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Brash / Laura Wright.

By: Wright, LauraMaterial type: TextTextSeries: Wright, Laura. Cavanaugh brothers series ; 4.Publisher: New York, New York : Signet Eclipse, 2015Description: 312 pages ; 18 cmContent type: text Media type: unmediated Carrier type: volumeISBN: 9780451465085; 0451465083Subject(s): Ranchers -- Fiction | Ranches -- Fiction | Brothers -- Fiction | Businesspeople -- Fiction | Inheritance and succession -- Fiction | Texas -- FictionGenre/Form: Romance fiction. DDC classification: 813/.6 LOC classification: PS3623.R5547 | B74 2015Other classification: FIC027100 | FIC027020 | FIC019000 Summary: "Bequeathed the Triple C Ranch, the Cavanaugh brothers return home to Texas to confront the painful memories of their childhood and the truth about their sister's murder ..."-- Page 4 of cover.
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Enhanced descriptions from Syndetics:

The New York Times bestselling author of the Cavanaugh Brothers novels returns to the Cavanaugh's Texas Triple C ranch as the brothers confront the painful memories of their childhood and the truth about their sister's murder...

No matter how many fights UFC champion Cole Cavanaugh wins, he can't rid himself of the guilt of not having saved his twin sister's life. Now, not only is he facing his arch enemy in the ring, he's fighting to uncover the truth about Cass's death. But will winning both fights truly give him the retribution and absolution he seeks? Or does he need the healing power of love to finally move on with his life?

The mystery surrounding Cass's murder also haunts veterinarian Grace Hunter. Many believe that her father might hold the key to the truth. Unfortunately the ex-Sheriff's deteriorating mental state makes it impossible to separate fact from fiction. As Cole persuades Grace to help him unlock the elusive clues, her defenses weaken. She finds the Stetson-wearing fighter irresistible. But while the truth could free Cole's heart, it could very well end up shattering hers.

Includes excerpt from the next book in the series, Bonded.

"Bequeathed the Triple C Ranch, the Cavanaugh brothers return home to Texas to confront the painful memories of their childhood and the truth about their sister's murder ..."-- Page 4 of cover.

Excerpt provided by Syndetics

PRAISE FOR THE CAVANAUGH BROTHERS SERIES Also by Laura Wright SIGNET ECLIPSE Diary of Cassandra Cavanaugh May 5, 2002 Dear Diary, I think Sweet's right. Someone is following us. This is what happened. I was at the drugstore today after school. I was hoping maybe Sweet would come in because I haven't seen or heard from him in three days. And it's where we first locked eyes and all. I really wanted to know why he didn't meet me the other night like he said he was going to. I wanted to know if it was because of the kiss. I practiced it on my hand a couple of times, and I didn't think it was all that bad. Well, he did come in. He was buying all sorts of strange things like headache medicine and baking soda. He looked surprised to see me. But when I went up to him, he smiled his amazing smile and told me he'd meet me behind the diner in ten minutes. Diary, I waited for a half hour, and he didn't come. Why would he do that? Did something happen to him? Does he just not like me anymore? My brain tells me to hate him, but my heart tells my brain to shut up. Who do I listen to? Stupid boys. Okay, here's the weird part. When I was walking over to the diner, I felt someone's eyes on me. I looked all around and didn't see no one. But I swear they were there! What if it's one of my brothers? Maybe they discovered what we've been doing!! I could ask 'em? Or talk to Mac? I'm so confused. I hate how my heart feels right now. Heavy and broken. Cass One Cole Cavanaugh watched as Johnny Blair dropped his needle into the red ink, then resumed his special brand of torture. "You gonna tell me what this stands for, man?" Johnny asked, working the final curve of a C on Cole's shoulder. "Or do I need to guess?" Cole smirked at the Austin-based artist who had inked nearly every one of his tats. "Guess away, brother." Black brows lifted over pale green eyes. "Woman's initials?" Cole snorted. "Hell, no." The guy chuckled, the two small studs in his lower lip flattening against his teeth. "Your next victim in the ring?" "Nah, man. That joker's blood on my knuckles is all the stain I need." He glanced down at the finished artwork. "These three C 's are for the ranch where I grew up." Johnny placed the tat gun on the metal side table beside Cole's chair. "I didn't know you were a ranch boy, Cavanaugh." "Born and bred." "And now branded," the man said as he cleaned Cole's skin, then slathered some A&D ointment on it. "Let's get to bandaging," Cole said, not wanting to go any further into discussions about the Triple C and how he grew up and why he left. Some shit needed to stay private outside River Black. "I have training in an hour." Johnny shook his head but grabbed the bandages and tape. "Will it do any good if I tell you to wait until tomorrow? Give this some time to heal?" Tomorrow wouldn't be possible. He was heading back to the ranch tonight. "Thirteen tats and I've never had a problem." "Fine," Johnny said. "I'm gonna wrap it up extra good, but if someone knocks you there, it's going to hurt like a motherfucker." "I'm counting on it," Cole said without thinking. "Damn," Johnny said, fitting the bandage. "Had no idea you were such a masochist." He wasn't. Not really. Well, maybe in the beginning, right after Cass had been taken, after he'd left home and gone underground. Maybe then he'd wanted to feel the pain. Hell, maybe he'd thought he deserved it. But now it was all about vengeance. Every fight. Every bruise. Every drop of blood. It belonged to the one who got away . . . with murder. He eyed the tattoo artist. "Just makes my adrenaline rush. Heightens my awareness. Fuels the fight. That kind of thing." "When's your match?" Johnny asked him. "Next week." "Who you beatin' down?" "Fred Fontana." The man's head jerked up fast. "Oh, shit." Oh, shit's right, Cole thought with a dry grin. Fred Omega Fontana had a rep for nearly killing anyone who stepped into the ring with him. He was the one bastard Cole had yet to beat. The ungettable get. The ultimate in vengeance. "You ready?" Johnny asked as he pushed back in his chair and stripped off his gloves. "Physically? Mentally? All that shit?" "Hell, yeah," Cole told him. But the words were forced. So was the hard-ass show he was putting on. The fire and fury that normally pulsed in his blood this close to a fight weren't there. Maybe too much had happened lately. Marriages and engagements. Inheriting the Triple C along with his brothers. Including a brother he never knew he had. And too many damn memories assaulting him at every turn. It was why he'd decided to get the Triple C brand inked into his skin. He was hoping it would put that wicked heat, that anger, that venom he'd felt when he'd run from the place back into his gut and heart. Because, fuck him, if it didn't show up and do its job in the ring next week, the hope of finding out the truth about his sister's death wasn't the only thing he was going to lose. He might very well lose his life. * * * "You have issues, Belle," Grace Hunter told her passenger, an aging basset hound who had just howled her damn head off as they drove past the Triple C ranch. And it wasn't the first time. Any time Belle got within spitting distance of where Cole Cavanaugh hung his hat, the dog howled. Grace glanced over at the pup, sitting on her cute rump, buckled in, head out the open window of Grace's blue 1960 Dodge pickup, long ears flapping in the breeze. "He's not interested in you, Miss Girl. He was only out for information." Belle ignored the reminder that Cole Cavanaugh's visit to the vet clinic a few days ago--under the pretense that he wanted to adopt the basset hound--was a lie. As soon as Grace had slipped out of the office, that rat bastard had gone through her files and found out where her ill and aging father was living. "He hasn't been back in days," she reminded Belle as she got onto the highway. "Probably off practicing for that bloodbath he calls a job." She grimaced at the thought. She'd never actually been to a fight, but she imagined it was horrific. "You don't want that kind of guy buying your kibble, now do you?" This time Belle turned to look at her. Droopy eyes and a glorious frown. "Someone who beats people up for a living?" Grace asked. The basset hound barked. "Yeah, yeah, I know he's good-looking and unpredictable, and charming in an overbearing way," Grace continued, "but let me tell you from experience: that combination is nothing but trouble. Those kinds of guys are all Love 'em and leave 'em . Or in my case, Screw 'em and take off in the middle of the night ." Grace exhaled heavily as she recalled the majority of her college dating experiences. Belle seemed unconvinced, and once again turned to stare out the window. "Fine. Don't say I didn't warn you. But when he breaks your heart, don't come crying to me." For exactly thirty seconds, she held on to that threat. Then she caved. Oh, who was she kidding? Sweet Belle could come crying to her anytime, and Grace would take her in her arms and let her know it was okay. Then, later, when they were sharing a pint of ice cream, she would gently counsel the canine that if she wanted a real future with someone who would be there for her through thick and thin, she needed to look for stable instead of stunning, reliable instead of reactive. And instead of inked-up skin and hard waves of muscles, a balanced, tender, soulful heart. She pulled off the highway and headed toward the center of town. Speaking of tender hearts, she was going to see her dad today. See if she could get him to clear up this mess with Caleb Palmer. Not only was her father's best friend in jail for assaulting James Cavanaugh's fiancée, he'd claimed to know something about Cass Cavanaugh's abduction and murder. God, what happened all those years ago? she thought as she turned into the Barrington Ridge Senior Care parking lot and found a space. And what had happened to Caleb? Except for her time spent in school, Grace had known the man fairly well. She'd never seen a bad side to him. But, clearly, a monster resided within. He'd hurt Sheridan O'Neil, could've killed her, and Grace prayed he'd never get out of jail. Now all she was interested in was clearing her father's name. Making sure everyone knew that he wasn't connected to Caleb's actions and insinuations. Hell, she didn't want him connected to Caleb in any way, if she could help it. No visits, no phone calls. Maybe then she could finally get the Cavanaughs off her back. Especially the tattooed one. With Belle leashed and walking beside her, Grace entered the front door of the care facility and headed down the hall. Gentle piano music played from the overhead speakers and the scent of cleaning products and breakfast foods hung thickly in the air. Barrington Ridge had cleared her request to bring Belle along. Her dad had owned a dog for many years--one that had been at his side or in his patrol car nearly day and night--and Grace was hopeful the canine would stir his memory. Or at the very least keep him calm and lucid while they talked. "Awww, ain't she sweet?" one of the nurses remarked as they passed by. "Hiya, Grace," another one called from behind the desk. "Morning, Elisabeth, Bev," Grace returned cheerfully. She pointed to her father's door. "He awake?" Phone to her ear, Beverly nodded. "Just finished his breakfast 'bout ten minutes ago." "Thanks," Grace said, moving down the corridor as Belle tried to sniff every inch of the floor, wall, and desks. Bright sunlight and the heavy scent of bacon welcomed Grace as she entered the room. As usual, her father was seated at the small table near the window. He liked the light and the breeze, just as he had at home. His nose was in a magazine and he was flipping through the pages at lightning speed. Steam rose from a coffee cup to his right. "What are we reading today, Dad?" she asked, coming over and slipping into one of the chairs beside him. "Fishing or dirt bike racing?" Peter Hunter glanced up and smiled brightly when he saw her. At sixty-three, he was still a very handsome man. Had all of his dark hair, and those hazel eyes--when lucid--were sharp and curious. "Gracie?" Grace's heart ballooned inside her chest and exploded in a rush of gratefulness. It was the way of it now. Every time she walked into his room, she wondered if his eyes would flash with warm recognition or cool disinterest. "Hi, Dad," she said with gentle warmth, leaning forward. This was the man who had become her everything when her mother had passed from a car accident when she was ten. This was the man who had tucked her into bed at night, made her spaghetti and s'mores, and green smoothies when she was on a health kick. The man who had let her stay up late and told her stories about his adventures as sheriff. Protected her, loved her, treated her like she was the most special thing in the world. Made her believe she could be anything she wanted to be. Her hero. She reached for his hand and gave it a squeeze. He squeezed back. "Who's the mongrel?" he asked good-naturedly. Grace grinned. "This is Belle. She's a friend of mine." Her father reached down and gave the basset hound, who had been waiting patiently beside the table, a pat on the head and a rub under the chin. Belle leaned into him and licked his hand. For a moment it seemed as though her father was as content and happy and clear as she'd seen him of late. But after a moment, his face fell and he pulled his hand away. "Those eyes . . . she looks about as miserable as I feel," he ground out bitterly. Grace pushed back the wall of pain that threatened to steal her hope and faith. "Why are you miserable, Dad?" "Stuck in here when I have a job to do," he explained, his chin lifting in that way it always did when he talked about his work as a sheriff. "People out there who need me. If I'm not sprung soon, I could lose my job, Gracie. Your mama doesn't bring in enough midwifing." God, it hurt her so much to hear him talk about the past as though it was the present. Thinking her mom was still alive. But hurt didn't help him, and it sure didn't do anything to protect his good name. "Dad," she began gently. "I need you to tell me about Mr. Palmer." His dark brows rose and he looked momentarily interested. "Caleb?" She nodded. "Well, honey, he is my very best friend." A hint of a smile played about his lips. "Good man. Right good man. Always there for me. That's how friends should be. Don't you forget that." Grace reached down and started stroking Belle's head. "He's done something terrible." Her father didn't even hesitate before answering. "No, no, baby. Not him." "Yes, Dad," she insisted, breath caught in her lungs, bracing herself for what was coming. "He hurt a woman." "What do you mean, hurt?" He sat back in his chair looking utterly dumbstruck for a moment. Then his skin went cow udder white and he gasped. "Lord Almighty! He takin' the blame for that, is he?" Shit . So her father had already heard about the attack. Grace would have to speak to Bev and Elisabeth. In his condition, he shouldn't be hearing about such upsetting things from anyone but her. "He admitted it, Dad. There were witnesses and a police report. And the woman's going to testify against him." A sad smile touched Peter Hunter's mouth. "How can she, baby? She's dead." A boulder the size of Texas rolled through Grace and sat there, festering in her belly. Her pulse pounded savagely in her blood. Instead of asking him to clarify his words or continue, she wanted, more than anything, to get up and walk out. But she had to ask, didn't she? It's why she'd come. To find out what he knew. To find out the truth. "Who are you talking about, Dad?" she began softly. "That girl, Gracie dear." His gaze shifted to his magazine and he started thumbing through the pages once again. "Cass Cavanaugh." Two "You two should be on an island somewhere," Cole grumbled, dropping into a chair. "Those looks you're passing between you gotta be making everyone in this place damn uncomfortable." "What looks?" Sheridan asked, turning away from her fiancé to stare confusedly into the faces of her new family, who were all clustered around a table inside the decently packed Bull's Eye. Cole just snorted. Love. It made his lip curl. The idea of it. The weakness of it. Could slice you in two, drop you to your knees if you gave in to it. How the hell his brothers had fallen off the face of the earth into that pit of bullshit he'd never know. But he wanted no part of it. Ever. Leaning in close to Sheridan's ear, Cole's brother James bit the lobe gently. "I think he's referring to how I look when I'm staring at you, honey. Hungry," he added on a growl. "And not for food." Cole groaned. "Come on. I just got here. Can I at least order something before the two of you make me puke?" He grabbed a menu and ripped it open. He was starving. That's what eight hours a day of training did to a guy. "Got a bug up your ass, little brother?" Deacon inquired dryly, one brow raised over amused green eyes. "Because I don't want to bear witness to your mutual descent into the hell of wedded bliss?" Deacon's lips twitched. "That's cold." "I'd say so," Mac agreed, her blue eyes sparkling as she slipped her arm through Deacon's. Of course she'd say so, Cole thought. His sister-in-law, who also happened to be the forewoman of the Triple C, was all happy and agreeable now that she'd married her childhood crush. Forget the fact that her new husband had only a few weeks earlier tried to destroy the one thing she loved above all else. The Triple C. 'Course, Deac wasn't interested in that anymore. Love . He sneered. Changed things for a while maybe. But it wasn't something a person could count on to last. The pain would find you soon enough. "Don't pay him any mind, y'all," James said, scooping up his beer and taking a swig. "He's one week from a fight." Tipping back his hat, Deacon's eyes widened with understanding. "Ah, right." "What?" Sheridan asked, looking from one brother to the next. Deacon's beautiful assistant had been around the brothers for only a short time. She had a lot to learn. Not that she wasn't capable. Filly was damn smart. "What's the one week about?" she continued. "Fists Cavanaugh here is just livin' in the world of the deprived, is all," Deacon told her with a grin. "Poor baby," James added, his ocean-colored eyes flashing with the opposite of sympathy. Shithead. Cole ordered a burger with cheese but no bun from the passing waitress, then turned back to his family--the ones who had called his ass home tonight. "First of all, go to hell. Second, let me know when y'all are done chappin' my ass, 'K?" Mac looked utterly nonplussed as she popped a French fry in her mouth. "Someone better clue me in here. Was/is Cole poor and/or deprived?" Sheridan, who was seated on the other side of her, explained, her business voice cranked up to high, "I believe it might have something to do with the rules fighters follow before a match. The things they abstain from." "You got it, honey," James said, dropping a kiss on her cheek. "Like what?" Mac asked. "Oh, come on," James said on a laugh. "You ain't that innocent, are you, Mac?" She reached past Sheridan to punch him in the arm. "Shut up." James chuckled. "Your woman's got some power behind that muscle, Deac." "Tell me something I don't know," the man returned. "Alcohol is one, I imagine," Sheridan continued, her tone still edged with boardroom coolness. Cole groaned. Christ. Nothing sounds better than a cold beer right now. "And sex is probably another." Except that. Fuck. "Is it sex or alcohol, Cole?" Deacon asked, then drained the rest of his beer. "Kill me now." Cole grunted. "No can do. Fontana wants that chance," James said. "So just keep the faith and--" "Keep your fly zipped?" Mac tossed out in a questioning voice, grinning like a cat. The table erupted into laughter. "Is this the reason you guys wanted me back here tonight?" Cole demanded peevishly. "To jerk my chain fifty ways to Sunday?" The question quickly blanketed the laughter. Eyes dropped to drinks and the tabletop. Of course that wasn't the reason they'd asked him to come home, and Cole knew it. He took a swig of his ice water. Wished it was tequila. "Palmer." Deacon said the word in an almost menacing voice. Teeth tightly clenched, Cole uttered, "You able to get in to see him?" "Yep." Cole's gaze came up, narrowed. "Shit. And?" The man's once amused expression was now stone cold. "I got in, but he refuses to see me." Cole rapped the table. "Goddammit, Deac. With all your money and connections you couldn't get that done." "His rights supersede my influence." "Rights," Cole ground out. "That piece of shit shouldn't have rights. He knows the truth about Cass." "That's what he claimed," James said quietly. What was this? Cole stared at the blue-eyed horse whisperer who had found love like some people find God. "You don't believe it now?" The man shrugged. "I had him in a chokehold at Deac and Mac's wedding, for Christ's sake. I was amped up, ready to take him out--" "Should've done it," Cole ground out. "My point is, he could've said he knew who killed Cass just to get my hands off his neck. Could've been a bluff." "Bullshit." Cole couldn't believe his brothers were thinking this way. "He knows something--and so does his best friend, Sheriff Hunter." Deacon dropped an arm across Mac's shoulders and sighed. "It's possible. But we can't get to either of them. Because of you and James and that unwelcome visit to Hunter's care facility, there's a restraining order out against us. And Palmer's wife and daughter are no longer working at the bakery. The place is closed indefinitely." "What?" Cole hadn't heard that. "Couldn't take the scandal," Mac told him. "All the questions. A couple of reporters came down from Dallas. Palmers ain't sophisticated people. It was too much." As the waitress placed the burger before him, a sinking feeling started to move through Cole. What the hell was going on here? He'd been away for a few days training, and he'd come back to roadblocks and no plan. They had to get to Palmer, find out what he knew--what he believed. "Sure, there are lots of maybe s and possibly s going around here, but that doesn't mean we don't check out every lead we got." His eyes shifted between the two men. "Or maybe things have changed in the past couple of days? Maybe you two are so caught up in your new and shiny lives, you want to put our sister on the back burner." He sneered at his brothers. "That what happens when you're getting laid regularly? Your brain shrinks and your balls disappear?" "Hey!" Mac called out. "Don't go there, little brother," Deacon began, his tone a low, clear warning. "You know damn well we want the truth," James added. Cole laughed at them all. It was a bitter, ugly sound, and he didn't much care for it. Mac was staring at him hard. "What?" he demanded. "You think I don't want to know the truth about my best friend?" Her voice was clear and true, but the flash of pain-laced defiance made Cole falter. Made him wonder if he'd gone too far. Seems he was doing that quite a bit lately. Deacon released a weighty breath and played with the empty beer bottle beside his glass. "It's just going to take a different plan of action. A new strategy. And while we're working that out, we need to decide the fate of the Triple C." "My workplace, let's not forget," Mac added quietly, her eyes still heavy with all the talk of Cass. Deacon pulled her in close. "No one's forgetting that, darlin'." "I say, give it to the Cavanaugh bastard and be done with it," Cole said without heat. He couldn't care less about the C. Not right now anyway. He felt frustrated and mixed up about what was happening--what had been happening over the past month. He wanted the truth about what had happened to Cass, and yet there was a deep, dark place inside him that didn't want to know. Didn't want to face the fact that he hadn't been there for his twin, hadn't protected her from the bastard who'd ripped her from his life . . . When he glanced up, he found the four of them staring at him. "I'm serious," he said. "That brother of ours has been livin' here for most of his life. None of us wants the place. Mac'll stay on with him running things." "We can't be sure of that," Deacon said. "Besides, one of us does want it." Cole stilled. "Who?" James looked first at Sheridan, then at Cole. "We do." We! Good fucking Christ. These women were changing everything. Messing shit up--messing with heads. First Deac was going to destroy the Triple C. Then Mac stepped in, and now he had a new ranch built and was sticking around town. James hadn't given a shit about the Triple, and now with Sheridan wearing his ring, he wanted to stay here in River Black and--what, make it their home? Damn lovebirds. Hadn't they all silently agreed to keep away from this town? This goddamned town that had destroyed them all? They didn't belong here . . . not anymore. At least Cole still believed that. "The horses . . ." James began. "They need to be looked after." "So visit them," Cole ground out. His appetite was gone. "You don't have to live there." "Don't have to, true," James agreed with a nod. "But I think I want to. We want to. Split time between here and Dallas, like Deac does." Heat vibrated through Cole's body. He looked at James, then Deacon. "I feel like I don't even know the two of you anymore." "You're overreacting," Deacon began. Cole's phone vibrated and he glanced down at the readout. His jaw clenched as his eyes moved over the name. Jesus, the day was just getting better and better. What did she want? To tell him that she was coming into town tonight and he'd better stay thirty feet away from her at all times? This is Grace Hunter. I don't know if you're in River Black, but I'd like to meet w/you ASAP. The vet's face popped into his mind. She had a real pretty face. The kind a man could stare at for hours and not get bored. Too bad she was a giant pain in the ass. He typed. I'm in RB. What was this? he wondered. Contacted by Grace Hunter out of the blue. The woman had wanted him nowhere near her after his little breaking and entering at her office, followed up by the visit to her dad. And then there was that little matter of the restraining order out on him. He couldn't afford trouble a week before his fight. And how had she gotten his private cell number? Can you meet me @ 10 Ruddyfern Drive. 30 mins? What's on Ruddyfern? My house. One of Cole's eyebrows jerked up. This had to be a prank. He snorted. Will there be law enforcement waiting for me? No Handcuffs? Shit, he couldn't help himself with that one. There was a second or two before she responded. Then . . . I can't tell if you're being funny or a jackass. How 'bout both? Just don't wanna be arrested tonight, darlin. I've dropped the restraining order. Surprise roared through him. What the hell? Why would she do that? Really, was this a prank? Payback for what he'd done? Go and ask her, dumbass . He stared at the text. From what he'd learned about Grace Hunter, she didn't play around. She was tough and serious and rigid--not to mention hard-core about protecting her dad from the big bad Cavanaugh brothers. He frowned. "You still with us, little brother?" James said, yanking Cole out of his reverie. Whatever it was the vet wanted from him, Cole was too damn curious--not to mention opportunistic--to ignore it. He pushed back his chair and stood up. "I gotta go." "Wait--what?" Deacon sat back, arm still wrapped protectively around Mac's shoulder. "We need to talk about this. Make a plan of action. Get things settled with the Triple C." Cole didn't answer Deac. He was making a plan of action, and if it turned out to be something of use, he'd let his brothers in on it. He eyed James. "You want the Triple C? Take my part, take Deac's part, and there you go. Done. Bastard Boy is out on his ass." "Jesus," James uttered. "You're really out of your mind tonight." Cole didn't answer. Just turned and walked away. He was keyed up, wanted to know what awaited him on the other end of that text. "Hey," James called after him. "Let him go," Deacon said. "He's not going to be rational until the fight's over." Passing by a few rowdy tables, Cole headed for the door. He wondered if what Deacon said was true. Or if sensible thinking was completely gone from him now, leaving only reactionary asshole. Either way, Dr. Grace Hunter had just opened the door to whatever he was at this moment and he was about to walk on in. * * * Crouched in the bushes at the side of the house, Grace Hunter watched the small shadow creep across the lawn toward her. Oh yeah, it's over, buddy. This war between you and me. As if hearing her silent promise, the figure stopped, a bottlebrush tail shooting straight up in the air. Grace held her breath. Don't you dare turn around. She had to get him this time. Make sure he didn't cause any more trouble. Make sure he didn't make any more babies. If only he'd be reasonable. But cats rarely were. Especially the toms. The males. Nothing could ever be simple and straightforward. One always had to connive and plot and threaten and convince. And even then, sometimes they don't return your texts. Who are we talking about now, Grace? she chided herself. Cats or Cole Cavanaugh? It had taken every ounce of both her pride and her good sense to text Cole Knock-Out Cavanaugh and ask him to come by to talk with her. The guy was 190 pounds (she was guessing, of course) of gorgeous, hard-muscled, tatted-up trouble. But she knew he and his brothers weren't going to stop looking for answers about their sister. Looking for answers in her father's direction. She sighed. She'd wanted to believe he had none. But after their back-and-forth today, it seemed her father might have something locked away in his receding brain. The shadow, straight tail and all, turned in a slow circle, contemplating its next move. Oh, Dad, she thought with deep sadness. Her dear, sweet, amazing father, who had taken on the role of both parents, pushed her to follow her dreams of working with animals--even when her grades had started slipping after the accident. When she'd barely wanted to get out of bed in the morning. He'd been her biggest supporter, her champion--even her shoulder to cry on when one charming college loser after another had broken her heart. He knows something about Cass Cavanaugh's murder. Her heart bled at the thought, at the realization. She'd gone over and over what he'd said this morning. What he'd implied. She knew in her gut her father hadn't hurt the Cavanaugh girl, but maybe . . . Oh God, could he have helped Palmer cover it up? Disappointment swirled inside her. How could he? Why would he? Because of friendship? Or had Palmer threatened him? So many questions she wanted answered. But one thing was sure: she wasn't about to let him go to jail. Christ, he was already in a jail of sorts. She had to protect him, clear his name. She wasn't altogether sure that teaming up with Cole Cavanaugh was the answer. In fact, it could be a complete nightmare. But she wanted to know what the fighter knew, wanted to keep him close as he gained information--maybe even lead him off track if fingers started to point in the direction of her father. The cat was weaving in and out of the hydrangeas now. Making his way toward the steps. Grace's breath caught in her throat. So close. If she could just lean in another-- Suddenly, the bottlebrush tail disappeared as large, skilled, tattooed hands scooped him up as if he were nothing fiercer than a stuffed animal. "Lose something, Doc?" came the throaty sound of Cole Cavanaugh's voice. Grace's heart stuttered inside her chest as she looked up. Where the hell had he come from? Her head swiveled right, took in the truck at the curb and the open gate. How hadn't she heard him drive up? Park? Open and close his door? Had she been that lost in thought? She glanced back to him. Dressed in blue jeans, polished black cowboy boots, and a white T-shirt, Cole Cavanaugh was every bit as tall, imposing, and fiercely rugged as his brothers--with one stunning difference: thickly muscled arms covered in vibrant ink. Grace's eyes moved down one of those arms to the huge black-and-orange tom tucked into the man's side. "How did you do that?" she asked, finding her voice. She wasn't sure where it had disappeared to while she was staring at his forearm and the incredible artwork rendered there--a snake with a skull for a face. "Do what?" he asked. Realizing she was still in a crouched position, she quickly stood and gestured to the tom. He snorted. "Pick up a little kitty cat?" She bristled at his arrogance. If she was admitting the truth--only to herself, of course--Cole Cavanaugh was one of the sexiest men she'd ever met. But his overconfidence brought her right back to college. To those boys she'd found irresistible. No more. Not ever again. She was all about stable now. And nice, and part of the community. Like Reverend McCarron. Wayne. She needed to remember that. Just Wayne. "I've been trying to catch him for two weeks," she informed Cole, brushing dirt from her jeans. "That sucks," he said before opening his arms and letting the cat go. Momentarily stunned, Grace watched the tom drop to his paws. "Wait-- Don't--" Then it took off down the path. "Dammit!" She pushed past Cole and ran after it. When she reached the bottom of the driveway, she stopped and stared out into the blackness. Unbelievable. She scrubbed a hand over her face. He was gone. Shocked and pissed, she whirled around. "Why the hell did you do that?" she yelled. "What is your problem, Cavanaugh?" Cole looked baffled. "He wanted out of my arms." "I don't give a shit!" "He wanted out of here." "He needed to be caught." "Says you." One pale eyebrow jerked up. "Not everything is meant to be caught, Doc." She stared back, shaking her head. So arrogant . She didn't know what Belle saw in him. "That's you talking. About yourself." "An animal's an animal, honey." Honey?!? "This is a stray, Cole." He just stared at her. Unfazed, uninterested. "He needed to be fixed," she continued. A slow grin moved over his face. Grace might've found it debilitatingly sexy if she wasn't ready to knock the guy over the head with a tree branch. "Guys gotta look out for each other," he said with a shrug. That was it. Fuming, she stalked toward him. Didn't stop until she was a couple of inches from his face. "You think this is funny, Cavanaugh?" Excerpted from Brash: The Cavanaugh Brothers by Laura Wright All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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Publishers Weekly Review

Wright's capable third Cavanaugh Brothers contemporary western (after Broken) finally begins to reveal the true story of Cass Cavanaugh's murder. Champion fighter Cole Cavanaugh has done everything he can to suppress the pain of his twin sister's death. Veteri-narian Grace Hunter, the daughter of their Texas town's former sheriff, wants to believe she's no longer a fool for bad boys. When the two unite to continue investigating the murder, they are too close to ignore their mutual attraction. Worse, their efforts produce nothing but distractions in the week before Cole's big rematch fight. Some late revelations promise closure on Cass's death, allowing the romance to enjoy its own satisfying resolution. Wright once again delivers her signature mix of dramatic tension and delectable passion. (Mar.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

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