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Jules Barnard Books

Reforming Hunt: Cade Brothers Book 4

Reforming Hunt: Cade Brothers Book 4

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Main Tropes

  • Player hero
  • Heir to a fortune
  • Single mom
  • Fake fiancé
  • Small town
  • Humor/rom-com

Synopsis

The player has met his match…

Hunt Cade likes women. All women.

Life is good as long as he’s got his boat, the steady line of beautiful women entering his Club Tahoe resort, and cold beer nights with his brothers.

Until a new kid enters the Club Tahoe children’s program and reminds Hunt what it was like to grow up without a father. Not to mention, the effect the kid’s mother Abby has on him.

The last time Hunt got involved with someone he shouldn’t have, it nearly ruined his relationship with his brothers, the only family he has left.

Hunt should stay away from Abby…but he was never good at denying himself.

Chapter 1 Look Inside

Hunt Cade breathed in the scent of booze and perfume and let out a contented sigh. He was in his element inside the club at Blue Casino. He flagged the bartender, who lifted his chin in acknowledgment. Within a minute, Hunt’s favorite drink would be delivered to him. 

Hunt’s brother Adam stood across the room, talking to a coworker. Adam, the traitor, worked at Blue Casino, while Hunt and their other three brothers had been holding down the fort at Club Tahoe since their father’s passing.

Three, four years? Had it been that long since Ethan Cade died? It seemed like only yesterday that Hunt stood outside his dad’s hospital room and learned the news. And it hadn’t been a quick death. Their father had been diagnosed with cancer months earlier, but he’d suffered in silence. By the time Hunt and his brothers discovered the truth, their father was gone. 

Adam finally looked up from his conversation and met Hunt’s gaze. He murmured something to the coworker and weaved his way over, looking slick in his customary designer suit. 

“I’m grabbing a beer,” Hunt’s buddy Chris said. He was Hunt’s wingman tonight. Chris took off for the bar, a swagger in his step as he flashed a grin at a passing blonde. 

Adam walked up and clapped Hunt on the shoulder. “Weren’t you here last night?”

Hunt scanned the room. “Your point?”

“You need a life.”

Hunt coughed into the palm of his hand. “I need a life? You’re married, and appear to have forgotten there’s an entire world outside.”

Adam grinned lewdly. “Because it’s more fun inside.” 

Point taken. Adam’s wife Hayden was beautiful. No doubt his brother found ways to occupy their time. But still, where was the variety? Where was the energy that vibrated with the hunt? No pun intended. 

Adam eyed him. “You might consider something longer than a one-night stand.”

“I’ll stick with my current entertainments, thank you very much.” Hunt had already scouted the place, but he made a show of scanning the room again to prove to his brother that his words didn’t affect him. 

Sadly, Hunt saw familiar faces, which only proved Adam’s point. 

Out of all the Cade sons, Hunt had gotten around the most. Was that so wrong?

Adam shoved his hand in his pants pocket, looking annoyingly concerned. “Try not to contract a venereal disease.”

Hunt glared. “It’s called a condom. I’m as clean as spring rain.” He straightened his button-down shirt, still wearing jeans. No way he’d be caught in the monkey suits Adam donned each day.

“Are you sure about that?”

“Yes, I’m sure,” Hunt said. “I go to the doctor, you asshole.” Damn, his brothers were annoying.

Adam glanced at his Rolex. “Just checking.” But Hunt could tell his “activities” these last few years worried his brother. Never used to. It wasn’t until recently, when all of his brothers had settled down, that Hunt received more heat than normal from his family. 

“I’m off,” Adam said. “Hayden and I have plans.”

Hunt narrowed his eyes. “Real plans? Or are you just saying that to take off and get your wife into bed?”

Adam shook his head slowly as though Hunt was being ridiculous. 

Such a hypocrite. Adam presented a polished exterior, but Hunt knew better. His brother had his own history with beautiful women. That part of his life might be behind him, but Adam didn’t even hide the fact that he took advantage of the best perk of being married. As far as Hunt was concerned, it was the only perk. 

“I don’t seduce my wife every minute of the day,” Adam said. “Levi and Emily are coming over for dinner, and then we’re watching The Bachelor.”

Hunt closed his eyes and sighed heavily. “Hanging out with our older brother and his girlfriend and watching reality TV is not ‘real plans.’ You might as well pull on an adult diaper and sign up for Life Alert. You’ve got one foot in the grave, my man.”

Adam waved goodbye to the coworker he’d been talking to earlier. “Don’t knock it until you try it.”

“I’ll pass,” Hunt said distractedly, in desperate need of kicking off the night. His brothers’ love lives were depressing. 

“I’ll see you at the next beer night?” Adam said. “Or maybe I’ll see you here tomorrow?” He quirked his eyebrow.

Likely, Hunt thought. “Beer night is always a go, and make sure you bring Hayden this time. That woman works too much.”

“Tell me about it.” Adam shook Hunt’s hand and took off. 

A few minutes later, Hunt leaned against plush gray cushions inside the lounge filled to the brim with beautiful vacationers and the fashionable elite of Lake Tahoe. Chris had found them an optimal location—perfect for viewing the bar and dance floor. Hunt sipped his gin and tonic, relaxing for the first time all day.

“Bar. Four o’clock,” Chris said, and gulped his beer.

Hunt glanced in the direction his friend indicated, though “friend” might be a strong word for the partnership he and Chris had formed. 

Chris worked at Club Tahoe as a doorman, and he was always up for going out. Though Hunt suspected it had something to do with the comps Hunt’s connections afforded them all over town. But their wingman partnership was mutually beneficial. It was easier to approach women in pairs. And as Hunt got older, most of his friends had dropped off to be in relationships. 

More fools them.

Hunt had already noticed the two women sitting at the bar. “Which one?”

One of the women wore a short metallic dress and five-inch heels. She had long, dark hair and heavy makeup, and she looked like an Instagram model. The woman next to her, however, was a bit of an oddball in this environment. She wore fitted jeans and a sexy top, which both worked. What threw him were the shoes. She had on those rubber shoes nurses wore. Glogs? Clogs? It was a strange choice for a high-end club.

“The sexy one,” Chris said.

Hunt scanned both women. Their styles were different, but they were both pretty. Clog woman simply had a more natural look. Then again, Hunt could find something beautiful in any woman. 

“I’m game.” Hunt picked up his drink and they strode over.

Clog woman caught sight of them first. She ducked her head and whispered something to her friend. 

“Having a good evening, ladies?” Chris said to the dark-haired woman. 

Not exactly original, Hunt thought, but in a place like this, people weren’t looking for poetry. They were looking for a hookup.

“We are, actually.” The dark-haired woman nudged her friend, and the other woman murmured something that sounded like a choked assent.

Now that Hunt was up close, he caught the golden highlights in clog woman’s long, wavy, light brown hair. Pretty hair that fell in waves and looked soft to the touch. He hadn’t gotten a good look at her eyes yet, but her full, pillowy mouth was definitely kissable. 

She swiped the side of a chilled glass of beer and avoided his gaze. 

It could be shyness, but Hunt had been around long enough to detect the signs of someone who wasn’t here to be social. Which always confused the hell out of him. Why go to a club if you weren’t interested in socializing? 

Rarely did Hunt run into a woman who wasn’t interested in talking—or more—but when he did, he walked away. He was here for mutual flirtation. 

Leave it to Chris to target a pair of women with one-half not interested. 

The last thing Hunt wanted was to make the woman uncomfortable. Still, he had to try talking to her for Chris’s sake. It was a part of his wingman duties. 

Chris chatted with the Instagram model lookalike, and Hunt turned to her friend. “I’m Hunt. What’s your name?”

She set her beer down and shook his outstretched hand. “Abby.”

Soft hands and a pretty voice. “You come here often?” She didn’t. He’d know, because he was here almost every night. 

“Not at all.”

“Are you from out of town?” he asked. She was a conundrum inside this place.

“I live here,” she said. “I just don’t get out much.”

“That’s a shame,” he said, adding a flirtatious depth to his tone.

She finally looked up, long enough that he glimpsed her eyes. Light brown, or blond, if there was such a thing. A shade of brown so pale he’d never seen the likes before. 

Her forehead scrunched and she chuckled. “Not really. This place isn’t my thing,” she said gently.

“You don’t enjoy going out with friends?”

She sent him a look. One that said she knew what he was up to. “I do, just not to places like this.”

“Where would you rather be?”

“Honestly? Probably at home watching The Bachelor.”

Hunt let out a deep belly laugh. Could he have found a less compatible woman for himself? “My brother just took off to watch it with his wife.”

She grinned. A genuine grin that transformed her pretty features into beautiful and did something to his chest, causing a pinching sensation. Not to mention the heat his body was suddenly radiating. 

Okay, maybe they weren’t so incompatible after all. 

“Do you watch it too?” she asked.

“Not at all,” Hunt said. “I’d rather be doing just about anything than watching reality television about romance.”

She stared, seemingly forgetting her desire to not engage. “You should try it. It’s about more than romance. Actually, romance might be secondary to the social experiment of turning the tables and making women the pursuers. It’s highly entertaining.”

“When you describe it like that, it does sound like something I’d enjoy.” He gave her his award-winning smile.

And she shrank back.

Since when did his smile not melt panties from here to the border? 

Since never. 

Did he have something in his teeth? Nah, even that never stopped a woman from letting down her guard once he gave her the full force of the Cade grin, and he wasn’t ashamed to use it.

She closed her eyes. “Let me stop you right there. I don’t know what you have in mind, but I’m not interested.”

Hunt pressed a palm above his heart. “Ouch. Not even a little?” 

She laughed lightly. “Nope.”

“Now that’s harsh,” he said, but he was smiling. She wasn’t really his type either, but she was genuine, and he liked that. Most of the women Hunt spent time with were like Abby’s friend. Beautiful and looking for a fun night. Honesty didn’t factor into it. 

“What if I’m the best man you’ll ever meet?” Kind of a lame line, but damn if he wasn’t competitive. And Abby had thrown down the gauntlet by flat-out rejecting him.

She glanced up as though considering. “Well now, you could be. But here’s the problem: I have baggage.”

Hunt rolled his eyes. “Everyone has baggage.”

“I have a dump truck’s worth of baggage.”

He leaned closer. “Now that is a lot. Care to share what this baggage entails? You never know, it might not bother me.” Where the hell had that come from? Clearly, her rejection had thrown him out of his element. He didn’t walk from women who needed more than he could give. He ran.

“Not particularly.”

“Fair enough,” he said. “So you’d never consider spending time with me because of said baggage, but you will watch The Bachelor, and, in fact, prefer it over socializing. Do I have that right?”

She tapped her index finger to her lips, and Hunt’s gaze snagged on the pillowy softness. Her lips were distracting, and she wasn’t even trying to seduce him. “That about sums up my life. But don’t let it get you down. You’re a good-looking guy.” She scanned his frame. “Tall, with plenty of muscles beneath that button-up shirt, if I’m not mistaken. And you’ve got the chiseled, handsome look. And your eyes—wow. You’ve got beautiful eyes.” She stared for a moment then blinked. “But I’m sure you’ve heard that before.”

“Possibly.” His eyes narrowed. “So if I’m such a fine specimen of manhood, why not take a chance?” Hunt wasn’t sure he wanted a chance with this woman, but there was something about her… She was interesting and different from the women he usually spent time with.

“It’s the baggage,” she said matter-of-factly.

“Right,” he said, “the baggage. Pretty heavy stuff, huh?”

She nodded. “The heaviest.” And this time, her lighthearted attitude slipped. She bit the corner of her lip and looked away.

Hunt held back a frown, because he refused to frown when he was in his party element, which only made his jaw tighten with the false grin he held in place. If there was something Hunt couldn’t handle, it was a sad woman. That was why he spent so much time trying to make them happy. Typically with his mouth and body.

And then something occurred to him. He was enjoying their conversation, but was she? “Is talking to me making you uncomfortable? Would you rather be alone?”

She looked up. “Honestly, I didn’t come here to talk to men. I came because my friend wanted to check out the place. We work together, and I promised I’d go with her so she wouldn’t be alone.”

And that was his cue. He never turned down a challenge, but this woman truly wasn’t interested. And he wasn’t a complete caveman. 

Hunt swigged the last of his drink and set it on the bar. He couldn’t remove her baggage, but he could remove himself if it made her feel better. “I’m not one to bother a lady.” He took her hand and gave it a light squeeze. “It was a pleasure meeting you, Abby. I’ll leave you to your beer.”

Hunt walked off in the direction of friends he’d noticed when he entered the place. His stride was long and confident, but his encounter with Abby left him off balance. 

Most women he met at clubs and bars were looking for the kind of attention Hunt had to offer in droves. But not Abby. He would have liked to get to know her better. Of course, not in any serious way…

And at the same time, he couldn’t imagine getting to know her in any other way.

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