Navy SEAL Wes Morgan is taking a break from trying to convince his CO he doesn’t want the man's job. He plans to spend his six weeks of leave in the Alberta Badlands searching for dinosaur fossils with his ma. He doesn’t expect to find lovely, smart, drop-dead sexy archaeologist Dr. Ariadne Jensen working with his mother, nor his body's immediate and obvious response to her. Ariadne can’t help but be tempted by the gorgeous Navy SEAL who shows up at her dig, and it doesn’t take long for the fire between them to ignite.
Wes Morgan relaxed the minute he stepped off the small, rickety prop plane and out into the heat and dust of the Alberta Badlands. He left behind the Wild West pilot he’d bribed to take him from Calgary—as close as he could get from San Diego to where he needed to be, deep in the Badlands of Alberta.
He’d been missing the Hoodos, Coulies, and ravines where dinosaurs had once roamed and then died, leaving their bones for scientists to discover their fossils seventy-five million years later. He missed the dry, brutal heat and the sandstone pillars, but most especially, he missed his mom.
Wes—or Morgan, as his SEAL teammates called him, especially when he was cussing them out about what they were doing wrong and insisting they do it right—had six weeks of leave, and he intended to use every single minute of it.
He would not go back to San Diego and his team, he would not answer his phone, and he would not get pulled back into the political machinations of his CO, who wanted, more than anything, for Wes to follow in his footsteps.
He hated the idea of leaving his teammates to sit in an office, spending his time dealing with the politics, complications, and annoyances his CO dealt with every single day. He hated the paperwork that was sure to come along with the promotion as much as he loved the physical nature of being a Navy SEAL.
Glad to be home, Wes had no qualms about admitting that he needed his ma to help him stick to his decision, needed her to back him up, just as she’d done his whole life. Wherever she was felt like home to him. She’d been in the Badlands for almost twenty years, the longest she—and because of that, he—had called the same place home.
The flight from Calgary to Drumheller had been almost as bad as the time the team had snuck in under the radar in the Persian Gulf, flying into the face of a hundred-year-storm. Maybe this had been worse, because Wes had known and trusted the Navy pilot who’d flown them through that storm, but today’s pilot out of Calgary, whose name was something like Bud or Bob or Bill or Bret, didn’t seem to have any idea of how to ride the wind gusts that rocked the tiny plane.
When he stepped off the plane and into the dry hot air filled with the scent of the dirt, Wes smiled, closing his eyes and lifting his face to the sun and wind, and immediately relaxed.
Relaxed enough to keep his eyes closed as the plane took off, to keep them closed as his ma’s light footsteps arrived at his side and her strong arms came around him.
He took another deep breath, drawing in her earthy scent that had been as much a part of his young life as her authoritative, “Wesley Morgan, what the hell are you doing with that gun?” every single time she had caught him with a BB gun or an air rifle.
Ma didn’t believe in weapons—one of the reasons, although not the only one, she had moved to Canada from Missouri.
Guns were, he often thought, the one thing the two of them couldn’t agree on. They’d finally come to a carefully mediated truce, signed in red ink—his mother being a big believer in symbolism of every kind. Red ink, she had said at the time, that stood for the blood she wouldn’t allow him to shed. Wesley would happily have used a pen knife to cut his finger and blend his blood with hers to cement the agreement but…
“I can’t bear the sight of blood,” she told him every time he fell off his bike, scraped a knee, or cut his finger. She had no trouble with broken bones or sprained ankles, but blood? He’d learned early on to do his own bandaging, and that knowledge had stood him in good stead over the years.
“Ma,” he said when she finally loosened her grip on him, “I’ve got six weeks and…”
She didn’t let him finish the sentence, just grabbed his duffle—she wasn’t quite as tall as he was, though she was tall for a woman, but at times he believed she was just as strong. All those years on digs had built up the muscles she’d first developed racing around after Wes. He sometimes wondered if she could still take him in arm wrestling but had never put it to the test. She wouldn’t hesitate to brag about it to his teammates, and he’d never hear the end of it.
The rusted old pickup truck she’d driven for decades looked a little more rickety than the last time he’d seen it, but it still started with a quick flick of her wrist.
“We’re going on a journey. You, me, and Professor Jensen.”
Wes didn’t ask her about the professor. He’d learned over the years and during the many summers he’d spent on digs with his mother that all professors of archaeology were the same. Old and persnickety, and every single one of them ended up falling in love with his mother.
What he did ask was, “Where?”
“It’s a surprise.”
Wes laughed. Every summer was a surprise—Egypt one year, upstate New York the next. The catacombs of Paris, followed by the islands of Haida Gwaii.
“Do I need to call for a pilot? Or a boat? Or a SEAL team?”
She laughed, her chuckle light and easy and warm, then patted the dashboard. “This is all we need. Everything else, including Ranieri, is already up at the site, but I thought you might like a walk through of the museum before we take off.”
His mother knew him all too well. He loved the Royal Tyrrell Museum almost as much as he loved being a SEAL.