. Winter snow
will be piling up soon and my girls are bound to miss me.
Care to come along?"
"Not in the mood." He shook his head, a weary sigh breaking
from his chest. "I feel like I've just been ambushed by
seven cattle barons."
Garret didn't share his humor. To secure his place in the
stockyards come spring he'd signed over a small fortune to
the wealthy bandits of the newly appointed Cattlemen's
Association. They'd seemed rather disappointed in his
ability to meet their demands. He wasn't about to be pushed
off his land. He'd faired better than many of his
colleagues, men who'd lost all their stock in the freeze a
couple of winters back, a blizzard that had damn near wiped
out the cattle trade across the state. Now the railroad and
invading cattle barons circled like vultures, ready to pick
off the smaller ranches struggling to make ends meet.
"I'll settle for a pint of whiskey and passing out in a
"You can do that over at the Gilded Lady," Duce persisted.
"What you need is a night in the saddle with some wild
women. Ain't no reason for you not to." He moved closer as
they stepped into the street. "Amanda's not coming back, you
Garret rolled his shoulders against the surge of anger and
resentment tightening his muscles. "I sure as hell hope
not." Staring at that outrageous cattlemen contract reminded
him of the divorce papers he'd finally signed last
spring—cutting his marital ties to a woman he'd not seen in
nearly three years. A wife walking out on a marriage left a
man with no small amount of humiliation. He didn't see the
need to announce his divorce.
Life sure hadn't gone the way he'd planned. Having acquired
his ranch at the age of sixteen and marrying at nineteen, he
truly thought he'd be settled in with his own family by now,
not contemplating a night at a brothel. Damned if he could
figure out what he'd done wrong. One thing he did know: he
was through chasing women. If he was to have another wife,
she'd have to run him to ground first.
"You can slug me for saying so," said Duce, "but you're
lucky to be rid of that one. All that pretty was wasted on a
woman who don't do nothin' but sniffle and pout 'cause
you're too busy to sit and stare at her all damn day."
The truth didn't keep Garret's chest from burning at the
thought of Amanda Billings standing on his sister's front
porch bound and bustled in the fanciest gear he'd ever seen.
The daughter of a Southern banker, she was a true belle, her
soft-spoken voice never reaching much above a whisper, her
long, lithe body and graceful movements mesmerizing.
The fact that she'd looked twice at his weather-beaten
hide had lit his fire, and he'd sure as hell lit hers.
Passion hadn't been enough to hold her. After eight months
of marriage Amanda had her fill of him and Wyoming winters—a
winter like nothing he'd ever seen. He wasn't new to tragedy
or hardship. Raised on cattle trails by his older sister,
he'd survived raids, floods, droughts and damn near being
washed out of a Colorado Canyon—none of it had prepared him
for watching his livelihood go to hell in a frozen handcart.
Murmurs buzzed from the men around him as Mad Mag guided her
horse along the main strip. The top of her hat was barely
visible beyond the large bay she led by the reins. A fine
horse, its golden coat gleaming in the low light. His gaze
stopped on the Morgan brand singed into the animal's
haunch—the brand of his sister's ranch. He glanced again at
the horse's golden coat, black socks, the burst of white on
the horse's dark frock—Star.
"Is that Star?" he said to Duce as they stopped beside their
"Yep," he answered, not bothering to shift his gaze toward
the woman and her horse. "Chance sold his mare to the
trapper, Ira Danvers just before you bought your ranch and
we moved onto the Lazy J."
That was six years back and he and Chance Morgan hadn't been
on good speaking terms, Chance having stolen his girl right
out from under his nose. Still, he found it hard to believe
Chance would sell his prized mare to someone like Ira
Danvers. Garret had never actually met the mountain man, but
had heard he was far less sociable than his woman.
"How can filth like that own a Morgan horse?"
Garret glanced back at the newest member of the Cattlemen's
Association standing on the landing of the town hall, his
expression filled with disgust. Strafford, the newly elected
mayor of Bitterroot Springs, gripped the sides of his shiny
blue jacket and stepped onto the walk, his group of ranch
hands moving with him like a clutch of chickens scurrying
after a peacock.
"Folks call her Mad Mag," said one of his men. "Ain't ever
seen her in town before."
"Mad Mag?" Strafford's gaze narrowed. He stepped off the
boardwalk into the dusty road. "You there? Come back here."
The woman increased her strides and urged the mare to move
"Uh… Boss?" his man called after him. "I wouldn't—"
"Hey!" Strafford shouted. "I'm talking to you!"
"He's barkin' up the wrong tree with that one," Duce murmured.
Mad Mag turned into the alley beside the mercantile.
Strafford hurried after her.
"Someone might ought to fetch the sheriff," suggested one of
"Who wants to bet Mayor Strafford just got a new mare?"
The large group erupted with laughter.
Anger snapped at Garret's nerves. He'd disliked the
overdressed rancher the moment he'd met the man. Nathan
Strafford had moved into these hills with the greasy finesse
of a snake-oil salesman, forcing out the smaller ranchers
while pouring his money into this town. He'd funded a new
school and the first courthouse in Bitterroot Springs, which
had gotten him elected as the new town mayor.
Garret started across the road, damned if he'd stand by
while that arrogant jackass took advantage of some poor
Leaving Duce to chase after him, he rounded the building.
Mag was near the far end of the alley, Strafford closing in
"We got new laws in this town," Strafford announced, his
long arm reaching for her. He grabbed a fistful of fur.
Mag spun to face him, the rifle in her hands forcing him to
take a backward step. "Back off," she growled.
Strafford's six-plus frame towered over the small woman.
"What business do you have in my town?" he
demanded. "Aside from reeking up the streets and stealing
The woman's cold, throaty laughter echoed through the hallow
shadows of the narrow alley. "Oh, that's rich. You
calling me a thief."
Strafford leaned closer to her. "Mag—?"
The butt of her rifle connected with Strafford's gut, ending
his words in a hard cough. He doubled over. She swung again,
her rifle cracking against his skull, sending him staggering
back. Another swift blow to the brow, and Strafford hit the
ground like a fallen timber.
Damn. Her reputation wasn't just rumors. She stood
over Strafford, the barrel of her rifle pressed to his
chest. She trembled. Jagged puffs of breath lifted the
tangled black hair covering most of her face. Her finger
flexed over the trigger.
If she shot Strafford, provoked or not, she'd hang before
"He's not worth it," Garret whispered, slowly moving in
beside her while keeping an eye on that rifle.
Rage shaking her, Maggie couldn't think of a single reason
why she shouldn't put a hole through Nathan's black heart.
He had no right to touch her—no right to be in this part of
His town? Her gaze raked over his fancy suit. Bile
burned in her throat. Did this town know the vile measures
he used to acquire his wealth? It was past time for Nathan
to be stomped back down to the devil.
She startled at a light pressure on her shoulder. Her gaze
snapped to the long fingers touching her fur coat. She
glanced up at wide shoulders creating a clear line on the
"Careful," he said. "Sheriff's coming."
Pale blond hair glowed white against the sunset, instantly
identifying the man beside her.
Garret Daines. Recognition broke across her senses
like a crack of lightning, shattering her tattered nerves.
She'd spotted Daines and his cow dog often enough in the
hills around her mountain, but never so close. He appeared
rather like the Vikings she'd learned about during her
studies as a young girl, his pale hair wavering in the cool
breeze, the span of his chest blocking out the world. A
colorful sky outlined his profile, defining the sharp lines
and intriguing contours of his face.
"Ma'am, you'd better git." The hand on her shoulder urged
her aside, jarring her from a mental stupor. Not that he
noticed. His hard gaze never strayed from the murmur of
voices growing louder by the second. He glanced to his right
and his friend moved in beside him, completely blocking her
from view of the approaching mob.
"What's going on?" a man shouted.
"What happened to Mayor Strafford?" called another.
"Not much that I could see," said Daines. "Ol' Strafford
didn't mind his footing. Tripped over his own boots and
bumped his head."
Maggie stared up at Daines's broad shoulders, staggered by
his outright lie, his offer of protection. Seizing the
opportunity, she grabbed Star by the reins and stepped
around the corner of the building. She wouldn't be back to
Garret glanced over his shoulder as the crowd descended on
Strafford, and was relieved to find the woman had fled. He
looked at Duce and nodded in the direction she'd gone. They
prudently made a swift exit. Garret scanned the surrounding
hills and tall grasses spotted by patches of trees and
scrub. Mad Mag was nowhere in sight.
"You got some kind of death wish I should know about?" asked
"Why would you think—?"
"You're lucky that woman didn't fill you full of buckshot.
Or didn't you see the way she laid out Strafford?"
"She had a rifle, not a shotgun. And he likely frightened
her, grabbing her the way he did."
"Frightened her? That's it," Duce said, shoving him
across the road. "We're headed to the whorehouse before you
end up dead or courting a mountain shrew."
Garret laughed, and didn't argue. Watching that woman knock
Strafford down a few notches had lightened his mood.
Finally a bit of justice in this world.
A soft swirl of snowflakes cold against her face, Maggie
tugged her hood low and tightened her hold on the rope of
her sled as she increased her stride through the soft
powder. Her body ached to hunker down in her warm bed.
Two more miles.
The crunch of her snowshoes pressing through the soft ground
echoed across the silent countryside. Dark clouds loomed to
the north, telling her this was only a small reprieve in the
blizzard. The late-winter storm had come on strong and
without much warning the prior evening. Maggie barely had
time to skin and dress the big buck she'd shot before having
to bury her kill in the snow and seek shelter. Huddling in a
dank alcove near the river had been no way to pass a frigid
Despite the inconvenience, her hunt had been worthwhile. The
frozen deer meat on her sled would last her the rest of
winter, and then some.
A streamer of sunlight pierced the thick gray sky and
glistened against an embankment of fresh snow up ahead. The
silver sparkle captured her attention. As she drew closer
she noted the metallic gleam was a spur. A spur
attached to the vague outline of a boot buried beneath the snow.
Maggie slowed her stride. Her breath hit the cold air in a
puff of white as her gaze moved across the long, lumpy mound.
Some fool cowpoke had gotten himself caught in the storm.
He'd likely ventured up here looking for strays. High
country weather was nothing like the lowlands. Lying on his
side, the bulk of him was covered by a foot of snow.
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