Read Chapter 1 of Rough & Rugged here! – Ali Parker

Read Chapter 1 of Rough & Rugged here!



“We can’t lose this case.” It wasn’t negotiable. As the district attorney for the county of Cypress Creek, it would be my job to make sure we won. “The order came down from the top that it’s a ‘no lose.’”

‘No lose’ cases were the ones that would put a permanent black mark on my name and on the name of the office I held if the defendant involved ended up walking free. Some were easier to win than others, depending on the evidence we had available to us. 

However, there was never a guarantee when going to trial that we would win. Sometimes it didn’t matter how much evidence we had or how easy or open-and-shut the case seemed at first; trials were a beast with a nature all their own. 

There was always the chance that you were going to be surprised. Whether it was by the judge, a sympathetic juror or a sudden piece of acquitting evidence presented by the defendant, things could—and often did—go wrong. 

I thrived on the challenge. Staring that beast right in the eye and knowing I was going to slay it was my specialty, and the reason I was the best damn litigator our office had. Which was why this case landed on my desk. 

Nick sat in the chair across from mine at my standard government issued desk, furiously scribbling notes on a legal pad that seemed attached to his hand. In the month that he’d been my assistant, I didn’t think I’d ever seen him put it down. It was uncanny. 

He nodded seriously, lifting his dark brown eyes from his notes to mine. “I understand. What do you need from me to make it happen?”

Pulling the file in question closer to me, I opened it and scanned the contents quickly. “The defendant has an arrest record, so we can use that in our favor. The police department also seems to have done a decent job on this one. They found his fingerprints on some of the items they recovered, and there’s CCTV footage of our guy entering the store around the time of the robbery.”

Nick tilted his blond head, a satisfied smile spreading across his usually pursed lips. “I don’t think you’re going to have any problems putting this guy away.”

I shrugged and dragged my hand through my dark hair as I narrowed my eyes at the evidence I spread out on the desk. “It’s never a sure thing. I’m going to need copies of all this. Prepare a file for me. I’ll be going down to see the defendant in the cells at the PD this afternoon. He and I need to have a little chat.”

“Sure thing, boss.” Nick took the folder from me after I put all the paperwork back inside it. “Do you want to me come down with you? You know I love seeing you in action.”

“Sure, come on down.” Usually, he waited for me at the office. It wasn’t necessary for my assistant to run around with me, but I was feeling generous today. I also had a feeling this was going to be a conversation Nick wouldn’t want to miss.   

He was smart as a whip and always willing and eager to learn from me, though he’d never come right out and say it. Standing up, I did up the button on my suit jacket and crossed the room to grab a copy of the Criminal Code. 

I didn’t need the book, I knew it like the back of my hand, but walking into the interrogation room brandishing it like a weapon had worked to my advantage many times. Nick stood too, following my movements with his eyes. “What’s our game plan?”

“We’re going to confront him with the evidence and offer him a plea deal. If he doesn’t take it, we’re going to inform him we’re pursuing the maximum penalty for robbery at trial.”

Nick frowned, a slight line marring the smooth space between his eyebrows. “The maximum? Why?”

I turned away from my bookshelf to face him. “Because that’s what we’re entitled to pursue. If he committed the crime, he’ll have to do the time. It’s that simple. The plea deal we’ll be offering him when we get down there is his only chance at leniency, and I’m only offering it because I have to.”

“You don’t have to pursue the maximum, though,” Nick offered and rubbed his stubbled chin between his fingers. “I mean, you obviously can, but you don’t have to. Going for the maximum seems ruthless to me. Have you always been this ruthless?”

“The law is the law, Nicky. It may be harsh sometimes, but it’s still the law. There are no gray areas. It’s black and white, really.”

Nick smirked. “No shades of gray for you then?”

“Not fifty or otherwise,” I retorted, flashing him a grin. In the back of my mind though, I knew that what I had just said wasn’t entirely true. There was one case where I was so deep into the gray areas that I didn’t know if I would ever find my way back again. My Dad’s…

I still didn’t know exactly how or why I’d found myself on that team, but once I was there, I did everything I could to protect my family. 

Realizing that I was about to fall face first into the mystery that had been tugging at the corners of my mind for years, I pulled myself out of it and opened my door. To my surprise, it wasn’t only Nick’s empty office waiting for me on the other side. 

My brother was standing in front of me, his fist raised as if he was just about to knock. 

Beau broke out a smile when he saw me, pushing past me into my office without waiting for an invitation. “I guess you’re in the office, then. I was worried you might be at court or something.”

“I was just on my way to the cells.” I gestured for Beau to take a seat before looking at Nick. “We’ll just be a couple of minutes. You and I can leave right after.”

He nodded, waving at Beau as he left my office and closed the door behind him. “To what do I owe the honor of a visit? I haven’t seen you in almost a month, pretty boy.”

Beau rolled his sky blue eyes at the nickname. At thirty-two, he was four years younger than I was, but he was still closest to me in age. 

Our mother had had my four younger brothers with only two years between each one but had waited four years after my birth to have Beau. They used to tease me about it, saying it was because I’d been such a difficult baby, but I knew that wasn’t true. 

Contrary to what they believed, I hadn’t come out of the womb cross-examining everyone in front of me. I developed those skills over time, mostly because of them. I was pretty sure that was also where my strong sense of right and wrong and my passion for justice being served came from. 

After our mom passed away and with our dad working all the time, I became more of a father to them than a big brother. It forced me to grow up fast and to make sure I kept my brothers in line, something I failed at often. The Lovett boys didn’t fall in line for anyone, myself included. 

I never gave up, though. I just kept on trying. I was as strict as I could be, given that I didn’t have any real authority over them. I laid down the law in our house and followed my own rules stringently, trying to lead by example. 

If I knew something was wrong, I didn’t do it. Or didn’t get caught doing it, at least. I wasn’t actually their father, so I drank a bit at school friends’ parties from time to time and that kind of thing, but otherwise always did the right thing.

Eventually, grudgingly, they started doing it too. They were all smart, hardworking guys who kept their heads down and their noses clean—nowadays anyway. 

Evan, our middle brother, used to fight a lot when he was younger. Until he got the fright of his life when he put a guy in the hospital. He’d never fought again if he could help it. Except if it came to protecting his wife and her daughter. Sadie and Emery were his everything. If anyone ever tried to hurt them, all bets were off.  

Jeremy was the brother who came after Evan and was now twenty-eight. That boy was always causing shit, especially after his football career went up in flames when he was injured and couldn’t play anymore. He was angry at the world about it, and about all the shit that went down with our father, for a long time. 

Though he’d stopped his antics and started pouring all his frustration into work at his construction company a long time ago, people in town had still given him a wide berth until recently. He had turned into a big softie, though—thanks to having met his wife and her little boy, his stepson.

Marie knocked him off his feet the first time he saw her, and he was never the same again. His permanent scowl had finally faded.

Sonny, our youngest brother, was a cop and at twenty-six, had recently become the youngest detective in the Cypress Creek police department. Like me, he lived for his work and spent more hours at the station than at home. He used to, at least. It wasn’t like that anymore.  

After meeting Niki, a sweet girl he married at a small ceremony next to the river outside of town a few weeks ago, his work/life balance became much more healthy.  

Beau was the only one of my brothers who was still matrimonially unattached. He and I were the last Lovetts standing, despite no one thinking any of us would ever settle down. 

Being the pretty boy he was, though, I was actually a little surprised no woman had bagged him yet. He was the only one of my brothers who was blond. The rest of us had hair so dark it was almost black. 

Add to that his leaner, swimmer’s build to our muscular brawn, and it was no wonder we called him pretty boy. We also often joked about how he had to have been adopted because of it, but we knew he hadn’t been. Seriously, Mom had shown us his birth certificate once and told us to cut it out.  

I always thought that with his looks and compelling personality, he would be the first one of us to settle. Jeremy had surprised us all when he took pole position in that aspect of our lives, though I didn’t think anyone was as surprised by that unexpected development as he was. 

Beau was smart as hell, a successful architect and had been voted ‘Most Charismatic’ in high school. Though, to be fair, I doubted most of those kids even knew what the word meant. All they knew was that it suited Beau perfectly.  

Anyway, I had been wrong about him being first, but I did have a feeling he would be next. Since it sure as hell wasn’t going to be me. 

“How’s Charise?” I asked, hoping I’d remembered his girl’s name right. I’d only met her once, briefly. 

Beau’s eyes lit up in a way that told me I was probably going to be the only single Lovett in the very near future. He had the same look in his eyes Jeremy, Sonny, and Evan had had after meeting their matches. Though none of them had admitted to how whipped they were until much later, and I knew it would be the same with Beau. 

“She’s good, man.” There was an unusual softness to his voice when he talked about her, audible even though he’d only said three words. 

Shit, I guess the rumors are true. “I heard you two are getting serious.”

Beau shrugged and rolled his eyes. “You should stop listening to the gossiping Betties around town. They’ve got you heartbroken over some lawyer in Savannah right now.”

I laughed. “I worked with someone when Marie was wrapped up in that mess with her ex last year.”

“Exactly.” Beau smirked. “I knew there was nothing going on with you, so don’t listen to the gossip mill about me.”

“Since you’re obviously not here to bare your heart and elicit my excellent brotherly advice, what brought you around? It’s a welcome surprise, but it’s still a surprise to see you here during a workday.” I shook out my arm to dislodge my watch and glance down at the time.

I didn’t want to rush Beau, but I also did have to get down to the station. I wanted a signed plea deal in that folder Nick was preparing for me before the end of the day. If I didn’t have it by then, I was going to have to start gearing up for trial. 

Straightening his spine, the humor in Beau’s eyes evaporated in a flash. “I came about a different rumor, actually. I heard someone’s making moves to get Dad out of prison.” He leaned forward with his elbows on his knees. “Is it true?”

I sighed. I should’ve expected one of my brothers would come asking about this. Although I’d made it abundantly clear I didn’t want to talk about Dad and that they should stay out of it, they refused to listen. If I had been anticipating a visit about it from someone, though, it would have been Sonny I expected. Not Beau. 

Jeremy, Sonny, and Evan had all dealt with the reverberations of the mess Dad left behind when he went to prison. Beau had managed to stay out of it so far. Yet here he was. “I heard the same thing, but until the paperwork is on my desk that’s all it is. A rumor.”

Beau shifted in his seat, betraying how uncomfortable he felt to be talking about this. “The thing is, Ty, there are only two possible reasons why someone would be trying to get him out. Either he gave up the money, which would never happen, or they’re setting him up to… take him out.”

“My thoughts exactly.” Our father certainly wasn’t Cypress Creek’s most beloved son any longer. 

In fact, he was one of our most notorious criminals now. The impressive downfall of a former town hero and pillar of the community was all anyone could talk about for months after he was arrested for and then later convicted on charges of embezzlement. 

The whispers still trailed behind us. We’d gone through hell those first few years, walked through fires and storms and the destruction of everything we knew and held dear. 

My brothers were happy now. The storms had mostly passed, and I was keeping an eye on any further developments. I didn’t want them getting sucked back in, having to go through more because of what happened. It was my job to do the worrying. It always had been. 

Plus, there was nothing for them to worry about. I had been honest when I told Beau they were only rumors. There was no way in hell our father would be breathing air as a free man anytime soon. 

It was still a point of contention between my brothers and me, at least with the younger three of them, but I knew what I was doing. They just had to trust me. “There’s really nothing to worry about, okay? I have everything under control.”

Beau’s eyes narrowed as he stood up. He bristled, locking his gaze with mine. I guess what happened is still a point of contention with him too. 

Clearly, our conversation wasn’t going the way Beau hoped. He placed his palms flat on my desk and didn’t look away. “The last time Dad’s life was in your hands, he ended up in prison. So excuse me if you telling me not to worry does absolutely nothing to ease my mind.”

I watched him walk away, shaking my head. If only he knew…