Edwin Release Blitz & Giveaway

Edwin Griffin was looking forward to his retirement from the Army. But it seemed his superiors were having trouble letting go. As a wolf shifter and an immortal, Edwin’s senses were keen. He had no intention of “keeping in touch” or to continue working for them, for that matter. Something about them felt off, and Edwin had no intention of being a pawn in whatever scheme they were plotting.Storm was very protective of her sister, Rain. Their parents had somehow found them, and Rain was vulnerable to their influence. The sisters both possessed magical talents that were growing stronger daily. When Charlie Griffin offered to help, Storm jumped at the chance to protect her sister.Edwin was a bit surprised to find the feisty woman Storm to be his mate. She had a hard time with trust, but Edwin was determined to work on that, but he had his own issues to resolve.Although retired from the military as well, Storm would still take on an occasional assignment. But when the assignment from her superiors was to do something about her mate. Well, things just got a bit more personal….

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I Tunes coming soon

Paperback https://www.amazon.com/Edwin-Griffin-Brothers-Paranormal-Shifter-Romance/dp/1955086931/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=kathi+s+barton&qid=1632226283&sr=8-1

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Katy Bennett Mystery Prize
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Prologue


Charles—Charlie, to most people who knew him—was so lost he hadn’t any idea if he was walking on the ground or the sky. He knew the difference, of course, but it was so dark out tonight that if there had been a moon shining, he couldn’t see it. When he sat himself down on a log to get his bearings again, he paused in his thinking to look at what could have made the sound he’d heard. Terrified out of his mind when he saw glowing eyes looking at him, Charlie sat as still as he could. The eyes grew larger and incredibly more shiny as the beast made its way to him. He didn’t run, knowing that even if he knew where he was at the moment, the wolf would know it better. It would chase him down and kill him without any hesitation. The wolf, a big gray fella, just stood there within a few inches of Charlie’s outstretched legs. When he laid down, putting his heavy head onto his leg, Charlie had another moment of fear. The thing never took his eyes off him. As soon as he felt he was brave enough to try and talk to the wolf, he was gone, and in his place was a man.

A fully clothed man with the gray of the wolf’s fur colored into his hair. Even his eyes were the same as the wolf’s, Charlie thought. Still, neither of them moved until the man sat back on his butt and regarded him. “You live on the property not far from here, is that correct?” Charlie told him he was only squatting there until they found him. But he was a mite lost. “Yes, I’ve been following you for some time. And in all that time, you did not harm any other animal you came across, and there were plenty. Why is that?” “You mean the rabbit and the family of deer?” The man nodded. “I don’t have a need for meat just now. I only kill when I have to. When my belly feels like it can’t go another minute without some meat in it. And even then, I use it up the best I can. What I can’t use, I leave out for some other animal that will use the rest.

Why do you ask?” “I’ll get to that. You didn’t seem that surprised when I changed from wolf to man. Can you tell me why that is?” He nodded and told him what he’d been seeing a lot of lately. “Yes, wars—including the current Comanche War—have made a man wish for better times. So you were surprised but just wrote it off as being another strange thing that had no explanation. That’s a very good explanation, I think.” “They say that the war is about over. I don’t know much about that. I can still hear shooting when I’m out and about. I don’t have any land left because the soldiers took it all when they was coming through. Not that it was much more than a bunch of rocks and stumps, to begin with.” The man only nodded. “I’m Charles Griffin. Most call me Charlie. A great deal more names, but I ignore them. Not everybody was able to go to school all the time. I had my family to feed when my daddy up and got sick. Momma died a few weeks ago, and I’ve been roaming around since looking for work. I don’t suppose you know anyone around here that might be wanting an extra hand or two, do you?”

“I do, as a matter of fact. My name is Romeo Hank. The Hank is for when I need a last name. But I do have something I’d like to propose to you if you’ve got the time to listen.” Charlie told him he didn’t have anything but time right now. “All right. I have a medium sized pack. You can see a few of them over there watching over us. They’re all just wolves. I’m the only wolf shifter I know. They’re a good bunch. Hungry most of the time, but then all of us are, correct?” “Yes. Some more than others. At least I can find me a bit of string and fashion me up a hook to use.” Romeo told him that was excellent. “You need me to fish some fish out for you and your pack? I don’t mind at all doing that for you. In fact, I’d be powerful happy to help you out.” “Not just yet. But I think I will take you up on it soon. I have a daughter. Her name is Luna. Such a beautiful name, don’t you think?” Charlie asked if it meant moon. “It does. Thank you. You’re very well educated for a man with no means of living.”

“My mom was a school teacher when I was born. They fired her, of course, when she had me. She taught me to read and to figure. I can write too, but I do have to think about the spelling of things. Can you write?” Romeo said he’d been given a great gift in that. “I think so too. When I find me a newspaper or some little old book, I treasure it for a bit. Then I pass it on if I can. I don’t have to know the people in the paper. I just like reading about their stories. Are you going to tell me what this is about?” “I am. I was working up to it, but I believe you to be a man that can be trusted with things in life. I would like to change you into a wolf, one such as I am. You’ll be a man when you wish, a wolf when necessary. There will be magic, as well as wealth.” Charlie told him he didn’t have use for wealth, but food all the time would be nice. “That is precisely what I’m speaking about, Charlie, my good man.” Throughout the rest of the night and well into the morning, they spoke of things that Romeo needed from him. It wasn’t brought up again about him being changed, but Romeo did tell him more about his daughter and that he, plain old Charlie, was her mate. The soul reason he’d not been harmed while wandering around in the woods. “Do you understand what it is I want you to do?”

Charlie said he thought so. “No. I’m sorry, I can’t allow you to go into this, only thinking you understand. Please, ask me anything you’d like. You must be clear on this. I need you to be clear on how it is I wish you to someday take over for me.” Romeo never got upset with him when he asked his questions. If Charlie was honest with himself, which he usually tried to be, he was afraid that Romeo had picked the wrong man. That he’d be better off finding himself someone else to take over his empire. “You’re the right man, Charlie. When I told you I’d been following you around, I want you to know it wasn’t just last evening, but for some time now. I’ve seen you share your last bit of food with people. Work for someone that cannot do for themselves and not take anything but a bit of bread and water. You’re a very good man. A better man than I am.” Charlie started to protest. “No. I’m correct in picking you as my replacement. And if that is some of your worry, being an alpha, you’ve no worries there either. I will not leave this earth for the next until you are comfortable with what is needed of you.

Now. If you’ve no more questions, I shall leave you to allow you to think on it. I’ll be back here tomorrow so you can tell me your answer. I know I have picked the right man, Charlie. It’s something you can do easily to save this pack and my daughter.” Luna followed him as he walked around. He’d thought about calling back Romeo and asking more questions, but he didn’t. Sitting down again, his leg bothering him from sitting so long, he looked at the big, beautiful wolf. “You’re not really his daughter, are you?” She shook her head. “I didn’t think so. Are there any more of the others that he claims are his children?” She nodded this time, and he determined by asking questions that it was one other female. “I don’t know what to think about all this, to be honest with you. Are you my mate? Is he telling me the truth? I just don’t know what to think.” She nodded or shook her head after each of the questions he put to her.

Yes, she was his mate. Yes, Romeo was telling the truth. There were many more questions and answers. He was headed back to the area that he’d first seen Romeo when he felt the pain take his breath away as it slammed into his left shoulder. Falling back, he hit his head and laid there while trying his best to catch his breath. That was when he heard the other gunshots, the wolves howling and trying to hide. Pulling Luna toward him, he whispered harshly into her ear, hoping that at least she’d understand him enough to know that she must warn the others. “Go. Tell Romeo to hide the pack. To make sure you and your sister are safe.” She didn’t want to leave him, whimpering at him as she laid her head on his shoulder. “Go. Please. Run and escape before they hurt you too.” When she left him, Charlie closed his eyes. Opening them when he felt the shadow darken over him, he looked up in time to see the barrel of a large rifle. He was a goner. He knew that. He could only hope that Luna and the others were safe.

Madden Release Blitz & Giveaway

Gabby Thomas wasn’t sure which end was up. Was everyone in this town crooked? Everything at the police station was in disarray, and now she found herself the new police chief. She had to fire the lot of them and start from scratch. Working with the Feds wasn’t proving to be the easiest solution either. Thank goodness she had found her mate, Madden. He was her rock.
Madden McCray wasn’t expecting to find his mate when he sat down with the new police chief, but he was glad he did. Gabby was proving to be just what he needed.
Gabby and Madden share an epic love, but with Gabby’s visions of the future, will love alone be enough for what lies ahead? Find out in the final installment of McCray Bruin—Madden.

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ITUNES https://books.apple.com/us/book/madden/id1585213024

Demi Morgan was good at keeping her identity hidden, so when an attorney found her at a restaurant she owned, she was more than a little angry. Very few people knew how to find her, and she took her privacy seriously. His news that her mother had passed, several months ago, did nothing for her. Her family had never wanted her, and in turn, she didn’t want them either. He knew her family, and he understood her feelings, but the will had to be read.

Reluctantly, Demi made her arrangements to travel back to her hometown in Ohio. Her intentions were to either decide to stay, or to sell the home her grandmother had left her. Living in the same town as her brother and sister didn’t appeal to her at all. When her brother, Nathan, cold-cocked her in the elevator, an unlikely savior came to her rescue, Madden McCray.

Demi wanted to hire Madden to be her bodyguard while she was in town. Madden said as much as he could use the money, he told her he already had a job, but his brother, Lucian could use the work.

Lucian wanted to meet Demi before he accepted the job, and when her scent hit him between the eyes, his bear rolled over him—she was his mate. But reality hit him like a freight train. She had money—a lot of money—and he and his family had always been dirt poor. He wanted his mate too—more than anything, but he’d have to get past his pride first….

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Meadow Springs had been locked away in a hospital for several years. At sixteen she was a victim and sole survivor of the mass murder of her family. The ordeal had left her semi-comatose for a long time. Since she was the only survivor and couldn’t talk, the police tried to pen the murders on her, but it didn’t stick.

Josiah McCray was there the day that Meadow was brought to their home to go into hiding. The beautiful blonde in the wheelchair was a shadow of the woman she should be. All Josiah saw was his mate, and he loved her no matter what.

The killer was still out there, and Meadow had his identity locked inside her mind and the killer knew it. Everyone previously in charge of her care were now dead. There was no way that was a coincidence.

Meadow was a loose end, the one that got away. There was no way the killer could let her live….

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Melody Austin was afraid of nearly everything, but like it or not, she was a survivor. When she was seventeen, she had survived a harrowing attack that left her mentally and physically scarred. Now, ten years later, her brother, Daniel, repeatedly asked her to talk about the disturbing events, to tell him what happened so that he could understand, but she remained silent.  She knew he meant well, but telling him a bear was behind the attack at the school would get her locked up in a mental institution. No one would believe that story, and she couldn’t blame them.

Daniel had taken a job working for the McCrays. He made Mel promise that she’d join him in just a few days, but instead, Daniel received a call that his house was on fire, and Mel had been burned in the process. Daniel took Gannon with him to check on his sister.

Daniel had told Gannon that Mel was a bit skittish before they arrived on the scene. But the moment Gannon caught her scent; he knew she was his mate. He meant to reassure her by telling her that she was his mate and that everything would be all right, but the instant she heard that he was a bear shifter, she went wild, running back into the fire to get away from him.

When Gannon discovered that a bear was the cause of all her fears, he didn’t know how he could get past this. He couldn’t change what he was…. Was this doomed from the start?

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Things hadn’t been going very well for Lucy and her two sisters. When their parents died, their uncle had moved in and took over. The girls, apparently, were too much trouble to worry about, so he’d dumped them onto the streets to fend for themselves.

It was just luck that Ian McCray and his family had found Lucy that day. Both Lucy and her sister, Jilly, were in bad need of medical attention. Ian was just thrilled to have found his mate alive. In their situation, it could have been much worse.

Lucy was thankful for the help, but she was just going from one man to another lording over her and dictating what she could and couldn’t do. It was marry Ian or lose her sisters for good. Ian was a nice man, but she was tired of everyone telling her what to do.

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Joey wasn’t dealing with the best of news. The phone call informing her that her niece was dead was bad enough, but her great-niece, Becky, was also in danger. Then finding out her twin sister, Margie, had Joey’s office bugged just about sent her over the edge. And now her mother’s life was being threatened for information on Becky. Joey was going to have to kill someone before this was all over with.

Pierce was having a time dealing with stress lately. Trying to please everyone and not giving himself any slack was about to do him in, and no one was helping him at all by telling him he needed to find a mate. Just thinking about that prospect was stressful too.

Pierce was gifted. Not only was he a bear, but he could read the minds of others. He was a great profiler. Meadow sent him to help Joey find the spies in her organization. As soon as Pierce met Joey, he knew he had found his mate at long last, but telling her would have to wait. With everything else she had going on, that information might make her head explode.

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Josiah  https://amzn.to/2SyOLzG
Gannon  https://amzn.to/2WsiyxT
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PIERCE https://amzn.to/37ADBmC

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Prologue


The phone ringing pulled her from a deep sleep. Or was it just the beginning of her sleep? Whatever it was, Gabby was as pissed as she’d ever been at being woken up. Pulling the cell to her ear, she took a deep breath to blast the person on the other end when he spoke to her. “Gabby, there’s been an incident.” She sat up in bed, untangling her hair from her face as she asked the officer what had happened. “Hailey is hurt. Badly. She’s been beaten to shit, and the guy she was with is dead.” “I’m on my way. Did you call her dad?” Paul told her she’d asked for her. “All right. Paul, send a car for her dad in about five minutes. That’ll give me— Where is she anyway?” “Shanks farm. Right along the road. It’s bad, Gabby. The kid looks like she’s gone a few rounds with a fighter. But she’s hanging on.” She got outside and into her truck just as she saw an ambulance race by her home. “I’m going to tell her you’re coming.

All right. Hurry. I don’t rightly think she’s going to die right now, but I just don’t know how she’s still hanging onto consciousness as bad as she looks.” “I’m leaving my house now. I’ll be there before you know it. Send someone for Harry. Don’t tell him the way you have me. And for the love of all that is holy, don’t let him drive.” She was pulling up in front of the cruisers that were all over the road. Gabby only had to show her badge to one person, and she was let through. Whoever the guy was, she didn’t know him. More than likely, she thought, one of the guys from the county over. Going to the car, she had to look for her niece. Hailey was sitting on the ground leaning against the car, a bloodied, broken mess of a seventeen-year-old kid.

“Hey, babe. Isn’t it a little cold for you to be sitting in the cornfield like this?” Hailey asked her if it was her. “Yes, honey, it’s me. The medics are here to take you in. You look like hell.” Her eyes were swollen shut, and it looked like her nose had been broken too. With her eye hanging oddly, Gabby figured someone had broken her eye socket as well. “I told him no. Over and over, I told him no. He just kept trying to get me to touch him. His dick, I mean.” She asked her what had happened. “I don’t remember right now. But I told him no. I fought him off like you told me, and he ran off.” Paul just shook his head when she looked at him. “Hailey, the men here want to take you into the hospital. I’ve sent for your daddy and told them not to allow him to drive.” “I kept telling him no, Aunt Gabby. But he kept hitting me. Harder than when he knocked me against the car window the first time.” Gabby could tell her jaw was broken, or at least in terrible shape. Hailey was holding her jaw tight as she spoke to her. “He just kept hitting me and hitting me.” The medics moved in when she stepped back. Them pulling her from the car had her nearly pulling her gun out and killing them for making Hailey scream, but Paul was there to hold her back.

Even as they laid her on the gurney, Gabby could see there was more damage done to her than just what she could see on her face. As soon as they gave her something to knock her out, the medical team assessed her injuries. They were vast and painful looking, to say the least. As soon as Harry was out of the car, he came running to where they were. It was all she could do to hold him back while she told him she was still alive. “What happened to her?” Gabby told her older brother what she knew and what she’d been told by Hailey. “I thought she was home. I asked Rose where she was when I got home, and she said she was in her room. Then when the cop showed up, she wouldn’t even speak to me. This is it, Gabby. I can’t have her treating Hailey like this. Not anymore.” “Keep your voice down.” He looked around when she did. “Do you want everyone running back to her with what you’re saying?

Christ, Harry.” He started crying when he got to the gurney to look at his daughter. The two of them spoke quietly while the medics told them what had happened to her. While they were working on getting her in a position to move her, Gabby went to the other side of the car to look at the dead body. “She didn’t kill him. I mean, she had something to do with it, but she didn’t kill him.” Paul showed her what he’d been able to see that she couldn’t in her position standing by the body. “He got the shit beat out of him too, it looks like. But the only thing she said to me when I got here was that he’d run off when she’d kicked him in his dick. It looks like he got out of the car to do whatever and fell on one of the frozen corn stalks. See here? It caught him right in the throat and severed the arteries. Bled out while she called us to come and get you.” “Have the parents been notified?”

He said they’d not yet, waiting on making sure that Hailey got what she needed before anyone left here. “Good idea. Once she’s on her way, have someone go with you. Wear your body cams too.” “I will. I know this kid, Gabby. I have to tell you, I’m surprised he’s not been killed before now. Or killed someone else. He isn’t the type of person that takes no as an answer. As you can see.” She nodded and asked him if there had been reports from him before. “Ten at least. He’s a twenty-two-year-old senior at the high school. His last year if I don’t miss my bet.” “Are you serious? He’s not graduated from high school, and they allowed him to keep going there? Christ.” Paul told her who he was. “Why do I know that name? Chip Brunswick? It’s not the mayor’s son, is it?” “His nephew. I think he’s been staying with his uncle since the Christmas break. But he does live here. His parents have gone on a cruise or something. We were asked to go by their house a few times a day to make sure Chip here wasn’t having any parties.” She stood up when she’d seen all she could in the darkened area. “This is going to hit the fan, you know that, don’t you? I mean, you being a cop, your brother acting judge on a major case coming up. People are going to have a field day with all this other shit too.”

“I’m not going to work on this with you. But I would like to be kept in the loop, quietly if you can.” Paul promised her he would. “I don’t know if what I’m thinking is going to pan out or anything, but do me a favor and pull this kid’s phone records and Rose’s. I have no idea why, but I think she might well have planned this sort of thing. I could be wrong.” “You’re never wrong when it comes to shit like this.” He made himself a note. Paul was old school. He literally wrote it down on a small pad of paper rather than on his phone like most people did. She did the same thing, as he’d been the one that had trained her. “I’ll let you know as soon as I do. Also, I’d like it if you had a burner so I can talk to you without anyone tracing it.” She said she’d get herself one. The body was taken away soon after the coroner arrived. Doc Massey should have retired years ago, but he was the best there was at his job. Being in his late seventies, the man didn’t miss a beat. He used the newfangled equipment, what he called it, like the new kids on the block. He took one look at the car, then at the body, and nodded.

“Couldn’t have happened to a better person if you ask me.” He also didn’t have a filter between his brain and his mouth most of the time. “I got me a couple of reports, Paul, that I’ll make sure you get. Two other girls have been done in by this kind of shit. Who’s the young lady? I’m assuming she made it.” “My niece.” Massey looked at her, shocked. “Yes, she’s been beaten up badly. The medics said she had five broken ribs on her right, as well as two on the left, broken right arm and wrist—a bite out of her ear. You might want to dig around for that while you’re in there, Massey. If you’d not mind.” “No. I’ll find it or know the reason why. How’s Harry taking this? Not good, I’m betting.” She said he was at the hospital now. “That Hailey is a good kid. She’s one of the bravest kids I know, next to you, Gabby. Here’s hoping she comes out on top of this.” The body was turned over, and she could see that his jaw was broken too. Not only that, but it looked like he might have had his hair pulled out in a few places, as well as what appeared to be nail cut marks on his cheeks.

Just as Paul said, the stalk of corn, cut off at an angle when the crops had been brought in, killed him by going through his neck. The medics with Massey left it where it was when the body was turned over and put on the other gurney. “They’ll need to see what happened. I like a little drama when I have to show people how their loved one died. However, in this case, I’m thinking he wasn’t loved all that much.” It was Paul that asked Massey how he knew that. “About six months ago, I heard they were sending him to some kind of military place. To get his head on right. He’d gotten to be too much for him. Hell, I think he was too much for the two of them when they brought him home from that place. He’s not theirs, and I’m betting every day they wish they’d not adopted him. As I said, I’ll get you a couple of files I have that have his fingerprints and DNA all over the body. But old Fussy Ass wouldn’t allow me to use them.” Massey laughed. He sounded like a braying jackass when he was tickled like he was. “I had him sign off on it. For my eyes only, I told him. Hell, if that shit comes back to try and bite me in the ass, I’m going to show it to the queen herself if it’ll get me out of trouble.”

The cleanup wasn’t anything she could help with, as she wasn’t there in a professional capacity. Getting back in her truck, she let the thing warm up this time, thanking her for getting her to Hailey in time. As she sat there, she thought about what Massey had told her. Two bodies. Two young girls that had been killed by this kid. Pulling into traffic, she headed to the hospital. Gabby also thought about how Rose was involved in this if she was. It would be just like her to have someone beat the shit out of Hailey so her daughters would be prettier. It was a sad case of the Little Cinder Girl all over. Except this evil stepmom was going to get her ass in trouble if she was even remotely in on anything that had happened here or in the last two deaths by Chippy. The hospital wasn’t busy this early in the morning. When she got up to the third floor where the operating rooms were, she found her brother still in his robe and slippers. She asked him if she needed to go get him something to wear. “Birdy is going to find me some scrubs to put on. I want you to stay with me.” Gabby asked if there had been any news. “Not yet. She was whisked away to surgery as soon as we got here.

They were ready for her. She coded on the way in, Gabby. I don’t know what I’d do if she were to leave me like this. Christ, I love that kid more than I do myself sometimes.” “I do too. She kept telling me she fought him off like I’d taught her to do.” He hugged her, telling her he was so glad she’d talked him into letting her do that. “I know young boys and their parents much better than you do, Harry. They’re all pieces of shits. You’re the only man in the world I will ever love.” “You’re hard on men, Gabby. I have pointed this out to you before.” She was glad to see her brother smile at that. The two of them were still waiting on news when their parents showed up. She didn’t know who had called them but was grateful that someone had. In all the things going on tonight, she’d forgotten they’d moved to this town a few weeks ago to be closer to them. “The doctor is going to do his best with her.

I know she’s young and strong, so I’m hoping for the best here.” Harry didn’t mention that she’d coded, and Gabby was glad. There were some things you didn’t tell your parents, and she thought this was one of them. They weren’t young, their mom and dad, and had seen a great deal, but no one wanted to know that their granddaughter had died once already tonight. When it rounded up to six hours in surgery, Gabby found herself a quiet place to do something she told herself she’d never do and had told the other person she’d never call on her either. Reaching out into the cold dark night, she called for Gaea, the Mother to All Creatures. “I felt her blood stain the ground, my child.” Gabby cried a little, telling her what Gaea probably knew better than she did. “You know I will do whatever you wish. I owe you so much more than even this, helping a life for you.”

“I don’t want to tap you out, overwork your noddle here, Gaea, but I told you before, I was just in the right place at the right time, that’s all.” She nodded as she did each time the two of them spoke. Gaea was the reason she was such a good cop. The older woman would help her with things when she felt the earth. “She cannot die. Hailey is the best part of her dad and my parents. I love her too, but I’m alone, and they will be should she pass away. Especially from something like this.” “The man, he is dead. It took me a moment to make sure the stalk was in the precise place when he stumbled onto it.” Gabby asked her if she was being serious. “I am. Had I not intervened when I did, Gabriela, he was coming around the car to pull her from it and rape, then kill her. It was in his mind, you see, that she should have suffered a great deal. Be disfigured too. You would not have found the body either without my help. The deed wasn’t finished until there was nothing left of her but a stain on the ground.” “Did Rose help him?” She nodded. “Was she fucking him? I’m assuming she was because that sounds exactly like something she’d do.”

“Fucking. It is a terrible word for making love. But in this case, you have gotten it right. They were fucking. Like little bunnies without a care in the world.” Gaea smiled, but it was far from friendly. “I will help where I can. There are things in motion that will help you along with her as well. Do not be fooled by Rose’s acts, Gabriela. You know her to be evil, but she is so much more than that.” “I don’t know what could be more evil than evil, but I’ll take your word for it. I think Harry has had enough as well.” She told her good. “You’ll help her then? You’ll make sure Gabby doesn’t die?” “Yes.” She started to fade out but came back for a moment as a solid person. “She will no more die than you will, Gabriela Thomas.” Then she was gone. ~*~ Pierce wandered around the halls just as he was told to do. There was going to be a reckoning here soon. Not really that bad, but it had to be taken care of now, or someone was going to be killed. The jail that was just outside of their little town, but still the one they used, was so run down, overpopulated, and in bad shape that he was surprised someone hadn’t mentioned it before now.

“I’ve been taking pictures of the shit I’m finding. I might as well have been using a video recorder for as much is wrong here. What are you doing?” He told Madden he was measuring the walls. “I’m assuming it has something to do with the overall building?” “There are codes that say how large a cell should be, and with that, how many people it can hold. The cells, according to the American Correctional Association, or the ACA, should be seventy square feet per prisoner. With overcrowding, they have been putting in a second bunk for an upper person.” Madden asked him how large these rooms were. “Forty-eight. With three prisoners in the room when they’re in a pinch. Which seems to be happening a great deal.”

“Christ.” Pierce agreed with him. “So we have these overcrowded cells, one shower stall for everyone to share, as well as the worst kind of conditions for the bathrooms. Demi is going to have a cow when she hears how bad this place really is.” “There’s more. From what I’ve been able to find, there isn’t a yard for them to walk in that’s secure. So they’ve been having them walk around the commons area in a circle to give them exercise. Since the kitchens are in such poor shape, they’re bringing in fast food that isn’t fit to eat when they order it, much less when it travels all the way here in the back of a van.” Pierce went over the list he’d been making since he arrived. “This place should have been shut down years, if not decades ago. I mean, just a few minutes ago, I had to go outside to pee. I was terrified of what would befall me if I were to have gone into that room.” They both laughed, but he’d been really worried. He wasn’t a little guy. “My bear curled up around me and seemed to be more afraid of going in there than he might have been on the darkest nights.” “I hear you.” They walked around for a little while longer together, then they parted ways again when they got to the next part of the building. Pierce was finding it hard to navigate through the halls. It seemed to him that someone had blocked off places that should have been halls and closed up rooms too. He was standing in front of what he thought should have been an office when he heard from Joey. I’m going to go and see Margie now.

I wanted to let you know so that if you feel me getting angry at her, you’ll know the reason for it. He told her she’d do fine. I do hope so. All I’ve been thinking about is how this is going to be coming to a head soon, and she’ll be out of our life. Did you hear about the kids found not far from where you are in the jail? The girl and the boy out on a date? Yeah, the cops here are telling us that this little bitty thing of a girl beat this guy to shit, then lived to tell about it. I guess it was touch and go for her for a while, but she’s going to pull through. She told him she was one of their nieces’ age. Yes. I can’t imagine what would be going through my head if anything were to happen to one of my nieces. I guess the cop that works here part-time is her aunt. I’ve never met her, have you? No. Her brother is acting judge until Barker gets back from vacation. He’d not known that part. Okay, I’m here. I have her things that I told her that I’d bring, and I’m going to make a big deal about how this is going to work out for her.

Also, I’ve got a list of things I’m to ask her about. But not in an I’m-needing-more-information sort of way. Whatever the hell that means. He was still laughing about her when he stared at the door again. Or where the door should have been. Looking around, he shifted himself to his big bear and slammed his body against the wall. Pierce felt it budge, and some of the drywall crumble, but it was still blocked. The voice behind him told him he should have been paying more attention than he had been. “I tried that before. Not as a bear, but that is a good thing to use. I only got as far as using a reciprocating saw. As you can see there, I got it in before the whole place shut down because I blew the single fuse that covers here. Not a good thing to happen in a place full of criminals, I’d think.” Turning slowly, he regarded the woman standing there. “Gabby Thomas. I’m assuming you’re with the pretty lady in the office screaming at the mayor and the captain.”

He nodded. While Pierce knew he could shift and dress at the same time, he wanted to get this doorway open. She asked if she could help him. When he nodded again, she came at him with her hand out. Pierce noticed that not only was it not trembling, but she didn’t seem to care overly much that he outweighed her by about three hundred pounds. Biting gently into her hand so they could talk, she asked him if he’d hit the wall again. After the third try, not only did they have the wall knocked down, but it showed him that there were several such doorways along this hall. They were on the fourth door when he heard from Demi. I don’t know what you’re doing, but keep it up. You’re scaring the hell out of the men I’m in here with. They think I’ve opened up the gates of hell and am bringing the devil himself down on them. I love it. Pierce told her what they were doing and who he was working with. As his bear. Good job. And so you know, Gabby needs to take this place over. The moron that works here thinks a good day at the office is not showing up at all.

I’m about to go to prison for killing the lot of them. There are several rooms here, cluttered with boxes of things I’ve not had a chance to look into. Gabby is. But she is sort of just taking glances and mumbling a great deal to herself about penmanship or something. They look to me like old evidence. But then, I’m not the type that would know anything about that. Also, these rooms look a great deal like classrooms, all the way to the chalkboards on a couple of walls. She asked him if she could find him easy enough. I don’t know why not. I mean, if I’m thinking this is laid out right, I’m right behind the captain’s office. Or thereabouts. If there is so much overcrowding, why aren’t they using these rooms for something other than collecting dust? I don’t know, but I plan to find out. She said she’d be there in about half an hour and for him to find a place to shift. You might want to tell Gabby to take off too. Someone has a real hard-on for finding her. She’s in trouble about something that occurred last night. Apparently, she was at the scene where her niece was hurt, and the boss is giving her shit about it.

By the way, you found the rooms like they are now. I don’t want us getting into any shit about breaking down walls. Pierce told Demi about the accident and how her niece was hurt. After shifting and dressing, he told Gabby what was going on. She took off before he got a chance to thank her for her help. He had no idea where the thought came from, but he’d bet anything she knew more about these rooms than anyone did. And he’d bet she was able to get in and out of them without anyone noticing too. Standing at one of the windows when Demi arrived, he was immediately asked what the fuck he was doing there. If not for Demi, he was sure he would have been arrested. He was also glad that not only had Gabby left, but he’d had the forethought to wipe up her shoe prints. ~*~ Gabby held onto her brother’s hand as the surgeon told them what he’d done to ensure there wasn’t any permanent damage done to Hailey. Mostly it was to her face, but her entire body had been beaten badly, he told them.

“She’s in recovery now, which I have to say surprised me somewhat. But I also know Hailey was in good shape and that her being young played a big role in her coming out of the coma so well.” Harry nodded. Gabby knew why she was out of the coma but hadn’t told Harry. She wasn’t sure if she ever would. “I know you’ve heard this list before, but I want you to know the extent of her injuries. The only reason I can think she’s lived through this is the reasons I said—being young and in good health. Harry, she’s going to need a lot of physical therapy as time goes by. Not just to walk, but to use her right hand.” “You said it had been broken.” Doctor Montrose said that it had been crushed. It appeared to him that it had been crushed by the glove box over and over before she’d been able to free herself from it. “She’s been taught by the best on how to take care of herself. If not for Gabby here, she’d be dead, I’m thinking.”

“By all accounts, she should be.” Both of them knew that. Even before Gaea had gotten to her that night, Hailey had coded again. It was only magic that had kept her from staying dead. “You should thank your sister daily for what she did. You’re right. This would be a different scenario altogether without that. As I was saying. She had a crack in her skull that concerns me a great deal, but her memory and skills at recalling things are still intact. I would say her head was banged against the closed window on her side at least ten to fifteen times before it was stopped. Her jaw is broken as well but has been wired closed to heal. I think the fact that she was able to speak that night shows again how resilient the young are. The left ankle is broken but set in a cast. Eight ribs are broken, another three are cracked. Her right lung is healing, as well as the damage that was done to her liver. I’m thinking that with her broken hip, she was jerked against the lap belt with enough force to have sliced into her leg and displace the bone enough that it cracked under the pressure. She’ll walk, but it might be a long time before she can do so without a limp.”

He went on to tell them of the cuts and the number of stitches that had to be used to put her back together. Her eyes were still swollen shut, but he said that was a good thing. It had protected her eyes from whatever damage might well have been done to them. She was going to live. That was all she was going to let herself think about now. And the last words Gaea had said to her as she left that night. They would never die. When her brother poked her, she looked around. They were alone again, in the room they’d been using as a place to rest and to gather themselves together. He asked her where she’d gone. “I don’t know that I could tell you what I might have been thinking about.” He told her he’d been feeling the same way for the last couple of days. “Did you get the locks changed on the house?

And an attorney for you?” “I did before coming in here yesterday on both things. Rose had taken her daughters to the zoo. She couldn’t be bothered to come here to see my daughter, but she could go to the fucking zoo? Doesn’t she know it’s like twenty-five degrees outside?” She cocked her brow at him. “All right, I’m better now. Anyway, I changed the locks, hired that pack like you said, and have an off-duty hanging around the house until further notice. Do you really think she hired Chip to kill my daughter, Gabby?

That is just so…I don’t have words for it.” “I’m not the investigating officer, but she and Chip have been having an affair for the last year and a half. They called each other a total of fifty times right up until he picked Hailey up. Then nothing from him afterwards. She made four to his cell phone that we’ve been able to trace back to her phone.” Harry asked her if she knew why Hailey was with the man. “You know her friend Jolie? Well, she had called Hailey to tell her she was on her way to get her. Asked her if she’d wait outside her house for her, as they were running late for the meeting with the other girls on the project they’d been assigned. There wasn’t a date between Chippy and Hailey, but Hailey going to the library before it closed to get a start on the project that was due in a month. Sounds like her, doesn’t it?

Getting started on it the same day.” “Yes, she would have treated it like they were behind right up until they were finished with it. No last-minute things for my girl.” Harry asked her why she’d gotten in the car with him if she knew. “I mean, I know for a fact she didn’t like him. She thought him a pest when he came around the house to do chores. I’m guessing now he wasn’t getting paid with cash.” “Don’t go there, Harry. You know, as well as I do, that’ll only make you insane. Well, in your case, insaner. But no, she didn’t like him.” Gabby knew he wasn’t going to like this next part at all. “Rose helped him get her into the car. The neighbor across the street had called the police and told them they thought someone was being kidnapped. When they arrived at your home about twenty minutes later, Rose assured them it was a little joke, that Hailey was on a date with a nice young man. He picked her up at about six-thirty, an hour before the library closed up.” “Why did it take until three in the morning before anyone knew anything?” She knew the answer to that as well.

Gabby had been going to the office off and on for the last several days. Mostly to just hear something different than medical terms, the police ones weren’t all that much different—but the smell was an improvement over the hospital—the information she was giving her brother from the reports copied for her every day. “I mean, that’s a good eight hours. What the hell did he do in all that time?” “She killed him sometime between ten and midnight. It’s difficult to get a good reading, as the ground he was on was frozen. But that’s about what Massey has estimated.” Harry said it was still a few hours. “I’m going to tell you something that you cannot repeat, Harry. If you do, then it’s all over. Got it?” He nodded. “Is it Rose? Did she have more to do with this than just helping him get her into the car? She was drugged, wasn’t she?” She slapped her palm to his forehead and told him to stop finding shit. “I can’t help it.

I just don’t see that Hailey would have willingly gotten into the car with him.” “I already told you she was helped into the car, didn’t I? Now listen. Hailey was being drugged. Over a long period of time too. Not only is Rose complicit in her being hurt, but it looks like she’d been feeding her arsenic for the last year. Little bits at a time, but that had nothing to do with the four hours.” He let the tears fall as she sat there with him. The room was the only place she trusted to talk to him in. She went over it daily with the little extra that Gaea had given her some years back.

“You know I have friends in weird places, right?” He nodded, then looked around. “Gaea told me she’d tried her best to intervene on Hailey’s part by getting Chippy lost on the way to the cornfield he took her to. Once they were there, Rose was waiting on him. I have no way of proving this, so I’m just letting you know so you watch your back. All right?” “Does she know what happened while they were there?” Gabby nodded. “Do I want to know? Am I going to lose my shit once I find out?” “You will. Suffice it to say that the two of them together are two of the sickest fucks I’ve ever heard of.” He sat there for several seconds, then jumped up. Barely making it to the trash can, he threw up three times before he simply slid to the floor, looking up at her. “You have a little puke on your lip there, Harry.” “Fuck you.” She nodded and waited for him to speak again. “They had sex right there where they wanted my daughter to die, didn’t they?” She nodded again. “More?” “Yes. Are you sure you want to hear it?” He said he didn’t but thought that he should. “They put her on the hood of the car while they fucked each other over her.

Not only that but there was semen on Hailey that didn’t come from Chippy.” “Christ.” He was sick twice more when he told her no more. But she knew that in a couple of minutes, he’d be asking her for the details. “Who was it?” “His uncle.” Nodding, he stayed where he was. She knew this was hard on him. It had made her sick as well. All these people conspiring against a teenager for no other reason than she was pretty. “There is a new group of people coming into the station house. They’re all bears. I’ve met one of them. Pierce McCray. I think you might have met some of them today in the courtroom. I’m thinking as soon as they get in the house, things are going to start coming to light. Like the back rooms.” “Do you still think they’re using those rooms for sex?” She said she didn’t know, but that was high on her list. “Why would they do that? In a police station, of all places.” “Why would anyone look there? I mean, think about it, Harry. What better place to make movies than to do it right there in the station house? The room Pierce and I were able to get into was window dressing. Nothing in there.

Dust out the ass, and all the windows were opened for anyone to look into. I’ll get to the other rooms now that I have help. Having a bear help means there aren’t any fuses to blow that alert them that I’m snooping around again.” He asked her if she was being careful. “Yes. More than I ever have been in my life. But I have to tell you that you need to be more careful than me. They’ll get to you or Hailey to get to me. Don’t let that happen. I’m begging you.” “I’ll be on the lookout for them.” She nodded. “You think I should start carrying a gun again? I know I told you it went against everything I believed in. But this isn’t anything that I signed up for.” “Yes. And like I’ve told you before, Harry, shoot to kill, not maim. Hurt people are dangerous people, and they can come back. Kill them if it means you live.” He told her he loved her. “I love you too. Please, you have to believe me when I tell you, this is going to be dangerous for everyone until we get this taken care of.”

“I believe you.” He finally stood up with her help. “You’re stronger, aren’t you? I haven’t wanted to ask you this, but is Hailey—?” “Yes. I asked for help with her.” He nodded and hugged her. Gabby hadn’t realized how much she needed him until then. “I’ve taken some leave time, but that doesn’t mean I won’t be in the loop. Stay with me. You can stay in my apartment rather than being cornered at the house. All right?” “Yes. I like that. It’s closer to the hospital too.” There was so much she could tell her brother. So much he needed to know. But for now, they were being watched over. Then tomorrow, she was going to meet with Gaea and figure out what she could do now that she’d not been able to do before. ~*~ Madden didn’t care for the police chief. Nor did he care for most of the people in the station house. They were lazy and pissed off that cameras that should have been put in place months or even years ago were being installed. He was Pierce’s backup man, but he was also keeping an eye on the shit going on around them. I’ve been thinking about a couple of things I’d like to run by you. He smiled when his mom spoke to him. This is purely something I’ve been thinking of, but I’m not sure I can figure it out on my own. You’ve always been my most supportive child. I see. Who else did you ask before I became the most supportive? I’m thinking Lucian.

She told him to behave. What is it, Mom? I’m here for you. The jail that is being put in. Is it going to be larger than the one there? I’m looking over these blueprints, and I can’t make heads nor tails out of it. It seems to me the place is about half again as big as I think they’re using. He told her what Pierce had figured out. That makes sense. I found some entries from the books I got from Meadow and the others. That jail wasn’t built to be a jail at all but a home for the homeless. I don’t know where things changed around yet, but after a few months of building the home, someone got the idea to use it as a jail. To me, that seems like something you’d have to figure out from the beginning. You know, for security purposes. I don’t know.

But did you happen to figure out when this place was built? She told him what she’d found. The late forties? That seems dangerous. I mean, we’re talking decades of no upgrades or any kind of security for the place. Well, not only was the place built back then but there is a building someplace that holds more evidence than what you found in that storage locker the other day. Mom asked him to wait, and she’d get him the address. It says here that it’s on Maple Avenue. The building number is blurred. It’s four numbers, and the first one is a nine. I’d say it’s not much in the way of a large building. The places along the area, I’m thinking, are just run-down houses that need a good kick in the bottom to get cleaned up. Does it tell you what the building was built for? I mean, there couldn’t have been enough evidence when it was first built to warrant the need for an entirely new building. She told Madden what the entry said. So they were going to use this place as a hideaway for women that were hurt in some way. All right. Very forward thinking for the times, but was it ever used for that?

Not that I can see right now. She said she loved this kind of sleuthing. I’m going to see what else I can find. There is something afoot here, and I need to solve it. Oh, before I forget to tell you, I’ve filed my bid to get to be mayor, and your dad is gathering up people to help me campaign. I think I can make a good dent in some of the things that are going on without even leaving the house. Madden told his brother what he’d been talking to Mom about. And about the building she had found. Pierce told him they’d take a drive by there when they were finished up. “It could be that the building or whatever has long since been torn down or even used for housing or something.” For some reason, Madden thought it was being used for just what it said, evidence. “I’m trying to be positive for a change. I just heard from Joey. Margie is going to prison for life without parole. And all the money and properties that had been signed over to Joey are now going to be used for the city, with the exception of what is set aside for Becky. The red tape, I’m to understand, for a corporation to build something like this is a nightmare.

I guess Meadow and Mel are working through it.” “The adoption paperwork has gone through for Becky too. She is excited to be living with her grandma close to her aunt.” That made his brother smile. “You’re all sappy again. Do you suppose that ever wears off?” “Christ, I hope not. I love my wife.” As his brother came down off the ladder he’d been on, Pierce told him he only had two more to go. One of them was in the chief’s office. “I’m thinking I’m going to run into trouble with that one. So be ready for anything.” They were ready, he supposed. Madden was carrying a gun now, and he didn’t hide the fact that he was. Even Pierce was carrying one. They had come in by order of the state of Ohio to do this project. If anyone were to try and detain or stop them from doing their duty, they were told to shoot to kill. Madden thought the man was kidding when he told him that. “I don’t kid about shooting someone, Mr. McCray.” He told the governor he was sorry.

“Don’t be. I’m just glad your sister-in-law was able to spare the two of you for this. I’m also looking into a few other things while I’m working on things here.” Without any trouble from the men, they set up the cameras in the last two places. No one here would have access to the recordings, but it would be manned all the time. They were driving down Maple Avenue around five when they realized the building could have been one of a dozen homes and buildings in the area where Mom told them it was. “None of them scream the year time frame. But that doesn’t mean much. Put some siding on a home, and it will hide all kinds of things from a person.” Madden agreed. “I say we get back to the house and see what else Mom has— Look there, Madden.” The man going in and out of the building was none other than the mayor. He was with two other people, both of them dressed in black. They were carrying what looked to him like boxes and also some camera equipment. Madden recorded what they were seeing on his phone while Pierce called Demi.

She said someone would be there in five minutes, but for them not to engage. They didn’t want to, so that was an easy thing to follow. Within minutes not only had the FBI shown up, but SWAT was pulling in as they watched. While he hadn’t any idea what was going down, he thought his mom was going to be mayor before the election. Things were surely moving in her favor.

Harley Prince Of Tigers Release Day and Giveaway

Micky had so much going on around her, it was making her head spin. Her sister was shot, her father was killed in the same incident, and the doctor had diagnosed her with terminal cancer. If it wasn’t for the Prince family, her sister, Rowan, would be a death’s door. Their shifter blood had healing properties, and that was the only thing that pulled her through. Now, Rowan was determined the Prince family would save Micky too.
Marcus told Micky she wasn’t his mate, but he bet she was Harley’s. Micky was never one to hide in a corner waiting for answers. She walked right up to Harley and buried her nose in his throat. At his moan—or her own, she knew as surely as she was standing there who he was to her.
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Harper Wilson and all her siblings were relieved when they received the notice of their parents’ demise. No one deserved it more, and the only reason Harper agreed to go back to that little town in Ohio was to make sure they were truly dead.
Bryant Prince and his family were immortals and hadn’t aged since they’d reached the age of twenty-eight. He and his family had always lived next door to the Wilsons, but he never knew the Wilson children. The Wilsons had always kept to themselves, so no one had any idea what was going on in the little house of horrors. If they had, the Wilson parents would have been dead a long time ago.
There was nothing left of the Wilson house but one wall. The fire had taken the rest. The garage, however, was still intact, and this was where Harper wound up. Drawn in by dark, morbid memories from her childhood. Bryant watched her, knowing that he’d found his mate.
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Allison Sheppard had come back to town to bury her siblings. Allie’s sister and two brothers had robbed the local bank. Samson Prince had killed two of them to protect the innocent people in the bank, her baby brother was sitting in a jail cell awaiting trial. Allie wanted to wash her hands of all of them.
It didn’t take Allie but a moment to realize that the entire town looked on her as a pariah, like she was responsible for what her siblings did. Not that she could blame them, but the silent accusations did hurt. The sooner she was finished with this mess, the better. She would leave this town and good riddance.
Samson only wanted to make the woman understand that they weren’t monsters, and he had no choice in the bank, but from the moment he was within two feet of her, her scent overwhelmed him. Allie was his mate, and this changed everything….
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Piper James was at the funeral home doing the hardest thing she’d ever had to do—bury her mother. The last ten years had been difficult, with her dad’s illness then him ultimately dying, and then her mother being diagnosed with cancer. Her siblings, Mary and Louis, had been no help at all, financially or lending a hand with their care. Now that their mother was gone, those two were going to be a handful, Piper just knew it.
Fisher Prince, a rare black tiger shifter, had a gift. He was able to find people and things with little effort. When a judge called him and asked him to find Piper and keep her safe from her siblings, Fisher agreed to help him out, but he wasn’t expecting to find his mate in the process.
The bond between the two was nearly immediate, and when he gave her a ring gifted to him by Aurora, queen of the earth, neither were prepared for what happened next.
Mary and Louis were never going to stop pursuing Piper unless someone intervened. Would the Prince family be in time to stop the inevitable?
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Emmie Rankin didn’t trust men. She had been brutally raped at fourteen and now had her daughter, Olivia, as a result. Olivia was now a teen herself. Although an attorney by trade, Emmie had had to give up her practice to stay at home and take care of her father and her child.
Kylan Prince was a black tiger shifter. He had been waiting a long time for his mate to come into his life. Now that she was finally here, he was determined to do everything he could to convince her that he was what she and her daughter needed in their lives.






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Prologue




Micky sat in the little room that had been opened up for them. She was sick with worry about her sister and didn’t want her to die. She supposed they all wanted that, but she and Rowan were close. They told each other everything. “Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t know anyone was in here.” She told Kylan to come and join her. That she could use some company. “All right. If you don’t want me here, just say so. I’m sure I can find someplace else.” His smile was reassuring. “Rowan and Roone are only eleven months older than me. The others are about two years apart from the next one. Jeff and Winnie are twins as well.” He told her that must have been wonderful growing up. “It was. We were never alone. None of us have ever been without someone we can depend on. Rowan is my go-to gal when I need a shoulder or just to let off steam. She was good at that. Helping you let off some steam to her.”

“You were told what we did for her, weren’t you?” She nodded and looked down at her water bottle. “I made sure her knees were repaired. I may have to go back in again and make sure her bones are healing the way they should. Bryant, he made sure the rib that pierced her lung was moved and put in place before healing her lungs. I guess I never thought of how much damage could happen to a person even with a vest on.” “As close as we were told he was to her, it’s small wonder he didn’t break more than that. Three ribs aren’t that many when you get shot twice in the chest at close range.” Kylan nodded and said he’d have more respect for cops now because of it. “My father was a cop. His father too, and so far back, I have a feeling we might well have been the very first ones. Not really, but it’s a family thing. Dad didn’t care if any of us carried on the tradition so long as what we did made us want to do it every day. And if it didn’t, then find something that did. That’s one of the reasons I’m selling my daycare to someone right now. I’ve found that now I’ve taken it about as far as I can go with it, I want to move on.”

“What do you think you’ll do now? If you don’t mind me asking.” She said she was still working on that but didn’t mind him asking at all. “We all tried a little of everything while we grew up. I couldn’t draw a stick person well when I started out drawing, but I’ve had a lot of time to work on it. Now I think I’m pretty good. I had to really work at it. However, it’s something I still enjoy. Advertising is a fun way to make a living.” “Bryant mentioned that you were all very old. And the first black tigers. I’ve never seen one in real life. Just pictures. They’re so different than Bengals, aren’t they?” He told her they were even larger than the ones in zoos too. “I can’t imagine how you were able to go from being a little kitten to what you are today. It must have— My mind is blown by what sorts of things you’ve seen change since you were born. What was the biggest change that wowed you?”


“Everything, really. The first time we saw electricity was terrifying for us. Then there were cars that moved down the road. Antibiotics were the biggest, best thing I can think of. So many people died from a simple cut that wouldn’t even need any kind of assistance from a doctor nowadays. Trains too. I used to love riding on them. Not the kind now that will pamper to your every need, but just hitching a ride on one of the carts to get from one point to the next. I didn’t even have to have a place to go. I just enjoyed the ride.” Micky laughed and was glad that he’d come to sit with her. “There aren’t as many changes as there used to be. Still, they happen, but not on the level they did then. What do you enjoy doing?” “I’m the black sheep of the family, you might say. I am forever looking for the next project I can immerse myself in. I’ve started and moved on to more projects than all of the others together. It’s what I do.” He asked her if she enjoyed that. “I used to. Not so much anymore.

I have money, a great deal of it. We all do. It’s not like I start these projects, then just walk away. I get them up and running, then hire someone else to take over. I have my toes in a lot of water all the time.” “Good for you.” They both laughed, and when Bryant joined them, he asked his brother if he was ready to go back to Rowan. “Would you like to come with us? I know you’ve all declined to see her like she is, but she looks a good deal better than when we came in. We were warned not to heal her completely, for the press, but unless something else happens to her at this point, she’ll live.” “I think I would.” When she stood up, she followed them out of the room. “Rowan is my best sister. I need her like I need air to breathe.” “I know just how you feel.” The room was dark when they entered. It wasn’t until they told her why that she understood. “Having the lights off in here doesn’t bring us any unwanted attention while we’re with her.

Some people might have seen us going back and forth, but we’ve made it so they don’t know our faces when we leave here.” “I would imagine this sort of thing could get you a lot of kooks coming around wanting you to heal every Tom, Dick, and Harriet they know.” Micky moved up to the bed to look at her sister. “She does look better. When Doctor Fleming showed us pictures of her, I decided I didn’t want to see her in person. That guy, he did a number on her.” “Yes, she was lucky her vest was nearby.” Touching her fingers to her sister’s cheek, she half listened to the other two as they gave Rowan more of their magic. They were telling her sister what they were doing, how it was going to affect her, as well as some of their personal information. Kylan had two little girls and a son on the way. She was— “Guys?” Neither of them said anything when she called for them. “Guys, she’s staring at me. My sister is looking at me right now.” “Talk to her.” Nodding, nothing at all came to mind. If asked, Micky wasn’t even sure she could have told Rowan what the weather was like, much less the date. “Go ahead, Micky. Tell her how much you miss her.”


“I do.” She leaned closer as Rowan looked at her. “You’re going to get better, and we’re going to go on the cruise we promised we’d go on. Remember?” She blinked twice at her, and Micky laughed and cried. Leaning down to kiss her on her forehead, Micky whispered how much she loved her. Rowan’s hand moved, and reaching for it, Micky held onto it for several seconds while they looked at each other. The tube in her mouth, helping her breathe from the lung injury, prevented Rowan from speaking, but the two of them were able to convey volumes in just those short few minutes. Then Rowan closed her eyes and drifted into what she hoped was a better sleep than before. “You were lucky today.” She nodded, unable to speak to Kylan when he spoke to her. “In my family, they’d be so jealous that you’d been able to talk to her. She’ll get better more and more now that she’s on her way. I’m betting soon they’ll take the tubing out, and she’ll be able to breathe on her own.” Micky knew they were each giving Rowan blood. Not very much, just a few drops she’d been told. But it was working wonders on her. Working to bring her sister to them again. Not wanting to leave her, but knowing she had to when they did, she stood outside the room and sobbed.

It was going to be all right, she told herself. Rowan would be her old self in no time, and they really would go on that trip. Making her way back to the little room she’d been in, she was both dismayed and happy that Roone was there. Telling him what had happened, the two of them held each other as they cried. “The first thing I’m going to make her do is to get better locks on her doors. Not to mention stronger doors.” Micky told Roone she’d more than likely not want to live in the house any longer. “I never thought of that. You’re more than likely right. I don’t know that I’d want to live there either. Although, perhaps she’ll want to live with one of us for a little while. Just until she’s up and around for a while.” “She won’t want to do that either, Roone. If she’s up and around even a little, you know her well enough to understand she’d want to live on her own. That way, no one can tell her when she should rest.”

Roone laughed with her. “I’m betting in no time at all she’ll be taking on cases from wherever she’s living and solving them too. There is no stopping a Bronson when they can use a phone.” They sat there for a little while longer, just the two of them. Kylan came in once and said they would see to Rowan once more before they left. The two of them had refused any kind of payment from them, not even for their hotel. She thought if the rest of the family were anything like these two, she might like to meet them. When Jeff and Winnie showed up, they were told about Rowan, too, while Micky drifted down to the cafeteria area of the hospital. She just needed a moment of quiet time before she went home. The six of them were taking turns staying with Rowan so they could get some rest and food. Her turn wouldn’t be again until tomorrow morning. But she needed this time just to sit and think. There was too much going on right now for her to rest well. Not only did she want to be there for Rowan, but the others too. What she’d not told Kylan was that she’d put her daycare center on the market and was in the process of selling it now.


Just walking away from a business was something she rarely did. Usually, she would hire someone to take it over while she reaped the profits. She didn’t want to do that this time. Going home, Micky pulled her laptop to her while she was resting on the couch. She looked up the Prince family and was impressed with the things they were into. The picture of them all together at what looked like a wedding showed six big men and a mom and dad. She wondered, like everyone did, she was sure, how they had gone for so long not finding their wives, being as old as they were. She supposed that waiting on one’s other half—their mates, as they were called—took time. Micky didn’t think she’d ever marry again. The first one, lasting only five weeks, had ended abruptly when he was killed by a drive-by shooting. She’d not even dated all that much since then and wondered why. “Oh yeah. Men are pigs.”

She smiled at her reasoning and thought of all the shit she was going to have to do now that she didn’t have anywhere to go. It wasn’t like she’d not be able to find herself a job, but she didn’t want to right now. “Maybe I’ll take a few days and just drive around the state.” Her cat, a small house cat, came and sat near her on the couch. He wouldn’t get up with her no matter how many times she told him it was all right. After figuring out what was going on, she laughed until she was crying. The cat knew she’d been around a bigger cat, and he was jealous. “You might as well join me here, Becket. He’s not going to come around once Rowan is well.” Still, he only stared at her, looking about as betrayed as she’d ever seen him look. Laughing harder, she went to the kitchen to get him a treat. “You’re the reason I can’t have any friends over—you know that, don’t you? You’re rude, and you can’t stand anyone around me. Well, I guess you’ll have to get used to the smell, little man. I believe your favorite person in the world is going to smell a great deal like a bigger kitty. It would serve you right if I were to pick her over you.”

After he sulked for a few hours, he finally got up on the couch with her. But he didn’t sit on her lap, nor did he look at her when she said his name. The stupid animal was acting just like all the men she knew. Snooty and out of joint because she’d been out having fun. Well, not fun, but not here with him either. Setting her alarm after not being able to get her stupid cat to like her again, she went to sleep. Tomorrow was going to be a good day. She might even be able to have a conversation with Rowan again. Micky was smiling when she felt herself roll over into sleep. ~*~ Micky and Rowan loaded up the car with the few things they planned to take with them. Mostly it was snacks and bottled water and juice, but it was a road trip they both wanted. Maybe even needed a little. “I can’t believe how quickly my house sold.” She told Rowan she thought she’d gotten a good deal on it too. “Yes, I did. Now I have to figure out what I’m going to do when I get back. Taking a leave from the station house wasn’t my idea, but now that I’m going with you, I think I might enjoy it.


Are you sure you don’t mind taking me with you?” “It’ll be just what we both need.” Not only had her sister sold her house, but she’d gotten someone to take over the running of the nursing home. “We neither one have ties to hold us back or that we have to rush back to. Roone and the others are going to come to see us when they can. This will be better than the cruise we were going to take.” “I still want to take that cruise with you.” Micky wanted that too, but now wasn’t so sure she’d be able to enjoy it. “Are you going to tell me what is going on, or are you going to make me guess? Tell me.” “I have cancer. It’s in my lungs, lymph nodes, as well as my breasts. It’s not that I’ve not had checks every year, but this is an aggressive form that is going to take my life. I don’t want to die, Rowan.” She said she didn’t want her to either and hugged her. “I wanted this to be so much fun for us. The two of us getting out and seeing things we might not have otherwise.” “You’re not going to die.” She nodded at her.

“No. You’re not. We’re going to make our first trip out to see the family that saved me. If they can put me back together the way they did, you won’t be a problem.” “I can’t ask them to do that. They saved you. That was more than enough.” Rowan told her she’d tell them, not ask, and that saving her without her bestie wasn’t good enough. “This is why I didn’t want to tell you. I knew you’d want that too.” “I can’t go on without you, Micky. You’re as much my twin as Roone is. I need you.” She said she needed her too. “Do they know? Any of them?” “Mark does. The doctor I usually used was out of town when I fell. It wasn’t that big of a deal, but Mark saw me in the emergency room and found out. Told me about it too.” She told her it would be all right. “No. This is all we’re going to do. Go on this trip, have some fun before I’m too weak to go on, then I’ll die peacefully in my sleep with you holding my hand.” Getting into the car, she hoped that would be the end of it. However, she should have known better. Rowan was not one to put off. The first hundred miles or so was her talking about how they were going to approach the family. To beg, if they needed to, for what they wanted them to do for them. By the time Rowan let it go, they were outside the city limits of the town the Prince family was from. At some point, Rowan had driven them right there.

Micky’s nap was the perfect time for her to get off the highway and to the city. She shouldn’t have told her. “Because they shared their blood with me, I’m betting I have some sort of beacon I can contact them with. What is it they do in those dirty books you read?” She told her they weren’t dirty, but romance. “Potato, potahto. Whatever. What do they do?” “They sort of mind reach out for them. I doubt that would work anyway. I mean, it’s only in books. Right?” Rowan turned and smiled at her. “You did it, didn’t you? Have you no shame?”
“Not where you’re concerned, no, I don’t. We’ve been invited for dinner. I’m talking to Bryant right now. He thinks it’s funny that we’re here. They were all just talking about me.” Misty said they should find a hotel. “Nope, we’re staying with them. They have plenty of room, and we’re going there.” The drive through town was slow going, but it was a nice little town. The more they got out of what could only be considered the downtown area, the houses got bigger and pricier. Rowan pulled into the drive of one of the biggest houses she’d ever seen. She asked her if this was right.

“You tell me. Is that him on the front porch?” Not only was it Bryant, but he was waving at them. The woman with him could only be Harper, the woman she’d spoken to briefly when she’d called to talk to her husband. “I’m assuming that’s a yes. Come on, dork. We’re going to have a lovely dinner with them, then we’re going to see about saving you for me. This might not work the way I want it to, but I’ve got my gun. We’ll just have to make them help you.” Before she could tell her she was insane, which she was sure Rowan was, she was in the car all alone. Getting out, she had a moment when she was dizzy and didn’t let go of the door just yet. When a tiger came to the car beside her, she wondered if this would be an easier way to die than the cancer she had. “Hello.” She smiled at the man who walked from the porch to her. “I’m Collier. Emmie is my daughter. Kylan is her husband. He wants me to talk to you. Can I do that for you? Also, you should know that this is Marcus.” “Is he planning on having me for dinner?

I’m ill. He should know that too.” Collier told her she had been ill. “I’m sorry. No one has touched me here. I can’t be cured.” “He said you were touched by your sister. Hugged, too, if he doesn’t miss his bet. Marcus said you were cured of the cancer the moment she held you in her arms. However, he is very happy you’ve come to visit them.” She said she didn’t understand. “Marcus said they explained to you about the magic they used on your sister. Also, telling you they didn’t know how it would work with her. She can apparently heal people with just a touch. Even the cut on your leg you did this morning while shaving is gone. He said you missed a spot on your ankle.” “Does he have any manners at all?” Collier laughed and said all of them did, usually. She looked at where she’d cut herself badly this morning and found that not only was it gone, but there wasn’t a scar. “I don’t understand this. We came here…Rowan has a gun.

She planned on using it on your family if they didn’t help me.” “Not that it matters, but since you’re healed, we don’t have to worry about that.” She asked him why it didn’t matter. “We’re all immortal, including you and your sister. Are you coming in for dinner? I’m starved.” When he walked away, she looked at the tiger. He was staring at her like her cat did, who she had left in the back of the car. Going to get it out of the cage, she warned the big tiger that she wasn’t too keen on bigger cats. As soon as he leapt from her hands, the cat was gone.
“Micky? Are you coming in or staying out there all day?” She looked at her sister, then at the tiger. “Come on. We’re all waiting on you?” “Something is going on here, isn’t it?” He nodded at her. “Do you suppose we’re going to be unhappy with whatever it is?” The cat shrugged like a human would. Then he took off for the side of the house. “I’ve entered The Twilight Zone. I just know it. I’m going to start hearing that scary music, then end up in some cornfield where I’ll never be heard from again.” Going into the house, she felt calmed. The aroma coming from the dining room had her following her nose. Whatever they were serving, she wanted some of it. Sitting down next to her sister, she started piling up her plate. The tiger, in the form of a man, came in and sat down too. This was just going to drive her over the edge. She knew it.

Dwayne Bishop’s Leap Release Blitz&Giveaway

Brittany Handle was doing the best she could. She had just gotten out of a violently abusive relationship, and she was doing her best to get her business rolling. Having heard her sister died, she and her son, Jamie, went to Ohio to settle her sister’s affairs.
Dwayne Bishop was settling into his new job at Addington. The owner was grooming him to take over when she retired. He was walking back to his office when Jamie literally barreled into him. The boy was being chased by three bullies. He had given as good as he got until one of them had hit him in the head with a baseball bat. Dwayne stepped in and protected the boy. Once back at his office, the boy was hurt worse than Dwayne thought and collapsed. Panicking, Dwayne reaches out to his family for help.
Brit was doing her best to keep her shit together. Everyone kept saying it was bad, but she hadn’t seen Jamie yet, and until she did, she was doing her best to keep from snapping at everyone. But when Dwayne handed her what Jamie had had in his pocket, the jolt nearly knocked her off her chair. They were mates! She had just got out of one abusive relationship. There was no way she was bowing down to any man ever again….
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Raven Addington was happy with her life the way it was. She and her daughter, Molly, were doing just fine on their own, despite what her mother had to say about it. Merriam, Raven’s mother, never had anything nice to say about anything, so why should now be any different.

Sawyer Bishop had turned in his notice at the police force. No matter how bad he needed the money, he wasn’t about to let a hot-headed partner make him a mark for an early grave. His parents needed his help on the farm, so he was happy to leave the force.

Sawyer was supposed to be on desk duty, but they were shorthanded, so he took the call that came in from the 911 dispatch. It would be his last, and then he would be a poor but free man.

When Sawyer arrived on the scene, it was bad. The poor woman had been beaten until she was unrecognizable and barely breathing. Although he didn’t know her personally, he knew Raven Addington was extremely wealthy, and that bothered him more than he cared to admit. Being a Bengal tiger, he knew from her scent that she was his mate. Her station in life was so far above his, he didn’t think it was going to work. But when she coded in the hospital, he had to make a quick decision and hope it wouldn’t come back to bite him in the ass later.

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Sasha Harvard had returned to the small town in Ohio because Hailey Riddle, a ghost, had led her there. Sasha had been speaking to the dead for as long as she could remember. In working with the police, Sasha had been in the field, helping to look for Melinda’s spirit when Melinda Havard had found her. Melinda told her that they were sisters, and the man that had killed her thought that she was Sasha. Melinda had done the best she could to deliver the child she was carrying before she succumbed to her wounds. The child was marked like Sasha, and the dead would find her when she was older. Melinda wanted Sasha to raise her child, and she warned Sasha that the man who had killed her would come after both her and the child because of what they could do. Sasha pulled out the business card of Sawyer Bishop, the officer in charge on the field, and told him that she’d like to meet him at his house and to send someone to pick her up.

Chandler Bishop knocked on Sasha’s door to pick her up. He heard a scuffle inside and broke down the door. A man was standing over Sasha with a baseball bat, and she had been beaten. When Chandler yelled at the man, he just disappeared. Sasha was shocked that he’d seen the man. Chandler thought the man was a vampire, Sasha told him the man was dead.

Chandler had found his mate and could see the dead now too apparently. And the little girl, Pip, her niece, would be theirs as well. A readymade family and he couldn’t be happier. But would he and his tiger be able to keep them safe from both the living and the dead?

the living and the dead?

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Wesley Bishop was helping out a friend by letting Emmie stay with him. He knew she wasn’t his mate, but she was good company. Emmie was hiding from her abusive brothers. When she asked Wesley to take her to the bank, she was meeting her best friend Penny and Penny’s grandfather, Joe, to go over their accounts, Wesley readily agreed.

Wesley thought Penny was about the prettiest woman he’d ever seen—feisty too, and when her scent hit him like a freight train, he was the happiest tiger shifter on the planet.

Penny, not so much. Like Emmie, Penny’s family had a way of getting their point across with a heavy fist. Trusting a man wasn’t easy for her.

Wesley was no quitter; he’d convince his new mate to trust him if it was the last thing he did. And keeping her safe was proving to be more difficult by the day.

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It would take Hodge time to get used to Gunner’s family. She’d used a little magic to help Raven deliver her twins without any pain. The Bishops were crowding her, wanting answers Hodge wasn’t ready to give. She was a loner, and all these people around her would take some getting used to. Gunner felt the same way and told his family to just go home. His mom wasn’t too happy about that.

To the world, Gunner was retired from his service with the military, but he was too good at his job to just stop. Someone had placed a price on Gunner’s head. He just had to figure out who. They’d come close once, but Hodge had sensed the threat and took care of it. But more attempts were inevitable. Would Hodge be able to intervene the next time?

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Prologue


Every time Dwayne looked at his brother, he laughed. There was no point in holding back anymore, either. Everyone had seen and heard him react to Gunner and Hodge popping out of the book, so there was no hiding the fact that Sawyer had been the perfect stodge to have pulled this on. Gunner had told Sawyer to put the book on the floor. Not questioning his brother, he did just what he’d asked him to do. Then Sawyer, falling hook line and sinker for whatever reason Gunner had told him to say abracadabra over it, was just too funny. Gunner and Hodge had just appeared, something akin to being sprinkled from the ceiling. Sawyer had leapt back from them, fallen over the coffee table, breaking it, and screaming like a little girl seeing a spider. Dwayne would forever hear a child scream like that and think of this day. “Keep laughing it up, and I’ll give you a good reason to be sobbing over your supper later.” He couldn’t help it. Dwayne laughed all the harder. “I’m going to knock the shit out of you.” “Behave, the two of you. It was fun.

You have to admit, there haven’t been that many fun things around here of late. Not with us trying to hunt down a killer, people getting their asses shot to fuck, and things like recording devices showing up in the strangest places.” Dwayne noticed that his mom didn’t say anything to the girls for their potty mouth, as she called it. He thought that Andi had the worst of it. Hearing it from men all the time was something he could understand. Sometimes he’d forget she was a woman. Andi didn’t look manly or anything like that. Nor did she have a haircut that would make it difficult to tell what gender she was from behind. Her hair was as beautiful as any sunset he’d ever witnessed, and her figure in those tight pants that women wore nowadays was perfect on her body.

Not that he was looking too hard. “I need to ask you a couple of questions.” Dwayne told Chandler he was all ears. “I don’t want to alarm you, but you have a family following you around. A woman, two children, and a man. None of them seem to be upset or anything like that. They’re new to you. I mean, all of us have a ghost or two hanging around, with the exception of Andi. But this family is new to you.” “Why not Andi?” He said that neither of them knew. “So, you think she’s not ever hurt anyone or caused their deaths? I haven’t either. Not that I know of. And this couple, what do they look like?

What I mean is, my age? Older? Tell me something so I can remember them.” “They’re all four dead, of course. I’m thinking some sort of toxin killed them.” Dwayne watched as his brother had a conversation with, he assumed, one of them. “Carbon poisoning. You do know them in a way. You tried to save them when you came upon their car. Do you remember that?” “Yes.” He looked in the direction his brother was still looking. “If you can hear me, I’m still trying to reach your sister, missus. The number I found in your home was old and no longer assigned.

The police have your cell phone. As soon as they turn it over to me for the few minutes they said I could have, I’ll call her.” “What happened?” Dwayne told Chandler what had happened. “I saw that in the paper. Where they were homeless and living in their car, right? I didn’t see your name mentioned in the article.” “I asked them not to. I don’t know the family at all. I wish I could have done more for them, but they were all dead by then, with the exception of the wife, and she didn’t last that long after I got to them. The children were bundled up in the back seat. The husband had…he killed himself, I think when he figured out what he’d done.

The missus asked me to call her sister to let her know. Brooks is trying to get the police to allow me to call her for them.” Chandler asked if he could help. “I don’t know. I never thought of asking you guys, but you do have an in with the station house. I just need it to get the phone number for a woman by the name of Brit. I might have heard that wrong, but I’m hoping I’m close enough to it that I can call her.” “You have it. It’s Brittany Handle. She lives in New York.” Chandler said that would help. “I’m going to make a call now to the station and see what they can tell me. If they’d just get you the number, that will have next of kin notified.” “Yes, that would be great. If it’s all right with the family.”

Chandler told him that their last name was Lance. He asked him if he wanted their names as well. “It might go a long way in convincing the other woman that I’m not a crackpot. Please. Get it for me.” Dwayne followed Chandler to Sawyer’s office. His brother had been doing work with the police station for weeks now, and his office looked like a crime scene to him. He knew that pictures of the scene were helpful, but the ones on his brother’s walls were bloody and vivid. “Have you seen Gunner’s office? Andi took all his medals that he no longer wore and had them framed with the information on the back as to why he received each one of them. I had no idea that Gunner was such a hero.” Dwayne said he’d not seen them yet.

“You need to have a look at it. It’s beautifully done and very tastefully out there that he’s been saving lives for a decade.” While his brother talked to someone on the phone, Dwayne had a look around this office. It was filled out nicely. He even liked the fact that there was a nice couch across from the desk rather than just chairs. Dwayne envied his brothers’ tastes. Everything in this room said a man worked in here. It wasn’t for show. He supposed if he ever got around to fixing his office up, he’d have a nice one too. Right now, all he had in the room was a few boxes of books, as well as an office chair. Dwayne was working with Holly. Not for her, she told him, but with.

She had not really hinted but outright told him that she was grooming him to take over her businesses when she’d had enough. Dwayne thought she was kidding. Apparently, she didn’t kid around about money and how she made it. “I knew the second I saw you that you’d make the perfect replacement for me. I bet if I were to ask you anyone around here’s name today, you’d be able to tell me what it was.” He said they knew who he was, so it was only fair that he learned their names.

“That, right there, is what I’m talking about. You’re not just a good replacement, Dwayne, but a person that I can be proud of. My son, as you know, doesn’t want it. He said he’s busy learning to live since that horrid wife of his was sent off to prison. Not that I blame him. Being shackled to her should have killed him. But he is being a good son and grandfather to those children.” “Molly loves him. She is having so much fun with her sister and brother that I’m surprised she ever gets out much. Raven said she’s been the best big sister she could have ever hoped for.” Holly told him that was the way it should be. “I agree. My parents love them too. Molly goes to their home several times a week just to hang out with them. I hope if I ever get a mate, then children, they’re like her. Molly is a wonderful kid.”

“I’d like to take full credit for that, but I can’t. Don’t tell her I said this, but I think Raven did a wonderful job of raising her on her own. I helped when she’d let me. Also, Raven doesn’t have all those stupid rules that keep me from having fun with her daughter.” Dwayne didn’t mention her other grandmother. That was a sore spot for all of them. “Did I tell you that my son is going on a cruise with me next month? We’ve never done that before. I think he’ll enjoy it too. While I’m gone, you’ll be running the business.” “Dwayne?” He looked at his brother, being pulled from the panic attack he had every time he thought of running the business. “Here’s the number. The phone doesn’t have service, and I don’t think it has for a long time. The captain there had to plug it in for it to come on. The battery was shot.”

Taking the number from his brother, he laid it by the phone and took in a deep breath. He’d never done anything remotely like this before—called someone to let them know their family member had passed away. Chandler left him there. He also told him that he was alone in the room. Picking up the phone, he glanced at his watch as he only just realized he was happy it wasn’t too late. “Brit Handle’s office. How may I help you?” He was shocked for a moment but gathered himself up quickly. Asking to speak to Brit on a personal matter got him nowhere with the person on the other end. “Do you have any idea how many men call in here thinking I’m a sap and I’m going to hand the phone over to my boss? Plenty. I like my job very much, and the person I work for. So come up with another story, or I’m hanging up.”

“It’s about her sister and her family.” There was a long pause, and Dwayne was terrified she’d hung up on him. She told him, however, that she was Brit. “I’m sorry, Ms. Handle. But they died the day before yesterday.” “How? I’m assuming that fucktard did it.” Dwayne told her how he’d found them and that her sister, while alive, didn’t last long. He did ask her who fucktard was. “Her father-in-law. Howie Lane. Even his name is lazy sounding. It’s his name too. Howie. I’m babbling right now, so bear with me, all right?” “Yes, of course. Your sister’s dying wish was for me to contact you.” He heard a door shut, cutting off the noises that were in the background of the call. “The police usually do this, call the family, but I’d been asked to contact you, and I wanted to do that for her. If it helps you to know, it looked as if the children had simply fallen asleep and died that way.

Not that having children die is a good thing. Now I’m babbling.” “It’s hard to take. I mean, we weren’t really all that close. You said they were in a car. Do you know if they were living anywhere?” He said they couldn’t find an address for them anywhere. Also, the plates on the car had been expired for a few years. “It sounds like Howie kicked them out. Howie wanted to make his son pay for putting him in prison. I’m guessing he’s finally gotten his wish.” “Howard had been shot in the head. I just assumed it was self-inflicted when I saw that he’d been shot. Do you suppose Howie had anything to do with that?” She said she didn’t know but wouldn’t put it past him. “The coroner has released their bodies to me. I’ve made arrangements to have them taken to the local funeral home. Other than prepping the bodies, there hasn’t been anything done. Nothing in the paper either.”

“Good. I’m going to be there in a few days. I can’t leave right now because of things going on here. Isn’t that the way it always is? Anyway, I have a lot going on here that requires my attention. When I get my flight information, can you arrange for us to be picked up? I’ll be bringing my son with me. Is that all right?” “Yes, of course. I can either put you up in a hotel or a bed and breakfast. Either one will be ready when you arrive. May I ask how old your son is? That way, I can figure out if he needs a crib or not.” Her laughter made him smile. “I take it he won’t need a crib.” “Not hardly. He’s twelve going on thirty. He’s the type of kid that keeps his mom straight. His name is Jamison, but he goes by Jamie. Calling him Jamison will make him roll his eyes at you. But the bed and breakfast sounds better than a hotel. Also, can you do me a favor?

If you can’t, then that’s fine too. I’m sure you have more important things to do than help a woman out with a kid. But if you could find a local cemetery that will let them be buried there, that would be wonderful. I don’t know where they were living, but they don’t have anyone around here either.” Dwayne was taking notes on what she wanted when she laughed. He paused in writing down calling the cemetery. “I don’t even know your name. I’m so sorry.” “That’s fine. It’s Dwayne Bishop. My family is well known around here in the event you wanted to check us out before coming here.” She asked him if he was in the habit of calling strangers to tell them that their family had died.

“No. This is my first call. I just don’t want you to think I’m trying to scam you.” “Mr. Bishop, I’ve been scammed by the best of them and have come out on top. I just want to get my sister and her family someplace where it’s nice and then come back here. Dealing with Howie is going to take up a great deal of my time, but he is going to pay. I have a feeling he’s the sole reason they were living out of their car.” He told her he’d find out for her. “Do you have a crystal ball, by chance?” “No. But I do have some very well connected family members. I’ll see what I can find out for you before you arrive.” She thanked him three times before he was able to get off the phone with her. “I’ll see you in a few days, Ms. Handle.”

After hanging up, he asked Sasha if she’d help him out. When she came into the room with him, he told her what Ms. Handle had told him, as well as what he might need in the way of answers from the family. “All right. I can do that for you. But before we go too far, Mr. Lane didn’t kill himself. He wants that known so that he can be buried next to his family. I wasn’t sure what he was meaning by that, but I got it figured out. Also, they think they were murdered. The mister’s father had been trying to do that since they married.”

Dwayne asked her if she knew why. “Not yet. They’re still trying to remember details about things. The little ones haven’t said a word since they showed up with you. I’m thinking it’s the norm for them to be quiet all the time. Also, the missus, she said to thank you for calling her sister.” “She’ll be here in a few days with her son.” Sasha asked him if he knew if there was a husband. “I didn’t ask. Why?” “I don’t know. I was thinking she might be yours or Quincey’s mate. I mean, that’s the way it seems to go, don’t you think?” He told her he didn’t have time for a mate. “You make sure you tell her that when she arrives. All right. Ask your questions, and we’ll go from there.”

Caleb Berkley’s Bastards Release Blitz&Giveaway

Caleb Anderson just lost his mother to cancer. He had never known his father, Howard Berkley, now deceased as well. Her final wishes were for Caleb to deliver a letter of her passing to her estranged parents,   grandparents that he’d never met and to find the other five boys sired by Berkley. Caleb would do anything he could to honor her wishes.
Tabby Tillman had had enough of the Andersons. She was tired of running the company and their lazy son Shep taking all the credit and bonuses. Just pay her for her overtime and vacation, and she was out of there.
Caleb was impressed with Tabby. The woman didn’t curb her opinions, and he liked that about her. Moving to be closer to her was something he didn’t think twice about. A change of scenery would be just what he needed.
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Caleb let the tears fall down his cheeks. His mother, his hero, had taken her last breath, and he was having a hard time dealing with the pain of her leaving him. He knew she was no longer suffering. The drugs and things they’d been giving her since she took to her bed three weeks ago had taken care of that. But she had been there for him all his life, and he wasn’t sure what he was going to do without her around. “Sir, Hospice is here. They wish to come in and see her.” He nodded and kissed his mother’s cold hand before putting it under the blanket, which was over her body. “She’ll be sorely missed, sir.

Your mother was a great woman. One of a kind, if you were to ask me.” “I know you loved her too, Ben. She loved everyone so much.” Nodding, the two men embraced for a few moments. Then he straightened up and moved out of the way for the people from Hospice to do what they needed. Caleb found himself in the kitchen then. The cup of tea was just what he’d needed. Mary, Ben’s wife, asked if his mother had passed. Nodding, a fresh stream of tears fell down his face, and she hugged him as well. He clung to the woman who had become his second mother in all these years and cried softly into her warm bosom. “She’ll be wondering what all the fuss is about if she were to look down on us now.” He laughed a little. “That’s my boy. You’ll be simply fine, Caleb.

It’s why she left when she did. A real lady doesn’t stay too long when there are other things to be taken care of. You’ll be good because she raised you well.” “Mom and I couldn’t have done it without you and Ben around all the time. I think when she had to work, she didn’t mind leaving me here because the two of you were around.” Mary nodded and said she’d do it all over again if asked. “I know you would. She knew too that leaving me now would be all right because of the two of you. You are staying on, right? You won’t leave me here all alone?” “What a thing to ask of me. Of course, we’ll be here for you. When you find yourself a pretty little wife to come here, we’ll be there for your children as well. However, I will tell you that if you decide to sell and move to another place, Caleb, we will go out west.

I don’t think I could get used to another home this late in my life. You know that.” He did but didn’t know about the pretty little wife. “You’ll see. As soon as you’re out and about again, women will be relieved to know you’re back to work and such. Your momma, she told you not to mourn her too long, didn’t she?” “She said I was to dump her out of the bed and have the room redecorated as soon as her body was cold.” He laughed and cried a little at that. “Mom was full of it all the way to the end. I’ll miss her so much.” Crying again, he felt hands patting him on the back. Not just Mary’s, but her husband’s comforting hand as well. Letting himself grieve for a little bit, he sat up in the chair when Mary gave him a plate of little food, as she called it.

It was apple slices and peanut butter. Cheese and crackers with a bit of mustard on the side. Also, since he’d gotten older, she would put either a glass of wine with his little meal or a bottle of beer, neither of which he had the stomach for right now. The nurse that had been with his mom during the day came into the room with him. He started to stand up. “No, don’t do that. Just sit there and eat. They’ve taken her away just as was arranged, Mr. Anderson. Also, because your mother was good about getting things taken care of, all the arrangements have been made too.” He said he was aware of that. “Good, good. Also, there are just a couple of things for us to come back for. She wanted to donate the bed and equipment to us so we could get some use out of it. Such a fine woman, your mother.” “She was. Thank you. Yes, she told me last week that she was going to make sure you had what was left here.

I’m to understand that everything that was left will be reused.” She told him that was what his mom had wanted. “Good. I know she’s made a donation to Hospice, too, in her will. I don’t know what it would be, but I’ll make sure you have plenty for the help you give.” “Thank you, sir. We do appreciate yours and your mother’s kindness.” Nodding, he waited for her to leave or say something more. It was like this every time he spoke to the woman—she just didn’t seem to know how to end a conversation. Even his mom had gotten a good giggle out of it. Finally, she left them, and he looked at Mary. “You’re to say something at the funeral.” He said he’d gone over it with his mom yesterday. “She would have wanted you to say what was in your heart. And your mind. I’m going to have a nice spread here when the funeral is over.

Bring back whoever would like to come. We’ll make it work.” “I will make the announcement after my speech.” He got up, knowing he had a lot of things to do today. Avoiding the parlor where his mom had been staying, he made his way to his office. Caleb had left a great deal unfinished when he’d stopped everything to be with her. Caleb had loved his mother more than he thought anyone had in all the children he’d met when he was younger. She’d taken the time to show him things he doubted any other parent had done.

He knew how to trade stocks and make himself a good meal that didn’t come out of a microwave. Caleb also had a good education and was at the top of his game in architectural design, both for the building he might be working on as well as the landscaping surrounding it. He had literally followed in her footsteps when it came to making a living. “Sir? There is a man here to see you. I’m sorry, but he’d only tell me that he had an appointment with you.” Caleb looked at his calendar and saw that, like he had thought, nothing was there. “Shall I send him on his way?” “Yes. Tell him we’re a house of mourning and don’t have time for his shenanigans today. Thanks, Ben.” Caleb went back to work after smiling a little smile at him. Ben would enjoy sending the man on his way more than warranted, Caleb thought.


It was nearly dark when he finally lifted his head from work. He’d been behind, something he detested, but he wouldn’t have changed things one bit if he had it to do over. Spending the last few days of his mom’s life with her had been hard, but it had also been something they both needed. A time to say goodbye. He went to the parlor first. The room was devoid of anything pertaining to the last days of his mom’s life. The bed, as well as all the equipment, was now gone. The couch and chair that had sat in the room prior to being a sick room were now back in place. She would have wanted it done like this. Moving on. Mom had said that to him at least ten times a day when she’d been ill. Going to the kitchen, he thanked Mary for what she’d done for them. Bursting into tears once again, he was glad for the warm hug from her. She sat him down, feeding him more than he thought he could have eaten, yet he finished every bite while she spoke to him. “The director called here. I told him you were resting. I know you well enough to see that you working is almost the same as you getting a good eight hours of sleep. Did you get a lot done, Caleb?”

He told her he thought he was caught up for now. “Good. She would have wanted that. Getting back to life now that hers is over. My goodness, I will miss that woman. She had a way about her that made a person wonder where she’d been all their life. And now that she was around them, well, they had a friend for life.” “She even told me which suit to wear at the funeral. And to wear one of her button roses on my lapel.” He laughed a little. “I don’t know what I’m to do without her. If she were here right now, she’d smack me in the back of the head and tell me I know just what to do and to get on with it. Mary, I’m not sure what to do, to be honest.” “You keep doing what she wanted of you.” Mary got up and began cleaning the already spotless kitchen.

“She called me to her room the other day. Asked me to stay on here until you got your feet under you. I’m not sure you ever had them under you all the way, but I’ll stay until you decide on what you’re going to do. She also said you’d marry soon. I didn’t have a comment for that. I was not aware you’d been dating.” “I was until recently.” He thought of Violet and shook his head. “I don’t think she’s going to be happy with me. I’ve decided she’s not the woman for me. She told me she couldn’t live here with me after having a death in the house. Like I had asked her to or something. No. She didn’t even come here to sit with me when Mom was in her last days. Told me she had more important things to do than to watch someone die. I thought that was very telling. What would she have done had it been me, I had to wonder?

Do you think she might have gone shopping?” They both laughed, and it felt good. Laughter had been encouraged within the walls of this house, and he’d missed it a great deal since his mom had been diagnosed with cancer. Mary told him he was to call the director back and to do it now. He was headed to the living room when he called, and it was answered on the first ring. “I’m sorry it’s so late, Mr. Carroll. I got into things here and didn’t think you might need something from me. What can I help you with?” He told him that his mother was ready, did he want to see her before the funeral. Did he? Caleb wasn’t sure
but said he’d be there in the morning. “What time can I come in? I don’t want to disturb your household.” “I’ll have to have the little ones off to school by nine, sir. That should be enough time for you to get your hugs if you were to come by at eight-thirty.” Caleb said he’d very much like that. “Good.

I’ll tell Margaret. She’ll have them fed by then. They’re as sorry as the rest of us are about her passing. She was a wonderful woman, your mom. Didn’t take on like she was better than anyone when you needed a shoulder to cry on or even a little lift up. I don’t know that I should be saying this to you, but you couldn’t have had a better role model or mom than her, Caleb.” “I know. I thank my lucky stars all the time that she decided to keep me. I think we were very good for each other.” He felt his eyes fill with tears again and wondered if there would ever be a time when he didn’t want to sob when he thought of his mom being gone. “I’ll see the family in the morning then. And then see to my mom. I’m sure you did an amazing job, Mr. Carroll.”

After closing the connection, he headed up to his room. Caleb had lived in this house all his life except for the few years he’d gone off to college. Even then, he’d been home weekends and holidays. The two of them, with Mary and Ben, had had such good times together. When they vacationed, Mary and Ben had gone as well. Making sure his suit was clean, he pulled out the shirt his mother had picked out for him too. Smiling, he wondered what everyone would think about it. He was positive that no one would expect him to wear a pink paisley shirt with a suit. But that was what his mom wanted, and he was going to do this one thing, the last thing he could for her, without any qualms about it. Closing his eyes after stripping down, he wasn’t sure he could sleep. But almost as soon as his head hit the pillow, he was out. He knew his alarm would go off well after he was up, and if not, then it would wake him to get started on his day. Caleb was nothing if not organized.

The next morning, he was up and ready to head out the door by a quarter to eight. Excited to see the kids, he stopped by the store to pick up a few things for them. Yes, he did spoil them, but they were his god children, and he loved them to pieces. Sharon met him at the door with a stern look on her face. She was the most adult eight-year-old he’d ever met. “You brought us stuff, didn’t you?” He handed her one of the wrapped gifts he’d picked up for her. “Your momma would bust your ears if she knew you were doing this. She said you spoil us too much.” “Yes, but she was just jealous that she didn’t spoil you as much as I did.” She grinned at him. “I’ve missed you, Sharon. You and Paul. My mom thought about you often while she was ill.”

“I’m gonna miss her too. She was the best grandma in the world.” Sharon hugged him tightly around his neck when he bent to her level. Picking her up, he carried her into the kitchen, where her brother was still eating. “Paul, you were supposed to be done eating by now. How are you gonna give Caleb hugs when you’re covered in mush?” “I’ve dressed for the occasion. Come here, Paul. Give me a big hug.”


After getting his hugs, the kids ran off when he handed them the other gifts he’d gotten. Making sure they knew they needed to come to him before they left for school, he settled down with Margaret and Paul. “I’ve done as she asked. My goodness, I do love her choice of her sending-off outfit. Your mom, she wasn’t one on doing what others did, was she?” Caleb laughed, knowing that his mother had picked out an outfit that would not just shock but would make people laugh. It was what she had wanted. “If you’d like to see her after the children have gone, I can take you there. The service will be in the large chapel. I’ve also been receiving a few flowers.” “There won’t be a notice in the paper. The people that need to know have been notified. That’s the way she wanted it.” Wilson nodded. “She’ll be happy with the way things are going. I plan on doing just what she wanted. Because knowing her as well as I do, she really will come back and smack me on the back of the head if I don’t.” “She was a good woman, that mother of yours.”

Margaret handed him a framed photo of the two of them. “I never saw a woman so determined to make sure she was successful after having you. Abby wanted only the best for you and her after being tossed out. It’s a small wonder she didn’t want her parents notified in the paper. They didn’t deserve anyone like her as their daughter. Nor you as their grandson.” “I’m to tell them in person.” Neither one of them said anything after he made his announcement. “She told me it has to be done in person and that I wasn’t to allow them to say anything to me about how she was a terrible child. There is a letter with our attorney that she wrote in her final days. If they refuse to read it, then I’m to read it to them, so they understand what sort of person she was. Do you suppose they would have kept up with her life after her leaving home?” “I wouldn’t think so.

Abby wouldn’t have been one to let them into her life after she was tossed aside, either. Have you heard from her brother? What was his name?” He told Margaret. “That’s it. Sheppard. What a piece of shit he was too. Even before Abby left home, he was a mean little prick.” “Margaret.” She huffed at Paul when he scolded her. “We need to keep a civil tone with this. For all we know, they wanted to contact her but weren’t sure how to go about it.” “Doubtful. I knew them before this happened, so I’m in a position to tell you they weren’t nice people at all.” Margaret went to get the children, as it was time for the bus. “Mark my words, Caleb.

When push comes to shove, you push them back as hard as you can. They don’t deserve any sympathy at all for what they did.” After hugging the children, he made his way to the lower level to make sure that Mom was just the way she’d wanted. There were a lot of things in the room, including flowers that indicated that a donation had been made in the deceased’s honor. Mom looked to him as if she’d fallen asleep and was resting peacefully. It hurt him again how much he was going to miss her. “You got her hair and makeup just perfect, Mr. Carroll. And the shirt is perfect for my mom. She bought this about four years ago when we were in Hawaii.” Carroll said something, but Caleb was thinking about that vacation. “She found a way to work with some of the beautiful shells that were in abundance around the island.


I think she must have put three or four kids through college with that venture.” “I’ve seen those houses. If I remember correctly, they were featured on the cover of a few magazines as well.” He nodded and turned from the casket. “You’re going to be just fine, Caleb. You’re your mother’s son, and you’ll gather strength where you least expect it, I’m thinking.” Nodding, he left. There wasn’t much he could say to that. Caleb went home to work again and found that he could bury himself in work, and the pain would lessen. He was nearly finished working for the day when Mr. Fowler, their attorney, called to ask him if he needed anything. “Nothing I can think of. I’m assuming you’re wanting to get her will taken care of.” He said there was no hurry. “Thank you for that. But there are a few things you have for me that I need to take care of after the funeral. Mom said you have the addresses.” “I do. Wasn’t hard to find them. Mr. and Mrs. Anderson still live in the same house. I only had to read the paper to see where her brother was. Nasty piece of work, him. Anyway, it’s all here.

Just tell me when you want to go, and I’ll go with you. You are taking me, right?” That was what his mom had wanted in the event they tried to hurt him. “Also, there are some envelopes here for Mary and Ben and for the children of Mr. Carroll. I’m assuming she paid for them to go to college as she had mentioned before.” “I don’t know, to be honest. She didn’t want me to know all her plans. Mom said it would spoil the surprise. I’m not sure what she meant by that, but I guess it’ll be all right.” Gus laughed a little. “If you could bring it to the funeral home tomorrow, I’ll take care of it after the reception at the house. If you have time to go then?” “I’ve only worked for your family for years, Caleb. Watched you grow into a good man too. No, you tell me when and I’ll be there with bells on.” Thanking him, Caleb decided that if he could, he was going to keep Gus on until he was too tired to work for him. Almost as if he had read his mind, Gus spoke again. “Also, you might want to know that I’ve been looking into a replacement.

I know you and your mother have paid me well for all these years, but you need someone younger than this eightyyear-old geriatric. My granddaughter would be good for you or her brother. Might need them both after a while. But I’ve told them all they need to know about your plans, as well as your money. Who would have thought that when your mom came to see me, fat with her baby boy, that she’d be one of the richest women in the world? She certainly did work for it. So have you.” Caleb went to bed that night, knowing he had to be on his best game tomorrow. It was going to be a long day, and he wasn’t sure how well he was going to handle it. But he also knew that in some way, his mom was watching over him, so he was up for the challenge. At least he hoped he was. The next morning, he was at the funeral home at a little past seven. Hugging the kids again gave him strength and love. They were not going to school today, he’d found out, so they could be there for their parents. It was going to be a big funeral, and all hands were needed.


Caleb thought that having them where he could grab a hug or two was going to be just the thing. Kids, he knew, had an understanding of grief that went well beyond their years on this earth. When everyone was seated that there were chairs for, a great many people standing around the room, he went to the podium and cleared his throat. It was time, he thought. A microphone had been unearthed so the people in the long hall leading to the chapel could hear him. “I noticed that a few of you got a kick out of the way we’re dressed. You know Mom. When there was a gathering of people, she wanted to party.” Another round of laughter, and he pulled out his notes. “My mom approved my speech that I’m going to give today. I also want you to know that while I was writing this, she was checking my spelling, as well as looking for any grammatical errors. She knew I’d have it all wrong if she didn’t. “My mom was seventeen when she was tossed out of her family home. Again, this is her story, not mine. Her parents decided it was shameful to have an unwed daughter around when she began to show.

Not to mention, according to her father, she was spoiled for all other men after that, whatever that meant to him. Then, when I was born, she sent a telegram telling her family of my birth. That she had had a healthy baby boy and that we were both doing fine.” Looking at his notes, he continued. “After my birth, Mom made sure she could support not only herself but me as well. After getting her high school diploma with me at her feet sleeping, she got into college and then got a job.” Caleb almost skipped over some of the notes but went back to them. “While she worked and studied, Mom taught me what hard work and determination could afford a person. It’s a lesson I’ve taken with me all my life and will continue to do so.” He knew this next part was going to be the hardest to say. “Several months ago, after finding out she was beyond help with the diagnoses of cancer, she began making plans that would be felt by the rest of the town we call home for the entirety of its future.” There were a few murmurs of wonder, but he ignored them.

“I’ve decided it would be in all our best interests if I should carry on my mom’s legacy and continue to support the causes we have before.” Before sitting down, Caleb announced that there would be a reception with light food at his home. Going to his seat, he watched as the funeral director took his place and announced that there was a nice luncheon at the Anderson home. Then he asked people to go to their cars. He’d said all he wanted to say at the funeral home. At the reception, people came to wish him well and to tell him how sorry they were for his loss. Caleb wanted to tell them that sorry didn’t bring her back to him, but he didn’t. His grief was profound. The finality of what they were doing here hurt him deeply in his soul and heart. People came to speak to him about his mom, telling stories that they knew about her that he knew as well. There was one that he so enjoyed thinking about. It was about when Mom had come upon a child in one of the barns, crying because her cat was going to die. The little thing was in hard labor, and the kitten was turned the wrong way.
After assisting in the birth after resolving the issue, Mom stuck around for the rest of the birthing.

“Then, not two weeks later, Mr. Jamison calls her up and tells your mom that he has a cow in a bad way. Not sure why he’d think she could help, your mom, being her, she went there and helped with the birth of that cow. Mr. Jamison, he named the calf after her, and to this day, he refers to it as Abigail when asked. Darnest thing I done ever did see, I tell you.” Mr. March laughed and acted like that was the only time his mom had gone out on an emergency like the ones with the cow and kittens. “I heard tell she was there when Mrs. Parker gave birth to those twin little boys too.” There were many stories like that one. Mom had driven the school bus one week when the system had been short-staffed. She’d helped bring in some crops, driving the big tractor like she’d been born to it. He loved all of them, even the ones told about when he was an infant. Mr. Fowler caught up with him just as people were beginning to leave. As they entered his office, he was sure he was going to tell him something he didn’t want to hear. Gus told him he’d not be able to go with him in the morning, as something else had come up. “I’m to be acting county judge tomorrow.

The one that was coming here to hear some of the backed-up cases got himself a case of food poisoning, from his mother-inlaw, of all people. Anyway, they didn’t really ask so much as told me that it was my duty as a good standing attorney to see to this. I’m hoping it’s a one-time shot, but who knows what will happen with all this other stuff going on.” Caleb said he could go when he was finished. “No. I’ve spoken to my grandchildren. They’re good, Caleb, if not a little green on things. They’re ready to go with you to keep you out of hot water if things go badly there.” Caleb did want to get this over with and move on. When Gus handed him the things he’d need when he went to confront his mom’s parents—never would they be his grandparents, he thought—he decided to go. “I’ll go, but I don’t like it. I wasn’t even sure I was onboard with it when I thought you were going with me.” Gus said he was sorry. “Not as sorry as they’ll be if I have to get into it with them. But you are right. I need to get this finished so I can focus on my life without my mom.

I knew she was dying, Gus, but it’s hard for me to realize she’s gone. I find myself looking for her or even going into the parlor when I think of something I want to say to her. I wonder if it will ever get better.” “Yes. It’ll soften after a while, the pain of it. When my Marie passed on, it was all I could do to get myself cleaned up and fed daily.” He laughed a little. “Your mom did a fine job of shaking me around a little. But she was good to do that. Not only did she save my life—I’ll believe that forever—but she got me moving in the right direction to keep my sanity as well. That mom of yours, Caleb, she knew how to make a person see her way about things.” “She was the best.” Gus agreed with him, and Caleb smiled. “I’ll take both of them with me tomorrow. That way, they can show me that they can work with someone like me. Someone who is a little too demanding at times but means well.”


“Yes, well, I don’t think you’re demanding at all, but a man that likes to get things going. Also, before I forget, once you’re back, we’ll go over your mom’s will. There are a couple of things she added in the final few days. Some of it you’ll need to care for.” Caleb asked him if he needed to take care of them now. “No. nothing like that. But just some things she had for you. I’ll see you when you return, Caleb. You do what your mom asked, and that’ll hopefully be the end of it.” After getting a file from his car regarding the family, Gus left. Kylie and Arthur were to meet Caleb here at his house at seven sharp. It wasn’t a far trip to make, a couple of hours of driving time, but since he was driving, he didn’t want anyone to make him late.

Jonas Robinson Destruction Release Blitz&Giveaway

Jonas Robinson had his hands full but was loving every minute of it. Those four children needed him, and he had to admit he needed them as well. If no other family came out of the woodwork wanting them, he had his heart set on adopting them.
Ginger Morgan, a talented photographer, worked undercover for the Government. She was good at her job, but it often put her off the radar for weeks at a time. She had just heard of her sister Sissy’s recent hospital stay when she returned to town.
Sissy had it in her mind that she wanted a ready-made family and wanted to take in her nieces and nephews, whom she had never met. When Ginger found out who had the kids, she called her college buddy, Dawson Robinson, to find out more. What happened next had all their heads spinning.
Ginger was swept into a world of intrigue as Rogan Robinson brought her team in and hid them from the world. Those children’s identities had to be kept secret at all costs. Now that Ginger and her family were involved, they would be targets as well.
Ginger knew a little about shifters, but being mated to one was something she’d have to give some thought to. And being a mother was something she’d never wanted to be—until now….
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A fresh start was what Rogan Hall needed. A small town, out of the way, where no one knew her or her brother was where they’d start over.
She worked from home, and they kept to themselves. The only thing Rogan couldn’t give up was her early morning run.
Like clockwork,
she ran every morning, and again, like clockwork, the same family would pass her on the country road heading to who knew where.
The little boy in the back seat would wave at her with such enthusiasm, it made her heart melt. However, that morning, everything would change.
Only moments after the car passed her and drove around the bend, she heard a loud commotion.
Another car barreled past her, and she found the quaint family’s car overturned and on fire.
Rogan did the only thing she could do,she saved them.
Thatcher Robinson was on duty at the hospital when his parents contacted him through their link and told him about the accident
and what to expect when the ambulance arrived. Thatch, his dad, told him they had to save the woman by changing her,
but her burns were severe, and his dad wasn’t sure that the new tiger would survive.
When Rogan regained consciousness,
she was unsure where she was, but she knew she was different. She could feel the tiger move just beneath her skin.
Rogan knew very little about shifters, but what she did know had her cringing. Why someone would take it upon themselves to change her,
she didn’t know, but when the young doctor, Dawson, said his brother was her mate, she was furious. If the big, bad,
Thatcher thought he was going to order her around, he had another thing coming….
Anna didn’t know what to do with the man who acted like he was attached to
her hip. Every time she moved, just to get up and move
to the bathroom,
he’d be right there with her, helping her into a panic attack. Not really,
but that was what it felt like to her.
Morgan wasn’t sure what he’d have to do to convince Anna that he wouldn’t
just up and leave her. She was a tiger too, and she knew they
were mates
just as well as he did. But for some reason, he couldn’t get her to trust
him.
“I don’t think that I’d offer you my hand.
You’d more than likely bite
it off.”
She growled at him.
“I’m not sure if you feel the same way I do about me growling at you,
but all it does
when you do it is making me want to spread you out before
me and lick every square inch of you.”
Trudy Justice was good at her job, but that didn’t mean she wasn’t vulnerable. Caught unaware by a fellow FBI agent, the gunshot wound
to Tru’s gut nearly did her in. To the world, Tru was dead. Rogan was hiding her out until they could figure out who had marked her to
be a target.
Houston Robinson, a tiger shifter, was preparing to shift and take a much-needed run when a strange woman’s voice interrupted
him before he could remove his pants to shift. At first, he was irritated, but when he saw the blood, he wanted to help.
Hurting bad and suspicious of everyone, Tru was in no mood to listen to anyone, especially a shapeshifter claiming to be her mate.
She didn’t care how nice he pretended to be….
Allie Langley was upset about losing her job. It wasn’t the teaching job she wanted, but it helped pay the bills.
It was just how her luck had been running since she’d moved to that town: first, she’d been kidnapped and tortured,
now the job. What next?
Becket Robinson’s car had broken down, and he needed to use the phone. He hadn’t expected to
find his mate when he knocked on the door, but now that he had, he couldn’t wipe the grin off his face. It didn’t matter
how much she ranted and raved about it either. She would fit right in with the rest of the family.
But when Becket discovered her injuries and how infected they were, he called in Thatcher, one of his brothers,
to help.
Allie collapsed in Beckett’s arms when her fever spiked. Allie’s brother begged Beckett to change
Allie into a tiger to save her. Thatcher agreed that converting her would be the only way to save her.
Beckett knew he was damned if he did and damned if he didn’t. But, he couldn’t let her die….
He knew he was going to have one pissed-off mate when she finally woke up. If she woke up….
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Morgan  https://amzn.to/2kCfxKI
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BECKETT http://amzn.to/34ueKzj
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Jonas sat in the office and waited for the doctor to finish up with Hailey. He was glad that he’d asked Rogen for help in finding him a good psychiatrist for the child. At only ten, Hailey was having more difficulty than the other kids. Her lack of trust was beyond anything he’d ever seen in his life. Even his brothers, who were both doctors, were worried for her. The door opened, and Hailey came out, with the doctor right behind her. “He said I’m insane.” Jonas looked at the doctor, who was laughing while shaking his head. “Well, he might as well have said it. He thinks I’m not telling him everything.” “Are you?” She shook her head and turned to look at the doctor before looking at Jonas. “That’s all right, honey. Whatever you need to do, I’m right here for you.” “You say that, but then you bring me here. Why?” He told her, deciding that lying to the kids was going to hurt them all in the long run.

“I have my reasons. Why do I have to share them with a stranger?” “Will you tell me?” She looked back at the doctor, then at him again. “Hailey, have I given you any reason not to trust me? At all? If I have, then you have to tell me what it is. I can’t fix what I don’t understand.” “That’s what Ms. Tru said. That she can’t fix what she doesn’t understand that is broken. Do you think I’m broken, Mr. Jonas?” He said he didn’t know, that he didn’t want her to be afraid of everything. “I’ll have to think about it.” When she walked back to the doctor, he got down on her level. Dr. Miser was supposed to be the best child psychiatrist in the world. He hoped so. Jonas really was afraid for his children and their mental well-being.

“I’ll come to see you. But I don’t trust you.” Dr. Miser told her that he was well aware of that. “I know you are. But I’m not going to give you that until I’m sure. I’m not insane—you know that, don’t you?” “I do. More than you do, I think. You have some trauma that you’re not dealing with well, but I think with time, the two of us can get to some sort of conclusion. I’m not going to make you trust me, Hailey, but I am happy that you’re at least willing to have an open mind about it.” She told him point blank not to put his horses before the cart just yet. “I promise you I won’t. But I do see a lovely little girl that has had more than her share of things happening to her that never should have. Also, you might find this hard to believe right now, but you couldn’t be with a better group of people than the ones you are right now.

They wanted only the best for you and your brothers and sister, and they hopefully found that in me.” As she returned to him, Jonas was so happy when she took his hand into hers. She would do that on occasion, but not often enough for his heart. As they were making their way to the car, he saw that Rogen was there waiting on them. Rogen was large enough with child that he worried about her just walking around. But like the rest of the men in his family, he didn’t say a word to her. She asked Hailey how the appointment went.


All four of the children were coming to see the doctor now. Even Sarah, the youngest of the children, seemed to be coming along better with his help. The only holdout was Hailey. Tru had told Jonas that he should search her mind for the issues, but frankly, he was afraid of what he might find there. “It was all right. If you’re here to drop that kid, then I’ll help you. I helped my momma deliver Sarah. I’m not one to faint with blood all over me.” Neither of them said anything to her, but Hailey seemed to realize she might have said too much. “Mr. Jonas said he’d take me to lunch if I didn’t murder the doctor like I wanted to. Are you going to join us?” “I’d like that. Are you really going to murder the doctor? I have to tell you, he’s a good friend of mine, and while I can understand wanting to murder a doctor, he’s been a good man so far.” Hailey said that for now, she wasn’t going to.

For some reason, Jonas wasn’t reassured by her comment, but she got into the car and strapped in. “She’s going to be a lot to handle when she does spill out what she’s holding to her heart. I thought you’d like to know that I’ve talked to Sissy Whitman and her father. There is a sister, Ginger, that is around, but she’s out of contact with most of the world. I’m trying my best to narrow down what it is she does, but she’s off the grid most of the time. How are you doing?” “Great now that they’re all not sick. I’ve hired a nanny—thanks for the suggestion. Sarah is coming along nicely now that she has her diaper rash under control. Thomas and—” She told him she’d asked about him. “They are mine, Rogen. I find that I can’t function without them around me. I know they’re more than likely going to be adopted by their aunt, but I love them with all my heart right now, and I don’t know what I’m going to do without them.”

“Benny Whitman is in jail. He hit his wife, Sissy, in the face and did some pretty painful wounds to her head. That was only the second time he’d hit her, but it was enough for her to call in her father. You know Heath Morgan, don’t you?” Jonas said he did. “I thought so. Thatcher said you’d done some work for him a few years ago. Sissy is his daughter.” “I wonder how that will affect whether she is interested in bringing the children home with her. They’re a great deal to handle. I’m sure she can afford the help she’ll need.” Jonas had to turn away. Thinking about the kids leaving him was almost too much for him. “I really love them, Rogen.” “I know you do. We all do.” He nodded and opened the front passenger door for her to get into his car. “I can’t ride with you—I have my car over there. However, I’d love to join you. I have some things on the burner at home that I need to care for. I’ll meet you wherever you’re headed.” He laughed as he was getting into the car. If she said burner, he knew for sure it wasn’t on the stove. Rogen had about a dozen computer monitors going at any given time that she worked with. Jonas was happy that she was willing to meet him. People looked at him oddly when he was out alone with one or all of the kids like he was some sort of pervert.


Hailey was getting better about going out to lunch with him. So long as she didn’t drink anything but bottled water, which he brought with them all the time, she was able to eat things that were hot. Pizza, so far, was her favorite meal. Tru had told her that if there were any poisons in the pizza or anything associated with it, it would be cooked out in the oven. It had taken her three times to be able to eat an entire slice. Now, however, she wanted her own personal pizza. He’d never seen a kid like her food to be so spicy that even he couldn’t get close to it because the smell burned his nose. Tru and Hailey would have contests about how hot they could handle it. They were waiting on their food when Rogen turned to Hailey. “I found out what made the four of you sick that day at the apartment. It wasn’t anything you could have avoided.

What I mean is, it wasn’t poison like we thought, but the vitamins that Cindy was giving you each day. For some reason, they were sold expired. They should have been tossed out about a year ago. Not her fault either. The store they were gotten from should have caught that too.” Hailey asked what she’d done about it. “What do you mean?” “Did you kill them? The people that work at the pharmacy?” Rogen said she’d not thought about it, but if it would make Hailey feel better, she could have them shut down for a while. “No. I don’t want that. But someone should have to pay for making us all sick, don’t you think?

Mr. Jonas was freaking out, and then he had to call in his mom. Who I like, by the way. She doesn’t understand me, but she is a nice person.” “My mom loves you very much, Hailey. All of you.” She nodded but didn’t comment. Jonas asked about the stash. “I was just curious if there was any word on how it was stored where it was.” Thomas and Bobby had moved nearly five-thousand pounds of drugs from the back of a semi-truck trailer to one that had been sitting on the lot their parents had at one time rented. Having it right there under their noses had been the perfect place to keep it from their father, as his plan had been to sell it all and get himself “better children.”

Garry, the kids’ biological father, had stolen it from some very bad people and the kids, worried that it would kill children like them, had moved it, over a period of three weeks, into the trailer sitting abandoned on the land behind their home. “It’s been stored away. We did it on our own, so there is no trace of it on any books. The thing is, no one has said a word on the streets about it being missing. That’s what we’re hoping for. Some idiot comes along and starts spouting off about how he’s been robbed.” Jonas asked if that had happened before. “Sure. For the most part, bad guys are stupider than fuck.” “Packer. That’s his name.” They both looked at Hailey when she spoke. “What? Did you think we’d be out of touch with what was going on in our home? Never that. If we didn’t pay attention, we’d be hurt for sure. I don’t know anything more about him, but that’s what his street name was. He would come around the house when Mom was away at some jail, and Dad would tell this Packer guy that he didn’t know shit about it.”


“Do you happen to have any idea what he might look like?” Hailey said he had tats on his face. One of them was an ugly unicorn or some kind of horse. Rogen pulled up her phone and fiddled with it as their food was brought to them. “Is this him?” The whispered way that Rogen was talking to Hailey worried him a great deal. He didn’t want the kids involved in this. However, he also knew that Rogen and the rest of the family needed help in getting this taken care of before someone else came for them. Also, that even now, they were being guarded with the utmost care. No one would get by anyone in his family to get to the kids. Hailey took the phone from Rogen and looked at the picture. When she asked if there were more of him, Rogen told her to just flip through the photos there and see what she could find. It was perhaps three or four moments before Hailey handed her back the phone and picked up a slice of her food. “The man you showed me first is Packer. The second and fourth men in those pictures are always with him. I don’t have their names.

He usually just nods at what he wants, and they get it for him. I think he might be some kind of shifter person. One time I saw him get all furry like Mr. Jonas does when he’s all upset about something.” Hailey looked at Rogen as she chewed her food. As soon as she was finished with that, she spoke again. “They carried guns when they were at the house. I helped them move those when we found them. I can’t tell you where they are until I talk to my brothers. We made a pinky promise not to tell without all of us agreeing.” “Is there anything else the four of you stashed around? I mean, things that Packer or one of the others with him might have mentioned?” Hailey nodded and continued to eat her food. Jonas was honestly too afraid to eat. He didn’t know if he’d be able to keep it down the way that— “Wait. Did you say Packer got all furry like I do? Or were you just using me as an example?” Hailey told him he was a tiger, just like he was. “Christ. Thatcher can summon him to him if he’s not already told him he is in the area. In fact, he can call him to him anytime he wants. Will that be something you can do?” “I can.”

Rogen kissed Hailey on the head and got up to leave them. “I’m so thankful for you, Hailey, that if there is a reward for this, I’m going to make sure you get it.” “You can give it to little kids that need it more than we do now.” Hailey eyed him. “Unless you want to take it for yourself, Mr. Jonas.” “You four earned it. Whatever it is, you should take it for yourselves and use it for college or something. I wouldn’t dream of taking your money from you after all the hard work you’ve done.” Rogen left them there after waving at the waitress and staff. Not too long ago, he and his family had gotten someone out of this place that was being abused. It was a small world, he thought. “Mr. Jonas, I have a question for you.” Jonas told Hailey that she should just ask him. “We’ve been around you and your family for two weeks now. You’ve never once hit any of us or lost your temper. And when we need something, even if it’s just an extra blanket, you give it to us. Are you really this nice all the time?”


“I’d like to think I’m that nice. However, as you know, I do have bad days.” She said he’d never taken it out on them. “That wouldn’t serve anyone if I were to do that, now would it? But in answer to your question, what do you think my mom would do to me if I were a mean person and didn’t allow you an extra blanket?” “She’d beat your head in with a wet noodle.” His mom had said that to him on more than one occasion when he’d been younger. “I’m sort of afraid of her. Not that she’s hurt me or anything, but she could, I think.” “Mom would die before hurting anyone. Unless they were planning to harm any of her babies. To her, you are all her babies.” She shoved away her pizza, and he was happy she’d been able to eat all but one slice. “If you’re ready, we can head back to the house. I’m to understand that Bobby is going to have my brother come and visit him today.” “Why do you care?” That gave him pause, and he asked her what she meant. “Why are you so caring, Mr. Jonas? No one else gave a fiddle about us. You’re nothing but a stranger, and you’ve done more for us than anyone ever has before. Why?” “I have an answer for that, I think. I love you guys. I know you’ve heard me say that to you before.” She nodded. “All right. I tried to get your mom in a place where she could take care of you if she wanted, but I have since changed my mind about that.

I don’t think she’d be any better to you than your father was. And I want you four as safe as I can make you. Is that a good answer for you? I can go deeper if you want. But I know how much you hate when I get mushy.” They were both laughing as they went out to the car. This time when he looked around, Jonas could see the men following them—their guards. He’d never been one for people hanging out with him or around him, but he felt a good deal better knowing they were there. Driving home, he decided he was going to take his mom up on her offer to get him a staff. Having people helping with the kids was nice, but he had a feeling that if staff were there, he’d have a lot less stress in keeping up with things. ~*~ Sissy was just getting home from the grocery store when there was a knock at her back door. The only person that used it was family, and when she opened the door, thinking it’d be her father, she was so happy to see her sister. “Dad called and left me a message that you were in trouble. Christ, that prick really changed his tune about being around you, didn’t he?” They hugged several times before Sissy saw that her sister was hurt.

“It’s nothing. I wasn’t paying attention to where I was walking and tripped up on a log. Fell against a boulder and broke my arm. How is your face? You look like shit if you don’t mind me saying that.” “I know. People have been pointing that out to me for the last several days. But I decided that getting back to my life is more important than caring about people pointing and staring at me. How are you?” Telling Ginger to sit down, Sissy made them both a cup of tea. Knowing that her sister didn’t care for anything but black tea, she made her a cup. Sissy had a cup of Earl Gray, her favorite.


“Great, but for this arm. I would have been home sooner, but I had to finish up the pictures I was assigned to take. Dad told me you were with him, and I knew you’d be all right. Have you pressed charges yet? That little fucker needs to pay for what he’s done to you.” Sissy loved her sister so much and was thrilled to have her with her. She told it like it was, and that was just what Sissy needed. “If you’d go with me to take the pictures to the company that asked for them, you and I can get going on whatever it is you’ve been keeping from Dad.” “How did you know?” Ginger just laughed and said she’d not known. “You’ve done that to me before, and I can’t believe I still fall for it. Yes, I am keeping something from Dad. And I want you to help me with it. Benny’s sister? Margo is her name. She is out of jail just recently and wants her children back. That’s what caused this last thing with Benny. He didn’t want to go get them because one of them might be black. What a fucked up reason not to want them close by. Anyway, I want to go and get them and bring them back here.”

“You know I’ll do anything for you, but what the hell are you going to do raising a couple of kids?” Sissy corrected her. “Okay, four of them. I’m not saying you can’t do it, but Sissy, that’s a lot of work. What do you know about them? Much at all?” “Are you asking me if they’re black too?” Sissy knew she’d hurt her sister, and when Ginger stood up, so did she. “I’m sorry for saying that. I know what you’re asking me. I honestly don’t know what I can do or not. I’ve never been around children much before. I’m simply stressing over everything I have going on. Please forgive me, Ginger. Please?” “Don’t say things like that to me. All right? You know as well as I do that I could care less about things like skin color and their sexual preference.” She hugged her again, and they both sat down. “Do you know where the kids are?” “I do.

They’re in Ohio with a family there. It’s not a long flight, but we can drive from here if you’d like. Pittsburg isn’t a long trip but still too much to do in one day. I think you might be familiar with the Robinsons.” She knew that her sister knew the Robinsons and asked her what she knew that wasn’t in the background check Dad had done on them a long time ago when she’d gone to college with one of them. “I think you went to school with one of them, correct?” “Yes. Dawson. He’s the youngest. A doctor.” She could tell that Ginger was thinking about them. “Can I tell you my opinion about the kids being with them without upsetting you?” Sissy said she wanted her to tell her. “They might be better off with them than you trying to raise them on your own. I love you, Sissy, but as you’ve said, you don’t know a great deal about children.

Especially ones that have been around Margo. I can make a call to Dawson, but the last I heard about them, they were taking in children that had been abandoned for a while now.” “All right. Will you call him? Then if he tells us that they’re better off with them, I’ll believe him. But I’d really like to go and see them. They’re my nephews and nieces, and I know nothing about them other than they’ve been born.” Ginger pulled out her cell phone. “I can’t thank you enough for this. You don’t know how much I’ve been worrying about them.”
“I’d like to speak to Dawson Robinson, please. My name is Ginger Morgan. He and I went to school together.” Sissy couldn’t hear what was being said on the other end, but when Dawson must have come onto the line, Ginger spoke again. “How the hell are you, dumbass?

I didn’t think I’d get through to you. I figured you’d be out on the golf course or some other equally stupid shit I’ve heard about doctors.” Ginger told him she was putting him on speaker phone. “I’ve not thought of you in…well, I’m not going to say how long it’s been. Busy with life. But I do reminisce about some of the antics we were up to. No, not on the course. I don’t have time for that now that I’m working for myself. Holy Christ, Gin. I miss you. Where are you now? Still taking pictures of weddings and grads?” “No. Wildlife. I just got home and was told that my sister’s soon-to-be exhusband has some relatives that might be in your care. I don’t know a great deal about them, but the Feds were supposed to have called Benson a few weeks ago to come and get them. I was hoping that my sister and I could come out and see what we can do about this.” Sissy heard the background sounds cut off when a door was shut. “Something wrong, Dawson?” “I’d say that’s an understatement. How much do you know about why we have them?”

Sissy spoke up then and told them she knew nothing more than what someone had told her husband, brother to Margo. “Hello, Sissy. Your sister spoke highly of you while we were friends in college. About the kids…I’m not sure what I can tell you over the phone. If you’d like to come out here, I can arrange that for you, but you’d not be able to tell anyone where you’re headed or why.” “Is it that bad?” Ginger watched Sissy’s face as Dawson said it was about as bad as he’d ever seen it. “All right. You make the arrangements, and we’ll head that way. Should Dad come with us? I don’t want him left behind if we can help it.” “You give me your addresses, and I’ll make sure your homes are watched over.” Sissy was starting to get very nervous about this now that it seemed the kids might be trouble.

“Bring Mr. Morgan with you too. I’d like to see him again. But just be careful, guys. There is a great deal at stake, and a lot of lives involved that could be endangered should there be any kind of leak out there.” “Call me when you find out anything. In the meantime, we’ll get going here. Nothing packed, so there is no reason to think we’re leaving. No mail stopped. Nothing.” Dawson said he’d take care of it. “Good. Thanks. I’ll wait to hear from you.” Twenty minutes after her sister hung up the phone, an officer came by the house. He said he was there to inspect the windows and doors as he’d been asked to do. As soon as he was in the house, the man went through the house and opened the back door, letting several men in with not just guns on their person, but also armor and other very scary equipment. Ginger was handed a cell phone, as well as a bag. When they were told to stand in the hallway, three men went over the house with equipment, telling them they were to search for bugs and other devices. A camera was set up in the dining room, and they were asked to have a seat. First, however, Sissy was asked to call their dad over for lunch.


Dad was happy to join them. She wasn’t to tell him that Ginger was at her house, nor about the people in her home. Sissy was beginning to see that the kids were in deeper shit than even she thought anyone could handle. As soon as their dad joined them, they were asked to go to the computer monitor and have a seat. Someone appeared there almost as soon as they were surrounded by the men that came with them. “Hello. My name is Rogen Robinson. I work for the Federal Government. My family and I are protecting the children and want to make sure that when you arrive, you’re as safe as they are.” Dad asked what was going on. “I can’t tell you anything right now, Mr. Morgan. Only that the children are safe and that we’ll make all the arrangements to have you brought to them. As you’ve been informed, you’re just to leave your home the way you entered. Ginger, you’re not on the radar just yet, so when you leave, I’d like for you to go out the back the way you entered and into the woods. The car you drove is no longer parked where you left it, but someone is there you can trust with your life.” “Since you’re not giving us anything to work with here, you tell me why I should trust you with my family, Ms. Robinson.

They’re all I have in this world.” Someone entered the picture with them, and Dad asked Dawson what was going on. “They’re treating us like we’ve done something wrong here, Dawson. You know us. We’d never harm a fly.” “Mr. Morgan, had you been even the least bit suspicious that the men in the home with you now were there to kill you?” Sissy asked Rogen if that was necessary to tell them. “It is. I won’t lie to you about any of this. I will tell you that the kids are heroes and have been working with us since we brought them here. Once you arrive, you’ll stay with my husband and I, and we’ll explain everything. For now, you’ll do as I asked. The phone that Ginger has is secure. If anything goes wrong on your end, even if one of you are even remotely worried about something, call. The men with you are going to be at your beck and call until you arrive. Trust them as you would each other.”

“And if we don’t?” One of the armed men came into the room then and put the gun to her father’s head. “Are you trying to scare me, Ms. Robinson? I’m made of sterner stuff than having an empty gun to my head.” The gun was fired at the wall and blew a hole large enough that she could see her side yard. Sissy started crying when Ginger stood up and punched the man that had fired in the face. Then while he was falling, Ginger kicked him in the crotch. He went down much harder than Sissy had thought, but Ginger had always been strong. Ginger then stood in front of the monitor. “You fuck with my family like this again, and I don’t care who the fuck you’re working for. I’ll hunt you down for the rest of my life to kill you. Understand?” The woman laughed and said she did. “Good. My dad isn’t healthy, and doing shit like that will hurt him. I will not hesitate to pull the gun from your downed man and kill the rest of them here, even if it means my own death.” “I like you, Ginger. No, I won’t pull any more tricks on you.”
After Rogen told them again how to leave the house, they did so without any more incidents. They were on the plane in short order and served not just drinks but lunch as well. It freaked Sissy out a little when they not only had her favorite meal for her but a cup of hot Earl Gray as well. Sissy was even more terrified, thinking of what they did know about her and wondered how much more they knew about her and her family.

Milo Xaiver’s Hatchlings Release Blitz&Giveaway

Jamie Darkhouse had inherited the large historical house when her parents had died. She had always hated living there and joined the Army to get away from the house and her parents. But when her parents died, she had things to take care of. So returning home seemed her best option. With the others gone, the house had lost the oppressive feeling, and she was now happy being home.

Jamie and Pem were good friends, and the Mannings were more than ready to accept Jamie into the family even if she hadn’t been Milo’s mate.

Milo Manning wasn’t a dragon shifter like four of his brothers. Yet, he wasn’t entirely human either. Immortal and magical, he still fit right in with the rest of his shifter brothers and large extended family. The Mannings were a large and well-respected family.

It only took moments for Milo to confirm they were mates, and Milo moved into the old house with her. Each discovering the new magic that came to them daily. What came to them as a shock, though, had Milo’s mother, Cindi, rolling with laughter. Neither Milo nor Jamie found seeing and talking to the dead the least bit funny.

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Finn Manning had so much on his plate, he wasn’t sure which end was up. He’d been there six months, and the pile of work on his desk hadn’t diminished by one sheet of paper. None of the construction projects the family had lent the money for had even been started. The foreman was a bully, and Finn had had enough.

Rachel Merkel had literally felt the earth move from beneath her feet. The plates she had been stacking at the restaurant crashed around her when she hit the floor. Her sister-in-law Sandra, instead of being concerned, threatened to fire her. Rachel was wondering how that worked, considering she owned the majority share in the restaurant, but instead of arguing with her, she clocked out and went home.

After a heated argument with her brother, Chad, about Sandra, Rachel quit to keep the peace. Then, Rachel felt the earth move again. This time she was sick with it.

Finn had felt it too through an unseen connection and came to Rachel’s rescue. He didn’t know the woman, but he had an overwhelming need to help her. As soon as he caught her scent, he knew what she was to him.

Rachel, not entirely human herself, could sense Finn was a dragon, and she felt the connection when he did. What she wasn’t sure about was what all came with it—the Mannings—all the parents, brothers, aunts, and uncles—it was overwhelming….

Pembroke Black had always had a lot on her plate. As a child, she could not tolerate her father, and Pem had moved in with her grandparents when her mother died. When she was old enough to move out, she joined the Army and served the front lines as a doctor. Stitching people up was what she did best. Coping with her own emotions was another story—Pem found little joy in this world.

When Pem’s grandda passed away, Theo Manning was there to help Pem’s grandma any way he could. That included keeping grandma safe. He had no idea until he met Pem that she was his mate. Theo wanted to protect her, too, from what was to come. Pem only had to touch his hand to receive the magic coming to her, but neither had any idea how much magic would flow between them.

Pem had always had her emotions take her under at times, but this was nothing like that. She was happy. She felt better than she had in years. Pem only hoped that Theo would not rush her. There was just too much going on for her to deal with a pushy man.

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Theodore https://amzn.to/36PYTMV

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Prologue


Long ago, at a time when all creatures roamed the earth as only their true self. Working with and helping humans in whatever way they could. Where magic was celebrated. And dragons darkened the skies every day. It was then man figured out there was magic in the dragons and hunted them to almost extinction.
“I’m afraid there is no hope for us.” No one made a sound as their leader continued. “Once the humans found out about us and what we can do for them dead, we were doomed. I’m so terribly sorry.” Coop looked around the room. There were so few of them now he could easily count them. When he had been younger, thousands of years ago, there would not be enough room for all of them to share this room. Now they were down to having a quarter of them share the space because so many, his own wife included, had been murdered so needlessly. Coop was saddened by it all.

Turning to leave the large cave, he was stopped by his brother, Xavier. “The boys, they are well?” He nodded and smiled. Coop felt it all the way to his heart, a place that had been dead for so long, it seemed. “You have the spell? You are going to use it on them? I so wish I had thought of this before my own family was taken from me, Coop. You are a brave man and a good father.” “Thank you. And I shall use it tonight. It is the only way to save them.” Xavier nodded, his own heart heavy with the losses they had suffered. “You know I would have shared should I have had it sooner. I am so sorry, brother. All of my heart, it’s sorry for you.” “I know that. I do. But they are all gone now. My other half, my children. Killed for things not fair to our kind.”

Coop knew all too well. “Aria was a good woman, Coop. A good woman and mother to your sons. She will be missed forever.” “Aye, in my heart and those of my sons.” Xavier stood there for several seconds, and Coop told him he must go. “They’re awaiting word on what is to happen with us all.” “One more thing, if you please. It will not take but a second. I have left them all I have. It is where you keep them hidden away, the boys. Deep within the cave, it’s all there.” Coop asked him what he meant. “I cannot go on, brother. I cannot. There is too much grief in my heart for me to live. I have left my things for them there. They might survive this, with the magic you have to give to them. And if so, they’ll need more than you have to help them.” “Xavier, please, you mustn’t do this. They’ll miss you as much as I.” Xavier nodded and said it had begun. “You can come and stay with my sons. You’ll live with them in the caves, and they’ll care for you.” “Nay. I cannot. I must go. Just tell them I love them. With all of my heart.” There would be no stopping him once his heart was made up, Coop knew this, but it made his heart no less full for it.


“Goodbye, my brother. Take care you are not caught by the humans.” Coop made his way back to his hidden cave and sat before the fire. The boys, he knew, were resting, their bodies getting stronger daily with their age. Soon they would be as big as him, dragons of worth and size. When his eldest son came to him, his eyes full of fear, Coop knew it was well past time he did what he had been practicing. The magic would keep them safe. Gathering his sons, six of them of varying shades of blues and greens, he asked them to have a seat. He had a story to tell them. It was not a story, not truly, but a tale that would, hopefully, keep them safe. “A witch told me once of a great magic only few can do. It takes a loving heart and a strong dragon to make it work. I have asked her, and she has told me how to make it so. In this magic, it will keep you all safe from the humans.” They nodded, each of them knowing it was a human blade that took the life of their dear mother. “I will perform this upon you, each of you at the same time, and give you some magic you will use when you need it. This magic, strong and powerful, will let you roam with the humans, and they’ll not know your true self is just below your flesh.”

“You mean we’ll be humans as well?” He nodded, then shook his head at Cooper, his oldest. “I don’t understand, Father. Will you explain?” “Yes. The magic I will give you will let you change into your true self when you are alone. But when you are out in the world, you will need to be a human. A man.” Cooper looked at his brothers, then back at him as he continued. “With this magic, I will also give you a gift. Something you will need to keep yourself safe should they find out. A stronger armor than any other dragon before you, as well as the same immortality you have now, as man or dragon.” Hudson stared at him for long moments. He was the thinker, and if he could think of a reason for this not to work, he would voice it loudly. He was much like his mother in that. She would be the first to say when she did or did not like something. And the first to say the plan was perfect.

He only hoped she would have approved of this. “I think you are very smart, Father, to try and keep us safe. But I can only think this will not work on you. Or is that your plan?” The boy was much too smart, Coop thought. “If you change us, who will change you?” “There will be no one to change me, son. I will…. It is my wish to join your mother in this earth.” He watched them, seeing if they understood the love he had lost when she was murdered. “Giving you this magic, it will be something I can tell her I’ve done for her sons. You know as well as I that she loved you more than anything on this earth, including herself.” “She died saving us.” Coop nodded at Lincoln. “I’m not happy you’re going to die, Father, but I understand wanting to be with Mother. I miss her more every day.” “As do I.” He looked at his sons, all of them growing into dragons of worth. “I must have an agreement from you all. Even if one of you does not want this, it will not work. I would say you should think on this hard.


For once I have given this to you, there will be no going back.” “I wish to have it.” He knew Cooper would be the first. Not that he did not love his father, but Cooper would see things in a way most would not. To not have this done would mean a certain death for them all. Dragons were too valuable dead not to be hunted for all time. “I will do whatever it takes to make sure you are proud of me as well.” “I am already, Cooper. Forever.” The others nodded too. They were ready for this as much as he was dreading it. Because once he started the process to change his sons into men, he would begin to die. It would take all he was to change them. Standing up, spreading his wings out behind him, Coop told them about the things their uncle had left them. They knew where the family jewels were, the things their mother had left them as well. Once they were standing, their bodies strong and healthy, he felt his heart swell and break for what he was about to do.

“I, Cooper Manning, of the Manning Dragons of the earth, give to my sons, Cooper, Hudson, Lincoln, Lucas, Tristan, and Xavier, all I am. Each of you will take a part of the earth with you when you are converted. The part of you that is unique in all ways will be strengthened and enhanced. You will be immortal, forever, and those you take to your hearts will be as well.” His sons bowed before him when he told them to. He said the words over them that would change them to men. Coop could feel his body shutting down, his heart beating a little less. But he had one more thing he wished to bless them with and held himself upright to give it from his own dying heart. “One day, true love will come to you. And you will have more than you have ever known. It will fill you in ways you cannot ever imagine. Love will be yours for all times. For only then will you become a true dragon, a Manning Dragon.”

~~ Cooper sat with his brothers while their father lay dying. His heart was weak from what he had done, and it was tearing him apart. Father was weak, yes, but he continued to tell them tales of their mother, of their adventures when they were only small dragons. They were going to be alone soon; their father was so close to joining their mother it hurt Cooper in ways he had not expected. “What shall we do with his body?” Cooper looked at Tristan and asked him what he meant. “He will not be able to lie here. If the humans were to find him, they would surely cut him up into pieces. I do not want that for him. We were never able to bury Mother in the proper way after what they did to her.” “We could burn his body.” Cooper wondered how it would work when Hudson continued. “His scales will be worthless to them should they come upon his body. The magic he held within him also will be useless to them.

He will be nothing more than a carcass. They’ll leave alone.” Burn his body. It was something to think about. But he did not want to, not while he was still breathing, his body still alive. When he laid his head upon his father’s chest, hearing his heart beating slower and slower, Cooper wondered what his father would think if he knew the magic he had given them had not worked. They were all still as dragons. “He gave his life to keep us safe. But it did not work.” No one said anything to him as they each watched their father. “Dragons such as we are, we’ll be hunted and killed by the humans. There is nothing we can do but wait for them.” “We will survive if we stay here.” Cooper told Xavier they would have to leave eventually. “To feed and to fly, yes. But perhaps we could do it only at night. To keep to the skies and not let them see us.”

“They know we are about and will have spies out looking for our lairs. We will have to kill any man should he come for us, and still, we will not be safe. We are, after all, dragons who have a great deal of magic.” Cooper stopped breathing. Cooper did not hear his father’s heart and knew it was at an end. He was quiet for a bit longer, waiting, hoping for just one more beat, one more sound that would mean he was still alive. But there was nothing. Their father was dead. Sitting up, he told them he had passed from this world into the next. None of them had ever seen a dragon die before. Their mother had been dead when they found her. Each dragon they had come upon when they were out had been dead long before they found them, their bodies stripped of every part, so they resembled less of a dragon than just a pile of bones. Their scales were used for roofs for their homes and for shields. The very meat of them was roasted and stored away so it could be used for medicines and potions. Hearts were cut up and dried, then ground into a powder to use for other things the humans would use to keep them from sickness, as well as magic to have a grand garden and trees heavy with fruit. The only part that would be left was the bones, and sometimes even those were carried off and used for something. Cooper hated all humans. “We will do as suggested by Hudson. It is the only assured way we can—”

Before he could finish, he felt the stirring of the earth. It shook so hard it knocked each of them off their feet. As they lay there, terrified someone was coming for them, their father appeared before them. His body was still aground. But instead of dark in death, he was brilliant in light. Faeries, thousands upon thousands of faeries, seemed to be covering him. Before Cooper could tell them to stop, to leave him alone, Father spoke. “I love you, my sons.” Each of them nodded, fear almost something he could touch. “I will now and forever join my true love, your mother. I must warn you, when you find your other half, and you will, you will have to be careful of the slayers. They will know what you have found by the magic you both will share. My sons, you will leave this place and take your place among men. Becoming someone I will be proud of.” “Father, the magic didn’t work. We’re still dragons.” Cooper felt shameful to say a thing like that to his father. To tell him his sacrifice had not worked. “We will be hunted and killed.” “Nay, you only need to think of being your other half. Becoming a man is simple. The same when you wish to be your true self.” Cooper was not sure what that meant, but his father continued before he could ask.

“Go now, before men come here. The magic to hide me will draw them here. Be safe, my sons, and know I love you more than I do any other creature on this place.” Cooper stood then, the faeries still working, taking the body of his father apart. But as he watched, he could see they were not doing anything but preserving his body. Faerie ropes were all around him, and strings of magic were wrapped around him like a cocoon. It made him invisible to all. As Cooper stood there, his brothers beside him, he knew that, like him, they mourned the loss of yet another parent. “You are the eldest.” He nodded to the faerie when she asked. “We have a gift for you. For all of you, but you will receive the most. Your father was a great man, your mother a queen among her people. We wish to bestow upon you all your father had.” “My brothers, they will need it as well. I should like to share.” She smiled at him and bowed. “What have you done with his body?” “He is being prepared to be moved.

We will make a grand garden upon him. Flowers will be there for all to see, but only a few will know a dragon is there with his other half, his love.” He nodded. It was as it should be. “You will take this gift? You will share, but as I said, you will get more than the others.” “I don’t care. Please, just do what you must so we can hide.” She nodded again and touched her fingers, small, tiny ones, to his forehead. Then she did the same to the others before coming back to him. “It is done. You have shared it with us?” “I have, Lord Cooper. But you must leave here now. There are humans coming. The magic we used to do this thing has given them cause to come here.” He nodded and looked at the ground where their father had been. “He is safe. Just as your mother is now. Go before they find you here and murder you as well.” He thanked her for her help and left. The exit from this part of the cave was hidden so well only they knew about it. As they made their way into the night, he thought of the human inside of him, and the pain of it took his breath away. In seconds, he was down on his knees. Whatever was happening, he was surely going to die. “You’re a man.

” He looked up at his brothers as they began to transfer to men themselves. “We’ll be safe now, all of us. We’ll be humans for them until we can find a place where we can be ourselves.” “I don’t think that’s ever going to happen again.” Hudson nodded and held his head tightly as he did so. “We will need to train ourselves in their ways. Become what they are. But never monsters.” “No, never.” They made their way to a building; any would do for now. Hudson, like him, was staggering a little, but they were getting stronger as they moved. He turned to look at him as they were settling in the empty shell of a house. “We will need to buy things, houses and such.” “Yes. But tomorrow. I am too tired to think beyond how much we have lost.” Hudson and the others agreed. “When the humans are gone from our cave, we’ll go and find what Father was telling us about earlier, about the wealth that will keep us safe.” “I only hope there is a great deal of it. I don’t know how to work, much less walk around like they do.” Cooper told Xavier, the youngest brother, they would soon learn.

“I hope so. I hope so.” He did as well. It was going to be hard enough for them to learn to eat and dress like humans, much less get around. Cooper hoped this worked. For he was as afraid as he had ever been in his life. ~~ After a time, thousands of years, each of the dragons turned into men, forging their way into a world that was so different than the one they had been born to. It seemed a different planet. But survive they did. Having their mates come to them, children born to all of them, gave them hope. A small and fragile thing after such hardships they were born to. Cooper became, as his father had been before him, the king of dragons—his mate, Carson, their queen.

It had been and still was a time for celebration. To this day, they commemorated often and hard at each new birth of the dragons turned men and women. The others, his brothers, prospered too, finding their other halves, making their magic stronger for having their love. They worked hard in keeping everyone safe and well fed, humans or other dragons. No one, not anyone in need, would have ever been turned away from their help. The Manning Dragons, true to their father and mother, became the most powerful dragons ever born. Of the six sons, Xavier’s sons, four hatchlings, and two humans moved far away to be the next generation of Manning dragons who would open their hearts and doors for all creatures. Even the sons of their heart, the two human-born men, carried powerful magic. They used it, with their brothers, to help as many creatures as possible, humans and dragons alike, to live in the ever-changing world. To help them not only succeed but to perhaps help someone else when they needed it. These boys, now men, have stories to tell.


Remington Release Blitz&Giveaway

Remington and her warrior sisters had been around for several millennia. Their time of fighting wars and conquering kingdoms was now a distant memory. Before Queen Dante passed, she’d graced her prized warriors—the falcon, hawk, eagle, phoenix, vulture, and owl—with humanity as well as immortality.
Remi wasn’t unhappy with her life. She was just bored.
Harlin Tayler was working deep undercover, and he was thinking that hopefully, the case he was working on was about to come to an end. Sorrel was the worst sort of person, and Harlin was aiming to bring him to justice. But Sorrel wasn’t human at all. He was a powerful fae.
His case against Sorrel brought him to Remi, and from the moment they met, they both knew they were mates. Harlin also discovered that as a small child, his memory of who he really was had been erased for his own protection. Now that his memories had been restored, the cloak had been lifted, and they were all in danger. But with Remi by his side, they could face anything coming their way—he hoped….
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Mercy and her warrior sisters had been around for several millennia, their time of fighting in wars and conquering kingdoms now a distant memory. Before Queen Dante passed, she’d graced her prized warriors—the falcon, hawk, eagle, phoenix, vulture, and owl—with humanity as well as immortality. A gift that Mercy, to this day, was having difficulty coming to terms with. Living as a human was not what she was born to do, nor what she wanted to do. Being an immortal in a life she didn’t want left Mercy feeling angry at the world and turned her into a workaholic.

As an intervention, Blaze arranged an extended vacation and guilted her into taking it. She made all the arrangements and wouldn’t tell Mercy where she was going, just to be at the airport and do as she was told.

Joel Oliver needed this job. Finances were tight, and Blaze said all he had to do was chauffer a rich woman around town. What he would receive would catch him up on the mound of bills piling up and keep the roof over his—and his thirteen-year-old daughter, Miley’s—head for a few months longer. Miley was in a wheelchair—and as a result, had a lot of medical bills—but he loved her more than his own life. However, Joel was about to bite off more than he could chew.

The woman was gorgeous, and he found her snarky, hateful, attitude amusing until she interfered with how he was raising his daughter. Now, all bets were off.

Mercy would normally laugh in the man’s face for his hurtful remarks, but for some reason, her heart shattered instead. After a night of the most mind-blowing sex she could’ve imagined, he was treating her like it all meant nothing…. She had just realized he was her mate, and he hated her….

Blaze and her warrior sisters had been around for several millennia, their time of fighting in wars and conquering kingdoms now a distant memory. Before Queen Dante passed, she’d graced her prized warriors—the falcon, hawk, eagle, phoenix, vulture, and owl—with humanity as well as immortality.

Blaze, a hawk, had done many things in her immortal life. Now, making toys was a pastime she enjoyed. However, the owner of the print shop that made the blueprints for her designs had not only ripped her off but several other companies by giving them faulty blueprints and keeping the correct ones for himself to profit from. Blaze had caught the defect before she had put her project into production, the other firms hadn’t been so lucky and had lost millions. Given the opportunity, Blaze purchased the print shop.

Bryson had worked for the print shop for ten years. However, he had no knowledge of the owner’s dirty dealings. When the new owner stepped in, he was happy to still have a job and was eager to help in any way he could. What he hadn’t expected was the jolt he received when he shook the new owner’s hand. In that moment he knew two things, she wasn’t human, and she was his mate.

Judith and her warrior sisters had been around for several millennia, their time of fighting in wars and conquering kingdoms now a distant memory. Before Queen Dante passed, she graced her prized warriors—the falcon, hawk, eagle, phoenix, vulture, and owl—with humanity as well as immortality.

With two of their sisters mated, Jude and Piper were finding themselves a little envious of the large homes they had. Jude and Piper both were on the hunt for nicer accommodations. Christmas was just around the corner, and neither was sure if they wanted to attend the big gala that had been arranged this year in the old castle where they had all once lived.

Duncan was his mother’s son, thru and thru. He had inherited the gift of foresight as well as immortality and a few other magical traits. Jude being his mate, had been foreseen by his mother, Queen Dante, several millennia ago, and Queen Dante had kept Duncan’s identity a secret from them all.

When Duncan approached her, Jude didn’t know whether to stay put or flee. Being a warrior, she wasn’t afraid of any man, it’s what being with him represented, being a queen, Jude wasn’t sure she was ready for that. She wasn’t sure she would ever be ready for that.

Piper and her warrior sisters had been around for several millennia. Their time of fighting wars and conquering kingdoms was now a distant memory. Before Queen Dante passed, she’d graced her prized warriors—the falcon, hawk, eagle, phoenix, vulture, and owl—with humanity as well as immortality.

Piper wasn’t really happy with the way her job was going and how much travel that would be required of her in the near future. She liked the art that she made, but she wanted to do whatever she wanted, not fill specific orders. She wasn’t feeling the inspiration for that.

Grant had lived in Queen Dante’s kingdom since before the old king had died. He and his mother were fae and, therefore, immortal. He had done many things over his lifetime. Being fae and their unity with the earth, Grant and his mother were the healers for their community.

When Grant and his mother were invited to King Dante’s new castle for dinner, he was excited to see what the new king had done with the place. What he didn’t expect was the charge of magic he’d receive when he met Piper. It knocked them both on their asses. Neither knew what to expect from the other, nor what magic they had exchanged. Although Piper was wary, Grant couldn’t wait to find out.

Mercy  https://amzn.to/2snmIHb

BLAZE  https://amzn.to/33Vued

Judith https://amzn.to/33VuedT
Piper https://amzn.to/3pa3C3s

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Prologue


The castle was going down, thanks wholly to her birds. Queen Dante sat upon her horse and watched as stone after stone crumbled to the ground. In a matter of moments, not only were the walls of the fort destroyed, but the king inside his castle was dead as well. Turning her mount, she headed back to the encampment to ready herself for the long ride home. The birds joined her not half an hour later, their large bodies covered in dust and blood. “You have done well, my darlings.” They could understand her and she them, but no one else could. She had made them what they were, and she would be the only one to control them. “Have you fed well on his dying cattle? What serves a man to have his food dying? His people, they were fed no better, I saw.” The falcon—she had never named them—told her the people were headed west. In a few months, probably less, they would all be dead too. It bothered them when the people suffered because of the king or queen of the castle. But it was to be. Dante could not care for anymore in her own keep.

No one would attack her keep. If they tried, she knew them to be too stupid or too drunk on their own mead. She had her birds, all of them bigger than life, made large by magic that she gave them. Looking at them as they landed around her, forever keeping her safe, she wondered why she had not thought of it sooner when her king was still alive. “I would have set you upon him. You could have eaten him for your dinner. Though I suspect it would have given you a great deal of belly pains.” The hawk told her she was lucky he had died the way he had. No one would come for her if she had killed him. “Yes, that is very true. But I suffered greatly when he was living. No children either, to give me comfort in my olden age. Though they might have been just like him, and that would have been too much to bear.

” She would never marry again. Love wasn’t anything she searched for. Not that she didn’t have someone to warm her bed on occasion, but it was nice to be able to send them on their way when she had finished with them. Her heart belonged to no one, and she would not have another man take her to bed by force. All would be well, and no one would threaten to come and take over her home. That was a certainty. The hawk used her beak to put delicate things upon the backs of the others. There was aplenty this time. Barrels and smoked meats. Pottery that they would use like it wasn’t worth a king’s gold. They raided the castle each time they conquered. Hawk was the best at getting in and out before they took the place to the grounds. The eagle took off toward home. She would let the people know the queen was returning simply by showing up. They would have a feast this night. The food upon her back would feed them for many days, and the barrels of spices, hoarded in the lower levels of the castle, would go a long way toward helping them trade for what they did not grow.

The phoenix, by far the deadliest of her birds, shed her feathers in anticipation of getting new ones. After a battle, she would become anew, each time getting stronger, and her feathers, brilliant now, would be brighter still. She could flame a fire so hot that stone would crumble under a man’s feet. The ground would no longer hold a seed within its belly to produce food, and she could kill a man with a single breath so that there would be nothing left of his body. She loaded the last of her things onto the back of the owl. She might be small, she had always thought, but she could carry more than her own weight. And she would pick up her horse, used to flying through the sky like a bird himself, and take him back to the castle.

He would be fed and groomed before the queen ever landed on the ground. The vulture squawked at her, and she turned to look at the two men there. They looked as if they might have been about to kill her, but the sight of such large birds threw them off their duty. In no time at all, the vulture snapped both of them up and ate them down. A gruesome sight, but one that filled her heart with joy too. She was safe again. The vulture took off, too, once she was loaded up. “Well, my falcon, it is just you and I left.” She told her she was still armed. “Yes, well, probably not too bad of an idea seeing that they nearly shot us.” The falcon laid her body to the ground.

She was the only one fitted with a seat, one that Dante rode on. Scouring the area, Dante always made sure the places she camped were left as neat and clean as she’d found them. Sometimes in better shape. As she climbed on the back of her bird, she held her breath. “I do hate the height. I should have thought this through when I turned you into my warriors.” Her laugher, should there have been someone around to hear it, might have caused them to think her insane. “Homeward, my love, and we shall eat well tonight.” She took no one with her on her fights except the birds. That was why she believed her people were so loyal to her. She protected them, fed them better than herself, and made sure there was plenty for them to trade and share for things that she did not provide for them. The soil was rich and would give forth a bounty like no other gardens. Flowers, too that were woven into pretty things and traded. There was a smithy, as well as a doctor who doubled as a dentist.

They had even acquired a grave digger, who also made markers. There was a single merchant that came by, his wagon filled when he arrived, but it would be near empty when he left. The latest news came with him and any posts he had been asked to bring to them. He would also, for a small coin, take outposts for the next time he was in the keep of a relative or friend. And today, there was such a missive. But it was for her, from someone she had hoped never to hear from again—the king of the land, the only man she answered to, though it wasn’t with any kind of happiness on her part. After the others were settled down and the food that had been brought put into storage, she sat down and wasn’t surprised that the falcon came to see her. The room she was in—the throne room for lack of a better term—had no roof and six perches for the birds when they wished to see her.

Otherwise, they sat upon the top of the castle turrets, watching for anything that might befall them. “I am to wed. The king of the land, he has decided my castle is the best there is, and he will marry me himself.” The falcon asked about his castle. “He says it will be his son’s, of which he has none as yet. His last five wives have only given him daughters from what I have heard, and they did not last long afterwards.” The falcon asked her what she would do. Dante knew what would happen to her should he come here. He would kill her. Being in her fortieth summer, she was much too old to bear any children now, and he would be better with a younger bride. One that could birth him the sons he wanted. “He will kill me; we both know that.

And you six will kill him or be killed. I worry so much for the people here too.” She thought of several plans and threw them out. It was in her head that if she should die, then she would do so on her own terms. “I will need a day to think on this. In the meantime, he says he will be here in the new year. That will give us a month to provide for the people and make sure they are not harmed.” ~*~ Dante worked as hard as the rest of her people. With her hair up in a rag, she didn’t look any different than any of the men and women that toiled with her. There was much to be done in the little time they’d been allotted. Today they were drying all the beef and goat meat they had. It would last them for several months, and where she was sending them for safety, they’d need that extra time. Long enough for them to breed more of their cattle and goats, so there would always be food for them to eat.

“What of the dried herbs that are left, my lady? There are already barrels of it packed away for the trip. Shall we put them in bags to go?” She shook her head. “There are no more barrels until the morn. The copper is working as fast as he can, making more. What shall we do?” “Leave them. There is very little, correct?” The man said that there wasn’t enough for a good strong stew. “Good. They will think you all died off from lack of planning, and that will keep you safe for a longer time. Leave it for them so that when the keep and castle are in ruin, the king will understand why.”

Not that anyone was going to be coming to the castle to live, she thought. There were things in motion that would make sure everything here was gone well before the lands were walked upon again. She looked to the sky when a dark shadow fell over her. Her hawk was making her way to the village Dante had set up. Long ago, Dante had purchased the lands far from where she was now and put them in the name of Mercy Dante. She knew so much about all their futures that it made her so sad to know she’d never be there to see it happen. “My lady?” She looked at her man of arms, a man that had very little work to do but was brave and true to her. “We have plenty of things to go on the next load if you have a desire to send it on.

Do you still wish for some of the armed men to go with them this time? I’m to understand we’re to fell trees for homes.” “Yes, that would be good. How many men can you spare today?” He told her all she had. “Then send them on. I know some of you are frightened to ride the birds, but you should have no fear. They would no more harm you than they would me.” He nodded and looked at her hawk. “I shall send you all on her. She is the gentlest of the six of them.” The carrier had been fashioned a week ago. It had upset her that it had taken so long to get right, but it was safe now, and that was all she wanted. There were only a few short weeks to get the people gone from here with all that would keep them safe.

Now all she had to do was make sure the birds didn’t know the last of her plans. The platform had been made from several drawbridges from castles they’d taken over. She’d known that saving them would be helpful, but it had taken a great deal more work than she’d thought to put them together and have her fishermen weave a netting to carry it with. After several trials and failures, the carrier worked. Loading up the men on the first run of people, she noticed they had put the several men that were afraid of the ride in the middle. One of them, a hardy man otherwise, had been knocked out with much wine. It had been funny to all around that it had taken so little of the wine to do that to him. But they didn’t know she’d given him a bit of magic to help him travel. All was well when her hawk took off with the several dozen men to start on the homes that would be needed. Barrels would be next. They had been sealed by magic that would keep them well preserved.

The other birds, her warriors for all time, had been taking jewels and other items to a cave she had also covered in magic. It would help the people of the new village for as long as they lived, well beyond her body becoming nothing but dust. Dante watched as several more people were taken to the new village. She would allow them to name their new place as long as it would never be attached to the name of the castle. That would be bad for them and would bring much trouble onto their heads. When her hawk landed, she went to ask how things were progressing.

“Well, my lady. They were no more off the platform for seconds when they started to work. I believe you were good to get them started on this. ‘Tis only late winter, so they should be able to have a few of the buildings up before the rest are moved.” Dante agreed with her. No one else could understand the birds but her and the other birds. It had, she knew, kept everyone safe all these years. “I can only make two trips there and back, my lady. ‘Tis not a long way by the way we fly, but the pack is heavy. Please forgive me for that.” “You have nothing to be sorry for, my bird of prey. You have done one more than I had hoped for this day. And when the others have finished their tasks for me in carrying away the riches and other things they will need, it will take no time at all to move the rest. Nay, you have done well this day in taking the men and then the food to feed them while there.” Her hawk, who would someday be called Blaze, bowed before her.

Stacking up the loads that would be going on the platforms, she could see that they’d be taking away the last of it only the day before the king was to arrive. Dante was glad now that she’d had such good people working for her. They asked nothing as to why they were doing this but did it for her. When in reality, it was all for them and her birds. Dante knew the king would never make it here. His ship and all his bounty would be deep in the waters he crossed to kill her and take her castle. The man was a fool to think she would easily do what he wanted. Wiping at a tear, she looked around the keep she’d worked so hard to keep everyone safe in. It was then she saw her son. Duncan was everything she was and more. Each time she saw her son, she would give him a little more of herself, teach him something of running a castle.

He knew what he was to her and that Mary was doing her a great favor in keeping him safe. Duncan would be a greater king than she ever was a queen. Just the way it should be. She was glad now that she’d told him he was to be mated to one of her birds. Leaving him to his work, she entered the castle to see what else was there that she could easily live without. There was very little left as it was, but she moved from room to room to make sure nothing was left behind of any value. The only thing she could see in the great room was the painting of herself. Dante wished so many times that she could have put her son there with her, but it was not to be.

It would have been foolhardy to think she’d be able to keep him safe if she was to put out there that he’d been born. Other kingdoms would have done a great many things to have captured him to bring her to heel. Dante would do anything to keep him safe, including submitting to a man again. A thing that she would never do again in her lifetime. “I shall give this to our falcon.” She turned her head enough to find Duncan behind her, and the doors closed to anyone walking around. “She will be a great person, I think. Sour to many but the one that she will love.” “You have seen this?” Duncan said he’d seen a great many things. “Well, you know as well as I that it might not turn out the way we see it. There can be changes, you know.”

“This I am aware of. As well as you not living past the last person that is taken from here.” She turned to look at him then, trying to see just what he was seeing. “I shall forever miss you, Mother.” It was the first time he’d called her that. Her heart was so tender of late that she would burst into tears at all that would be gone in so short of time. Hugging him to her, she felt the strength in his body was getting stronger daily. He knew how to work and did it without complaint. “I have been writing a book. It is just for you, my son. You will know things I have known for some time. It will replenish your riches that I have put aside for you. Also, how to keep the birds safe should they need it.” He nodded. “I will give it to Mary on the day you travel. I do not want the others to know you are my son, even after all is finished here.”

“They will only know me as a man you trusted. But I will need to tell them at some point. This you know as well as I. I will be their king when they need me.” She nodded, tears flowing quickly now. “Mother, you do know I will take care that they are as safe as you made them here?” “I do, my son. I know that better than you could. You are not anything like your father. A cruel and terrible man. When you marry, and you will, I want you to know that she will only love you if you give her your heart. It’s important that you do that for her.” He said he would. “Let her strength help you when you know you are not armed to do it on your own. She will love you more and respect you forever for that.” “Will she be stronger than me, Mother?” Dante told him she was sure of it. “Then I will be for her what you have been for these people. A leader of worth. I will promise you I will also protect her forever.”

“That is all that anyone can do for their mate, my child.” He hugged her, something neither of them were able to do often. “I shall miss you, Duncan. Much more than I could ever explain to you. Go forth, protect all the people of your kingdom, and do what I say. Love your mate more than anyone, including yourself, and the two of you will be able to move mountains.” ~*~ New Town, what they had begun to call the new place they were living, looked like any other town in the country. The only difference was, this one was only several weeks old. It, to Dante, looked as if it had been established long ago. She was pleased with the work her people had given the place she’d moved them to. “My lady? There is a problem in one of the homes we’ve put up. I know how to fix it, but the man living in it, he said he will be fine with it. To have his own home was more than he could have hoped for.” The queen of the people asked Barron what the issue was.

“He has five daughters, my lady, and we’ve somehow put him into a house with only one bedroom. There are ones he could use, but he insists that it be used for the other families.” “I shall speak to him. Is it Donald, the mule man?” Barron nodded, his face nearly touching the ground, he was bent so much. “Stand up, man. I believe I have pointed out this is not a time for formality. We must all work together for the greater good of the people. I shall speak to him now. Then I must, as you know, return to the castle for the final loading.” Along the way to speak to Donald, she was stopped no less than twenty times to be thanked for the things she’d provided for the people here.

Without making the great move, Dante knew all of them would have been killed. Because of their loyalty to her as queen of the castle, the king of these realms, a tyrant of a man, would have ordered them all butchered as soon as he killed her on their wedding night. Of this, she was certain. “My lady? I have yet to put on a pot for tea, but you must join us in it.” Dante was not one to hold back when she had something to say. She told Donald she wanted him to take a larger home. “Oh, my lady. Barron should never have bothered you with this. We are quite happy with where we are.”

“But you have six people in a single man’s home, Donald. What, I ask you, will the man who was supposed to be in this home do with a home with many bedrooms? He will be overwhelmed in trying to keep them clean while you are smashed up in this one-bedroom chamber with your little girls.” Donald looked at his daughters, beautiful little ones that were the pride and joy of himself. “There is a home just over the road here you shall be moved to. I insist. Your daughters will share two bedrooms, and you will have your own. I know for a fact, sir, that your snore is legendary. For your daughters to have a good sleep, you will need to be far from them. Do you not agree?” “Yes, my lady.” He moved just a little closer, and in a low voice, spoke to her. “I did not wish to cause you any undue trouble. You have given all of us a chance to survive this, and I wanted to be sure you knew I was ever so grateful for it. I’m as happy here with you and yours as I ever was in the castle keep, my lady. Incredibly happy.” “I’m glad you’re happy here, Donald.

You are a good man and a man that cares well for his daughters. I shall have the men move you to the new home. It will give me a good feeling knowing you have plenty of room for yourself and your family.” He thanked her. “Your daughters, sir, they will be safe here. You need anything, you make sure you contact Barron.” “Thank you, my lady. If there is ever anything I can do for you, you need only to ask. I am and will be indebted to you for the rest of my days.” Dante felt her eyes water up with the man’s words. Her life, she knew, was only a short time away from ending. “Thank you very much.” The little girls curtsied at her, and she had to move on. It broke her heart every time she saw small children. She so wanted to hold her own. Telling Donald once again that she’d have the men move him, she moved toward the long house that would serve as a church for the people and a meeting place for them to gather should they need to. Her eagle was awaiting her when she returned to the now all but abandoned castle.

“You have done well, my heart. You, of all the birds I have, are the one I worry most about.” The eagle asked her why. “You are so much like me. Hard when you’re needed to be. Too soft when it comes to our people. I fear someday it will harm you in ways that not even I could fix.” Her eagle, like the other birds, was a huge part of getting the people moved. If not for them, there would be no way she could have done this alone. It would have meant certain death for all of them, including her own son.

Going to the throne room, she sat upon the floor. Dante had moved her chair to the caves for the others to sell off should no one want it. But because she could see into the future, just bits and pieces, she knew at least one of them would want such a monstrosity. “When this is finished, soon now, I will give you and the others magic to keep you safe from others who would try and capture you.” Her eagle asked what sort of magic. “You will be able to blend into situations you wouldn’t normally consider a problem. There will be problems, too. From the things I have seen, you all will have trouble from those around you.”

She laid back on the cold stone. The castle had been forged so long ago, Dante could not remember who had been the person to have erected it. Now, as she looked up into the night sky, the roof here long since removed, she thought of what was going to happen in the coming days. “He has set sail and is nearly here. The king of all the lands is coming to claim not just my castle and my wealth but my birds as well. There are many people on the vessel that carts his bottom here who have no desire to be his servants. If only I could have saved them as well.” The eagle, standing upon her perch built just for her, reminded her she could not save them all. “In this, I wish it was wrong to have thought that. They will suffer, these people.

They are suffering, for there is nothing to do to appease the king to find favor with him. There are so few that he has not made suffer by lashing them on their backsides. Too many of them have died in his foolishness to make me his wife for such a short time.” Listening to her eagle squawk at her about the king and idiocy, Dante thought of her impending death. It would be a sad affair only to her son and the birds he would one day claim as his own. However, just knowing all would be safe from the king’s tyranny made the other things so worthwhile. “If I had to do it again, I would do nothing differently. I would still do what I am doing now so that all will live and live on. Even with you birds, I would do just what I have done to keep my kingdom here.” The eagle asked her if she’d been happy. “Happy?

I don’t know that I have had that much in my lifetime. I have been content. Not the same, I suppose, but I have been content with my lot in life. If only I could have kept living the way we have, I do believe I could have made such a difference in things here and in the future. Before I forget this again, I have taken the time to write out the things t’will keep the new town with coin in their coffers. I know it will be aplenty, but I will worry until my last breath if it will be enough.” Her last breath. It was only a few days away. Much too soon for her, but Dante knew it would be well worth the pain of dying to her. Sitting up, she looked at the birds, all six of them on their perches watching over her and the emptied lands they could see.

They were the sole reason she was able to do this. This she knew more than anyone could have guessed. “I shall retire, I think. I have no bed to speak of now, so I will only lie upon the ticking. On the morrow, we shall have a feast. A great amount of food, as well as drink. ‘Tis fitting, I think, to celebrate this new way of life for so many.” Her beautiful phoenix asked her why she seemed so sad. “Sad? Aye, I am that and more. Things are moving at a pace I wish didn’t exist. But it is for the wellbeing of all that have called this place home. In that, I suppose I am sad that we shall never be able to return here in my lifetime.” But they would. All six of them and more will return someday and see the castle as it should have been. A lovely home to her son and his mate, the one that she herself had hand-picked for her beloved child. Oh, to be able to see them grow into love. But it was not to be.

Getting up before she made a fool of herself by crying over something she had no control over, Dante did indeed head to her bed. For tomorrow and the next day would be the hardest of anything she’d ever done before. ~*~ Dante didn’t sleep. She’d not closed her eyes to rest in more years than she could count on both her hands and then her toes. It was all right, she supposed. Dante was able to get more done this way. But she did pace herself. She’d never survive these last days if she were to fall apart now. “Mistress, there are two men here to see you. They wish to know who has carved your turrets. I did not tell him they were as real as he.” Mary shook her head at the folly of some men. “I should have called them down to talk to him about how they were made. I think he might well have soiled his britches.”

“Mary, please tell them that the lady of the castle is busy and does not have time to tell him of the art he is looking at. What manner of person would ask such a thing? As if I didn’t have the sense of that turtle caught in the drain last week. Nay, tell them to move on before I toss them into the sea.” Mary went to tell them just what she said. Dante was smiling when she heard Mary laughing. She’d no doubt take the way she’d told her to move them on to such extravagance. It would serve the men right if she really would call down one of her birds to take care that they didn’t bother her again. Dante made her way to the drying room at the back of the kitchen. She had been brewing a brew for several days now. “You’re not going to be going with us, are you, my lady?” She turned to look at her great phoenix.

“If you do not explain to me what your plan is, I think to tell Mercy what I have figured out. She will not allow you to die. Nor will I be all right with your death.” “I must die, my beautiful friend. For if the king were to actually reach our lands and find this castle and all that was here when he set sail were gone, what do you think he’d say to his men? That it was a good thing I left? That now he didn’t have to kill me? Nay, he would send them to find me. And my people. I do not wish anyone else to be harmed for what he wants from me.” The phoenix, Piper would be her name someday, asked her if she expected them to do the killing. “In a way.

I have this brew here. It is nearly set for me to drink down. The castle and its walls, they must come down, or it will all be for naught. What I have made, it will have me dead before you drop the first stone upon the only home I have ever had. You as well, my dear bird.” “Mercy will not be willing to help.” Dante told her she would because she’d know what she said now was the truth. “Aye, you say that, but I think her to be most upset with the turn of events, my lady. It will break all our hearts to know you have left us behind.” “I shall never leave any of you behind. I will be forever in your hearts and you in mine as I take my last breath.” The phoenix nodded but didn’t say anything more for some time. “He will die before he gets to the land. This king who thinks to murder me in my own bed. And those that he brought with him, they too will perish. ‘Tis a folly on his part to think I’d just do as he wants as if I have no mind of my own. I know Mercy will kill him and all that have been forced to come here with him.

It’s not such a bad thing, these deaths, Phoenix. It will be merciful to all that have ridden the seas to make their way here.” After the bird left her, she pulled the large cauldron off the hot flames and covered it with a lid. Even though there were no children about or anyone working in the kitchens, she would feel terrible if any harm would come to anyone right now. Making her way back to the throne room, or what was left of it, she laid on the floor to look up at the sky. Dante hated heights. While she forever knew she’d never see the time when there would be airplanes in her sky, she knew they were set to come. She was content, for now, to bask in the beautiful view she’d miss more than she’d thought she might. Getting up, Dante made her way to the side of the castle that faced the sea. “Oh, to see the waterways filled with my own ships again. To see them sailing off to find new things to bring back to us.” There were ships out there. She could just make out their flags. None of these were her tormentor, she knew. He would be visible in two days, still out to sea a long way. He would be nothing more than a small speck in the open waters, but she’d still be able to see him. “Why now?

Why have you made your plans to include me at this time? I wish more and more I’d been born a male. Then no one would dare to come here. I might well have been the king of all the lands had it been so.” Her ships had been taken to the coves not far from here. By the time they were remembered, time would go by, and they would be nothing more than rotted wood and material. Dante wouldn’t want them to be seaworthy again. It might well be the thing that got her people killed. Even in the future, the bits and pieces she could see, the ships would only cause people to look harder for her remains and perhaps run into the New Town where her people lived. That, she knew, would be a danger to all. “Mother? Are you here?” She turned to look at her son. Duncan had been coming to her of late to get more lessons, her thoughts on things, as well as how to manage a vast kingdom such as the one she was leaving him. “I thought for sure you’d be here. I have a favor to ask of you.

‘Tis a small one, but one I think you can give me. I should like to spend the night here, within these walls, once with you. I have spoken to Mary about it, and she thinks you will grant me this one wish. It will be the first and last time the two of us will be able to be under the same roof since I was born.” “I should like that. Very much.” He nodded and smiled at her. “There is so much to tell you and so much more I think I have forgotten to pass on to you. But for this night, I shall not speak of the king coming here. Nor of my life ending. You are aware of it, my child. This I know. But to have you here with me this last night? It is more than I could have asked for.” They made their plans to sleep on the same ticking she’d been resting on since her bed had been taken away. As they curled up under a thick blanket, the two of them talked more than they rested. Tears were shed, of course. There was no way to avoid such a thing. But there was laughter, too, much more of it than just tears.

“I shan’t be here tomorrow when you are set. I cannot be of sound mind when I know what is to happen to you. I will tell you, Mother, that there couldn’t have been a better person to raise me. Nor one that has loved me as well as you have.” She kissed him on the forehead as he spoke again. “For as long as I live, Mother dear, I will keep you in my heart, along with the birds that will be mine as well. I love you. Much more than I think any child could their parent. You are the best there is. I shall kill anyone that says differently.”

She had no words to give him after that. Her heart, already tender, was breaking more. It might well have done her better not to have spent the night with her son. But it would have been harder on her, she thought, to not have this time with him with no other around. Finally, when she could speak without tearing up even more, Dante told her son that she loved him. That he’d be a better king than she had been a queen. After saying that, they both settled into their thoughts until the sun came rising from the seas that surrounded them. Today, she knew, would be her last day to breathe in the air, take in food for her belly, and the very last time she’d order her birds to do something she knew they’d hate her for. ~*~

The last of the herbs were drying nicely. Along with the pumpkins and other squashes, Dante had added a little magic to them so that they’d produce quicker. Would also produce more for them to have when they replanted the seeds left from this bounty. The corn stalks had been bundled up too to take along for roofs, as well as fodder for the fires that would need to be lit. As she looked over the ground she’d been working on with the others, she wondered if the future occupants of her home would plant and use the product coming from it as much as she had. Dante knew a great deal about the coming centuries. It had come to her in dreams or just single thoughts. She used this gift of magic to make it so her son and all the people that were going to be living around here would not have to worry about money.

Not when there was so much more that needed to be done. Taking a large basket of still green tomatoes that hadn’t gotten ripe as yet, she was smashing them into pulp to make sure that the seeds, a precious thing, were set aside to dry. Duncan joined her in the drying room with several more fruits that would need to be secured. “I have dug up all the trees you wished to be stored away. I also added some things that seemed to be begging me for a second chance. I’ve a feeling in my heart that their kind might not be long for this time we are in.” She told her son he was more than likely right if that was what he felt. He walked around the room. “There is plenty enough herbs here to fill an entire barrel. Are you leaving them?” “I will some. The rest will go back with all the others when you leave here tonight.” He nodded. “The trees will be stored away until such a time that they’re I have found a way to preserve them so they will not rot and die.

I will let you know when it is time for you to get them. Also, there is—” “Mom, I have a question for you. You do not need to answer it if you would rather not, but I would so like the answer.” She nodded and sat in the only chair in the room with them. “No one will speak to me of my sire, my father. I have asked Mary, and she has told me when the time was right, I’d be able to know all there is to know about him. I believe in my heart that no one can tell me what sort of person he was but you. It’s important to me, you see.

I would like to know why I was hidden from him. Not that I don’t believe you did the right thing. But I cannot imagine the cruelty he had without you telling me.” “It is a horrific telling, my son. One I hoped you’d never hear. But since you have asked, I will tell you of his deeds. Not just to me, but to the very people that work within and out of these walls.” He sat on the floor, and Dante produced a thick ticking for him to sit on while he listened. She did the same for herself and leaned back against the tables used for the sorting of herbs. “When I was first wed to him, by order of the then king, he was cruel even then. I wasn’t a young maiden, but a maiden all the same. Yet his lying with me was like lying with a monster. He hit me, bit me, and then when he’d filled me with his seed, he would have me tied to the bed so I’d not be able to abort any child from him with the taking of herbs or such.

I allowed that to happen to me only the one time. After that, using my magic, I’d be free and wandering around without his knowledge.” “Did you? Abort any other children by him?” She told him she’d never have done that. Not even if she had ten children, all of them girls. “I’m glad to hear that, Mom. It would have been nice to have a sibling, but I understand that it would have been difficult to want to have a child by such a monster.” Duncan sat on her lap then, just there so that she could hold him. While sitting there with his head under her chin, she told him of the things his father had done to her.

What he would have done had he ever found out about her having a son. “There were times, my son, that I would wish for death after he was finished with me. The healers had to work very hard to keep me from throwing myself from the highest peak. The wounds I would carry during my life cut harder than any other thing I have had to endure. Even a spear, which I have had plenty enough of, were nothing compared to his terror.” While not giving him a great many of the details, she did tell him of the whip he’d used. His fist, as large as her head, would slam into her body any time he saw her. Dante told her son some of the things she wished for him to remember. The decision was his mate’s, and hers alone, as to when to have children or not. There were other things too that she imparted to him.

The wisdom of keeping his mouth shut when he was angry. To not make decisions without discussing them with his mate. “Your mate will be smart, Duncan. And stronger than you will ever be. Not just in strength but also in mind. She will have knowledge that comes from being a warrior. Use that. All the birds will be able to protect you in ways I cannot see or even imagine.” He told her he’d treat his mate the opposite way from how Dante had been treated.

“Then that is all that I can ask of you, Duncan. I will die knowing you will be the greatest king that has ever lived.” “I will not disappoint you or my mate, Mom. I promise you on my heart and yours that I will treat her as the queen she will be.” He kissed her on the cheek. “Come with me now. I want to swim with you while the others are finishing up. One hour will make little difference in getting ready for a king that will not see this place.” The two of them played in the water for more than half the day. When they weren’t swimming, the two of them talked about the things she’d seen. The companies, what they were called in the future, would make him the most profit, also about when he was to sell them so as not to lose a great fortune. “There are things called market that are nothing like we have here.

They are to buy and sell stocks—I believe that is what they’re called. The things I have written for you will tell you when to buy such stocks and when to sell them. One minute will make the difference in when you sell them, Duncan. Be on time for that.” He told her he would. “Good. That is all I can ask you to do. It will be able to sustain you for years and years.” As Duncan made his way home, she mixed up her tea and took it with her to the towers. Duncan thought it would be tomorrow morning, but she didn’t know if she could go through with it if she knew he was standing not far from her. As she settled herself into the middle of the room, she looked up at the skies. The birds, all of them, were awaiting her signal. Drinking the brew straight down, she told her birds how much she had come to love them.

“Once I am gone from this world, which will not be long now, you will receive a gift from me that you’ll need to survive under the conditions of the world beyond.” She didn’t tell her birds what she’d done, that she’d poisoned herself with her own brew. Nor did she tell them she’d made it so they’d be humans. Also, they’d be true immortals and not able to be killed. Dante was afraid they’d not take down the castle but leave it for others to take over. There would be no one else to live here but her sons and the birds. Even though he didn’t know it yet, the castle would be ready for them to live in quite nicely. “You are angry. I can feel it. I’d rather you be happy that the other people that were living here are as safe as we could make them.

That without you, I don’t know that I would have been as long for this world as I was. You not only saved the people here, my birds but me as well.” Her vulture asked her why she had to die. They could carry her away. “If there is even a hint of me being not at this castle when it fell, then I will be hunted down for treason. They will not only kill me, but they’ll have their sport with me, as well as torture me to find out where my people have gone. I know I cannot survive the sort of torture they would put upon my body. I am old, and my body wouldn’t sustain as much as they will use against me to go and find them.” Her body was weak already from her magic being depleted as much as it was, but she held onto her mind for as long as she could. Telling her saviors about how she had known to find them. That they were, of all the birds around, the ones she knew would care for her and her lands. Telling them that it was time, well past the time, for the work to be done.

Then she told them one more thing before she succumbed to her death. “I love you all so very much. Had you been children of mine, I would have— You are my children. Created from me so that I could be a good queen to all that lived here. But I would have taken glory in your lives. Been a part of it that would have made me the happiest I have ever been. There has never been a greater friendship than the kind we have here. I do love you. Please, remember me fondly.” She tried to laugh a little, but she was too weak to even do that now. “Let it begin. I shall wish you all the blessings a queen can give to her mates, best friends and children that you are.” Dante was beyond feeling anything when the first stone tore into the building. It narrowly missed her, for which she was disappointed. They were thinking she might change her mind. Even if she wished to do that, it was too late. Her last vision was of her great vulture carrying a large stone up and over her. Dante closed her eyes, letting death take her before the stone could do so.

Delmar Archer’s Dynasty Release Blitz and Giveaway

Merce was a go-getter. She ran a contracting company with her father, and when she saw something that needed to be done, she did it. Archer’s company had a new product that needed to be produced, and Merce knew her company was in a perfect position to fulfill that order. She just didn’t understand why they weren’t on the list for consideration. She’d see about that.
Del was exhausted. The banging on his front door in the middle of the night was beyond infuriating. He didn’t bother getting dressed to answer it. If whoever was at the door didn’t like it, then so be it. That’s what they get for being so rude.
In all his naked glory, Del threw open the front door. Merce didn’t skip a beat in getting right to the point of her visit. The sparks fly as two stubborn souls clash for the first time….
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Chapter 1


“Del, I’m not sure what you think is going to happen with you just staring at your computer, but you’re supposed to be working.” He grinned at his boss and friend, David Soldier. “You’re not nearly as charming as you might think. In fact, I’ve never told you this before, but I think you’re downright ugly.” “Have you once looked in the mirror? I’m sure people would tell you it’s a face that only a mother could love, but you did find a woman to marry you. I can only hope that Apple never has her eyes checked, or you’re going to be in deep trouble when she gets a good look at you.” He turned his screen off when he realized it was getting later than he’d thought. “I got the specs done on the equipment we talked about and made copies of it all for tomorrow.

There are any number of plants around that could do it, but as we talked about before this project, we have to go local.” “We’re doing well, and it would be good to help out someone that is just starting out as we were doing a few years back.” He agreed, and tomorrow he was going to visit three of the local places to see if they could come up with the design that would be used in hospitals across the world. “You think any of them will be large enough to handle the kind of needs we’ll have with this?” “I haven’t any idea. But what I do know is that we won’t know for sure until we ask them.

Also, you’re taking Judy with you. She’s been wanting to branch out in what she does, and she’d rather go with you than me.” He asked him why. “I don’t know. I thought it was because she didn’t like me, but she assured me that she thought I was a great boss. But she’d rather be around you.” Going home wasn’t nearly like it used to be. He’d been living with his mom for the last few years until a few months ago. Now she was out on a cruise and wouldn’t be returning for a few days. She’d taken a job on a cruise line and was working as a cook. Getting to enjoy the cruise life seemed to suit her a great deal. Using his key, he made his way to his room to switch into something much more comfortable than a suit and then pulled out his menus.

With his mom gone, he hadn’t had a good homecooked meal in ages—at least it seemed like it to him. Ordering a dinner to be delivered was how he’d been doing it for the last few weeks. Usually, he would order double so that he’d have enough for his dinner the next night and his lunch tomorrow. Tonight he ordered himself a sub and a bag of chips. As usual, there was nothing on television, and he ended up getting on his computer and working more on the plans. It was nearly three in the morning when he finally made his way to his room, so exhausted that he didn’t know if he was going to make it to his bed. Living at home at his age wasn’t something he’d planned, but it had worked out for his mom and him. The pounding at his door startled him. Falling out of his bed, the pounding never stopped. At least until whoever it was found the doorbell, and then it was just one continuous chime as he stomped his way to the door.

Jerking it open, he grabbed the hand that was still pressing on it and pushed it away. “What the fuck do you want?” His mind registered two things at once. This was a woman, and he was naked. “It’s—I have no idea what time it is, but since it’s dark, I can only assume that—” “Can you get some clothes on? Christ, you’re naked as a jaybird.” She looked at his face when he crossed his arms over his chest and stared at her. “Seriously? You’re going to be all macho on me?” “You woke me up from a dead sleep. You take what you get. What do you want?” She told him the time.

“What do you want at five-thirty in the morning?” “You didn’t make an appointment with my firm.” He didn’t even bother asking her what the hell she was talking about but turned his back on her to go back to bed. “Do you have any coffee? I missed my breakfast too.” “Like I give a shit.” He couldn’t sleep after he got back into his bed. His anger was making him antsy. Getting up, he went to see what she was doing, hearing her singing to the radio his mom used when she was cooking. “What the hell are you doing? You’re trespassing.” “No. You didn’t tell me to leave, and you left the door open. That’s entering when you’re still here. Do you have anything to eat other than three eggs and some dried-up bread?”

Going back to his room to get dressed, Del didn’t know why, but he thought he’d be able to deal with her better if he was clothed. “You should take a shower while you’re at it. You kind of smell like old shoes.” “I fucking hate you.” He didn’t care if she heard him. However, he was glad his mom wasn’t there. She would have been disappointed in him for saying something like that, even if the woman was irritating him. Going into the bathroom, he thought he did smell, but nothing like old shoes. Turning on the water, he brushed his teeth twice and then stepped into the warm spray.

By the time he was dressed, he could smell something good coming from his kitchen. Del knew how to cook, but he didn’t enjoy it as much as his mom did. He also knew how to keep a clean house, which he did every day. But with the woman in the house, he could see where he’d left newspapers out on the coffee table, and his shoes were by the fireplace and not at the front door where they should have been. Entering the kitchen, he was surprised to see the table set for two, as well as glasses of orange juice.

“I found some concentrate in your freezer. There were all kinds of things in there we could eat while you tell me why your company skipped over mine when you were looking for project help.” He asked her who the hell she was. “Are you always this snippy in the morning? I know you live here with your mom. The whole town thought you were such a good son for coming home to help her out when she fell. Also, you might find this hard to believe—I know I do—but you’re considered a catch by all the single and not so single women in town. A couple of men too, as a matter of fact.” “Your name?” She told him. “All right, Merce Lowery. I’m assuming you have a high-level production company that can take a design and make it a reality.”

“Yes. Not only that but we’re set up to manufacture the piece in quantity as well as quality.” He dug into his omelet and thought she had taken lessons from his mom. It was that good. “You can be nice and say thank you, can’t you? I’m sure you have that in your vocabulary someplace.” Instead of doing what she asked, Del asked her for more information about her company. “What’s the name of your company, and how long have you been in business?” She answered his questions with a set of her own. He didn’t have a problem telling her the same things she was asking him, so they got a lot accomplished in a short amount of time. “Lowery Construction isn’t on our list, but perhaps it is because we thought it was just that, a construction company. Being in business for forty years, has anyone ever asked you to build them a home?

To put in a driveway or something?” “Yes to both of those. And we do that when asked. My father, Harlin Lowery, took the business from his father, and that’s how they started out. But my dad decided that if we were going to make it in this fast-paced world, we needed to be able to manufacture the things we might need, such as the arm mechanisms you’re looking to have made.” She pulled out her phone and handed it to him after searching on it. “This is the arm design we did for a car manufacturer in Maine six months ago. The next picture shows a video of our product in use on the line it was designed for.

While we did do the work on that and the design, I know your company does all their own specs and measurements for what you need. I was told this piece is for an extra arm in the operating room. To make sure that the patient is being monitored for anesthesia when there isn’t enough staff for one reason or another.” “Yes. We’re not replacing any of the staff. This will be in use when there isn’t anyone to monitor the patient if they’re understaffed. It’s happened enough that they asked us to come up with a design that could fill in when the need arose.” He watched the video twice before handing the phone back to her. “Your design is good, but this is more of a delicate operation.

The arm would need to be able to push buttons and sound an alarm when it’s needed.” Getting up, he brought her his laptop and handed it to her when he found his own mocked-up version of what they were looking for. “I can see the slick designs on this, as well as the need for it to be all stainless rather than exposed harnessing.” She enlarged the photos and looked them over as well. Merce asked him about the design and how it was put together without using things that would attract germs and other items that would cause trouble for an exposed patient. “I can work with this. We have the equipment ready to go with just a few modifications here and there.”

“Hold your horses a bit there. We have to interview the others we’ve already set the appointments with.” She nodded, but he could see the disappointment on her face. Del had no idea why, but he didn’t like that he’d put it there. “My partner, David, is going to two places tomorrow. Well, today, I guess. And I have one or two today that I’m going to hit up. I like your ability to get things moving, but we need to make this fair across the board. You’ll notice that no one else has come pounding on my door at a godawful hour to make me see their specs and ability to get the project going.”

“I did notice that. Yes. They must not be as gung ho as I am about things. I’m thinking that should count for something, don’t you?” He wasn’t sure her upbeat attitude was hiding her real feelings, or she was just like that all the time. He wasn’t sure he could handle her being the latter all the time. “Not to mention, I don’t believe any of them came by to make you something to eat either.” “It’s my food.” She shrugged and got up to start clearing the table. “I’ll do that. You cooked, and I’ll clean. It’s the way my mom taught us all how to do it.” “All of you? I’d not heard there were more than you.” He told her he had six brothers and a sister. “Your mom must be a saint. To have eight kids around all the time must have been bonkers for anyone. Where were the rest of you when you came home to be with her when she fell? Not to mention, how did she fall? Did you happen to shove her down the stairs or something?”

“I’d not do that to my mom.” He looked at her. “Now you? I can see that being tempting where you’re concerned. You do make a man wish he’d been smart enough to have run you off when you came around.” “Yeah, I have that happen a great deal.” He’d touched a nerve. Her voice and her body stance gave her away. “Anyway, you were going to tell me about the rest of your family.” “My older cousins, really their adopted siblings to us, James, who is married with three kids. They live in Japan right now while he’s working. He’s been there for about two years now. Mom used to go there to visit, but she said she’d just wait for him to come back home if it came to her seeing him again.

My stepsister, Mary, is married too. She has just one child, and he’s a little on the rotten side. But then I don’t see them much either. The same situation with them as James. She thinks it would be better to wait on them to come back here. They’re in Texas living on a ranch of some kind.” She asked him about the others. “I’m the youngest of the kids that are my biological brothers. There is Peter, Robert, William—he goes by William, by the way. I can see you calling him Bill to irritate him. Sherman, Darrel—another one that goes by his first name. And then me. Delmar. I was called Del from the first, so there’d be no confusion between me and my granddad. My dad was Del as well, but he passed away before I was born. Grandda is still around but doesn’t get out much anymore. He’s in his late eighties.

Not that he isn’t as brilliant as he’d ever been, but he doesn’t drive much and won’t allow anyone to take time out of their day to go and fetch him, as he calls it. Who do you have in your family?” “Like you, I’m the youngest. But I only have two brothers, older than me, both married with a family. I’m what one might call a late in life child. My dad was in his late forties when I was born, and my mom, who passed away a few years ago, was in her early forties. Not that she hated me or anything, but it was just too much for her to have a child so late in life, and she ended up in a nursing home when I started grade school.” He told her he was sorry. “Me too. I didn’t know her, not at all, but I have my brothers, Anthony and Carl, around to tell me things about her. To me, it sounds like she’d been having mental issues before I came along, but I keep that little tidbit to myself. I also have my grandda, who is now in a nursing home, and my dad.

Who I love with all that I am.” They talked for a little while longer, and when she yawned, causing him to yawn after her, he told her he needed to take a nap. After she told him she’d be back later to see what he’d been able to figure out, he offered her his mom’s room and was surprised when she took him up on it. However, when she was nearly asleep as he told her it was hers to use, Del made his way to his room and turned on his alarm. He still had work to do. ~*~ Merce woke, not knowing for a moment where she was. Stretching when she remembered, she looked around the massive bedroom and wondered at the things that seemed to be sitting on every available space. Getting up, feeling like she’d slept the best sleep she’d ever known, she looked at the pictures scattered around the room like a shotgun blast. Mingled in with the photos, there were things like bottles of sand and a plaster cast of childlike hands. Merce marveled at the things, like a baby blanket behind glass in a frame. There were sad mementos as well as happy ones.

A funeral card from what she assumed was Del’s father. An obituary cut out from a newspaper that told of the death of three members of a household that died together. While she had no idea who they were, she knew that it had touched something deep inside of the woman that used this room as her own. Reading it over, Merce put it back just where she found it after reading about the two children and their mother dying from smoke inhalation, then the fire. Going into the bathroom, she also saw the whimsical part of Mrs. Archer. There were pictures of children in the same bathtub that was in this room. Somehow Merce thought it was Mrs. Archer’s own children, taking a bath at the end of a long day of play and adventure. A beautiful little boy was waving at the camera, his truck taking a bath with him covering his manly parts.

Two little boys about the same age were playing with bubbles on their head and chin, just as she’d done a million times when she’d been younger. The wallpaper was floral, the towel colors an exact match to it. There were rugs on the floor that she curled her toes into. They were that soft. A shower stall was hidden behind a small door that she fell in love with. Scented soaps and shampoo lined the top. Merce found herself wishing she’d gotten to meet the other woman while she was here. She knew she’d like her. Perhaps if they were to get the project job, she’d get to know the woman a little.

Taking a shower felt wonderful. Washing her hair twice with the herbal shampoo, she made a note of the brand so that she could get herself some. After drying off, she pulled one of the huge thirsty towels around her and stepped back into the bedroom. A woman stood there smiling at her with a piece of luggage in both hands. “You must be Merce.” Merce nodded and told her she was. “I’m Del’s mother, Katie Archer. Normally I’d not know who was in the house while I was away, but my son left you a note on the kitchen table. I didn’t read it, so if he had any date with you this evening, you’ll have to find out from him.”

“We’re not. Dating, I mean. I came and woke him up in the middle of the night to ask…well, argue with him about why he’d not asked my company to make his design.” Her face heated up. “That didn’t come out well either.” “I don’t imagine it did. I’m sure he didn’t take the time to cover himself up either.” Again her face heated up, and Merce thought the other woman was enjoying this just a little too much. “Yes, well, I’m going to drop these things off here, and I’ll meet you down in the kitchen. I’m going to have to make arrangements with my kids to come and have dinner with me tonight. I’ve missed them all.” Hurriedly dressing, she made her way downstairs and wondered if the older two were in town.

Somehow she didn’t think so, or Merce was sure Del would have mentioned it. Stepping into the kitchen again, she was startled by the changes that had only just taken place in the few hours she’s been sleeping. “I have a flower garden and an herb garden out back. When I can, I bring them in the house so I can enjoy their scents. I use them to cook as well, but today they’re just for show.” Merce asked about the large boxes on the counter. “Oh, those are from Mr. Carder. He’s been holding things for me while I was away. Nothing too important like mail, but some of the tomatoes he had in his garden that he made into sauces for me.

There is some squash that he put into canning jars as well. I told him we didn’t need that much anymore now that my kids are grown, but he insists that I might sometimes, and he makes sure I have them.” There was a basket of eggs—fresh, she’d bet—and apples, as well as smaller baskets of cherries, blackberries, and fruits she didn’t know. Picking up a pear, Merce inhaled deeply as she asked if she could have it. “Oh, of course. I never turn someone away when there are extras around. When you leave here, I’ll send a few things home with you. After dinner, of course.” Merce asked if she was staying for dinner. “You are. I’ve spoken to Del, and he said he wanted to speak to you about a couple of things. And the others are coming too. I’ll be in heaven.”

“Are James and Mary coming as well?” The knife that Katie was using dropped into the sink, and blood dripped from her hand. “You’re bleeding. I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to startle you, or whatever I did. Here, let me have a look at it.” Katie allowed her to look at the cut. For whatever reason, she was sure this wasn’t her normal way of dealing with a cut. Having her sit down in a chair, Merce held pressure on the wound while Katie spoke. Merce watched the painful emotions as she told her what had happened. “Several years ago, as if I didn’t have the date burned into my heart, I went out to see James. He and Mary were living in Texas then, and I had gone to visit them. James’s wife had just given birth, and I wanted to see their little baby.

I was technically his grandma.” Merce didn’t need to encourage Katie to continue when she paused in her telling. However, it was on her mind that Katie wasn’t talking to her so much as she was just letting off a little pain. “James and Mary were my sister’s children. The obituary you were reading, that was her. I took them when their father, who had killed the three of them, was taken to prison. They’re older than my kids. In fact, I hadn’t been married yet, and we had no children. When Del and I had our first boy, the two of them seemed to start growing distant from me. But after a time, they seemed to get over it.

Then the others came along. When Del was born, and my husband died, they were nearly out of school. James was living here going to college. Mary was going to a tech school to be a nurse.” “They hurt you, didn’t they?” Katie told her it was far worse than that. “I’m so sorry. I’ve only known you for a few minutes, but I feel like you’re the best person to have in someone’s corner.” “Thank you, my dear. That was very needed and extremely nice of you. When James had his son, as I said, I went out to see him. I was so excited. My Del, the youngest, had already started college. He was very smart and was taking night classes while finishing high school.” She smiled at her. “I’m putting off telling you. I need to, but I don’t want to as well. I was there for a day and a half when James told me that he wished to speak to me. Mary came over, and he sent his wife out to do some shopping. I didn’t understand.

She took the little boy with her when I said I’d watch over him. James told me he didn’t want me to have anything to do with him or his family from now on.” “I’m going to hunt him down and tear his dick out, just so you know.” Katie laughed, but Merce wasn’t kidding. “What was his reason for saying such a thing to you? He’d better have had a damned good one for it.” “He said that when I took them in, it was all right with them to have lived here at first. Since I had no one but them to care for, Mary even agreed that they enjoyed being around me. After I married my Del, James told me it was all right because he had made it so I could devote all my time to them when he was away. Del traveled a great deal as a trucker, and I no longer had to work full time.

Neither of us did, in actuality. We only did it because we got to know people around town. Not to mention, it was a nice way to find out what was needed to help out.” Katie got up and put a kettle with water in it on the stove as she continued. “Mary said I was selfish to have had other children, that I didn’t need them when I had her and her brother. That me not just being their mother was wrong of me, and they wished that instead of their mother dying, it had been me. I didn’t know what to say to them. I actually had a moment of fear that they’d killed her after the twins were born. Anyway. They went on about how I had ruined their lives. How I had stolen a good life from them by being a mother to my own children.

They didn’t care, you see, that my own children were what made me happy. That raising the two of them for my now-dead sister was something I had thought was wonderful as well because they were all the connection I had to her. The two of them wanted things their way, and they were never going to forgive me for doing such a horrid thing as having a family of my own when I should have been there just for them.” “They’re little pricks. You know that, don’t you?” They both turned when someone spoke from the doorway. It was Del. He agreed with her. “She was hurt by those two, and I’m going to hunt them down and take care of their asses. You want to join me?”

“Yes.” Katie hugged her son and then hugged him again as she cried on his shoulder. “I’m so sorry, Mom. I didn’t know anything had happened. Do the others know?” “No. I know I should have told you all, but I was so afraid you’d tell me the same thing.” Del asked her if her head had been hurt while she was gone. “No. And I’d appreciate it if you didn’t take the tone with me, young man.” “I love you, Mom.” She kissed him on the cheek. When he handed Merce the bags he’d had in his hands, she took them to the counter so she could help out, not sure what she could do, but she felt like an intruder right now. “Merce, do I have you to thank for this revelation? If I do, then I thank you very much. I think she’s been holding it in for some time now.”

“Del, leave the girl alone. What did you bring home? Everything I told you?” He said he thought he had, but he kept staring at Merce. Merce finally turned and looked at him. His mom kept talking about the food in the bag while the two of them stood there. The phone ringing took Katie out of the room, and Del asked her again if she’d done this. “I only asked her about your stepbrother and sister and if they were coming over when she said she was going to call her kids here.” He nodded and laid a file on the table. “I’m sorry, Del. I didn’t know there was bad water between them. By the way, I want you to know that I like your mom, and right now, I want to go there and beat the shit out of the two of them. How could they do that to her?”

“I don’t know. She’s a wonderful person. But it’s all right. I think I’ve known for a while that she was hurting about them. I hadn’t noticed the missing cards at her birthday and the holidays until I came here to help her out. And no, I didn’t shove her down the stairs.” She told him she was sorry about that. “Don’t be. I owe you for this. I think she’ll be able to talk about it now that the wound is open. I really am grateful to you for having her talk about it.” Merce hadn’t really done anything but talk to the other woman. And she really did like her. But those others, her stepchildren, needed to have their heads knocked around. Not a little bit either. She was beginning to like her grandda’s saying of sparing the rod would spoil the children. Their parents must have been real wieners.

Quinlan Release Blitz & Giveaway

Sometimes, Rogue didn’t much care for her job, but it paid well, and she was damn good at it. As a forensic photographer, Rogue’s job was sometimes a bit more than she could handle. Especially when there were kids involved. But she could always vent to her college buds, Loman and Cass Foster.
Quin had heard all about Rogue from his brothers, and he was anxious to meet her. Loman and Cass said they owed their lives to Rogue, but they wouldn’t give Quin any of the details.
As soon as Rogue arrived, Quin realized she was his mate, but as soon as she met Don’s mate Parker, it was chaos, leaving Parker heartbroken and Rogue hurt. Rogue was steaming mad, and Quin’s lion wanted to protect her, but Parker was family too. Quin was stuck between a rock and a hard place.
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Brook Garrett had learned to live by her wits. When she was very young, she lost her father to a car crash. When her mother remarried, her nightmare really began. A few years later, her mother died the same way. She was next.​Ronan Foster was an officer out on medical leave. He was a lion and wasn’t hurt in the least, but the guy responsible for shooting him would go free if he didn’t take the sabbatical. The guy was for much more than shooting him, and justice needed to be served. Trust was hard for Brook. Her stepparents had seen to that. Now the big lion was telling her that they were mates and she wasn’t sure how she felt about that. She had been doing just fine without a man in her life….

Parker Carter spent eight years in prison for a crime she didn’t commit—murdering her father. Now that the justice system had finally admitted their mistake, Parker was set free. Parker could have left anytime she wanted, she was a powerful witch, but for reasons of her own, she had remained locked up and didn’t use any of her magic.
Donahue Foster, a teacher at the local school, was having a hard time resting. Taking a run and stretching his legs as his lion was something he hadn’t done in a while. He hadn’t gotten far when he noticed two things, he smelled fresh blood, and he felt a presence. Don was dumbfounded when the woman used a mind link to communicate with him. She told him her name was Parker Carter, she didn’t like people, and she was his mate.
Don was so stunned with that news that he was nearly run over by the night hunters Parker chased off.
Now that Parker was back, her past needed to be settled. Half-truths and well-kept secrets needed to be exposed. And the possession of her mother, Meggie, was the most mind-boggling of all. What kind of screwed-up magic was this?




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Prologue


Glancing at the clock, Lily counted down the time she had left to work. Her feet hurt, her back was killing her, and she thought if she were to sit down right now, she’d never get up again. This was the problem with being overeducated, unmarried, with four kids at home wondering where their next meal was coming from. Smiling, she thought of her sister and what she was going to say to her when she arrived tomorrow night. Lily knew the first thing she was going to say to her. She’d want to know where the hell her head had been when she’d taken on three kids that weren’t hers. Lily would tell her what she said to anyone that asked. She loved them. But she also knew Rogue would love them too. If nothing else, her sister would strive to be the best aunt to them and would love them as much as she did. Her sister was one of a kind.

A year and a half ago, Lily had been happy, about to be married and living in a home for the first time in her adult life. Then, as life would sometimes do, it shit on her. Mark was killed in a robbery. She assumed, sadly so, that she and the kids would be taken care of. But that didn’t pan out either. His ex-wife had sued her for the house and insurance before Mark had even been buried. Not only did she win the suit against her—even though everything, from the insurance and house to the cars in the garage, were in her name with Mark’s—in the end, Lily had been left with nothing. Less than nothing because while she’d been earning a nice check each week, the money had been in the checking account she’d shared with Mark. The bitch had gotten her money too. The kids, however, had been nothing Missy, his ex-wife, had wanted.

They were hers, of course, but since Mark had won full custody of them, she saw no reason to take them with her when she robbed them of even a home to live in. The attorney for Missy had told Lily several times how sorry he was and that he wished he’d been on her side. Lily was glad she was there for them when their father had loved them so dearly. Even her own son, Gabe, Mark had treated the same as he had his own children. “Lily, there’s a phone call for you. I think it’s your daughter.” Nodding, she took the call in the boss’s office of the restaurant she worked in. Billy, at fifteen, was in charge of the others when she had to work. “Mom, there is a person here who says she’s your sister. She’s nothing like you, is she? If she is your sister.

I don’t know if I like her or not.” Lily laughed and asked her to put her on the phone. “I’d have to let her in. Are you willing to bet she’s your sister?” “All right. To test your theory, and it is a good one, ask her what her first name is. If she won’t tell you, it’s her. By the way, her middle name is Rogue. She won’t allow anyone to call her by her first one.” She heard Billy asking her what her first name was and the reply she got from Rogue. “You tell your mother that I’m going to kick her ass all the way to my car and back if she so much as gives anyone my fucking first initial. You tell her I didn’t come all this way to—” Billy must have believed her because she was talking to Rogue as she finished talking about the things she was going to do to her when she found her.

“I’m not above kicking your ass, even though you’re older than me.” “I believe you. I’m so glad you’re there. But I thought you weren’t coming until tomorrow. What happened?” Rogue didn’t answer her but asked a question of her own. “Yes, we’re staying in a one-bedroom apartment. It’s all I can afford. There is plenty of room if you discount the fact that I’m rarely home anymore, trying to keep up with the rent and food for the five of us.” “One of them is giving me the evil eye right now. Doesn’t she know I’m her aunt and the one she should be buttering up?” Lily told Rogue they didn’t understand buttering people up, as they didn’t know anyone with anything they would share with them. “You need to get you a good attorney, Lily. If I had been around, she never would have gotten away with this.” “Yes, well, that costs money.

Money I don’t have. I’m so glad you’re here. I’ve missed you. Where are you going to stay?” She asked her if she could move them in with her. “I don’t know, Rogue. Are you still living out of a suitcase?” “Pretty much. But today I’m in a hotel that has three rooms and a kitchenette. I’m going to gather the kids up, hit a pizza place, and meet you after work.” She told her the name of the hotel she was staying at. “If you want, I can come pick you up. The kid in charge here said you walked to work because you have no car. Didn’t I tell you I’d pay for one for you to use until I could make it back here?” “That would be Billy. She’s fifteen.” Rogue asked her how she could keep them all straight. “You can do that when you love them as much as I do. I’ll be getting off here at around eleven. If you could pick me up, I’d love it.

I’m too exhausted to walk much more today.” Lily knew that by the time she got home, not only would Rogue have all their names straight, but she’d know everything there was to know about them. She’d even bet they’d have a few changes of good clothing, a toy or two if they wanted, and Billy and Gabe, the oldest two, would have some kind of handheld game that Rogue knew how to play as well as any teenager. At eleven, Lily clocked out. She’d done well in tips tonight and was still counting them out when her sister pulled up in a gray SUV. All four of her children were in the back seats and buckled in properly. Lily asked her what she was doing with such a big car.

“I rented it while I’m here. By the way, I was told none of them needed to be in a car seat. I’m still thinking smart mouth back there, Donna, needs to have a roll of tape over her mouth. She’s just like me.” With a large grin from Rogue, Lily turned to look at Donna. She gave her a thumbs up. “I’m moving you into a house I rented. I don’t want to hear about how you’re fine in that place you were at. There is only one bathroom and five people sharing it. You know me, can’t stand to share anything.” “You’re a wonderful sharer. Is that a word?” Rogue pulled out of the parking lot and onto the road. It was on the tip of her tongue to ask her how far she was going to be walking now but she didn’t. The kids were talking quietly, the music, something that Rogue had on all the time, was just background noise, and the seat was comfy.

Being awakened by the door opening and the light coming on startled her. Turning in the seat to count the kids, something she did every time they were out, she saw they were pulling things from the back of the car. Getting out, Rogue handed her a heavy bag of what appeared to be food and told her to take it into the house. It was just after one in the morning when the kids finally made it up to the bedrooms. Lily just wanted to lie down and never wake up, but Rogue said she wanted to talk to her about something. Lily had seen how much she’d paid for the food before Rogue had snatched the receipt from her and wanted to say a few things to her as well.

“Okay. Two things. I can afford whatever is running through your mind to say to me about the purchases tonight. More if you need it. The house belongs to a buddy of mine who is out of the country right now. In effect, we’re doing him a favor, he told me, by being here and keeping the lights on. Also, I have another friend that has a brother who is an attorney. I’m going to call him first thing in the morning. There is no reason whatsoever she should have gotten anything at all from Mark’s estate.” Lily felt her eyes fill with tears. “If you start crying, I’m going to cry, and we’re going to be a slobbery mess when the kids get up in a few hours.” “I’ve so missed you.”

They hugged again. They’d been hugging since they got here, and it felt better every time they did. “Missy, the kids’ mom, told the judge right there in the courtroom that the kids were heathens anyway and should be with me. Rogue, the kids were in the room when she said that. How could anyone do that to a child, let alone their own child?” “There are plenty of people out there that would, and who do it daily. She’s shit, and we’re going to take care of her as soon as possible.” Lily told her she hoped so. “I know you’ve not done it yet, so I will. We need to call Dad and make him aware of what is going on. I know you and him parted on bad terms, but this isn’t likely to get resolved soon, and it would be nice if he was in your corner.”

“He was having an affair when Mom was laying there dying.” Rogue didn’t comment, but she knew what she was thinking. “It doesn’t matter that Mom had been in a coma for eight years. He should have been faithful to her. Getting married not a month after she was laid to rest was a terrible thing to do to her memory.” “What sort of memories do you have of Mom, Lily? Want me to tell you about mine? She had a stroke when I was barely two. From that point on, the only time I saw her was when Dad would load us up in the car and take us to see her at the nursing home. I haven’t any idea what her voice sounded like. I don’t know the color of her eyes. She wasn’t ever able to do any of the things for me that she did for you when you were younger. No cookie baking. No PTA meetings. Mom was in a coma when I needed her. How do you think Dad coped when he needed someone?” Lily told her it wasn’t Mom’s fault. “No, it wasn’t anyone’s fault. Mom had a stroke that took her away from both of us, but especially Dad. And he did try. You know that.”

“I know. But only a month. I was just getting used to not going to see her when he married again.” Rogue again said nothing. “I guess we’re still going to agree to disagree about this.” “I suppose so. But I have something I’d like for you to think about. We had each other when Mom was alive. Dad had no one. Did he ever bring her to our home? Did Dad ever once mention to either of us that he was finding love someplace else? No, he didn’t. You want to know why he might have done that? Because he never wanted us to be hurt. I think what he did in sparing us was more loving than anything anyone could have done for us.” Lily hadn’t thought of it that way.

“Another thing he did too. He didn’t ever not visit Mom every day. He took care of her the best he could when she came home from the nursing home in those last days. He did this, all by himself, while we got to live and have a life. Dad did all of that for us. Then after Mom passed, Dad got to live for himself. I think what he did took a great deal of courage. Things could have been a great deal different if he’d not loved and respected Mom the way he did.” When Rogue went to bed, Lily sat there for another hour. Everything Rogue said was true. Some of it was things she’d said to her before, but thinking back on the way they had lived while their mom was alive, Lily could see their dad trying hard to make their lives as normal as possible.

Yes, he’d done that, and more, for both of them. Lily decided to give him a call tomorrow. Lily got up at seven, nearly an hour after she should have been up and moving. The kids were going to be late for school. They didn’t have their lunches made, and she was really thinking about letting them stay home for the day when she made it to the kitchen. The house was empty of any sound. The note on the table had her snatching it up, sure that someone had taken her children from her. “Breathe and calm the hell down.” She let out a long breath when she read the first words that her sister had written on the note. “I gave the kids lunch money and took them to school. Gabe has given me a list of things they’ll need now, and I’m picking it up on the way home.

If you’re reading this, just sit down, calm down, and have whatever you drink in the morning, and I’ll be there soon. Christ, I love these kids.” Lily was brewing a cup of tea that was on the counter when Rogue came back. Her usual brew was a cup of coffee, but there didn’t seem to be a coffee maker in the room. Helping her bring in the things she’d picked up, Lily was positive that a computer wasn’t on the list her son had given his aunt. “It wasn’t. I need it. If they can use it too, that’s fine by me. But I have several shots I need to take care of and get them printed. Your boss called this morning. He said the place has been closed up for the next ten days. Something about a fire inspector. Are you really working at a place that needs to be shut down by the fire marshal?” Lily told her sister what had happened last night. “Okay, having the fire extinguisher go off over the stove is messy. It’ll be more than ten days, I’m betting. They’ll have to inspect it before he’ll be able to reopen. If they find any of that retardant on anything in the kitchen area, he’ll shut you down again.”

Lily didn’t care how messy it was to clean up. All she could focus on was not having money coming in for ten days or more. Rogue shook her shoulders. She must have said something to her several times. There was a look of complete concern on her face just then. “Are you going to listen to me now?” Nodding, she said she would. “Good. As I’ve told you several times, I have enough money to support you and the kids until we get this court thing looked into. If you can hold the fort down while I make a few calls, maybe I can get it resolved before the restaurant reopens, and you won’t have to go back. Just chill out. Together we can keep the kids happy and fed. Don’t freak out about money, Lily. I told you, I make great money at my job, and I don’t have anyone or anything to spend it on but you and the kids. All right? Say it’s all right, Lily.” “It’s all right.” Hugging her sister, something that she was coming to depend on to get her going, she looked at her when they were apart.

“I’m also going to call Dad. You’re right. I was being selfish to him.” “I never said that.” Lily said she knew that too but felt that way. “I have his number. I’ll give it to you. Then I’m going to call my buddy. If he can’t help us, I’m betting he knows someone that can.” Lily got the number and wondered at the area code. It occurred to her that she had no idea where her dad was living nor what he was doing with his life. Picking up the phone to call him, she decided that she needed to get help. There wasn’t anything she could do alone that wouldn’t go much better with help. Lexi answered the phone on the second ring. “Hello, Lexi. It’s Lily. Is there any way I can talk to my dad for a little bit?” Lexi said he’d just gone to the store, but she’d love to talk to her. “I’ve a major problem here….” Telling her everything she had going on, Lily and Lexi were both sobbing by the time her dad was back home and available to talk to her. She wanted her daddy here. After promising Lexi a hug, Lily wanted a hug from her dad too.