Brand (The Donovan Dynasty)

By: Sierra Cartwright


Chapter One





“He’s a fucking badass. A hot fucking badass. But still, a fucking badass.”

“Who?” With a scowl, Sofia McBride looked up from her clipboard and glanced at her assistant.

“Cade Donovan.”

She followed the direction of her assistant’s gaze.

Sofia wasn’t the type to swoon, but…

He was standing next to the registry station near the front door of the country club and was dressed in an athletic-cut black tuxedo that emphasized his broad his shoulders and trim waist.

Rather than a typical bow tie, a sexy Western bulldogger tie was fastened around his throat. Intricately crafted leather cowboy boots were polished to a shiny gleam, and he wore a black felt cowboy hat.

Even from down the hallway, she noted his rakishly appealing goatee.

Though she’d never met him, she’d grown up in Corpus Christi, less than fifty miles from the Running Wind Ranch. Because his last name was Donovan, he was local royalty, and she’d heard of his exploits—fast cars, bull-riding championships, women—all the privileges money could buy.

He was mouthwatering. Given how tempting he was, no doubt he’d earned every bit of his reputation.

The woman at the front pointed toward the Bayou Room where Sofia and Avery were putting the finishing touches on the preparations for Lara and Connor Donovan’s wedding celebration. Cade touched the brim of his hat with old-world charm.

“He’s heading this way,” Avery said unnecessarily.

“You need to get going.”

“How about we switch jobs for the evening?” Avery suggested. “You can go to the Oilman’s Ball, and I’ll stay here.”

“No chance.” Sofia’s answer had nothing to do with Cade and everything to do with her friend Lara, who’d just married into the family.

Even though there would only be a couple of hundred people at this evening’s reception and the country club was one of the best venues to work with, Sofia planned to be there for her friend.

“But, but… That’s Cade Donovan.” Avery exaggeratedly stuck out her lower lip.

And Sofia wanted to meet him. At dinner last week, Lara had mentioned that Connor was a Dominant. And Sofia was curious to know if the other brothers were as well. “I’ll take care of him.”

“You never were good at sharing, boss.”

“Go.”

“If you need anything, anything—”

“Good luck with Mrs. Davis.” Honestly, Sofia needed Avery’s skills at the Oilman’s Ball. Five hundred people were on the guest list, and press would be in attendance.

Zoe, Sofia’s sister, had been at a downtown Houston hotel all afternoon, overseeing the setup of the challenging event. Mrs. Davis, the ball’s chairwoman, was notoriously demanding, and she’d been making changes to the plans for the last month. Avery’s ability to say no while keeping the client happy was a skill Sofia had yet to master. “You’re a cruel, cruel boss.”

“You might meet a rich oil baron.”

“There is that,” she conceded with a cheeky grin. Avery was twenty-nine, and she’d set a goal of being married by the time she was thirty. She didn’t lack interest from men, but she wouldn’t settle for just any man, insisting she wanted a man who could keep her in very expensive shoes and give her a monthly purse budget to match.

After gathering her belongings, Avery headed for the back exit through the kitchen.

Sofia straightened her shoulders and walked toward the front of the room to greet Cade, who had paused inside the doorway. His gaze locked on her. He didn’t blink, didn’t look away. Instead, he perused her as if she were the only person on the planet.

It was discombobulating and heady.

Her sensible black skirt suddenly felt a bit tight, her patent leather heels a little too tall. Still, she strove for professionalism she suddenly didn’t feel. “Mr. Donovan.” She gave him her best smile. “I’m Sofia McBride. Lara’s friend and the event coordinator.”

“I’m early.” He offered his hand.

Because it was the polite thing to do, she accepted.

His hand was so much larger than hers. All of a sudden, his presence seemed to consume her. His scent was leather laced with strength. He was exceptionally tall with a chiseled jaw, and it appeared that his nose had been broken, maybe more than once.

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