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Ultimate Cowboy

Cover of Ultimate Cowboy

Ultimate Cowboy



Rancher Brody Bloodworth has spent years blaming himself for his brother's disappearance. If he hadn't snuck off to be with Julie Whitehead, everything would have been different--and he wouldn't have pushed her away. Now Julie is back, as an FBI agent with a solid lead on his brother. Although the past makes Brody reluctant to fall for Julie again, he admires her for being unable to keep her hands off the case. Before long he finds himself unable to keep his hands off her. As he prepares for a showdown with the ruthless kidnappers, Brody knows what's at stake if he wins. And just how much he'll lose if he doesn't....


Rancher Brody Bloodworth has spent years blaming himself for his brother's disappearance. If he hadn't snuck off to be with Julie Whitehead, everything would have been different--and he wouldn't have pushed her away. Now Julie is back, as an FBI agent with a solid lead on his brother. Although the past makes Brody reluctant to fall for Julie again, he admires her for being unable to keep her hands off the case. Before long he finds himself unable to keep his hands off her. As he prepares for a showdown with the ruthless kidnappers, Brody knows what's at stake if he wins. And just how much he'll lose if he doesn't....
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    "This special news report just in--an amber alert has been issued for six-year-old Hank Forte. Hank was last seen at the county fair in Amarillo."

    Brody Bloodworth's heart clenched as a photo of the boy appeared on screen. The little boy had blond hair, was wearing a black T-shirt, jeans and cowboy boots. He could be one of the kids on the BBL, the Bucking Bronc Lodge he had started for needy children.

    But he reminded him more of his own little brother, Will, and launched him back seven years ago to the day Will had gone missing.

    Not from a county fair but from the rodeo where he was supposed to be watching him.

    Self-loathing and guilt suffused him, once again robbing his lungs of air. He understood what the family of that little boy was going through now. The panic. The fear.

    The guilt.

    If only they'd kept a better eye on him. If only they hadn't turned their head for a minute.

    What was happening to him? Had he just wandered off? Would they find him hiding out or playing somewhere at the fair? Maybe he had fallen asleep in a stall housing one of the animals...

    Or had someone taken him? Maybe a desperate woman who'd lost a child and was out of her mind? A child predator who'd do God knows what?

    A killer?

    The reporter turned the microphone to Hank's parents, a couple who were huddled together, teary-eyed and frightened. A second later, they began to plead for their son's return, and the mother broke down into sobs.

    Brody hit the remote, silencing the heart-wrenching scene, but it played over and over in his head. But it wasn't the Forte family's cries he heard; it was his own family's.

    His father who'd blamed him from the get-go.

    Because it was his fault.

    He glanced through the window at the sprawling acres and acres of land he'd bought, to the horse stables and pens and the boys that he'd taken in. All kids who had troubles, boys who needed homes and love and guidance.

    But no matter how much he did for them, it wouldn't make up for losing his little brother.

    The clock in the hall struck 6:00 p.m., and he stood, pulled on his duster jacket and headed outside. One of his best men, Mason Blackpaw, and his fiancée, Cara Winchester, were getting married on the ranch in a few minutes. He'd promised he'd be there, and he was happy for his friend, but weddings always made him uncomfortable.

    And he'd attended a hell of a lot of them lately. In fact, all of his original investors had tied the knot. First Johnny Long, then Brandon Woodstock, Carter Flagstone, then Miles McGregor, and now Mason.

    Yanking at his tie to loosen the choking knot, he glanced at the field to the right where Mason had built a gazebo. Cara had rented tables and chairs and had decorated them with white linens, bows and fresh day lilies.

    Half wishing he could skip the ceremony, he started to turn and go back inside, but Mason strode up to the steps of the gazebo then glanced his way with a smile.

    Brody forced one in return. He couldn't let his foul mood ruin his friend's day.

    Still, it was all he could do to put on a congenial face as he took a seat in the back row. Weddings made him think of Julie Whitehead, the only girl he'd ever loved.

    The girl he'd snuck off to make out with at the rodeo, leaving his brother alone and unprotected.

    In the panicked and horrible days after Will had disappeared, he'd lashed out at Julie. He'd blamed her.

    But it was really himself he hated.

    Dammit, that news report had stirred it all up again, all the haunting memories. He needed to check the database for missing and exploited...

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