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.
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
PRAISE FOR THE CAVANAUGH BROTHERS SERIES
Also by Laura Wright
Diary of Cassandra Cavanaugh
May 5, 2002
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?
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.
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.
“Who you beatin’ down?”
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.
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?”
“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.”
“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.
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.
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.”
“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?”
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 maybes and possiblys 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?
One of Cole’s eyebrows jerked up. This had to be a prank. He snorted.
Will there be law enforcement waiting for me?
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"
Copyright © 2015 Laura Wright.
Excerpted by permission of Penguin Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
What People are Saying About This
Praise for Laura Wright and for the Cavanaugh Brothers series:
“A sexy hero, a sassy heroine, and a compelling story line...I loved it!”—Lorelei James, New York Times bestselling author
“The Cavanaugh brothers will brand your heart!”—Skye Jordan, New York Times bestselling author
“Saddle up for a sexy and thrilling ride! Laura Wright’s cowboys are sinfully hot.” —Elisabeth Naughton, New York Times bestselling author
“Deadly secrets, explosive sex, four brothers in a fight over a sprawling Texas ranch...Ms. Wright has penned a real page-turner.”—Kaki Warner, bestselling author
“Cowboys that put the ‘wild’ in Wild West.”—Alexandra Ivy, New York Times bestselling author
“An epic tale of love and redemption….A captivating read.”—Night Owl Reviews
“The emotions are intense, the sexual steam is sizzling hot, and the storyline never lags.... I can’t wait to read the next in this series.”—Literal Addiction
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Brash by Laura Wright is the 3rd book in her The Cavanaugh Brothers series. After I have read each book in this series, I would say to myself, Laura Wright can’t do better than this story or couple, and each time I am wrong. I loved Brash, in fact I totally adore this series. Brash belongs to Cole Cavanaugh and Grace Hunter and they were so awesome together. Can I pick one brother and their mate over the others? No. They are all equally hot, with fantastic stories. Sigh…I never want this series to end, and with Blue’s story next, I am beginning to grieve. A brief refresher on this series. The story takes place in River Black, Texas, where more than 11 years ago, young Cass Cavanaugh, the young sister of the Cavanaugh Brothers was murdered, and to this day, there has never been a resolution. The three boys left town as soon as they were old enough, and after the death of their father, they come back for the funeral, with Deacon the oldest determined to destroy the ranch and bury the horrible memory. But he falls in love with Mac, and then James will meet his mate in Sheridan. In Brash, Cole, Cass’s twin, and the one with the deepest scars, blames himself for not being there for Cass. He uses his guilt and anger to become a top notch fighter. In the last book, Cole used bad methods to try to get information from Grace, who is our heroine in this book. As we start the story, Grace realizes that she needs to help the Cavanaughs find out the truth, in order to clear her father’s name. An accident forces Cole to stay in Grace’s house to heal a severely bruised ankle, and at the same time work together to try and find clues from all her father’s paperwork. What follows is a beautiful sweet, and sizzling romance that is also filled with emotional turmoil. Cole despite his determination to not become seriously involved with any women, finds himself falling hard for the beautiful Grace. Cole has to keep himself celibate before his big fight a few weeks away, but this does not stop this from being a very sexy and sizzling romance. I totally loved Cole and Grace together. This is such a wonderful story of a man unable to get past a tragedy, and to slowly watch his defenses crumble. It is romance that slowly builds to a scorching climax, and a love that must persevere against all odds. The story continues to be a mystery throughout in the quest to find the truth of the murder, which haunts them all. But most of all, it is also about a family, who having been destroyed by a tragedy, will stick together to discover the truth, and let love heal them. There is also another element with an added half-brother, who does not feel part of the family, and the next book will be about him. Again, Brash is a wonderful story, with delicious steamy romance, but also an intense emotional read. Laura Wright outdoes herself in the wonderful story to add to a fantastic series. If you have not read The Cavanaugh Brothers, you are missing a gem.
In the second book, we could see the heated chemistry brewing between Grace Hunter and Cole Cavanaugh. These two have so much in common with one another with the loss of a loved one and how it affects their lives. The Cavanaugh brothers believe that the good sheriff knows what happed to their beloved sister and Grace is protecting her father due to his deteriorating mental state. In third book Laura Wright’s The Cavanaugh Brothers Series. When visiting her father, Grace hears her father remembering and making a comment about Cass. Before Grace can ask more questions, the moment is gone. Grace cannot come to terms that her father was anyway involved or covering up for someone responsible in Cass’s murder. Grace contacts Cole to see if they can work together instead of against one another to find the clues to this mystery. Cole Cavanaugh is a UVC champion and he continues to use fighting as a way to release the guilt of not being able to protect his twin sister’s life. He know the ex-sheriff has information about this sister death so when he receives Grace’s call he goes to her. As Cole and Grace works together in finding clues to this case, they are both breaking down each other’s wall they have surrounding their hearts. When Grace finally admits her feelings, Cole leaves to fight his arch enemy in the ring….but will he be able to win this fight and finally let go of the guilt to let the love of Grace heal him. Cannot wait to see what is in store for Blue since there is a possibility he is with the person who is responsible for Cass’s murder. I definitely recommend this book. I got an ARC from the Publisher and this is an honest review.
Loved that the story continues on through all the brothers.
I must admit Cole has been my favorite Cavanaugh brother to read about so far, his story captivated my attention from the start, and he definitely stole my heart. He is a force to be reckoned with, and I think Grace was the perfect woman for the job. They had amazing chemistry right from the beginning and it continued to get more explosive as the story continued. I have been so impressed with the writing in this series, as I have moved from book to book in the series I have been able to just pick up right where I left off, and just fall right back into the story. With each book in the series I have also enjoyed how the back story continues, and it doesn't take away from the main story at all, everything blends together seamlessly! This series has definitely been quite the literary treat for me, and I have really enjoyed getting aquainted with the members of the Cavanaugh family, and I look forward to coming installments in the series. Laura Wright's Cavanaugh Brothers series is a can't miss series!! I highly recommend it, it will satisfy all of your reading needs,and then some!
great book had me on pins and neadles all though out
The lone wolf and the one who took his sisters death the hardest. His drive and determination to find out who or what happened to Cass has been driving us crazy and this did finally give us an answer to that question. I was really surprised by the ending and the who did it, but it was great to get some closure after the last 2 books. I couldn't put this down once I started to read it and am glad that I didn't rush myself to get to it when it first came out (school kept me busy). Well worth the wait for when you have a few hours to spend engrossed in a well written book.
Cole blames his self for the death of his twin sister. When he searches for evidence of who was responsible for his twins death, he teams up with the ex police chiefs daughter. As the days go by and they are unable to find anything that will lead them to her killer. Cole starts to have fellings for her and she has been in love with Cole for along time but she has had her heart broken and is afraid to let her feelings out. They go thru ups and downs with still no leads of who's responsible their feelings for each other bloom.
4.5 passionate, page-turning, tension-filled stars! I am a big fan of Laura Wright's Cavanaugh Brothers series. I have read this series from the beginning and I can't get enough! The mystery surrounding the murder of the youngest sibling of the Cavanaugh clan has left me with no nails!!!! Since the very beginning I have been taking notes and trying to figure out who could be behind it all. I was anxiously waiting for this third installment to come along so I could continue to investigate and try to put every single piece of this mysterious puzzle together. We meet Grace and Cole in the previous books of this series. Their chemistry has been slowly burning up the pages and the way that the author wrote their story totally kept me glued to my seat from beginning to end! From the moment that Grace and Cole meet, tensions run high. Grace's father might have the answers that could solve the murder of Cole's sister. Cole has done the impossible to find out who is responsible for his sister's murder, but every new lead ends up leaving him with more questions about what happened on that tragic day. Grace wants to protect the only family she has left, which is her dad. Her dad is a retired sheriff and he knows what happened to Cass Cavanaugh, but he won't talk about it. Grace takes the intiative to help Cole with his search to find his sister's killer. The more time they spend together, the more the attraction that they have towards each other is undeniable. As the last pieces of this mysterious puzzle start falling into place, Grace and Cole grow closer together. I really liked Brash. It was different from the two previous books. It was more focused around the murder of Cass Cavanaugh. The story really took a step forward with this third installment. The author did a fantastic job at writing Grace and Cole's love story. All of the Cavanaugh brothers have their own scars from what happened to their sister. They are all fighting their own battle. With the support of strong and determined women these brothers have found a place where they belong. Grace and Cole had a great chemistry and I connected with them from the moment they were introduced in the story. Their journey if filled with emotional, intense, passionate and healing moments. My heart broke for Cole. He has so much guilt about what happened to his sister. I wanted him to find closure and begin a new journey. Grace gives him that beginning even if the mystery of his sister's murder is still not resolved. It was lovely to reconnect with all the characters that have made this series a memorable one. That ending?!?!?!?! Holy moly!!! I was not expecting that!!! I can't wait to read the final installment of this series, which is Blue Cavanaugh's story. Bonded will be out later this year and I can't wait to grab the last piece of the puzzle that will make everything clear. I kind of have of an idea where this is going, but the blurb of Blue's book has left me confused and intrigued. I give, Brash, by Laura Wright, 4.5 passionate, page-turning, tension-filled stars!
Good but not my favorite.
Laura Wright continues her riveting tale of murder and love in the third book in the Cavanaugh Brothers series, Brash. This series has an ongoing story arc involving the murder of the sister of the Cavanaugh boys that is gripping and immensely interesting. In this addition to the series, we meet Cole. He is the twin brother to Cassie who was murdered before the series begins. Wright does a wonderful job of keeping up the suspense and offering just enough clues to keep the reader on the hook. A great addition to this already spectacular series. Brash is probably my favorite of this series so far and I probably say that about every book that comes out in the series. Wright just gets better and better with each book. Cole is the Cavanaugh brother that I have been most intrigued about throughout the series, always in the shadows and not willing to be a part of anything, Cole has been a real mystery up until this book. I loved learning about him and his MMA career. He has taken all the pain and loss he feels from Cass's death and found a way to make others hurt. It was easy to see him pouring out his rage and pain, he was the epitome of a tortured hero. Grace is perfect for him. She has a very loving nature and she has went out of the way to protect her ailing father who investigated Cass's murder all those years ago. He's hiding something, but it's hard to sort out the facts. His mental state is far from credible. But something about Cole speaks to Grace and she wants to help him. She has been approached by the other Cavanaugh brothers and none of them has been able to get her to help them, but there is something about Cole. I liked the way she was with him. Very loving and caring, no matter how he acted. I was glad that she finally decided to help the boys and even in the longer run help her father. Bottom Line: This is a really great book in a really great series. The mystery is both compelling and entertaining to try to figure out. Wright gives you just enough information in each book about the murder to keep you coming back for more. Each hero is a little different than the last, but I had a soft spot for Cole, he was a tortured hero and really held up to the name. The best one in the series so far, you don't want to miss it.
Holy Cliffhangers, Batman!! BRASH is by far the BEST book in The Cavanaugh Brothers series! When I began the series, I didn’t think too much of Cole but he really won me over in this book. Grace is equally awesome and I love how she brought out the best in Cole and showed us a more vulnerable, human side to him. The couple had great chemistry and enjoyed their story tremendously. The mystery surrounding Cass Cavanaugh’s murder is getting intense as more clues are revealed and the suspect list is dwindling. I cannot wait to find out what happens next! Blue Perez (Cavanaugh) also had some page time and is finally coming to terms with the shocking secret that was reveled at the will reading in BRANDED. It appears he’s been having an online relationship with someone who’s determined to keep him at arm’s length. By the end of the book he makes some VERY shocking discoveries regarding the mystery lady and a few other things that will have your head spinning! This was an amazing book and I am beside myself, desperately waiting for the next book! 5 Brilliant Stars for Laura Wright! ***I was gifted an eBook copy from the publisher via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review. All conclusions reached are my own***
As Cass's twin, Cole took harder his sister's murder, finding in fighting his only relief. He never got seriously involved in a romantic sense because his sister won't have the same. So, when he meets Grace Hunter and starts to get into her, at the same time trying to figure out what her father knows about Cass's murder and preparing to the most challenging of his fights to come, Cole has a lot to deal with. This is a deep story, about a man's feeling for the worst tragedy that happened to his family, dealing with a sense of failure in protecting his twin sister. It was an intense read and emotional in so many ways. I loved the romance and enjoyed reading about the discoveries made in Cass's murder. I'm anxious to read the last book and know the rest of the story.
third book in series. Tatted up fighter with a heart. Love this series. his twin sisters murdered and Cole has felt responsible since it happened. Sparks fly when Cole works with Grace ( who's father was sheriff when murder happened) and they try to find any clues he may have. Great series do not pass up .
One of the best series I have read in a while.. But I am going crazy trying to figure out who killed Cass. This is the story of Cole (Cass's twin brother) and Grace Hunter (resident veterinarian).. While they started as adversaries they have now become partners in trying to find out who murdered Cass twelve years ago... The mystery boy who Cass had befriended does turn up in this book and a couple of clues appear but I guess we are going to have to wait for the fourth book BONDED(about the half brother Blue Perez) to find out really who killed Cass all those years ago. The mystery adds interest but the romances as the brothers recover from the loss of their suster are wonderful... Sexy, real and oh so enjoyable... Read them all - Brash, Branded, Broken and in Sept. Bonded.
Review courtesy of Romance Junkies: Cole Cavanaugh is the third son of the late owner of the Triple C Ranch. He has never gotten over his twin sister's death and he continues to feel the loss of her absence as each year passes. Cass's memory plays as the prominent catalyst in his refusal to put down permanent roots or remain in River Black. Fighting has been Cole's coping mechanism to deal with his grief and the guilt of not being around when his sister needed him most. He suspects Grace's father of withholding information, and the stubborn veterinarian obstructs him from getting close to the retired sheriff to question. In the midst of preparations for an important UFC match, Cole receives an offer he cannot refuse: access to the ex-sheriff's old case files and help in his desperate search for new clues into Cass's unsolved murder. Grace Hunter is River Black's resident veterinarian. She is the daughter of the sheriff that was in charge of investigating Cass Cavanaugh's murder. Grace has been taking care of her ailing father since his decline into dementia. In a rare moment of clarity, he mentions something vague concerning the dead girl that causes her to suspect his involvement. She extends an olive branch and offers to aid the Cavanaugh brothers in their search for possible leads in their sister's cold case. Grace wants to keep her father's name free of suspicion, and in order to succeed, she needs to learn the truth of Cass's death alongside the girl's twin brother. I have been eagerly anticipating Cole's story since the first book, BRANDED. I suspected his book was going to be an emotional one because he is the one Cavanaugh that carries the most emotional damage from Cass's death. Cole even owns up to the fact and admits that his sister's death gave him excessive baggage. It was both sweet and heartbreaking how he felt undeserving of happiness and love because his twin was not alive to experience the same for herself. Cole is my favorite out of the four brothers. I love his charisma and bad boy attitude. He is edgier and snarkier than Deacon and James, characteristics I am always drawn to in male characters. Laura Wright has this incredible talent of writing awesome pain-in-the-rear-end characters that you simply cannot help but love, and Cole is no exception. His personality and crass manner reminds me somewhat of another character of the author's, a certain vampire from her MARK OF THE VAMPIRE series that is a fond favorite of mine. Grace's role in the previous book did not leave a positive impression with me. She came off a little meek and tepid for my tastes. My thoughts on her character changed once I learned about her personally background. I began to see many characteristics that Grace and I share. She garnered my admiration and interest when she refused to let the Cavanaughs walk over her and hassle her ill father. What I liked the most about Grace is how at the beginning she did not like Cole from his actions and behavior, however, that did not stop her from helping the man solve his sister's unsolved murder. Her calm personality acted as a grounding agent for the combustible side of Cole's behavior. She did not push Cole but accepted him at face value, and that encouraged him to want to change on his own rather than per her influence. The author does an outstanding job of capturing how heartbreaking it is for someone with a family member suffering dementia or Alzheimer's. I empathized with Grace there the most, remembering how rough it was on me when I visited my grandfather, who suffered from Alzheimer's, and have him think I was my mother. BRASH is the third installment in THE CAVANAUGH BROTHERS series. The author keeps the suspense going for the next, upcoming book. The mystery of Cass's death is still unresolved, and while a few questions are answered, more present themselves.
This is a great series by Laura Wright. I love the sexy Cavanaugh brothers but I also love the added mystery of the death of their sister Cassie. Brash is the third book in the series. Cole Cavanaugh is the twin brother to their sister Cassie. Blaming himself for Cassies death he takes out his anger and frustrations in the MMA Fighting right and he's darn good at it too. Just don't call him "Champ" or you might find yourself on the other side of his fist. Grace Hunter is the town vet and her father, now with alzheimers was the town sheriff at the time of Cassies murder. All Grace really wants to do is protect her father as would any loving daughter. But as his mental state continues to get worse and worse are some of this thoughts real or just a fantasy in his head. I loved how Grace and Cole eventually team up to find out what happened to Cassie. Their humor and sarcasm is wonderful and I love how this mystery of Cassie's death is taking me. I don't want to give anything else away. If you're like me you hate spoilers as well so I will say.. If you haven't read this series please do so. You won't be disappointed. I can't wait for Blue's story because I need to know....
Third book of the series, best one yet. Do I really have to wait until Sept for Blue
OMG!! This book was FREAKING awesome. How could you not fall in love with Cole. He was hot, tattooed, UFC fighter and one sexy hot man. Did I already say that. Lol. This is a must read series. Each book is great but they get better and better as you go. Cole right off the back makes you fall for him. He is you tall dark sexy fighter who ends up begin a great guy under that tough appearance. Doc she is a fun read. She don't hold back. She fires back at Cole like its nothing. I just loved these two together. I hope we see more of them. The only down fall to this book is I wish we could have had a little more to them at the end. Where we could have seen more of them after his fight was done. Other than that this book is a must read and a must re-read. Five thumbs up!!
4.5 Stars This is the 3rd instalment in the Cavanaugh Brothers series and it is another fantastic addition to the series. Cole was the brother I was most looking forward to getting to know better and I wasn't disappointed in the slightest. If you love a tattooed bad boy UFC fighter then this is definitely the book for you! However as there is an ongoing story arc that is vital to the development of the series I highly encourage you to read them all and in order so as not to spoil yourself and to be honest - every book so far has been thoroughly enjoyable! Laura really enjoys her cliff-hanger and endings and this one was no different! Definitely a jaw dropper!!