Busting Loose

Busting Loose

4.5 4
by Kat Murray

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Rugged cowboys and sassy women. . .sexy! --USA Today bestselling author Donna Kauffman

Bea Muldoon is more than most men can handle. . .

. . .Which is probably why it's best the big city beauty hasn't been back to her small South Dakota ranching town since her teens. But with family business to take care of, the out-of-work actress is


Rugged cowboys and sassy women. . .sexy! --USA Today bestselling author Donna Kauffman

Bea Muldoon is more than most men can handle. . .

. . .Which is probably why it's best the big city beauty hasn't been back to her small South Dakota ranching town since her teens. But with family business to take care of, the out-of-work actress is now strutting around in her stilettos, stirring up all kinds of trouble--especially with a certain ruggedly handsome hometown man. . ..

Morgan Browning is in a bind. . .

. . .And it seems the only woman who can help is Bea. He claims it has nothing to do with her long, lovely legs, but really why would the town vet hire her to run his office? It could be something in the way Bea sweet-talks every man--and beast--who crosses her path. Or it could be that Morgan can't resist wrangling a woman who's intent on making a getaway--especially when he can see the country girl beneath the glamour. . .

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Murray’s third Muldoon family contemporary (after Bucking the Rules) shows hidden depths to Bea, the youngest Muldoon sibling. Bea plays at being the helpless ditz so well that everyone in Marshall, S.Dak.—especially her sister, Peyton (familiar to readers from Taking the Reins)—underestimates her. But when she walks into her vet’s office, Morgan Browning sees past her “simpering starlet” act and promptly hires her as a receptionist. With Morgan’s support, Bea thrives, but she still longs to go back to L.A. and restart her faltering acting career. The chemistry between Bea and Morgan is explosive, and while Bea tries to treat it as a casual affair, Morgan showers her with affection and attention in hopes of keeping her in Marshall. The love scenes are fun and energetic, but Morgan’s willingness to rely on Bea and his ability to see through her facade are the strongest aphrodisiacs. Fans of modern westerns will love this tender romance with elements of family drama. Agent: Emmanuelle Morgen, Stonesong. (Jan.)

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Publication date:
Roped and Wrangled , #3
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Penguin Random House Publisher Services
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Busting Loose



Copyright © 2014 Kat Murray
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-7582-8108-1


Morgan Browning, DVM, stared his archenemy down.

"You can't beat me."

His enemy blinked.

"I'm smarter. I'm stronger. And I can think."

Blink. Blink.

"I will take you down."

The phone blinked again, signaling that this little intimidation exercise had not, in fact, helped solve the problem of how to get the voice mail off the machine to make the light go off.

"Dammit." He pushed away from the desk in disgust. Why had Jaycee left for the day already? It was only three. She was the only one who knew how to make the stupid machine behave.

She'd given him a month to find a replacement for her as she trained to move up from receptionist to vet tech. And in reality, he agreed with her choice to become a tech.

But why, God why, did she leave him alone for the afternoon without teaching him how to make the ugly thing stop blinking?

The bell above the door swung open, and Morgan summoned up the friendly smile he always pasted on for paying customers. But as he turned and caught sight of his patient, the smile broadened naturally.

"Bea, hey. What's going on?"

"I—" She glanced at the phone as it rang, then at the empty chair. "Do you need to get that?"

"No, it's fine." He reached for Bea's Boston terrier, Milton, whom she'd adopted a few months ago. "Did you have an appointment?" The dog licked his face, smudging one lens of his glasses more so than it already had been.

The phone stopped ringing, and blissful silence—but for the dog's snuffled breathing—filled the waiting area. He sighed in relief, then his body clenched again when the phone rang once more.

"No appointment. I just ... okay, are you sure you don't want to get that?" She pointed a finger at The Devil. "We can wait a few minutes."

"Ignore it." He was. Morgan held the Boston up to eye level, squinting through the smudge. "Hey, dude. What's up?"

"He keeps scratching." Bea puffed and blew some baby-fine white-blond hair out of her eyes. Her hair reminded him of a pile of feathers, it looked so lightweight. And she wore it in a short style that framed her face, too short for pulling back like most women he knew. But a face like that deserved a frame.

"Dogs scratch, Bea." He hid a smile behind Milton's back. To Bea's mind, every whimper and whine was a new health scare for her pup. "But let's go take a look at—"

"Okay, that's it!" Bea swerved around the desk on heels so high they had to be a danger to her health and plopped down in Jaycee's old chair. Picking up the phone and pressing two buttons he never would have considered pressing together, she chirped, "Morgan Browning's office, how can I help you?"

Morgan's eyes nearly bugged out as far as Milton's. The flighty, sometimes ditzy-acting Beatrice Muldoon had just sounded like a true professional. Fascinated, he leaned over the desk to observe.

"Yes, of course. Oh, the poor thing," she cooed. "Let me check for you, please hold just one moment." Pressing another two buttons, she glanced over at him quickly.

"Appointments this evening?"

He shook his head. "None so far. Who is it?"

"The Peckinpaughs. Their family dog is throwing up. Do you want to ..." She motioned to the phone.

"Yeah, just a minute."

He picked up the receiver, then stared helplessly at The Devil. "Help."

"Men," she muttered, then pressed a few buttons and waved for him to continue.

"Thank you," he mouthed and pointed toward the open exam room behind him, holding up a finger to indicate he'd be there in a moment.

She nodded and scooped Milton up, walking to the room and closing the door behind her.

God almighty, those legs of hers made his mouth water more than any medium-rare steak ever could. The things he would give up in life to be able to watch her kick off her shoes under his exam table and crawl up there for—


Shit. "Yes, hello, Mrs. Peckinpaugh. I hear Toby's having some trouble."

Legs could wait. At least for now.

"No, Milton, stop that." She bent down and placed her fingers between his scratching paw and his neck, earning an unintentional swipe over her knuckles for her trouble. "Ow, that hurt."

"Did he get ya?"

Morgan's voice from behind startled her, and she straightened so fast, the blood rushed from her head. His hands went around her biceps to steady her and ease her into a chair.

"Whoa now. Didn't mean to scare you. Just sit a second. Standing up at that altitude might really get ya."

"Altitude?" she asked, bringing her hand up to inspect the scratch. Just a red scrape, no broken skin. She eyed the dog, who looked innocent. A look he'd been perfecting for a few months now.

"The heels," he said with a smile. "They're tall enough to have you ducking low-flying aircraft. Need me to check your pulse?" He was watching her eyes from behind hopelessly smudged glasses, and she knew he was taking stock of whether her pupils were dilated. Or not dilated. Whatever it was those medical types looked for.

Cutie. Dr. Cutie. Wanting to save the world, one forlorn case at a time.

"I'm fine. But Milton needs help."

Morgan looked skeptical at that, but he sat back on his haunches and called the dog over, who trotted toward him with ease. Morgan removed his collar to inspect the skin under. "Where is he scratching?"

"His shoulders and neck, mostly. Sometimes at his ears."

"You're using a flea and tick prevention?"

"The one you recommended, yes."

"Bathed him in anything new?"

"No. Same stuff since I got him."

"Hmm." Morgan picked up the dog and checked under one leg, then the other. "Any other problems? Not eating, not drinking?"

"He's fine, other than the scratching."

"Well, then I think you're gonna make it, my man." He roughed up the top of Milton's head with two knuckles in an adorable gesture of manly affection for the small dog. "I think he's got allergies."

"Allergies? The dog?" She rolled her eyes. "It would figure I'd get a high-maintenance canine. Allergies."

He refrained from making any sort of joke about a high-maintenance dog for a high-maintenance woman. It was a softball, even she could admit it. She appreciated the restraint. But he did smile and hold out a hand to help her up.

"I'll get some samples of allergy meds. But really, you can give him the human stuff. I've got a paper around here somewhere that gives you the dosing instructions based on his weight."

He walked back out to the front desk and started opening file cabinets at random, peering in, and slamming them shut again quickly. Milton escaped deep under the desk, in a dark corner, as if sensing something bad was coming.

The phone rang again, and Morgan completely ignored it.

After the third ring, she asked, "Should I get that again?"

"No, I can do it." His voice was muffled in a drawer.

Uh-huh. Right. Since he didn't know how to take a call off hold, he could obviously answer the complex office phone system. To soothe his male ego, she said, "You're busy—I'll just answer this one." She slid around him, her thigh brushing against his shoulder.

And okay, wow, her nerve endings stood up on point for that one. Clearly, if she was getting hot for the vet, she'd been in Marshall too long. Finding him adorable in a distant, sure, he's cute sort of way was one thing. Getting hot for the good animal doctor was another thing entirely.

"Morgan Browning's office, how can I help you?" She listened, scribbling the message down on a pad of paper to pass to him when he was through. "That's wonderful, I'm so glad you're considering a dog from our shelter. I have to tell you, I just got my Milton from there a few months ago and it was the best decision I ever made."

Morgan turned to watch her, but she shrugged. How hard could this be?

"What kind of dog were you looking for? Mm-hmm, yes, okay ..." She scribbled down the qualities the family was hoping for on a pad of paper. "I'll have Dr. Browning give you a call back in a bit after he's had a chance to think about it. How does that sound? In the meantime, there's a form online you can print off and fill out to bring in with you. That would save you some time when you come in. Yes, just go to the vet website, then click on the tab up above for the shelter. Yes, that's right. Well, thanks to you, too. I hope you find what you're looking for!"

She hung up and smiled, then caught Morgan's stare. "What?"

"How did you do that?"

"What?" She looked at the phone. "Answer it?"

"No, know how to do all that ..." He waved a hand around like he was swatting flies. "All that talking crap. Know all the right things to say."

Bea rolled her eyes and patted his cheek ... which was easy to reach because he was squatting by another file cabinet. "Sweetie, talking is what I did for a living. Acting on a soap is ninety percent talking. And when I was still auditioning for gigs, I was night receptionist at a twenty-four-hour pharmacy."

"But even with the adoption stuff ..."

"I just went through this process a few months ago. It's fresh in my mind. They're looking for a small dog, more of a lap dog than anything. No kids, just the wife and her husband. Empty nesters." She pushed the pad toward him and stood. "That's their number. I told them you'd check what's available now and get back to them."

He grabbed her arms again, like he had in the exam room, but it had nothing to do with catching her before she fainted. His hands were warm against her chilled, bare skin, the pressure just a little insistent.

"You can answer the phones."

She nodded slowly at his wild-eyed gaze. "Yes."

"You can talk to people."

"I manage to use real words and everything," she bit off.

"Can you use e-mail and figure out a calendar program?"

"Morgan, who the hell doesn't know how to use e-mail anymore? What's this all about?"

"You're hired."

"I'm what?"

Bea walked into the big house, dropped her keys and bag on the floor by the row of boots, flipped her heels off out of habit more than any desire to please their housekeeper, and set Milton down on the floor. The dog, as if to make up for all the trouble he'd caused her that afternoon, had the good sense to go hide somewhere. Likely wherever little Seth had been earlier, dropping crumbs. Kid left a trail of Cheerios in his wake like he was inviting ants to a picnic.


And shit. Peyton's voice. Darting upstairs would cause too much noise. Maybe if she quietly walked toward the office, she could slip away unseen. Her sister might just assume one of the hands was dropping something off in the office. She might—


Seth's delighted shriek—Milton's butchered name—had her closing her eyes in resignation.

"Bea, we're all in the dining room."

She sighed and headed that way. As she turned the corner and saw everyone sitting down, she bit back a second useless sigh and propped her shoulder on the doorjamb. "Yes?"

Her brother Trace patted the seat next to him. "Sit. We're eating, and there's plenty, as usual."

Milton hopped up into the chair, tail wagging excitedly at the idea of being invited to dine with the big people who had the good food.

"Oh no. No, no, no." Emma walked around the table and used a napkin to shoo the dog back down to the floor. "I tolerate that barking cat in the house, but I won't have him sit at the table."

"Calm down, Emma. He was just confused." To placate the housekeeper, she sat and grabbed a plate. Nothing made Emma happier than people eating her food. Emma nodded her satisfaction and headed back to the kitchen—her kingdom, over which she reigned on high—and left the siblings, plus their mates Red and Jo, to eat. "Pass some veggies, please."

"Try protein," Peyton suggested, handing over the platter of fried chicken instead.

Bea's mouth watered, but she used one finger to nudge the platter of fried trouble to the side. "Thank you, no. The vegetables if you please."

"Here." Peacekeeper Red, who'd moved in with Peyton that spring, handed over the mixed veggies with a smile. Over the clatter of silverware and Seth's excited babbling from his high chair, he asked, "How was your appointment? Everything okay?"

Bea scooped a heavy serving of vegetables on her plate, debated a second spoonful, then decided no. They were likely cooked in butter and oil. She'd grab an apple on the way back to her garage apartment across the ranch. "Milton has allergies and I have a job."

The screech of a fork over a plate made her cringe. When she glanced up from her forkful of green beans and carrots, she stared into four identical shocked faces.

Peyton, naturally, was the first to break the silence. "A job? Like, where you're actually going to work?"

"No, the other kind, where I do nothing and get paid for it," she bit out.

"So your old job," her sister replied.

"Acting. Is. Work." Her jaw ached from clenching.

"How exciting!" Trace's girlfriend, Jo, exclaimed, a little louder than socially acceptable. "Doing what?"

Just to piss Peyton off, she answered, "Working at Harem Ladies."

"You," Peyton said dryly. "Working at the strip club outside city limits."

"Oh, sure. They have the cutest uniforms." Warming to the idea of annoying Peyton, she continued. "Of course, I'll have to order my pasties from online. There's bound to be a pitiful selection here in town."

"Jesus, Bea-Bea." Trace flushed and looked like he wanted to escape, or maybe rip something apart with his bare hands. "What the hell?"

She threw a piece of her uneaten roll at him. "Oh for God's sake, Trace. No. Morgan Browning asked me to fill in for his receptionist at the vet clinic."

Silence greeted the statement.

"Answering phones, checking in patients, that sort of thing."

More silence, broken only by the sound of Jo's water glass clinking on the table in front of her.

"Oh, come on, guys. It's not like I'm neutering dogs or anything. It's sitting in front of a computer for a few hours a day." God, how inept did they really think she was?

How inept had she let them think she was? Maybe she really was a better actress than she'd ever thought.

"If you wanted money," Jo said slowly, "you could have asked me for a job at the bar."

"Or just pulled your weight around here," Peyton added.

"Right. Like you would even give me the chance." She didn't look up, didn't care to see the scorn in her older sister's face. Okay, so mucking out a stall was about as high on her to-do list as swimming in shark-infested waters. And her sister certainly had never asked for her help.

Maybe that was her own fault.

Morgan walked in the back door of his parents' home and wiped his boots on the mat.

"Morgan?" His mother's voice filtered into the mudroom.

"Yeah, Mom." He hung his jacket on the hook by the door, next to his father's heavier coat meant for his days in the fields.

"Boots off."

He thought to argue they were his good, clean office footwear, not his barn shitkickers, but didn't bother. Instead he sat down on the wooden bench his grandfather had made his parents as a wedding gift and pulled off his shoes. The cement of the mudroom was freezing cold, the chill seeping through his socks as he hopped his way onto the marginally warmer worn linoleum of the kitchen.

Cynthia, his mother, set another plate on the table. Without looking up, she pointed at the kitchen sink. The now-familiar routine served as a good reminder why he had built the house at the edge of their property for himself, rather than live with his parents. Plenty of room, but plenty of rules. At thirty-three, he should be able to wash his hands when he wanted.

But under his mother's roof, he washed when Cynthia said.

Over the rushing water, he said, "It's quiet. Where are the little demon spawn?"

"If you are referring to your niece and nephew, they're in the den with your father, watching some God-awful show they insisted was fantastic and they couldn't miss." Cynthia rolled her eyes and handed him a towel to dry his hands on. "They watch too much TV, but I swear I was going crazy with them underfoot while I made dinner."

Morgan wasn't fooled. He set the towel on the counter and leaned down to kiss his mother's cheek. "You love every noisy minute, and you know it."

"Of course I do. Having little ones in the house is a nice change from the quiet."

"When do Meg and Simon get back again?" His sister and her husband had taken themselves off on a cruise to celebrate their tenth anniversary and left the kids with Grandma and Grandpa Browning.


Excerpted from Busting Loose by KAT MURRAY. Copyright © 2014 Kat Murray. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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.

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Busting Loose 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
SaraBetty More than 1 year ago
This is a tough book to rate because it had my feelings flying all over the place as I read it... Bea was the daughter who was raised by her mother to be a "lightweight" and she played the roll perfectly until the local Vet, Morgan, finally saw through her... Her sister, Peyton, ran the family ranch that the mother had run into debt before she died and was trying with the help of  the brother ... Hostile feelings between Peyton and Bea nearly ruined the book for me because of the childhood resentments and jealousies carried forward... When Bea comes home from Hollywood where she was a bit actress in a "soap" and her character got "killed off" it was supposed to be a temporary thing... Read the book and find out what happens when "neighbors" become more than "neighborly".. Was mostly a very fun read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good read all three books were fun loved this last one, laughed out loud hate to see series end